Category: US politics

The war on your gas stove

Charles C.W. Cooke:

One could advance any number of compelling arguments against the Biden administration’s reported desire to institute a nationwide ban on gas stoves. One could note that such prohibitions are clearly not within the federal government’s constitutional powers. One could question the president’s priorities in a time of inflation and consumer alarm. One could observe that the study that has led the administration to consider outlawing gas stoves is ridiculously — and deliberately — flawed. One could even ask how such a measure — which would make many forms of ethnic cooking more difficult — could be squared with all that fashionable talk of systemic implicit racial bias. And yet to offer any of these objections would ultimately be counterproductive, insofar as it would signal an acceptance of the premise underlying the policy, which is that this is the sort of matter that a free people should expect their federal government to superintend.

I do not accept this premise, and, as a result, I must offer up a response wholly different from the ones above. Namely: Bugger off.

That’s right. The correct response here is a rather simple one, all told: Go away. Leave us alone. Stick your ludicrous propositions where the sun don’t shine.

As those who contrived it made abundantly clear, we did not institute a federal government so that it could micromanage us to the point at which it is determining which cooking equipment we are permitted to feature inside our own homes. That is a private matter — a matter in which the powers that be ought to have no say.

For more than a century now, Americans have been cooking with gas — and, clearly, many of them still wish to do so. Indeed, until yesterday morning, nobody had thought much about this at all. There is no Anti-Flicker League, no Mothers Against Gas Stoves. This whole thing has been a top-down affair, contrived by the terminally bored. At some point in the last couple of years, a bunch of hyperactive progressives decided that gas stoves might be a good candidate for their next moral crusade, and, after a cursory review of the idea, they elected to go for it. As the drive progressed, the justification for it changed: First, the impetus was climate change, then it was health, and, if these fail, it will become something else — the perils of living in the same house as plastic knobs, perhaps. But really, these are just pretexts. The true purpose of the effort is to advance a cause in the hope of feeling fulfilled.

As usual, the press has allowed itself to be entirely co-opted. In the summer of 2021, the New York Times was advising its readers that the “provocative headlines” that activists had secured “have cooked up a scare that we don’t think is warranted.” The Times’ happy conclusion? “You don’t actually need to freak out.”

But that was then — before such views became unfashionable, and before those who voiced them were called racists and antediluvians and climate-change deniers. And so, of course, the piece was subsequently updated. “We’ve changed our advice,” the prepended note reads, “and no longer recommend hanging on to your gas stove for as long as it works.” Naturally.

George Orwell believed that to picture the future, one needed only to imagine “a boot stamping on a human face forever,” but, as it turned out, this was far too dramatic an augury. In 2023, the federal government doesn’t so much trample us to death as bore us into the grave. The nagging is endless. “Don’t say that!” “Don’t drink this!” “Don’t eat that!” “Don’t drive!” “I wonder if you know that your swimming pool is dangerous?”

And the thing is: Yeah, I do know that swimming pools can be dangerous. I do know that driving is more dangerous than flying. I do know that I’d probably live longer if I skipped that steak and had a salad, and that that fourth glass of wine is bad for me. I do know that candles are more likely to cause fires than light bulbs are, that having sex is more dangerous than celibacy, and that going to rock concerts or football games is bad for my hearing. I just don’t care — or, if I do care, I don’t think it’s any of Washington, D.C.’s business to work out where my line is. Frankly, most of the “science” that’s being sold by the Anti-Stove Brigade seems extremely thin to me, but, even if it weren’t, I still wouldn’t give a toss about it, because I’m an adult, and I’m aware that life is full of trade-offs. In their latest iteration, the Safetyists insist that homes with gas stoves are slightly more likely to yield asthmatics than homes without. Okay — arguendo, let’s assume that’s true. It’s also true that homes with gas stoves are more likely to yield good cooking — and that, if you’re using a wok or cooking roti or what you will, gas is pretty much imperative. Who gets to decide which of these matters more? Some humdrum grinch at the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), or me? I’m sorry, I thought this was America.

I have come increasingly to suspect that the deepest fault line in these United States lies not between people on the “left” and the “right,” or between the Republicans and the Democrats, or between the north and the south, but between the sort of person who spends their days wondering how many more hours they might be able to eke out if they lived in a pillow-lined concrete bunker, and the sort of person who intuits somewhere deep down in their soul that a world without any rough edges is a world that is less worth living in.

Justifying the administration’s proposed move, CPSC commissioner Richard Trumka Jr. explained that “products that can’t be made safe can be banned.” What, I wonder, would be excluded from that definition?

On second thought, forget I asked. I wouldn’t want to give him any ideas.

Later came an update from Ari Blaff:

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission chairman Alexander D. Hoehn-Saric issued a statement Wednesday assuring the public that his agency has no intention of banning gas stoves after a commission official drew the ire of the cooking public by suggesting the appliances might be banned in the near future due to the alleged health threat they pose to Americans.

“Over the past several days, there has been a lot of attention paid to gas stove emissions and to the Consumer Product Safety Commission,” Hoehn-Saric wrote in an official statement released Wednesday. “To be clear, I am not looking to ban gas stoves and the CPSC has no proceeding to do so.”

Commissioner Richard Trumka Jr. had originally told Bloomberg News that fears over air quality caused by gas stoves was creating “a hidden hazard.”

“Any option is on the table. Products that can’t be made safe can be banned,” Trumka Jr. insisted.

The comments came following Senator Cory Booker (D., N.J.) and Representative Don Beyer (D., Va.) urging the federal agency to investigate the issue due to its allegedly disproportionate impact on black, Latino, and low-income households.

Gas stoves fell into the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s crosshairs following an academic journal article published in December 2022, finding that 12.7 percent of childhood asthma cases were linked to its usage in households. The paper went on to parallel the “childhood asthma burden” produced by gas stoves being equivalent to secondhand smoke exposure.

The American Gas Association responded to the publication by challenging the robustness of the study.

“The claims made…are derived from an advocacy-based mathematical exercise that doesn’t add any new science. The authors conducted no measurements or tests based on real-life appliance usage, emissions rates, or exposures, and did not adequately consider other factors that are known to contribute to asthma and other respiratory health outcomes,” the American Gas Association stated in an official release last week.

Similar sentiments were echoed by West Virginia’s Democratic senator Joe Manchin on Twitter midday Wednesday.

“This is a recipe for disaster. The federal government has no business telling American families how to cook their dinner. I can tell you the last thing that would ever leave my house is the gas stove that we cook on,” Manchin wrote.

The news coincided with New York governor Kathy Hochul’s state-of-the-state address Tuesday which called for completely eliminating gas heating and appliances in new construction projects by 2030. One Brooklyn-based restauranteur, Stratis Morfogen, expressed his frustration at Hochul’s proposal.

“We lose 40% productivity by using electric…If they inquire with small business owners, I’ll give them three pieces of advice, get a stronger filtration system, get a hood system that works and basically train your staff how to maintain it,” Morfogen told Tucker Carlson on Fox News.

Hoehn-Saric is obviously lying given the quotes from people who do want to ban gas stoves and other natural gas appliances. Remember, everyone who voted for Joe Biden voted for this.

 

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The Democratic Party: Making your life more miserable

Noah Rothman:

Some of the bluest states in the nation have committed themselves to war with the most efficient appliances in your home: natural gas-powered heaters, furnaces, and stoves.

In September, California announced a new rule passed unanimously by the thoroughly undemocratic California Air Resources Board (CARB).  It will outlaw the sale of natural-gas heaters at the beginning of the next decade. New York’s newly reelected Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul proposed a similar initiative this month, which would ensure that the Empire State constructs only “climate-friendly electric homes” by 2027. The first step on the long march involves a ban on the use of oil or gas for residential water heaters, furnaces, and stoves.

Now, the federal government is getting in on the act, but it’s not being so honest about what it hopes to achieve by anathematizing your gas-powered appliances. It’s not about the environment. At least not exclusively. It’s an effort to safeguard your health, which you would recklessly imperil if you were left to your own foolish devices.

In a shockingly advantageous coincidence for meddlesome bureaucrats, it turns out your gas stove is as bad for the environment as it is for your lungs. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recently discovered that these age-old appliances, which are in use in about 40 percent of American homes, produce harmful levels of nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and particulates. Recent studies (like those cited by California officials in their quest to ban gas appliances) also found that natural gas stoves and ovens leak carcinogenic benzene into the atmosphere, exposure to which is unsafe at any level. Other studies maintain that gas stoves have contributed to a measurable increase in childhood asthma cases.

If appealing to the hypochondriacal mania that pervades the national discourse doesn’t do it for you, maybe moral blackmail will. According to some Democratic lawmakers, the menace that affects roughly 49 million households hits the poor and American minorities hardest. “Products that can’t be made safe can be banned,” Commission official Richard Trumka Jr. bluntly told reporters. Given the degree to which the physics associated with the combustion of hydrocarbons is unreformable, it’s logical to conclude that an outright ban is the agency’s objective.

All this psychological manipulation is necessary to overcome the foremost obstacle before the busybodies who have gone to war with so many modern conveniences: They work better than their alternatives.

If your primary objective is to get something as hot as possible as fast as possible, there is no substitute for an electric range. But temperature regulation is not its strong suit. Anyone who prepares food on a regular basis understands that erratic temperature control is a recipe for ruining the recipe.

If you only use your stovetop to boil or sear, you’re unlikely to notice the difference between electric and gas. But let’s say you want to sauté, braise, fry, or simmer—just about any other stovetop activity that occurs between the temperature ranges of scorching and warming. In those cases, gas is superior.

Moreover, there are certain activities that electric stovetops cannot manage. You cannot char anything that requires charring, such as delicate vegetables. You cannot toast anything that needs toasting unless you limit your toasting to the oven, which produces a distinct flavor and texture that is not always desirable. You cannot flambé in the absence of a direct flame.

The loss of these techniques may not disturb those for whom fine dining is one restaurant reservation away—those with sufficient means who reside in locales with access to that level of finery. That leads us to perhaps the most important distinction between electric and gas overlooked by America’s busybodies: gas is cheaper. In most U.S. states, natural-gas appliances cost between 10 and 30 percent less to operate on a regular basis than electric alternatives.

The attack on natural gas appliances should be viewed as an extension of the war the nation’s regulatory apparatus is waging against gasoline-powered lawn equipment. The arguments that opponents of these machines deploy are myriad. They are bad for the environment. They throw “disease-spreading” particulate into the atmosphere. They shatter the bucolic placidity of the spring and summer months. These dubious assertions are necessary to convince you to devote more of your income and vastly more manhours to the work of lawn care.

There’s symmetry, too, with the undemocratic means by which America’s most neurotic states are depriving you of access to single-use plastics such as straws and shopping bagsincandescent lighting, and short-cycle dishwashers and laundry machines. Efficiency is the problem. If abstractions such as social justice and sustainability fail to convince you, then you must be cajoled or extorted out of your selfish attachment to proficiency. And if that doesn’t work, there’s always the force of law.

I wonder what the reflexively anti-Trump commentators — say, Charlie Sykes — have to say about this. The Trump administration did not declare war on natural gas.

The positives of the speaker-less House

Dominic Pino:

The press wants to portray the ongoing speakership election as chaos. What political observers are actually experiencing is a rare vote in Congress where the outcome is not already known in advance. More votes should be this way.

Adding to the purported chaos is the fact that the members of the House are actually in the Capitol, together, at the same time. This, too, is a welcome reprieve from legislative life under the proxy-voting rules Democrats used when they controlled the chamber, supposedly over Covid concerns. It’s also welcome because the House has not been accustomed to assembling all at once for years, pandemic or not.

The rows of chairs in a semicircle before the rostrum under “In God We Trust” that most people envision when they think of Congress are only usually occupied simultaneously during the State of the Union address. The legislative branch has atrophied so much that one of the only times members all get together is when the leader of the executive branch pays them a visit.

What we’re seeing in the House isn’t chaos. It’s what Congress is supposed to be.

The word “congress” comes from the Latin word “congredi,” meaning “to come together.” The point of Congress is for legislators who are independently elected by constituents from separate, geographically defined districts to come together in the Capitol and argue. In the House, those arguments are supposed to be raucous.

The problem is that the people demanding these changes are by and large unserious. Chip Roy (R., Texas) is being serious, but Matt Gaetz (R., Fla.), who has now started voting for Donald Trump as speaker, is not, and Lauren Boebert (R., Colo.) is so ridiculous even Marjorie Taylor Greene (R., Ga.) has had enough. And no one has yet offered a viable alternative to McCarthy who could win over the GOP conference. McCarthy has made numerous concessions that holdouts say they want, and yet they still won’t vote for him.

But nowhere in the Constitution is any level of seriousness required for House members. You only have to be 25 or older, have been a U.S. citizen for seven years, and live in the state you represent. Federalist No. 52 says of the House that “the door of this part of the federal government is open to merit of every description.”

That includes whatever description applies to Gaetz and Boebert. They are exercising their legitimate privileges as duly elected members of Congress. You get to be a troll in the United States House of Representatives. Some Americans are trolls, and they get representation, too. Congressmen have been at this for a very long time. As Dan McLaughlin concluded after surveying a history of raucous speakership battles, “The House may often be a mess, but it’s a very American mess.”

From a political party’s point of view, it may be wise to clamp down on disruptive members. Party leadership has any number of ways of doing so with committee assignments and legislative priorities when in office. At the election stage, there are two major ways to keep the trolls at bay. The first is defeating them in primary elections, by recruiting and funding sounder candidates. The second is by winning a large enough majority that the trolls don’t matter.

McCarthy failed to do either of those things. The GOP has been notoriously tolerant of shenanigans from members in safe GOP districts. And McCarthy’s leadership in the last election cycle failed to deliver the majority the GOP should have gotten, given that the incumbent Democratic president is unpopular and responsible for a variety of policy failures, and his party was facing the voters for the first time after his election.

Now McCarthy has to deal with the trolls, and he’s not up to the task. His case to the GOP conference was, “I earned this job,” and he has so far insisted on remaining a candidate. Not enough GOP House members agree with his claim, and they seem content to keep making their feelings known, as many times as the clerk calls the roll.

Part of the reason the GOP doesn’t have a majority as large as it should was Donald Trump’s endorsements in winnable House races that ended up handing seats to Democrats because Trump’s preferred Republican nominees were unpalatable to the general electorate. Instead of foreseeing that possibility, McCarthy attached himself to Trump at the hip and, even after seeing the ill effects of Trump’s actions, remains so affixed. He continued touting his endorsement from Trump and urging GOP House members to vote for him. They’re ignoring him.

Which is good. It should not matter in the slightest who Donald Trump thinks the speaker should be. He’s a proven election loser, but more fundamentally, he’s not a House member. The speakership contest is a constitutionally mandated decision that lies solely in House members’ hands.

The House is not in chaos right now. The House is acting like a legislature. We’re so used to seeing it act like a servant to the executive or like a stage for cable-news hits that we’ve forgotten what a legislature looks like. As Yuval Levin wrote, it would be preferable if this legislative behavior was in pursuit of something more worthwhile. But Congress has to start somewhere to regain its legislative capabilities, and this contest, despite all its nonsense, is a start.

Eric Boehm:

Midway through the third day of the ongoing battle to pick a new speaker of the House, Rep. Matt Rosendale (R–Mont.) made an innocuous but telling point about the state of Congress.

“We have had more discussion and debate over the last three days than I have participated in, on this floor, for the past two years,” Rosendale, one of the group of breakaway Republicans who have refused to back Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s (R–Calif.) bid to become speaker, pointed out.

The stakes of this week’s congressional drama, he argued, are not merely about which House member will hold the ceremonial gavel but about a deeper problem with how Congress functions.

“The process that we use has been dramatically broken,” Rosendale explained, lamenting “the consolidation of power into the hands of the speaker and the fortunate few who happen to serve on the Rules Committee, which control every aspect of legislation that travels through this body.”

This is not a new complaint, but it remains an underappreciated one. For the past few decades, Congress has shifted away from its traditional process for passing legislation—the one that’s more or less reflected in the famous Schoolhouse Rock! song: A bill gets proposed, marked up in committee, amended, and finally put to a debate and voted on by the full chamber. Instead, as Rosendale explained Thursday, major bills are drafted by a handful of high-ranking leaders on both sides, then presented to the full House (usually with scant time to read or process what’s in them) for a simple up-or-down vote with few or no amendments allowed.

The result, as American Enterprise Institute congressional scholar Kevin Kosar explained to Roll Call in November, is that leaders can more easily push legislation through the House with party-line votes. The downside, however, is that “legislators feel like they’re not legislators,” Kosar said.

One way to understand this week’s Republican revolt against McCarthy, then, is that it’s not really about McCarthy at all. It’s actually a rank-and-file revolt against the top-down process that both parties have used to control the House in recent years. But the margins are thin enough right now that a few handfuls of lawmakers who are fed up with the process can use the speaker election as a pressure point to force a change.

Much of the media has lazily framed the speakership fight as a battle for personal power, but the renegade Republicans have made it clear what they are seeking. All the way back in July, the House Freedom Caucus published a list of demands for the next session. Right at the top of the document is a lengthy explanation of why the group believes power must be decentralized away from the speaker’s hands. None of this should be coming as a surprise right now.

But the idea that rank-and-file legislators should get to exert some influence—to, as Rosendale put it, actually have debates on the floor of the House about the best course of action—is now something of a foreign concept in Washington, which might help explain why so many people seem to be surprised by this eruption of democracy. President Joe Biden has described this week’s speaker election as “embarrassing,” but the real embarrassment is what happened last month: when Congress passed a 4,000-page, $1.7 trillion spending bill that most lawmakers had little time to read and no real opportunity to influence.

“We have an oligarchy right now,” former Rep. Justin Amash, who has complained for years about the top-down process used to push legislation through Congress,  told Reason‘s Robby Soave on Thursday. “It’s the leaders of the parties in Congress, and it’s the president of the United States. Those people are deciding everything.”

Change doesn’t occur without a good reason. It’s not yet clear that holding up the anointing of a new speaker of the House will result in any serious changes to the way Congress operates, but it seems like a game worth playing.

And it’s a game the House Freedom Caucus might be winning. Politico reported yesterday that a brewing deal between McCarthy and the holdout Republicans would include “major changes to the appropriations process” including “standalone votes on each of the 12 yearly appropriations bills” and “allowing floor amendments to be offered by any lawmaker.”

To be sure, some of the other demands the group of holdouts is making—including a vote on beefed-up immigration rules and the inclusion of House Freedom Caucus members on the all-powerful Rules Committee—may not be on-net victories for democracy or limited government. There’s not much of a reason to root for this faction to take full control of Congress, but there’s also little reason to fear that they will.

But you don’t have to support the full House Freedom Caucus agenda or admire the often-noxious personalities within the group to recognize that they are absolutely right to demand changes in how Congress works.

“The debate and discussion has been all but eliminated, and the balance of us are left with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no,'” Rosendale said Thursday. “Those are our options, and that is what has led to the disintegration of the relationships that we see across this floor.”

In other words, the fight over the speakership election isn’t evidence that Congress is broken. In fact, it might offer a glimmer of hope that the House can still be fixed.

Full of sound and fury signifying very little

Paul Mirengoff:

Of the many takes I’ve read and heard about the inability of House Republicans to select a Speaker right out of the gate, this one by David Harsanyi makes the most sense to me. He considers the story “meaningless.”

That’s not far off. In all likelihood, the Republicans will select a leader before too long. It might be Kevin McCarthy; more likely (I think) it won’t be. Either way, the House will proceed in basically the same fashion.

As Harsanyi puts it:

Of course, somewhere in the vicinity of zero voters will change their worldview or political affiliation because the GOP is taking a few extra days to grind out their leadership vote. . . .

However the vote ends up. . .it won’t matter much because neither side in this battle has anything special or particularly consequential to offer.

The best argument I’ve seen for denying McCarthy the Speakership is that the House needs to change fundamentally the way it does business. Under McCarthy, it will be business as usual.

True. But I doubt that anyone with the faintest chance of becoming Speaker is likely to change fundamentally the way the House does business. Nor is it clear to me that those leading the charge against McCarthy would change it for the better.

The need-for-change argument would carry more weight if this particular House had the ability to make a difference through legislation. It doesn’t. The Dems control the Senate and the White House.

The two roles of the Republican House for the next two years are (1) to prevent the Democrats from enacting bad legislation (they rarely offer any other kind) and (2) to hold hearings. The first of these roles can be carried out under McCarthy, but also under any other member with a chance of becoming Speaker — or so it seems to me.

Ideally, the second role would be influenced by a Speaker capable of exercising good judgment about what to pursue and what not to. However, in the real world I suspect that whoever squeaks his way to the Speakership will have to leave decisions about hearings entirely up to the various committee chairs and/or members.

There is, though, one scenario in which McCarthy’s quest to be Speaker could be consequential. There’s talk that McCarthy will try to make a deal with the Democratic leader Hakim Jeffries whereby, in exchange for concessions, the latter would direct a significant number of his caucus to not show up for a quorum call. In this scenario, which Ed Morrissey discusses here, the amount of votes needed for a majority of those present would shrink to a number McCarthy perhaps could obtain.

For what it’s worth, I doubt this ploy will come to fruition. But if it does, then given the concessions McCarthy probably would have to make, the consequences could be significant.

Otherwise, the current drama signifies little other than score settling and posturing.

“Democracy” = Democrats, according to Democrats

Erick-Woods Erickson:

The Democrats’ doddering old fool and Fabulist-in-Chief spoke in a part-time train station turned full-time homeless shelter [Wednesday] night to rally progressives. He tried the same approach in Philadelphia on September 1, 2022. Shortly thereafter, Democrats’ polling collapsed, and Republicans retook the lead in the generic ballot.  This time, he did it with gusto before a soft blue background and a crowd of partisans instead of with two Marines and red whorehouse lighting.

On Wednesday night, he did not do as he did the day before in Florida, i.e., claiming he went to a historically black college (he did not), or that his son died in Iraq (he did not), or that he met the inventor of insulin (he did not), or that war in Iraq (he meant Ukraine) provoked the current crisis (it did not), or that Putin is to blame for global inflation (he is not), or that Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is a senator (she is not).

Instead, he claimed democracy itself is under attack.  It is not.

He did not talk about inflation, crime, or the economy — the issues voters care about. He gave a speech written by a progressive twenty-something Twitter warrior ready to win tweet of the day, not the election, before fleeing to China’s TikTok to escape the reign of Elon Musk. And Biden half-assed that speech with his caveats and carveouts of “the extreme MAGA element of the Republican Party, which is a minority of that party,” which is a hell of a concession in a speech designed to be about this minority. “There are more than 300 election deniers on the ballot all across America this year,” but he won’t name any of them, including the ones his party funded, nor will he tell you there are over 10,000 races across the country on the ballot this year.

The only thing Biden’s angry speech will do is mobilize anti-Democrat turnout on Election Day, with no added incentive to turn out his own side, which is not turning out at the rate they need. A group of progressives who already think democracy is under attack and still aren’t voting will not suddenly go vote because Grandpa Dementia told them one more time than Joy Reid already had. But a group of independent voters who hate both sides with a passion might now be inspired to give Biden a middle finger for, on his second try at this, still ignoring the baby formula, the gas, the groceries, and the looming recession.

Biden might have cost the Democrats their New Hampshire Senate seat where there is no early voting, an already enthusiastic Republican pool of voters, and even more energy for those voters and fence-sitters.

We know democracy is not under attack because Joe Biden and the Democrats used $46 million to fund the candidates who they claim are attacking democracy.  We know democracy is not under attack because the Democrats have made no effort to calm the currents of contretemps rushing through the nation.

Were democracy actually under attack, Democrats would have sought consensus instead of contentiousness.  They would not have rushed to force schools to accept boys into girls’ locker rooms. They would have relied on federalism.  They would not have rushed a massive spending bill through Congress that provoked inflation. They would have worked with Republicans to narrowly craft a package.  They would not have told Americans who cannot afford new cars to buy electric ones and make sure not to plug them in between the hours of 5 and 9 pm in California. They would have worked to expand fossil fuel production domestically. They would not have focused on abortion with no restrictions and January 6th. They would have worked to end the supply shortage of baby formula, which even now remains a problem. They would not have passed an “Inflation Reduction Act” that doesn’t reduce inflation.   They would have focused on the economy and not wrecking it.

In August of 2021, President Biden withdrew American troops from Afghanistan.  Donald Trump wanted the same outcome but was smart enough to listen to his advisors and delay the withdrawal until the winter when the Taliban hunker down in the mountain snows.  We now know with certainty that Biden’s advisors told him not to withdraw during the fighting season but to wait for winter.  Dogmatically, Biden demanded a withdrawal during the fighting season, and the Taliban swept into Kabul while we were still there, even as Biden said they would not.

Thirteen Americans died, and hundreds of Americans were left behind.  For the first time, an American President abandoned American citizens behind enemy lines willfully, knowingly, and expressly against the advice of his advisors.  Then he lied, blamed others, and denied it. “My beloved Beau,” was not the apology the families of the fallen and forgotten wanted.

The American people saw a President who lacked the empathy he claimed to have.  He had promised a soft-hearted return to normalcy and instead provoked more international drama and domestic economic carnage, just without mean tweets.

Biden’s polling never recovered.  Time and time again, when given the opportunity to correct, Biden and the Democrats instead insisted either the American public must side with them or democracy itself is under attack.  At every opportunity, instead of empathy for their fellow Americans, Democrats expressed antipathy.  After Terry McAuliffe lost the gubernatorial race in Virginia to now Governor Glenn Youngkin, Democrats should have learned two things.  First, do not make the 2022 midterms about Trump.  Second, work like hell to reverse their policies on schools.

History is not on the side of the incumbent White House party. Losing Virginia reiterated that history was coming for the Democrats. They needed to mitigate that history. On multiple occasions, fate itself offered up opportunities to pivot, but Democrats doubled down on asininity.

Biden went with “Ultra MAGA” Republicans and hugged the teachers unions so close one would have thought Randi Weingarten, the head of the American Federation of Teachers, was a teenage girl.  When the parental backlash began, the Democrats claimed parents were domestic terrorists, like Republicans, but worse.  Then they walked it back, pretended it never happened, and lied — claiming they were really the ones who wanted schools reopened.  Much like Democrats claim they were always the party of freedom and the Republicans were always the party of slavery, Democrats now claim they were always the party of open, maskless schools, and Republicans were the ones who shut it all down. And can they get an amnesty, please and thank you? “Sorry, we wouldn’t let you hug your grandma before she died. Bygones!”

Nothing has worked.  The Supreme Court handed them a gift with the Dobbs decision, ending Roe v Wade.  Women started returning to the Democrats.  But then Democrats got ghoulish, insisting there could be no limits on abortion ever, a position that polls more extreme than the Republican position.  Kids’ educations were at stake; their parents’ 401(K)s looked like Rome after the Visigoths entered; and suburban communities rang out with gunshots while Democrats yelled on television, “Crime? What crime, you scaredy-cat racists?”  The women pivoted back to the GOP just in time to see the Democrats, who told them high prices were no big deal, complain about $8.00 monthly for a blue checkmark on Twitter.

So here, at the end of the midterms, Democrats return to screams about democracy.  They funded many of the supposed threats to democracy who will beat them.  They will learn nothing and forget nothing.  After all, it is you, not them, that is the problem. Just ask them. Actually, no need; in less than a week, on MSNBC, they’ll tell you.

In case of a win

Veronique de Rugy:

Republicans want to take over Congress and come Tuesday they might get their wish. Assuming they win both the House and Senate, they will face enormous challenges: a country still heading into a recession, inflation still high and rising, government deficits and debt as far as the eye can see, regulations strangling the production of energy, and much more. For these reasons, I offer some suggestions of what a victorious GOP should do over the next two years.

It’s no secret that inflation isn’t getting better. The latest numbers show that core inflation continues to rise, closing the door on the prospect of a speedy return to the Federal Reserve’s 2 percent target. Meanwhile, workers see the prices of food and rent going up quite dramatically, while their real wages go down. Whether they feel like they created the problem or not, Republicans should make the fight against inflation their top priority.

As we all know, the main tool available to the Fed is to increase interest rates and trim its balance sheet in hopes of lowering the nationwide “aggregate” demand for goods and services. High interest rates raise borrowing costs for both private actors and the government. While there isn’t much Congress and the president can do to ease the inflation-fighting effort’s burden on the private sector (sending checks to people fuels more demand and higher prices!), there is plenty they can do on the budget side.

First, Congress and the White House must trim government spending. With debt at 100 percent of GDP, it’s time to act. Our priority should be the drivers of our future debt: Social Security and Medicare. Republicans need to be the adults in the room making the case that high inflation, with another debt ceiling crisis on the way, requires a commitment to reforming these programs.

Directly relevant to the fight against inflation, other spending cuts are essential to deal with skyrocketing interest payments caused by the higher interest rates on our growing debt. This means that absent significant action, the Treasury Department will have to issue even more debt. Deficits will then further expand, which will further fuel inflation.

Second, when the fiscal bill comes due, and when unemployment rises and the economy slows because of the Fed’s action, Republicans may be tempted to pressure chairman Jerome Powell to stop jacking up rates. Don’t do it. Whether Powell has the backbone to continue fighting inflation in the face of palpable financial or economic hardship—and the corresponding political pressures—is questionable. Unfortunately, if he caves to the pressure and pauses to let the rate hikes work their way to reduced inflation—or, worse, if he agrees to stimulate the flailing economy by lowering rates and reengaging in quantitative easing—he will reignite inflation.

Republicans should follow the lead of President Ronald Reagan who, in the early 1980s, put no pressure on Paul Volcker to stop fighting inflation and let him stay the course. The cost was steep, but the alternative would have been worse. The same is true here.

There is a lesson from these high inflation episodes, which Republicans can turn into a policy goal. It’s becoming obvious that once we have high inflation, containing it is always painful. As such, the only role of the Fed starting today should be price stability. That means demanding that it abandon other ill-fitting objectives like “inclusive growth” and fighting climate change.

Meanwhile, there are a few things Republicans shouldn’t do. For instance, they should stay away from the bloated “family-friendly” programs social conservatives are so fond of. As economic study after economic study show, these programs will backfire and make the lives of families harder. Paid leave programs, for instance, reduce beneficiaries’ employment and opportunities for promotion. Extending child tax credits will create further disincentives to marry and work. Child care subsidies make the supply of child care more, not less, expensive. These programs will also add to the budget deficit at a time when Congress should work especially diligently to reduce the debt. They’re no way to cope with inflation.

Finally, Republicans should govern like adults rather than seeking revenge like ill-trained children. That means abstaining from launching investigations against their Democratic opponents. Going after political adversaries is fun, especially when you’ve been on the receiving end of their own investigations. But “Investigating the Dems” is not on the top of most voters’ concerns this election season. Neither is “Owning the Libs.”

So, Republicans, you want to be in power. Can you handle it?

Democrats vs. students

William Otis:

Republicans want to talk about inflation and crime (and so, apparently, does most of the electorate). Democrats want to talk about anything else, and have settled on abortion (which any American who seriously wants one can get), and political violence (as long as the attempted murder of a mostly conservative Supreme Court Justice gets shoved behind the curtain).

But I wonder if something else is lurking out there. My curiosity was piqued this morning when I saw two things floating around the Internet. The first was from Emily Burns, a former neuroscience graduate student at Rockefeller University:

But despite being pro-choice, I have become a single issue voter. My vote this cycle is a vote for vengeance against the party that kept my kids masked for two years; that robbed me of my best friends, and strained every relationship I have; that caused us to move to an entirely different part of the country; that perverted a discipline that I love, and which I use to navigate my life (science); and that then lied about doing it, and called me a terrorist for being upset about it. After this cycle, my vote will always be for the party that represents the most decentralized power structure, and the greatest respect for individual rights and responsibility.

The second item, as if on cue, was this article in The Atlantic, “Let’s Declare a Pandemic Amnesty.” The title gives the gist of it:

I have been reflecting on this lack of knowledge [about COVID risks] thanks to a class I’m co-teaching at Brown University…..We’ve spent several lectures reliving the first year of the pandemic, discussing the many important choices we had to make under conditions of tremendous uncertainty.

Some of these choices turned out better than others.

Translation: “Some of those choices were unmitigated disasters, but, well, hey, look, don’t be so judgmental.”

To take an example close to my own work, there is an emerging (if not universal) consensus that schools in the U.S. were closed for too long: The health risks of in-school spread were relatively low, whereas the costs to students’ well-being and educational progress were high. The latest figures on learning loss are alarming.  But in spring and summer 2020, we had only glimmers of information. Reasonable people—people who cared about children and teachers—advocated on both sides of the reopening debate.

Actually, it was well known very early on that COVID posed a serious danger to old people, a moderate danger to middle-aged people, very little danger to young people, and next to no danger to school-aged children.

Given the amount of uncertainty, almost every position was taken on every topic. And on every topic, someone was eventually proved right, and someone else was proved wrong.

Hey look people, some were right, some were wrong, dada, dada, that’s how life is! (Left unsaid is that some were right because they thought seriously about costs and risks, and some were wrong because lining up with our culture’s manic addiction to risk aversion was the politically correct and far more popular choice).

The people who got it right, for whatever reason, may want to gloat. Those who got it wrong, for whatever reason, may feel defensive and retrench into a position that doesn’t accord with the facts. All of this gloating and defensiveness continues to gobble up a lot of social energy and to drive the culture wars, especially on the internet.

Translation: “It’s time to move on.”

Anyone heard that one before? And am I mistaken in thinking that when the more liberal side of the spectrum gets caught with its pants down, see, e.g., Bill Clinton and Monica, it’s “time to move on;” but that when pro-Trump rioters get caught in their January 6, 2021 violence, it is most certainly not time to move on — no matter how much time has passed?

These discussions are heated, unpleasant and, ultimately, unproductive. In the face of so much uncertainty, getting something right had a hefty element of luck. And, similarly, getting something wrong wasn’t a moral failing. Treating pandemic choices as a scorecard on which some people racked up more points than others is preventing us from moving forward.

Whenever you see words like “moving forward,” or its first cousin, “healing,” you know you’ve entered the same linguistic flim-flam territory that Harvard was arguing in the Supreme Court when it wanted to disguise its anti-white and anti-Asian bias as “holistic”, or the sentencing reform crowd wants to disguise its embrace of criminality as “restorative justice.” Still, as the author says, it’s true that getting something wrong isn’t a moral failing — as long as (1) you made a diligent, sober and honest attempt to get it right, and (2) you pay the costs of getting it wrong, rather than pushing them off on the people you bullied and injured. That would be almost the whole country, but most especially the millions of children whose social and educational development you were so self-righteous in crippling.

It’s well known that predominantly liberal political leaders (e.g., Gov. Whitmer) were the most persistent and belligerent in imposing school lockdowns, while more conservative ones (e.g., Gov. DeSantis) allowed more freedom.

I don’t know that this will be a sleeper issue in the elections next week. But I know it should be — and not just as a sleeper.

Remember that Gov. Tony Evers closed every school through university in the fourth quarter of the 2019–20 school year. And people wonder why public school enrollment is down and private-school enrollment, charter-school enrollment and home-schooling is up.

 

Crime and (the) race

Paul Mirengoff:

Next week, there’s a good chance that Democrats will face a reckoning for advocating, and in many cases implementing, policies that lead to crime. Naturally, the New York Times, which favors Democrats and their soft-on-crime policies, is not amused. Naturally, it cries “racism” and invokes Willie Horton.

Republicans have shied away from making crime a major issue ever since Democrats and their allies in the mainstream media created the myth that a 1988 ad holding Michael Dukakis accountable for giving a weekend pass to convicted murderer Willie Horton was unfair and racist. The pass enabled Horton to commit rape and assault. As I argued in this post, the pro-Bush ad pointing this out was neither unfair nor racist.

Nonetheless, the Dems succeeded in deterring ads holding them accountable for their soft-on-crime policies. They succeeded in part because of Republican cowardice, but mostly because crime receded dramatically thanks to tough-on-crime policies adopted after Dukakis’ defeat. Now that crime is again rampant — due in large part to the abandonment of tough-on-crime policies — invoking Willie Horton isn’t going to cut it.

Discussion of crime intersects with race because blacks commit a vastly disproportionate amount of crime in America. During election season, the intersection is more pronounced because black politicians tend to be leaders in the movement leniency for criminals movement.

But these realities aren’t the fault of Republicans, and there is no reason why Republicans should be deterred by them from talking candidly about the Democrats’ reckless positions on policing and the punishment of criminals. Nor is it racist for them to do so.

It’s possible, of course, for a given campaign to cross the line. If, for example, Willie Horton had been white, the pro-Bush ad that depicted him as black would be an obvious instance of racism. But Willie Horton was black.

The New York Times is desperate to show that pro-Republican ads have crossed the line this year. Thus, Times reporter Jonathan Weisman scoured the country for examples to use in his article. The examples he came up with fail to support his point.

Here’s Weisman’s lead example:

In Wisconsin, where Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, who is Black, is the Democratic nominee for Senate, a National Republican Senatorial Committee ad targeting him ends by juxtaposing his face with those of three Democratic House members, all of them women of color, and the words “different” and “dangerous.”

But Barnes is different and, from a law-and-order perspective, dangerous. He has supported abolishing ICE (he wore a T-shirt with those words), cutting funding for police departments, and ending cash bail.

These are radical policies associated with the BLM movement. They put Barnes in the same camp as members of the radical left-wing House “Squad.”

And it turns out that the pictures of “three women of color” the Times complains about are all of Squad members. It’s not the Republicans’ fault that all four original members of that far-left, soft-on-crime group are ”women of color.” (Jamaal Bowman, a recent addition, is a black man.)

Here’s another example:

In North Carolina, an ad against Cheri Beasley, the Democratic candidate for Senate, who is Black, features the anguished brother of a white state trooper killed a quarter-century ago by a Black man whom Beasley, then a public defender, represented in court. The brother incredulously says that Beasley, pleading for the killer’s life, said “he was actually a good person.”

The Times doesn’t dispute the content of this ad, including the fact that the murdered state trooper was white; that the killer was black; and that Beasley called the killer a good person. Nor is there reason to doubt that the GOP would be attacking Beasley if she had called a white murderer a good man. It’s not the Republicans’ fault that her client, the killer, was black.

In my view, Beasley was just doing her job as public defender. I don’t fault her for it. In that sense, the ad is unfair (though not racist).

However, in an era when the left attacks prominent conservative figures for representing unpopular corporate clients, it’s too late for the Times to object to an attack on a liberal lawyer for praising the character of a murderer.

Here’s an example the Times presents that’s mildly disturbing, until one digs half an inch into the story:

In a mailer sent to several state House districts in New Mexico, the state Republican Party darkened the hands of a barber shown giving a white child a haircut, next to the question, “Do you want a sex offender cutting your child’s hair?”

Note first that we’re talking here about several races for the state legislature in New Mexico. Given the enormous number of election contests occurring throughout America, if this is the best example the Times can come up with of a racist ad, no one should be alarmed.

In fact, however, the ad isn’t racist at all.

The state GOP wanted a visual representation of the danger posed by the New Mexico Democrats’ support for removing “conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude” from a list of reasons to deny or revoke a professional license, including a license to be a barber. It found a stock photo of a barber cutting a child’s hair.

In the stock photo, the barber’s hands are white. Why not use it, unaltered, in the ad?

Because the barber whose hands are in the photo isn’t (as far as anyone knows) a child molester. To use his white hands would have assigned a race to a hypothetical barber who, it is implied, has molested or is likely to molest a child.

Making the barber’s hands black would have done the same thing. But notice that the Times doesn’t say the ad makes the barber’s hands black — only that it “darkened them.”

True. But even darkened, the hands don’t appear to be those of a black man. To me, one of the hands looks like that of someone who is probably white. The other one looks gray. You can examine the picture here and judge for yourself. (Scroll down to the second picture which presents a full view.)

In sum, the ad leaves the race of the barber ambiguous, which was probably the least racialist way to handle it.

The final set of examples does not come from anything the GOP used in a campaign ad. It consists of two comments made by two members of Congress on their own initiative during rallies:

This month, a Republican senator, Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, said Democrats favored reparations “for the people that do the crime,” suggesting the movement to compensate the descendants of slavery was about paying criminals. And Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., made explicit reference to “replacement theory,” the racist notion that nonwhite immigrants living in the country without legal permission are “replacing” white Americans, saying, “Joe Biden’s 5 million illegal aliens are on the verge of replacing you.”

Tuberville’s comment is idiotic. It’s true that, depending on how reparations legislation is drafted, some criminals could benefit financially. But some criminals benefit financially when taxes are cut.

However, one stray, dumb remark from a Senator doesn’t show that by emphasizing the issue of crime, Republicans are “injecting race” into the midterms.

As for Greene, whatever one thinks about “replacement theory,” in the comment at issue (which the Times truncates), she made no reference to anyone’s race. And her complaint wasn’t about “replacement” in general, but about illegal immigrants taking jobs from Americans, burdening schools, and changing the culture — all of which they do. Blacks are at least as likely as whites to experience the adverse effects of mass illegal immigration.

In any case, the Times cites no other instance of a GOP candidate invoking replacement theory in this cycle. It’s silly to conclude from the most extreme House Republican’s comment about the effect of illegal immigration on employment, schools, and culture that the GOP’s focus on crime in the midterms is racist.

Democrats are all about leniency for criminals. Now, they hope that by playing the race card, they will receive leniency from voters for having relentlessly backed ruinous policies that undermine public safety.

I don’t think they will get it. I think they will get a reckoning, instead.

Bad Democratic signs

Jim Geraghty:

CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski is about as far as you can get from a member of the vast right-wing conspiracy, and yet somehow, progressives and some Biden administration officials decided he should be this weekend’s piñata, all because he dared to point out an obvious truth that they didn’t want to hear.

Tom Nichols, irked that Republicans are on pace for big gains in the midterm elections, fumed early Sunday morning that, “The United States is facing the greatest danger to its constitutional system since at least the 1950s, if not the *18*50s, and millions of people are like: Yeah, but gas, man.”

This seems like a good time to observe that not only is unleaded gas is averaging $3.79 per gallon nationally this morning, the national average has been above $3.50 per gallon since the third week of February. The American electorate’s complaint isn’t that gas is expensive right now, it’s that gas has been expensive all year. Ron Klain keeps pointing to any decline over any time period as some sort of major victory, but people don’t feel good about gas prices being a few cents lower than the high price last week. People will feel good about gas prices when they’re back in the $2–$3 per gallon range..

Kaczynski responded to Nichols with the entirely accurate, maybe even tame, observation that, “It’s a midterm year and the party in power typically loses seats and people are more concerned right now about crime, inflation, the economy. Dismissing people’s real concerns isn’t a way to win them over.”

Now, Tom Nichols is a staff writer at the Atlantic, not an elected Democrat or a Democratic candidate for office or a consultant for the DNC, DSCC, or DCCC. If he wants to say the electorate is stupid for worrying about gas prices, he’s free to do that. If, as I suspect, we are in the territory of a red wave and approaching a red tsunami, you’re going to hear a lot of Democrats making that complaint. Because the lousy and pessimistic mood of the country could never be the fault of the Democrats in office, right?

What happened next is what’s particularly intriguing: Both Klain and progressive economist Dean Baker raged at Kaczynski, “It really takes some gall for the media to tell us that an economy with 3.5 percent unemployment is a disaster” — which is an exaggeration of what Kaczynski said, but hey, no one ever hires a progressive economist who’s active on Twitter for accuracy.

I support many methods of entitlement reform, but perhaps none more strongly than reforming Ron Klain’s sense of entitlement, especially his belief that he and Biden deserve the most generous and supportive media coverage imaginable. When voters think that the economy is lousy under a Democratic administration, that administration thinks the media’s job is to argue with voters and convince them that they’re wrong.

Klain and company really believe that an unemployment rate of 3.5 percent is an all-purpose magic wand and shield against any complaints about any aspect of the economy.

The problem for them is that people’s perceptions of the economy are shaped by a lot more than the unemployment rate. (Let’s also keep in mind that the unemployment rate in the month that Biden became president was 6.4 percent, which sounds bad compared to the current rate, but it had declined from 14.7 percent in April 2020, when Covid-19 effectively shut down the economy. America was hiring, and the unemployment rate was headed in the right direction on Inauguration Day.)

It’s just an objective fact that Americans are deeply concerned about the economy — every poll indicates this — and the right track/wrong direction numbers tell a similar story of widespread pessimism. What’s more, there’s some indication that the minority of respondents who tell pollsters that they think the economy is doing well are displaying motivated reasoning, as a PBS poll in September laid out: “A majority of Democrats and Biden’s 2020 voters don’t see a recession; everybody else seems to disagree. Most Republicans and independents say U.S. economic growth has slumped, and that impression holds for a majority of people in nearly every other demographic group. Comparable levels of economic pessimism haven’t been seen since March 2013 under the Obama administration.” Self-identified Republicans might be motivated to judge the state of the economy more harshly, but independents likely aren’t.

There’s been a little bit of a rebound in the perception of the economy in Gallup’s poll, which aligns with the decline of gas prices from their all-time peak in mid June. But the likes of Ron Klain don’t like hearing that slightly less bad gas prices are not the same thing as good gas prices. As I’ve mentioned before, gas prices probably have an outsized role in shaping perceptions of the economy, because the price for a gallon of unleaded gas is posted on giant signs near every major intersection, road, and highway across the country, and the price for a gallon of milk or a dozen eggs or a pound of hamburger meat just isn’t displayed the same way.

Of course, the news on grocery prices has been particularly bad this year, too. Gas prices generate the biggest headlines, but food prices are still rising in ways that make your eyeballs pop out of your head:

Prices at the grocery store continued to soar last month, adding even more pressure to shoppers’ wallets.

The food at home index, a proxy for grocery store prices, increased 0.7 percent in September from the month prior and a stunning 13 percent over the last year, according to new government data released Thursday.

Just about everything got more expensive in September.

A 13 percent increase in grocery prices in a year! In that light, it’s galling that Klain is offended that someone else thinks the economy is bad.

People buy groceries about once a week. (Or, if you’re like my household, they buy groceries on the weekend and inevitably end up running to the store during the week because they forgot something or didn’t realize they were low on something. Once you have teenagers, if you’re trying to get them to drink milk, you might as well buy a cow.) People remember roughly how much last week’s grocery bill was, and the week before, and the week before that. People know when they’re paying a lot more than they used to for food, and you can’t spin, sweet-talk, or Jedi-mind-trick them out of recognizing that.

Also, many households may be able to put off buying a new car or choose not to move into a new house or delay other non-vital purchases. But people need to eat. As Logan Dobson observed, “I wonder if it occurred to [Biden administration officials] that the unemployment rate being so low and people still not feeling like they can afford everyday items actually makes them feel worse, not better.”

For a long time, progressives argued that the average American needed to relate more to the problems of the working poor. Well, now, the average American does.

Beyond grocery and gas prices, I think the performance of the stock markets influences people’s perceptions of the economy, but not so much the day-to-day movement or even the big jumps or steep plunges. About 60 million Americans have 401(k) retirement accounts and about 62 million Americans have Individual Retirement Accounts. The older you are, the more you worry about how those accounts are doing, and some retirees are counting on dividends to supplement Social Security. The markets’ performance under Biden has been lousy, and I suspect that as Americans are feeling squeezed, paying more for gas and groceries, noticing their wages aren’t keeping up with inflationfinding that buying a new car has never been more expensive . . . and then they open up their quarterly statement for their 401(k) and see that it’s actually worse than the last quarter, then they feel like everything has gone completely wrong under this president and Congress. If the U.S. economy is doing as great as Ron Klain and progressive economists insist, why do so few Americans feel any of that prosperity?

Finally, in a desperate (and so far, not very effective) effort to control inflation, the U.S. Federal Reserve keeps raising interest rates. This makes it more difficult to get a loan or mortgage; the 30-year fixed rate is just under 7 percent, which is the highest it’s been in 20 years, and mortgage applications are the lowest ebb since 1997. While at any given moment, only a small percentage of Americans are looking to buy or sell a house, the higher rates are effectively crushing the U.S. housing market — sales are down 24 percent year-over-year and new housing construction is down 8 percent in a month. God knows how many Americans are putting off big life decisions because they can’t buy a house, sell a house, or afford to move.

A recent New York Times letters-to-the-editor page featured lots of readers beside themselves with disbelief and anguish that a decisive portion of the electorate could be unhappy with the economy, and blame President Biden and the Democrats for its condition. “The economy goes up and down; our threatened democracy may not be so resilient,” warned one letter.

That kind of easy-come, easy-go attitude toward the economy is only possible if you have a sufficient cushion to handle the higher grocery bills, higher gas bills, higher home-heating bills, higher rent, higher mortgage payments, and God knows what other sudden expenses come your way — car repairs, your child needing braces, or your home’s hot-water heater decided to quit at the worst possible time. (I wonder how many of those letter-writers have ever piously lectured others to “check your privilege.”)

There are some problems that are so big, you just can’t spin them away. If the administration had put as much effort into solving problems as it does into denying that the problems are problems, maybe it wouldn’t be staring a coast-to-coast midterm shellacking in the face right now.

ADDENDUM: If I were in the “hot take” business, instead of the “well-reasoned lukewarm take” business, I would argue that the Kansas referendum on abortion doomed the Democrats. That said, I do think there’s mounting evidence that the Democrats forgot that there’s a substantial difference between a referendum and a head-to-head election:

The second major miscalculation by the Democrats was on abortion, and I think it’s hard to overstate how elated Democrats were when they saw an overwhelming majority of Kansas voters defeat a referendum that would have added language to the state constitution declaring that the state’s basic law “does not create or secure a right to abortion.” And it’s understandable — it’s heavily Republican Kansas! The heartland! If there were a motivated pro-choice majority in that state, imagine what Democrats could do with that issue in every other state.

Kansas convinced Democrats that the abortion issue was a magic wand that could and would overcome, or at least mitigate, all other problems and issues. In a sign that Democrats were learning the wrong lesson from Kansas, they failed to notice that the state’s Democratic governor, Laura Kelly, was “very much not centering her campaign on abortion.” Kansans had too many other issues of concern. Kelly told CNN, “What they want me as governor to do is to focus on the kitchen table issues. You know, they want me to focus on the economy. And we have done that.”

Democrats also seemed to overlook that the big win on abortion was a referendum, not a race between two candidates. Campaigns for public office are between two or more candidates, and electorates decide whom they want to elect based on the person, not just their stances. If every race were a choice between two crash-test dummies with big PRO-LIFE or PRO-CHOICE labels on them, maybe Democrats would be in better shape. Unfortunately, they’re running flesh-and-blood human beings with their own quirks and flaws.

 

Patriotic Democrats: Another oxymoron

David Blaska:

I believe in America,” are the first words spoken in The Godfather, by the immigrant undertaker Bonasera to Vito Corleone.

• “Morning in America” won Ronald Reagan the presidency. The smell of coffee brewing, the sound of bacon sizzling and roosters crowing! Reagan embodied sunny optimism and the promise of renewal.

• Democrats mocked Tommy Thompson as a cheerleader. They laughed when TGT predicted a Rose Bowl for the Badgers. Don Morton was coach back then. No political figure has ever loved Wisconsin more. His sourpuss opponent Chuck Chvala, Tommy would say, chewed lemons.

• “Happy Days are Here Again” serenaded FDR’s voters during the Great Depression.

Mandela Barnes could do well to cut a TV ad expressing his love of country and optimism — but he can’t redact his own recent history. If the Werkes seems fixated on the Lesser Mandela it is because Barnes is the cynosure of Woke, Blame-America-First identity politics. He is the 1619 Project’s candidate for U.S. Senate here in Wisconsin. Eager to wear the hair T-shirt of oppression if it promotes lawless borders and defunds law enforcement.

On the first day of 2015, Barnes applauded a Twitter post by the Iranian strongman Khamenei that slammed the U.S. government over slavery: “U.S. government oppression against blacks is a 100s year-old issue,” wrote Khamenei, adding the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter.

Just last year, Wisconsin’s lieutenant governor scolded America’s founding, saying“things were bad. Things were terrible. The founding of this nation? Awful!”

According to a 2021 Gallup survey, only 34% of progressive activists say they are “proud to be American” compared to 62% of Asians, 70% of blacks, and 76% of Hispanics.’

The losing politics of resentment

“Progressives haven’t lost the argument on patriotism,” writes a progressive at the Tony Blair Institute for Change, “We have failed to make one.” Which is why the Left is losing minorities — hispanic immigrants, especially. We’ve quoted Ruy Teixeira before, he’s the guy trying to revive the Democrat(ic) party of JFK and Harry Truman:

Let’s face it: today’s Democrats have a bit of a problem with patriotism. It’s kind of hard to strike up the band on patriotism when you’ve been endorsing the view that America was born in slavery, marinated in racism and remains a white supremacist society, shot through with multiple, intersecting levels of injustice that make everybody either oppressed or oppressor on a daily basis.

— Ruy Teixeira, “Democrats should embrace patriotism.

Blaska’s Bottom Line: The Washington Post observed the passing of, at age 90, one of the last children of an American slave. “We could never talk negatively about America in front of my father. He did not have much but he really, really loved America. Isn’t that funny?”

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