Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Re-Branding the GOP. By John Fonte.

Re-Branding the GOP. By John Fonte. National Review Online, December 16, 2013.

Middle-Class Heroes? By Andrew Stiles. National Review Online, December 31, 2013.


From the party of big business to the party of the little guy.

As Sean Trende and others have noted, middle- and working-class voters did not turn out for Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election in the numbers that Republican leaders had expected. In the eyes of many of these once-Republican-leaning voters (including former Reagan Democrats), the GOP appears to be too closely linked to “big business.” In response, many conservative thinkers have called for a more populist GOP, oriented toward the middle and working classes and distant from corporate elites.
It is time to reexamine the relationship between big business and the American center-right. While corporate America has a close relationship with the Republican party generally, its engagement with American conservatism is fraught with complications. Business leaders and conservatives often join forces for pragmatic gain on significant issues such as Obamacare, taxes, trade policy, cap-and-trade proposals, and other environmental and government regulations. This issue-by-issue alliance is tactically useful to both groups and no doubt will (and should) continue.
Republicans as a party, however, and conservatives specifically, should not be subservient to corporate interests on core issues. The American electorate must come to view Republicans as the party of the middle class rather than the courtiers of big business. The GOP “brand” must change. While conservatives and business will remain part of a broad center-right coalition, the key question is: On what terms, and who calls the shots?
Let’s review some history. In 1980, as conservatives rallied to Ronald Reagan, many corporate leaders were enthusiastic supporters of former Texas governor John Connolly for the GOP presidential nomination; Connolly was a former conservative Democratic politician who looked and talked like a CEO. Others liked Senator Howard Baker and George H. W. Bush. Mindful of the Goldwater defeat, all these business leaders saw Reagan as too conservative to win. Most CEOs were more comfortable with a mainstream candidate closer to the political center.
One of the big internal fights in the Reagan administration pitted business interests against national-security conservatives. In the 1970s, hundreds of major corporations as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers had joined to form a private pro-trade group, the U.S.-USSR Trade and Economic Council (USTEC). While conservative hawks wanted to curb the flow of military-use items to Communist countries, USTEC lobbied to remove barriers to Soviet trade. The group opposed, for example, the Jackson-Vanik amendment, which placed trade limits on certain Communist-bloc countries that restricted emigration, as the USSR did with Jews and Evangelical Christians.
Cold War ancient history, you say? Okay, let’s go back to this summer and look at a crucial domestic- and constitutional-policy issue. In July 2013, House Republicans voted to remove some federal mandates in the No Child Left Behind Act and empower the states to formulate their own accountability systems and curricular standards. Strong opposition to this federalism-affirming legislation came from every Democrat in the House, the Obama administration, an array of leftist groups (including the ACLU, the Children’s Defense Fund, the National Education Association, the Center for American Progress Action Fund, and the Southern Poverty Law Center) and also from business interests led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable. Former Reagan education official Chester Finn Jr. rebuked the two business groups for their stance: “Both . . . joined the left . . . in savaging the Kline [House Republican] bill and demanding more federal regulation and control of education. . . . I suppose this is yet another sad example of corporate America succumbing to big-government-itis.”
In fact, since the days of Theodore Roosevelt and Progressive theorist Herbert Croly over a hundred years ago, business has done well enough working with the regulatory forces of the administrative state. As Milton Friedman often remarked, corporate executives are not fans of the free market. They are often involved in “rent-seeking” behavior, lobbying the federal government for special privileges at the expense of others.
Not only will corporate America readily depart from conservatives on a matter such as state control of education, it also appears to have little use for the various other constituencies within the conservative coalition. Social conservatives advocating life, pro-family policy, and religious freedom; national-security conservatives defending American sovereignty, arguing for a strong military, and working to meet the challenges of China and radical Islam; national-cohesion conservatives aiming to curb racial, ethnic, and gender preferences and the pernicious ideology of multiculturalism; and free-market conservatives fighting statist measures – all these find that business leaders are often either indifferent to their concerns or lined up on the other side of the barricades, alongside the forces of the leftist establishment. Better to shun supposedly extreme right-wing ideologues than challenge liberal orthodoxy.
A major weapon in the Left’s continuing campaign to “fundamentally transform America,” as Candidate Obama so memorably promised to do, is what I call the coercive diversity project. This is the ongoing effort to use federal power to impose proportional representation along race, gender, and ethnic lines in all aspects of American life. If women, for instance, constitute 50 percent of the work force, then 50 percent of engineers, doctors, accountants, etc., should be women. Ensuring that each group is represented in each endeavor in the correct demographic proportion would require a degree of government coercion incompatible with a free society. Yet, with strong support from the business community, the coercive diversity project has advanced steadily for decades. Little by little, race- and gender-based preferences and quotas have replaced the original affirmative-action goal of achieving colorblind and gender-neutral equality of opportunity.
Corporate America was present at the creation of the coercive diversity project. Business executives provided funds and political support and collaborated with activists in promoting “diversity.” Most significantly, they helped blunt opposition from principled conservatives.
In The Diversity Machine, sociologist Fred Lynch details how corporations teamed up with progressives to fight the Reagan Justice Department’s attempt to end group preferences based on race, ethnicity, and gender. Attorney General Edwin Meese met strong resistance from the business community. The Reagan administration surveyed 127 chief executives of large corporations and found that 95 percent “planned to use numerical objectives to track the progress of women and minorities . . . regardless of government requirements.”
When Ward Connerly led a series of successful statewide referenda opposing the use of group preferences in education and employment, business interests fought him at every turn and poured money into the leftist campaigns to stop his efforts. After his successful initiative in the State of Washington in 1998, Connerly wrote: “The most significant obstacle we faced in the Washington campaign was not the media . . . but the corporate world. . . . Boeing, Weyerhaeuser, Starbucks, Costco, Microsoft, and Eddie Bauer all made huge donations to the [opposition]. . . . The fundraising was spearheaded by Bill Gates’ father, Bill Gates, Sr., a regent at the University of Washington whose famous name seemed to suggest that the whole of the high-tech world was solemnly shaking its head at us.”
In the most significant Supreme Court case on the coercive diversity project, Grutter v. Bollinger, in 2003, corporate America weighed in heavily on the side of mandated proportional representation and racial preferences. Sixty-five Fortune 500 companies (including Coca-Cola, Dow Chemical, DuPont, Eli Lilly, Intel, Johnson and Johnson, Procter and Gamble, Sara Lee, Texaco, Microsoft, Eastman Kodak, Pfizer, and United Airlines) submitted an amicus curiae brief in support of the University of Michigan Law School’s affirmative-action admissions program, which was being challenged by Barbara Grutter, a white woman whose law-school application the school had denied. The majority (5–4) decision, written by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, cited the Fortune 500 brief as evidence that major American businesses had made it clear that they supported the diversity project.
I have been using the term “corporate America,” but this moniker is something of a misnomer in an age when executives are increasingly “post-American” and major businesses almost always identify themselves as global ventures. Not untypical are comments from the vice president of Coca-Cola, who said in a speech in 2005, “We are not an American company,” and from a top Colgate-Palmolive executive, who in 1989 said, “There is no mindset [at Colgate] that puts this country [the United States] first.”
Speaking to Atlantic reporter Chrystia Freeland in 2011, a U.S.-based CEO of one of the world’s largest hedge funds described an internal debate at his company. One of his senior colleagues had suggested that the “hollowing out of the American middle class didn’t really matter,” the CEO told Freeland, adding: “His point was that if the transformation of the world economy lifts four people in China and India out of poverty and into the middle class, and [that] meanwhile means one American drops out of the middle class, that’s not such a bad trade.” Almost a decade ago, Samuel Huntington identified this trend as the “de-nationalization” of American corporate elites. The new “economic transnationals,” he said, are the “nucleus of an emerging global superclass.”
Not surprisingly, the Chamber of Commerce and leading corporations are currently supporting the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), a treaty strongly opposed by Senate conservatives, who argue that UNCLOS would undermine American sovereignty and establish a global regulatory system in which the U.N. would receive direct tax revenues for the first time. Corporate elites approve the global regulations in the treaty because these regulations, they believe, would be good for business.
All too often, the interests of corporate elites overlap with those of high-profile Republican donors and lawmakers. The foremost example of this connection is Carlos Gutierrez, George W. Bush’s former secretary of commerce and the ex-CEO of the Kellogg Company. With fundraiser Charlie Spies, Gutierrez has founded a super PAC, Republicans for Immigration Reform, and through TV appearances and op-eds he has become a major spokesman for the push for amnesty and low-skilled mass immigration. Gutierrez fits Huntington’s “economic transnational” profile rather well. As Bush 43’s commerce secretary, he was the major proponent of the North American Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP), which sought to increase “economic integration” between the United States, Mexico, and Canada. The SPP also called for the “harmonization” of security and customs regulations “in all three countries” in order to speed up border crossings – which would have made American border security dependent on Mexican and Canadian personnel and practices.
Today, Carlos Gutierrez is vigorously campaigning for the mass immigration of low-skilled workers. A few years ago, however, his goal was equally globalist: a transnational labor force for North America. Under Gutierrez’s leadership, the SPP in March 2006 included in its list of priorities the effort “to formalize a transnational technical labor force that could work in any North American country on a temporary basis.” Understanding the effect this would have on the standard of living of American blue-collar and white-collar workers was not then, and is not now, on the high-priority list set by Gutierrez and his colleagues in the corporate–Republican alliance.
American conservatism has in the past few decades become an ever more robust coalition of populist “non-conformist dissenters”: free marketers, social conservatives, national-security hawks, national-cohesion conservatives, patriotic libertarians, etc. Analogous to 18th-century British Whigs, these dissenters are united in their non-conformity to the “established church” of 21st-century America and its prevailing progressive orthodoxy. On the other hand, American business and its GOP allies who do not look beyond “economic man” either silently accept or actively approve the dogmas of progressive orthodoxy – the diversity project, multiculturalism, radical feminism, globalism, mass immigration, environmentalism, and all of the progressive social issues.
Immigration politics is at the heart of the divide between conservative populist groups, on one side, and corporate elites within the GOP on the other. Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama wrote a memo in July to his fellow Republican lawmakers, calling on them to “flip the immigration debate on its head.” At National Review Online, Sessions urged the GOP to “adopt a humble and honest populism” and distance itself from “the corporate titans who believe the immigration policy for our entire country should be modeled to pad their bottom line.”
The GOP lost the 2012 election, Sessions said, “because it hemorrhaged support from middle and low-income Americans of all backgrounds,” and the party must now mount an “unapologetic defense of working Americans.” He noted that Americans oppose by a two-to-one margin increasing low-skilled immigration and also strongly oppose any legalization of illegal immigrants before border security is in place. Sessions made the key political point that Republicans have a golden opportunity to appeal once again to Reagan Democrats, who are, as John O’Sullivan put it in a statement lauding Sessions, an “electoral bloc that dwarfs any other in numerical terms.”
Two preconditions of populist ascendancy are already emerging in embryonic form: first, a Sister Souljah–style rebuke of corporate elites and, second, the development of policy measures aimed specifically at supporting the middle and working classes. To the first point, Sessions on Labor Day chided pro-immigration-reform business groups and pointedly raised the issue of American patriotism, asking, “What is the loyalty a nation owes to its own citizens?” On the second point, conservative policy intellectuals as well as elected officials such as Senator Mike Lee of Utah are beginning to formulate policy initiatives focused on strengthening the middle and working classes.

Barack Obama’s most effective campaign argument in 2012 was that Romney represented corporate America while the president and his party were fighting for ordinary Americans. Immigration is the first issue on which to turn this accusation back against Democrats and seize the moral high ground by speaking up for the real underdog, the American worker. Let us begin the re-branding, as Jeff Sessions suggests, with conservatives and the GOP vigorously and unapologetically opposing all legislation that increases low-skilled immigration and denouncing “comprehensive immigration reform” for what it is: class warfare waged by an unholy alliance of Obama, progressive elites, and big business against the well-being and way of life of the American middle and working classes.

MIdeast Man of the Year: Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. By Ariel Ben Solomon.

Person of the Year in Regional Affairs: Gen Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. By Ariel Ben Solomon. Jerusalem Post, December 31, 2013.

Ben Solomon:

Nasser’s pan-Arabism mesmerized the Arab masses, and Egypt’s union with Syria, forming the United Arab Republic from 1958 until 1961, was a result of such forces. Pan-Arabists argued that the mandate system imposed by Britain and France after World War I had divided the Arab nation, and they demanded that it be rejoined.
However, as Fouad Ajami wrote in his famous “The End of Pan-Arabism,” it took the dramatic loss to Israel in the 1967 Six Day War to bring about its dissolution. The ideology had crumbled under the weight of reality, where military men, religious ideologues, tribes and ethnic factions jockeyed for power in the security state.
Sisi seemed to recognize this in a 2006 paper titled “Democracy in the Middle East,” which he wrote while studying at the US Army War College.
In it he argues that “existing conflict and tension needs to be resolved before democracy can be more fully accepted by the people of the area.” He goes on to note that the challenge today is similar to that faced at the beginning of Islam: uniting “these tribal and ethnic factions.”
“On the surface, many of the autocratic leaders claim that they are in favor of democratic ideals and forms of government, but they are leery of relinquishing control to the voting public of their regimes,” writes Sisi, echoing perhaps his own thoughts and his reluctance to cede power.
He then justifies a strong dictatorial ruler.
“There are some valid reasons for this. First, many countries are not organized in a manner to support a democratic form of government. More importantly, there are security concerns both internal and external to the countries.”
He also refers to Iraq as a “benchmark for testing democracy in the Middle East.”
Going into 2014, it is overwhelmingly clear to many observers, and to Sisi himself, that democratic state-building by the US failed in Iraq as sectarian tensions proved too difficult to bridge. If he is following his own advice, the Egyptian ruler likely sees the Iraqi example as a good reason for resistance to American pressure, a strong crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and establishment of a secure military-backed regime.
“Is transitioning to democracy in the best interest of [the] United states, or is it in the interest of the Middle Eastern countries?” he writes in the paper, adding that the emergence of democracy is not likely if it “is perceived as a move by the United States to further her own self-interest.”

What Will the Next 50 Years Be Like? By Paul Wolfowitz.

A Good Half-Century and a Bad One: What Will the Next 50 Years Be Like? By Paul Wolfowitz. The American, January 1, 2014.

Our World in the Last 100 Years. By Paul Wolfowitz. Video. Oxford Union, December 2, 2013. YouTube.

My Jewish State. By Roger Cohen.

My Jewish State. By Roger Cohen. New York Times, December 31, 2013.

Israel Must Seize the Day. By Ami Ayalon. New York Times, January 1, 2014.

Bill de Blasio’s Brave Blue World. By Walter Russell Mead.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio blew a kiss to the crowd gathered outside his Brooklyn home for his midnight swearing-in ceremony.
NYT pool photo by Seth Wenig.

De Blasio’s Brave Blue World. By Walter Russell Mead. The American Interest, January 1, 2014.

De Blasio Draws All Liberal Eyes to New York City. By Michael M. Grynbaum. New York Times, December 31, 2013.

“Will Not Wait” on Inequality, de Blasio Tells New York. By Thomas Kaplan. New York Times, January 1, 2014.

Text of Bill de Blasio’s Inauguration Speech. New York Times, January 1, 2014.

Bill de Blasio Inauguration: “March Toward a Fairer, More Just, More Progressive Place.” (Transcript, Audio, Video). WNYC News, January 1, 2014. YouTube.


The New York Times has a long piece out today calling Bill De Blasio’s mayorship as the cutting edge of a new wave of liberal progressivism sweeping through American cities:
The elevation of an assertive, tax-the-rich liberal to the nation’s most prominent municipal office has fanned hopes that hot-button causes like universal prekindergarten and low-wage worker benefits — versions of which have been passed in smaller cities — could be aided by the imprimatur of being proved workable in New York.
Yet the Times does not refer even once to the gravest challenge that the liberal agenda faces in urban America: the conflict of interest between unionized workers and the consumers of the services they provide.
This conflict manifests itself in all kinds of ways: the rising cost of operating transit systems, of infrastructure improvements, of school quality and governance and perhaps most fundamentally in the tradeoff between paying the unrealistic pensions negotiated in past years and funding services ranging from police to education for current residents.
We wish Mayor De Blasio every success, but we hope he is smarter about the problems he faces than the cocoon-spinning NYT.

Inauguration speech starts at 1:01:40 in video.

De Blasio excerpts:

From Jacob Riis to Eleanor Roosevelt to Harry Belafonte — who we are so honored to have with us here today — it was New Yorkers who challenged the status quo, who blazed a trail of progressive reform and political action, who took on the elite, who stood up to say that social and economic justice will start here and will start now.
It’s that tradition that inspires the work we now begin. A movement that sees the inequality crisis we face today, and resolves that it will not define our future. Now I know there are those who think that what I said during the campaign was just rhetoric, just “political talk” in the interest of getting elected. There are some who think now, as we turn to governing – well, things will just continue pretty much like they always have.
So let me be clear. When I said we would take dead aim at the Tale of Two Cities, I meant it. And we will do it. I will honor the faith and trust you have placed in me. And we will give life to the hope of so many in our city. We will succeed as One City. We know this won’t be easy; It will require all that we can muster. And it won’t be accomplished only by me; It will be accomplished by all of us — those of us here today, and millions of everyday New Yorkers in every corner of our city.
You must continue to make your voices heard. You must be at the center of this debate. And our work begins now.
. . . .
We will reform a broken stop-and-frisk policy, both to protect the dignity and rights of young men of color, and to give our brave police officers the partnership they need to continue their success in driving down crime. We won’t wait. We’ll do it now.
. . . .
Of course, I know that our progressive vision isn’t universally shared. Some on the far right continue to preach the virtue of trickle-down economics. They believe that the way to move forward is to give more to the most fortunate, and that somehow the benefits will work their way down to everyone else. They sell their approach as the path of “rugged individualism.”
But Fiorello La Guardia — the man I consider to be the greatest Mayor this city has ever known — put it best. He said: “I, too, admire the ‘rugged individual,’ but no ‘rugged individual’ can survive in the midst of collective starvation.”
So please remember: we do not ask more of the wealthy to punish success. We do it to create more success stories. And we do it to honor a basic truth: that a strong economy is dependent on a thriving school system. We do it to give every kid a chance to get their education off on the right foot, from the earliest age, which study after study has shown leads to greater economic success, healthier lives, and a better chance of breaking the cycle of poverty.
We do it to give peace of mind to working parents, who suffer the anxiety of not knowing whether their child is safe and supervised during those critical hours after the school day ends, but before the workday is done. And we do it because we know that we must invest in our city, in the future inventors and C.E.O.s and teachers and scientists, so that our generation – like every generation before us – can leave this city even stronger than we found it.
Our city is no stranger to big struggles — and no stranger to overcoming them.
New York has faced fiscal collapse, a crime epidemic, terrorist attacks, and natural disasters. But now, in our time, we face a different crisis – an inequality crisis. It’s not often the stuff of banner headlines in our daily newspapers. It’s a quiet crisis, but one no less pernicious than those that have come before.
Its urgency is read on the faces of our neighbors and their children, as families struggle to make it against increasingly long odds. To tackle a challenge this daunting, we need a dramatic new approach — rebuilding our communities from the bottom-up, from the neighborhoods up. And just like before, the world will watch as we succeed. All along the way, we will remember what makes New York, New York.
A city that fights injustice and inequality — not just because it honors our values, but because it strengthens our people. A city of five boroughs — all created equal. Black, white, Latino, Asian, gay, straight, old, young, rich, middle class, and poor. A city that remembers our responsibility to each other — our common cause — is to leave no New Yorker behind.
That’s the city that you and I believe in. It’s the city to which my grandparents were welcomed from the hills of Southern Italy, the city in which I was born, where I met the love of my life, where Chiara and Dante were raised.
It’s a place that celebrates a very simple notion: that no matter what your story is – this is your city. Our strength is derived from you. Working together, we will make this One City. And that mission — our march toward a fairer, more just, more progressive place, our march to keep the promise of New York alive for the next generation. It begins today.
Thank you, and God bless the people of New York City!

Has John Kerry Lost His Mind? By Eitan Haber.

Has Kerry lost his mind? By Eitan Haber. Ynet News, December 31, 2013.

US secretary of state is determined to end Mideast conflict. What if he succeeds?

John Kerry: Persona non grata. By Guy Bechor. Ynet News, November 22, 2013.

After betraying Israel, can Kerry be trusted as “loyal” mediator in peace talks with Palestinians?

Why Putin and Xi Must Be More Like Bismarck. By Dominique Moisi.

Why Putin and Xi Must Be More Like Bismarck. By Dominique Moisi. Real Clear World, December 30, 2013. Also at Worldcrunch.

Russia and China risk setting off global conflicts for the sake of national pride. A century later, the lessons of Otto von Bismarck are being ignored again.

How Peter Beinart Defends the Repulsive Views of the Antisemitic Jew Max Blumenthal. By Ron Radosh.

How Peter Beinart Defends the Repulsive Views of the Antisemitic Jew Max Blumenthal. By Ron Radosh. PJ Media, December 31, 2013.

Why Open Zion is Closing. By Peter Beinart.

Why Open Zion is Closing. By Peter Beinart. The Daily Beast, November 5, 2013.

Ten Roadblocks to Mideast Peace. By Peter Berkowitz.

10 Roadblocks to Mideast Peace. By Peter Berkowitz. Real Clear Politics, December 31, 2013.

Oversimplifying Israel. By Peter Berkowitz. The National Interest, June 11, 2013.

Implications of Israel’s Fraying Image. By Chas Freeman. The National Interest, June 10, 2013.

Israel’s Fraying Image. By Jacob Heilbrunn. The National Interest, No. 125 (May/June 2013).