Token Dissonance

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


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A (Borrowed) Time to Build

“Because every time you see them happy you remember how sad they’re going to be. And it breaks your heart. Because what’s the point in them being happy now if they’re going to be sad later. The answer is, of course, because they are going to be sad later.” –The Eleventh Doctor

"Don't you know? The sun's setting fast!"

“Don’t you know? The sun’s setting fast!”

I was happy on Election Day. I’ve been positively elated all week, in fact, as it’s been a good time to be a Florida Republican. After all, the Gators devoured the playoff hopes of Georgia in a cathartically stunning upset on Saturday, and then our governor rallied to defeat Alcibiades Charlie Crist in a race that many suggested was lost. As a Republican in general, our candidates won the “War on Women” from Texas to Colorado, and we’ve grown and diversified our bench so enormously in the blue and purple states as to allow, as several have put it, for the GOP to essentially be America’s governing party (in the literal sense that Republicans will be doing most of the governing).

But amid all the anguish and mythomane ire arising from the emaciated dreaming of the other side, a progressive friend demanded perspective via a Yahoo article posted on Facebook. To be sure, the author’s liberal 2016 analysis is rather bullish on Democratic chances; it’s not particularly likely, for example, that a depleted Florida Democratic bench will knock off a popular GOP incumbent in a state Obama barely won. And his point about minorities skipping the midterm is belied by the evidence that 2014 featured the second-most diverse electorate in American history (ahead of 2008), and Republicans from Virginia to Nevada simply did better among various segments of minority voters.

Still, the author’s basic point, that Republicans will face daunting odds in 2016, is well taken. Indeed, I have been talking about that very concern with my tea-partying boyfriend and our conservative cohorts since Heidi Heitkamp kept the Big Sky blue in 2012. It was a reason why it was so essential for Republicans to run up the Senate score this cycle, so as to allow for as much cushion as possible ahead of the next one. (For this reason, the collapse of Terri Lynn Land in Michigan and ultimate failure of Scott Brown and Ed Gillespie to add a 55th seat makes already for bitter reflection.) Yet, oddly enough, acknowledging and contemplating the presidential-year challenges in the offing can and should afford us a curious sense of peace.

We are living on borrowed time. Every Christian—and probably many a Jew or Muslim—hears permutations of this truth from the pulpit with urgent frequency. Such grounding Solomonic perspective—that none of this will last—is an essential understanding for seeking proper order in life, and it is likewise vital a perspective for seeking proper order in politics. As former Indiana congressman and current Club for Growth president Chris Chocola noted, Democrats have poignantly demonstrated a capacity for this perspective. They made the conscientious decision that healthcare reform, among other things, was worth sacrificing their majority to the cleansing tsunami of public indignation, and we are all suffering the consequences of that fanatical conviction today.

If there is anything Republicans should learn from progressives like Nancy Pelosi (and there isn’t much), it’s that at some point you have to stop running for the next election and resolve to actually enact an agenda. Obviously, the Democratic Party will retain the White House through the duration of this Congress, and the number of moderate Democrats who can be relied upon to seek compromise has taken a hit. But for the governing party, those ought to be challenges to be met, not excuses to be doled out ahead of a perpetual chase for the next election.

That 2016 is a probable no-win game for Republican candidates is all the more reason to change the game. Conservatives have two years to develop and refine a robust governing agenda that we can take to voters for consideration. We have promising goals we can seek with President Obama on broad-based, revenue-neutral tax reform, trade negotiations, and mitigating the worst excesses of Obamacare. We also have places where Democrats will refuse to support better policy proposals that might enrage the far Left; some will be useful to enact in the many states we control, ahead of a national referendum on our functional ideas.

Over at National Review, Yuval Levin puts it this way:

“To do that well, Republicans will need to understand and to describe their efforts in these terms—to be clear that they are working to set the right agenda rather than that they are trying either to ‘prove they can govern’ from Congress alone or to ‘sketch clear contrasts’ with a president who will never be on the ballot again. Understanding their role as putting forward an agenda and pursuing it would help Republicans do both of those things while helping them avoid unrealistic expectations about either.

The key difference between the divided congress we have had and the divided government we will now have is that Republicans can now set the agenda, require Democrats to vote on the best of their ideas, and see which of them Democrats might agree with enough (or find painful enough to oppose) to actually bring them to fruition. That doesn’t mean that lots of Republican ideas get enacted, or even reach the president. The filibuster will prevent that. It means, rather, that those ideas get killed in Senate votes instead of getting killed by the Senate’s unwillingness to vote. And that’s a significant difference, because it puts both Republicans and (for the first time) Democrats on the record in a meaningful way.”

Ed Gillespie took this mindset to heart when he combined aggressive organizing and campaign discipline with the critical decision to present voters an intelligible vision of better leadership. Facing a daunting challenge that many in his own party (me included, though I did make sure to vote for him) considered essentially stillborn, the Virginia Republican was one of the few candidates on either side to present a detailed healthcare proposal that would offer better outcomes than Obamacare, along with a five-point economic plan for growth. For all this, the grossly underfunded challenger came within a point of slaying a Goliath in a race he was supposed to lose by a double-digit margin.

Whether or not we’re able to hold the Senate in 2016, our focus should be highlighting, selling, and, achieving the conservative victories that we can while we can. The conservative movement has no use for majorities that exist in perpetual obeisance to the continual, pusillanimous pursuit of electoral power for its own sake. Even if we do everything right, we might well encounter a measure of defeat in two years, because the map is simply not in our favor. But rather than fretting over what we cannot change, we should thoroughly embrace the challenge before us for the opportunity that it is. It is with such a spirit that conservative leaders like Scott Walker, Rick Scott, and Rick Snyder fought the odds for worthwhile reforms that would endure even if their tenures in office were cut short. That such leaders survived to fight another day should not undercut the key lesson of their examples—fight for conservative governance, and leave something valuable that will politically outlive you.

For the next two years, we can either play to win big or fade into the reclining opposition-party battles of the Obama years. I, for one, am happy now because we may again know frustration, disappointment and presidential petulance later. But if this cycle has shown us anything, it’s that nothing is inevitable or settled until all the votes are cast.


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Rising Tide of the Big Tent

“The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.” –Edward Kennedy, failed presidential candidate

Nothing lasts forever.

Nothing lasts forever.

In the rosy-fingered wake of the Republican wave of 2014, the Party of Lincoln will be in complete legislative and gubernatorial control of 24 states, which together amount to nearly half the population of the United States. As Reid Wilson reports in the Washington Post, Republicans now hold majorities in a modern record 68 of the 98 partisan legislative chambers (16 of which are supermajorities) among 49 states. (The Nebraska legislature is unicameral and nonpartisan, though effectively Republican.) Compare this to only six states completely controlled by Democrats, accounting for only 15 percent of the country.

As it stands, Joe Manchin may wind up among the last of the Senate’s red-state Democrats—assuming, of course, he continues to resist the Elysian lure of the elephantine caucus. Among purple-state Democrats, a modest number remain, but the unexpectedly close scares in New Hampshire and Virginia (still a shock to most, and where I’m proud to say my boyfriend, many our friends, and I voted for Ed Gillespie)—combined with the surprising Democratic loss in North Carolina—has essentially put this crowd on notice. Whereas, six years ago Southern Democrats like Mark Pryor and Mark Warner could rack up impregnable victories with high-soaring rhetoric and ostensibly centrist appeal, now almost anybody can lose nigh on anywhere. It’s as though George R. R. Martin somehow got ahold of the scripts of our elections.

Even as red-state Democrats have faded, Republicans have proliferated at every level of blue and purple states. There will be Republican governors from progressive Maryland to liberal Massachusetts. There will be Republican Senators from left-leaning Maine to purple Colorado. In supposedly blue Iowa, which birthed Barack Obama’s presidential ascent and has only voted for a Republican Commander-in-Chief once in seven elections since Ronald Reagan, conservatives will control both U.S. Senate seats, three of four House seats, the governor’s mansion, and the state House. And, of course, in President Obama’s own political backyard, the GOP of deep-blue Illinois will have the governor, a Senator, and nearly half the U.S. House delegation.

By contrast, a broad array of Democrats once hailed as rising stars have gone with the wind, like the debris of a star-crossed missile under a mid-Atlantic sky. Alexander Burns sings the dirge of the midterm Democrat over at Politico:

“At the start of the 2014 campaign, Democrats envisioned an election that would produce new national stars for the party in at least a few tough states – Georgia Sen. Michelle Nunn or Kentucky Sen. Alison Lundergan Grimes, for instance, or maybe even Texas Gov. Wendy Davis. Even if the party fell short in those “reach” states, Democrats hoped to produce new heavyweight blue-state Democrats – Maryland Gov. Anthony Brown, the country’s only black state executive; or Maine Gov. Mike Michaud, who would have been the first openly gay candidate elected governor.

Any of them could have landed on a vice presidential short list in 2016.

Instead, all of them lost.

Joining them were numerous down-ballot Democrats widely viewed as future contenders for high office: attorney general candidates in Nevada and Arizona who looked like future governors; aspiring state treasurers in Ohio and Colorado who could have gone on to bigger things; prized secretary of state candidates in Iowa and Kansas as well as countless congressional hopefuls around the country.”

Predictably, some progressives, including President Barack “my policies are on the ballot, unless they lose” Obama, are chalking up the bulk of their popular rejection to midterm demographics. Americans don’t “really” agree with Republicans, the thinking goes; it’s just that the Democratic “coalition of the ascendant” didn’t turn out—but they would have saved the Democrats, had they showed up! As it happens, we have exit polls, and they paint a more interesting—and more conservative—picture. As ABC reports (my emphasis):

Young adults, a Democratic mainstay…supported Democrats only by 54-43 percent, down from a 60-38 percent margin in their House vote two years ago. Nonwhites – a growing share of the electorate – slipped to 25 percent of voters, more than in any previous midterm but also 3 points off their share in 2012.

Single women, another core Democratic group, gave the party their smallest margin, 60-38 percent, in exit polls back to 1992. Women overall voted +5 points Democratic for House, 52-47 percent – down from +11 in 2012. Men, for their part, voted +14 Republican, 56-42 percent.

Key Republican groups came out swinging. Eighty-five percent of conservatives voted Republican, the most on record (albeit by a single point from 2010). White men voted Republican by 64-34 percent, the widest GOP advantage in this group in data since 1984. Seniors – 22 percent of voters – backed Republicans for the House by 57-42 percent.

And independents, back to their swing-voter status in this election, voted Republican by a 12-point margin, trailing only the 2010 and 1994 GOP advantages in this group.”

In other words, no midterm in history—including the Democratic wave of 2006—has featured higher minority turnout than this 2014 GOP wave. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, the 25 percent of the electorate that was nonwhite in 2014 actually exceeds the mere 23.7 percent minority showing in the “most diverse in U.S. history” Obama wave of 2008.

Let me say that again: the 2014 midterm electorate that restored complete GOP control of Congress was less white than the presidential-year electorate that first propelled Barack Obama to the White House. The difference, of course, is this that blacks, Hispanics, and Asians voted more Republican this time around.

Likewise, according to multiple exit polls, including those conducted by The Washington Post, NBC, and Wall Street Journal, the 2014 electorate was markedly less conservative and less supportive of the Tea Party than in 2010—though a modestly higher percentage of liberals, moderates, and middle-class Americans voted Republican this year. Republicans won among college graduates, independents, suburbanites, the employed, the unemployed, and voters who paid attention to the campaigns, and GOP completely erased an Obama-era deficit among Asian-Americans.

The picture for long-term progressive planners gets even grimmer when looking at some key states Democrats plotted to recapture. In the abortive left-wing hope of majority-minority Texas, Gov.-elect Greg Abbott not only performed strongly among Hispanics, but he also won a solid majority of women voters against a female challenger who arguably embodied the progressive charge of a so-called “War on Women.” Her fellow vanquished champion of “women’s issues,” Colorado Sen. Mark “obnoxious…insult to those he seeks to convince” Udall, saw his advantage among nonwhite voters collapse from a margin of 36 points in 2008 to merely 10 points in 2014. In Georgia, nonwhite turnout reached a record high even as Michelle Nunn surprised most observers by failing even to force a runoff. In Nevada, soon-to-be Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid will be the last statewide Democrat left in a place where the Hispanic Republican governor (who might make a promising U.S. Senate candidate in 2016) was reelected with more than 70 percent of the vote.

With the latest defeat of Alcibiades Charlie Crist, after the collapse of Alex Sink, the Democratic bench stool in Florida has essentially been reduced to the aging Southern charm of Bill Nelson and, perhaps, the inherited (political) fortune of panhandle Rep.-elect Gwen Graham, who will become the sole white Democrat in Congress elected from the Deep South. Supposedly purple Florida has no statewide elected Democrats (except U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson), a nearly 2/3 GOP congressional delegation, and yet another GOP supermajority in the state House. Florida has not seen Democratic majorities in either chamber of the legislature since at least 1996 (1992 for the state Senate), and my home state has not elected a Democratic governor since Lawton Chiles in 1994 (the year I started kindergarten), one of the longest such streaks in the South—after only Texas.

In other words, Democrats across the country can now finally empathize with the insatiable aching for a political savior—any savior—in the weary, embittered hearts of their comrades in the Sunshine State. Most of the swing districts—and there are dozens left—are now held by Republicans. There are districts as blue as D+7 that soon may be held by Republicans, pending final counts. The GOP bench is young, deep, and diverse—like the country—whereas the Democrats are enervated and grasping at atrophic platitudes.

To put it bluntly, while the Democrats wrote off the GOP as a regional party in 2012, the reality is now looking decidedly the reverse. Republicans won seats in every region and socioeconomic makeup of the country, including in cities (like New York and St. Petersburg), suburbs, and small towns. Democrats, by contrast, are largely reduced to urban enclaves, majority-black districts, and the coasts of the blue states. This has long been the case in Florida; now that the trend has obtained nationally, it will be fascinating to watch the results.

It’s also interesting to note that LGBT issues, to the extent they came up at all, were largely championed by Republican candidates from Maine to California to Florida. While not all of those contestants prevailed, many won easily. In my home state, Carlos Curbelo unseated an incumbent Democrat in the southernmost district on the continent, and Rep. David Jolly, who purportedly won the ire of many a social conservative for his endorsement of same-sex marriage, won his race by a greater than 3:1 margin. Both seats lean Republican. Given that Republicans will be defending seats mostly in the blue and purple states—like Pat Toomey’s—next cycle, this encouraging trend is likely to continue.

Republicans are by no means out of the woods demographically—the singularly unpopular Rick Scott, for one, hemorrhaged quite a bit of nonwhite support in his nail-biting reelection, and the midterm electorate was predictably older and smaller than in presidential years—but there is much cause for optimism. If the GOP moves swiftly to consolidate and expand recent demographic gains ahead of 2016, the future of American politics could very well turn out much differently than progressives like to imagine. If the Party fails as miserably as the Democratic supermajority of not-that-long ago, then everything could yet be undone.

For now, though, it’s time to prepare to govern. We have miles to go before we sleep.


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All We Know of Heaven: A Requiem for NOM

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” –Martin Luther King, Jr.

"We don't always endorse liberal Democrats, but when we do, it's because gays."

“We don’t always endorse liberal Democrats, but when we do, it’s because gays.”

It wasn’t so long ago when indefatigably engaged political outfits like the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) or Family Research Council (FRC) could drive (in modern Politico speak) vital conversations from the Bible Belt to the nation’s capital. Nowadays, as the country slips away from their hostility to same-sex marriage, such avowedly socially conservative groups find their influence even in the Republican Party to be limited and declining.

In such a situation, one might expect serious conservatives to proactively complement or even spearhead GOP attempts to expand the electoral coalition that supports the conservative movement. After all, we owe it to our philosophy to study how to win, and a broad Republican coalition—featuring such diverse voices as Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Mike Lee, Mitt Romney, Milton Wolf, American Crossroads, Tea Party Express, and the pro-gay Log Cabin Republicans and American Unity Fund—is campaigning hard for Republican candidates with whom they assuredly do not agree on every issue. Unfortunately, NOM has opted instead for reactionary spoilage by endorsing the very congressional Democrats who would empower Nancy Pelosi and the Obama agenda.

While conservatives are out working to expand Republican control of the House of Representatives and win control of the Senate, NOM is launching all-out political warfare against gay Republican candidates Richard Tisei of Massachusetts and Carl DeMaio of California. This scorched-earth belligerence represents an escalation from earlier in the cycle, when NOM joined FRC in expressing opposition to the gay Republicans (including an odd attack on DeMaio’s support for the Second Amendment based on his desire to “improve enforcement for background checks and to keep weapons out of the hands of those with serious mental health issues and criminal history”—a position concordant with the NRA) but stopped short of endorsing their liberal opponents.

To be sure, the official reasons given for the active belligerence are rooted in the candidates’ support for same-sex marriage, but this reasoning is belied by the evidence.

As anybody who is passionate about the marriage issue ought to know, Tisei and DeMaio are not the only Republican candidates who support issuing civil marriage licenses to committed same-sex couples. Current Republican challengers and incumbents for congressional office who support same-sex marriage include Carlos Curbelo, David Jolly, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Susan Collins, and Charlie Dent. Even if we narrowly restrict the discussion only to non-incumbent Republicans in competitive races for seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, there remains no explanation for why NOM is ignoring my fellow Florida native Carlos Curbelo—who has been endorsed by pro-gay Republicans for his support for same-sex marriage—for holding essentially identical positions on marriage as his fellow challengers in Massachusetts and California.

Of course, there is a simple explanation for why NOM is singling out Tisei and DeMaio. Although they are not alone among Republicans in their support for gay rights, Tisei and DeMaio are the only Republican congressional candidates this cycle who are openly gay. That NOM is willing to endorse liberal Democrats against more conservative candidates only in a desperate attempt to defeat gay Republicans speaks volumes about the organization’s—and its supporters’—hostility to gay Americans and willingness to throw the conservative movement under the bus in the pursuit of that animus. That NOM seems unwilling to admit openly what is blatantly obvious upon inspection suggests even the hardened heart of Benedict Arnold may recognize the enormity of this social and political wrong.

It is a terrible shame to realize that an organization familiar to many on the Right is blatantly and enthusiastically discriminating against gay people—a position opposed everywhere from Christian traditionalists to the Mormon Church to Rick Santorum. It is downright infuriating to recall that NOM has been welcome at conservative gatherings like CPAC, even while those gatherings repeatedly exclude pro-gay Republican groups—like the Log Cabin Republicans—that consistently campaign to defeat, rather than elect, liberal Democrats.

NOM could have stayed neutral in Tisei’s and DeMaio’s races, as it is apparently doing in Curbelo’s and the others I mentioned. The Heritage Foundation, RedState, and other socially conservative outfits almost assuredly share NOM’s objections to the marriage positions of all three candidates (and others), but they appear to be focusing their energies on supporting the candidates and policies they agree with, rather than shooting at fellow Republicans in invidious contempt for Reagan’s 11th commandment. This article isn’t about the folks in organizations like Heritage or RedState—with whom I of course profoundly disagree—it is about the unholy union of NOM and the janissaries of the imperial Obama-Pelosi agenda.

As I’ve said before, it’s vital that we keep social conservatives in the Republican coalition, even and especially as the same-sex marriage question fades like dust in the wind. It’s also vital to include the growing majority of young Republicans (let alone winnable independents) who even Heritage obliquely acknowledges are turned off by divisive mean-spiritedness against gay people. From what I can see, a good many social conservatives, even those who disagree on civil marriage policy, are eager or at least willing to accept gay Republicans and civil marriage dissenters into the GOP big tent.

This article is not about reasonable conservatives of good will who still have political differences to hash out. This article is about NOM and the priorities of those for whom gays and Republicans are as men and lions.

Notwithstanding my objections to NOM’s vituperative treachery against American conservatism, I am profoundly grateful that they have shown us their true colors.  When the chips are down, and the time comes for conservatives to unite for the good of the country, we all now know that NOM cannot be trusted to oppose the political enablers of the deranged fever dreams of Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. Those so-called social “conservatives” would rather smear and fight against gay Americans than support the broad spectrum of conservative principles that unite us all behind a common banner.

Perhaps this parting is all we need of the culture wars.

Now remember to vote!


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Wars of the Magnolias

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

“The bias of the mainstream media is toward sensationalism, conflict, and laziness.” –Jon Stewart

Courtesy of a softer world

The media will pretend to be fair and reasonable if we pretend to believe them.

Back in early May, the infamous ink-butcher George R. R. Martin submitted to an interview with Davie Itzkoff at The New York Times. There had been a public uproar over a rape scene in a recent episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones. Many in the fandom wanted desperately to know why such a compelling story as that of the characters of Westeros needed to be written in the free-flowing blood of continual atrocities. This (abridged) exchange followed:

Q. Some critics of the books have said that even if such scenes are meant to illustrate that the world of Westeros is often a dark and depraved place, there is an overreliance on these moments over the course of the novels, and at a certain point they are no longer shocking and become titillating. How do you respond to this criticism?

A. […]The atrocities in “A Song of Ice and Fire,” sexual and otherwise, pale in comparison to what can be found in any good history book.As for the criticism that some of the scenes of sexual violence are titillating, to me that says more about these critics than about my books. Maybe they found certain scenes titillating. Most of my readers, I suspect, read them as intended.

Alas, this post is not about the fictional intrigues of Westeros, but rather the real pathologies of the American politico-media complex. The setting is Mississippi, where a close and combative U.S. Senate primary had once been a test of rival philosophies of the Republican vision of government. Is the occupant of that contested seat supposed to bring home the bacon, see: incumbent Thad Cochran, or abide by Mississippi voters’ desire to limit government and promote economic freedom, see: challenger Chris McDaniel?

But that was before the media discovered its latest dark and depraved place for political titillation: the contemptible violation of Rose Cochran’s privacy by a plot of deranged hacks who happen to support McDaniel.

McDaniel and his campaign have denied any involvement in the crime. Given the predictability of the subsequent firestorm, it hardly strains credulity that any statewide candidate with sufficient intellectual acuity to be executed in Florida would have never sanctioned such hapless grotesquerie. More the point, no charges have been filed or suggested against McDaniel. Of course, police are investigating all conceivable possibilities, whatever their actual merits, but reasonable people don’t usually jump to conclusions because a cop won’t “clear” anybody publicly before an investigation is concluded.

If we opt not to be vapid, the lack of any compelling evidence against McDaniel in the Cochran scandal is much less incriminating, newsworthy, or even interesting than former Senate Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) trying to name a courthouse he had built with $100 million of his constituents’ money after Thad Cochran (whom Lott endorsed for a seventh six-year term) instead of one of Mississippi’s first black lawyers. If Morning Joe Scarborough (R-Latte) and other Very Serious People in the media were less vapid, they might even note that Cochran, who was first elected when my parents were toddlers, has had more government structures named after him than any other sitting member of Congress.  (By the way, I’m no expert in congressional naming etiquette, but isn’t getting your name put on multiple courthouses a tad greedy?) What a thoughtful use of our generously earmarked tax dollars!

At this point, even moderately responsible reporters might call into question Thad Cochran’s purported devotion to fiscal conservatism. The more inquisitive might additionally question Cochran’s interest in the people he was elected to serve. After all, the senior Senator spent half as much time in Mississippi as fellow Sen. Roger Wicker, yet used $35 million more taxpayer dollars doing it. How’s that for getting less for more?

If, despite all these more relevant or insightful topics, we feel compelled to dwell on the Cochran scandal, the media might at least wonder aloud—between all the inane musing about McDaniel’s invisible knavery—about Sen. Cochran. It is curious, after all, that the Senator has benefited immensely from exploiting a crime against his wife and is now avoiding the media.

Many of the insinuations against McDaniel, like from Morning Joe Scarborough (R-Latte), follow along the lines of this phrasing from Christian Science Monitor:

“Though no one publicly suggested McDaniel was behind the video, Mr. Kelly is a strong McDaniel supporter and there are pictures on social media of him and McDaniel together. In the early hours after the story broke, the McDaniel campaign also gave conflicting signals about how much it knew about the video and when.”

Or this one from MSNBC:

“Then things got worse: three more people were arrested on Thursday in connection with the break-in, including a state tea party leader with longstanding ties to McDaniel and an activist who had, according to The Clarion-Ledger, regularly co-hosted a radio show with McDaniel.

A lone blogger was bad enough, but suddenly law enforcement authorities were alleging a conspiracy that included prominent conservatives who knew McDaniel personally.”

It is certainly noteworthy that associates or supporters of McDaniel’s have been arrested for a serious crime. That fact is hardly any excuse, however, for implying without evidence that McDaniel must have been involved in something simply because his supporters were.

For perspective, Cochran’s close aide Kay Webber hosted at least two Democratic fundraisers  in her house in 2006 and 2008, when Republicans were skewered at the polls. Given that Cochran has long employed and traveled with Ms. Webber (on taxpayer dime) while also living in her house, where Democrats schemed to retake Congress and the presidency from the Party that Webber works for, there is an arguably stronger link between Cochran and Barack Obama’s Democratic Party than anyone has shown between McDaniel and the crime against Mrs. Cochran. If we’re casting aspersions on candidates because of their supporters, surely this story will break into a major scandal any day now.

I won’t hold my breath.

Perhaps at some point, somebody might remember that this U.S. Senate contest involves meaningfully distinct candidates with agendas and priorities that will influence national politics. But of course, that would involve substantively engaging the two candidates on their merits, and the punditocracy has little interest in such encumbrances as balanced reporting. Especially not when the narrative of every the day is embarrassing conservatives.

We shouldn’t be surprised; the internecine wrangling of a restlessly acephalous Republican Party is primarily old news in the Acela Corridor by now. Depending on your view, the “civil war” is over, and the media-preferred Establishment won—or else the fiscal conservative assimilation of the Establishment is more or less accomplished—and, anyway, how many different ways can lazy media hype the same “GOP implosion” storyline while doggedly eliding the philosophical merits of any candidate?

If we must take anything from this saga as conservatives—beyond, “Don’t be stupid”—it is a simple truth we’ve known all along: the media disdains and undermines conservatives, and it’s useless to whine about it.  I don’t know how the Mississippi race will end, but going forward, conservatives had better build and maintain a more functional outreach strategy than pleading or waiting idly for fairness from biased elites who have no interest in truly engaging the project of economic liberty and limited government. Among other things, that’s how we lose.


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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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Richard Nixon, The Centennial

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

“Let’s remember the energy… there was the neighborhood, the communal determination that we, the children, should escape poverty, ignorance, disease, social injury and intimidation—escape, above all, insignificance. You must not come to nothing! Make something of yourselves!” –Philip Roth

“We go forward with our heads held high, but look back and remember where we come from.” –Col. Michael Hudson, U.S. Marines

“Sometimes you miss the memories, not the person.”

On January 9, 1913, a future President of the United States was born into a conservative Quaker family in Yorba Linda, California. A few weeks from now, forty years ago, Richard Milhous Nixon was inaugurated into his second term in office. Having won more electoral votes than any American president in history (to that point) by a still unprecedented margin of 18 million popular votes, he seemed the herald of a new era of American politics after a generation of New Deal dominance, bitter Civil Rights battles, and lukewarm Democratic wars in Southeast Asia.

Now, of course, President Nixon is largely remembered for ushering in a new era of governmental dysfunction, ill-advised economic meddling, escalating distrust in our public servants, and the so-called “Southern strategy” (which won him a now-incredible 36% of the black vote). But whatever his failings, real and imagined, Richard Nixon contributed much to the American story and the history of the Republican Party, including a two-decade conservative dominance of the White House. In remembering that Nixon swept every state but Massachusetts (and D.C.) en route to historic reelection, we must note his exceptional political savvy.

On the domestic front, he pushed policies to desegregate Southern schools, limit federal spending, protect the environment, and fight rampant sex discrimination. Before Clinton-Gingrich ended “welfare as we know it”, the Nixon administration proposed work requirements in an ultimately ill-fated endeavor to salve the sting of poverty. Whereas some conservatives today have been wont to, how to put it, reflexively malign the poor and struggling, Nixon knew how to sympathetically appeal to the dignity and plight of the working poor. For this they rewarded him electorally like no other executive besides Reagan, who was similarly gifted in the convoluted art of appealing to a diverse nation.

In foreign policy, President Nixon and Secretary Kissinger artfully sowed the seeds of American victory in the Cold War by taking advantage of the little-noted fact that Communist regimes in the USSR and China were not a monolith but antagonists. Through singular perspicacity, Nixon built on a strong record of fighting Communism, foreign and domestic (just ask Alger Hiss), to accomplish nuclear arms control agreements with the Soviet Union and the diplomatic opening of China. In winding down the Democrats’ war in Vietnam, he reaffirmed the GOP as the Party of Peace and responsible use of force—a distinction it would hold until the 21st Century. For such achievements, the fallen president would later be (privately) consulted for advice by Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, who accomplished the final body blows to the fiefdom of the Bolsheviks.

This is not to say Richard Nixon is a model for Republicans Present. His commitment to conservatism notwithstanding, he was the first president in over a century whose Party controlled neither house of Congress. As such, he was obliged to yield to a far more robust coalition of progressivism than we are called to endure today, and he aimed to be a conservative reformer in a New Deal world—not exactly an enviable task. Accordingly, his governing philosophy “was only as conservative as he could be and only as liberal as he had to be.”

Moreover, he had the immensely complex task of governing a radical new consensus on civil rights, which presented a host of challenges in lieu of the clarity and achievements of today. His politically motivated price controls were a bust, his expansion of the welfare state earned legitimate qualms, and Watergate was an incalculable disgrace. But there must be something worth learning from a president who managed in four years to expand his share of national support by greater margins even than did Reagan. It is a testimony to Nixon’s governing success that his unelected, pardon-plagued successor Gerald Ford only barely lost the 1976 election because the Solid South rose again in a final stand against the divided Republican North.

The lesson of Nixon for conservatives is that we must understand the failures and successes of Republicans past—every bit as much as we must understand progressives present—if we are to take back our country from the brink of asphyxiating division, debt, and entitled mediocrity. We are not perfect, nor have been—or will be—our leaders and representatives. But if Woodrow “Segregate the Federal Government for No Reason” Wilson and Jimmy “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Embarrass a Superpower” Carter can still get their accolades on the Left, we can remember Richard Nixon with a bit of perspective.

Besides, he was still a better president than Obama.


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The Court of Marriage

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

“The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.” –Abraham Lincoln

What is love? Oh baby, don’t judge me – don’t judge me! – no more…

Long ago, in a world where Andrew Sullivan was still hauntingly conservative, there were supporters of gay Americans who disdained the push for gay marriage. On the one hand, scions of wilted flower power thought the institution as irredeemably alien to the gay identity as a Whole Foods Market in a quaint Southern town. On the other hand, some liberal activists thought it a distraction from more pressing concerns such as bullying, antidiscrimination policy, poverty, health care, and a broader fight for “social justice”.

Now, on the eve of 2013 (assuming the world outlasts the solstice), gay marriage supporters have swept four electoral contests, and the Supreme Court of the United States agreed to hear cases in which gay marriage proponents have been so far undefeated. It seems history has accelerated into overdrive.

What should we make of all this?

For his part, Sullivan wrestles with the overriding conviction that gay marriage is right and SCOTUS should acknowledge it thus against the persistently cautious impulse that judicial overreach might undercut the triumph of a cause to which he and others have dedicated decades of their lives. I’m inclined to agree with Sullivan (pause a minute: you won’t see those words very often) and Jonathan Rauch in hoping and expecting that the High Court will narrowly affirm the California ruling and strike down all or part of the Defense of Marriage Act without finding (or denying) a broad national right to gay marriage. But whatever my opinion, a broad ruling that nationalizes gay marriage is not unthinkable. In any case, recognition of gay marriage will expand in coming years, and we should contemplate (political) life beyond today’s vanishing opposition.

Before anybody cries, “judicial activism,” let’s acknowledge something critical. Some ebb and flow notwithstanding, the tide will never return this ship to port in any generation. It took three decades—longer than most of my generation has existed—after Loving v. Virginia before a majority of all Americans supported interracial marriage. Without any comparable ruling from on high, and despite much public opposition, majority support for gay marriage has come in about half the time. If my peers grow—as I hope—rightward as they age, it will manifest in their endearingly nagging interest in their gay friends’ settling down in loving, committed families. So even if the final ruling is broad, any backlash that emerges will be fleeting. There will never be a marriage amendment, but there may be many policy fights and elections lost—with nothing gained in return—should enough Republicans insist on beating a decomposed horse.

Whatever path the Supreme Court takes, the challenge to conservatives is to figure how to proactively incorporate the evolving consensus into our wholesome, freedom-in-values-minded vision for America. We appeal to small business owners without dismissing workers through free markets, responsible regulation, and pro-growth governance. We appeal to parents without ignoring the childless by emphasizing digital-age education, efficient public policy, and reasonable taxes. We appeal to lower-income voters without alienating the middle class (or vice versa) in demonstrating the necessity of a self-undermining safety net and an economic climate conducive to jobs. We can appeal to a gay-friendly young and multicultural America without rejecting traditionalists through an inclusive focus on family values that has long defined the conservative ethos.

The time of the politics of “anti” is past. Heretofore, the GOP has been caricatured and dismissed as anti-immigrant, anti-gay, anti-black, anti-women, anti-science, anti-environment, anti-intellectual, and uniquely extreme. That many conservatives find this characterization unfair is beside the point. Many people we need to win over tend to think this way, however much we protest. So we must address and defeat the cartoon villain ascribed to us before we can substantively expand our coalition. Today, gay and straight Americans increasingly associate opposition to gay marriage—and by extension, conservatism—with the distasteful animus of James Dobson rather than the gay-affirming reticence of David Blankenhorn. Whatever the courts, voters, or various lawmakers do—or don’t do—in the next couple years, it is incumbent upon those invested in the success of conservatism to disentangle from this flaming mess.

If various elements of the Republican Party are not yet willing to overcome all reservations to gay marriage, then present some semblance of a position that can be defended in modern America. At a bare minimum, promote humane laws—e.g. automatic inheritance, hospital visitation, antidiscrimination protections, partner benefits, and joint-filing—that enhance communal stability while definitively affirming the dignity of gay unions. Along the way, it will be worth remembering that what we allow in the law—from divorce to contraception to alcohol to rooting against the Southeastern Conference—need not accord with what we expect from the pulpit.

We live in an America where a Marine officer proposing to his boyfriend in the White House—to national applause—is the new normal. This couple should be right at home in the Republican Party of tomorrow, if we are willing to lay down the welcome mat and invite our patriots into the big tent.

Are we willing and able, conservatives?