Clause 61: The Pushback Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘Justice

Equal Justice under the Law

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I have been discussing the necessity of standing up for conservative beliefs and advocating them aggressively — fighting for them — the way Progressives do for their beliefs. I have compared the way Progressive and conservative politicians push back when challenged by the public. I have been writing that there are right ways and wrong ways to oppose Progressives and, all to often, Donald Trump enthusiastically goes about it the wrong way (although I also give him proper credit when he does it right). So what would a campaign that is principled, people-oriented and positive look like?

Donald Trump is still carrying on in his rallies about Hillary Clinton. He still leads the public in chants of “Lock her up.” Why does he believe it is to his advantage to do this?

  • It distracts people from discussion of his performance;
  • It feeds the narrative that “we are surrounded by enemies;”
  • It generates a positive response among the attendees.

So why might it still generate a positive response among the faithful, two years after the election? Well, for starters, Hillary Clinton won’t shut up. She is still trying to justify herself. Last year, she said she took full responsibility for running her State Department communications through a private email server when she was Secretary of State.

If you are serving this country in the armed forces, or have a relative who is, you have every reason to find Clinton’s statement utterly insulting. Andrew Napolitano has documented instances of soldiers and sailors getting the book thrown at them for less serious negligence in handling classified information. Until Madame Secretary is in front of a judge, she is not taking full responsibility for her actions.

However, instead of making the story about Horrible Hillary, let’s go down a different path. How about expanding on the theme of how we are failing to live up to our aspiration of providing equal justice under the law? What else can we find evidence to support that claim?

Even if you read only the parts of the Ferguson DOJ report that come directly from the files of the FPD (which is to say, files that would be most favorable to the Department), the report paints an incredibly damning picture of the Ferguson Police Department. No conservative on earth should feel comfortable with the way the Ferguson PD has been operating for years, even according to their own documents.
— Leon H. Wolf, “Many Conservatives Are Blowing It on the Ferguson DOJ Report“, emphasis in original.

Wolf’s article is required reading for anyone who cares about justice in America. He described in detail how the Ferguson PD had been made over into a revenue center. He recognizes that this is not an activity police officers perform because they like it: “Ferguson’s police supervisors, including the City Manager, repeatedly hounded Ferguson officers to increase their ticket fines without regard to whether the tickets they were writing were justified.” The cops are just the muscle, sent out under orders from people sitting on leather chairs in air-conditioned offices.

We know that Ferguson, MO, is not an isolated case of using law enforcement as a revenue center. Everyone knows who the snakes are in their metro area. The Village of Linndale, Ohio, would have ceased to exist as an independent municipality forty years ago without ticket revenue from I-71, and they are still funding their municipality through ticket revenue.

Wolf went on to observe that:

“.. the Ferguson municipal court and police system operates functionally as a debtor’s prison. Inability to pay fines, or missing a single payment on a payment plan, results in the immediate issuance of an arrest warrant …”

Nobody in their right mind would attempt this in an affluent suburb, because citizens would fight back. In Chesterfield or Ladue, people are comfortable with process and often well-connected. But Ferguson, with a median household income of $36,645, was a target-rich environment.

Given that Ferguson has a total population of 21,000 people, this provides a perverse and ready incentive for Ferguson cops to stop virtually any citizen they see without probable cause and “run their license” for warrants – and evidence (from FPD’s own records) indicate that this was a regular practice, and that its brunt was felt almost exclusively in Ferguson’s black community (over 96% of the people who were arrested solely for having an outstanding warrant during the study period were black).

Wolf also examines the evidence of contempt of cop arrests in Ferguson:

Charging documents (again provided by the FPD) revealed that in officers’ own words, they arrested and cited citizens in retaliation for exercising their First Amendment rights not to be polite to cops, including one woman who was, by admission, arrested for peacefully calling an officer’s supervisor during the course of that officer making an arrest in her presence that she felt involved the excessive use of force. The Ferguson PD also engaged repeatedly in conduct that can only be described as retaliation against citizens for attempting to videotape them, a behavior that has been roundly condemned on the conservative side of the aisle.

Wolf lists several offenses that can get you arrested, including Failure to Obey, Failure to Comply and — I am not making this up — Manner of Walking.

By contrast, in 2017, a cop in Salt Lake City arrested a nurse for upholding hospital policy to deny him a blood sample of an unconscious person. Before the year was out, the city fired the cop, demoted his supervisor and the nurse settled for $500,000 damages. That is what happens when you try to throw your weight around with people who can defend themselves.

The Feds also pitch in to make the administration of justice worse. Your town can get grants from the Department of Justice for various law enforcement activities. Then nature takes its course, and the town government seeks to prove to the DoJ that the grants are effective so that the money will keep coming. If you pay for arrests, you will get them.

At the end, Wolf nets it out:

Until we, as a people, are willing to understand and address the problem, it will never get better. Until we are willing to hold our municipal officials accountable for using the police force to suck money out of people’s pockets instead of legitimately protecting the public safety, the problem will get worse.

As if all that evidence weren’t bad enough, on the other side, we have stories of well-off convicts dancing through the system:

  • Affluenza Boy: In 2013, Ethan Couch struck and killed four persons while driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs. His case came before Judge Jean Hudson Boyd, who sentenced Couch to ten years probation and ordered him confined to rehab for treatment.
  • The Stanford Rapist: In 2015, Brock Turner, who was a student at Stanford University, was caught sexually assaulting an unconscious woman. The judge in his case, Aaron Persky, sentenced Turner to six months in prison followed by three years’ probation, and ordered him to register as a sex offender for life.

The latter case caused a firestorm in Santa Clara County, and Persky lost his bench in a 2018 recall election. Persky and his supporters claim that he was upholding the law. He did articulate the sentencing guidelines that he applied; you can read his sentencing statement here. Of particular interest are his deliberations as to the effect of his sentencing options:

I think you have to take the whole picture in terms of what impact imprisonment has on a specific individual’s life. And the impact statements that have been – or the, really, character letters that have been submitted do show a huge collateral consequence for Mr. Turner based on the conviction.

So the problem, as pertains to this discussion is: does anyone take the same thoughtful consideration when a kid in his twenties from the inner city is being sentenced? Given the incarcerated population in the United States, I have a hard time believing that this occurs very often.

As to Couch, his attorneys used “affluenza” as an argument in his defense. While the attorney has an obligation to advocate his client to the best of his ability, the idea that a well-off person is less able to tell right from wrong than a person in poverty is a serious inversion of social standards and an affront to common sense. They ought to have been laughed out of court.

In any sensible social order, the people who are well off are supposed to be capable of better behavior than are poor people. We know that there are people who use there influence to get away with bad behavior, but we have never formalized the idea that this is the way things out to be. If we are going to start publicly holding upper classes of people to a lower standard of conduct, we’re screwed.

In 2004, a 16-year-old without the benefits of affluenza got drunk and crashed into another car, killing the driver. Judge Boyd sentenced this person to 20 years in prison.

There is too much evidence around to lay the blame for the problem on “bad apples.” We have a systemic problem across the country.

This is not the way a justice system is supposed to operate. It is not the behavior of a society that we claim to be. The issue is lying there in the street. Why does nobody pick it up and run with it?

All you intended when you set us a-fighting was merely to unhorse and dismount our old riders and tyrants, so that you might get up and ride in their stead.
— John Lilburne, 1646

There is nothing thematically new here: people want to cut themselves in on privilege, not end it. But the human costs of continuing our current practices are unacceptable. Everyone who is on the short end of the stick sees what is going on. The game of Let’s You and Him Fight will go on until someone makes it stop.

Equal justice under the law is worth fighting for. It would bring Americans together and align us more closely with the values we claim to hold.  It fits well with a conservatism that cares about people, and a conservatism that doesn’t care about people is headed for political oblivion, anyway.

Written by srojak

October 30, 2018 at 6:45 pm

Four Factors of Production

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In economics, production does not just magically happen. Generally, there have to be some raw materials. More importantly, there are entities that are necessary to produce wealth, although they are not consumed in the process. These are called factors of production.

According to the Wikipedia page, there are three factors of production in classical economics: land, labor and capital. However, I used to have an economics textbook from around 1950 that identified four, and that is the model I shall use. Each of these factors receives a share of the income produced through the wealth creation activity.

Factor Category Share of Income
Land Rent
Labor Wages
Capital Interest
Entrepreneur Profit

The relative claims to income of the various factors is not fixed. The factors push against each other, each seeking to claim a greater share of the total income. In this way, relative negotiating power matters.

Bottleneck Resources

Eliyahu Goldratt taught us to pay attention to bottlenecks, because that is where the action is. The bottleneck resource constrains the system.

Under feudalism (technically manorialism, which is the economy under feudalism), land is the bottleneck resource that limits the production of wealth. This is not to say that land was much more scarce than it is today, but you had to keep peace on it long enough to grow and harvest a crop. Therefore, land is in a position to dominate the other factors of production, and the feudal tenants, who can keep the peace, own the land. It is a service-based economy; the lord provides security, and the peasants provide labor. A fundamental principal of feudalism is that there could be no land without a lord (nulle terre sans seigneur). When you read that Mr. Darcy has ten thousand pounds a year, he is a landlord, that figure is his income from agricultural rents, and that is a big deal.

The economy cannot even begin to industrialize until there is a government able to prevent the farmers being routinely plundered by marauding gangs. At this point, land is still important, but it does not have to be constantly secured. The relations shift so that capital is now the bottleneck resource, which brings us to capitalism.

Let’s say someone wants to build a water-powered mill to produce flour. He needs to obtain the land on which to build. The choice of land is further constrained, since it must be adjacent to a river or other source of water power. He will need materials to build the mill, and labor to do the building. All this must be paid for before he can go into production and see any revenue. Even if he is able to rent, rather than purchase, the land, the rent is due right away, even though the mill is not yet complete. He will need capital — either his own, or the use of capital belonging to someone else. If the latter, that person becomes his investor, and has significant control over the enterprise of the mill, because without the capital, the enterprise is dead in the water. Without capital, nothing is possible because the expenses are due now and you don’t see revenue until later.

Some people are confused because they see loanable funds washing around the economy looking for something to do. This occurs, but look at the interest rate at which they are available. If you believe that capital is easy to get, start a business and try to get the use of some. Yes, you can start a personal services business on your credit cards; I have done it. But you can’t afford to raise significant capital that way.

Labor Is Not a Bottleneck Resource

It is highly unusual for labor to ever be a bottleneck resource, it requires extraordinary conditions and does not last long. The only time I can think of that even approached these conditions was after the Black Death, which surged through England between 1348 and 1362. This reduced the supply of agricultural labor to the point where wages started to rise. Landowners went to the government to seek relief through laws holding wages down. This was a contributory cause of the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381. Ultimately, conditions reverted to normal, and land was again more scarce than labor.

Do not construe from this that labor is unimportant. The issue is which factor of production is the bottleneck that constrains production. This resource will be able to command a large share of income, as producers have to compete for it.

Change and Dislocation

Any time the economy shifts so that one factor of production displaces another as the bottleneck, you are exposed to political unrest. When nations industrialize, for example, this means that land is losing relative importance, rents are not keeping up with other forms of income and landowners are losing influence. Nobody wants to lose influence, and nobody who has political influence cheerfully accepts the loss of it. The consequences can be rather severe — that enormous family mansion built with agricultural rents starts to become a millstone, too expensive to maintain. Nobles dependent on rents, such as the fictional Earl of Grantham in Downton Abbey, may have to seek out alternative means of keeping their heads above water, such as marrying rich American heiresses.

Less colorfully but more significantly, the British land aristocracy fought hard to hang on to political influence. Not only did they control the House of Lords, but they retained significant control over Commons. The cities of Manchester and Birmingham did not have a Member between them prior to 1832, while several “rotten boroughs” having less than 50 voters, such as Old Sarum, Gatton, Dunwich, Plympton Erle and Callington, had two representatives each. The landed aristocracy did not cherish the idea of admitting grubby merchants and ironmongers into the circle of power, and staged a fighting retreat over the next eighty years.

The Entrepreneur

Note that, even as far back as mid-century, at the zenith of the New Deal welfare state, the contribution of the entrepreneur was recognized. Nobody other than Ayn Rand was claiming that the entrepreneur was some kind of shining moral hero, and very few people were listening to her., Economists did recognize the necessary role of entrepreneurs in getting wealth creation activities off the ground.

Profit — the entrepreneur’s share of income — is whatever is left over after everyone else gets their share. If there is not enough income to go around, it’s a loss, and the entrepreneur gets that. The entrepreneur bears risk in wealth creation. Being an owner really means being last in line to get paid.

Capital does not like to bear risk. The risk of not getting income is bad enough; the risk of not being repaid at all is unacceptable. Therefore, those with capital to lend or invest are rather aggressive about imposing controls to ensure that someone else is even farther out on a limb than they are. That someone is the entrepreneur. Capital is the bottleneck resource and knows it. If you want the use of their money, you will play by their rules.

Lenders have very little appetite for risk. The old saying is that the bank will only lend you money if you can prove to them that you don’t need it. In CEO Logic, C. Ray Johnson wrote that lenders often demand triple assets:

If you have $1,000,000 in receivables, a $1,000,000 business tangible net worth and $1,000,000 (liquid) personal net worth, they might lend you $800,000. This is their way of achieving what they perceive as “zero” risk. If your receivables go bad, they have the net worth of your business. If the business fails, they have your personal net worth. If it were legal for them to take your first born child, they would. [p. 189]

“Hey, wait,” some readers might say, “what about limited liability?” If you want the money, you are going to allow them to pierce the veil of limited liability. You are going to have liquid personal assets and pledge them as security for the loan. Otherwise, get your capital somewhere else.

In addition, most lenders will require the entrepreneur’s personal signature, both as additional security and as evidence of the borrower’s real commitment to the venture. As an example of how pervasive it is for lenders to require personal signatures of small businesspeople, a consultant once asked a commercial lender when she would not demand a personal signature on a note. Her reply was, “when your client can’t write.”
— Eric Siegel, et al., The Ernst & Young Business Plan Guide, 2nd Edition.

What if you don’t have your business to the point where it is worth a million dollars? Then you will also have to give up some equity — ownership of your business and control of its activities — to get capital.

The issue here is not hard work; it is risk. There are plenty of people who are willing to work hard, provided they don’t have to take risks. If you don’t believe me, try this simple experiment. Walk into a company and sit down with a group of employees who are on straight salary. Inform them that you are there to change their compensation so that half of it is determined by their performance as a group. Duck when they throw things at you.

Yes, there are also people who don’t want to work at all. Part of the fun of staffing is separating them from the people who do want to work hard. The point is that there is more to being an entrepreneur than working hard. Entrepreneurs bear business risk.

Capitalism without financial failure is not capitalism at all, but a kind of socialism for the rich.
— James Grant, publisher of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer

Justice occurs under capitalism when the people bearing the risk have the opportunities to make a lot of money. Yes, you can pop open your favorite news feed and find contrary examples to that every day. I would need an entirely separate essay to discuss those. The net is that they are not consistent with capitalism. For example, an entrepreneur might lobby the government to build high barriers to entry around his market, thus reducing his risk. That is not capitalism. The fact that this happens is a public policy problem, not a deficiency in capitalism.

Did you find an instance where the managers of a publicly traded company sold their shares before the disclosing the company was in trouble, leaving the employee stock ownership plan holding the bag? First, do not confuse managers with entrepreneurs. Second, this is problem in corporate governance and public policy, not capitalism.

How to Insult Entrepreneurs

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.  There was a great teacher somewhere in your life.  Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.  Somebody invested in roads and bridges.  If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen.  The Internet didn’t get invented on its own.  Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.
The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.  There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own.  I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service.  That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.
— President Barack Obama, 2012.

The person who built a business thinks, Yeah, if somebody else made that happen, why do I have everything I own pledged as security? I am looking at my loan papers; none of my teachers co-signed them. Neither did my employees.

Pseudo-neutral fact checking organizations such as have published articles claiming that Obama’s words are taken out of context. It is for this reason that I have quoted two paragraphs, so we can have ample context. Nevertheless, there it is: “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that.”

Did he mean that, since business is a social activity, other people participated with you? Well, duh. You certainly can’t grow a business without bringing in more people. There are very few you can even start without the participation of other people. Many of those people work hard. They also get paid every pay period, as required by labor law. They are not taking risks.

A committee is a group of people who keep minutes and waste hours.
— Milton Berle

It is rather well known in business that, when you want something done, you give the responsibility for it to one person. When you want nothing done, you give it to a committee.

But then, some people have interesting ideas of what passes for entrepreneurship:

If you count the best-selling books that have brought Obama millions of dollars in royalties, he also knows something about entrepreneurship.
— Louis Jacobson, []

What was it like getting investors to fund his writing? Did Obama have a business plan? Did he do road shows? How much of his personal wealth did he have to pledge as security? Is Jacobson really that stupid, or does he think we are?

Obama’s comments are insulting to anyone, entrepreneur or not, who pulls together a group of people and makes things happen. Small business people were definitely insulted, and happy to see the back of him and his party in 2016. Here is a chart you won’t typically see in the mainstream media that illustrates how happy they were:

[Source: NFIB Research Foundation:]

That is a 10-point leap in small business confidence, and it has not gone down since. Do they all like the way the new President conducts himself? I doubt it. Are they pleased with the trail of chaos he leaves in his wake? Not likely. But at least he doesn’t dispute the idea that, without the small business founder/owner, there would be no business.

Taking Religion Seriously

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As part of a series of videos from The Atlantic titled “Unpresidented”, Emma Green, who is a staff writer, presents “Why Don’t Democrats Take Religion Seriously.” She analyzes the support given to Donald Trump by Christian voters and recounts the statistics showing the increasing number of Democrats who self-describe as not religious.

Green uses a video clip where Charlie Cook said, in a 2016 interview, that “The Democratic Party has become a secular party.” She illustrates her argument with the famous incident from 2008 where Barack Obama put his foot in it, saying “They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them … as a way to explain their frustrations.”

This would work better if Democrat attitudes toward religion were a simple marketing decision, where they could just stop alienating traditionally religious voters. In fact, the issue is more complicated than that.

The people who are in control of the Democratic Party agenda self-identify as Progressives, and I am going to identify them as such. As we shall see, across all the changes from the Progressive Era through the New Deal to the social justice initiatives of today, there is a fundamental thread that connects them.

Green touched on the difference between Progressives and all Democrats when she cited the statistic that about a third of the Democratic grass-roots opposes abortion, but very few of the national leadership does. The national leadership is Progressive, but not all of the Democratic voters are.

Green also identifies Rev. William Barber II as an inheritor of a Christian spiritual tradition that traces back through Martin Luther King (and, indeed, abolitionists such as Garrison and Phillips), advocating a political viewpoint that is informed by Christian teaching and tradition. However, she notes that he is outside the Democratic Party elite.

For though ours is a godless age, it is the very opposite of irreligious.
— Eric Hoffer, The True Believer (1951).

Whether or not they acknowledge it as such, Progressives already have a religion. They do not worship a supernatural deity. They do not endorse a book claiming to contain revealed truth about that deity. They do not believe that someone can miraculously change water into wine. But these are incidental features; the essential ingredient is faith, and Progressives have that in abundance.

By definition, faith is not open to persuasion. It cannot be proven false. If a believer can be talked out of her faith, it can’t have been very deeply rooted to begin with.

We can compare Christianity and Progressivism, thinking theologically about both of them:

Christianity Progressivism
Focus of faith and worship God The People
Creation Is good
Humanity is given dominion as stewards of creation.
Is good
Humanity is nothing special
Sin I put my will before the will of God I put my will before the General Will, the Public Interest
Judgement You get your reward in Heaven We must make matters right here and now
Redemption Acceptance of Jesus as savior Acceptance of the General Will
Is intrusive? No, you have free will Yes, the power of the state must be used to coerce right behavior from the unbelievers
Grace An unmerited gift of God Earned by right thinking
As a believer, you cannot deserve Grace The results of your efforts
Human nature Conflicted: good and evil contend within and for the soul of every person All good; evil is external to the person
“Love and do as you will”
Cardinal virtues Temperance
Social Justice
Sacraments Baptism
Holy Eucharist
(Roman Catholics have five others)
Community service
Prophets from before the common era Moses
Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Auguste Comte
Karl Marx
Bearers of wisdom in the common era Paul, born Saul of Tarsus
John Chrysostom
Augustine of Hippo
Theodor W. Adorno
John Rawls
Michel Foucault
Salvation is Individual Collective
Eschatology Jesus shall return to judge the living and the dead; his kingdom shall have no end Social progress shall reveal the truth, allowing us to transcend politics; history will end

A sacrament is defined as an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. Christians obtain sacraments by ritual actions. Progressives obtain sacraments by ritual promotion of beliefs.

Progressives do not believe that five thousand persons can be fed from five loaves and two fishes, but Christians do not believe that the entire world can be fed without honest effort by all persons.

Even though many Progressives have turned their backs on technological progress or economic progress, their faith in social progress is central. They believe that history will prove them out, justifying their beliefs and repudiating those of the people who disagree with them. They like to say that those who disagree with them are “on the wrong side of history.” For this reason, I find they are properly identified as Progressives.

A faith in The People also requires a priestly class to interpret the inexpressible will of The People. Just walking up to actual people and asking them what they want appears to be both unreliable and unsatisfactory. One needs special abilities to discern between the public interest and one’s own special interest, much the same way that not everyone can discern between the Will of God and their own wills.

There are, to be sure, persons who are both Christian and Progressive. They are serving two masters; if they think otherwise, they have another think coming. The People are also a jealous god, demanding that the faithful have no gods outranking The People. The two beliefs of human nature and the two concepts of spiritual authority are wholly incompatible.

In the late 1800s there was the Social Gospel movement. Leaders of this movement called for social redemption of the entire community, giving this priority over redemption of individual believers. As John Taylor summarized it, “The Social Gospel adherents considered it to be their mission to fulfill, in this life, the New Testament’s call to bring about the perfect Kingdom of God.” One Social Gospel leader, Charles Sheldon, introduced the question, “What would Jesus do?”

The problem for the Social Gospelers was that, if the goal is to achieve social salvation on earth, God is at a disadvantage compared to the State. As noted above, God is not intrusive; the State has the means to be very intrusive, marshaling its police power to coerce desired behaviors. Thus, for those whose goal was to be the reform of society along these moral lines, the State was a much surer bet than God. Instead of sitting around praying for change, you can seize power and make people obey. In this way, the Social Gospel served as a gateway ideology, leading many persons to a point where they would switch their faith to The People and the power that sits at the right hand of The People, the State. This is entirely consistent with Comte’s three-stage theory of societal development, and John Dewey is a notable example of a person who followed this path.

The so-called mainline Protestant churches tried to square the circle, to endorse Progressive agenda items while remaining Christian. These churches include the Episcopalians, the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Presbyterian Church (USA) — distinct from the Presbyterian Church in America and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church — and the United Church of Christ. As Lyman Stone wrote for, they “focus more political efforts toward Christian social relief rather than Christian moral teachings.” And they are losing membership, while eyeing with envy the full parking lot at the evangelical church down the road.

So, while Green calls upon Progressives to make peace with those faithful to traditional, deity-centered religions, they really have no room to do so. Progressives have a religion to which they are strongly committed. I argue that Progressives do have moral beliefs, just that those do not sit well alongside Christian moral beliefs. It is unfair to accuse Progressives of not having moral beliefs; they think their beliefs are fully moral. Their ideas of what people deserve, whom ought to be helped in society and on what terms are rooted in their faith. Their beliefs about justice, equity and a good life are informed by their faith every bit as much as the parallel beliefs of Christians and Jews are informed by theirs.

The culture wars are over; they lost, we won. … For liberals, the question now is how to deal with the losers in the culture wars. That’s mostly a question of tactics. My own judgment is that taking a hard line (“You lost, live with it”) is better than trying to accommodate the losers, who – remember – defended, and are defending, positions that liberals regard as having no normative pull at all. Trying to be nice to the losers didn’t work well after the Civil War, nor after Brown. (And taking a hard line seemed to work reasonably well in Germany and Japan after 1945.)
— Mark Tushnet, “Abandoning Defensive Crouch Liberal Constitutionalism“. Balkinization, 6 May 2016.

(To be fair to Tushnet, he did recognize at the end of his essay, “Of course all bets are off if Donald Trump becomes President.”)

The normative pull Tushnet cites is the moral basis of his beliefs, founded in his faith and those who believe along with him. The only element of hubris in his argument is his assertion that the issues are already settled (and his history would have you believe we adopted the Morgenthau Plan). I sincerely doubt he would say that he is having a hard time talking about morality. He has a simple moral message: We’re right; they’re wrong. Come to think of it, James Carville wrote a book with that title in 1996.

The foundation in faith is what makes the issue really matter. My disagreement with Green’s analysis is not an idle point of theory — and give her proper credit: her essay is a great starting point. We need to understand the religious nature and righteous characteristics of Progressive faith in order to really understand how much trouble we as a society are in.

I do not want to reduce this discussion to the idea that, If Progressives would just shape up and get with our faith, we wouldn’t have all these problems. That has already been said; meanwhile Progressives are saying similar things about others, including me. There is no room to persuade people. How does one be heard if one says, I know your faith calls you to do A, B and C, but you really need to compromise on B and C to get A? No group of faithful believers has ever been receptive to this kind of message. If you truly believed, would you want to back down and settle for half a loaf because someone is arguing with you? Militant faith demands that you go out and get it all, or die in the attempt. Anything less is moral degeneracy and faithlessness. There are souls out there depending on you.

Sir, let me tell you that which is true, if you do not break them, they will break you; yea, and bring all the guilt of the blood and treasure shed and spent in this kingdom upon your head and shoulders; and frustrate and make void all that work that with so many years’ industry, toil, and pains you have done, and so render you to all rational men in the world as the most contemptiblest generation of silly, low-spirited men in the earth, to be broken and routed by such a despicable contemptible generation of men as they are; and therefore, sir, I tell you again, you are necessitated to break them.
— Oliver Cromwell

This is how you get a holy war, like those that consumed Europe after the Reformation. When Mary I had Protestants burned or John Calvin had Michael Servetus burned, they thought they were following the only moral course of action. The various dissenters were putting their wills before the will of God. They would lead everyone astray if they were allowed to do so. Such behavior cannot stand, especially if we are ever going to get to Jerusalem. You are necessitated to break them.

What we have here is a holy war in the making. At this time, we cannot say how hard is the road ahead. We sense that it will be hard going indeed, and we sensibly fear it. But we cannot turn from it. It is a road we must travel to get to our destination.

Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the Government nor of dungeons to ourselves. Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.
— Abraham Lincoln, “Cooper Union Address”, 1860

On the Other Hand, There’s a Fist

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(With apologies to Jona Lewie, whose album by this name was part of the 1978 Be Stiff release.)

I watched the State of the Union speech last night. Donald Trump had a respectable outing. Given his track record, it’s only a matter of time before he squanders it with an ill-advised tweet. I think the over-under is about 36 hours.

However, he also demonstrated his vision for the Republican Party. Reading the speech carefully, you can understand how he won the Republican nomination over what has been described as “the GOP’s deepest White House field in a generation.

Michael Goodwin understands this. Writing in the New York Post yesterday, he claims “Donald Trump is teaching Republicans how to fight.

Yes, those responsible for writing this address deserve credit. However, so does Trump. Just like I discussed with Napoleon, the advisers and staff can advise and plan, but someone in an executive role has to sit at the table and act with his own chips. Donald Trump had to have the will to pursue this line, or the speech would have ended in the wastepaper basket.

Laughing Tonight

Last night on the post-game — er, post-speech wrap-up (have you noticed how political coverage and sports coverage have converged?), CNN’s Jake Tapper was critical of Trump for having offended Democrats (the horror!):

What you saw tonight was President Trump, I think, with one hand reaching out his hand to Democrats, and with the other hand holding up a fist. And this is almost the conundrum of Donald Trump. In addition to more Republican positions, such as tax cuts, talking about strong borders, etc., there is in his Trump Republicanism — nationalism, populism, whatever you want to call it — room for Democrats to work with him. He talked about changing trade deals. He talked about lowering the cost of prescription drugs, spending money on infrastructure, paid family leave, prison reform, path to citizenship for dreamers. There is that there. But by the same token, I think President Trump doesn’t quite necessarily understand just how offensive many Democrats in that chamber are going to find some of the things he proposed and some of the things he said, in terms of “there are Americans who are dreamers, too”, etc. … And this really is the mystery of Donald Trump.

Conundrum? Mystery? Are you serious?

The only mystery is why it took Donald Trump to address the Republicans’ inability to stand up for their beliefs and push back effectively. Goodwin summarized it perfectly: “After all, that’s what Republicans usually do — soften their tone and, badgered by a liberal Washington press corps, give in to big government ideas.” It is why the electorate was fed up, why they started talking about “cuckservatives“, why they were ready to take a chance on Donald Trump.

Republicans are supposed to decline the opportunity to offend Democrats? Let’s review:

You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.
— Barack Obama, 2008

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.
— Barack Obama, 2012

You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic—you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up.
— Hillary Clinton 2016

How does it feel to be flipped off? Democrats appear to believe they can say anything they want to, because they’re the caring people. They mean well, so any kind of sanctimonious attitude is to be given a pass.

[Oh, by the way, Government research did create the Internet, but there was no intention of creating it as a means by which the commercial sector could make money. The government exposed the Internet to the public, and people in commercial enterprises promptly figured out how to use it to make money. That’s what we do.]

Feeling Stupid

The Democrats and their sympathetic friends in the press are masters at showing the human costs of the problems they are trying to solve. I can’t fault them for that; that’s good messaging. Conservatives have typically been horrible at humanizing their ideas, preferring to present dry, abstract arguments that do not reach ordinary people effectively.

So when Trump presents the human costs of letting the MS-13 gang into this country, he is taking a page out of the Democratic playbook. Democrats don’t have a patent on this approach. Van Jones was lame when he accused Trump of a “smear” on dreamers:

What he said about those young people, he implied — and he did it deliberately — that Dreamers are gang members

This is the standard Democrat response: anything other than full rollover is morally unjustifiable. Jones inferred that Trump was saying that dreamers are gang members, but it was an unwarranted inference. You can make the inference, if you want to, but you can’t lay it at Trump’s doorstep. Trump specifically addressed the dreamers:

Here are the four pillars of our plan: The first pillar of our framework generously offers a path to citizenship for 1.8 million illegal immigrants who were brought here by their parents at a young age. That covers almost three times more people than the previous administration covered.

At the same time, Trump promoted his program for border security. Republicans have historically shied away from taking on these issues, whether because they didn’t know how or they were afraid they would get it wrong.

I would have liked to see some discussion of how our drug policies have enabled cartels, destabilized Mexico and created further incentives for Latin Americans to try to get into this country by any means possible. Nevertheless, I recognize that Trump is not going to follow that line. Instead, he is going to assert the need for border security and immigration restriction. And, to his credit, he effectively humanized the costs of not doing so.

I’ll Get by in Pittsburgh

Also in the Post, Salena Zito profiled the experience of one exurban Pittsburgh family watching the State of the Union address.

The children in the family noticed how Democrats on the floor sat through the speech in stony, unresponsive silence. Their fourteen-year-old daughter mused, “I just wonder if they thought this through past their politics, on many of these things all of America is applauding while they are sitting.”

These are people who do really want to take care of people who, they feel, deserve to be taken care of (I’m married to such a person). They don’t want to deport people who were brought here as children, and know no other country. But they also want laws enforced and borders secured.

When Democrats get righteous, when they start equating objections to their policies with racism, when they paint themselves as the caring people but are selective in their choices of people about whom to care, these people want Republicans to stand up, push back and, without apology, represent their concepts of equity and justice.

At this point, it looks like Donald Trump is the only person who has any idea how to do that.

Written by srojak

January 31, 2018 at 10:14 pm