Walking Away From the Women’s March: Liner Notes

My latest column is up at The Federalist, “Major Liberal Groups Walk Away From the Women’s March, But Very Quietly.” That’s the title I suggested, so I have only myself to blame for the traffic.

It’s not a clickbaity headline, but it accurately describes how top-tier lefty groups have stopped partnering with the Women’s March. The exodus is almost certainly due to the claims of anti-Semitism against the leaders of Women’s March Inc., but the groups are largely remaining silent and the establishment press is curiously incurious.

What got left out for space? Plenty. The subtext of the column is a meditation about our competing desires to reward good behavior and to judge people — particularly political opponents — by their failure to live up to higher standards in the first instance. And this tension runs through a number of current news stories. It’s hardly limited to the controversy regarding the Women’s March, as the House GOP’s wrestling with the odious Rep. Steve King’s comments about white nationalism attests.

I suppose others might “whatabout” my failure to mention the King saga. But what these stories might tell us is that tribalism promotes lower standards all around — and that if the parties are going to attack each other, doing so in ways that ask us to meet higher standards is probably an improvement. And that parties trying to clean up their own messes is probably more effective.

Ocasio-Cortez’s Big Green Unicorn: Liner Notes

I have a new column up at The Federalist, “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s ‘Green New Deal’ Is Powered By Unicorns.” It’s mostly about how the newly-minted Congresswoman’s big environmental proposal is not technologically feasible and the tax hike she proposed to pay for it would be completely inadequate.

However, I usually try to to fit even newsy columns into larger themes. Here, it’s that AOC — and increasingly the Democratic Party — is hitching their future to “policies” based on magical thinking. Pres. Trump occasionally does this, but the Democrats have long flattered themselves as the party of wonks, which makes the current turn that much more of an embarrassment.

It seems worse than that also. AOC also told 60 Minutes that ” There’s a lot of people more concerned about being precisely, factually, and semantically correct than about being morally right.” People deride this as “post-truth politics,” but it’s really “Truth politics” or “faith-based politics.” This is what happens when people decide their politics is a religion, not politics. And the degeneration of our politics into a pure power struggle based on conflicting moral visions seems to be our near-future.

The NYT Whitewashes Ilhan Omar: Liner Notes

Another new column at The Federalist today, “NYT Puff Piece On Democrat Ilhan Omar Again Whitewashes Her Apparent Anti-Semitism.” It’s largely a continuation of what is sadly becoming a “beat” covering progressives’ tolerance for anti-Semtism in their ranks. There have been a couple of other pieces criticizing the New York Times for giving Congresswoman-elect Ilhan Omar a puff piece; mine focuses on the “silver lining” that both Omar and the NYT have to go out of their way in their dishonesty, suggesting consciousness of guilt.

What got left out for space? Mostly that — in addition to tolerating left-wing bigotry — the NYT has chosen to smear Republicans with the charge of anti-Semitism where it doesn’t exist. The paper waged such a campaign against GOPer Tim Miller for doing routine opposition research for Facebook on groups critical of the company, discovering that some of those groups were funded by George Soros.

Similarly, other Timespeople (and colleagues in the media) have condemned Pres. Trump and Sen. Chuck Grassley for noting Soros was involved in funding a variety of left-wing activist groups. Although others have made anti-Semitic attacks against Soros, NYTers have chosen to flood the fainting couches over entirely factual and non-bigoted descriptions of what Soros has done. The same could be said of Democrats’ attacks on GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson: some attacks have been bigoted, but others not. Unfortunately, the NYT has chosen to debase the debate over resurgent anti-Semitism not only by ignoring it on the left, but also by imagining it on the right even when it is absent.

Again, this is not to say that the NYT could not find legit bigotry on the right. It is to say that the institution is becoming so rotten, lazy, and “woke” as to become counter-productive as fewer people take them seriously.

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German Journo Commits Fraud on a “Grand Scale”: Liner Notes

I have a new column up at The Federalist today, “CNN Journalism Award Winner Exposed As Massive Fraud.” This was done quickly at the end of last night after I noted the CNN award angle during a conversation about the scandal. CNN was hardly alone in honoring this serial liar.

What got left out for space? Some nuance, as is often the case. For example, I note that these stories by Claas Relotius “occasionally further a larger anti-American narrative,” including an invented phone interview of Colin Kaepernick’s parents.  Sloppy readers might assume I’m also calling the former-NFL QB anti-American, which I am not — though one could have a lengthy discussion on that question.  Regular readers may recall that I have previously written about the very real problems of police brutality and police shootings in Chicago.  But the question of whether those problems should be a deal-breaker to standing during the National Anthem is obviously controversial, particularly when the protest comes from a fan of Fidel Castro.  What I’m really suggesting is that a journalist fabricating a story to promote that critique of America by Kaepernick — as part of a series of fake stories portraying America as a seething pit of nativism and racism — seems to be pursuing an anti-American agenda. And since the faker is German, that label does not carry with it a traitorous connotation, merely an ugly, stupid and ungrateful one.

Also, it struck me more after submitting the piece that it’s interesting how this fraud got caught by a fellow journalist — as has happened in other cases. (My column links to an earlier piece of mine recounting numerous cases of journalistic fraud.) In the future, I would probably emphasize how much of the problem here is with editors who become remarkably gullible when their socio-political biases are being confirmed.

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Voxplaining Andrew Sullivan to Ezra Klein: Liner Notes

Busy week! I have yet another new column up at The Federalist, “Andrew Sullivan And Classic Liberalism, Voxplained For Ezra Klein.” It’s about a significant debate between the Wonk and the Wanker, even if you care for neither personally.

What got left out for space? Most of what Klein had to write in his lengthy critique of Sullivan. My column is an explainer of Sullivan’s point. Klein misinterpreted it to a degree that much of his argument is not really a response to Sullivan and thus not useful in illuminating Sullivan’s argument.

Rather, Klein critiques the influence of Christianity on our history, and American history generally.  It’s a fairly typical example of so-called progressives being obsessed with looking backward through the telescope. He seems to think we became a more small-l liberal society despite Christianity, rather than because of it, even while begrudgingly conceding the history is a lot more complex than that.

Sullivan was not defending the historical record in toto; he was making the case that the Lockean take on Christianity — which incorporates religious pluralism and the separation of church and state — is what makes reason-based, post-Enlightenment politics possible. And that if we rid ourselves of that religion in favor of another, like intersectionality, the edifices built on the former ultimately collapse. 

Klein’s major mistake is failing to understand that when Sullivan is discussing religion and politics, he is considering the nature of each, rather than reducing them to historic and sociological phenomena. And it’s particularly absurd of Klein to do so when Sullivan’s column explains why this sort of argument fails, even when presented at length by Christopher Hitchens.

Moreover, while I mention Jonah Goldberg’s Suicide of the West for a historical point, it’s also important to this debate thematically. Jonah’s argument is that the “Miracle” we are currently enjoying rests upon ideas and institutions that do not come naturally to humans, whose brains come preloaded with all sorts of tribalist software. Locke’s take on Christianity, as refined by Jefferson, is one of those key unnatural things we destroy at our peril. This is a second irony of progressivism: it is obsessed with condemning the past, but imagines a future based on pre-Enlightenment psychology won’t repeat the mistakes and horrors of that past.

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Is 2020 a Youth Market for Dems?: Liner Notes

Another new column up at The Federalist today, titled “Democrats’ 2020 Candidate Options Don’t Look Good (Or Young).” That headline is the “glass half-empty” version of the thesis, which is that there’s a good chance Democrats will nominate a younger, lesser-known candidate for president in 2020 — and might do well with it.

What got left out? Oddly, I didn’t notice Dan McLaughlin’s chart of the ages of 2020 hopefuls vs Democrats elected president omitted JFK and Bill Clinton, whose inclusion would have underscored the point. JFK was 43.45 years old at his inauguration; Clinton was 46.42 years old at his. (In fairness, JFK ran against Nixon, who was only 4 years older than JFK, so the generational shift in 1960 was a lock).

I also might have elaborated upon — rather than just linking — Henry Olsen’s look at Millennial voting patterns by race.  The GOP’s “millennial gap” is really with white millennials; it basically disappears with non-white millennials. But as Olsen notes, what that really means is that the GOP needs to do better with minorities. The current version of the party does not seem too interested in that (and has been mostly been talk before that). I do not believe that demographics are destiny, but a GOP that actively repels minorities may help make it happen for Dems.

Lastly, I am skeptical of some of the broader cultural claims advanced by Peter Hamby in the Vanity Fair article which inspired the column. I try to avoid imputing motives to authors, but the subtext at Vanity Fair seems to be the “culture war” frame. It seems like Hamby thinks Trump “owns the culture” and it must be “won back.”  My column asserts that the very notion of a “culture war” conflicts with the idea of a single culture.  And to the extent we’re talking about pop culture, it remains very much in the hands of progressives, which is part of How We Got Trump.  In any event, our current cultural politics — and the brawling over the Clintons in 1992 — suggests any generational election will be pretty ugly.  Throw in the demographic shift on top of it and it could be even uglier.

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Macron’s Malaise Speech: Liner Notes

I have a new column up at The Federalist today, titled “Macron’s Address On France’s Populist Revolt Was Not Ready For Primetime.” This was a requested update on a story you may have noticed I have been following.

Given the “breaking” nature of the news, the column was written on a de facto deadline. As such, there’s not a ton that was left out for space considerations. It is perhaps additionally notable that Macron’s response underscores the degree to which he has been governing as a president of his country’s cities to the detriment of most everywhere else. It is understandable that he would focus on the violent protesters in Paris. Yet the remainder of his primetime address Monday revealed the degree to which he does not understand the yellow vests outside Paris. Otherwise, he would not be proposing to go on a listening tour around the country.

The speech also seemed to ramble in parts, which is odd given that he took 10 days to go on television. Some of that delay was probably a recognition that he is the face representing the people’s discontent more than the face of a solution. But a cynic may wonder whether the delay was partly based in the hope that the holidays would help diffuse the public anger at his government.

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Macron Retreats From Green Tax Revolt: Liner Notes

I have another column up at The Federalist today, “Macron Slouches From Denial To Bargaining Over France’s Carbon Tax Revolts.” It’s largely an elaboration of my prior Liner Notes on this story. There is a bit more about how the media is being forced to look again at Macron’s climate change agenda, but largely remains in denial about the type of re-think they need if they want to avoid failure of the sort they have had in France and other counties.

Since I submitted the column, Macron has retreated further, from suspending the fuel tax hikes to abandoning them before another weekend of protests.  France’s left-wing parties claim this is too little, too late and are trying to get other parties interested in a vote of no confidence in Macron’s government, which still seems unlikely.  These developments don’t significantly change my analysis of the problem for Macron (and hardcore greens everywhere).

What got left out for space? Noah C. Rothman sees the “yellow jackets” as a movement closer to our Occupy movement than the Tea Party and concludes “Conservatives do not have a dog in this hunt.” I would say that’s only half-right. He’s relying on Jacobin for his take on the movement, when the reality seems to be that the demands from some factions of the largely leaderless movement are opposed by other factions. He’s right that in general, this is a populist movement and as such will usually wind up with a left-leaning position on economics.

I would disagree that conservatives don’t have a dog in the hunt. We certainly have an interest in the success or failure of governing institutions.  We also have an interest insofar as the Republican Party (still the closest thing to a vessel for conservatism in America) is currently headed by a populist who has a similar problem to Macron — or the opposite problem, depending on how you view it.  Macron has largely governed for the cities and alienated the rest of his people, culminating in the current crisis.  Trump has largely focused on rural areas and is largely unpopular everywhere else, resulting in large midterm losses for the GOP everywhere except the Senate, where the party underperformed on the most favorable map since perhaps the 1920s.  Conservatives need a GOP that is at least popular enough outside farm communities to maintain its majority.  Macron has the reverse problem, but the lesson for conservatives regarding coalition politics should be similar.

As an aside, I have finished recapping Battlestar Galactica for The Federalist and have been asked to tackle Batman: The Animated Series, just released on Blu-ray and available through the new DC Universe streaming app.  I won’t be promoting these recaps through the blog, so you need not fear for your email inbox.  But I’ll also be using the recaps to think more about this iconic figure, so if you’re a Bat-fan (or have kids who are), you may want to check them out.

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Liberal Elites’ Climate Obsession Hurts Democrats: Liner Notes

Another new column up at The Federalist today, titled “The Liberal Elites Driving Climate Change Hysteria Are Hurting Democrats’ Electoral Chances,” which is fairly explanatory.  In my prior Liner Notes about the French riots sparked by green taxes, I noted that one thing left out of my last column was the role of the American media’s blind spot on the political realities of the climate change issue. I got to expand on that today, though my argument is more about the media as a symptom rather than a cause of the blindness (it’s arguably more of a vicious circle at this point).

Given that today’s column is based on something from my prior Liner Notes, not much got left out for space. But in the interim, a third weekend of street protests in France turned violent and included the vandalization of the Arc de Triomphe.  Despite making noises about negotiations the Macron government contemplates no significant change from its present course on climate change. Indeed, in the middle of this tumult, Macron confirmed that the government would be shuttering 14 nuclear power plants, albeit not on the originally announced timetable (which had been magical thinking anyway).  The idea is to rely more on wind and solar, though Macron admits these are “intermittent” sources of power.  He is hoping innovation solves that problem. And I would agree that innovation is probably how we get climate change solutions over the next 100 years.  But it seems foolish to bet on that in a 10-20 year timeframe, let alone to do so while the government is raising the cost of living for ordinary people with green taxes.

Macron governing as though his constituency is Juliette Binoche instead of the middle and working classes.  The results are a tiny approval rating and street riots, which are attracting all sorts of political factions to start attaching their demands.  Things seem likely to get worse before they improve.  There should be a lesson here for the Democratic Party, whose activists and media seem bent on pushing a “Green New Deal” based on the same fantasy of quickly phasing out fossil fuels.  In reality, it’s been a fossil fuel that has America reducing carbon emissions better than countries like France.

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France’s Populist Revolt Against Green Taxes: Liner Notes

I have a new column up at The Federalist: “Green Taxes Spark A Populist Revolt In France Injuring 750, Killing Two.” Although it’s mostly about how the Macron government’s climate agenda (and the more extreme version being pushed in Paris) has sparked a new type of political unrest in France, it’s also about the way in which the English-language press seems to want to avoid the green roots of the protests. That’s partly a story about media bias, but more about the elitist groupthink on climate change generally.

Indeed, what gets left out of the column for space is perhaps some nuance. I hope it’s still clear that the column is more a cautionary tale in the mold of “How You Got Trump” than an endorsement of populism. But anyone who gets reactions to their writing on social media has to worry about not being completely blunt. Also, if greens want to blame the public for their seeming apathy, I can almost sympathize; they have the same sorts of problems fiscal conservatives have in trying to convince people that the accumulation of debt in the public and private sectors is a problem for which the bill will someday come due. That said, people in the public square have to deal with the public as it is, not as they wish it was.

A further aspect omitted here would have focuses on the American media, which during the post-Thanksgiving period has criticized the Trump administration for releasing a climate report on Black Friday and debated how much more hysterical they should be about climate change. And nowhere in that discussion is a mention that our oldest ally has people setting the streets of Paris ablaze over the hysteria of green bureaucrats. Nor is there any recognition that despite the relative levels of hysteria, it’s France whose emissions won’t meet its commitments under the Paris accord, while the U.S. will probably do a better job of hitting the target under an agreement from which we have withdrawn. The green blob seems to have less self-reflection than a vampire, perhaps suggesting this is more about social signaling than the search for consensus solutions — which the people seem to notice.

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