Token Dissonance

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

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The Soft Bigotry of Progressive Intentions

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” ―Frederick Douglass

http://www.asofterworld.com/index.php?id=970

“I wish being a good person was as easy as wanting to help the children.”

 

In the heated summer of the 2000 presidential campaign, Texas Gov. George W. Bush went to the NAACP Convention in Baltimore and championed education reform, economic opportunity, and racial equality. In reflecting on demographic achievement gaps, the future president famously declared, to applause, “I will confront another form of bias: the soft bigotry of low expectations.”

This was a callback to a September 1999 speech Bush gave to the Latin Business Association in which he addressed academic underachievement among black and Latino students: “Now some say it is unfair to hold disadvantaged children to rigorous standards. I say it is discrimination to require anything less—the soft bigotry of low expectations.”

It is a tragic irony of Shakespearean cruelty that, in 2016, the NAACP opposes education reforms that are already helping black children and families. In its hostility to charter school and school choice, the NAACP (along with Black Lives Matter) is fighting against black communities and undermining black progress. Given the chthonic horrors of public education (if the intergenerational afflictions of that socioeconomic Tartarus can be so called) in too many lower-income neighborhoods, it surprises nobody paying attention that black voters in several states overwhelmingly support school choice, including charter schools.

Unfortunately, the NAACP has opted to subordinate the needs of the black community to the political interests of another core donor constituency of progressive politics—teachers unions—even though the facts indicate that those progressive donors would rather leave black kids incarcerated in poverty and ignorance than let them be free of union control. In this way, the NAACP has—much like Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who forsook her once strident support for school choice to kneel before the teachers unions—melded smoothly into a social justice establishment that exalts the interests of its donor class over those of the people it purports to serve and represent.

Jason Riley sums up the breadth of the maddening reality quite well over in the Wall Street Journal:

Numerous studies employing gold-standard random-assignment methodologies have shown that underprivileged black children with access to charter schools are much better off than their peers in traditional public schools. They not only learn more but are also more likely to finish high school, attend college and avoid drug abuse and teen pregnancy. Inner-city black students with access to the best charter schools regularly outperformed their white peers from the richest suburbs on standardized tests.

Charter-school students with disabilities outperform traditional public-school students without disabilities. The Black Lives Matter activists who fret about racial disparities in incarceration rates and support the NAACP’s anti-school-choice posturing might consider the fact that our jails and prisons are not full of high-school and college graduates.

Blacks are 16% of the public-school population in the U.S. but 27% of charter students. The NAACP is faulting charter-school proponents for targeting the very communities where the demand for school choice is most acute. According to the civil-rights activists, whether black students are learning anything matters less than whether they are sitting next to white students. Never mind the empirical data showing that black children need good teachers and safe learning environments far more than they need white classmates.

This theme of exalting demographics over results hearkens back to an education reform struggle, half a decade ago, in Wake County, North Carolina. In that case, a well-intentioned integration policy aimed at closing racial gaps in academic achievement had the actual effect of masking the ongoing problem while geographically separating underperforming kids from the support structures of their families and communities. When Republicans gained control of school policy in 2010, they understandably moved to allow parents to keep their kids in their own communities while improving those local schools.

This effort had the side-effect of ostensibly “resegregating” some schools—because different areas had higher concentrations of white and nonwhite families—and the allusions to Jim Crow and Brown v. Board came like clockwork. This slander could only work insofar as the self-proclaimed champions of “equality” and “racial justice” ignored or prestidigitated away the most essential fact: the progressive policy ended because it failed to do anything but hide its own failures. In truth, the Wake County reformers gave the lie to progressive assumptions about the realities of the substantive progress due to underprivileged Americans. So of course the warriors of social justice—and those who profit from its failings—cried, “Bigots!” and let slip the whistles of slander.

As I wrote at the time:

Accepting that diversity is valuable and progress is not painless, the benefits of the program were dubious at best—schools were increasingly overcrowded, most black and Latino students were not proficient in reading or math, and only 54% of poor kids were graduating. As a biracial mother of two Wake County students put it, “right now, it’s as if the best we can do is dilute these kids out so they don’t cause problems. It sickens me.”

Even the Republicans-abolish-integration article inadvertently makes a case for what Paul Fitts, a Republican candidate for Wake County Commissioner, would describe as achievement-oriented schools grounded in communal involvement. Namely, qualified poor and/or minority students were underenrolled in advanced math classes under the previous “integration” policy. The kicker: school officials say they’ve known about this problem for years, but many parents were left in the dark. In other words, sending kids to faraway schools stifles parental involvement and allows ongoing systemic problems to fester under the negligent eyes of self-interested bureaucrats.

This is the mettle of structural oppression: A constellation of social justice do-gooders fretting over race relations and “the children” while consigning underprivileged (mostly black and Latino) children and their families to mediocrity and malign neglect. This is how intergenerational poverty and underachievement are reinforced through the doublespeak of talking a good game about equality.

The war on black children extends all the way to the White House. The Obama administration fought tooth and nail to undercut school choice, from Louisiana to Washington, D.C. The government ignored the objections of black parents, who overwhelmingly benefit from and attest to the profound benefits of having options already available to the wealthy.

In the exceptionally odious Louisiana episode, Eric Holder’s Justice Department argued explicitly in a court of law that empowering black students to escape dangerous, failing schools—and the dependent cycle of poverty and ruin—would “impede the desegregation progress” from the Civil Rights Movement. This is how the administration chose to misrepresent the fact that the state’s vouchers, available only to low-income kids assigned to low-performing schools, overwhelmingly go to poor blacks who manage to beat the growing wait-list for limited spots.

It takes a special kind of legalistic depravity to invoke the hard-fought, blood-soaked triumphs of civil lights leaders to secure the best educations for black children as a vehicle to drive today’s black children back into a stultifying ocean of despair. (It’s worth noting that Bobby Jindal, the then-Governor of Louisiana who vigorously championed the academic emancipation of black youth against a hostile federal government, was the first nonwhite person ever elected to that office. Likewise, the Mayor of Washington is black, as is a large chunk of the city council.) This depravity is no less damning for carrying the imprimatur of America’s first black attorney general in service of the first black President of the United States.

By contrast, Gov. Jindal won reelection amid his campaign for education reform with a historic two-thirds of the vote, sweeping every parish in the Pelican State. It’s not clear if any data exist on the demographic breakdown of the 2011 electorate, but Jindal won a majority of the vote in several majority-black parishes, including MadisonSt. JamesSt. John the Baptist, and Tensas, even as 80 percent of black voters are registered Democrats.

Down the Gulf, Florida Gov. Rick Scott championed school choice, merit pay, and other academic reforms, and he campaigned heavily on them in his reelection bid to win over black voters. Subsequently, he managed to grow his support from among the black vote to 12 percent. That may seem paltry, but it amounts to double his showing among black voters compared to 2010, while black turnout increased by three points. That’s a difference of 61,000 black votes in an election Scott only won by 66,000 votes.

But that actually undersells it. Had Scott’s 2014 black vote total languished at the six-percent share he won in 2010, with the Democrat’s share holding anywhere near 2010’s 92 percent, the final tally would have been 95,000 votes more Democratic. That means Rick Scott’s margin of victory was entirely contained within his improved share of the black vote. I repeat: the Republican Governor of Florida is only in office today because a growing black electorate decided to grant him reelection after he gave them good reason to do so.

Since then, Scott’s continued fight for education opportunity for the underprivileged has kept him at odds with the state teachers union and NAACP chapter. But the governor retains a solid core of support within the black community. In January, Martin Luther King III came to Tallahassee after the holiday for his father to stand with black families and Gov. Scott against the regressive machinations of the progressive establishment.

This dynamic of Republicans pushing for education reform and winning support from black voters but hostility from progressive activists is by no means restricted to the South. In the Northeast, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie expanded school choice his very first year in office. Democrats who buck the progressive establishment on education even credited him with “launching the school-reform movement throughout the Northeast,” as he fought for vouchers in an election year. Thereafter, Christie won reelection with double his previous share of the black vote (from 10 to 2o percent) and nearly half of Latino voters.

These stories abound, and they provide a robust array of evidence that black voters value expansive education reform more than progressive donors can pay to stifle it. But that is a precarious equilibrium that can fail at any time. Fortunately, in Florida as in Louisiana and Washington, school choice for underprivileged children is winning, for now, and progressive opposition to progress seems to be collapsing.

That’s not to say all charter or private school options are fantastic or even better than all traditional public schools. Some programs are struggling and bad schools have been or will be shuttered, as the system rightly demands. Other reforms are propelling kids to the once-inconceivable heights of college and upward mobility. Ultimately, a system that gives families workable options encourages the kind of policies that can provide life-changing benefits to disadvantaged kids. But in any case, school choice options ought to be measured by the results, not by how staunchly the progressive donor class finds them contrary to its political and financial interests.

I mightily doubt President Obama, his black attorneys general, or well-meaning BLM activists mean any harm to lower-income families who just want a fair chance at success. (If you insist on the utmost charity, we can add teachers unions to that list.) But at some point, the progressive establishment must be made to understand that good intentions do not substitute for good result and cannot balance out actual harm. The pernicious effects of structural bigotry are not any less asphyxiating because those who sustain them practice the correct platitudes about social justice.

As things stand, today’s leaders must choose between the actual welfare of the downtrodden and the union-funded oppression of the  Elizabeth WarrenBernie Sanders wing of the Democratic Party.

May they choose right and true.


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The Self-Made Legend

Update: This post was adapted by The Daily Caller. You can find that article here.

“Life’s great, life’s grand
Future, all planned
No more, clouds in the sky
…I’m ridin’ high” –Cole Porter

“I see myself as a huge fiery comet, a shooting star. Everyone stops, points up and gasps, ‘Oh look at that!’ Then—whoosh—and I’m gone… and they’ll never see anything like it ever again… and they won’t be able to forget me—ever.” –Barack Obama Jim Morrison

“A top official with the National Skeet Shooting Association said the photo suggests Obama is a novice shooter.”

I remember what it was like to get into Yale. At seventeen, that mildly sunny Friday afternoon in December opened into an oceanic river yawning into a skyline of vague but destined brilliance. All the sacrifices I’d made, compromises I’d swallowed, and hardships I’d weathered had suddenly yielded the finest dividends I could have hoped for. By the time May rolled around and I had conquered my International Baccalaureate exams, I was incorrigible. My star was rising, and the idea that anything this side of matriculation mattered was a nigh impossible sell.

And yet, the real world tumbled on. I needed money for college, so I had to get a job for the summer between high school and pre-orientation. For only the second time in my life—and first in the private industry—my time was suddenly a facet of other people’s bottom line, and they cared not one whit for my imaginations of grandeur. My Jeep sputtered and demanded service like a petulant millennial. I had to lose a Saturday changing out a flat tire and buying a new one. Gas prices were suddenly my concern, rather than just my parents’. Beyond all that, I finally got to New Haven only to find my star not quite as bright as I had let myself believe. I learned a lot about humility from age 18 to 22.

I don’t know what, exactly, President Obama learned over the four years of his first term. I notice that second-term Obama inherited quite a mess—underemployment is higher, more people are out of work, racial disparity is wider, and labor participation is lower than when first-term Obama moved into the White House. Not surprisingly, the economy, jobs, and the debt are the top issues for most Americans. More bafflingly, however, none of these issues appears on the short list of a second-term agenda that reads more like a progressive manifesto than a disciplined contract with America.

What’s most striking, however, is not the fact of the shameless liberalism—most of us expected that much—but meteoric boldness divorced from what should by now be intuitive political understanding. Assuming the Democrats believe their own mythology, Team Obama must posit that his aggressive interjection on any sensitive issue is likely to complicate, if not derail, consensus-building. So in light of a bipartisan Senate outline for immigration reform, what on Earth did President Republicans-All-Hate-Me expect to accomplish with his immigration speech? Does he honestly believe including immigration provisions for same-sex spouses will be more feasible because of his public grandstanding?  Is it all of a sudden the case that his front-and-center presence will grease over the wheels of political action? Did his perceived failings in his first term really come down to not enough sternly-worded speeches?

Ronald Reagan was fond of saying, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.” The corollary, of course, is that it is amazing how much you can obstruct your own stated goals when your primary concern is husbanding your own legacy. (But if Obama is going to cultivate part of that legacy on the rocky, urban soil of gun control, at least he had the forethought to have a camera ready for that one time he went skeet shooting.)

So let’s not mince words. In the late push to enshrine the progressive revolt against the prosperity of Reagan’s free-markets and the Clinton-Gingrich balanced budgets, Obama has all but sidelined the once central push for jobs and a robust economy. In doubling down on the creeping expansion of the welfare state, he is expected to ignore the advice of his own jobs council in favor of an expansive regulatory regime. Never mind that free enterprise and some attendant inequality are vital to a climate of robust innovation. With a contracting economy and unemployment eking upward, the unemployment of the jobs council certainly clarifies priorities.

Notwithstanding the stagnant economic promise of Barack Obama’s America, the president’s left flank remains determined to see in him the same singular greatness he doubtlessly sees in himself. All flaws, failings, and ambitions unrealized are the fault of maleficent Republicans tilting bitterly at the windmills of Hope & Change™ because they hate minorities or something. The president’s approval ratings are impressively high on the afterglow of his reelection, and liberals have already carved his place in the 21st Century Pantheon of the “post-Rushmore Rushmore”. While the media remain complicit in the impression of progress on jobless “hot button” issues, this polling advantage might persist for a time. But eventually, the ultimate questions will crescendo—where is the progress? Where are the (good) jobs?

The flying unicorn mythology of Obama’s legend—a hodgepodge of truth, legerdemain, and outright fantasy—was a problem evident in that early rebuke of Eric Cantor: “Elections have consequences, and at the end of the day, I won.” It continued in a pattern of unanimous rejections at the Supreme Court through the recent judicial rebuke of the unprecedented expansion of executive authority to declare when the Senate is not in session—a step even George W. Bush did not take. Most recently it emerges in the fantastic notion that a skeet-shooting photo has any more relevance to a discussion on the right to self-defense than American Idol balloting has to the right to suffrage.

Obama’s cool hubris is a fascinating extension of the atmospheric self-infatuation that characterizes his young American bulwark of support. It’s small wonder that a generation raised on social promotion—as opposed to demonstrable merit—and feel-good pop moralism—as opposed to substantive ethics and results—would increasingly rate itself “above average” while clinging to a Commander-in-Chief who simultaneously embodies and enables the party of lip-service responsibility amid spiraling insolvency.

The sad irony is that Obama’s governance is in many ways the instantiation of the America of my generation. The staggering self-absorption prevents the kind of raw but earnest self-reflection that would reveal a rather inconvenient but obvious truth: we would rather convince ourselves and others that we love and represent humanity than undergo the hard, unflattering work of ensuring that anyone but ourselves is substantively better off. Thus the focus on “hot button” issues to the neglect of a broader, practicable vision of the world. As William Kremer put it, “Narcissists may say all the right things, but their actions eventually reveal them to be self-serving.”

To the degree that young America is the Obama demographic, we are The Posteverything Generation of internet activists, community organizers, and It Gets Better. Our leaders are terrified of civilian weaponry they don’t bother to understand and are yet comfortable deriding a prince in active military service. They borrow endlessly with no regard for our future or our children, and we dutifully enable them with paeans to “intersectionality” and “kyriarchy” (neither of which, according to Windows and Chrome, are even words). Our philosophy is post-reality, our metric post-results, and our outlook post-narcissism. We are a cesspool of vanities anathema to pride or consequence. We are the generation of the reified wind of Hope.

But nothing is forever. One day soon, Obama’s colossal pride will stumble in the ever quaking rumble of reality, and my generation will discover its liberalism at odds with its entitlement. In the end, we all just want to do right by our convictions. As my eighteen-year-old self discovered the world wouldn’t change my ruined tire, no matter how much I valued and deserved my weekend, there will be a day of reckoning for the Big Government activism of the Obama coalition.

I’ll see you tomorrow.


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The Requiem of Change

Update: This post was adapted by The Daily Caller. You can find that article here.

“Voting is the best revenge” –Barack Obama

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

I was a Democrat once. At various stages of my intellectual development, I even thought I was a liberal. I was never particularly good at it, being liberal, so it required some impressive feats of ideological gymnastics. But my stubbornly innate conservatism wouldn’t allow me to shy away from a project simply because it required hard work. That should have been the first sign.

As an Army brat, I grew up with tales of bureaucratic hells and special interests entrenched beyond merit or conviction like inoperable cancer. I ruefully loved and understood that bumper sticker in my high school parking lot that read, “Government Philosophy: If it ain’t broke, fix it til it is!” I don’t recall my first encounter with the phrase “mugged by reality”, but I knew viscerally what it meant that first week at Yale when the Party of the Left promoted a debate on whether the United States should submit to the United Nations.

I had heard tell of such extreme leftism before, and I even had a few left-of-Lenin friends in my youth. They were neither representative of the world I knew nor taken particularly seriously on politics, but every community has its diversity of thought. However, between you and me, I had always thought the kind of effete, cerebral, and utopian liberalism of the Northeast was a partisan invention of Fox News. Surely, there were no worlds where such thinking was normal, let alone encouraged with extreme prejudice by serious people.

But lo and behold, Fox News had undersold the enormity of a liberalism perennially agitated by fashionable outrage—always in the politically correct argot of the tolerant classes—that comes light on solutions and heavy on unintended consequences. It opposes welfare reform for “punishing the poor”, clings to tax increases with false regard for economy, finds moral integrity in pacifism and appeasement, and is more allergic to gun rights than to preventing crime. Moreover, for the sectarians of progressivism, there seemed to be an answer for everything in government—but only with the kind of administration acceptable in Upper Manhattan coffee shops. God forbid our leaders appeal more to the kind of folks who can change a tire, have a driver’s license, or would recognize a military ID.

Still, I remember what it was like to think the world might finally change for the better after the era of George W. Bush. After all, the 43rd President of the United States came to represent everything I hated in government—fiscal irresponsibility, dishonest administration, mishandling of war, disregard for civil liberties, excessive meddling into local affairs, Katrina, spiraling debt, economic collapse—and he seemed to embody an anti-intellectual ethos that I went to Yale to escape. Not to mention how he wounded my great pride in Southern values and leadership like no commander-in-chief since Jimmy Carter.

Barack Obama was supposed to change all of this, putting the country on the path to healing and recovery and bidding the oceans to recede. I’ll admit I was highly skeptical of him from the beginning—a reticence apparently shared by the oceans—but so many of my friends, Democrat and Republican, were excited about him, that I couldn’t help but want to believe. It is such a glorious experience to be a cynical realist proven wrong.

That didn’t happen with President Obama.

The president and his allies promised a deficit halved, substantially lower unemployment, and $2500 in family savings on healthcare premiums. Instead, the deficit has skyrocketed, unemployment remains higher than when Obama took office, and the healthcare reform bill that so gluttonously ravished our political resources has seen costs rise by $3000 for American families. Adding insult to injury, the Left is still scratching at the phantom limb of W nearly half a decade after winning unprecedented majorities in Congress and cavalierly dismissing the opposition. Whereas the Dream began with soaring rhetoric and nigh messianic purpose, Hope and Change™ has collapsed into the churlish indignation of entitled mediocrity, like an apologist for “social promotion” railing against illiteracy.

Behold the legacy of the welfare state and its Pyrrhic war on want at the small cost of a civilization of prosperity. Gone are the grand visions and celebration of success and possibility; we have traded them for the petty gripes and anodyne lies of a perpetual challenger whose only answer—beyond, Save the Muppets!—is Forward! with more time, taxes, and spending, with occasional race-baiting for good measure. Just as “Romnesia” is but the howling projection of a left-wing conscience unhinged by so many promises broken—drones, Gitmo, civil liberties, better lives for black people—so is the liberalism of Barack Obama a god drowned by the volume of its own entitlement.

Our economy is not dead yet, but it will take a steady hand with the right perspective to right this ship of state. Barack Obama is not that man. I wish liberalism had succeeded and that we all were reaping the wondrous benefits of a healthy economy and solvent entitlement apparatus. I would happily vote to reelect the president under such circumstances. But that is not reality. Mitt Romney is not perfect, for either the Right or the Left, on all kinds of issues. But the mantel of Change We Can Believe In has fallen, and he is the only man there to pick it up.

Living well is the best revenge against heartache and betrayal. Voting right is the best revenge against failure and disappointment. I believe in America. We have always been the ones we have been waiting for, and it’s time to move forward.

Onward to tomorrow.


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Bonfire of the Principles

“And, of course, 2012 offers nothing like the ecstasy of taking part in a historical advance: the reëlection of the first African-American President does not inspire the same level of communal pride. But the reëlection of a President who has been progressive, competent, rational, decent, and, at times, visionary is a serious matter.” –The New Yorker

The Left’s takeaway from the second presidential debate.

What are the signs of a campaign coming unhinged?

We’re nearing the home stretch, the last debate is tonight, and our collective nerves shriek at the yawning chasm of weeks between now and that first Tuesday of Standard Time. A song of desperation has reverberated through the partisan games since the waning days of summer. Back then, the prominent notes were “tax returns”, “Voter I.D.”, and, of course, “fear of a black president”. The tax returns served as a foil to the Buffet Rule fantasy in which the Left pretended that our fiscal problems can be solved by revenue. The voter I.D. reporting served as a coordinated exercise in willful miscarriage of reality—it takes obdurate aplomb to call racist a position favored by 65% of blacks and 64% of Hispanics. That discussion also conveniently fed into the tritely disingenuous narrative of conservative bigotry, which has fueled much sententious verbosity throughout the race.

Even beyond the predictable amalgamation of deceit and blame regarding the Obama record, the debate season has seen new heights—or lows—of rabid opposition as the Left circles the wagons. Mitt Romney details a methodology to alleviate a paucity of women in the workplace, and he is met with derision from the very people who presumably want more efforts to support women in the workplace. At the risk of stating the obvious, going out of your way to find qualified candidates from groups underrepresented in the work environment is the spirit of affirmative action. Since when were liberals opposed to that?

Romney goes on to implicate communal dysfunction in trends of social decay, including gun violence, and suggest that mitigating these evils would reduce that violence and dysfunction:

“What I believe is we have to do as the president mentioned towards the end of his remarks there, which is to make enormous efforts to enforce the gun laws that we have and to change the culture of violence we have. And you ask, how are we going to do that? And there are a number of things. He mentioned good schools. I totally agree…and I believe if we do a better job in education, we’ll — we’ll give people the — the hope and opportunity they deserve, and perhaps less violence from that.

But let me mention another thing, and that is parents. We need moms and dads helping raise kids. Wherever possible, the — the benefit of having two parents in the home — and that’s not always possible. A lot of great single moms, single dads. But gosh, to tell our kids that before they have babies, they ought to think about getting married to someone — that’s a great idea because if there’s a two-parent family, the prospect of living in poverty goes down dramatically. The opportunities that the child will — will be able to achieve increase dramatically.”

Liberals pounced. A firestorm of commentary accused the governor of going off the rails for blaming gun violence on “sluts” and single parents (they even threw in parenthetical racism for good measure). What seemed to be lost in most of this fury—beyond the proven correlation between broken homes and crime—was the substance of President Obama’s own comments, which immediately preceded Romney’s:

“But I also share your belief that weapons that were designed for soldiers in war theaters don’t belong on our streets. And so what I’m trying to do is to get a broader conversation about how do we reduce the violence generally. Part of it is seeing if we can get an assault weapons ban reintroduced, but part of it is also looking at other sources of the violence…And so what can we do to intervene to make sure that young people have opportunity, that our schools are working, that if there’s violence on the streets, that working with faith groups and law enforcement, we can catch it before it gets out of control?

And so what I want is a — is a comprehensive strategy. Part of it is seeing if we can get automatic weapons that kill folks in amazing numbers out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. But part of it is also going deeper and seeing if we can get into these communities and making sure we catch violent impulses before they occur.”

In other words, the president has the same kind of general communal prescriptions for reducing gun violence as Governor Romney. Obama even wants faith groups involved! Moreover, then-Senator Obama made a variation of this same pitch to the NAACP back in July 2008. So what’s the principled objection to any of this from the Left?

That’s actually a question. I haven’t a clue.

It would seem the allies of Obama are running on the last sputtering fumes of Hope, throwing every stick, stone, and word they can find at a rising opposition. From embarrassing Big Bird to ridiculing affirmative action to pretending they’re not enabling the perpetuation of Bush-era security policy, to imagining the economy isn’t a liability, the Left is flailing for a lifeline, and Candy Crawley is nowhere in sight. After this last debate, will Team Obama cling to comically ancillary disputes and awkward wording, or will they have answers for why we should entrust the president with another four years of American time?

I guess we’ll see.


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The Ballad of Hope & Change

“I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I’ll fix it…I’m concerned about the very heart of the America, the 90, 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling.” –Mitt Romney

“I’m poor, and I’m going to stay poor,” Tunnicliffe continued while staring at his $320 weekly unemployment check. “It’s been very liberating.” –The Onion

In case you missed it, The Onion issued a scathing, if “satirical”, indictment of the social and economic situation in the United States. It’s all too real conclusion? The American poor, having abandoned every hope, now pity those who still believe in upward mobility and the American Dream. A few of my liberal friends promulgated this link, presumably as an Occupy-Wall-Street-esque salvo against the rapacious 1% and their invidious Republican enablers. But Barack Obama has sat in power for well over three years now, and all moves on the horizon are gimmicks.

And the world languishes.

But lest you fear the satire overstates the point, let us belabor it. The unemployment rate, still hovering north of 8%, is buffered by 34,000 Americans leaving the labor force between May and June, 2012, and over 1.9 million who have quit looking for jobs since June 2011. As The Onion put it, “The unrealistic expectations and false hope they experience must be unbearable.” Nearly two million Americans in the last year, alone, seem to agree. Even now into August, the economy keeps growing too slowly to lower the unemployment rate.

The lasting problem is both economic and psychological, going to the spiritual core of Americana. Voters don’t feel the country is on the right track. Parents don’t believe their kids will have a brighter future. Americans are terrified that our own government is unworthy of trust. For all the hype around universal healthcare, most people expect premiums to increase this year.

The afflicted hilarity of that Onion article, and the irony of its liberal favor, is the ribald shadow cast by regime of Hope and Change™. Our president glided into glory, promising a brave new world, and nobody—not even his fans—believes him now. Nearly four years later, liberals still castigate Republicans for trying to burn the world to spite Obama. Conservatives have taken up the fight to “Take Our Country Back” from the leftists who called George W. Bush a fascist. Everybody fears we’re all going to hell in a welfare line, and what have we to show for it beyond bitterness?

I can be bitter on my own dime, thank you very much; but perhaps the government will tax me for that, too.

Whether either side is right or off the rocker is beside the point; the president has failed to even make us believe the world can get better. This is what that Onion author understood and why the Left clings to the boogeyman of W and relentless attacks on Romney’s business record. The administration has nothing better to offer. So for reelection, they’ll burn a path through Middle America to the sea.

And after all this, some leftists still believe Obama is the only adult in the room. Mr. President, if your leadership is The Example of Adulthood, ‘tis no small wonder that Americans opt for perpetual adolescence.


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The Marriage Parties

Two rings to bind the Culture Wars

In breaking news that should surprise no one, the Democratic Party has expressed its intention to support gay marriage in its Party Platform. For several years now, prominent Democrats have been calling for the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (now accomplished), the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act, and the enactment of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. But the final pieces had fallen into place once Vice President Biden and finally President Obama went on the record supporting gay marriage.

Internecine Democrat struggles and short-term political calculations aside, the conservative movement has neither a moral nor political future in a blanket objection to gay marriage. Gay people have already been living together in committed relationships, raising kids, and participating in their communities for years. They are not going to abandon their families, go back into the closet, and consign their lives en masse to loneliness or celibacy.

In this vein, many conservatives are already coming around to support gay marriage. Many who oppose it are at least calling for some other legal recognition, as President Bush did back in 2004. Some leaders, like Chris Christie, support strong civil unions. Others, like Governor Romney, favor something more limited. But in all cases these conservatives are in line with data showing most Americans favor some legal recognition of gay unions. After all, no family is helped when another struggles needlessly.

Some conservatives have written off gays as just another special-interest barnacle on a bloated Democrat agenda. But many gay Americans voted more Republican in 2010 than in previous years, and while gays may be a minority, the people who know and support them are not. This trend of more conservative gay votes can continue, if conservatives go for those votes.

If Mitt Romney wants to play the long game for every vote possible, he needs to stop talking up constitutional amendments that won’t help anyone’s marriage and start advocating for proposals to support American families—gay and straight. I don’t expect him to embrace full-on gay marriage before this election, but he needs to present a vision for why all families and communities will thrive best under Republican leadership.

When Americans—gay and straight—no longer have to worry about politicians opposing or undermining the integrity of their families, many will naturally appreciate what conservative governance has to offer. Gay couples, no longer fighting for recognition, will want their taxes low and spent wisely. Gay parents, freed from endless worrying over bullying, will advocate for better schools and accountable teachers. A gay entrepreneur or worker will demand policies that promote strong businesses—with or without unions—when he no longer has to worry about being fired for having a picture of his family on his desk.

American families and the communities they live in will be naturally stronger, more committed, and more conservative when the law and order of their country support them. There will always be folks on the Left who see their opponents on these issues as bigots, and they will say so loudly. But the barb only stings while the GOP lacks an answer that resonates.

Gay marriage is only a “distraction,” if we make it one.


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Dispatches from Dixie: La Vota Diversa

On the eve of the Olympics and conventions there is rampant speculation about the tight-lipped Republican veepstakes. Like most people outside the Romney High Command, I haven’t the foggiest. But there’s one point I must stress to the Marco Rubio camp: he won’t win over the Latino vote.

What do you mean I can’t speak for all Hispanic voters in America?

First, many people happily vote across ethnic lines. Michael Steele lost the black vote in his Senate race in Maryland, as Alan Keyes did before him. In Tennessee, Rep. Steve Cohen—white and Jewish—easily overcame well-financed and well-connected black, Christian opponents three times to date in a Democratic district that is overwhelmingly black and Christian. Moreover, Gene Green (white), Maxine Waters (black), and Jody Chu (Asian) are immensely successful in predominantly Hispanic districts.

In 2008, I opposed then-Sen. Obama precisely because I thought him an inferior candidate. (And he has done a remarkable job governing down to my expectations.) While a lot of folks (mostly Democrats) were openly baffled by this, I knew many black people who felt the same and campaigned accordingly. Indeed, Obama was losing black voters to Hillary Clinton until he started getting national traction after his Iowa victory.

Put simply, most voters care about much more than race or ethnicity.

Secondly, Hispanics are not monolithic. Distinct from the Southwest, many Florida Latinos are Cuban (like Rubio) or Puerto Rican, and both groups are, by definition, in the U.S. legally. Not coincidentally, only in Florida—where political concerns branch far beyond immigration—do Hispanics tend to vote Republican.

If Mitt Romney wants to win over Hispanic voters nationally, he needs more than a young, charismatic freshman Senator on the ticket. (The electorate is probably leery enough of those by now.) Without pandering—nobody likes condescension—he must persuade Hispanic businessmen, teachers, blue-collar workers, professionals, and young people that his governing agenda will work for them. This will be difficult to do without addressing the issue in which many Hispanics—even in Florida—are disproportionately invested: immigration reform.

Rep. David Rivera, another Florida Republican, was well aware of this reality when he proposed his conservative alternative to the Dream Act ahead of Rubio’s version. Previously, George W. Bush likewise made resolving immigration issues central to his Hispanic outreach. Governor Bush won 40% of Hispanic voters in Texas in 1998; President Bush won a comparable proportion across America in 2004.

For now, President Obama has a staggering lead among Hispanics and a popular new immigration policy to boot. But the race is still the Republicans’ to lose. It’ll be up to Governor Romney to change the narrative.