Front Runner?

Scott Walker.

He’s conservative.

He’s got a killer track record.

He’s got killer approval ratings, and has them in a state perhaps even more purple than Minnesota, notwithstanding (or – ahem – because of) his tough, conservative stances on vital issues. 

He’s withstood four years of the most scabrous liberal and media (ptr) campaigns in the history of American politics (not directed at a woman or minority conservative, anyway), and come out stronger than ever

Revealingly, Walker fares well in an electorate that does not seem particularly conservative and that, if anything, appears to be slightly to the left of American voters in general. Among those surveyed in the WPR/St. Norbert’s poll, 48 percent had a favorable view of President Obama; 50 percent had an unfavorable view. Obama generally fares worse than that in national polling. In addition, Wisconsin’s liberal Senator Tammy Baldwin had a positive rating — 44 percent approve; 33 percent disapprove.

In this context, Walker’s popularity is particularly striking. 59 percent approve of his performance, while only 39 percent disapprove.

And despite the left and media’s (ptr) attempt to sand-bag his accomplishments (for instance, the left’s meme claiming Minnesota is “doing better” than Wisconsin, which depends entirely on ignoring the structural differences between manufacturing-heavy Wisconsin and service-heavy Minnesota, or Wisconsin’s commanding lead over MN in climate for new businesses), he’s got his own constituents basically on board - especially amazing considering the manufactured rancor of his first 18 months in office:

 Walker’s approval numbers basically track the right direction/wrong direction numbers for his State. 57 percent said that Wisconsin is moving in the right direction, while 38 percent said its moving in the wrong direction. By contrast only 32 percent believe the United States is moving in the right direction. 63 percent think we’re moving the other way.

If the GOP has a brain…

…well, Jeb who?

The Sick Of It All Manifesto

I don’t really like politics.

“But Mitch – you write a bizarrely-prolific blog about politics!  You host the top-rated radio talk show in the United States [1]Surely you are obsessed with politics!”

Nope.  Hate ‘em.

Can’t stand most politicians, either…

…well, no.  That’s not really true.  For all of the joking people make about the depravity of politicians, I’ve found most of the politicians I’ve actually gotten to know personally - most of them state and local, since that’s my social circle - to be perfectly good people.  Some of them very, very much so.

“Operatives?”  The staffers that work for politicians, and the campaign consultants and issue and organizations?  They’re a mixed bag in many ways – some of them greasy and sleazy, some of them really good people – but they seem to share a furious focus and a brutal work ethic.  I’ll give ‘em that.

But politics, itself?  Never cared for it.

Partly because the best description of politics – the one I used to shake my head at 20-30 years ago, and attribute to the conspiratorial and overly-excited and the perspective challenged – is actually the best one there is; the monopoly on the legal use of force.    While the line does get repeated by the conspiratorial, the jacked-up and those with warped perspectives, it’s also true; to paraphrase Kevin Williamson, if you stop paying your taxes or send your kids to a non-government approved school or build your house taller or wider than the local zoning ordinances permit or get your buzz on or produce milk or cut hair outside of current government tolerances, you will, sooner or later, if you carry on with it,  eventually wind up with people with guns and handcuffs and tasers at your front door, ready to take your property, your money and your freedom with impunity.

There are really only two reasons I’m involved in politics:

  1. Hi, We’re From The Government, And We’re Here To Help (you into a paddy wagon):  I try, in my own way, to try to make sure the “government showing up at citizens’ doors with court orders and guns” situations are limited to the absolute moral minimum; let’s save the SWAT teams for the meth-crazed robbery rings, and bother less with unlicensed Eritrean hair braiders or people who don’t pay their school lunch bill.  There is a place and time for government to use force; those places and times have been getting way too common for the past fifty years or so.
  2. Those things that can’t be sustained, won’t be:  Our national debt is greater than an entire year’s GDP; every iPhone sold, every ear of wheat harvested, every lawn mowed and pair of shoes bought and class taught, every single whiff of economic activity including you buying food for your kids, for an entire year, might pay most of our current debt, and it’s not going anywhere.  And that doesn’t ‘even count the entitlements, over 100 trillion worth, that are lurking beyond that; over an entire year’s output from the entire planet’s economy; every grain of rice harvested in Indonesia, every Android assembled in Hunan, every bit of economic activity on the planet, for over a year, would pay it off.  Ready to go without groceries for 12 months?    Well, of course not – that can’t happen.  Either can paying off all those debts, without gutting the economy.  This level of debt can’t be sustained – and it won’t be.

So outside of local government – trying to inveigle Saint Paul into maybe plowing and patching streets, instead of building trains and refrigerated ice rinks in one of the coldest state capitols in America – my main goals out of politics are to…:

Try to bring the economy in for the softest landing possible:  Remember those debt numbers?   Of course you do – they’re like two grafs up there.   Worse comes to worst, and people will look back on 1933 as the good times.  The road back from debt like that is brutally difficult if you do it right – and let’s be honest, neither of our major political parties is going to do a damn thing about it (although the GOP pays the task the most convincing lip service, and I suspect contains the very few people who have both the chance and will to try to affect policy beyond the “lip service” (or, in the case of the big-L Libertarian party, “pipe dream”) level.  And John Boehner isn’t one of them; of Minnesota’s current congressional delegation, Michelle Bachmann is the only one I’ve even heard try to explain the problem to voters.  And she’s outta there in less than a year.

My main goal in politics is to try to do what I can to make sure my kids, and grandkids, and their kids, aren’t living on soup lines and scraping for change under bus seats because of our current government’s profligachy.

Shall Never Disappear From The Face Of The Earth:  And it’s not just the economy, stupid; poor societies become ugly societies, but quick. If you think “majority rules” is an ugly thing today, at a time when even a long recession has left us more prosperous than any society in history, then mob rule during the mother of all depressions will certainly leave a mark on you.

Progressivism – and its much more evil older brother, Statism – never, ever wastes a crisis.  It used World War I and the breakdown of European power to establish statist governments in major countries; the Depression allowed it to metastasize in a more benign form to the western liberal democracies and constitutional monarchies.

Imagine what everyone from George Soros on down the ranks to Alida Messinger could do with a complete collapse of the world’s lynchpin economy, taking down the entire world’s economic order?

I stay involved in politics because if good people don’t try to maintain some control of – again, being honest here – the state’s monopoly on force, bad people most certainly will.

And Yet…:  The collapse of the economy doesn’t have to be all bad.  The fact that government will be unable to afford to do much will mean that people will have to do things they way they did them – almost invariably better, at least in the US – before World War I.

I’m unstinting in recommending the book The End Is Near and It’s Going to Be Awesome: How Going Broke Will Leave America Richer, Happier, and More Secure, by Kevin D. Williamson.  In it, Williamson points out that not only did the private market, and just-plain-citiziens, do most of the things that government does today, but did it much better and much cheaper.

Wanna privatize Social Security?  There’ll be your chance!

Wanna make welfare work-based, and end the decades of fruitless debate here in Minnesota?  Oh, it’ll be work-based all right.

Education?  A hundred years of government education modeled after the Prussian system (and intended more to stomp out radical immigrant allegiances and create “good citizens” than to “educate”), the literacy rate has scarcely budged – and when you consider than an eighth-grader in World War 2 (the average level of education back then) was more literate, and a better critical thinker, than most college Freshmen today, you can see there might be a better approach to the problem.

Healthcare?  You do realize that fraternal organizations like the Elks, the Moose and the like, as well as religious organizations, not only handled group health 100 years ago, and did it almost as effectively as employer paid healthcare today (to say nothing of MNSure), but did it in such a way as to ensure the growth rather than stagnation of the medical profession, right?

Law enforcement?  Yeah – the “Wild West”, where most “justice” and “law” was privately negotiated, was one of the most peaceful places and times in American history (provided you weren’t a native tribe; every premise has its gaps).  Even Dodge City and Abilene – both were vastly more peaceful than the law-clogged, politics-dominated fever swamps of the coastal cities.

But Wait!:  But don’t start bombarding me with Ron Paul quotes – because Libertarianism, especially the brutalist, Ayn-Rand-sodden variety popular among the Austrian-school fratboys that make up the driving force of the Big-L party these days (pushing out the raw milk and help set, although they share all sorts of rhetoric) is a loser with real people in the real world.

No, not liberty – the idea that we should be free, that our society should be a free association of equals, that we should all be equal in the eyes of the law and at the ballot box, and free to prosper according to our merit and energy.  Those are winners for most people; that’s why most of our forefathers came here. 

But today’s brutalist Libertarianism considers “community” a dirty word.  Which is fine – except that humans are a communitarian species.  We gather in groups, and establish rules amongst ourselves pretty instinctively.  Don’t believe it?  Watch a group of six year old boys playing in an open field.  Libertarianism resonates with me in terms of keeping “the community” from taking over and running the individual’s life, and making sure the “community” is focused as close to the individual as possible. 

And don’t get me started on the “anarcho-libertarians”, which is what too many of the Austrain-school fratboys think they are; while “anarchy” has a nice set of platitudes that pass for an “intellectual case”, they collapse over two key points:

  1. Human nature is not a “construct”. 
  2. Evil exists.

No matter what stasis you and your similarly-anarchic neighbors find amongst yourselves, in your existences as lone gentleman farmers on your farms in the hypothetical social void, at some point someone who doesn’t have what you want is going to come along and want what you have.  And they’ll realize that while you, Gentleman Farmer, are more than a match for him in a duel, he’s not going to come alone.  This group – let’s say they’re Methodists, because we know how warlike and acquisitive Methodist theology is – comes in groups of 15-30, because they are not anarchists. 

Human nature is not a construct.  Evil exists.  Not every human wants to take other peoples’ stuff by force – but enough do, that communities find it advantageous to band together to keep those pesky Methodists (or other aberrations of human nature) at bay. 

Which involves rules.  And the tension between authority and liberty. 

And a world that doesn’t fit nicely into that anarchist worldview. 

So there’s a conundrum.

The Problem, Of Course, is getting to the point where we, the not-stupid people, can drive society in a direction where, if (hah hah hah) and when the debt finally crushes our economy, it can recover in a direction that leaves us with more, not less, freedom.

More on that – much more – next week.

At any rate – that, and only that, is why I’m involved in politics, here or on the air or in my real life.

Beyond that, what’s the point?

And yet beyond that, what else matters?

[1] As measured in moral terms, not necessarily raw audience numbers.

No Wonder The Left Hates Him So Much

Charles Koch, one of the “Koch Brothers”, the left’s current boogeymen du jour and donor of a tiny fraction of the money bequeathed to progressivism by much more “generous” liberal plutocrats, writing in the WSJ, with occasional emphasis added:

Unfortunately, the fundamental concepts of dignity, respect, equality before the law and personal freedom are under attack by the nation’s own government. That’s why, if we want to restore a free society and create greater well-being and opportunity for all Americans, we have no choice but to fight for those principles. I have been doing so for more than 50 years, primarily through educational efforts. It was only in the past decade that I realized the need to also engage in the political process.

A truly free society is based on a vision of respect for people and what they value. In a truly free society, any business that disrespects its customers will fail, and deserves to do so. The same should be true of any government that disrespects its citizens.

That last emphasized sentence is going to be the subject of a couple of blog posts very soon here. 

The central belief and fatal conceit of the current administration is that you are incapable of running your own life, but those in power are capable of running it for you. This is the essence of big government and collectivism.

The whole thing is worth a read.

The Kochs are fundamentally libertarian-conservatives; they have some stances that vex some paleos. 

Asking “progressives” to explain exactly what’s wrong with the Koch Brothers – especially in light of the fact that there are dozens of plutocrats that give much more money to the left – is akin to watching Daffy Duck sputter; lots of flying saliva, not much fact, logic or reason. 

So why do they do it?

Berg’s Seventh Law explains it all.

Smack, Unsmacked

It’s been a staple of leftybloggers for the better part of a decade, now; every so often, some social “science” organization or another will release a “study” showing some variant “liberals are smarter than conservatives”.

This blog has made a decade-long romp out of trashing these “studies” – which are inevitably junk science.

The latest to the table in debunking this little lefty conceit is that noted conservative tool…

Will Saletan?   At Slate?

Huh.

Continue reading

I, Social Conservative

In recent weeks, especially with the convention ouster of Dave Fitzsimmons from the candidacy for the MN House seat in Wright County, and the challenge to Jennifer Loon in the southwest subs, both over their votes on gay marriage in the last session, the “liberty” crowd has adopted a new kick-toy – the “SocialCon”, or social conservative.

I’d like to take a moment to get some of them to think a moment.

Social conservatism tends to get linked to two issues – abortion and marriage.  Those are the highest profile issues, of course;  one is social conservatism’s most emotional issue (and, despite infanticide’s hideous death toll, arguably social conservatism’s greatest non-legislative victory; the abortion rate has been dropping, largely due to indirect means.  It’s a start), and the other, same sex marriage, is the MNGOP (and the state’s) biggest bloody nose in recent years.   It’s the issue that has led to the biggest single whiff of acrimony – the Loon and Fitzsimmons battles – in the GOP so far in this cycle.

But there is much more to being a social conservative – because there are many, many more social issues than just abortion and gay marriage.  And all of them are important, most of them haven’t been decided yet, and some of them have the potential – if the MNGOP can just shed that whole “stupid party full of single-issue voters” thing – to transform Minnesota politics and make the Republican party a flaming screaming electoral juggernaut.  That is, of course, a huge “if”.

“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp,
Or what’s a heaven for?”

So let’s talk about the rest of the whole, wide, social conservative world:

Education:  Yep.  Education is social issue.  Here in Minnesota it is, in fact, by far the most expensive social issue.

And our education system is failing, and it’s failing for reasons that are inextricably tied to progressivism; in a society where no two people’s cell phones are the same, we’re to expect that a single national curriculum and methodology is supposed to effectively teach tens of millions of different children a year?

Conservative notions of…not just “the free market”, but of choice, of the ability to say “no” to a failing school or system or methodology, the way they said “no” to Pepsi Clear or Ashley Simpson or the Edsel or horse meat or any other thing that doesn’t serve the consumer’s needs perfectly enough, is the only way education is going to be saved.

And while some political thinkers and consultants say conservatives waste their time going after traditional Democrat constituencies like the inner city, it is the education issue that gives conservatism its best long-term chance of cracking that monopoly – if the GOP develops the skill to play chess rather than checkers.

But whether we look at it as matter of winning votes in the future or not, the fact is that it’s a fiscal issue as well; the current system of education (which is really more a system of political patronage with a little indoctrination mixed in) is getting more and more expensive, and is unsustainable.  And things that can’t be sustained, won’t be.

Either way, it’s a social issue.

Immigration:  Yep.  It’s a social issue.   One that has the potential to change society.

And there is ample evidence that Latinos favor an approach that is in many ways more conservative than most conservatives favor; the “high fence and wide gate”.  Make illegal immigration hard, but make legal immigration much easier and more transparent.  Along with that, cut down on the talk of mass deportations; most Latinos, even Latinos whose families have been here for longer than most of us honkies, have some corner of their family tree that crossed over without bothering excessively with getting their paperwork stamped.

Again, not a few checkers-playing consultants and pundits say that the issue isn’t going to win the 2016 election for the GOP.  Perhaps.  But it has the potential to blunt the Democrats’ overwhelming lead among Latinos.

And it’s a social issue.

Welfare, Poverty and the Family:  While the DFL roots and scrabbles around with deckchair-rearranging feel-good measures like trying to raise the minimum wage, they are also fueling an inflationary cycle – via minimum wage hikes, but especially via untrammeled deficit spending – that  devalues everyone’s paycheck.

Worse, Democrat policies over the past few years have made it harder for people to get out of the lowest economic classes; while social spending makes grinding poverty a viable lifestyle, only work, and the opportunity hard work leads to, actually gets people and families out of poverty.

But Democrat policies kneecap Horatio Alger at every turn.  One of the surest ways to ensure you’re out of poverty by your thirties is to finish high school and not have a baby before you’re with a stable, long-term partner (social conservatives think of this in terms of “marriage”, and with good reason – it works better than cohabitation).  But the welfare state subsidizes the exact opposite – and it is a truism that when you pay people to do things, even stupid counterproductive things, they’ll do them.

And the Democrats are doing their best to marginalize work; their latest spin, that Obamacare will “give people more free time”, is just slapping a happy coat of paint on selling the idea of personal economic stagnation to people.    If you’re upper middle class, cutting hours is a nice fantasy.  If you’re struggling to get out of poverty, it’s a financial death sentence.

Republicans, especially the conservative ones, should own this issue – which, in its own way, is the mother (single, with three kids) of all social issues.

Healthcare:  It’s not just a fiscal issue.  How society deals with health insurance for those who can’t afford it (or don’t want to pay for it) is, obviously, a huge issue.

Conservatives have many plans – none of them is a panacaea, like Obamacare and Hillarycare both claimed to be; any of them would have done a better job.  Some still could.

Crime:  If there’s an issue that the Democrats have lost, but Conservatives are too stupid to know it, it’s crime.  Conservative policies – tougher sentencing, visible law enforcement, allowing and encouraging the law-abiding to arm themselves – have lowered the crime rate; the islands of high crime are the ones dominated by Democrats and their policies.

———-

Social conservatism. It’s about a lot more than gays and abortion.

In fact, it needs to be.

The Left’s War On Blacks And Women

The Rutgers Faculty Clique has, er, blackballed Condoleeza Rice from speaking at the Rutgers commencement.

Juan Williams, at least, sees the hypocrisy:

I, too, disagreed with many of the policies Rice faithfully supported as a member of the Bush administration. But only partisan hatred can blind the faculty to her extraordinary level of accomplishment for herself and her country.

Rice is smart, disciplined, hard-working and the model of an inspiring modern American. She personifies the American Dream. She is living inspiration for a young person trying to accomplish great work no matter what the barriers. And in Rice’s generation there were some serious barriers starting with her race and gender.

And Williams – who, let us recall, is an unapologetic liberal – notes that this frothing intolerance isn’t aimed just at black, female and black female politicians:

There is an added element at play here. There is a disgraceful double standard amongst liberals, particularly those in academia, in the hatred they direct at black conservatives.

We saw this last April when the conservative neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson was forced to step down as a Commencement Speaker for Johns Hopkins University (where he ably served as the head of pediatric neurosurgery).

Liberals on the Hopkins campus mobilized against Carson because he criticized President Obama’s health care reform law and said that he opposed gay marriage.

Hate eventually backfires.

The media and the academic establishment are going to do what they can to forestall this, obviously – but hate does eventually consume its owner.

And when people – especially blacks, women, and black women – see that one of our parties has been trying to program them for a couple of generations now, hopefully it’ll backfire with a vengeance.

The Circular Firing Squad

The Marriage Amendment and the legalization of gay marriage is a gift that just keeps on giving.

Walter Hudson writes about the socialcon push to unseat Dave Fitzsimmons - I almost called it a “Fatwa” before catching myself – and its commentary about the state of the MNGOP in 2014.

First things first:  Fitzsimmons is a Tea Party and libertarian-conservative stalwart – a guy who ran on rock-ribbed libertarian-conservative principle, and delivered on it during his freshman term in the House.

Hudson:

Cycle after electoral cycle, activists pine for candidates who will stand on principle and do the right thing regardless of political consequence. Cycle after cycle, candidates claim they will meet that challenge and take bold action to serve their constituents. Cycle after cycle, voters remain disappointed by bland performances delivering lack-luster results.

Perhaps we get what we deserve. Perhaps we only say that we want bold statesman who will do the right thing without regard to their next election. Perhaps we actually reward bland performance while punishing aggressive leadership.

A case study presents in Wright County, where activist-turned-legislator David Fitzsimmons serves Minnesota House District 30B. This Saturday, Fitzsimmons will seek his party’s endorsement in the face of three challengers hoping to wrest it from him.

Two years ago, Fitzsimmons was a shoe-in for endorsement and handily defended a primary challenge before earning his freshman term. His victory seemed predestined, given the conservative leanings of his district and a well-earned reputation for effective activism on behalf of his party and its candidates.

Hudson notes that in a party full of talkers – myself included – Fitzsimmons is a do-er.  He’s a guy who’s actually made things happen; a long-time activist, he engineered Tom Emmer’s campaign up through the convention (before handing it off to less-successful management), and has been a founding chair of the GOP Liberty caucus.  He’s been a right-libertarian Godfather, including to Hudson himself:

Coming up through the Tea Party, I learned the ropes from candidates and activists who owed their political education to Fitzsimmons. His name became synonymous with expertise, hard work, and discernment. He blazed a trail of credibility which up-and-coming activists were able to follow into the Republican Party, growing its ranks and sharpening its conscience.

And, as Hudson notes, with that sort of resume he could have followed the usual Freshman route and made himself a very small target while he learned the Saint Paul ropes and built a political career.

But that’s not who David is. He didn’t go to Saint Paul to be something. He went there to do something. When the opportunity to make a difference presented itself, he seized it at great risk to his political future.

Long story short:

  1. With the collapse of the Marriage Amendment and the sweep to power of the DFL, the passage of a gay marriage statute was a foregone conclusion.
  2. Fitzsimmons – a gay marriage opponent – tried to offer an amendment that would have made same-sex marriage a matter of civil law, preserving clergy’s right to abstain from performing or recognizing same-sex marriages on religious grounds, thus protecting the First Amendment freedom of religion in a way the DFL wasn’t going to.

Hudson:

Democrats consented to the amendment. However, Fitzsimmons knew that his amendment could be stripped out of the final bill unless he sat on the conference committee which would reconcile the House and Senate versions. To ensure his place on that committee, he would have to vote for final passage.

Surely, he understood the political fallout which would occur in Wright County – likely the most conservative political district in the state – if he voted yes on final passage. He also understood that voting yes was the only way to ensure some protection of his constituents’ religious liberty.

As the vote for final passage took place, Fitzsimmons watched the vote totals to make sure his would not decide the question. Only once it was certain that the bill would pass did Fitzsimmons cast his vote for final passage, securing his place on the conference committee to preserve his amendment.

I’ve seen arguments over the mechanics of the amendment; I’ve seen none that convince me Fitzsimmons offered his amendment for reasons other than the ones Hudson detailed.

I’ve only been acquainted with one of Fitzsimmons’ challengers – Dayton city councilman Eric Lucero.  While I’m told Lucero is a capable enough activist, the first impression I took away was that he didn’t really speak to any issues beyond marriage (and information security), that he was fairly inarticulate about even those issues, and that he couldn’t possibly fill Fitzsimmons’ shoes.

And the propensity to judge an entire political career – a stellar one, one of the ones that needs to be emulated all over this state, one of the ones this nation is going to need thousands more of if it’s going to survive - by a disagreement over the mechanics rather than principles behind a single vote – is one of the Minnesota GOP’s biggest handicaps today.

District 30B’s activists have a chance to make a clear declaration on this, one way or another, at their convention.  Here’s hoping they choose wisely.

Appeal To Authority

Over the years, I’ve been codifying bits and pieces of (mostly liberal) human behavior into what I call “Berg’s Laws”.

I’m adding a new…well, not so much “law” as corollary to a law; an observation completely supported by the law.

The Law in question is Berg’s Fourteenth:

 The more strenuously a media organization identifies itself as “fact-checkers”, the more completely their “fact checking” will actually be checking statement for congruency with liberal conventional wisdom.

I’m adding the brand-new but utterly-sensible Maddow Corollary:

The same goes for science

I did it after reading this Glenn Reynolds piece in the NYPost, pointing out the facts behind the latest blitz of self-congratulatory articles by liberals lauding themselves for their greater supposed belief in science than conservatives.

These articles always trip the BS detector, naturally; they’re like the articles pointing out the”science” showing that liberals having higher IQ, or are less racist, or other such fripperies; bad science to reinforce a bad and – more importantly – meaningless conclusion.

Of course, as Reynolds points out, the whole tendency goes a solid level of illogic deeper.  He starts by noting that in 1974, a University of North Carolina sociologist Gordon Gauchat noted that in 1974, conservatives had a demonstrably higher likelihood to trust science than liberals.  I’m going to add some emphasis: 

Gauchat points out, correctly, that you can’t lay the blame at the feet of biblical creationists and anti-evolutionists, who were no less common in 1974. Nor is sheer ignorance responsible, as the decline in trust rose with education.

So wait – the more educated a conservative, the less likely he or she is to trust science?

Why, that suggest that this lack of trust isn’t just love of snake-handling, doesn’t it?

Why yes.  It does:

Instead, he suggests that it’s the increasing use of science as ammunition for big-government schemes that has led to more skepticism.
There’s probably something to that, but if you read the actual paper something else becomes clear. Despite the language in the coverage, it’s not science as a method that people are losing confidence in; it’s scientists and the institutions that purport to speak for them.

Reynolds does what everyone needs to do when they analyze polling information; looks at the original questions.

Gauchat’s paper was based on annual responses in the General Social Survey, which asks people: “I am going to name some institutions in this country. As far as the people running these institutions are concerned, would you say you have a great deal of confidence, only some confidence, or hardly any confidence at all in them?” One institution mentioned was “the scientific community.”
So when fewer people answered “a great deal” and more answered “hardly any” with regard to “the scientific community,” they were demonstrating more skepticism not toward science but toward the people running scientific institutions.
With this in mind, a rise in skepticism isn’t such a surprise.

Of course, people today have less faith in general in “institutions” than they used to.  Journalism, the police, the courts, the government, all are less trusted than they used to be.

So has…not “science”, as in the “scientific method”, but the institutions that run it, and especially the ones that use it toward their political ends.

“Science” – in the form of institutions – earned that distrust.  And that’s a good thing – because the root of science is skepticism.

And the push to jam down the beliefs of institutions, simply because they’re institutions, is unskeptical and, beyond that, illogical.  It is in fact a logical fallacy, the “appeal to authority“, which is also unskeptical and unscientific:

We accept arguments not because they come from people in authority but because they can be proven correct — in independent experiments by independent experimenters. If you make a claim that can’t be proven false in an independent experiment, you’re not really making a scientific claim at all.

And saying, “trust us,” while denouncing skeptics as — horror of horrors — “skeptics” doesn’t count as science, either, even if it comes from someone with a doctorate and a lab coat.
After a century of destructive and false scientific fads — ranging from eugenics to Paul Ehrlich’s “population bomb” scaremongering, among many others — the American public could probably do with more skepticism, not less.

Conservatives aren’t less scientific.  After a few years of “debating” liberals, it’s painfully clear we’re more logical.

We’re just less likely to trust someone with a PhD and a lab coat who’s come for our freedom, simply because he has a PhD and a lab coat.

Non-Negotiable

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Rush anticipated the President would call for an increase in the Minimum Wage to $10 per hour in the State of the Union address.  A caller said Republicans should see his $10 and raise him to $30.  That would make people to see how silly the Minimum Wage is so they’d stop talking about it.

That’s a bad idea.  The Minimum Wage is an emotional issue – poor people are suffering because wicked businesses won’t pay fair wages.  Explaining the economics of it in a logical, orderly, methodical way is proof that you’re a heartless bastard who doesn’t care about fairness and hates the poor.

Feeling is easy and everybody does it.  Thinking is hard so nobody does it.  Playing to Democrat strength is a bad idea just as raising the minimum wage is a bad idea.  Don’t offer $30, don’t even offer $10: they might just take you up on it and later, when the bad consequences hit, it’ll be your fault for suggesting it.

Yes, Democrats will call you heartless.  That will suck.  Tough.  Embrace the suck and do the right thing anyway.

Joe Doakes

There is a short list of things that the GOP – despite its inner, “go-along, get-along” tendencies – really really can not compromise on; the compromise itself will not only make things worse, but will be used against the party and all those trying to un-screw things after this past five years.

Seven Arguments

This year may be one of the greatest opportunities for the conservative movement in recent memory.  Greater than 2010?  The polling says “why not?”.  Greater than 1994, in terms of reversing an unstoppable liberal juggernaut?  Maybe.

And maybe not.  Because the GOP – meaning the party, but including some of the parts of the conservative movement that speak from within the platform of the Grand Old Party, continue to show a complete inability to portray conservatism in a form that could attract the unaligned middle class.

And while the insurgent parts of the party – the Tea Party, mainly – can do better, no single Tea Party contender seems to be able to articulate a vision on more than a few issues, consistently and clearly, that resonates with middle class voters.  Now, a few may be enough – Obamacare is a deal-breaker for many people, gun-grabbing for others, and a few Americans even have the foresight to be terrified about long-term entitlement debt.

Victor Davis Hanson – the smartest person in any room he’s in – articulates middle-class approaches to not one, not two, but seven vital issues.   If I pulled one quote, I’d have to pull the whole thing.  I’m just going to commend it to  you for your attention.

And I humbly suggest certain GOP candidates read them, internalize them, and use them on the trail.  Stat.

Lone Reviewer

I caught “Lone Survivor” – the film adaptation of former SEAL Marcus Luttrell’s memoir chronicling his surviving a badly-awry mission in Afghanistan in 2005 – a few weeks back, as part of a review audience.

It was, by the way, an amazing movie.  Not a perfect retelling of the book – I won’t spoil anything, but one of the battles does get Hollywooded in comparison to the book, just a little.

All of that aside, it’s a great move, and I highly recommend it. 

Of course, it bleeds red white and blue – which means Hollywood’s liberal film critic elite have broken out the long knives. 

Which brings us to Roger Simon’s review of the reviews (and the movie’s snubbing from this year’s Oscars).  Read the whole thing.  But the conclusion is the vital part:

As for those of you who are lining up to diss Hollywood again in the comments, remember the late Andrew Breitbart said that politics is downstream of culture. He was a 1000% correct. Diss Hollywood all you want. It deserves it. But save some of your energy for taking it back. That’s a lot harder. And a lot more important.

Winning – no,contesting- the culture war is going to be as hard as Afghanistan.  And maybe more vital for this nation’s future.

Take Heart

2013 was a decent year for grassroots Real Americans. 

In Minnesota, we shut down a full-court press for gun control, in a DFL-controlled legislature that should have passed at least some gun-grab bill in a walkover.  The good guys – and there were plenty of DFLers among those good guys, from outstate – broke the unaminity of the DFL majority, and issued the Metrocrats, their media praetorian guards, and their darlings “Protect” MN and “Moms Want Action” a humilating rebuke. 

Of course, guns are about principle; when money’s involved, the DFL cracks the whip even harder.  Minnesota’s home daycare and home-care providers, working in their spare time around their jobs and families, couldn’t quite beat back the unions’ lavishly-funded onslaught; with $2 million a year in union contributions to the DFL at stake, no dissent could be tolerated.  But the plucky providers launched a grass-roots effort that not only won the moral battle and showed the DFL to be even more cynical and craven than we thought before – but they took the fight to court.  And, so far, won. 

Of course, in Colorado Real Americans came within a trice of taking back the state Senate via a meticulously-organized recall campaign against Democrat senators who served as puppets for Michael Bloomberg’s gun-grab campaign; the Democrats held the Senate only because the next target resigned (allowing her seat to be filled with a Democrat) rather than get tossed in a recall (which would have flipped the Senate). 

This past five years have at times been discouraging for conservatives; we’ve felt like the GOP at the highest levels is in the thrall of people with careers and pals to look out for, and the money to make it stick, and who are not above defeating their unruly grassroots erstwhile allies before worrying about the Democrats.  It’s felt at times like the Beltway GOP is more worried about the Tea Party – which is the real soul of the conservative movement – than about Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. 

The GOP needs to learn something from its grass roots, here and nationwide.

Pol Position Deux – Frankensense

We return to look at the nascent Minnesota GOP race for U.S. Senate.  We broke down the GOP governor’s battle royale here.

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While the Minnesota GOP governor’s race has attracted most of the attention from the state’s punditry and conservative activists, the race for U.S. Senate has been at best a political red-headed stepchild – an electoral Clint Howard.  A bevy of unheralded candidates and little money raised hasn’t fundamentally altered the state of the race since July.  This despite the increasingly polling weakness of Sen. Al Franken.

Much like the man who he’ll likely be sharing the top of the DFL ticket with, Gov. Mark Dayton, Sen. Al Franken has seen his approval rating collapse, with the last six months essentially undo six years of polling gains following his contested 312-vote margin of victory.  Franken’s approval rating has dipped to 39%, with a bare majority of 51% disapproving.  Ideologically sympathetic pollsters have pegged Franken’s percentages much higher, but his 10-12% early head-to-head numbers against a mostly unknown GOP field suggests Minnesota’s junior senator hasn’t found the political elixir that Sen. Amy Klobuchar rode to victory just a scant 12+ months ago.  The question remains whether Republicans can take advantage. Continue reading

Pol Position Deux – The Race to Summit (Ave)

We breakdown the state of the GOP race for governor.  We offer a similar analysis of the GOP Senate contest here.

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The seasons have changed significantly since our last detailed analysis of the GOP governor’s race – and so has the political climate.

Last July, Minnesota’s political commentariat had all but official declared Gov. Mark Dayton the winner in his 2014 re-election effort.  Sporting a 57% approval rating, despite a legislative session that saw no shortage of controversial bills (including a warehouse tax even the Star Tribune editorial board begged Dayton to reconsider), Dayton looked in good position to cruise through the fall and winter political doldrums.

Fast-forward six months and Mark Dayton’s numbers are dropping as quickly as the temperature.  Dragging a 52% disapproval rating into the 2014 session, Dayton has been eager to recast his imagine as a traditional tax-and-spend liberal, suggesting he’d return the bulk of Minnesota’s projected $1.1 billion surplus (minus erasing the shift in education dollars) as tax cuts.  The reception to the concept has only been slightly warmer than absolute zero in the DFL caucus, framing a potential conflict between Dayton’s yearning for re-election aid and the legislative desires for more spending.

Tax cuts or not, Dayton’s greatest potential saving grace may simply be his opposition. Continue reading

Rudymentary

Christie’s Real Weight Problem – the punditry’s baggage of Rudy Giuliani’s 2008 bid

Does Chris Christie have a Rudy Giuliani-sized lump on his body politic?

While the fat jokes about New Jersey Governor Chris Christie started long before he was elected (recall Jon Corzine’s much-maligned ad from 2009), Christie’s political weight has been the only thing in the governor’s mansion packing on the pounds in recent months.  Thanks in multiple parts to a weak Democrat challenger, a compliant press corps, and a Democrat-leaning special election held weeks earlier, Chris Christie’s 22% margin of victory in ultramarine blue New Jersey has vaunted him to the top of the incredibly-too-early-to-reasonably-speculate GOP sweepstakes.

Christie’s critics suggest his numerous derivations from conservative orthodoxy and penchant for picking fights with his own party spell his early primary doom – presumably because they’ve never met Mitt Romney or John McCain.  But the early line of attack that does seem to be gaining some traction with the only segment of the electorate who cares this early – the punditry – is that Christie is too east coast, too combative.  Too Rudy Giulianiesque: Continue reading

Narrative, Interrupted

The Tea Party are extremists that the American people refudiate.

Right?

Well, not so fast (emphasis added):

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 42% of Likely U.S. Voters think the president’s views are closest to their own when it comes to the major issues facing the country. But just as many (42%) say their views come closest to those of the average Tea Party member instead. Sixteen percent (16%) are not sure. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

This marks a small setback for the Tea Party from April 2010 when 48% felt closest to the average Tea Party member, while 44% said they had more in common with the president

On the other hand, it’s right after the full-fledged media narrative-attack over the “shutdown”.

Thirty-four percent (34%) now believe their personal views are closest to those of the average member of Congress when it comes to the major issues of the day. But slightly more (36%) say their views are closest to those of the average member of the Tea Party. A sizable 30%, however, are not sure.

Opposition by Tea Party Republicans to the president’s national health care law has been blamed for the recent government shutdown, and just 30% of voters now have a favorable opinion of the Tea Party. That’s back to the level seen in January and down from a high of 44% in May after it was disclosed that the Internal Revenue Service was targeting Tea Party and other conservative groups.

Many of the “unfavorables” are likely never voting conservative under any circumstances.

The GOP has to present an alternative to the Democrats.

Doakes Sunday: Tell Them No

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Remember Aesop’s fable about the country mouse and the city mouse?  I felt that way when I moved to Saint Paul.  Not because the buildings were strangely tall but because the residents were strangely liberal.

Years ago, I attended an out-state Republican Precinct Caucus in Senate District 16A represented by Republican Joe Niehaus, who came to the caucus and asked for our votes.  He promised that if we re-elected him, he’d go to St. Paul and vote NO.  If they ask to raise taxes, he’d vote NO.  If they ask for unilateral disarmament, he’d vote NO.  If they . . . by the time he finished, the whole crowd was yelling NO at every punch line and they meant every word of it.  Whatever it was, he was against it, and so were all of us.  Joe Niehaus was my kind of conservative because he understood that things which have stood the test of time should continue, government should do only what’s absolutely necessary and then at the lowest organizational level, and when you maximize personal responsibility, you maximize personal freedom to boot.

Years later, I attended a St. Paul Republican Precinct Caucus and sat between two people who would have been branded Commies had they been out-state.  The resolutions passed up to the county level were just as leftist as anything the out-state Democrats would have wanted.  I felt completely out of place at that meeting.  I was the only Joe Niehaus conservative there.

I’m getting that feeling again, watching senior Republican members of Congress congratulate themselves for caving in to Democrats.  They didn’t have to cave in, they didn’t have to do anything at all.  Just sit quietly until the default date appeared, call the President’s bluff, and wait for him to come to the bargaining table. How hard is that?  Just do . . . nothing.

I miss Joe Niehaus.  I wish he were a candidate in 2014 so we could send him to Washington solely to vote NO.  Now that’s a campaign I would donate to.

Joe Doakes

Sometimes “No” is the only answer you need.

I’m Going To Pull This Car Over

All of you “The GOP Let Us Down, Why Should We Ever Support Them Again?” types:   To quote LTCDR Montgomery Scott, “you can’t change the laws of physics”.  Or the Constitution, in this case.  The Republicans – RINOs, Tea Partiers, Cruzes and Boehners alike – control one chamber of the Congress.  The Dems have the other one, and the Presidency.  No law is going to be changed while we are the minority.  The best we can hope for is to stall some of the Dems’ plans until, hopefully, somehow, someday, we get majorities in both chambers and the Presidency.  Someday.

All of you “What has Ted Cruz gotten us?” folks:  Hopefully, a sense from the base that there are some people on Capitol Hill who aren’t cowed by the system, and among independents that someone is publicly bucking against the insurance plan that’s jacking their rates up through the ceiling.

Remember the 2012 election?  When the GOP base and not a whole lot else came out to vote, tepidly, for Mitt Romney and the guy who should have been the candidate?  That’s what going along and being polite and playing the Beltway’s game the beltway’s way gets us.

To Both Of You:  Not a single concession?  After all that?  Are you kidding me?

More Monday.

The “Shutdown” Cage Match

On the one hand, Jennifer Rubin at the WaPo points out 15 signs shutdown fans have “drunk the koolaid“:

There has been, to put it mildly, some mass self-delusion going on in right-wing circles. Here’s how to tell if you are suffering from the ill-effects of the echo chamber.

On the other hand?  Steven Hayward atPower Lineis a convert:

First of all, like the sequester, have the majority of Americans noticed its effects beyond what the media has been screaming about?  The bullying tactics of forcibly shutting off public spaces like the World War II memorial on the mall has surely inflicted damage on Obama that, had he behaved with minimal restraint, he might have been spared.

Beyond this, have there been riots or even public demonstrations against the shutdown?  The political-financial crises in Europe and elsewhere in recent years have seen mass protests and street riots (Spain, Brazil, Greece, Bulgaria, etc).  Where is Occupy Wall Street when Obama needs them?  To the contrary, much more of the political energy appears to be on the Tea Party side right now.  Pretty clearly the shutdown terrifies liberals and journalists—and that’s about it.

Of course, it might be pointed out that this is a faux-shutdown: 80 percent of the government is up and running.  This is analogous to TSA airport security: it is shutdown theater rather than the real thing.  Stop sending Social Security checks and see what happens.

A fair point, but this leads to the next big question: which party most needs the government to be up and running?  Ask yourself which party is the party of government and you’ll know the answer.  With 90 percent of the EPA furloughed, what’s the downside here for Republicans?

More seriously, to the extent that shutdown and “government dysfunction” in Washington causes the public to hold Washington in even greater disgust than usual, who does this hurt the most?  Democrats need the public to have some degree of confidence in government for their expansive schemes to succeed.  Which brings me to the latest soundings on public opinion that Karlyn Bowman and Andrew Rugg have put together and displayed in the charts below. 

Bottom line: public confidence in Washington D.C. is at lows not seen since the 1970s.  (And we know what happened at the end of that decade.)

The takeaway?  I think a competent GOP leadership could make this into a net win in 2014 for the GOP.

Which means we’re screwed.

But for the Tea Party, anyway.

The Lightning Rod

Rod Grams has passed away after a long battle with cancer. 

Son of a dairy farmer from Princeton, MN, Grams came up through broadcasting, working his way from small radio stations into the anchorman’s seat at Channel 9 by the mid-eighties. 

From there, he went into politics – defeating Gerry Sikorski, who was hobbled by a capitol banking scandal that showed the door to not a few Congresspeople that year. 

And in 1994, at the crest of the “Contract with America”, he took over Dave Durenberger’s Senate seat, after beating Ann Wynia by  squeaker in a race that showed both the nascent power of conservatives in the exceedingly moderate Minnesota Independent Republican party, and the rising power of the state’s Second Amendment lobby. 

His term in the Senate also was a barometer for the slide of the Twin Cities media into outright partisanship; the Twin Cities media lavished coverage on the twists and turns in Grams’ personal life, and breathless wall to wall scrutiny on the travails of Grams’ son Morgan – of whom Grams’ ex-wife had had full custody – in a way that they never quite managed to for DFLers. 

But it is an objective fact that Grams accomplished more in his six years in DC than the celebrated Paul Wellstone did in 12, or than Amy Klobuchar likely will in her entire career. 

After being defeated for re-election by future “Worst Senator in America” Mark Dayton in 2000, Grams went back to his first love, broadcasting; he owned a cluster of radio stations in Central Minnesota.  

I had the pleasure of interviewing Senator Grams two or three times on the NARN.  He had a broadcaster’s knack for being a great interview subject. 

I urge you to direct your prayers – or whatever your worldview calls for – to his family.

A Little Knowledge

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my various liberal lawyer friends, it’s this; when I see news of the filing of an absurd lawsuit demanding a bizarre amount of money for an insane claim, take a step back and a deep breath.  A filing does not equal a judgment; while the occasional batspittle-crazy judgment happens, the vast majority of bizarre lawsuits end in a dismissal on summary judgment; a judge determines that no actual matters of law are involved, so there’s no need for a trial. 

And the bizarre cases that appeared in a splash of laughter and anger disappear, unlamented and

Over the weekend, the word got out among the usual circles about a Swiss proposal to give every single citizen a $2,600 monthly government-paid income

There were two reactions from among Americans I’d broadly call “conservative”; mockery, and a little bit of head-scratching.

We’ll look into the head-scratching first. 

The Big Fix: In his classic book Parliament of Whores, P.J. O’Rourke noted that if we just gave the money we currently spend on social welfare to people whose income is below the poverty line, we could bring every person in the United States up to the poverty line, and save money.  We’d do something that eighty years of “progressive” social policy has “tried” and failed to do; eradicate poverty, at least in a literal, personal-financial sense. 

The Swiss “plan” – assuming it also involved eliminating other poverty entitlement programs – might be a huge step toward simplifying poverty entitlements and, perversely, saving money…

The Swiss Reality- …if there were the slightest chance of it becoming law.

The Swiss federal system allows the National Assembly – the Swiss parliament – to refer bills dealing with major government issues – taxes, spending and big policy issues – to a national vote, very, very easily. 

Switzerland, like Minnesota, is starkly divided along what we’d call “red/blue” lines; the big cities, Zürich and Basel and Geneva, are every bit as clogged with socialist bobbleheads as Minneapolis or Duluth.  But the cantons (states) of greater Switzerland tend to be very conservative. The largest party in the National Assembly is the “Swiss People’s Party” (Scheweizerische Volkspartei, or SVP in German), a center-right party that, unlike many European “conservative” parties, could be recognized as “conservative” by an American Tea Partier. The SVP leads a coalition of center and right-leaning parties that don’t quite have a majority of the Parliament – 94 out of 200 seats in the lower house – but would require absolute unity among their opposition to effectively beat. 

But this isn’t even a parliamentary referendum.  Swiss law allows citizen petitions with 100,000 signatures – out of a population of 8 million citizens, or roughly 2% of the voting population - to force a referendum.

Andthatis how this proposal got on the ballot. 

On the one hand, it allows well-organized grass-roots groups to make a big electoral splash by getting the darnedest hare-brained ideas onto the national ballot. 

On the other?  They almost always get beaten.  A “grassroots” group of Swiss got an initiative to abolish the Swiss military onto the ballot in 2011.  It got a slew of headlines.

And it lost by about a 3:1 margin. 

The election of Jesse Ventura shows that if times are good enough, you can get up to 37% of any population to suspend their good judgement on a lark, when they don’t think it matters that much.

But here, we’re talking money.

This initiative is going to generate a lot of headlines, and a fair amount of mockery from American, left and right, who don’t get how Swiss democracy works…

…and, soon, a 2:1 electoral defeat.

Mission Fail

Despite four years of demonization, the public largely doesn’t see the Tea Party as demons:

Considering the multi-year war on the Tea Party by Democrats, many Republicans, and the media, it is astounding that the Tea Party continues to stay more or less even in its support over the past two years.  A 2% drop is hardly meaningful, and could just be variations within the margin of error in the poll, which was +/- 3%.

So what we’re saying is there’s a chance.

Can’t Start A Fire Without A Spark

Last week – voters toss a carbon-taxing, border-opening, “War on Womyn”-pimping government in Australia, ushering in a conservative government. 

And in Norway – yes, Norway – a center-right coalition toppled the socialists

I know – “conservative” is relative around the world.  There was a time when the conventional wisdom was that European “conservatives” were like American Democrats. 

That was before American Democrats became the extremist party, of course.

They’re Going To Need A New Chanting Point

Two months ago, Wisconsin (along with, ahem, North Dakota) came in 49th out of 50 states in a Philadephia Fed report on economic growth.

Liberals chortled with glee, declaring Scott Walker a dead issue. 

Then last month the Philly Fed uprated Sconnie to 20th.

And now?

And with new numbers out today for June, Wisconsin is now ranked 5th in new rankings among states on their six month economic outlook. For those keeping track, that’s 40th, to 20th, to 5th in just a couple months.

 

And in another leading economic indicator, the coincidence index, Wisconsin ranks 2nd.

These numbers are not the be-all and end-all of economic reporting.  I’m  not presenting them as such.

But some people sure did. Two months ago, anyway.