On Ukraine

In a front page story titled “Weary Soldiers, Unreliable Munitions: Ukraine’s Many Challenges”,  the New York Times reports that the Ukraine war is essentially stalemated. That the war effort is turning into a quagmire should come as no surprise to anyone who has been paying attention. Neither side has shown itself to have the decisive advantage needed to end the conflict on its preferred terms. 

Despite, or maybe because of, occasional nuclear threats from the Kremlin, the state of affairs now resembles that of the trench warfare that was WWI. Which is to say that we now have a war of attrition on our hands. Why?

There are a number of plausible answers. Botched policy is one. After all, how is it that we are backing a significantly smaller Ukraine against Russia in a war of attrition? Ukraine’s population is only 37 million; Russia is almost 4 times as large at 144 million. Measured by purchasing power parity, Ukraine has a per capita  GDP of $12,500; Russia’s is $14,500.  Ukraine’s land mass is 600 thousand square kilometers; Russia at 17 million is 28 times the size of Ukraine. 

Ukraine, after all, is not officially a part of NATO, although arguendo,  Mr. Biden made it a de facto member. Moreover, Ukraine is famously corrupt. By itself, it does not hold strategic significance for the U.S. But the lion’s share of the aid is coming from the U.S. In fact, at $ 77 billion America has supplied 9 times as much aid as Great Britain, the next largest donor. So the question must be asked: What exactly is the U.S. getting for all the largess? Or more precisely, what does the U.S. intend to get from all this? 

Ideally, to the extent that U.S. is, or ought to be,  backing a combatant, the U.S. should have a clear sense of what its goals are.  And let’s keep in mind that Ukraine is not a member state of NATO so the U.S. has no obligation to defend her territorial integrity. So what exactly is the U.S. trying to accomplish, and why hasn’t it been articulated by the Commander-in-Chief, who after all committed us to a proxy war for “as long as it takes”. 

There are a couple of plausible explanations. The first is that President Biden is making policy on the fly as he goes along without any clear sense of goals or strategy for achieving them. This, unfortunately, seems like the most likely explanation. Recall that Mr Biden has spent a good deal of time explaining what he isn’t going to do (shortly before he ultimately does it) because he is afraid of escalation. Sounds a lot like Lyndon Johnson and Vietnam, one of the many wars we lost since WWII.  

A second possibility is that Mr Biden does have a strategy, but it is so cynical that he is hesitant to say it out loud. This second possibility is that he wants to weaken Russia by fighting a proxy war using Ukrainian troops financed by American dollars.  

However, aside from the dubious morality of this proposition, it presents a philosophical problem for  Mr Biden and his progressive friends. For one thing,  it requires envisioning the U.S. as a global hegemon, whose mission is the protection of a  Liberal world order. A world order backed by U.S. military, financial and political might.  A world order that embraces global free trade, the rule of law and recognizes the sovereign nation-state as the organizing unit of world politics. 

Those conditions are light-years away from what Mr Biden and progressives actually believe (or profess to believe). Take global free trade. Mr Biden, like his predecessor, thinks that trade is a zero-sum game in which the “winner” is a country that sells more stuff abroad than it buys. 

That, of course is just flat out wrong. As early as the first part of the 19th century David Ricardo had developed the theory of comparative advantage that posited that free trade was beneficial to all. Francis Edgeworth, the Anglo-Irish political economist and philosopher provided the mathematical proof in the late 1800s. 

Nevertheless, the untutored, like Messers Biden and Trump and a whole lot of progressives, insist on believing that they can “manage” trade with tariffs and barriers more efficiently than the market. They have no place for a free trade regime. Rather, they prefer industrial policy, which essentially means showering tax dollars on favored constituencies and hoping for the best. 

Similarly, as to the rule of law, it only applies to the laws they like. Mr Biden is routinely slapped down by the courts for his aggressive and unlawful use of executive power, at which point he resorts to  looking for another (unlawful) avenue to take. Like forgiving student loans for instance. And not to make too fine a point of it, Mr Trump has already been indicted twice, with at least a 3rd indictment probably right around the corner. 

(I know, I know that Trump has not been proven guilty, yet, in a court of law. So I’m supposed to say allegedly somewhere. But let’s get serious for just a minute. Trump is about as innocent of obstruction  of justice as OJ Simpson was of murder.) 

Returning to the substance: As a practical matter Mr Biden has resisted the substantial increase in military spending that is needed to counteract China and Russia. Moreover he keeps trying to find ways to throw money at Iran as part of resurrecting the Obama Administration’s nuclear arms deal with the mullahs.  But Mr Biden does not hesitate to toss trillions (yes trillions) of U.S. dollars around toward pet causes that substantially weaken U.S. public finances and thus U.S. political power abroad. 

And when it comes down to it, there is a philosophical problem. Progressives continually complain that the U.S. is systematically a white supremacist, racist and oppressive country. Why would they want the U.S. to be the global hegemon? 

Consider though one fact that puts the lie to the progressive line about systemic racism. The fact is that the vast majority of immigrants to the U.S. are both non-white and eager to become citizens in spite of the alleged white supremacy and racism; a detail that seems to have escaped the attention of the would be immigrants. 

So when all is said and done we are acting under the policy direction of a Commander-in-Chief who risks nuclear war but resolutely refuses to explain why or what the goal is. And terrible destruction continues in the heart of Europe on a daily basis and threatens to stalemate. 

The obvious solution, call it the JFK / Ronald Reagan solution, is for the U.S. to clearly articulate its policy goals and take the necessary steps to implement them. Kennedy said “wherever freedom is threatened we will defend it”. Reagan said “We win. They lose.” 

That sounds about right. 


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The Supremes

For the progressive left, the last week in June was a tough one. Officially approved racism was thrown overboard; religious freedom and free speech were protected, and the separation of powers, inherent in the U.S, Constitutional structure, was reaffirmed. These results stem from three Supreme Court decisions that were announced last week.

Notably in Students for Fair Admission v. Harvard and Students for Fair Admission v. The University of North Carolina, the Court ruled that the use of racial discrimination in college admission decisions violated the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment. In 303 Creative LLC Et Al. v. Elenis Et Al. the Court held that a web designer could not be forced by the state to design a website that violated her religious beliefs. 

Finally, in Biden, President of the United States, Et Al. v. Nebraska Et Al. the Court ruled that President Biden overstepped his authority when he decreed that the HEROES Act authorized him to cancel federal student loans up to $20,000.  Doing so would require explicit authorization by Congressional action, the Court held. 

None of these rulings were particularly surprising; the likely outcomes had been telegraphed for months. Nor should they have been all that controversial. It is, or should be, crystal clear that the U.S. Constitution forbids racial discrimination by the state. And no one disputes the contention that Asians are intentionally held to a much higher standard for admission to elite colleges for the express purpose of reducing the number of Asians at those institutions.

 No matter, a meltdown of the media-academic complex commenced almost immediately. Apparently the progressive left, along with the KKK, has decided that there is “good” racial discrimination and “bad” racial discrimination. The determinative factor, they claim, is purity of motive, namely the desire to achieve diversity. 

That rationale is simply nonsense, even if it were true. The real goal, however, is to achieve conformity, not diversity,  in what really matters, which is to say philosophical outlook. Hence the progressive thought police have taken to requiring academic job applicants to make DEI statements (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) when they apply for tenure track positions. Not to mention shouting down speakers who say things they don’t want to hear. Or the ongoing efforts to silence critics by cancellation. 

Which leads to the 303 Creative LLC Web Design case in which the Court held that the state of Colorado could not use its anti-discrimination laws to require an individual to promote a cause in which she did not believe. That would  amount to forced speech, the Court held, which is a clear violation of the First amendment. The Court also held that such a law would violate the religious freedom that is guaranteed by the First amendment.

Note that in each of these cases state institutions, or institutions financed by the state, used their powers to violate individual rights. In the affirmative action case, Asian Americans were denied equal protection of the laws; in the Web Site design case, the state of Colorado violated the plaintiff’s right to free speech and the right to freely practice her religion. Colorado did so by viewpoint discrimination. 

In both of these cases, the progressive left favored discrimination, either by race or viewpoint, to enforce conformity with the latest academic fads.  

In the case of student debt, the Supreme Court held that the Biden Administration had stepped over the line and violated the separation of powers by attempting to cancel student debt to the tune of some $400 odd billion. This clearly would have constituted spending which could only be authorized by Congress. 

In his attempt to cancel student debt, the President arrogated unto himself the power to spend freely without the assent of Congress. The power of the purse, critical to the working of the system, would have been nullified. All for the purpose of assuaging the desires of important Democratic constituencies, namely students and teachers unions. 

These decisions and the reaction to them are telling. First, these decisions (along with other recent rulings) reel in state power in a way that hasn’t happened in a very long time. All to the good. 

Second, based on polling, the results are generally in line with what large majorities of the population prefer. By overwhelming margins the populace is opposed to the use of racial criteria for college admissions. That holds for Democrats, Republicans and Independents; it also holds across virtually all racial groups. Similarly, a recent (June 14) poll conducted by the PEW Research Center found that about 60% of Americans believe that businesses should not have to provide services if doing so suggested support for beliefs  that they actually oppose. 

Finally, poll results about the student debt cancellation plan are a bit more nuanced. But not a lot. Some polls that oversampled students with outstanding debt found that opinion was about evenly split (in the mid 40 percents) on the merits of the plan. That is to be expected since something like 80% of students with outstanding debt were in favor of cancellation.  On the other hand, the CATO Institute published a poll in September of 2022 that claimed majorities opposed canceling student debt if doing so “…raise[d] their taxes, primarily benefit[ed] the wealthy, increase[d] college prices, or cause[d] more employers to require degrees.”

What is so fascinating about all this is that notwithstanding the predictable and inevitable doomsaying, the Supreme Court just went ahead and ruled on the legal merits.  That is what it is supposed to do. After all the Court is not a majoritarian institution; on the contrary, it is a brake on mob rule. 

That said, the public seems to favor the policies and values implied by the decisions. (The caveats have to do with how the questions are phrased—a not inconsiderable factor among many.) But it seems clear that progressives are on the wrong side of the policy debate, both with respect to the legal merits and how the politics will play out. 

All of which suggests that progressive interest groups have captured the Democratic Party and hold the whip hand—in the party—but not the electorate as a whole. Already the progressive bureaucracies of the universities, the government, and public sector labor unions are gearing up to resist the Court’s rulings. 

When he is not blathering on about democracy and the rule of law, President Biden, one of the more lawless Presidents we have had (let’s not leave out President Trump here) has already signaled that he intends to defy the Court. Why else would he attack the Court’s legitimacy by saying that this is “not a normal Court” while readying alternative (and equally lawless ways) of achieving progressive goals. 

Strap in. It isn’t over. This is not “the beginning of the end”, as Churchill put it. It is “the end of the beginning.”    


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Notes From Indonesia

The incredible buffoonery, not to mention dishonesty, of the Biden White House cries out for a response. In spite of the fact that we are sailing through Indonesia, here goes.

Let me ask this question. Do you believe, or know anyone who actually believes we are, at present, living through a COVID emergency? To ask the question is to answer it. Yes, yes,  I know; there is the occasional, shall we say, obsessive, who insists that we are living through the equivalent of the Black Plague. Just as in any big city you will occasionally come across someone wearing a sandwich sign insisting that the world will end next Tuesday. But on those very rare occasions we just simply continue on with what we are doing, and just ignore the hapless person lugging his sign around. 

That, however, is not the Biden approach. The approach of President Biden is to pretend to believe that we are living through a COVID pandemic emergency. I say pretend because although Mr. Biden may be a shameless liar, an incompetent fool, and way past his prime—which was never much to talk about to begin with—he is not a lunatic. And so his insistence that we are in the midst of a COVID emergency is transparently fake. 

One of the reasons for the transparent dishonesty is that the Biden Administration  chose to argue before the Supreme Court that the HEROES Act of 2003 authorizes the President to forgive outstanding  student loan debt without Congressional approval. That is flat-out wrong that no amount of word smithing can change. 

It is also a position at odds with the one Candidate Biden espoused, presumably before adding up the number of student loan votes up for sale. It is at odds with the position voiced by then Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who said that blanket student loan forgiveness would require an act of Congress. 

But that was then; this is now. And all of a sudden a lot of Democrats have become reticent about the subject. But not so self-declared progressives whose appetite for political power is unrestrained. Senators Schumer (NY-D) and Warren (MA-D) both products of Harvard Law, simply assert that Mr. Biden is well within his powers.  

Let’s not forget Justice Sonia Sotomayor (Yale Law) who during oral argument clearly voiced sympathy for the policy. Which in her analysis apparently means that policies she favors are inherently constitutional. Ditto for the rest of the usual suspects like the squad. Honorable mention goes to Donald Trump, also unable to distinguish between policy preference and legality. 

It is, or ought to be crystal clear that allowing the Biden administration to implement its policy preference in this case would strike a mortal blow against the separation of powers that lies at the heart of our Constitutional structure. In effect a Supreme Court green light would make the President a king who rules by executive decree. The power of the purse, or what’s left of it, would vanish. 

Property rights would be eviscerated. Any and all transactions would be subject to ex post changes ordered by the President. Any semblance  of governmental constraint would end. It is difficult to see how financial markets would function when the terms of trade are subject to political whims, ex post. All this would be the result of a clearly illegal policy decreed by a President who routinely blathers on about the importance of the rule of law. 

I say clearly illegal because the US Constitution in Article 1 clearly vests all legislative authority with the Congress. And the President is obligated (by Article 2) to see to it that the the laws are faithfully executed. It is beyond any definition of reasonable to argue that the Congress authorized the President to declare an emergency and in the process spend an estimated $400 billion to $1 trillion without specific authorization. This is simply beyond dispute; any argument to the contrary is a total fabrication, a lie. It is Mr Biden’s obligation to see to it that the loan documents are enforced, not evaded. 

It is obvious that Mr Biden has refused to enforce the law. In a sane world this power grab would be a cause for impeachment. That is obviously not going to happen because what matters is whether any given politician has an R or D after his name. Due process, fair play and justice have become subordinate to politics. 

As bad as the consequences would be if the Supreme Court were to rule in favor of the Biden Administration, it is well worth considering the immense damage this policy gambit has already done. An awful lot of people realize that what the Biden Administration is proposing is not simply bad policy, an area in which the Administration has already accumulated an impressive track record. They realize that Biden and Co are cynically inviting people to participate in their lie; for money, no less. 

The Biden ploy represents a corruption of the soul. It makes a mockery of Solzhenitsyn’s admonition not to  “live by lies”. It is a sure fire path to the nihilism of mob rule. 

A liberal democracy can not long survive if its institutions are corrupted by lies; if the world of debate and discussion continues to be met with cancellations and assertions of “My Truth”. For this we will pay a heavy price. 

Also note that the phrase My Truth, so loved by progressives and post- modernists of all stripes, is the title of a book published about 70 years ago. That book was written in defense of the Italian fascist Benito Mussolini by one of his daughters who remained a fascist to her dying day. Maybe progressives, post-modernists and our Woke friends ought to think about that. And pay off their student loans.


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So Long 2022

Upon publication of Darwin’s “Origin of the Species” the Archbishop of Canterbury is reported to have said  “Dear Lord please let it not be true, or at least not be widely known”. Today Progressives and their sympathizers have said essentially the same thing with respect to the Twitter files. 

In a year full of big stories—Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, soaring inflation, the collapse of FTX, the conviction of Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes, the overturning of Roe v. Wade—the revelations contained in the Twitter files may seem at first blush like weak tea. But they are not. The revelations go to the heart of the American experiment in self-government which depends on an independent press and freedom of expression. 

The Twitter files—internal Twitter documents that Elon Musk provided to some admittedly sympathetic journalists—have demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that Twitter was actively engaged in censoring content that did not follow the woke party line. Not only that, Twitter (and Facebook for that matter) worked hand in glove with the FBI, the Biden campaign, and later the White House to suppress stories that ran counter to the preferred narrative of liberal Pooh-Bahs.  

Consider for instance, the Hunter Biden laptop story. Hunter Biden left a laptop containing all kinds of unflattering information, possibly including evidence of criminal activity by Hunter and the entire Biden family, with a repair shop. The NY Post got hold of it and wrote about it in late October. 

Twitter’s response (quickly followed by Google and Facebook) was to shut down the NY Post account in order to prevent the story from being disseminated further. Then 51 members of what naifs call “the intelligence community” wrote a vaguely worded letter implying, without a shred of evidence, that the information was actually Russian disinformation. Signers of that letter included James Clapper and John Brennan, both of whom had previously admitted to lying under oath in Congressional testimony. 

Unfortunately, the laptop story is not an isolated incident. It is of a piece. 

For instance, critics of the extended COVID-19 lockdowns, which produced such disastrous results in education and mental health, suffered a similar fate. Those critics include the authors of the Great Barrington Declaration: Sunetra Gupta (Professor of Theoretical Epidemiology, Oxford), Jay Bhattacharya (Professor of Medicine, Stanford) and Martin Kulldorf (biostatistician and Professor of Medicine, Harvard). They were subjected to shadow banning and suppression by Twitter.

The essence of their argument was that it was virtually impossible to stop the spread of the infection and that a risk-reward analysis indicated that policy ought to be targeted at protecting the most vulnerable. In retrospect, their analysis proved to be largely correct. But that didn’t (and hasn’t) stopped the smears. Nor has it produced much by way of a belated acknowledgement by the people who sought to silence them. 

If this were merely a story about a journalistic error it would be one thing. But it is not. The real story is about how the media-government complex cooperated to stifle debate and discussion. Debate and discussion are supposed to be what science and a free press are all about. And, to put it mildly, government has no business putting its thumb on the scale. 

An attempt to control the mechanisms of information dissemination combined with government interference turns journalists into stenographers. That is the model that dominates the “news” in China, Russia, Iran and other authoritarian regimes. It is not how a free marketplace of ideas is supposed to function. 

Perhaps in 2023 liberals of a certain age will remember that back in their college days they favored free expression instead of cheering for conformity and group think the way they do now. That’s my New Year’s wish. 


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Here We Go Again?

Although less likely than before, it seems horrifyingly possible that the Republican and Democratic parties will contrive to inflict upon the body politic a rematch of the 2020 presidential contest in 2024. In that national embarrassment, Mr. Biden narrowly bested Mr. Trump in the electoral college to assume the Presidency, although Mr. Trump is apparently still unaware that the fat lady has already sung. 

Prior to the midterms in which a widely anticipated red wave never materialized, it was expected that Mr. Biden would announce that he would not be running in 2024. But the unexpected success of the Democratic showing in the midterms has reportedly persuaded Mr Biden to carry on and he is even now preparing for another run—or shuffle as the case may be.

For his part, Mr. Trump displayed a mastery of electoral politics not seen since George McGovern managed to lose 49 of 50 states to Richard Nixon. He did so by engineering the nominations of: Kari Lake for Governor and Blake Masters for Senator of Arizona; Pennsylvania nominees for Governor (Mastriano) and Senator (Mehmet Oz);  New Hampshire Senate nominee Don Bolduc, Nevada Senate nominee Adam Laxalt and for the Michigan Governor’s office, Tudor Dixon. 

They all lost. Bigly as The Donald might say. 

In fact, across every region of the country, Trump’s candidates lost and lost convincingly in what were eminently winnable races. The only major Trumpkin who managed to successfully cross the finish line was JD Vance in Ohio, and he ran something like 15 points behind the other statewide Republicans. 

Meanwhile Brian Kemp of Georgia, who was personally targeted for extinction by HRH Trump, beat Stacey Abrams handily in the Governor’s race. She even conceded this time around. By doing so, Kemp became a political figure to keep an eye on. 

Not that losing, and losing badly in 2018, 2020, 2021 (Georgia runoffs) and 2022 would serve in any way to deter the mighty Trump. He is, after all, trying to settle scores with Republicans who failed to kiss the ring. To that end, shortly after his latest series of losses, he assumed that Republicans were gluttons for punishment and announced that he intended to run for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. 

He did this despite (or maybe because of) the fact that he is on the cusp of being indicted in several jurisdictions for various crimes that he almost certainly committed. The decision to announce his candidacy may quite possibly be part of a larger legal strategy that is divorced from electoral politics. 

On the other hand we might invoke Occam’s razor to explain Mr. Trump’s increasingly erratic and cringeworthy behavior. The evidence is clear: The man is a lunatic, an easily observable fact that has been recognized by roughly everyone blessed by the touch of rationality.

So why do so many Republican office holders stare at their shoes and mumble when asked about the latest burst of idiocy Mr. Trump manages to utter?  He, for instance, just recently suggested that the Constitution should be “suspended” so that he can be inaugurated as the “real” winner of the 2020 election. Failing that, he suggested there should be an electoral do-over. 

Calling for the suspension of the Constitution requires an impressive dose of Chutzpah. Especially when you consider that the Presidential Oath of Office contained in Article II obligates the President-elect to “…preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”   Then again, Mr Trump, who has never shown the slightest inclination to tell the truth when it’s inconvenient, notwithstanding a pesky thing like an oath, will no doubt soon be championing law and order. 

What is a mystery of sorts is why Republican office holders don’t simply come out and say the obvious. The Constitution is not going to be suspended; that there is no way short of a coup  for it to be suspended; it simply doesn’t matter what Mr. Trump has to say on the subject, and by the way he simply doesn’t have the slightest idea what he is talking about, which is not an entirely unusual phenomenon. 

After all, this would not take much courage—not that Republican courage is in noticeable surplus these days—because it has now been demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that following Mr. Trump’s leadership is a surefire path to losing.  

Alternatively, they could just say he is off his meds. 


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Seek the Truth and the Truth Shall Set Ye Free

The state motto of New Hampshire, Live Free or Die, is so memorable that virtually everyone recognizes it. It is more than just a slogan. It has a profound substantive meaning that is well worth thinking about. 

So what does it mean to live free or die? Maybe the best way to think about this is by example, both in real life and in literature. There are people throughout history who have been willing to endure great sacrifice, sometimes the ultimate sacrifice, in a relentless search for truth. And that search for truth has always and everywhere depended on free inquiry—which is typically suppressed by authoritarian regimes. 

They had names, instantly recognizable ones. Socrates, Galileo, Natan Sharansky, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Joan of Arc are among the most famous, but there are countless others. (Note: I omit the mention of Jesus Christ in these examples because by design, these examples are of fallible men, not Divinity.)

The Indian philosopher, Swami Vivekananda said that “Everything can be sacrificed for truth, but truth cannot be sacrificed for anything.” He also observed that “To tell a lie, you have to imitate a truth, and that truth is a fact.”

The search for truth, the importance of love, the freedom these require and the sacrifice they may call on us to make and their liberating effects are recurring  themes in great literature. For instance, in the Bible, Abraham was willing to sacrifice his first born son. In Shakespeare’s Othello, Desdemona willingly sacrifices her life for Othello. Romeo and Juliet sacrifice their lives for each other rather than submit to the taboos of the era.  

In Charles Dickens’s, A Tale of Two Cities, there is Sydney Carton. In the novel Carton sacrifices himself so that another man may live (“Tis a far far better thing I do…”). In so doing Carton transforms himself from a scoundrel to a man of worth and achieves happiness.  In this he is reminiscent of the Penitent Thief on the Cross who asks Christ to remember him and as a result his sins are forgiven. 

So what does all this have to do with the price of tea in China?

Just this: progressives deny that there is a such thing as truth. It is all relative, you see. What matters is how we “identify” or in the jargon of progressivism, it is “lived experience” that matters. What is so seductive about all this is that the political agenda animating it is deliberately hidden by the misuse of language. It is language that is designed to conceal rather than reveal. 

Who, for instance, would deny that experience is important? But experience isn’t dispositive in matters of philosophy. It is a data point. And of course human beings have an identity. We for instance, think of ourselves as being American or French, as men and women, as Catholic, Protestant, Jew, Muslim or non-believer. 

But to be an American or French citizen is a legal fact. Although not immutable, the documentary evidence is recorded on a passport or birth certificate. To be a man or woman is an immutable fact of nature, the evidence for which is contained in our DNA. Cosmetic changes to a physical body do not change the sex of an individual any more than putting on lipstick does.   And unlike sex, Religious belief, or lack thereof is a choice. 

The long and short of it is that progressives refuse to recognize the imperatives of nature and nature’s God.  They may not be aware of it, but they necessarily deny the elementary facts of biology when subjectively defining the terms male or female in entirely self-referential terms. 

Sex is out, gender is in because while sex is biologically determined, gender is merely a social construction. What matters is how a person subjectively  “identifies”.  You can be a man on Monday and a woman on Tuesday. Hence the phrase “sex assigned at birth.” As if it is changeable on a whim.

This, by the way, is not exactly a new idea. It was the ancient Greek philosopher Protagoras who set the stage when he argued that man is the measure of all things. Which of course leads to directly to the idea of “my” truth rather than “the” truth. It is an idea illustrated by then Supreme Court nominee Katanji Brown Jackson, who when asked what a woman was, answered that she didn’t know, after all she isn’t a biologist.   

It is easy enough to subject this answer to derision, and it has been.  After all, Justice Jackson will be called upon to decide cases based on complaints of sex-based bias and discrimination. This after she pretends not to know the difference between the sexes. It should be noted that this type of nonsense does not live in isolation. The Biden Administration continues to refer to “pregnant people” and refuses to use the phrase pregnant woman. We wouldn’t want to imply that pregnancy and motherhood are reserved for actual women.   

Nor is this attempt to change language usage to advance an ideological objective anything new. Consider: we don’t have officially sponsored racial discrimination. Instead we have affirmative action. Abortion rights up until the moment of birth have somehow become “women’s health care”. 

And then there is “Climate Justice”. Well, what exactly is “Climate Justice”? Daisy Simmons,a freelance contributor to Yale Climate Connections, an Initiative of the Yale Center for Environmental Communication, says “it begins with the idea that adverse impacts.of a warming climate are not felt equitably among people.” 

Leaving that inanity aside, she goes on to say: “In the end, there is no single way to define, let alone champion, climate justice. But in combination with other current social justice movements – perhaps epitomized and including, but not limited to, the Black Lives Matter movement – many experts see climate justice becoming an increasingly significant component of overall concerns raised by climate change.”

So: we can’t define what Climate Justice is, but we’re all for it. Not to mention other social justice movements including Black Lives Matter, a group mired in corruption whose leaders bragged that they were trained Marxists who among other things wanted to end heteronormativity and the nuclear family. 

All of which points us to what this whole business is really all about, which is an attempt to radically transform American society to ready it for the collectivist Utopia that is waiting in the wings. Any doubt about this can be easily resolved by watching some of the You Tube segment below from 36:00 to 37:15. In the video, Jack Halberstam-Trans*, a professor at Columbia University presents a lecture titled “Beyond a politics of recognition”. Professor Halberstam makes the goal of social transformation explicit at 36 minutes into the 1 hour and 23 minute lecture. 

Jack Halberstam-Trans* Lecture

Lest there be any illusion that this is a one-off, consider what David Brooks had to say in his NY Times column back in March of 2021. “Republican and Democratic presidents from Jimmy Carter through Barack Obama worked within the parameters of the American system, but a new generation in the country, raised amid the financial crisis, wants to smash the “neoliberal consensus.” This intellectual shift in the Democratic Party — starting with the young, but now encompassing most of the establishment — is what is driving Biden to do so much so fast, and it will continue to drive him throughout his presidency.”

In the same column he also noted that he was startled to read a blog post from a progressive economist who claimed that “Public debt doesn’t matter”. That was when Modern Monetary Policy (MMT) was all the rage. Which, not coincidentally, was also before the Biden Spend-a-thon got rolling with its subsequent spike in inflation. 

Driven by a political philosophy that he obviously doesn’t understand, President Joe Biden is attempting a fundamental transformation of American society in which there is no such thing as truth. There are no permanent things. There is only the raw quest for power. That is the underlying theory that drives progressive politics, whether progressives realize it or not. 

The political argument is not merely about things like, say, marginal tax rates. It is about a radical transformation of American society based on the notion that there is no such thing as human nature; that free will is an illusion; that the idea of truth is a lie, and that human behavior can be effectively controlled by bureaucratic experts using the power of the state. 

By deliberate use of misleading language, progressives, who have captured our most important cultural institutions, intend to use those institutions to change government from servant to master. To that end it is continuing the effort, already well underway, of attacking the institutions that undergird civil society in America. 

Religious freedom, free speech, the nuclear family, the difference between men and women, independence of the Courts and equality before the law are being systematically undermined by the progressive policies of the Biden Administration.  

Object to Administration policy and find yourself on the receiving end of cancellation attempts. Or find yourself subject to intimidation and threats and violence. When, for instance Senator Kyrsten Sinema was chased and followed into a women’s rest room because she resisted a Biden initiative, President Biden  called the mob behavior “part of the process.” 

Then there were parents at PTA meetings who objected to the politicization of grammar school curricula. The FBI was temporarily unleashed on them  after the National School Boards Association (NSBA) claimed in a letter that there was a spike in violence directed at teachers that effectively amounted to domestic terrorism. Except that the spike in violence the NSBA  referenced was non-existent. It was merely a pretext to intimidate parents into keeping quiet. 

To be fair, the use of federal agencies to attack political enemies is not a sin committed only by progressives. It is one of the few bipartisan areas remaining in Washington. (Another is overspending). But it does point to the abuse of power that has become routine in a too powerful government.  

To sum up: what we have here is a powerful and unaccountable bureaucracy guided by an Executive branch that has been captured by woke ideology. It is almost totally lacking in checks and balances. By exercise of Executive power progressives intend to transform American society by subterfuge and deceit if necessary. Progressives mean to change the relationship of citizens and their government so that government is the master rather than the servant of the people. The misuse of language is a means to that end.

Like every other attempt in history at central planning this one will also be a massive crashing failure. The only question is not whether but how much damage they will do until it gets sorted out.


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Voters Display a Preference for Sanity

For the 2022 midterm elections virtually everyone was convinced that the country was in for a red wave. The only question was how big it would be. In the event while the vote counting is still continuing on at its glacial pace some things have become clear and some potentially powerful story lines are being developed that are almost devoid of empirical evidence.   

First, what is clear is that the Republicans lost, and lost badly. They missed the opportunity to gain control of the Senate; in fact on balance, they actually lost one Senate seat. That assumes that Warnock (D, GA) is re-elected on December 6 when he faces challenger Herschel Walker in a run-off brought about because neither crossed the 50% threshold on November 8. If the Republicans  capture the House, it will only be by the barest of majorities. 

This in spite of the fact that inflation, the economy in general, crime, parental rights and chaos on the Southern border were themes that (according to polls) were uppermost in the minds of voters. These are natural Republican issues that Republican candidates emphasized relentlessly. And they still lost. 

It seems clear, assuming that the polling was even close to accurate, that the public thought that Republicans were the better party for dealing with inflation, crime, the economy and the Southern border. But they lost, and lost badly anyway. What explains why the public’s major concerns were the ones where the Republicans had a clear advantage, and still explains why the Republicans lost so badly? 

Candidate quality. 

In its primaries the Republican Party nominated lots of cranks who lost winnable races. Consider that conventional, i.e., non-Trumpian Republican incumbent Governors, won easily in Florida, New Hampshire, Georgia, Texas and Ohio.  But except for Ohio, Trump selected Senatorial candidates went down to defeat, and even in Ohio the Republican Governor (DeWine) outperformed Trump endorsed Senatorial candidate J.D. Vance by around 15 points. Not only that, in Michigan, Arizona and Nevada, Republican election deniers went down to defeat. And that leaves out Pennsylvania where Trumpkin Mastriano got crushed in the gubernatorial race and dragged the Senate race down with him. 

Second, the story line that is quickly becoming the conventional wisdom is that the Democrats performed so well because they relentlessly focused on abortion rights in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade. That argument has a certain surface plausibility, so it’s worth taking a look at the data we have so far to evaluate it. 

In electoral terms it is simply a fact that pro-life Republican Governors easily won their races when pitted against pro-choice Democratic rivals in Republican leaning states. Certainly this was the case in Georgia, Texas, Ohio and New Hampshire to name 4 states. But that result did not obtain with Trump backed Senatorial candidates.

In addition, the claim is made that young people, especially young women, turned out to vote in record numbers to support abortion rights in the wake of the Dobbs decision. The problem is that this theory doesn’t stand up to scrutiny very well. For one thing, it assumes that the electorate in 2022 was substantially different from the pre-Dobbs electorate of 2018. 

But if exit polls are to be believed, the electorate didn’t change very much between 2018 and 2022, especially with respect to women and young people.  According to CNN’s exit polls, women made up about half the electorate both in 2018 and 2022. However, in 2022 the Democrats’ advantage among women actually shrank from 19 points to 8 points. Similarly the Democratic advantage among 18 to 29 year olds shrank 10 points from a 38 point advantage to a 28 point advantage from 4 years ago. The Democratic advantage among 30 to 44 year olds shrank as well, going from 19 points to 4 points. 

Meanwhile Republicans won over white women by 8 points compared to breaking even 4 years ago. Democrats also lost ground with every other racial / ethnic demographic group. So what explains how the Republicans could pick up relative support among all these groups and still lose so badly?

First, the electorate in 2022 wasn’t all that different from the electorate in 2018. The pre-pandemic 2018 electorate cost the Republicans about 40 seats. That result clearly reflected dissatisfaction with Trump’s performance, and perhaps a large dollop of buyer’s regret.  The evidence indicates that the same people showed up in 2022 as in 2018 and voted against Trump inspired candidates. Again.

In 2020 while Trump lost the Presidency the Republicans actually picked up 14 House seats. That was a straightforward repudiation of Trump—but not necessarily Republican policy, such as it was. So the same electorate that displayed little use for Trump in 2018 and 2020 showed up again in 2022 and emphasized the original message.  And keep in mind that it was the Republican Trump acolytes who lost in 2022. Republican Governors who defied Trump won their races—and by large margins. 

Second, it is arguably the case that exit polls reflect voter attitudes toward generic categories, in this case Republicans vs. Democrats. Clearly the public showed exasperation with progressive policies with respect to crime, inflation, the economy and the Southern border. Moreover exit polls indicated that, par for the course, both Republicans and Democrats blame each other for any threats to Democracy. 

It is therefore reasonable to conclude that while the voting public thinks that generic Republicans are more likely to deal with their most important policy concerns, they simply do not trust plenty  of the actual Republicans who captured their party’s nominations in the primaries. It is well to remember here that there is a world of difference between primary and general election voters. 

It stands to reason therefore that there is a large gulf between Republican primary voters and the general voting public. At the heart of the gulf is, naturally, Donald J Trump. It is clear that the public has had enough of his narcissism. And it is also clear that he is simply incapable of winning another election. While his brand of politics—incoherent as it is—improbably squeaked through in 2016 against one of the most despised women in America, it rode to defeat in 2018, 2020, 2021 and now 2022. 

It now appears that Trump is on his way to being shown the door by Republican elites. (Yes, I know we have been here before). But this time there are credible challengers to Trump’s power, and most Republican Party leaders know it. It is up to them to do what they can to avoid a repetition of Trump’s march down the escalator leading to the hostile take-over of the Republican Party.  It won’t be easy but they should work hard to put the Party of Lincoln back on the road to sanity. 


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The Red Wave that Wasn’t

Republicans have no one to blame but themselves. In what should have been an easy rout of the opposition, Republicans are barely hanging on. The reason why is clear: Republican candidates lost eminently winnable races because they insisted on nominating delusional candidates joined at the hip to the most delusional of all—Donald J. Trump. 

Make no mistake, this was not the Republican establishment, whatever that is these days.  This was the handiwork of the rank and file who voted in the primaries for a bunch of crackpots with little understanding of how government works or is supposed to work.

There is no lack of evidence the Republicans got creamed because the rank and file recklessly chose candidates who were clearly unfit for office. Which is not to imply that the Democratic candidates were all that fit; they had plenty of clunkers too. 

Take Pennsylvania, for instance. 

The Republicans in Pennsylvania nominated a crackpot for Governor who insisted that the 2020 Presidential election was stolen. For the Senate seat being vacated by Republican Pat Toomey, they nominated a Trumpy celebrity TV doctor, Mehmet Oz, whose speciality was hawking quack cures on his TV show. 

Despite a soaring crime rate in Philadelphia, the highest inflation rate in 40 years and chaos on the Southern border, both Republicans lost. And they lost because of poor candidate quality. Josh Shapiro, a relatively moderate Democrat, trounced Doug Mastriano, a full fledged Trump acolyte, by about 13 percentage points. 

In the process of losing the Pennsylvania gubernatorial race, the Republicans managed to lose the Senate contest to a far-left Bernie Sanders type candidate. The winner, Lt Governor John Fetterman, had recently suffered a stroke and was sufficiently damaged that he could barely string words into a sentence when not haltingly reading from a script. No matter, Dr. Oz, a political neophyte endorsed by Trump, went down to defeat by about 2 points, with an assist from Mastriano’s rout. 

Or take Arizona. Kari Lake a TV news anchor ran as a Republican and aggressively asserted that the 2020 election was stolen, and that Trump was the legitimate winner. With her experience as a TV news anchor she was polished in front of the cameras, and a favorite in late polls. 

But she lost. As did her less polished fellow Republican neophyte and ticket mate Blake Masters. He began slithering away from his anti-abortion position by attempting a surreptitious change on his website after the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision. He also denied that Trump lost the 2020 presidential race, apparently a prerequisite for new Republican nominees. In the event, he too went down to defeat. 

Compare the wipeout of the Trump backed high profile candidates with other conventional Republicans. In Georgia Brian Kemp, the incumbent Republican who stood up to Trump’s stolen election nonsense, easily beat Stacey Abrams who denied that she lost her 2018 race against Kemp. That said, his win (by about 7 points) may not be enough to drag Trump acolyte Herschel Walker over the finish line. 

Then consider Ohio. The Republican incumbent, governor Mike DeWine who avoided Trump like the plague, is mopping up the floor with his Democratic rival Nan Whaley. When it’s over, he will have won by over 30 percentage points. That was probably enough to drag the Trump backed author, J.D. Vance, over the finish line. 

Now let’s consider New Hampshire. The incumbent Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan was generally considered to be one of the weakest Democratic Senatorial candidates, and a top target of the Republicans. Until the primary that is. In the primary Trump backed retired General Don Bolduc secured the nomination and then proceeded to lose the Senate race in the general election by about 10 points. On the other hand the Republican incumbent Governor Chris Sununu, no friend of Trump’s, is handily winning his race by about 10 points.  

It should also be noted that the Trump candidates received virtually no financial support from the former president even though he raised a boatload of money for his MAGA PAC. Mitch McConnell had to pony up the dough from his Senate Leadership PAC to keep them in the game. 

In the end the midterm elections produced one very big loser and one big winner. The very big loser is none other than Donald J. Trump. His candidates were a drag on the party even though conditions for the opposition could not have been better. 

Americans are facing soaring inflation, a deteriorating economy, chaos on the border, increasing rates of violent crime, rising interest rates and trillion dollar deficits as far as the eye can see. And that’s not counting developing energy shortages, a presidential approval rate in the low 40s and a foreign policy devoid of articulated goals.

Still, the Republicans still managed to lose. It is reminiscent of the time in 1962 when Casey Stengel, the newly appointed manager of the NY Mets asked “Can’t anyone here play this game?”

The bright spot is that in addition to Trump’s being a big loser, there was a big winner named Ron DeSantis. He won his race for re-election as Florida’s Governor by a huge margin, somewhere in the neighborhood of 18 to 20 percentage points. That win is decisive enough to put him in a position to credibly challenge Trump for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.  

So Republicans have a choice. They can continue to act like spoiled children having a collective temper tantrum in which case they will continue to lose. Or they can act like adults, recapture a sensible governing philosophy and stitch together a winning coalition that emphasizes the benefits of subsidiarity and free markets over central planning.  

The choice is theirs. Will they make the right one? We’ll have to wait and see.


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The Hysterical Phase

We have entered the final, hysterical phase of the Midterms. During this phase the side that is about to get shellacked makes increasingly hysterical claims in a last desperate bid to stave off the inevitable. This year it’s the Democrats and the outlandish over-the-top claim is that if the Republicans were to win, Democracy would likely perish. 

In the hotly contested sweepstakes to utter the silliest thing possible we have two well known personalities that are neck-in-neck for the lead. They are historian Michael Beschloss and film maker Rob Reiner. Their comments are worth quoting in full because they are a  marvel of idiocy.

Here is Michael Beschloss, an academic historian, speaking to the faithful on the Chris Hayes show: 

“six nights from now, we could all be discussing violence all over this country,” and “we could be six days away from losing our rule of law, and losing a situation where we have elections that we all can rely on.  You know, those are the foundation stones of a democracy.” 

He continued with this gem: “if historians are allowed to write in this country … will say what was at stake tonight and this week was the fact — whether we will be a democracy in the future, whether our children will be arrested and conceivably killed. We are on the edge of a brutal authoritarian system, and it could be a week away.”

Film Director Rob Reiner went full crackpot in his comments on Joy Reid’s TV show “The ReidOut”. Here is what Reiner said:

“Because the other side reality does not mean anything. They are only interested in power. They are only interested, and they will do anything to get the power. And they are willing to kill, literally kill, to get the power. You can’t have a conversation with them. The only thing we can do is try to hold on to the House and a couple of Senate seats. It will be very hard. If we do not do that, this might be the last election we have in a democracy.”

Add to this the long list of Democratic leaders, among them Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, who risibly insist that Democracy-Is-On-The-Ballot. 

This sort of baloney is not just the idle musings of a few lunatics. It is part of a larger strategy. That strategy, as representative Madeleine Dean (D-PA) acknowledged in a conversation with political reporter John Heilemann is to “scare the crap out of [voters] and get them to come out.”

Let’s make sure to acknowledge that Democrats are not the only ones who do this. Republicans do it too. It’s just that this time it’s the Democrats who are going to get clobbered and consequently have resorted to an attempt to scare the party faithful into coming out to pull the lever for Democrats.

That said, it seems to be fairly obvious that the Democratic Party leadership is not so foolish that it actually believes its own rhetoric. After all, they have spent millions of dollars promoting a slew of MAGA friendly candidates in GOP primaries. If they really believed all this stuff about threats to Democracy then why would they have done this? Because they thought the MAGA candidates would be the easiest to beat in the general election. And now they are faced with the very real prospect of being hoisted on their own petard. 

And speaking of Democracy and lawlessness, why is it that returning the question of abortion regulation to the political branches (i.e., state legislatures) anti-democratic? And if Michael Beschloss is so concerned that “our children will be conceivably killed” then why is he such an abortion rights fanatic?

And if bodily autonomy is so highly valued, why is it that Democrats were all in on vaccine mandates, even when the evidence was crystal clear that vaccines do not affect COVID – 19 transmissibility?

We should also ask why it is that Democrats were so willing to void lockdown orders to accommodate BLM protests, but shut down religious services in church parking lots. And why Democratic Mayors and Governors insisted on keeping schools shut when the evidence was indisputable that threat of COVID-19 to children was virtually non-existent. Or why Joe Biden’s obviously unconstitutional student loan forgiveness plan should not be debated in a Congress where Democrats control both Houses. 

We should also ask how it is possible for Democrats to insist that women are discriminated against when they are incapable of recognizing what a woman is, without pace Ketanji Brown Jackson, being a biologist. Or how it is possible to be in favor of equality before the law, without fear or favor, and still be enthralled by affirmative action. 

The simple answer is that the progressive ideology that reigns supreme in the party does not recognize the primacy of, or give deference to individuals, voluntary action, the nuclear family or the Burkean little platoons of civil society. 

Instead, progressives are all about power and control. They recognize the supremacy of voting blocs, defer to subject matter experts who agree with them, and seek to rule through Command-and-Control using the iron fist of an unaccountable bureaucracy. 

Still, the fear mongers may be half right about one thing. There may be violence after election day. But that would be if Republicans win. It is possible—although anyone reasonable hopes not—that we will see rioting by “mostly peaceful protesters” in major cities. If so what we will hear from progressives is crickets.


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The Midterms are Just About Here

Well here we are 4 days away from the Midterms and the insanity that typically comes with electioneering has, by now, reached its normal fever pitch, and hopefully its zenith. The pieties which are recited endlessly and with increasing fervor by the combatants tend to be the same baloney they serve up every election season. And while the contestants may have convinced themselves that they are uniquely on the side of truth and justice, they are serving up baloney nonetheless. 

Consider some typical offerings designed to rally voters. “This is the most important, consequential, (pick your adjective)  election in your lifetime.” Well, no it isn’t. On the Wednesday after election day despite the hysteria ginned up over the elections, the sun will still rise, the sky won’t fall and the day will look a lot like every other day. 

How about this one, a remark typically intoned by candidates who are resigned to their fate: “The only poll that matters is the one on election day.”  Of course that isn’t even close to being true. Leaving aside that election day has become election week,  it is undeniably true that politicians are polling addicts. Not only do they consult poll data when considering what position to take on a given issue; campaign strategy is also highly dependent on polling. 

What is particularly interesting about this election season is wide variability in polling results across different organizations. What remains to be seen is whether any polling organization has consistently produced more accurate forecasts when compared with actual outcomes. 

Georgia on My Mind

Which brings up the two major races in Georgia; the Governor’s race and the Senate race. Georgia’s contests are a mirror image of Pennsylvania’s. In Georgia’s Gubernatorial race the Republican seeking re-election is Brian Kemp. He is facing a rematch with Stacey Abrams whom he beat by 50,000 votes in 2018.  Governor Kemp earned the enmity of Donald J Trump for his refusal in 2020 to subvert Georgia’s election laws in favor of Trump.

Stacey Abrams, perhaps a precursor to Trump in 2020, refused to acknowledge her defeat in 2018. She accused Kemp of fraud, without evidence, as the NY Times likes to say. She acted pretty much like sore loser Trump acted when he refused to admit defeat in 2020. The best you can say about Abrams relative to Trump is that she didn’t set off any riots in Atlanta.  

That said, Abrams (like Trump) has taken to making wildly implausible claims. For instance, when she finally got around to acknowledging an inflation problem, she attributed it in part to too many women having children instead of aborting them. 

Abrams thus joins the Republican nominee for Governor of Pennsylvania in tin-foil hat territory. And like the Republican Pennsylvania nominee Doug Mastriano, she is solidly behind in the polls. (Those polls that supposedly don’t matter). She, like Mastriano is behind enough that she, like Mastriano may drag down the Party’s Senate nominee to defeat. 

Interestingly, the Republican Senate nominees, both in Pennsylvania and in Georgia, were pushed by Donald Trump. Both Republicans are deeply flawed candidates, and at least one (Hershel Walker) is obviously incompetent. The other (Dr. Oz) is a snake-oil salesman. 

The Georgia Republican candidates also share two other factors in common. The first is that they are both running against incompetent buffoons. The second is that the polling in both races indicates that the contests are very toss-ups. Since Georgia election laws require the victor to have 50% plus 1, and there are minor party candidates running,  it may require a run-off on December 6, 2022 to finally arrive at a result. 

Other Thoughts

There is a lot of talk about the possibility of a “wave” election with Republicans gaining a substantial majority in the House and maybe a 2 or 3 seat pickup in the Senate.  There are a couple of things to keep in mind though. The first is that the incumbent President’s party almost invariably loses House seats in the Midterms during his first term in office. Since the Democrats have only a tiny majority (220 vs 212 with 3 absent) normally it would be expected that they will lose the majority. It is the margin that matters. 

Second, in the 2020 presidential election the Republicans picked up 14 House seats. It is extremely unusual for a party to pick up House seats while losing a presidential election when the party is the incumbent in the White House. But that is what the Republicans did and it was clearly a personal repudiation of Donald Trump, not Republicans generally. 

But that leaves open the question of how to define a Republican “wave”. In two prior off-year wave elections (1994 and 2010) the Republicans picked up 54 and 63 seats respectively. The average off-year gain for the party out of power is around 28 – 30 seats. But since the Republicans picked up 14 seats in 2020, a gain of about 35 – 40 seats would probably constitute a wave and result in a gain in the Senate of as many as 4 or 5 seats.

There will be surprises. The Republicans are poised to pick up Gubernatorial seats, perhaps in unlikely places like Oregon, Minnesota and New York. Some Senate seats that looked to be safe suddenly look vulnerable, specifically Michale Bennet in Colorado and Patty Murray in Washington State. 

Regardless, a Republican wave, if it comes, should not be viewed as any kind of mandate. It should be seen as a rebuke to the Democrats, and most particularly, the progressives. It is not a vote for any kind of Republican governing philosophy because there isn’t one anywhere in sight. 

The public is sick and tired of woke politics. They are fed up with the disaster in the public schools, with rising violent crime in the cities, with too-high inflation, with chaos on the Southern border, with identity politics, with the obsession with transactivism and with cancel culture in general. Which ever party figures out how to deal with these issues will be well positioned for the 2024 Presidential race. 

Most importantly, family and friends are more important than your vote. In the grand scheme of things, politics is not all that important. That’s worth keeping in mind when the discussion gets heated. Or overheated. 


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