Category: US politics

Prediction number 10?

The Hill:

An American University professor who has correctly predicted the last nine presidential elections says President Trump will win the 2020 election unless congressional Democrats, “grow a spine,” CNN reported.

Allan Lichtman, a political historian, said Democrats only have a shot at the White House if they begin impeachment proceedings against Trump, calling the decision both “constitutionally” and “politically” right in the wake of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

“It’s a false dichotomy to say Democrats have a choice between doing what is right and what is constitutional and what is politically right. Impeachment is also politically right,” Lichtman told CNN’s Brooke Baldwin on Wednesday.

Lichtman has developed a system of 13 “key factors” that help determine whether the party in the White House will maintain its hold, according to CNN. The factors range from whether the party has an incumbent president running to the country’s short- and long-term economic conditions to foreign policy successes and failures. If the party loses out on six factors or more, he says they will lose the presidency.

Lichtman says the Trump administration is down three key factors: Republican losses in the midterms elections, a “lack of foreign policy success” and Trump’s “limited appeal to voters,” CNN reported. Impeachment would trigger a fourth key — scandal over the proceeding’s public nature.

“Let’s not forget, impeachment is not just a vote in the House,” Lichtman said. “It involves public hearings as part of the impeachment inquiry, and, what everyone forgets, a public trial in the Senate in which House prosecutors present evidence, present documents, make opening and closing statements.”

Lichtman cited scandal as a central factor in former Vice President Al Gore’s loss in the 2000 presidential election after President Clinton’s impeachment process.

“Democrats are fundamentally wrong about the politics of impeachment and their prospects for victory in 2020,” Lichtman told CNN’s Chris Cillizza on Tuesday.

Interesting conclusion given that most observers think impeachment would anger Republican-leaning voters to generate more turnout, and is bound to fail since there is no way, given current evidence, that enough Republicans vote to convict Trump.

I think Lichtman also misreads why Trump lost because the reason doesn’t fit into Lichtman’s 13 indicators — he was a bad candidate who ran a bad campaign. Given how well the economy seemed to be doing, Gore should have won the Electoral College easily in 2000. Bad candidates lose not just their home states, but their predecessor’s home state.

Nevertheless, go for it, Democrats.


The cultural cold civil wars

Sumantra Maitra:

Mayor Pete Buttigieg, in a fiery recent speech, said “The struggle is not over when transgender troops, ready to put their lives on the line for this country, have their careers threatened with ruin one tweet at a time by a commander in chief who himself pretended to be disabled to get out of serving when it was his turn.”

In the comments aimed at the LGBT community, he railed against U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, a prime target if there was one.

“That’s the thing that I wish the Mike Pences of the world would understand,” he thundered, “That if you have a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me. Your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.”

A tad perplexing given that Pence has never given any indication of having a problem with Mayor Pete.

In fact, in June 2015, then Indiana Governor Mike Pence was asked about Buttigieg’s sexual orientation. He responded: “I hold Mayor Buttigieg in the highest personal regard. We have a great working relationship, and I see him as a dedicated public servant and a patriot.”

Likewise, in March of the same year, the then Governor tweeted that if he finds any restaurant discriminating against anyone on the basis of sexuality, he would personally be opposed to it.

It defies logic that the party of Harvey Weinstein would complain about Mike Pence bringing about The Handmaid’s Tale; a man who believes in 1950s style chivalry. But it is for that 1950s chivalry itself, Pence and his family has been repeatedly targeted by activistsas well as the media.

These paradoxical attacks on Pence are the culmination of the forces we have observed in the past few years. In order to understand that, one needs to understand the liberal crusaders.

Modern liberalism, for lack of a better word, is a religion.

It may sound counterintuitive for an idea superficially claiming to be emancipatory being as rigid as a religion, however especially post-2016, liberalism turned into a religion scorned, beaten back, and is now taking a crusading turn.

Look to Stephen Pinker, one of the grinning saints of modern providential liberalism.

You can find a detailed review of his new book Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, here. Basically, Pinker doesn’t understand what “enlightenment” is.

He considers everything that happened since 1590 to be good. He doesn’t consider the Judeo-Christian values and cultural forces, the reactionary movements, Bernini, Bach, Beethoven, to be of any influence on the enlightenment, and never answers why the Renaissance happened only in Europe, not elsewhere. Pinker also cherry-picks data to suit his findings on declining violence. The reaction to my review was hysterical. Saints must not be critiqued.

While the theory of liberalism as a philosophy arose as an emancipatory idea against faith, family, and flag conservatism in Europe, it slowly morphed into a quasi-religious force of its own, and mostly due to its own inherent contradictions.

Like Marxism, another philosophical theory determined to “free” people from the bonds of bourgeoisie family and morality and religion, ultimately turned religious, liberalism has followed the same path.

Every global Abrahamic religion had a peaceful rise, until it faced organized or mass opposition. Christianity rose peacefully till it came into conflict with the pagan religions in Greece and Rome, and then again, during the Crusades against Islam.

Islam had a whole period of invasion when it destroyed the pagan religions in Persia and the Levant, as well as coming into conflict with Christianity.

Liberalism, which was a theory of individual rights, now faces its own crusading moment.

During the 1960s liberalism came into conflict with the idea of faith, family, and flag conservatism across the West. The idea was to destroy the bonds of conservative morality, in favor of radical emancipatory individualism. But it took a crusading turn during the post 1990s Soviet collapse. Liberalism contained within itself a providential sense of history as an arc, that is destined to have a glorious end, much like all major Abrahamic religions awaiting God’s kingdom. Liberalism also has the concept of “original sin”, in this case, known as “privilege”, from which you can never be truly free, regardless of your financial or social position. And finally, liberalism has a crusading zeal, a universalist aspect at odds with its own inherent individualism. And that is where all the problems lie.

Superficially, individual rights should be all good. But individualism is contradictory, and some people’s right to religion clashes with some other people’s right to sexuality. Both might co-exist without coming into conflict, but liberalism’s crusade sees it wishing to eradicate any rival religion and spread its liberal values, norms, rules and mores.

Coexistence is impossible with such an expansionist, pervasive force. When you see a push for transgender troops or female infantry even at the risk of efficiency and cohesion in the armed forces, this is a refusal to co-exist.

When LGBT rights clash with a Christian baker’s faith, even when there are hundreds of other cake shops available, or when drag shows that openly exploit children come into conflict with parental rights, this is a refusal to co-exist.

The same idea leads to foreign interventions and wars with culturally alien countries.

That crusading zeal is universal and it won’t end anytime soon. History needs to have its liberal kingdom of heaven in the future, and any rival religious force that stands in the way needs to be eradicated. Opposing history’s arc makes you a heretic against the one true faith, not to be won over with an idea, but to be vanquished.

In that light, it is understandable why the reaction post-2016 was so severe.

A religion which is destined to be the future cannot be thwarted.

In Western societies, as organized Judeo-Christian values continue to recede (compared to non-Western societies, like Eastern Europe, India, or the Middle East, where strong cultural and religious values are ascendant), liberalism is supposed to fill the void.

But in 2016 it was rejected by almost half of the electorate. And the crusade began.

Up until 1990, liberals were happy to accept defeat and understand that power changes and is cyclical. That has changed. No election, no result, nothing will be considered valid anymore, unless there’s absolute submission to liberal faith.

It didn’t take long for Mayor Pete to be pilloried for being insufficiently pure by his own side.

There is a reason crusading, fanatical religions mellow down with time. Any and all fanaticism contains within itself the seeds of self-destruction. Fanaticism alienates normal people, purifying fire and hypocrisy, and fanatical liberalism is no exception.

There’s a reason why Mike Pence is never charged with #MeToo offenses, but a lot of liberals have been. There’s a reason why there’s a growing backlash against unethical Trans lobby groups and experiments on children across the Atlantic.

Unless liberals learn to co-exist and follow the principle of live and let live, they will be the prime driver to the backlash against themselves.

Conservatives also need to realize that one cannot simply be a passive observer against fanaticism, hoping the time just passes. It won’t stop with a Christian baker, or even with Mike Pence.

The rights of one’s faith will continue to be eroded, as the march of liberalism continues.

Jonathan V. Last comments about the civil war of sorts within the political right:

Yesterday my friend, Sohrab Ahmari, wrote an attack on National Review’sDavid French explaining why French and people like him are dangerous.

Ahmari’s view is that he wants “to fight the culture war with the aim of defeating the enemy and enjoying the spoils in the form of a public square re-ordered to the common good and ultimately the Highest Good.”

He seeks “government intervention” to tackle unspecified societal problems, though he does allow that “Government intervention will not be the answer to every social ill.”

He castigates French for not agreeing to support Donald Trump by saying that “he has kept his hands clean, his soul untainted.” He does not seem to mean this as a compliment. Because he follows it by insisting that “But conservative Christians can’t afford these luxuries.”

And finally there is this:

Progressives understand that culture war means discrediting their opponents and weakening or destroying their institutions. Conservatives should approach the culture war with a similar realism. Civility and decency are secondary values. They regulate compliance with an established order and orthodoxy. We should seek to use these values to enforce our order and our orthodoxy, not pretend that they could ever be neutral. To recognize that enmity is real is its own kind of moral duty.

I do not doubt that Sohrab sincerely believes all of this.

But instead of pushing back against this or that point, I would offer the following:

If it is true that our cultural conflicts are so deep that we are enemies with our fellow Americans—that there is real enmity—then the die is already cast.

If Sohrab is correct that conservatives and progressives are engaged in war and that only the election of this president, or that senator, or the confirmation of this other Supreme Court justice will postpone the end times, then the end times are already upon us.

Because one side can’t keep their finger in the dyke for forever. Eventually it must crack and we must all be washed out to sea.

I don’t think I harbor many illusions about the world. If you’ll forgive me saying so, I might be the least sentimental person you know.

And it seems to me that American society is, in important ways, much healthier and more unified than it has been at many points during our history. Things are better than they were in 1860. Or 1870. Better than during the Great Depression. Better than during the 1970s.

Do you remember the 1970s? Major cities burning every summer? Murder rates soaring across the country? Student radicals setting off bombs and taking over university buildings with guns?

Pick a random Tuesday from 1977 and there’s a fair chance it would be the biggest news day of the year for us in 2019.

(My favorite case in point: In 1977, 12 Muslim terrorists seized control of three buildings in Washington. At the B’Nai Brith headquarters, they herded about 100 hostages onto the roof and held them at gunpoint for two days. This was all happening literally four blocks from the White House. And this was such business-as-usual for the ’70s that today nobody even remembers it happened.)

Not everything is better. By some measures—say, the disintegration of the family—we are much worse off today.

But my point is that this is how it always is. Nothing is ever solved. Nothing is ever finished. American society lurches from one set of problems to another. Some things improve, others degenerate.

And our big societal conflicts tend not to be resolved, but rather to be subsumed into the next set of conflicts, and paved over as we move forward.

I say none of this to be optimistic—I am not, by nature, an optimist. But simply to say that the conflicts of today look a lot like the conflicts of yesterday. And the day before that.

If you thought that civility and decency were cardinal virtues in the last era, then they are probably still cardinal virtues today.

This seems to be the conundrum currently of Trump, although since I remember the history that’s taken place during my lifetime I remember George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan being seen as equally, depending on the moment, stupid, dense and dangerous to life itself on earth.

Amash vs. Trump

Conor Friedersdorf:

“They don’t support FISA reform,” he declared. “They are not protecting your rights. They want to protect the president. But the rest of you, forget about it. The government can spy on all of you, and they don’t give one crap about it.”But it was Amash’s comments about character and virtue that best underscored why he presents a potent challenge to Trump loyalists in the Republican Party.  “More than anyone in our government, we need the president to be ethical, to be of high moral character, and to do the right thing,” he said. “And the pattern you find in the Mueller report is someone who does not meet that standard.”Trump’s moral deficiencies trouble many of Amash’s constituents.“As a retired educator, a grandparent, a parent, someone who has taught in Sunday schools, I don’t know how we tell our children not to lie, that it’s wrong to lie, when it’s evident throughout the highest levels of government,” one woman said. “I don’t know how we teach our children not to bully on the playground when bullying comments are constantly coming out in the media.”The crowd responded powerfully when Amash spoke against the example Trump was setting for children, perhaps because Amash made the version of a moral critique most likely to resonate with constitutional conservatives and libertarians. After a Trump supporter noted that the economy is strong and complained that many Americans oppose the president anyway, for example, Amash said:

Think about how well things are going with the economy and people are still so mad. Why is that? … I think it’s because of the tone we’re setting at the top. We’re not treating one another with respect. We need to bring that back. We need to treat one another with love and respect. And we don’t have that right now. If there’s one thing that I pray and hope for our country it’s that we’ll love each other and care about each other regardless of our backgrounds and differences.

This kind of division is dangerous and it destroys liberty.

I’m a big believer in liberty and the Constitution. Nobody cares about liberty in Congress more than I do. One thing you see around the world is liberty cannot survive in a system where people hate each other and where there is no virtue. You can’t have a system like that. Our Founders and Framers talked about that. You have to have people who care about virtue and you have to have love.

If you hate each other, if you disparage each other, other systems prevail … When you have people who are angry and upset at each other all the time, you’re much more likely to create a system where the government takes more control.

Later, another Trump supporter declared that the people applauding Amash for coming out for impeachment might pretend to like him, but were unlikely to vote for him in the next election. He chided Amash to wake up to that reality. Amash replied:

I represent the entire district. So it doesn’t matter to me if a person voted for me or didn’t vote for me, or donated to me or didn’t donate to me. I think I’ve been pretty clear about that. That’s not going to change my principles and who I am … I agree with you that many of the people cheering me on aren’t going to support my campaign. I don’t care. It doesn’t matter to me. This is what it means to be a bigger person. It doesn’t matter to me that some people won’t support me or are hypocritical. You have to do the right thing regardless.

Amash’s criticism of Trump may never spur an impeachment inquiry. But the nature of it forces conservative Trump voters to make a clarifying choice: To stay loyal to a president of bad character, they must attack a man of good character who votes in accordance with the principles they share.

Charles Sykes (yes, that Sykes) adds:

The Trump playbook isn’t working with Justin Amash.

He hasn’t been bullied or insulted into submission; the tweets haven’t worked, the trolls and flying monkeys of social media haven’t intimidated him; and he seems to have shrugged off threats of a primary challenge and the condemnation by the inaptly-named Freedom Caucus.

And yesterday, after quadrupling down on his condemnation of President Trump he got standing ovations from his hometown crowd.

Of course, it’s possible to overestimate all of this: he remains very much an outlier in his own party and at home it’s not clear how much of the support he’s getting is from the hard-core GOP base. So far, Amash’s call for impeachment represents less the stirring of a GOP conscience than it has served to highlight the atrophy of that organ under Trump.

And yet.

Among Republicans, breaking with Trump is supposed to be a form of ritualized political seppuku. Ask Jeff Flake or Mark Sanford. There’s a reason why even Mitt Romney seems to have gone into the witness protection program these days.

Even when Trump goes to a foreign country and sides with a blood-soaked dictator to score political points against a domestic critic or when he tosses out insane conspiracy theories and accuses his critics of “treason,” we’ve become accustomed to the GOP crickets.

There’s a logic behind all of this. Polls would suggest that they have no choice: 90 percent of Republicans back the president and conservative media has become both a safe space for MAGAism and a powerful enforcement mechanism for conformity.

Then there is the Trump realpolitik: Nearly the entire incentive structure of Republican politics now pushes elected officials towards acquiescence. If you want to be relevant or have influence . . . or matter at all in conservative politics these days, you have to go along.

Once the bargain has been struck, there is no going back. After a while what was grudging becomes habit and morphs into a culture. …

Does this matter? He’s just a lone voice. But maybe it does, because it creates a counter-narrative: there is political life after independence. Conscience is not suicide. Check out this tweet from our former colleague Haley Byrd:

Perhaps there is a constituency for principle after all. Who knew?

Meanwhile, Amash is drawing attention for making a stronger case for impeachment than the Democrats. If you haven’t read yesterday’s tweet storm, it’s well worth your time.

And just gets better. Read the whole thing.

Exit take: It’s happening. Matt Lewis says it’s time for conservatives to draft Amash for president.

It’s not a crazy idea.

Well, Sykes may not think it’s crazy, but it is highly unlikely to happen. Libertarians are now pondering whether Amash should run for president as a Libertarian party candidate.

So if Amash is opposed to Trump, he must be one of those renegades who doesn’t vote with his own party, right? Well, FiveThirtyEight did the math …

… and finds something I’ve noticed about such Wisconsin Republican renegades as Dale Schultz, Luther Olsen and Mike Ellis — they are less likely to vote Republican when the GOP is in control than when it isn’t. In the 2017–18 House of Representatives, when the GOP was in charge, Amash voted Trump positions only 54 percent of the time. This year, with Democrats in control, Amash votes Trump positions 92 percent of the time.

Part of the reason is that the out-of-power party tends to stick together, and individual majority-party legislators have more power with a small majority. But Amash presumably could score points with his constituents by voting against Trump this year, and yet he hasn’t done that very often. One would think Amash would know his district and his constituents better than national political pundits.

For what it’s worth, the GOP needs more small-L libertarians in it. (I shocked my opponent, The Capital Times and The Nation’s John Nichols, on Wisconsin Public Radio when I said I supported Amash instead of Paul Ryan for speaker of the house.) I bet Michigan dairy farmers are feeling the same pain as Wisconsin dairy farmers over the Trump trade war. Trump lost some of his Second Amendment credentials by favoring a ban on bump stocks, which among other things fails the test of effectiveness.

As someone who is neither a Trump cheerleader nor a NeverTrumper — in other words, someone who praises Trump when warranted and criticizes Trump when warranted — I am certain conservatives would have cheered had Barack Obama faced a primary challenger in 2012, and they may have quietly cheered on Comrade Sanders not because they agreed with him, but because he made Hillary Clinton’s political life difficult. So to condemn Amash because he has differences with Trump, even though he votes with Trump most of the time, is inconsistent and excessively purist.



Trump vs. the Terrible 24

Andrew Egger:

Even though he was nominally busy in Japan, President Trump found time over the weekend to take shots at Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden. Rather than dunking on Biden’s public handsiness or challenging his claim to the mantle of America’s blue-collar champion, however, Trump went after Biden’s stewardship of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, a 1994 measure eventually signed by President Bill Clinton that increased federal funding for law enforcement nationwide.

To the degree that a Trump tweet can still raise eyebrows, this one did. After all, there was no fiercer citizen advocate in the early ’90s for cracking down on crime than Donald Trump, who infamously took out full-page ads in several newspapers calling on New York to “Bring back the death penalty! Bring back our police!” during the 1989 case of the Central Park Five, who were falsely convicted of attacking and raping a jogger.

That Trump’s a colossal hypocrite is not exactly new news. What’s interesting here is the way that he is now bringing the tactics that won him the 2016 Republican primary into the 2020 Democratic primary—a contest in which he’ll play an enormous role without even participating.

Trump and Biden have actually followed very similar paths on criminal justice: advocates of strong enforcement in the ’90s who have evolved away from mass incarceration and stringent sentencing in the last few years. Biden, for his part, followed the Democratic party as it gradually moved away from Clinton-era support of law-and-order policies through the Obama era to the present day.

This year, Biden has struck an uneasy balance between suggesting that he had been wrong to support the 1994 crime bill and insisting it wasn’t as bad as critics say: “I haven’t always been right, I know we haven’t always done things the right way, but I’ve always tried,” he said at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day breakfast in January. He then added: “The idea that the crime bill generated mass incarceration, it did not generate mass incarceration.”

Trump’s move to support criminal justice reform, on the other hand, has been both recent and sudden, in keeping with his we’ve-always-been-at-war-with-Eastasia style. When he was running for president, restoring law and order to a lawless America was a common refrain; during his inaugural address, he railed against the “American carnage” of impoverished inner cities and the “crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.” At some point, however, Trump’s focus shifted: He still talks about these things with regard to immigrant crime, but less so with that committed by U.S. citizens.

Of course, going from “Make America Great Again” in 2016 to “Keep America Great” in 2020 requires a shift in the language used to describe America. But there’s also plenty of reason to believe Trump has simply come around naturally on the issue of Americans given unjustly onerous sentences for relatively insignificant crimes (thanks in great part to the lobbying of, of all people, Kim Kardashian West).

All of this is to say that Trump would have every incentive, under ordinary political circumstances, to defend Biden from attacks about the 1994 crime bill—attacks that, until this weekend, had been lodged by other 2020 Democrats, from Kamala Harris to Bill de Blasio. It’s the crazy radical progressives, he might have said, who want to prioritize the comfort of felons over that of law-abiding, who want to demonize our police, who want to take us back to the dark ages of the crime-sodden ’70s and ’80s. That was the backhanded tone he struck last month, when Biden first entered the race: Joe’s a moron, of course, but at least he’s not evil!

But Trump’s abandoned that tactic now that Biden is surging in the polls. You can’t become frontrunner without Trump painting a target on your back.

This was always the greatest strategic difference between Trump and his bundle of foes during the 2016 Republican primary. Each of them had his or her carefully cultivated political brand that defined natural enemies: establishment types against Tea Partiers, restrained blue-state governors against celebrity legislators; Chamber of Commerce mainstays against Bible Belters. When Trump came out of nowhere to take a commanding lead in the field, nobody seemed able to audible away from those strategies, opting instead to keep digging away at their chosen opponent and hope the Trump bubble would pop on its own.

Trump’s political strategy, meanwhile, was incredibly straightforward: At any given moment, he was attacking whichever candidate seemed strongest. Summer 2015, when Jeb Bush seemed like he had the inside track? Punch—Jeb’s a low-energy establishment loser. Late 2015, when Ben Carson was surging? Punch—Carson’s totally incapable of governing and probably mentally unstable. Early 2016, by which point Ted Cruz was pretty much the last other guy with a heartbeat? Ted’s the biggest liar you ever met, a maniac, incapable of making deals and getting things done, his dad probably helped kill JFK, punch, punch, punch.

We already know the Democratic royal rumble is likely to prove brutal with 24 contenders and counting in the ring and the desperate desire to depose Trump as soon as possible stressing everybody out. Now throw Trump himself into that mix, and realize that he’s likely to treat this cycle like Russia treated the last one: trolling and rabble-rousing online, throwing daily Twitter bombs at candidates he thinks he can damage, and just generally multiplying the chaos by any means possible.

It’s going to be a long 18 months.

It’s going to be a long 18 months because the presidential election cycle should never begin before New Year’s Day. For those who are not Democrats, though, it will be fun to see Trump, who lives in the head of every Democrat, it seems, to force each candidate to defend himself or herself against Trump in addition to the other candidates.


The boycotts that aren’t

Erick Erickson:

A whole lot of journalists are lazy progressive hipsters who hang out around the same people who think the same things and are, as a result, easily manipulated and played. Also, many of them are so liberal and have so many biases that it makes it even easier for progressives to spoon feed stories to journalists.

With some solid exceptions, an unfortunate number of journalists at most news organizations will gladly and repeatedly take pre-packaged stories from progressive interest groups and turn them into big stories. It’s why the New York Times ran those stupid stories about Marco Rubio’s tickets in 2016. It is why much of the national press is breathlessly reporting that Netflix is threatening to leave Georgia over its fetal heartbeat law. There’s just one problem — Netflix made no such threat.

This is all pre-packaged PR by a progressive PR firm and reporters, already more likely than not to be biased in favor of abortion rights, are falling all over themselves to report it.

What did Netflix actually say? Netflix said it’d donate to the ACLU to fight the law and maybe, possibly if the law is declared constitutional it might then consider reconsidering its business in Georgia.

Netflix is not going anywhere. Frankly, Netflix cannot afford to move production to higher cost states. It has Disney about to fire up a Netflix killer, it has exorbitant costs, and it has zero intellectual property to leverage against King Rat once it is up and running. It has to save money with Georgia’s lucrative tax credits.

The Netflix story is as badly reported as the others.

The media reported that Reed Morano pulled out of Georgia over the fetal heartbeat law, but that’s not really true. Morano was going to go scout out Georgia, but had not committed to any locations in Georgia or any other state for that matter. Georgia did not lose the business. No one had the business to begin with.

Likewise, CNN and other outlets reported that Kristen Wiig was scrapping a Georgia shoot, but there was no shooting in Georgia. It’s a story about a vacation in Florida that was never going to be filmed in Georgia anyway. It only got off the ground last month.

The media has breathlessly reported all these stories, but gotten every one of them wrong. Netflix is not leaving Georgia. The other two were not even committed to or planning on being in Georgia.

A progressive PR firm was able to get sympathetic progressives in Hollywood to saber rattle, knowing they could spin sympathetic reporters and it turns out they were right.

They will keep dripping these stories out in the run up to the 2020 election in Georgia. We will next hear about Disney pulling a Netflix. Then there’ll be other studios. Other actors with no projects in Georgia will say they canceled a project because it was going to be filmed in Georgia. Details will be nebulous.

This is all part of the playbook and at this point it is hard to conclude anything except the media is being willfully complicit in all of this.

Of course, there’s going to be another progressive outrage at some point and all the studios will start virtue signaling on those instead and everyone will forget about Georgia.

Right > left

Tyler Cowen:

Sometimes political revolutions occur right before our eyes without us quite realizing it. I think that’s what’s been happening over the last few weeks around the world, and the message is clear: The populist “New Right” isn’t going away anytime soon, and the rise of the “New Left” is exaggerated.

Start with Australia, where Prime Minister Scott Morrison won a surprising victory last week. Before the election, polls had almost uniformly indicated that his Liberal-National Coalition would have to step down, but voters were of another mind. With their support of Morrison, an evangelical Christian who has expressed support for President Donald Trump, Australians also showed a relative lack of interest in doing more about climate change. And this result is no fluke of low turnout: Due to compulsory voting, most Australians do turn out for elections.

The Liberal Party is the conservative party in Australia, by the way. (I know that because I wrote a term paper about the 1975 Australian constitutional crisis for a UW–Madison class.) Maybe now that they’re back in office the Liberals can discover gun ownership rights for the Aussies.

Or how about the U.K.? The evidence is mounting that the Brexit Party will do very well in this week’s European Parliament elections. Right now that party, which did not exist until recently, is in the lead in national polls with an estimated 34% support. The Tories, the current ruling party, are at only 12%. So the hard Brexit option does not seem to be going away, and the right wing of British politics seems to be moving away from the center.

As for the European Parliament as a whole, by some estimates after this week’s election 35% of the chamber will be filled by anti-establishment parties, albeit of a diverse nature. You have to wonder at what margins the EU will become unworkable or lose legitimacy altogether.

Meanwhile in the U.S., polls show Joe Biden as the presumptive front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination. He is one of the party’s more conservative candidates, and maybe some primary voters value his electability and familiarity over the more left-wing ideas of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. That’s one sign the “hard left” is not in ascendancy in the U.S. Biden’s strategy of running against Trump is another. It’s hard to say how effective that will prove, but it is likely to result in an election about the ideas and policies of Trump, not those of Democratic intellectuals.

Meanwhile, the U.S. economy has remained strong, and Trump’s chances of re-election have been rising in the prediction markets.

One scarcely noticed factor in all of this has been the rising perception of China as a threat to Western interests. The American public is very aware that the U.S. is now in a trade war with China, a conflict that is likely to provoke an increase in nationalism. That is a sentiment that has not historically been very helpful to left-wing movements. China has been one of Trump’s signature causes for years, and he seems to be delighting in having it on center stage.

The Democratic Party is not well-positioned to make China a core issue. Democrats have been criticizing Trump’s tariffs for a while now, and it may be hard for them to adjust their message from “Tariffs Are Bad” to “Tariffs Are Bad But China Tariffs Are OK.” Their lukewarm support for free trade agreements — especially the Trans Pacific Partnership, which could have served as a kind of alternative China trade policy — also complicates matters. The net result is that Republicans will probably be able to use the China issue to their advantage for years to come.

Elsewhere, the world’s largest democracy just wrapped up a lengthy election. The results in India aren’t yet known, but exit polls show that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling coalition — and his philosophy of Hindu nationalism — will continue to be a major influence.

Modi’s party won big.

In all of this ferment, I am myself rooting for a resurgence of centrist cosmopolitanism. But I try to be honest about how my ideas are doing in the world. And in the last few weeks, I’ve seen a lot of evidence that a new political era truly is upon us.

Well, in all of this ferment I am myself rooting for a resurgence — or maybe “surgence,” if that’s a word (like “disgruntled” not being the antonym of “gruntled”) — of political parties based on individual rights, liberty and free markets, like the pre-Trump Republican Party, and smaller government.. Readers know Trump has been as he should be in many areas (i.e. the tax cut), but tariffs are not a feature of free markets.

Worldwide electoral success isn’t the only place where the right is succeeding over the left, as Ron Ross claims:

You may have noticed that conservatives are blessed with an impressive lineup of intellectual heavyweights. Liberals have none, literally none. A few of those on the conservative side are Thomas Sowell, Victor Davis Hanson, Dennis Prager, Shelby Steele, Jordon Peterson, and Mark Levin.

Thomas Sowell is an economist, ex-Marine, Hoover Institution scholar, and the author of over 30 books. If you’ve never read one you don’t know what you’re missing. Two of his classics are Knowledge and Decisions and The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy. He is well known for his many pearls of wisdom which he terms, “random thoughts on the passing scene.” Those now can be found on Twitter.

Jordan Peterson is a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto and Hillsdale College. He is best known for his book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. Several million copies have been sold. It was even a number-one bestseller in Sweden. If you read that book you will understand life better, and if you follow the rules you will be a better person. The book is nothing short of a masterpiece.

Jordan Peterson is possibly the wisest man alive. Fortunately for the rest of us he shares his wisdom through his books, interviews, podcasts, and seminars. Peterson is despised by the left. That says much more about them than him.

Besides his columns, daily radio show, and books, Dennis Prager is the founder and frequent contributor to Prager University. Prager U presents concise, thoughtful five-minute lectures on a weekly basis, and recently reached a milestone of two billion views. His latest book is The Rational Bible: Genesis.

Victor Davis Hanson is a former professor of classical Greek history and is also a scholar at the Hoover Institution. He writes columns usually once or twice a week and appears on Fox News about as often. The amount of logic and historical perspective he includes in his columns is mind-boggling. His latest book is The Case for Trump.

Mark Levin is founder of the Landmark Legal Foundation, the author of several best-selling books, host of a daily radio show and a weekly hour-long interview show on Fox News. His just published book, Unfreedom of the Press, is the number one best seller on Amazon. Levin never leaves you wondering what he believes.

Shelby Steele is another scholar at the Hoover Institution and the author of The Content of Our Character: A New Vision of Race in America, and Shame: How America’s Past Sins Have Polarized Our Country. His essays appear regularly on the Wall Street Journal op-ed pages.

You cannot name a single liberal who has anything approaching the above credentials or intellectual output. Why? There are a number of reasons.

Liberalism is fundamentally about feelings rather than thoughts. Also the left focuses on intentions, the right focuses on results and the ways by which results are achieved.

An advantage of making intentions your goal is that once you choose and announce them, you’re done. No need to follow up to see if your intentions were realized. No need to consider second or third order effects.

Leftism is about force, conservatism is about freedom and voluntary exchange. The use of force needs no theory or ideology. Anyone willing to rely on force to accomplish his or her objectives doesn’t really need to understand how the world works.

The mindset of the writers listed above reflects what is written in Ecclesiastes, “And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven… and I gave my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly.”

The foremost source of the left’s intellectual poverty is arrogance. Arrogance kills curiosity. Those on the left feel they already know all they need to know. They have nothing left to learn or to bother thinking deeply about. Ironically, they feel intellectually superior to conservatives.

A prerequisite for being a serious thinker is curiosity. It requires being curious about how things work — society, the economy, human nature, for example. Curiosity is the incentive for doing the hard work of study and serious thought.

The left also feels morally superior to any of our predecessors. Conservatives, on the other hand, possess a deep respect and reverence for the wisdom we’ve inherited from, for example, the Greeks, the Bible, Shakespeare, and the Founding Fathers.

Isaac Newton famously said, “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Even Newton needed to know what those preceding him had discovered. On the left there’s no gratitude for the wisdom endowed to us by our forebears. Rather than gratitude there’s disdain, another reflection of their arrogance.

The opposite of arrogance is humility. As Isaac Newton also recognized, “What we know is a drop, what we don’t know is an ocean.”

A 2018 study reported in the Journal of Positive Psychology entitled “Links Between Intellectual Humility and Acquiring Knowledge” found that Intellectual humility (IH)

was associated with a variety of characteristics associated with knowledge acquisition, including reflective thinking, need for cognition, intellectual engagement, curiosity, intellectual openness, and open-minded thinking.… These links may help explain the observed relationship between IH and possessing more knowledge.

The entire study, by Elizabeth Krumrei-Mancuso, Megan Haggard et al., is worth reading.

As long as the left holds on to its arrogance it will never match the richness of the right’s intellectual offerings. It’s another reason why being a conservative is a whole lot more fun than being a liberal.

Liberals think having more college degrees and postgraduate degrees makes them smarter. The People’s Republic of Madison is full of taxi drivers and waiters with master’s degrees and doctorates. There is nothing wrong with taxi-driving or the restaurant industry, but intelligence is not necessarily measured in level of education. Two of the most wise people I knew, my grandmother and my father-in-law, got no farther than the eighth grade in school.

Margaret Thatcher was fond of saying that the facts of life are fundamentally conservative. Dennis Prager expands on that:

At the core of left-wing thought is a rejection of painful realities, the rejection of what the French call les faits de la vie, the facts of life. Conservatives, on the other hand, are all too aware of these painful realities of life and base many of their positions on them. …

Liberals find it too painful to look reality in the eye and acknowledge that human nature is deeply flawed. This is especially so since left-wing thought is rooted in secularism, and if you don’t believe in God, you had better believe in humanity — or you will despair.

Another fact of life that the Left finds too painful to acknowledge is the existence of profound differences between men and women. There is no other explanation for the rejection of what has been obvious to essentially every man and woman in history. It is certainly not the result of scientific inquiry. The more science knows about the male and female brain, not to mention male and female hormones, the more it confirms important built-in differences between the sexes.

Why then would people actually believe that girls are as happy to play with trucks as are boys, and boys are as happy to play with dolls and tea sets as are girls?

Abortion right and left

Jonah Goldberg:

“Democrats are aggressively pushing late-term abortion, allowing children to be ripped from their mother’s womb right up until the moment of birth,” President Trump said at a Florida rally earlier this month. “The baby is born and you wrap the baby beautifully and you talk to the mother about the possible execution of the baby.”

For cable news talking heads and leading Democrats, this is a demagogic lie. The fact-checkers mostly say it’s a distortion and exaggeration — and it is. It’s a distortion of something Virginia governor Ralph Northam said days before revelations that he dressed in blackface (or in a Klan outfit) during medical school eclipsed the Virginia abortion controversy.

Trump has been referencing Northam’s remarks since January, when Kathy Tran, a Democratic Virginia delegate, introduced legislation to liberalize abortion in her state. During a colloquy with a Republican lawmaker, Tran said her bill would legalize abortions through the 40th week of pregnancy, including during labor. (She later said she misspoke when it was pointed out that this would violate infanticide laws.)

The next day, Northam — a pediatric neurologist by training — appeared on a local radio station to support Tran and her bill. He explained how, in cases where a fetus was not viable, “the infant would be delivered, the infant would be kept comfortable, the infant would be resuscitated if this is what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physician and the mother.”

Now, Northam never said anything about “executing” babies. But Tran’s legislation would have allowed late-term abortions of viable, non-deformed babies solely if the mother’s mental or emotional health was threatened.

Tran’s bill didn’t pass, but it was part of a trend in liberal states to loosen abortion laws even further. Earlier in January, Democratic New York governor Andrew Cuomo had signed similar legislation.

All of this is worth keeping in mind amid the furor over Alabama’s near-total abortion ban. If we go by the attitudes of the American people, both the New York and the Alabama laws are extreme. Polling on abortion is notoriously fraught. Wording matters enormously because many Americans are conflicted on the issue. But generally, most Americans support early-stage abortions, and opposition grows along with the fetus. According to Gallup, 60 percent of Americans support abortion rights in the first trimester, but only 13 percent do in the third trimester.

That the media yawned over New York’s law but remain in a frenzy over Alabama’s says a lot about where the press comes down on the issue. But it also speaks to the legal and political landscape. Even Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a strong defender of abortion rights, has called the court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision a “heavy-handed judicial intervention” and said she would have preferred that abortion rights were secured more gradually, with greater buy-in at the state level.

Under Roe v. Wade (and later Planned Parenthood v. Casey), the court not only imposed one of the most permissive abortion regimes in the world, it foreclosed state-level compromise, galvanizing the pro-life movement and causing both pro-choicers and pro-lifers to take more absolutist positions.

Alabama’s law is clearly unconstitutional under current precedent. But that’s the point. Alabama’s GOP legislators deliberately passed an unconstitutional law in the hope that the court’s new conservative majority would overthrow Roe and Casey. New York’s Democratic lawmakers weren’t trying to test Roe or Casey, but to create a post-Roe abortion “sanctuary” in case the court does reverse Roe. In other words, Roe is not a “moderate” ruling. Purely in terms of public attitudes, it permits pro-choice extremism (abortions in the 40th week!) but not pro-life extremism (total bans).

Hence, Roe made it necessary for the pro-life movement to embrace an incremental strategy, working to change attitudes, chip away at Roe at the margins, and reduce the abortion rate (with considerable success). But now that some think the brass ring is in sight, the movement has split between incrementalists and those — like the sponsors of the Alabama bill — who think it’s worth going for broke. (I think the go-for-broke crowd is miscalculating.)

The underlying political reality is that most Americans want a compromise, but the parties are more responsive to the activists and donors. As a result, Democrats have abandoned their “safe, legal, and rare” rhetoric, while Republicans are downplaying a “culture of life.” Instead, each seeks to cast the other party as extreme. Republicans highlight rare late-term abortions, and Democrats focus on the also-rare cases of 12-year-olds impregnated by their rapist fathers.

Roe created this polarized — and polarizing — dynamic in which the debate is dominated by the extremes. Overturning Roe and allowing states to pass laws that reflect majority opinion might not defuse the political passion, but at some point we are likely to find out.

Remember the debt?

The federal debt is one of those political issues brought up by the political party that is not in power, because it makes the party in power look bad.

But even with Republicans controlling the White House and the Senate, the Heritage Foundation brings it up:

President Ronald Reagan’s famous maxim, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction,” remains true today. Yet during times of great prosperity, it’s easy to take things for granted and assume that the good times will remain forever.

Today, despite the present economic boom, two types of bankruptcy threaten America’s fortunes.

The first bankruptcy is a renewed push for the failed ideology of socialism, exemplified by the so-called Green New Deal and Medicare for All.

The second bankruptcy is more literal: America’s skyrocketing national debt.

Even though economic booms are usually a time to bring deficits under control, the federal government is increasingly relying on the national credit card to pay the bills.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that the current fiscal year deficit will be $896 billion, or more than $2,720 for every American (including children). With a disaster spending bill in the works and Congress discussing another possible caps deal, the deficit could surpass $1 trillion this year.

The last time America incurred such high deficits was in 2012, following the Great Recession. We have no such excuse today.

And it gets worse. The deficit is projected to climb to $1.4 trillion in 2028, which means we would be about $4,000 deeper in the red per person, unless Congress acts to control spending.

All that is on top of the current gross debt of $22 trillion. Each person’s share of today’s debt is already a staggering $67,000—exceeding what the typical American household earns in a year by several thousands of dollars.

This high and rising debt burden has many harmful effects.

For starters, the government will pay $382 billion in interest this year just to service the debt, or $1,160 for each of us. That kind of money would go a long way for most American families, but instead we send it to our creditors—many of whom are foreign nations. China alone owns over $1 trillion in U.S. treasuries.

As the debt increases and interest payments rise, that creates a heavier drag on the economy. Although it is hard to measure how much economic growth we miss out on because of the debt, even relatively small growth effects add up to thousands of dollars lost per year for every worker.

This is maddeningly unfair to younger and future generations. Not only are today’s children being saddled with tens of thousands of dollars in national debt, but they may also have to navigate an economy that offers them less opportunity than they would have if political leaders were more responsible with the nation’s finances.

It is tempting to look at all of that bad news and throw up our hands. But that is not how Americans respond to a challenge.

The Heritage Foundation has the solution to big deficits and a slower economy: the “Blueprint for Balance.”

Drawing on the work of dozens of policy analysts, the blueprint provides policymakers with a comprehensive approach to taxing, spending, and protecting vital liberties.

The impact of adopting the blueprint’s 250-plus specific policy proposals would be enormous. Over the course of a decade, the blueprint would:

  • Shift the budget from annual deficits to a surplus.
  • Achieve over $30,000 per person in accumulated savings by eliminating wasteful programs, reforming Social Security and Medicare so they are sustainable, and returning control and responsibility for programs best administered by the private sector, states, and local governments to those entities.
  • Reduce taxes by roughly $2,500 per person through making the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act permanent, while eliminating many tax subsidies for politically-connected groups and businesses.
  • Shrink the national debt as a share of the economy by over a third from current projections, making it manageable.
  • Ensure that America’s military has the resources it needs to keep the nation secure.

Enacting the blueprint will require a sustained effort and political courage. At a time when the Senate seems unable to legislate and the House would rather spend than budget, this seems like a daunting task.

Political leaders must make a choice. They can choose to do nothing—in which case debts will continue to pile up, Social Security will run out of money to pay benefits, and the federal government will remain too big to be managed properly—or, they can choose to move toward socialism, which would concentrate power and money in Washington, D.C., while throttling the economy with high taxes and reducing freedom and choices for Americans.

By following the “Blueprint for Balance,” though, lawmakers can secure more economic growth, a solvent retirement system, and a federal government focused on its core constitutional priorities, such as protecting the nation.

The choice is clear. America’s present and its future depend on a commitment to the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, and a strong national defense. These are the principles embodied in the “Blueprint for Balance.”

When “red” means “reduce your taxes” and “blue” means you voted badly


Residents of Republican-leaning states may be feeling better this tax season.

The controversial limit on state and local tax deductions in the federal tax code overhaul is making for “a small but important difference” for red states than blue state, according to a new study distributed [April 22] by the National Bureau of Economic Research. President Trump’s new tax law reduced the maximum amount you can deduct for state and local taxes to $10,000 or $5,000 if you use married filing separate status.

Households in Republican “red” states are projected to see an average 1.6% increase in remaining lifetime spending in the wake of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, while households in Democratic “blue” states will see an average 1.3% increase.

Without the cap, blue-state consumers would have experienced a 2.1% increase in lifetime spending under the new tax law compared to the 1.9% rise for red state residents, the study said. Case in point: Wyoming, a robust red state with the largest percentage gain in lifetime spending, will rake in an extra $33,679 over their lifetime.

But people living in deeply Democratic California will see the smallest gains and only reap $21,548, according to researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, Boston University and University of California, Berkeley. “It appears every state on average benefitted from tax reform,” said Boston University economics professor Laurence Kotlikoff, one of the authors.

The blue versus red state trend becomes even more pronounced higher up the earnings ladder. The richest top 10% in red states will see a 2% increase, but the same high-earning blue state residents will have a 1.2% increase, said the findings. The richest residents in Democratic-leaning states didn’t benefit as much.

The $10,000 cap will currently expire in 2025, but Kotlikoff said researchers went with a lifetime spending analysis expecting the limit would stay put. “It’s not trivial, but it’s not enormous,” he said.

It’s another look at tax code with possibly uneven effects. One MarketWatch analysis said states backing President Donald Trump in the 2016 election would reap the majority of money from tax cuts while paying minority share.

Until Trump enacted sweeping 2017 changes to the personal and corporate tax system, there wasn’t a deduction limit for state and local taxes — which happen to be higher in certain Democratic-leaning states. Median state and local taxes were $7,950 in blue states, $5,219 in red states and $6,371 in middle-of-the-road purple states.

The new law, which didn’t earn one Democratic vote in the House or Senate, put a $10,000 limit on state and local tax deductions. Among other things, it also enlarged the standard deduction for taxpayers who thought they’d fare better on that route than itemizing write-offs like state and local tax expenses.

Jared Walczak, senior policy analyst at the Tax Foundation, a conservative-leaning think tank, said the new tax code has been a victory for taxpayers. Before the new laws, people with high state taxes were effectively getting a subsidy from the rest of the country with their unlimited deduction, he said. Walczak said that the latest data has effectively confirmed this.

As far as tax seasons go, it’s been a wild one. There’s been frustration from taxpayers who suddenly owe money and joy from those getting a surprisingly high refund. H&R Block said a large part of the refund let-down could be the fact that many taxpayers didn’t update their tax witholding during 2018. H&R Block tallies said there were fewer tax liabilities across the board for its clients.

The federal government has paid $7.6 billion less in refunds this tax season compared to the last one. When the Internal Revenue Service compared the week ending April 12, 2019 with a comparable point last year, it said filed tax returns were up 0.7% while the number of refunds were down almost 2%. (IRS tallies don’t break out state-by-state refunds.)

Some Democratic states are suing the Treasury Department over the cap on state and local tax deductions (SALT), calling them an “unconstitutional assault.” In February, New Jersey federal lawmakers offered a bill to repeal the cap, while New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has slammed the limits.

The plaintiffs in the ongoing Manhattan Federal Court are New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Maryland. When the new study ranked lifetime spending within the 50 states and Washington D.C., it put Maryland in 19th place and placed Connecticut in 36th place. New Jersey ranks in 42nd place and New York in 45th place.

In response, federal lawyers argued, “Many taxpayers in these states who previously benefitted most from the [state and local tax] deduction are projected to have consistently lower tax bills due to the combined effect of the act’s many provisions.”

Boy, that Trump is sure a moron, isn’t he, getting a tax cut through Congress that rewards states that voted for him and penalizes states that didn’t vote for him, and/or rewards states with low(er) taxes and penalizes states with high(er) taxes. The irony is that if you believe Republicans have more money than Democrats, that $10,000 SALT limit probably affected a fair number of Wisconsinites who voted for Trump in. (On the other hand, given this state’s seventh-circle-of-tax-hell status under previous governors, the tax cuts, insufficient as they were, signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker may have been the difference between some Wisconsinites’ paying more taxes under the Trump tax cuts and paying less.)

But as Milton Friedman put it …

Congress is responsible for federal taxes, not state and local taxes. Though there is an argument for SALT deductibility on the grounds that one shouldn’t have to pay taxes multiple times, the fact is that SALT was a subsidy to higher-tax states paid for by lower-tax states. The latter group might reasonably ask why they should be penalized for their fiscal responsibility.



The future of Roe v. Wade

Megan McArdle:

Supporters of abortion rights are fond of saying that Roe v. Wade is “settled law.” The phrase is supposed to convey a finality that borders on irrevocability. But, of course, what the Supreme Court gives, the Supreme Court can take away. That appears to be the reasoning behind the new laws passed in Alabama and Georgia, which would virtually outlaw abortion in both states.

Obviously, these laws will be challenged by abortion-rights activists; just as obviously, the laws will be struck down by lower courts, whereupon Alabama and Georgia will appeal all the way to the Supreme Court. And shortly thereafter, the country will probably find out just how settled Roe v. Wade really is.

The showdown looms because Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh now occupies the Supreme Court seat once held by the now-retired Anthony M. Kennedy. Pro-lifers and pro-choicers alike suspect that Kavanaugh is less supportive of sweeping abortion rights than Kennedy was. But the confrontation arguably was inevitable from the moment Roe was decided in 1973; the settled right may actually have been inherently unstable. When the court finally rules and all the shouting has stopped, we may eventually come to wonder whether it could ever have turned out any other way.

No legal case has done more than Roe to define how the left sees the Supreme Court: not as a somewhat boring final arbiter of words recorded in law books, but as the oracle that tells us what rights the Constitution ought to guarantee. Consequential cases such as Brown v. Board of Education (1954) and Miranda v. Arizona (1966), concerning racial segregation and the rights of police suspects, respectively, dealt with matters that clearly involved the Constitution. There was no question that resolving just such ambiguity is the Supreme Court’s job.

But by the 1970s, the court was, one suspects, a little drunk on the moral and legal triumph of those earlier cases. The justices were now going well beyond the words in the law books and into the unwritten law of what used to be called “enlightened opinion.” In 1972, they abolished the death penalty in all 50 states, even though the Constitution clearly contemplates government-administered capital punishment.

The following year, the justices gave the country a new right to abortion. The right is nowhere mentioned in the Constitution, but had apparently been lurking there undetected for the better part of two centuries before the justices finally coaxed it into the open. From this era dates the solemn invocations of “settled law” issued by “the highest court in the land.”

That view of constitutional interpretation works precisely as long as you happen to agree with the judicial interpreters. When the other side of the political spectrum gets wise and starts stocking the courts with judges who share their opinions — Catastrophe! Ruination! Citizens United!

Which makes this a good time for the left to step back and ask whether it was ever a good idea to urge such sweeping powers on unelected judges. The benefit of going the judicial route is that you can occasionally achieve outcomes you could never obtain through legislatures; that is how America, a center-right nation, got one of the most liberal abortion regimes in the world. The problem with going the judicial route is that it short-circuits public debate and forces the opposition to take radical action — like, say, a decades-long project to fill the courts with right-leaning judges — to amend that “settled law.”

The consequences of the counterreaction can go well beyond the issue at hand. If not for Roe, it seems eminently possible that the conservative-court project would have been less urgent, and the decisions in District of Columbia v. Heller on gun rights or Citizens United on campaign finance might never have happened. If it hadn’t been for Roe, evangelicals might also have balked at electing Donald Trump.

Of course, if it hadn’t been for Roe, there also wouldn’t have been more than 50 million abortions since 1973; whether that’s a good or bad thing will be left as an exercise for the reader. But many abortions would have been performed anyway, because before the court took the issue away from voters, polls showed public opinion steadily trending in favor of legalized abortion, and the procedure was already legal in several states.

If the Supreme Court hadn’t intervened on abortion, political debate might have sorted voters along a spectrum, rather than forcing them into the unforgiving yes-no binary. And if you fear you’re about to end up on the wrong side of that binary, you might wish your side had settled for something less grandiose, but more enduring.

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