Token Dissonance

Black & gay, young & conservative. A Southern gentleman writes about life and politics after Yale


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Right Quick: Freedom from (Religious) Freedom

It seems like only yesterday two days ago that I was evaluating the Left’s supremely disingenuous attacks on the Hobby Lobby ruling that affirmed congressionally enacted protections for religious liberty. Those who remember that post from all those hours ago may recall that I challenged progressives to come clean about the nature of their mendaciously hysterical objections to a legally sound ruling and campaign openly against the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, if they have indeed renounced it to the partisan tune of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Now, as we prepare to celebrate the signing of our civil-rights-affirming Declaration of Independence, the zealously progressive Freedom From Religious Freedom Religion Foundation is gleefully patronizing the hack-liberal august New York Times with a full-page ad calling for the repeal of RFRA.

How dare people who create jobs and hire people be religious?! #OUTRAGE

How dare people who create jobs and hire people be religious?! #OUTRAGE

Well that didn’t take long.

In the ad and the news release about it, the Freedom from Tolerance Religion Foundation champion the discredited trope that the Supreme Court ruling allows “employers to decide what kind of birth control an employee can use” or has anything to do with gender on the bench.

Of course, in reality (which we have been told has a liberal bias), the law merely frees closely held or nonprofit corporations (whether churches, schools, family-owned companies, or what have you) from having to pay for some types of contraception—an accommodation the administration itself already extended to certain corporations (a key point made in the ruling, for those who bothered to read it). Employers will still have no say (or interest) in what employees do with their own money, and anyway, no woman will lose access to birth control. But since the Freedom from Pluralism Religion Foundation is so enthusiastically shaming folks for supposedly objectionable views, let’s take a closer look at that ad:

“The photo of the woman at top is that of Margaret Sanger-idol of the pro-choice movement (and the founder of Planned Parenthood) who — this has been all but erased from the panegyrics to her greatness — was a proponent of eugenics. She was, in the words of Arina Grossu a ‘racist, eugenicist extraordinaire’ whose role in pushing these Nazi-like laws resulted in more than 60,000 sterilizations of vulnerable people, including people she considered ‘feeble-minded’, ‘idiots’ and ‘morons.’ She also spoke to KKK women’s groups.

But what is worse is this line from the ad:  ‘All-male, All-Roman Catholic Majority on Supreme Court Puts Religious Wrongs over Women’s Rights.’

Anti-Catholicism apparently is no problem for this group. Should there be a religious test for public office or the highest court of the land?”

How far the progressive antagonists of the RFRA-affirming Court will go in attacking religion, from Catholicism to President Obama’s own political allies in communities of faith, will be an interesting thing to watch.


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Right Quick: Valar Dohaeris

It seems I’ll be writing quite a bit about death at the start of this week, which is a curious way to welcome the month of June. Like most people, perhaps, I don’t care to dwell too long on the empty silence of eternity that yawns beyond the swan song of a heartbeat. But alas, Death awaits us all, and with all things, what matters is what we learn and do while we can.

Frank Lautenberg, a veteran of the U.S. Army Signal Corps and senior U.S. Senator from New Jersey, was the last veteran of the wars that rent worlds serving in the Upper Chamber. His passing has now ended forever the era when those who defended freedom in the Great Wars of the early 20th Century represented entire states of free men and women in Congress. As the world tumbles on, which it always will, we should take a moment to remember that we stand on the shoulders of men who built and defended across the world a civilization that we now take for granted.

The things these men must have seen and known…

If we are lucky, neither us nor our children will ever be called to dutifully face the martial belligerence of the extinction of liberty. While all of the men who did will soon be gone, we should always remember and honor the fact that such men lived. Thank God that such men lived, fought, and went on to serve their families and country in civilian life. The ultimate gift they will leave behind is a nation increasingly distant from the cost of constitutional virtues that are neither free nor universal, even if they ought to be.

It is easy to forget in good times the horrors that can surface in terrible times, but there is the enduring paradox of building the peaceful prosperity of a nation on the solemn sacrifices of a generation of mortals who knew they lived far too close to an abyss. Can we live peacefully in a free world where ever fewer of us know firsthand the costs of peace and freedom?

I did not agree with Sen. Lautenberg, may he rest in peace, on many or most political issues of the day, but I certainly share his love of country and zealous commitment to the American project. In short, I’m glad that such a man lived and served for people like me. I’m likewise glad that men and women today still serve and bring the raw edges of wisdom in a broken world to those of us who will never see suffering as they are called to.

Someday, as assuredly as Ozymandias reigns over sand and dust, my generation will have perished and with us the firsthand knowledge of life in the Second Millennium. Whether the values and wisdom we hold and accumulate will translate well to those who inherit our stations is a question our lives will serve to answer.


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Right Quick: The Fallen Joe

As many readers may vaguely recall, MSNBC’s Morning Joe was not always a latte-drinking armchair crusader in chummily good standing with urban liberal punditry. Once upon a time, our reconstructed New Yorker was a duly elected Republican congressman from the Florida panhandle. Alongside Georgia’s Newt Gingrich, Scarborough partook in the 90s evolution of the then-Democratic South into a rising GOP stronghold in Congress. In those days, dear Joe was an embodiment of the famed “Contract with America” that unified conservative control in the Capitol for the first time in generations

As he has occasionally mentioned on his show, Morning Joe once opposed some of the gun control measures he now champions as “common sense” and “sensible.” Presumably, he understood easily researched truths including the practical absurdity of banning cosmetically menacing rifles and arbitrarily limiting magazines. In any case, he was quite the fan of the NRA and the constitutionally protected civil rights its millions of members defend (courtesy of The Daily Caller):

But that was back when he was Middle-American Joe, who was accountable to middle-American voters with middle-American views on civil rights, self-defense, and the proper role of law and government. Now that he wine and dines with liberal intelligentsia in Manhattan with a bank account filled by executives at MSNBC, Morning Joe Scarborough freely rambles on about the imminent “extinction” of the GOP over opposition to a gun control law that nobody believed would stop the next tragedy.

In the meantime, mainstream America has already moved on. Unfathomably to Morning Joe (although Middle-American Joe could have predicted it), many Americans are even relieved the whole mess is done. It is amazing how out of touch we get while chattering away inside our echo-chambered bubbles. But in any case, this walk down memory lane merely serves as the latest reminder of what has, in truth, long been evident. Joe Scarborough is no longer a mainstream Republican in any meaningful sense, and this fact should be obvious to everybody by now.

So as we look back on the glory days of pre-MSNBC Middle-American Joe and reflect on the philosophical atrophy of years passing, let us ask the nagging question that Morning Joe will never hear:

How art thou fallen from God’s Country, O Joe, wind of the morning?


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Right Quick: The Gun Bills

In the midst of the many hot-button issues facing America right now, the gun control debate is still producing its fair share of interesting developments. We’ve had Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s disturbing attempt to publically infringe upon the rights of private corporations that refused to bow to the liberal political agenda. We’ve also had freshman Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s winning response against government bullying. Meanwhile, Vice President Biden has tripled and quadrupled down on his peculiar insistence on shotguns being more easily handled than more popular AR-15s.

The last few months have seen much left-of-center focus on having fewer guns forms and a right-of-center focus on the many problems with “reasonable, common sense” fixes that fix little or nothing. As I’ve already written quite a bit on this topic, I won’t rehash old arguments. Rather, as more liberal-leaning media outlets take pains to highlight protests for gun control, it seems expedient to note a development unlikely to receive much attention in the mainstream media. Namely, victims of gun violence—like law enforcement officers—do not uniformly back the full package of the Obama-Feinstein proposals.

Since witnessing her parents’ death in a Texas mass shooting in 1991, Dr. Suzanna Hupp has been advocating for gun rights around the country. She considers herself a victim not of “gun violence” but of legislative malpractice. In Connecticut, grieving Newtown father Mark Mattioli testified that new gun laws are not the answer to the kind of tragedies his family suffered. Most recently, Columbine survivor Evan M. Todd penned an open letter to President Obama rejecting the administration’s gun control push.

He argues in part:

“Gun ownership is at an all time high. And although tragedies like Columbine and Newtown are exploited by ideologues and special-interest lobbying groups, crime is at an all time low. The people have spoken. Gun store shelves have been emptied. Gun shows are breaking attendance records. Gun manufacturers are sold out and back ordered. Shortages on ammo and firearms are countrywide. The American people have spoken and are telling you that our Second Amendment shall not be infringed.

Virginia Tech was the site of the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history. Seung-Hui Cho used two of the smallest caliber hand guns manufactured and a handful of ten round magazines. There are no substantial facts that prove that limited magazines would make any difference at all.

Mr. President, in theory, your initiatives and proposals sound warm and fuzzy — but in reality they are far from what we need. Your initiatives seem to punish law-abiding American citizens and enable the murderers, thugs, and other lowlifes who wish to do harm to others.

Let me be clear: These ideas are the worst possible initiatives if you seriously care about saving lives and also upholding your oath of office.”

Whether you agree with everything these different people have to say, it would certainly add some useful substance to the gun control debate to hear more from the inconvenient holders of perspectives unfashionable in various “mainstream” quarters. As the Senate opts to split its key proposals into separate bills for separate votes, let’s hope sound policy and good governance prevail in the end.


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Right Quick: The Crazies

You hear a lot these days about the “fiscally conservative, socially liberal” types who would vote for the Republican Party if only it got its act together. MSNBC-friendly Republicans like Colin Powell and Joe Scarborough have each done their part to help sustain this narrative at times. To be sure, there are a number of social positions the GOP generally represents that are rightfully anathema to this crowd, and I understand that. What’s rather interesting, however, is the degree to which the Trojan Horse of “right-wing extremism” has come to extend to the very fiscal responsibility that would-be conservatives profess to want.

Republicans don’t all agree on the optimal way forward on fiscal issues any more than do the Democrats. But whatever the media hype to the contrary, we should all be able to agree that, say, continually raising the debt ceiling without substantial budgetary reform is less than ideal. To this effect, you GOP-leery fiscal conservatives, Jonah Goldberg has written you a letter:

“So, Bob, as a “fiscal conservative,” what was so outrageous about trying to cut pork — Fisheries in Alaska! Massive subsidies for Amtrak! — from the Sandy disaster-relief bill? What was so nuts about looking for offsets to pay for it?”

Even if you think the House mishandled the Sandy bill, their objections seem not unreasonable, and they did offer another, less pork-laden bill. But as that fight is over, let’s move on to the “moderates”:

“Well, let’s talk about Eisenhower, your kind of Republican. Did you know that in his famous farewell address he warned about the debt? “We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage,” he said. “We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.”

Bob, we are that insolvent phantom, you feckless, gormless clod. The year Eisenhower delivered that speech, U.S. debt was roughly half our GDP. But that was when we were still paying off WWII (not to mention things like the Marshall Plan), and the defense budget constituted more than half the U.S. budget (today it’s a fifth and falling). Now, the debt is bigger than our GDP. Gross Domestic Product is barely $15 trillion. The national debt is over $16 trillion and climbing — fast. The country isn’t going broke, Bob, it is broke.

When George W. Bush added nearly $5 trillion in national debt in two terms you were scandalized. When Obama added more than that in one term, you yawned. When, in 2006, then-senator Obama condemned Bush’s failure of leadership and vowed to vote against raising the debt ceiling, you thought him a statesman. Obama, who wants to borrow trillions more, now admits that was purely a “political vote.”

Yet when Republicans actually have the courage of Obama’s own convictions, you condemn them.”

This, of course, brings us to the crux of our spending problem of which liberals loathe to speak—entitlements:

“Anyone who calls himself a fiscal conservative understands we have a spending problem. Do the math. A two-earner couple who retired in 2011 after making $89,000 per year will have paid about $114,000 into Medicare over their lifetimes but will receive $355,000. When will it dawn on you that Obama doesn’t think we have a spending problem? I ask because when he said “we don’t have a spending problem,” it seemed to have no effect on you.

And yet you still think Paul Ryan’s budget was “extreme.” Do you know when it balanced the budget? 2040. What’s a non-extreme date to balance the budget, Bob? 2113?”

Until and unless Democrats get serious about transformative spending cuts, my fiscally conservative friend, the GOP is the only game in town for deficit reduction. I’m not saying the Party is perfect by any means, but a few rotten apples don’t change the fact that we, as a movement, are committed to the fiscal reforms that will move our country toward the right track. And every step of the way, the Left fights us tooth and nail. Remember that the next time somebody howls about “extremists.”


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Right Quick: The Gun Culture War

There have been many words dropped over the innocent blood spilt at Shady Hook Elementary School last week. Predictably, the conversation has turned to reflexive concerns about mental health, violent media, and gun control. Everyone has their factoids and stories, some more honest, others more tendentious. I even had my own take about the difficult realities we face.

But even beyond our specific responses to this particular incident, we all have our own axes to grind. Many vocal proponents of greater gun control have minimal involvement with guns in the first place and would happily see them all gone. Too many don’t seem to realize, for example, that most handguns are and should be semiautomatic—which simply means you don’t need to reload after every shot—as are many hunting rifles. Many ardent supporters of the Second Amendment are ultimately left pushing such unsavory options as arming schools and public places to stop these incidents of what is essentially unilateral terrorism.

Over at The Daily Beast, Megan McArdle gives her take on the hard truths to confront and unbridgeable chasms to acknowledge:

“But now is not a good time to have a cost-benefit discussion, and there may never be a good time. The two sides are too far apart: gun control is mostly advocated by people who do not own guns, or want to own guns, and for them it is therefore a zero cost policy. Maybe a negative cost policy, because–apart from the violence–they have a fairly intense cultural antipathy for people who spend a lot of time playing with guns. Randall Collins notes that “US surveys indicate the favorite TV shows of liberal Democrats are comedians satirizing conservatives; conservatives’ favorites are college football.” However right they may be, those people are not in a good position to persuade gun owners that they shouldn’t want to own guns, or that having them taken away is a negligible cost in the bigger picture. Nor have gun owners had any better luck explaining to the other side why they might want to own guns even though some people abuse them.

So I’ll merely point out what Jeffrey Goldberg has already said, better and at greater length, in The Atlantic: the discussion is moot. You can’t ban guns. That ship has sailed… There is just, as Mark Kleiman notes, “no way to get there from here”. And the more you push for a ban, the more pushback you get on lesser gun control measures–the reason the NRA has so vociferously opposed gun registration is that they (correctly) suspect that VPC and its fellows would like to ban guns, and use those lists to confiscate the ones currently in circulation. For the same reason that pro-choicers resist “leaving the issue to the states” or “reasonable restrictions”, opponents of gun control feel they need to hold the line as far back as possible. They are not wrong to worry about a slippery slope; that is what the other side is hoping for.”

The cultural angle is key, as it goes to the root of so many ills. Too many Americans are far too distrustful—reasonably or otherwise—of  their countrymen for productive conversations on so many issues. Even as our nation homogenizes, this age-old problem persists. But back to the question of guns, there is no evidently compelling hope that feasibly tighter restrictions will prevent mass killing or any other kind of violence:

“Reducing the magazine sizes seems modestly more promising, but only modestly. It takes a few minutes of practicing to learn how to change a magazine in a few seconds.  Even if you banned magazines, forcing people to load the gun itself, people could just carry more guns; spree shooters seem to show up, as [the shooter] did, with more guns and ammunition than they actually need.  In this specific case, it might well not have helped at all. Would [the shooter] really have been gang-rushed by fast-thinking primary school students if he stopped to reload?”

[Note: The Columbine shooters reloaded at least four times.]

It is conceivable that we’ll somehow resurrect the lapsed “assault weapons ban”. As lawmakers and pundits tinker on the margins, freely acknowledge that many of us will feel better after however much time and resources have been expended on the particular placebo that emerges. How we’ll feel after the next tragedy—and the new culture battle it ignites—is another matter.

As McArdle reminds us, “False security is more dangerous than none.”


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Right Quick: Grand Old Demographics

Much of the commentary and analysis on the last election has focused on how Republicans are losing big among the young, minorities, women, etc. and what the GOP can and should do to change this. Many on the Left predictably want Republicans to “moderate” and some on the hard right want the Party lambaste Romney as a bad candidate and prescribe the panacea of doubling down on ideological purity. Bracketing that discussion for a moment, I want to focus on three relatively overlooked features of the Sixth of November.

First, Romney won 1 out of every 5 votes cast by black men aged 18-29 (my demographic). For comparison, the last Republican to crest 20% of the overall black vote was Richard Nixon in 1960 (32%), and no recent Republican has yet beat Gerald Ford’s 16% showing in 1976.

Second, Romney outperformed Republican U.S. Senate candidates across the country, from Virginia to Wisconsin to Florida to Texas. (Yes, more Texans voted for Mitt Romney than Ted Cruz. Think about that for a minute.)

Third, and the observation that inspired this post, non-Romney Republicans underperformed supposedly safe demographics where it mattered. Whatever the reasons for the mixed message in the Midwest, The American Conservative reminds us to keep an eye on the plains:

“Relative to the rest of the country, the “Big Sky” region is old and white; the percentage of young voters actually decreased by 7% in Montana between 2008 and 2012. Such factors would seem to work in Republicans’ favor.

Neither Berg nor Rehberg held particularly “extreme” views by his state’s standards, and neither were unexpected victors in heated primary contests, i.e. Todd Akin or Richard Mourdock. Rehberg, who lost to Tester, had represented Montana’s at-large House district since 2001; Berg had represented North Dakota’s at-large House district since 2011–both were the “establishment” choices. Neither candidate attracted national attention for controversial remarks i.e. Akin or Mourdock, and were known commodities in their state.

And yet Berg underperformed Romney by 9.2%, while Rehberg underperformed Romney by 10.5%. Thus, a significant portion of voters in these states “pulled a switcheroo,” opting for Romney plus a Democratic senate candidate.

Where even the rainbows want divided government

However the GOP opts to modernize its message and expand the conservative appeal, I hope new leaders make a concerted effort to reach people everywhere. Voters are complex animals with complicated beliefs and motivations. We can’t afford to take any of them for granted.