Peggy Noonan, undoubtedly like many viewers, found the democrat convention extremist. Few national American conventions historically have devoted several minutes to booing God.
Beneath the funny hats, the sweet-faced delegates, the handsome speakers and the babies waving flags there was something disquieting. All three days were marked by a kind of soft, distracted extremism. It was unshowy and unobnoxious but also unsettling.
There was the relentless emphasis on Government as Community, as the thing that gives us spirit and makes us whole. But government isn’t what you love if you’re American, America is what you love. Government is what you have, need and hire. Its most essential duties—especially when it is bankrupt—involve defending rights and safety, not imposing views and values. We already have values. Democrats and Republicans don’t see all this the same way, and that’s fine—that’s what national politics is, the working out of this dispute in one direction or another every few years. But the Democrats convened in Charlotte seemed more extreme on the point, more accepting of the idea of government as the center of national life, than ever, at least to me.
The fight over including a single mention of God in the platform—that was extreme. The original removal of the single mention by the platform committee—extreme. The huge “No!” vote on restoring the mention of God, and including the administration’s own stand on Jerusalem—that wasn’t liberal, it was extreme. Comparing the Republicans to Nazis—extreme. The almost complete absence of a call to help education by facing down the powers that throw our least defended children under the school bus—this was extreme, not mainstream.
The sheer strangeness of all the talk about abortion, abortion, contraception, contraception. I am old enough to know a wedge issue when I see one, but I’ve never seen a great party build its entire public persona around one. Big speeches from the heads of Planned Parenthood and NARAL, HHS Secretary and abortion enthusiast Kathleen Sebelius and, of course, Sandra Fluke.
“Republicans shut me out of a hearing on contraception,” Ms. Fluke said. But why would anyone have included a Georgetown law student who never worked her way onto the national stage until she was plucked, by the left, as a personable victim?
What a fabulously confident and ingenuous-seeming political narcissist Ms. Fluke is. She really does think—and her party apparently thinks—that in a spending crisis with trillions in debt and many in need, in a nation in existential doubt as to its standing and purpose, in a time when parents struggle to buy the good sneakers for the kids so they’re not embarrassed at school . . . that in that nation the great issue of the day, and the appropriate focus of our concern, is making other people pay for her birth-control pills. That’s not a stand, it’s a non sequitur. She is not, as Rush Limbaugh oafishly, bullyingly said, a slut. She is a ninny, a narcissist and a fool.
And she was one of the great faces of the party in Charlotte. That is extreme. Childish, too.
Something else, and it had to do with tone. I remember the Republicans in Tampa bashing the president, hard, but not the entire Democratic Party. In Charlotte they bashed Mitt Romney, but they bashed the Republican Party harder. If this doesn’t strike you as somewhat unsettling, then you must want another four years of all war all the time between the parties. I don’t think the American people want that. Because, actually, they’re not extreme.
Read the whole thing.
——————————————————— Yuval Levin analysed Barack Obama’s acceptance speech, and identified two themes: one defensive and the other offensive.
The defensive theme was an attempt to roll back his “you didn’t build that” gaffe by simply asserting that he and his party do believe in individual initiative, self-reliance, and earned success. He said there were some problems the government couldn’t solve, though he declined to name them. (Later in the speech he also acknowledged that he, not unlike Abraham Lincoln, actually had some failings, though he declined to name those too.) But even as he said this he persisted in the dominant trope of this convention—and, it seems, of contemporary progressive thought: the jump from the sheer fact of human interdependence to a defense of every federal program in precisely its current form. It’s the liberal welfare state or the law of the jungle, and no other alternative is imaginable. This mental gesture—which simultaneously offers an excuse for ignoring the imminent collapse of the liberal welfare state and for ignoring what conservatives are actually saying and offering—really deserves to be thought through. It is a fascinating indicator of the contemporary Left’s intellectual exhaustion.
The offensive theme was, however, far more ably developed, and it seemed to be the only part of the speech that the president really cared about. It was in part an outgrowth of the same self-righteous progressive error—of the sense that the Republicans are offering radical individualism and a cold and selfish you’re-on-your-own philosophy of government. And to this extent it was answered by a very revealing display of the left’s tendency to collapse all of society—all that stands between the individual and the state—into the state. Different speakers this week took this up in different ways (starting with the opening video in which one of the speakers said that government is the only thing we all belong to), and Obama’s way was to say that his party’s alternative to the every man for himself philosophy of the Right is an idea of citizenship. “We believe in citizenship,” he said, “a word at the very heart of our founding, at the very essence of our democracy.” It’s an odd claim, as the word “citizenship” doesn’t appear in any founding document (and to the extent that “citizen” does it describes a legal resident, and never seems to be assigned much significance) and the term citizen actually had a rather complicated place in the parlance of late 18th century Anglo-American politics, often used to refer derisively to radicals. Hamilton’s friends in the newspapers frequently referred to Thomas Jefferson as “Citizen Jefferson,” to Jefferson’s very great displeasure, to highlight his affinity for the French revolutionaries. For Obama, the term seemed to be useful as a way of identifying our commonality with our membership in a political community defined by its government. It is, again, a fascinating instinct, conveying at once both the best and the worst of the old progressive outlook but (it seems) without much reflection on its serious limitations. There is rich potential in the notion of citizenship, but only if it is seen as denoting membership in a society that consists of more than a government. Obama gave no real indication that the word has this meaning for him.
I was stunned. This is a man who gave one of the great speeches of our time in 2004, and he gave one of the emptiest speeches I have ever heard on a national stage. Yes, it had cadence, and yes, there were deceptions in it, but that is not what is so striking about it. There was nothing in it. This is a man who believes that government can and should do a lot. There is nothing in here that tells us how he’s going to go from today to tomorrow. For any of the so called goals and what government is going to do, what is he going to enact?
At least Romney had a five point plan. What we heard from Obama was a vision. And he pulls numbers out of a hat. 100,000 new math and science teachers. 600,000 more people working in natural gas. Two million more trainees, and he doesn’t say how we get from A to B. It’s a vision. I have a vision of an America where there is no disease and everybody has a private airplane, but unless I tell you how we get there, I’ve said nothing. And what is so surprising, is that – all he had left – he can’t speak about his record on the economy, and it’s not a good one. As we heard, he didn’t speak about achievements, the one that’s liberals like, ObamaCare, stimulus and etc… they’re unpopular.
So, at least he would talk about the future, what he’s going to to. There was nothing there. I’m amazed that he was—it was like this is a guy who is the A student in the class turning in a paper clearly a C, and the teacher says, “How could you do this? Why did you mail it in?” I felt the Biden speech was infinitely better, because it was empathic and carried a message, but the Obama speech, I thought was flat and had no content in it. Otherwise, I loved it, really…
Ann Coulter at a Catskills vacation place we used to own.
Where Democrat National Conventions are concerned, I definitely subscribe to the Alice Longworth Roosevelt school of thought: “If you can’t say anything nice, come sit here next to me.”
I discovered via an indignant HuffPo posting that Ann Coulter had been in rare form on Twitter last night, commenting upon the democrat convention, and I really need to quote several of her best lines.
18 hours ago: Bill Clinton just impregnated Sandra Fluke backstage…
————————— 17 hours ago: To get Bill Clinton to speak at the convention, Obama had to agree to carry his bags.
————————— 17 hours ago: They’re spicing things up with a live abortion on stage!
————————— 17 hours ago: If I were the RNC, I would put a tape of the D’s God vote on a commercial and broadcast it nonstop for the next two months.
————————— 16 hours ago: Sandra Fluke wants speech class paid for by taxpayers.
————————— 16 hours ago: Sandra Fluke: Republicans would redefine rape. Later that night, shakes hands with Bill Clinton and cannot get smell off her.
————————— 16 hours ago: Sandra wants taxpayers to pay for her tanning appointments.
Ann Coulter retweets Jim Treacher16 hours ago: I think it’s a good idea to put Bill Clinton in front of a blue background with white stuff on it.
————————— 15 hours ago: There’s not a chick in that audience that Bill wants in kneepads. That’s ugly.
————————— 15 hours ago: Monica Lewinsky somewhere, sobbing, clutching stained dress and eating Haagen Das by the Tv light… Four cats yawning.
The democrats came up with an unfortunately memorable line in this video from last night’s convention.
Referring to “belonging to” the Government provokes in libertarians like myself a kneejerk reaction of antipathy to being classified as a serf. Of course, our democrat friends did not really mean to imply that we belong to the Government, in the sense that the Government owns us and we are its slaves.
No, they meant to describe us as belonging to the Government in the way one belongs to a club or to one’s parish church, as a nice, positive communitarian sort of thing.
The problem is that clubs and even churches are voluntary associations. If I get fed up with the BPOE, if I decided that I’m not getting enough of a benefit from my annual dues to the Shenandoah Fish & Game Club or the Yale Club of New York City, I can resign. I can quit attending St. George’s Lithuanian Roman Catholic Church any time I feel like, and join the Primitive Baptists or simply stay home and sleep in on Sunday as I please.
Belonging to the Government obviously does not work that way. Back in 1969, when I received a letter headed with Greetings, and signed by Richard Nixon, I did not really have the option to leave the club. If I didn’t show up for the meeting being held at 5:30 AM at the Draft Induction Center in Mahanoy City, they would have come looking for me. It’s the same way with club dues. Americans are not able to send the IRS a letter on April 15th informing them that we’ve decided to resign our membership this year and won’t be paying any dues.
Democrats seem to differ fundamentally from the rest of us in how they look at things. Myself, I find it impossible to feel very positively about any club that conscripts me into membership whether I like it or not, and which collects its dues at bayonet point. One might paraphrase the late Groucho Marx, and say: “I don’t particularly want to be a member of any club which forces me to join and which will not allow me to skip meetings or resign.”
Mitt Romney responded:
Dan Greenfield describes the symbiotic relationship of three key manifestations of modernity.
Universalizing college has not universalized education; it has not made us a better educated country, only a dumber one. Universal education has led to dumbed-down education and meaningless degrees. The only way we could keep moving more and more students up the ladder was by making the ladder as short as possible. Promotion, populist education and educators who barely knew more than the students have taken care of the rest.
A college degree was once a mark of distinction, now it’s a checkmark even for jobs that don’t have any innate reason for requiring it, and fortunes have been spent by government and students just to “stay in place” with the jobs of yesterdays high school graduates going to tomorrow’s college grads.
The primary purpose of a degree in many fields is to provide demonstrable proof to prospective employers that you aren’t an idiot. A high school degree once served that purpose. Now not even a college degree does. But with a surplus of job-seekers, it’s a useful way to winnow down the stack of applications to people who can analyze the heteronormative subtext of a detergent commercial and have few options for employment because of their massive student loan debt.
Treating college as the new high school hasn’t benefited students who waste four years of their lives and pick up staggering debts which make it harder for them to buy homes and start families, but it has benefited the liberal arts infrastructure, which, despite the liberal spin, is just as good at handing out useless degrees with no career path as any for-profit college. And it has benefited the Democratic Party, which rightly sees college campuses as recruitment grounds and liberal-voter-training seminars. ...
Manhattan, home to Barnard, its sibling Columbia, NYU, Pace, and dozens of others, has one leading line of work, the restaurant business. The restaurant business doesn’t require a degree, just the willingness of pretty white people with student debt to wait tables at below minimum wage, and of some of the city’s three million illegal aliens to work illegally in the back. The city used to make things, now it makes sandwiches for Chinese tourists going to see a Disney musical on Broadway. Students dissatisfied with the low wages are, according to the erratically reliable New York Post, working at strip clubs. Fidel Castro boasted, that in Cuba, even the prostitutes have university degrees. Adopting the socialist degrees for everyone approach means we can now say the same thing.
Moe Lane marvels that, after so long a time, the Democrat Party’s New Deal coalition, consisting of “unions, city machines, blue-collar workers, farmers, blacks, people on relief, and generally non-affluent progressive intellectuals,” is being pronounced dead by the New York Times. The new coalition of the American left is simply writing off the white working class, period.
Whether you agreed with the New Deal program or not, you could always actually define it in terms that were internally self-consistent. Broadly speaking, it was a broad agreement among various groups that America’s most pressing problems could be managed and ameliorated on a broad scale through ‘expert’ and judicious government intervention; and that such intervention dampened the uncertainty and anxiety that might otherwise cause societal panics and economic dislocations. Again: you don’t have to agree with that (I don’t) to recognize that it existed as a coherent policy.
But now that has gone by the wayside, to be replaced with a system that . . . apparently plans to trade support for permanent government dependency programs for minorities, in exchange for legislating the fringe progressive morality of affluent urbanites. Aside from the utter lack of an unifying intellectual or moral framework to such an arrangement, it’s unclear exactly who benefits less from it; while it’s certainly not in minority voters’ long, medium, or short-term interests to become a permanent underclass, it’s not exactly clear that minority voters are even particularly ready to vote for a progressive social policy (as an examination of recent reversals in same-sex marriage movement in California and Maryland will readily attest). But then, that is not really the goal, is it? The goal is to re-elect President Obama—which is something that poor African-American and rich liberal voters both wish to do—and if that is accomplished, then anything else is extra. Which is just as well, because nobody really expects Obama to have much in the way of coat-tails this go-round.
Jim Geraughty, in his Morning Jolt email, responds:
Ah, but look, today’s Democratic party isn’t really about addressing economic opportunity or even dealing with America’s most pressing problems. For starters, many Democrats are not persuaded in the slightest that the annual deficit, accumulating debt, and ticking time bomb of entitlements are pressing problems at all. If Democrats really expected electing Obama would solve problems, they would be angrier with him than we are. No, for most Democrats, their political party is about a cultural identity. That identity is heavily based on not being one of those people—i.e., Republicans or conservatives. As far as I can tell, there are three inviolate principles in the modern Democratic Party:
Any form of consensual sexual behavior is to be accepted—if not celebrated. With that central belief comes the policies of abortion on demand for any woman at any age free, free contraceptives in schools, and gay marriage, and the insistence that Bill Clinton’s lying under oath about Monica Lewinsky didn’t matter because it was about sex. Complaining about explicit sexual content in pop culture reaching an audience that isn’t ready for it—e.g., Tipper Gore in the 1980s—is the sign of the square and the prude. As no less an expert political philosopher than Meghan McCain told us, “the GOP doesn’t understand sex” and has “an unhealthy attitude about sex and desire.” (Republicans are supposedly repressed and sexless, even though they generally have more children.)
America is a deeply racist country, even though you have to look far and wide to find anyone who openly expresses the belief that one race is superior to another. Everybody recoils when Imus says something snide and obnoxious about the Rutgers womens’ basketball team. Racism is never found in the central tenet of affirmative action, that minorities must be judged by a lower standard, or in the until-recently all-white lineup of MSNBC, or in the claims that Clarence Thomas and Herman Cain are Uncle Toms, or in the career of Robert Byrd. The fundamental belief of the Democratic party is that racism remains a serious problem in America today, and that the problem is found entirely in the GOP.
Credentials are to be respected, and any scoffing or skepticism at, say, the Ivy League is a sign of anti-intellectualism, ignorance, jealousy, and insecurity. Those who go there are indeed the best and the brightest; undergraduate and graduate degrees from those schools are key indicators of one’s intelligence, good judgment, and overall character. The success of dropouts Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg are strange anomalies, and no serious reevaluation of the higher-education system is needed. As Rush Limbaugh observed, Bill Clinton said he wanted a cabinet that “looked like America” and declared he had achieved it after assembling a group that consisted almost entirely of Ivy League-educated lawyers.
Everything else is negotiable. For a while, it appeared that Democrats were organizing themselves around the principle that almost every dispute with every other nation and group can be resolved through “tough, smart diplomacy.” But now President Obama has started killing foreigners left and right, and not too many Democrats complain at all. Obama even used a drone to kill an American citizen, Anwar al-Alwaki, with nary a peep. Don’t get me wrong, Alwaki had it coming, but this is precisely the sort of don’t-bother-me-with-legal-details-I’m-fighting-a-war philosophy that Democrats spent seven years denouncing.
You think the Democratic party cares about wealth? Come on. In their minds, George Soros spending his money to help out his political views is noble, but the Koch Brothers are evil incarnate. Higher taxes are good, but no one will complain if Tim Geithner or Charlie Rangel cut corners on paying them. One might be tempted to argue that the righteousness of unions represent an inviolate principle to Democrats, but in New York, Democratic governor Andrew Cuomo is trimming here and there and living to tell the tale.
No, the party really is about identity politics now—us vs. them. And everybody knows which side they’re on.
Conan the Barbarian opined that it was “to crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women.”
Republicans have not really crushed the democrats, and we may not exactly be seeing them driven before us, but they are certainly currently in retreat and disarray, and we do get to listen to the lamentations of their Krugman.
A deal to raise the federal debt ceiling is in the works. If it goes through, many commentators will declare that disaster was avoided. But they will be wrong.
For the deal itself, given the available information, is a disaster, and not just for President Obama and his party. It will damage an already depressed economy; it will probably make America’s long-run deficit problem worse, not better; and most important, by demonstrating that raw extortion works and carries no political cost, it will take America a long way down the road to banana-republic status. ...
[T]he reported terms of the deal… amount to an abject surrender on the part of the president. First, there will be big spending cuts, with no increase in revenue. Then a panel will make recommendations for further deficit reduction — and if these recommendations aren’t accepted, there will be more spending cuts.
Make no mistake about it, what we’re witnessing here is a catastrophe on multiple levels.
It is, of course, a political catastrophe for Democrats, who just a few weeks ago seemed to have Republicans on the run over their plan to dismantle Medicare; now Mr. Obama has thrown all that away. And the damage isn’t over: there will be more choke points where Republicans can threaten to create a crisis unless the president surrenders, and they can now act with the confident expectation that he will.
In the long run, however, Democrats won’t be the only losers. What Republicans have just gotten away with calls our whole system of government into question.
Lack of money may not be the only reason they’re doomed.
Richard Miniter, in Forbes, notes that we have no choice, we are going to have to stop increasing the beast’s rations. But that is a real problem for democrats, whose entire raison d’etre is the delivery of more federal money in return for support.
The Democratic Party, as we have known it for the past 70 years, is now in its last days.
Yes, the House Republicans may raise the debt ceiling for a mix of spending cuts and revenue raisers. Yes, Barack Obama may win the 2012 presidential contest. Yes, bureaucrats and judges will continue to impose new and costly regulations on the economy.
But it doesn’t matter. The long-term trends are almost all bad news for the left wing of the party.
This week’s fight over raising the federal debt limit exposes a key weakness in the warfare-welfare state that has bestowed power onto the Democratic Party: Without an ever-growing share of the economy, it dies. Every vital element of the Democrats’ coalition — unions, government workers, government contractors, “entitlement” consumers — requires constant increases in payments, grants and consulting contracts. Without those payments, they don’t sign checks to re-elect Democrats.
Noemie Emery, in the American Spectator, is a bit too kind, I think, to the creators of the Welfare State, but she correctly identifies the fallacy of promoting wishes into rights. Authentic rights are always take the form “shall not do to you, or shall not stop you.” Legitimate rights are simply negatives commandments to violations of person, property, or liberty. Positive rights are a blank check written on someone else’s account.
The intentions of Democrats are only the best. They want all of the old to have lavish retirements, all of the young to have scholarships, verse-penning cowboys to have festivals funded by government, and everyone to have access to all the best health care, at no cost to himself. In the face of a huge wave of debt swamping all western nations, this is the core of their argument: They want a fair society, and their critics do not; they want to help, and their opponents like to see people suffer; they want a world filled with love and caring, and their opponents want one of callous indifference, in which the helpless must fend for themselves. (“We must reject both extremes, those who say we shouldn’t help the old and the sick and those who say that we should,” quips the New Yorker’s Hendrik Hertzberg.) But in fact, everyone thinks that we “should” do this; the problem, in the face of the debt crisis, is finding a way that we can. It is about the “can” part that the left is now in denial: daintily picking its way through canaries six deep on the floor of the coal mine, and conflating a “good” with a “right.
[T]he two political parties are diametrically opposed on recession-fighting policy. The Republican recipe to “boost growth” is to lower tax rates and regulation, and the Democratic recipe is to “invest” in stimulus spending. For Republicans, “structural economic policy changes” means reform Social Security and Medicare; for Democrats it means raise taxes.
There is no “agreement.” There is only a game of chicken to see who blinks first before August 2.
But we are conservatives. We do not just want to “win;” we want to do the right thing. How do we get out of the recession?
The best way to understand a recession is this: It is a period of adjustment during which the malinvestments of the previous boom are liquidated. Usually, in our era, booms are ignited by cheap money injected into the credit system by government. Cheap money seduces people into borrowing too much.
In the 2000s boom the malinvestments were the homes that millions of people bought with cheap credit, courtesy of Fannie, Freddie and CRA. Homebuilders expanded and sucked a ton of workers and capital goods into homebuilding. Everything looked good until interests rates rose and home prices started to decline.
You know what happened next. “Malinvestment” became nightmare investment, as the greedy bankers foreclosed on millions of homes, and home prices cratered.
But at some point the foreclosures will ease up, bottom-feeders will buy up the flood of houses, and home construction will resume.
The logic of Democratic “stimulus” is that if government shovels out enough money it will tide the economy over the crater. Home prices will recover, businesses will revive, and growth will resume. But what if home prices don’t recover before the stimulus runs out?
Back in 2009, the Obama administration made a judgment, implicit or explicit, that the housing crisis would be over in a couple of years, and that cheap money (QE1 and QE2) and a trillion dollar stimulus program would tide the economy over till then. But they were wrong. The housing market still hasn’t bottomed out, and the economy hasn’t snapped back, as this chart demonstrates.
The Obama mistake was bad enough but the Obamis made a second error. Assuming that the economy would revive in accordance with Baldrick’s cunning plan, they went ahead with their plans for expanding government spending and regulation, spraying money at their deserving supporters. They thought that the economy would soon be strong enough to increase the weight of government. With ObamaCare they increased the weight of government in health care. With regulation, spending, and subsidies pushing green energy they increased the weight of government in energy production.
That’s where the slick assumptions in Cohn’s “increase short-term deficits in ways that boost growth” kicks in. Suppose your “short-term deficit” doesn’t boost growth? Suppose it is just another wasteful government program that increases the weight of government, and postpones the day when happy days are here again?
That’s where the Obamis are sitting right now. They have shot their bolt with cheap money and stimulus spending and cranked up the National Debt by 40 percent. But here we are in Summer 2011 and there is still no light at the end of the tunnel.
To fix things the Obamis would have to adopt the Republican agenda and reduce the weight of government. They would have to repeal ObamaCare, reverse their green energy boondoggle, lower tax rates, and cut wasteful government spending.
You can see the problem. For the last 40 years, ever since the “unexpected” success of Reaganomics, liberals have been telling themselves and everyone else that supply-side economics is a mirage. Now they have to admit that everything they believe is wrong.
For the second time in some of our lifetimes, the American voting public has been treated to a full-scale, practical test of left-wing, Keynesian economics in operation. We saw all this before in the latter half of the 1970s.
Barack Obama’s great leap forward to the shiny new American European-style welfare state has turned a political version of Bernard Law Montgomery’s WWII Operation Market Garden, Obamacare being the “Bridge Too Far.” But the economics of the world of reality is actually a less forgiving, and much more formidable adversary, than the Germany Army in the Fall of 1944. The Allies went on to win WWII. Obama will be going to join Jimmy Carter in the ashbin of history and will soon be Carter’s rival for the title of worst president anyone can remember.