Sunday, February 10, 2013
What’s Wrong and How to Fix It. By Adam Garfinkle. The American Interest.
Part 1: Introduction and Globalization/Automation. October 9, 2012.
Part 2: Political/Institutional. October 15, 2012.
Part 3: Corruption/Plutocracy. October 25, 2012.
Part 4: Television and Politics. November 2, 2012.
Part 5: The Financial System. December 17, 2012.
Part 6: Tax Reform. January 2, 2013.
Part 7: Health Care. January 9, 2013.
Part 8: Repeal the 17th Amendment. February 4, 2013.
Part 9: Government Design. February 5, 2013.
Part 10: Institutional Reform. February 6, 2013.
Part 11: National Service. February 7, 2013.
Part 12: Relocate the Culture Wars. February 8, 2013.
Part 13: The New Homestead Act. February 8, 2013.
Part 14: Dreaming the New/Old Liberalism. February 9, 2013.
Part 15: A Foreign Policy/National Security Coda. February 10, 2013.
Garfinkle, from Part 4:
I’m neither a registered Democrat (anymore) nor a registered Republican (never have been), and I have already suggested why: I don’t want to go back to 1965 or to 1925. But let me briefly restate my antipathy to both sets of party orthodoxy in somewhat different language before getting to my ten proposals.
The Left in this country, generally speaking, tends to excoriate corporations, even to disparage the profit motive itself, and to think of government as a proper vehicle not only for battling the depredations of capitalism but also for forcing on the nation the kinds of multicultural, politically correct social biases it likes. It has inculcated within itself the old countercultural notion of consciousness-raising, in which it presumes to know more about what’s good for you than you do. It is the self-appointed Robin Hood of our political soul, though its populist pretensions are belied by its elitist ways. The Left displays a blindness to the benefits of a non-distorted market economy, and an even more grievous blindness to the limits of what government can accomplish—especially a government that tries to do more than it should in what has become a misaligned Federal system.
The Right these days, generally speaking, tends to excoriate government, to dismiss the idea of an inclusive and fairly governed national community, and to blame those who are genuinely poor for their own poverty. Much of the Right, having regrettably abandoned its own Burkean heritage, sees through a crude Social Darwinist prism that acknowledges only individual judgment, ignoring the social context in which that judgment is seated. It is blind to plutocratic corruption and doesn’t see, either, the widening cultural gap between an isolated elite and those Americans who are falling out of an often recently won and still fragile middle-class status. It is particularly blind to the fact that a distorted market system dominated by large corporate oligarchies that deploy increasingly sophisticated advertising methodologies can be responsible for undermining both social trust and the founding virtues.
Again, there’s no reason to choose between the problems caused by the public sector (a sclerotic, dysfunctional and wildly expensive government) and the problems caused by the private sector (a predatory corporate leadership class, and especially an increasingly powerful parasitic financial elite, that has become an extractive rather than a productive asset for the nation as a whole). Both problems exist, and both are getting worse.
Moreover, these problems are not really separate; they feed one another. Private sector abuses feed the appetite for government protection, but government is too dysfunctional to provide that protection; instead its efforts tend to harm small businesses that lack the arsenals of specialist lawyers and accountants that huge businesses use to evade government attempts to hem them in. You get a hint of this by looking at what the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movements have had in common, which is a fair bit more than either group likes to admit.
The Hamas-Egyptian Alliance. By Khaled Abu Toameh. Gatestone Institute, February 8, 2013.
More posts on Morsi and Egypt here and here.
Apologists for the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt have spent much of the last year attempting to argue that the Islamist movement is not the extremist group its critics make it out to be. They claim it is not only moderate in its religious views but that it is a pragmatic organization that can be a stabilizing force in the region. The whitewash of the Brotherhood’s ideology is made possible by both the general ignorance of the American people about the group’s origins and its beliefs as well as by the willingness of many in the American media to buy into the transparent propaganda they’ve been fed about their goals. However, the hate speech of President Mohamed Morsi and his putsch to seize total power in the manner of his authoritarian predecessor Hosni Mubarak, as well as the group’s efforts to impose their version of sharia law on the rest of Egyptian society, should have cured them of their ignorance.
But the latest evidence of the radical nature of the Brotherhood government comes from its ally Hamas. Under Morsi, Egypt has become a helpful friend to the Gaza regime, a marked change from the hostility that Mubarak demonstrated toward it. But as Khaled Abu Toameh reports at the Gatestone Institute website, friendship between the Brotherhood and Hamas is a two-way street. He reports that Egyptian media outlets are saying that a large number of Hamas militiamen may have crossed from Gaza into Sinai in the last week and then headed to various Egyptian cities to help the Brotherhood suppress pro-democracy and anti-Islamist protests that have broken out across the country. If true, this not only means that the ties between the supposed “moderates” of the Brotherhood and the terrorists of Hamas are closer than ever, but that Morsi is seeking to use these killers as a counter-force against possible action by the Egyptian army to check his attempt to seize total power.
That operatives of a group that is labeled by the United States as a terrorist group may have become the shock troops of the leader of an allied country like Egypt may be shocking to many Americans. But it will come as no surprise to anyone who is aware that Hamas was founded as an offshoot of the Egyptian Islamist movement. The connection between the two groups as well as their supporters in other Muslim countries is no secret.
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The alliance between Hamas and the Brotherhood has great advantages for both groups.
Morsi’s Egyptian followers may be highly organized, but they lack the experience in street violence and terror that Hamas members have. They also may have scruples about killing and torturing fellow Egyptians. The Palestinians are used to ruthlessly suppressing dissent in Gaza. Hamas staged a bloody coup in 2006 to oust Fatah from control there and thus knows what it stakes to secure power.
On the other hand, Hamas’s stock among Palestinians has risen markedly since the Brotherhood took power. Egypt no longer enforces the blockade of Gaza. Rather than worrying about holding onto Gaza, as they may have done when they were locked in a vise between the Israelis and Mubarak’s Egypt, they are now thinking seriously about how best to wrest control of the West Bank from their Palestinian rivals.
The Hamas connection should send a chill down the spines of anyone who still held onto hope that the Arab Spring would produce more, rather than less, freedom for Egypt. But it should also remind Americans that they are still sending more than $1 billion a year in U.S. aid and selling F-16 aircraft to Morsi’s Egypt. Members of Congress who continue to back this foolish policy need to ask themselves whether it makes sense to funnel taxpayer dollars to Egypt in the hope of supporting regional stability if what they are really doing is bolstering a government that depends on Hamas terrorists to stay in power.
How can the promise of the Arab Spring be advanced in light of deepening social and political uncertainties?
The New Republic: The Magazine of White People. By Ace of Spades. Twitchy, February 9, 2013.
Is Republicanism a white ideology? By Samuel Wilson. The Think 3 Institute, February 19, 2013.
“American politics,” Gary Wills wrote in 1975, “is the South's revenge for the Civil War.” He was referring to the rise of Southern and Sunbelt figures—the later ones would include Jimmy Carter, Reagan, Bill Clinton, and the two Bushes—whose dominance of presidential politics ended only with Obama’s election in 2008. However, the two parties dealt with race differently. Carter and Clinton had pro–civil rights histories and directly courted black voters. But as the GOP continued remolding itself into a Southern party—led in the ’90s by the Georgian Newt Gingrich and by the Texans Dick Armey and Tom DeLay—it resorted to an overtly nullifying politics: The rise of the Senate veto as a routine obstructionist tool, Jesse Helms’s warning that Clinton “better have a bodyguard” if he ever traveled to North Carolina, the first protracted clashes over the debt ceiling, Gingrich’s threat to withhold disaster relief, the government shutdown, Clinton’s impeachment despite public disapproval of the trial. All this, moreover, seemed to reflect, or at least parallel, extremism in the wider culture often saturated in racism: Let’s not forget Minutemen and Aryan Nation militias, nor the “anti-government” terrorist Timothy McVeigh, whom the FBI linked to white supremacists. The war on government—and against agencies like the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives—had become a metaphor for the broader “culture wars,” one reason that the GOP’s dwindling base is now at odds with the “absolute majority” on issues like gun control and same-sex marriage.
Reformers in the GOP insist that this course can be reversed with more intensive outreach efforts, better recruitment of minority candidates, and an immigration compromise. And a new cast of GOP leaders—Ted Cruz, Nikki Haley, Bobby Jindal, Marco Rubio—have become national favorites. But each remains tethered to movement ideology. At the recent National Review Institute conference in Washington, Cruz even urged a “partial government shutdown,” recalling the glory years of the ’90s, but downplaying its destructive outcome.
Denial has always been the basis of a nullifying politics. Calhoun, too, knew he was on the losing side. The arithmetic he studied most closely was the growing tally of new free territories. Eventually, they would become states, and there would be sufficient “absolute” numbers in Congress to abolish slavery. A century later, history pushed forward again. Nonetheless, conservatives, giving birth to their movement, chose to ignore these realities and to side with “the South.”
Race will always be a complex issue in America. There is no total cleansing of an original sin. But the old polarizing politics is a spent force. The image of the “angry black man” still purveyed by sensationalists such as Ann Coulter and Dinesh D’Souza is anachronistic today, when blacks and even Muslims, the most conspicuous of “outsider” groups, profess optimism about America and their place in it. A politics of frustration and rage remains, but it is most evident within the GOP's dwindling base—its insurgents and anti-government crusaders, its “middle-aged white guys.” They now form the party’s one solid bloc, its agitated concurrent voice, struggling not only against the facts of demography, but also with the country’s developing ideas of democracy and governance. We are left with the profound historical irony that the party of Lincoln—of the Gettysburg Address, with its reiteration of the Declaration's assertion of equality and its vision of a “new birth of freedom”—has found sustenance in Lincoln’s principal intellectual and moral antagonist. It has become the party of Calhoun.
Sam Tanenhaus, the editor of the New York Times Book Review, is writing a biography of William F. Buckley. He may be naturally inclined to make large claims for Buckley and his magazine, National Review. In the current New Republic, Tanenhaus echoes the warning heard with increasing frequency that Republicans are likely to find themselves ethnically marginalized in the future, unable to appeal to nonwhite voters. Seeking a reason for this, Tanenhaus picks up an obscure intellectual trail leading from National Review to the 19th century slaveholding ideologue of minority rights, John C. Calhoun. To an extent this is a familiar story told from an unusual angle, an attempt to define the intellectual origins of the GOP's ultimately successful “Southern strategy” of the 1960s. Tanenhaus notes that Republicans supported civil rights as late as the Eisenhower administration, but began to change its tune with the advent of Barry Goldwater, aided by Buckley and National Review. These elements added a strident libertarian note to traditional Republican conservatism, particularly a fresh hostility to centralized government that led self-styled champions of liberty, in their resistance to federal civil-rights legislation, to rank state rights above individual rights. Here Tanenhaus sees Calhoun’s influence. Calhoun argued that each state retained inviolate sovereignty over social relations within its own borders, and that the rights of individuals within states, except where enumerated in the Bill of Rights, were none of the federal government’s business. That is, Calhoun denied federal right or authority to mandate racial or gender equality throughout the Union. Perhaps more influentially, Calhoun challenged the sovereignty of “numerical majorities” on the national level, fearing that their tendency toward absolute power inevitably trampled on the rights of sovereign communities or economic interests. He believed that the country would be best governed by “concurrent majorities” in which each recognized interest was equally represented and retained a right to veto government action. If Calhoun retains much influence today, however, it’s an influence the man himself might have repudiated. He never reconciled himself to party government, believing political parties the forces most likely to use numerical majorities to tyrannize the states or other core interests. Yet 21st century Republicanism seems to be tending toward seeing parties themselves, or the ideologies parties seem to represent, as rightful members of an ideally concurrent majority. At least it seems as if they believe that the rights of “conservatives,” for instance, are violated in some unacceptable way when conservatives are shut out of political power. They may also believe that democracy itself, at least as expressed in votes for the Democratic party, inevitably violates individual (economic) and group (cultural) rights unless adequately checked. But what is “white” about this, apart from its historical parentage? Why does the anti-statist, pro-local, individualist stance of 21st century Republicans seem to be a nonstarter with most nonwhite (and many nonmale) voters?
Tanenhaus joins many other observers in assuming that Republicans envision the “takers” or the “47%” as darker people than themselves. You can’t hear Mitt Romney say that, of course, but Tanenhaus blames both Romney and his running mate, Rep. Ryan, for expressing patronizing attitudes during their rare appearances before black audiences. He finds it patronizing, for instance, for Romney to tell back students to form two-parent families when they grow up, or for Ryan to recommend “good discipline and good character” to another black crowd. This might be enough evidence to show that Tanenhaus may be half right. Republicans like Romney and Ryan may have an irrepressible contempt for groups they perceive as constituents and clients of the enemy party, but I’ve always been reluctant to accept that Republicans feel that way only about “minorities.” White people still form 72% of the American population as of 2010, and thus must form a good portion of Romney’s despised 47%. I understand, however, that Tanenhaus and others are trying to account for the demographic concentration of Republican voters in the white South. Voters are inevitably less intellectual than politicians and propagandists, and bigotry is probably a bigger motivator of Republican votes than Republican leaders care or dare to admit. But that's only half the equation. Republicans boast of being a party of ideas and values. Those ideas and values may be tainted by association with racism, but are they themselves inherently bigoted. Do blacks or Hispanics have some cultural antipathy toward the ideas of limited government or laissez-faire capitalism? Or is the perpetuation of class hierarchies that are also often racial in nature the original motivation for those ideologies? Tanenhaus’s brief account seems to make bigotry the driving force, but Joseph Crespino's recent biography of Strom Thurmond (mentioned only in passing by Tanenhaus) argues a subtler point about class rather than race. Crespino writes that Republicans began to grow sympathetic toward a South long seen as impenetrably Democratic when they discovered, not necessarily a common hatred for blacks, but a shared antipathy toward federal interference with business, and specifically with hiring practices. The South appealed to increasingly reactionary Republicans not so much because it was racially segregated but because it was the region most resistant to organized labor. Republican contempt for the working class persists today, the party’s avowed desire to accelerate job creation notwithstanding, and that alone could explain increasing antipathy toward the GOP everywhere but in the South. Maybe they don’t believe in solidarity or equality down there, but that might be more a “South” problem than a “white” problem. It’s a Republican problem either way, and the GOP’s challenge is to reach back beyond the South without alienating the South, or to take the same risk of losing the region (to whom?) Lyndon Johnson took when he came out for civil rights. We can’t test whether racial minorities will ever embrace conservatism until more conservatives are willing to take that risk in whatever form.
Yeah, he’s got this kind of fairly short window where he’s just been reelected, it’s his first State of the Union where he’s not running for reelection. He can take that on board and decide he’s going to try and push his agenda. But the window is short because, fairly soon, all of the members of the House are going to start thinking about those midterm elections.
If he wants to get big things done, he’s going to have to get them done fairly soon. In 2012, he promised a fairer America. He raised taxes with the House, at the end of the year. And we’ll see where inequality levels start to come down in America. But the big thing he’s going to have to do is promise to get jobs for the country.
We’re living in a world where robots are cheap and efficient and people are expensive and inefficient. And he’s got to find a post-manufacturing America and lay out a plan for it where there is job growth. And that’s the single biggest priority of his second term.