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Cracker Squire

THE MUSINGS OF A TRADITIONAL SOUTHERN DEMOCRAT

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Location: Douglas, Coffee Co., The Other Georgia, United States

Sid in his law office where he sits when meeting with clients. Observant eyes will notice the statuette of one of Sid's favorite Democrats.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

TIME article from after the convention on 8-1-2016 and so true: The Hardest One to Know - Hillary Rodham Clinton has proven she can make history. But can she ever make herself understood?

From August 1, 2016 issue of TIME:

The primaries were finally over, the general election loomed, and as Hillary Clinton stood in June to address a friendly audience at a Chicago luncheon, she faced a profoundly unfinished item of business. With history in her pocket and the polls tilting in her favor, the former Secretary of State and First Lady finally named the problem that has dogged her for decades. “A lot of people tell pollsters they don’t trust me,” Clinton told her audience, in a voice that, minus the microphone, would have evaporated. “I don’t like hearing that, and I’ve thought a lot about what’s behind it.

“You can’t just talk someone into trusting you. You’ve got to earn it,” Clinton continued, to a smattering of applause that was tentative and awkward, like the moment.

It’s hard to trust someone you don’t know, and few people should be better known by now than Hillary Rodham Clinton. For years, her every utterance, gesture and hairstyle has been scrutinized, yet she is still something of a mystery to voters.

Millions of Americans still don’t know what to make of this trailblazing, catalyzing, polarizing woman–a fact that her friends chalk up to her bone-deep feminism. Growing up in the vanguard of the women’s-rights movement, Clinton asked NASA how to become an astronaut, only to encounter a no-girls policy. When a professor at Harvard Law School said his august school needed no more women, she made herself a superstar at Yale. She kept her maiden name after marriage, in a time and place where that wasn’t done. She outearned her husband for much of her career. And she scoffed at the notion that she could ever be a cookie-baking, stand-by-your-man kind of woman.

The feminist revolution promised that such freedoms would empower women to forge their own strong identities, but for Clinton the promise remains unfulfilled. Her identity is protean, shape-shifting, no less mysterious today than it was more than 40 years ago, when she entered the national spotlight. Her favorability ratings rise and fall, peaking when she is serving the country and sinking when she is on the campaign trail. No speech, no memoir, no interview or barrage of ads has brought her essence fully into focus. Her foes artfully define her even as she struggles to define and redefine herself.

Former chief of staff Melanne Verveer recalls a limo ride with the then First Lady some two decades ago. Clinton slumped into the leather seat and thumbed through a sheaf of papers. This daily task gave her no pleasure, paging through one unsatisfying, unflattering analysis after another of a particular global figure who seemed impossible to describe. “I wouldn’t like this person either,” she remarked wearily. “This person” was, of course, herself.

Things haven’t changed much as she has moved from the White House to the Senate to the Cabinet and now to the final phase of her second presidential bid. Armchair psychologists still muse about her motives, and critics still comment on her character. “Hillary for prison” is a tuning note for the Republican-convention chorus. From her vantage, her career looks straightforward enough: a life of pragmatic politics in service of idealistic ends, like justice and opportunity for women and children. By any objective or reasonable standard, she is someone who has matched every professional challenge placed before her, from the courtrooms of Little Rock, Ark., to the brutish back rooms of high-stakes diplomacy. But from the outside looking in, the pieces don’t easily fit. The champion of working moms who hobnobs with Wall Street bankers. The “dead broke” (her words) public servant who buys mansions in Washington and New York. The hyperqualified executive who proves “extremely careless” (the FBI director’s words) with her unapproved email system. The feminist paragon who defends a philandering husband.

Clinton’s opponent through an unexpectedly bruising primary, Senator Bernie Sanders, made the most of her amorphous identity. He’s the opposite, a figure of almost cartoon clarity. Clinton is not what she claims to be, Sanders charged. She claims to be on the side of underdogs, but she runs with big dogs. She says she will protect jobs, but she championed free trade. She extols the pragmatism that gets things done, but how is that different from cronyism and corruption?

Hillary Rodham Clinton is, in the words of one adviser, the most famous woman no one truly knows. And if distortions wrought by white-hot fame are partly to blame, she, too, is at fault. She has never made it easy to know her. She maintains a tiny circle of trust inside a fortress of supreme caution. Her brother-in-law Roger Clinton noticed this not long after Hillary Rodham joined the Clinton clan. “It was fried chicken and mashed potatoes,” he once said of his Southern family, “vs. a concrete wall.”

To Verveer, Clinton’s trouble is simply the human condition as magnified by the relentless lens of public scrutiny; we all contain multitudes. “At any given time, if you take a snapshot of her, it may not look like the previous snapshot. But in truth, we are all more complex than we may appear on our face,” Clinton’s longtime aide and confidante explained. “Depending on how you look, you see one thing and not another.”

Clinton’s identity could be a collection of nesting dolls, those nearly identical figures that fit neatly one inside the next. You unpack each lacquered image in hopes of finding something new and essential inside, but there is only another version of the same face in different proportions. For Hillary Clinton, the task between now and November is to make those faces add up to one integral, compelling, believable figure.

CRUSADER

Picture Hillary Diane Rodham at 21, marching around Lake Waban in the Boston suburbs to 735 Washington Street, the home of Wellesley College president Ruth Adams. Rodham is a familiar visitor. She has lobbied the venerable women’s college on everything from admitting more black students and adding black studies to the curriculum, to grading some courses pass-fail and ditching the skirt-required dress code in the dining hall.

Now it is spring of her senior year; Rodham is the student-government president, and her classmates want a student speaker as part of the commencement ceremony. Coming at the end of the tumultuous and often violent ’60s, the request seems modest enough. “What is the real objection?” the young activist pushes. “It’s never been done,” Adams protests weakly.

This is how Rodham arrived at her first burst of national attention: as a representative crusader in a generation of change seekers. When the Wellesley president backed down, she was given a platform for her speech. And stepping to the microphone on graduation day, she felt compelled to offer an impromptu critique of the milquetoast address delivered by Senator Edward Brooke, the featured orator.

This decision to take on a Senator was a measure of the distance her restless mind and political passions had taken her in a few years. A devout churchgoer and eager Republican–she volunteered as a “Goldwater girl” in high school–Rodham was now scorching the status quo. Her conservative father had done little to seed such confidence. “You must go to a pretty easy school,” Hugh Rodham grunted when shown her perfect grades. It was at Wellesley where she caught fire.

Her speech became one of the most celebrated of that graduation season. “We are, all of us, exploring a world that none of us even understands, and attempting to create within that uncertainty,” Clinton said in a clipped accent few would recognize today. “And so our questions–our questions about our institutions, about our colleges, about our churches, about our government–continue.” The applause when she finished reportedly lasted for seven minutes.

LIFE magazine noted her triumph. Photographed in striped pants and thick glasses, Rodham appeared with a headline borrowed from her speech: Protest is an attempt to forge an identity.

And yet: her soul mates of today, the young activists on campuses across the country, shunned her by the millions in favor of Bernie’s bugle call. In their protests against her campaign machine, they forged their own identities–and she somehow became another institution in need of questioning.

“When I go back and read it today, I have to admit it wasn’t the world’s most coherent address,” Clinton has said. What seemed so vivid in 1969 looks to her now like a study in grays. The flaws in her speech reflected a tension within Rodham herself, for she had a mixed view of social protest. She cared less about purity of intentions than about actual results. Student strikes, for example, seemed pointless to her without something to show for them. As she once mused to a friend, she had a liberal’s heart and a conservative’s head.

In any event, “the accolades and attacks turned out to be a preview of things to come,” Clinton wrote years later in her memoirs. “I have never been as good as or as bad as my fervid supporters and opponents claimed.”

PARTNER

After Wellesley and Yale Law School, Hillary Rodham distinguished herself as a young attorney on the team that prepared the impeachment of President Richard Nixon. What happened next shocked many of her friends and admirers. Instead of making her way up through the ranks of Washington, she moved to Arkansas to follow her law-school boyfriend, Bill Clinton, and soon entered the fraught role of wife, placing herself in the outsize shadow of the most talented, magnetic and undisciplined politician of the baby-boom generation.

Most marriages are opaque. The seemingly tranquil and loving union can suddenly collapse, while next door an apparently ill-matched pair sails onward through year after stormy year. Hillary Rodham’s marriage quickly became unusually complicated–and therefore hard to read–because it was only one aspect of a larger partnership embarked on a supremely ambitious undertaking. As she alerted a friend in 1974, “Bill Clinton is going to be President of the United States someday.”

When her identity as an individual has clashed with the demands of the partnership, the union has come first. Arkansas voters were put off by this high-powered young woman who dressed like a hippie, loved policy and spoke with a flat Midwestern accent. In 1980, after a single term, they converted Bill from the youngest governor in America into the youngest ex-governor, and many observers assigned a large share of the blame to his wife. What manner of First Lady didn’t even share her husband’s surname, and why call herself Ms. when she ought to be Mrs.?

So Hillary Rodham added Clinton to her handle, lightened her hair and ditched her glasses in favor of contacts. G’s began fallin’ from the ends of her words. Sunday mornings found the lifelong Methodist in her husband’s pew at a Southern Baptist church.

This was no casual makeover, but it worked. Bill Clinton was re-elected after two years in the public’s doghouse. Husband and wife returned to the governor’s mansion with a toddler in tow. Chelsea delighted her mother even as she further complicated the question of identity, because it was more urgent than before that Hillary assume the role of chief breadwinner. The governor of Arkansas was paid only a modest salary.

Many doors were opened to the governor’s wife, and given Clinton’s talents and education, she made the most of the opportunities. Hillary Rodham Clinton reported a 1992 income of $203,172 compared with her husband’s take-home pay of $34,527. She became a partner at Little Rock’s leading law firm and held plum seats on the boards of Walmart, the frozen-yogurt chain TCBY and the French industrial giant Lafarge. A foray into commodities trading guided by a family friend yielded a tidy 10,000% return. “The ’80s were about acquiring wealth, power, prestige,” Clinton reflected in 1993. “I know. I acquired more wealth, power and prestige than most. But you can acquire all you want and still feel empty.”

She filled the chasm with still more roles. She was her husband’s top adviser in private and his best character witness in public. When Bill Clinton won the White House in 1992, it was Hillary Clinton who carried her husband’s speech in the pocket of her blue suit as they arrived onstage outside the Old State House in Little Rock. She helped the President-elect choose his top aides and his Cabinet. She was the first First Lady to have an office in the West Wing. “She knows more about a lot of this stuff than most of us do,” Bill Clinton told the Wall Street Journal.

WARRIOR

With her assignment to lead the Administration’s ambitious health-care-reform effort, Hillary Clinton upended the traditional role of First Lady. She had spearheaded projects for the partnership before, but never on such a scale. She shaped policy, plotted tactics, lobbied lawmakers and pitched the public as Cabinet members and presidential aides jumped to her command. But the project ended in defeat, helping to fuel the first Republican takeover of Congress in some 40 years. Her failure was so bitter that Hillary Clinton mused in 1996 that someone in her position might “totally withdraw and perhaps put a bag over [her] head.”

Instead, she chose to fight. Dorothy Rodham, Hillary’s mother, loved to tell about a day in the 1950s when her daughter thrashed the neighborhood bully. But most Americans did not see the fighting side of Hillary until she was embattled in the White House. When they did, this aspect of her identity reshaped what they felt about her–whether they liked or hated what they saw.

The first gauntlet landed at the site of her own initial triumph. She was paying a courtesy call on the president of Wellesley when she received a call from her attorney. She had been subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury about a long-ago land deal in Arkansas. It was, Clinton believed, a purely political and mean-spirited investigation.

She prepared so intensely that she lost 10 pounds. When the morning of her testimony arrived, she chose to walk through the front door of the federal courthouse rather than direct her motorcade into the underground garage. Smiling and waving at the crowd that had gathered to see history–the first presidential spouse to testify in such a forum–Clinton was pure sangfroid. “Cheerio! Off to the firing squad,” she said as she left her lawyers and entered the sealed grand jury room.

Afterward, a reporter asked if the First Lady would have preferred to be anywhere else that day. “Oh, about a million other places,” she said drily–but something about Clinton must love the trenches, because she fights so doggedly in them. “I never saw her go into a meeting or a speech or even informal remarks less than fully prepared,” said Bill Galston, a policy adviser in the Clinton Administration. “She has a lot of faith in the capacity of hard work and evidence to win people over.”

On another occasion, when even the White House staff seemed to doubt her innocence of some charge or other, tears welled in her eyes as she said, “I don’t want to hear anything more. I want us to fight.”

And there have been so many, many fights. But as so often in trench warfare, the battle ends in grim stalemate. “Whenever I go out and fight, I get vilified, so I have just learned to smile and take it,” she told White House adviser George Stephanopoulos in 1995, according to his memoirs. “I go out there and say, ‘Please, please, kick me again, insult me some more.’ You have to be much craftier behind the scenes.”

Candidate Clinton was back at the witness table last autumn, when lawmakers grilled her for 11 hours over the deaths of four Americans at a diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. In public and to the FBI, she has stubbornly defended every inch of crumbling clifftop beneath her feet in the controversy over her private email server. Under attack by Sanders, she refused to release transcripts of her paid speeches to Wall Street audiences, or even to concede that the speeches were a mistake.

Friends muse that the years of combat have left her unrecognizable in public: hedging, defensive, even misleading. “Sometimes, I am saddened by her understandable loss of spontaneity,” the late Diane Blair reflected on this lasting change to her friend’s personality. “It was one of her most endearing qualities. But in public now, she filters out her first response and sometimes her second one, and that contributes to a sense that she is aloof and haughty.” Another friend of long standing put it this way: “There is a wellspring of bitterness and anger and bewilderment, a deep reservoir of hurt.” Clinton’s explanation for her reticence: “The reason that I sometimes sound careful with my words is not that I’m hiding something. It’s just that I’m careful with my words.”

PRAGMATIST

Identity is not only what we intend to reveal but what is actually seen–and how this is perceived. Now, in the late phase of Clinton’s long career, the face she most wants the public to see, the essential figure at the center of the nesting dolls, is the doer, the person who makes things happen, artist of the nitty-gritty when necessary, a compromiser if that’s what it takes.

After her failure with health care, the First Lady embraced her husband’s strategy of pragmatism. To the extent that two huge characters can lower their profiles, they did. They went to work on projects acceptable to a hostile Congress. Some continue to be a source of pride, like the children’s health-insurance plan that now serves 8 million kids.

Persuaded to run for a vacant Senate seat in New York in 2000, Clinton took the same approach. Though she was a global celebrity, she put her head down and worked on parochial issues. She passed up a seat on the glamorous Senate Committee on Foreign Relations for one on the Armed Services panel, where she could wrangle the concerns of New Yorkers in uniform and build her national-security credentials.

Senator Clinton also grappled with the decidedly unsexy issue of upstate agriculture, connecting New York City’s restaurant industry to the struggling operations of New York farmers. She ferried a delegation of city restaurateurs to the fields and vineyards of the Empire State, where the foodies found produce as good as any shipped from out of state. At the same time, she nudged the farmers to plant heirloom tomatoes, microgreens and other trendy crops that city diners fancied.

Noting the spicy peppers growing in the elephant enclosure of the Bronx Zoo, she asked a shipping distributor to persuade zoo officials to sell their own line of hot sauce. News that small-business owners in rural New York lacked computer resources sent her to cajole Hewlett-Packardexecutives into donating laptops to enable online sales of moccasins and fishing rods.

It was the same when she served as Secretary of State. Circling the globe to conduct diplomacy face-to-face, Clinton rebuilt a badly frayed U.S. image and along the way specialized in minor, tangible victories, like the clean cookstoves and microloans she put in the hands of poor people. Such achievements don’t tame Putin or stabilize Libya, but as one senior aide put it, a woman in an African village who can feed her children because of a microloan cares passionately about that program. “As an advocate, she is practical about getting results,” said Neera Tanden, a longtime Clinton adviser and friend. “Her real measure is, how do you accomplish something in people’s lives?”

IN FOCUS

Among the many faces Clinton has slipped on and off, there was–back in the White House years–the Mystic. Critics had a short but happy romp with the news that she was channeling the spirit of Eleanor Roosevelt during sessions with a “human potential researcher.” Clinton was open about such conversations, dating back to her first days as First Lady. In her own head, Clinton asked Roosevelt, “How did you put up with this?” And that much-criticized First Lady replied, “You’re just going to have to get out there and do it. And don’t make excuses.”

In that spirit, Clinton has waged many fights, some admirable, some unnecessary, against enemies real and imagined. Over time, she has built up an outer shell, an armor, that makes her difficult to comprehend. Michael Muzyk, a New York trucking executive, tells the story of a day in 2004 when he accompanied the Senator on one of those upstate missions to promote local farmers’ produce. At the state fairgrounds, Clinton received word that her husband had been hospitalized for emergency heart surgery.

“I guess you gotta go,” Muzyk said immediately. But Clinton demurred. People were waiting to hear her speak. Her husband, of all people, would understand.

“You’re crazy,” Muzyk remembers thinking. And he watched her do her duty, as she has done for years, with admiration–and mystification.

Those closest to her have long worried that she has conditioned herself never to let others in. “I just hope people don’t forget,” the late Dorothy Rodham said of her daughter, “that Hillary’s a human being.” But voters can hardly forget what they haven’t been given a chance to see.

“I personally know I have work to do on this front,” she told the audience in Chicago in June.

But after all that has happened–all the misunderstandings and misdirection, all the identities pried open to reveal other identities that turn out to contain others and so on–perhaps it is too late for a revelation of the “real Hillary,” the authentic champion that her friends tell us we would love, if only we could get to know her. If she opened up, which of the nesting dolls would she be? The activist, pushing for a Sanders-like agenda? The pragmatist, cutting deals with congressional Republicans over a stiff drink? The brawler, leading her band of true believers against a hostile, uncomprehending enemy?

Perhaps the bargain that she struck with herself as a young woman has made these questions as inevitable as they are unanswerable. Free to choose any life she could imagine, Hillary Rodham Clinton tasted many, discarded most and arrived in a place so unique, so vast and variegated, that simply being herself could never be enough.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

In 1992, non-Hispanic whites made up 84 percent of registered voters. Today, they represent 70 percent of registered voters. The percentage of Hispanics has nearly doubled to 9 percent. Mixed race or others have risen from 1 percent to 5 percent, and blacks have ticked up from 10 percent to 12 percent.

Dan Balz of The Washington Post writes:

The United States is becoming more diverse racially and ethnically, better educated overall and with a population that is aging. Pew’s analysis found the following: “The Democratic Party is becoming less white, less religious and better-educated at a faster rate than the country as a whole, while aging at a slower rate. Within the GOP, the pattern is the reverse.”

By putting together the demographic shifts with changes in party allegiance, the Pew study underscored two big changes — one talked about for some years, the other an ongoing issue for Republicans that Trump’s candidacy has highlighted. Both bode poorly for the Republicans if they cannot adjust their appeal rapidly.

In 1992, non-Hispanic whites made up 84 percent of registered voters. Today, they represent 70 percent of registered voters. The percentage of Hispanics has nearly doubled to 9 percent. Mixed race or others have risen from 1 percent to 5 percent, and blacks have ticked up from 10 percent to 12 percent.

Both parties have become less white in their makeup, but the changes have moved at significantly different rates. In 1992, whites accounted for 76 percent of Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents. Today, whites make up 57 percent. Meanwhile, whites made up 93 percent of Republicans a quarter-century ago. Today, they’re still 86 percent. In other words, there’s been a 19-point shift inside the Democratic Party and only a seven-point shift in the GOP coalition.

As the baby-boom generation retires, the overall age of the population increases. Over the past quarter-century, the median age of registered voters, according to the Pew report, has risen from 46 to 50. What’s happened to the parties? In 1992, the Republican Party had a slightly younger cohort than the Democrats. Today, the GOP is significantly older in its makeup than the Democrats — and older by two years than the median age.

The other big shift is the education levels of the two party’s followers. When Bill Clinton was elected president, Republican voters were in general much better educated than Democratic voters. Today’s Democratic Party followers have somewhat higher education levels than Republicans.

Trump’s candidacy has drawn its strongest support from white voters who lack college degrees. He has taken advantage of what has been a major movement of these blue-collar voters from their historic home in the Democratic Party. Trump did not trigger the shift toward the Republicans; it began some time ago, though it has accelerated over the past few years.

In 1992, whites without college degrees accounted for 63 percent of all registered voters. Today, because of more diversity and higher levels of education, white, non-college-educated voters account for 45 percent in 2016 Pew surveys. Meanwhile, whites with college degrees have increased from a fifth of the electorate to a quarter today.

Writing in The Hill recently, Democratic pollster Mark Mellman observed: “While Republicans are, and have been, making gains with non-college whites, they are suffering continuing — albeit smaller — defections from whites who hold a college degree. In the long run, that’s bad news for the GOP.”

Monday, August 15, 2016

Peggy Noonan: How Global Elites Forsake Their Countrymen - Those in power see people at the bottom as aliens whose bizarre emotions they must try to manage.

Peggy Noonan writes in The Wall Street Journal:

This is about distance, and detachment, and a kind of historic decoupling between the top and the bottom in the West that did not, in more moderate recent times, exist.

Recently I spoke with an acquaintance of Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, and the conversation quickly turned, as conversations about Ms. Merkel now always do, to her decisions on immigration. Last summer when Europe was engulfed with increasing waves of migrants and refugees from Muslim countries, Ms. Merkel, moving unilaterally, announced that Germany would take in an astounding 800,000. Naturally this was taken as an invitation, and more than a million came. The result has been widespread public furor over crime, cultural dissimilation and fears of terrorism. From such a sturdy, grounded character as Ms. Merkel the decision was puzzling—uncharacteristically romantic about people, how they live their lives, and history itself, which is more charnel house than settlement house.

Ms. Merkel’s acquaintance sighed and agreed. It’s one thing to be overwhelmed by an unexpected force, quite another to invite your invaders in! But, the acquaintance said, he believed the chancellor was operating in pursuit of ideals. As the daughter of a Lutheran minister, someone who grew up in East Germany, Ms. Merkel would have natural sympathy for those who feel marginalized and displaced. Moreover she is attempting to provide a kind of counter-statement, in the 21st century, to Germany’s great sin of the 20th. The historical stain of Nazism, the murder and abuse of the minority, will be followed by the moral triumph of open arms toward the dispossessed. That’s what’s driving it, said the acquaintance.

It was as good an explanation as I’d heard. But there was a fundamental problem with the decision that you can see rippling now throughout the West. Ms. Merkel had put the entire burden of a huge cultural change not on herself and those like her but on regular people who live closer to the edge, who do not have the resources to meet the burden, who have no particular protection or money or connections. Ms. Merkel, her cabinet and government, the media and cultural apparatus that lauded her decision were not in the least affected by it and likely never would be.

Nothing in their lives will get worse. The challenge of integrating different cultures, negotiating daily tensions, dealing with crime and extremism and fearfulness on the street—that was put on those with comparatively little, whom I’ve called the unprotected. They were left to struggle, not gradually and over the years but suddenly and in an air of ongoing crisis that shows no signs of ending—because nobody cares about them enough to stop it.

The powerful show no particular sign of worrying about any of this. When the working and middle class pushed back in shocked indignation, the people on top called them “xenophobic,” “narrow-minded,” “racist.” The detached, who made the decisions and bore none of the costs, got to be called “humanist,” “compassionate,” and “hero of human rights.”

And so the great separating incident at Cologne last New Year’s, and the hundreds of sexual assaults by mostly young migrant men who were brought up in societies where women are veiled—who think they should be veiled—and who chose to see women in short skirts and high heels as asking for it.

Cologne of course was followed by other crimes.

The journalist Chris Caldwell reports in the Weekly Standard on Ms. Merkel’s statement a few weeks ago, in which she told Germans that history was asking them to “master the flip side, the shadow side, of all the positive effects of globalization.”

Caldwell: “This was the chancellor’s . . . way of acknowledging that various newcomers to the national household had begun to attack and kill her voters at an alarming rate.” Soon after her remarks, more horrific crimes followed, including in Munich (nine killed in a McDonald’sMCD0.12%) Reutlingen (a knife attack) and Ansbach (a suicide bomber).

***


The larger point is that this is something we are seeing all over, the top detaching itself from the bottom, feeling little loyalty to it or affiliation with it. It is a theme I see working its way throughout the West’s power centers. At its heart it is not only a detachment from, but a lack of interest in, the lives of your countrymen, of those who are not at the table, and who understand that they’ve been abandoned by their leaders’ selfishness and mad virtue-signalling.

On Wall Street, where they used to make statesmen, they now barely make citizens. CEOs are consumed with short-term thinking, stock prices, quarterly profits. They don’t really believe that they have to be involved with “America” now; they see their job as thinking globally and meeting shareholder expectations.

In Silicon Valley the idea of “the national interest” is not much discussed. They adhere to higher, more abstract, more global values. They’re not about America, they’re about . . . well, I suppose they’d say the future.

In Hollywood the wealthy protect their own children from cultural decay, from the sick images they create for all the screens, but they don’t mind if poor, unparented children from broken-up families get those messages and, in the way of things, act on them down the road.

From what I’ve seen of those in power throughout business and politics now, the people of your country are not your countrymen, they’re aliens whose bizarre emotions you must attempt occasionally to anticipate and manage.

In Manhattan, my little island off the continent, I see the children of the global business elite marry each other and settle in London or New York or Mumbai. They send their children to the same schools and are alert to all class markers. And those elites, of Mumbai and Manhattan, do not often identify with, or see a connection to or an obligation toward, the rough, struggling people who live at the bottom in their countries. In fact, they fear them, and often devise ways, when home, of not having their wealth and worldly success fully noticed.

Affluence detaches, power adds distance to experience. I don’t have it fully right in my mind but something big is happening here with this division between the leaders and the led. It is very much a feature of our age. But it is odd that our elites have abandoned or are abandoning the idea that they belong to a country, that they have ties that bring responsibilities, that they should feel loyalty to their people or, at the very least, a grounded respect.

I close with a story that I haven’t seen in the mainstream press. This week the Daily Caller’s Peter Hasson reported that recent Syrian refugees being resettled in Virginia, were sent to the state’s poorest communities. Data from the State Department showed that almost all Virginia’s refugees since October “have been placed in towns with lower incomes and higher poverty rates, hours away from the wealthy suburbs outside of Washington, D.C.” Of 121 refugees, 112 were placed in communities at least 100 miles from the nation’s capital. The suburban counties of Fairfax, Loudoun and Arlington—among the wealthiest in the nation, and home to high concentrations of those who create, and populate, government and the media—have received only nine refugees.

Some of the detachment isn’t unconscious. Some of it is sheer and clever self-protection. At least on some level they can take care of their own.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

A Struggle for Common Ground, Amid Fears of a National Fracture

From The New York Times:

It felt like a watershed moment for a scattered and still-young civil rights movement.

Inside Black Lives Matter, the national revulsion over videos of police officers shooting to death black men in Minnesota and Louisiana was undeniable proof that the group’s message of outrage and demands for justice had finally broken through.

Even the white governor of Minnesota, Mark Dayton, in a pained public concession, embraced the movement’s central argument. “Would this have happened if those passengers — the driver and the passengers — were white?” he asked. “I don’t think it would’ve.”

Then, in an instant, everything changed.

Black Lives Matter now faces perhaps the biggest crisis in its short history: It is both scrambling to distance itself from an African-American sniper in Dallas who set out to murder white police officers and trying to rebut a chorus of detractors who blame the movement for inspiring his deadly attack.

“What I saw in Dallas was devastating to our work,” said Jedidiah Brown, a Chicago pastor who has emerged as an outspoken Black Lives Matter activist over the past year. The moment he learned of the attack on the police, he said, he immediately sensed that any emerging national consensus would “tear down the middle.”

“The thing I vividly remember thinking was, this is going to show exactly how divided this conversation is,” he said.

For those who have harbored doubts or animosity toward Black Lives Matter — among them police unions and conservative leaders — the Dallas attacks are a cudgel that, fairly or not, they are eager to swing.

In Texas, several state officials, including Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, lashed out at the group, directly linking its tone and tactics to the killings. Mr. Patrick acknowledged that the demonstration in Dallas on Thursday night had been peaceful until the gunman struck, but he accused the movement of creating the conditions for what happened. “I do blame former Black Lives Matter protests,” he said.

“This has to stop,” Mr. Patrick said, adding of the police officers, “These are real people.”

State Representative Bill Zedler, a Republican, was equally blunt in his assessment of the group’s influence on the 25-year-old gunman, Micah Johnson.

“Clearly the rhetoric of Black Lives Matters encouraged the sniper that shot Dallas police officers,” he wrote on Twitter.

But a bigger problem for Black Lives Matter, supported by many liberals, is that Mr. Johnson’s actions could jeopardize the movement’s appeal to a broader group of Americans who have gradually become more sympathetic to its cause after years of highly publicized police shootings.

In the days before the Dallas massacre, Aesha Rasheed, 39, an activist in New Orleans, felt that at long last, white and black America were watching the same images with the same horror: two Louisiana police officers tackling and then shooting Alton Sterling, 37, at point-blank range; the slumped, blood-soaked body of Philando Castile, 32, after a Minnesota police officer shot him through a car window, with his girlfriend and her daughter sitting inches away.

“It seemed like a national consciousness was sinking in,” Ms. Rasheed said.

After the massacre in Dallas, she said, “it turned on a dime.”

She now worries that the episodes involving black men may be overshadowed and overlooked.

“Does this get ignored?” she asked. “Do five officers take center stage?”

Black Lives Matter usually spurns central planning and management. But in a sign of alarm over the volatile situation, leaders of several organizations associated with the movement put out formal statements that repeatedly described the Dallas attacker as a lone gunman, unconnected to the group’s cause.

“There are some who would use these events to stifle a movement for change and quicken the demise of a vibrant discourse on the human rights of Black Americans,” read a statement from the Black Lives Matter Network. “We should reject all of this.”

The police have said Mr. Johnson — a military veteran who told the authorities that he had hunted down white police officers as retribution for their abuses — had no direct links to any protest group.

But in recounting Mr. Johnson’s final hours, Chief David O. Brown of the Dallas Police Department mentioned the movement by name. “The suspect said he was upset about Black Lives Matter,” he said.

The wider world may now expect or even demand a period of reflection and restraint from the members of Black Lives Matter.

But public, nonviolent confrontation, rather than private conciliation, is central to the group’s mission: shouting at police officers, for example, or staging elaborate “die-ins” that evoke death at the hands of law enforcement.

This in-your-face style has at times rankled even the movement’s allies: A Black Lives Matter protester interrupted Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont during a Seattle campaign rally in August and seized control of his microphone, inflaming his aides and some of his supporters. “Excuse me!” Mr. Sanders cried.

That combative approach is deliberate. The group is premised, activists said, on a rejection of what they see as a dominant mainstream culture that has marginalized the value of African-American lives for decades.

Black Lives Matter was born, as a phrase and a rallying cry, after the 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman in the Florida shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African-American 17-year-old. By the time demonstrators took to the streets of Ferguson, Mo., a year later to protest the killing of Michael Brown, another unarmed African-American, it was the motto and name of a decentralized collection of activists.

Today, at least 37 groups operate under the movement’s name, and tens of thousands of supporters identify with its cause.

In interviews on Friday, activists scoffed at calls to recalibrate their message or their strategy, or to temporarily pause protests out of respect for the dead police officers in Texas.

By Friday night, protesters had returned to the streets in multiple cities, swarming the Williamsburg Bridge in New York; shutting down a major highway in Atlanta; and marching through downtown Phoenix, where officers used pepper spray and beanbag guns to keep the demonstrators from taking over Interstate 10. In each city, the protesters were trailed by the police, as they were in Dallas.

But it was clear that the national conversation had changed. On social media, Black Lives Matter activists watched with dismay on Thursday night as a squall of outrage and mourning over the shootings of Mr. Sterling and Mr. Castile was suddenly overwhelmed by a furious outcry over the shooting of Dallas police officers and messages of rage directed at activists and protesters. The hashtag #blacklivesmatter was joined by #bluelivesmatter, a rival reference to police officers.

“This anti-cop rhetoric has to stop. It’s sickening,” wrote one Twitter user using the hashtag. “We will not forget or forgive,” wrote another.

Sitting in his bed after midnight with an iPhone, DeRay Mckesson, 30, a Black Lives Matter activist, watched the rapid change in tone. “It suddenly became about blame,” he said. “People wanted to link it to the protesters no matter what.”

Undeterred, several activists rebuffed the view of the carnage in Dallas as a potential setback to their cause. Ja’Mal Green, another activist, said the killings were, in their own grisly way, a powerful wake-up call.

“It’s not a setback at all,” Mr. Green said. “That’s showing the people of this country that black people are getting to a boiling point. We are tired of watching police kill our brothers and sisters. We are tired of being tired.”

He insisted that he was not encouraging violence. But he said there “comes a time when black people will snap.”

He added: “It only takes a couple to get past that boiling point. You saw that in Dallas.”

As conservative commentators like Rush Limbaugh assailed Black Lives Matter as “a terrorist group committing hate crimes,” activists like Wendi Moore-O’Neal saw echoes of repeated attempts throughout American history, including efforts by the federal government, to discredit civil rights groups and leaders.

“It’s just made up,” she said of those who held Black Lives Matter responsible in any way for the Dallas attack. “It’s not true.”

“I can’t think of any of the justice or liberation organizations that I know,” Ms. Moore-O’Neal said, “that have an investment in shooting cops.”

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Trump Was a Spark, Not the Fire - The establishments, both media and conservative, failed to anticipate how they’d be consumed.

Peggy Noonan writes in The Wall Street Journal:

God bless our beloved country as it again undergoes one of its quiet upheavals.

Donald Trump will receive the Republican nomination for the presidency and nothing will be the same. How we do politics in America is changed and will not be going back. The usual standards and expectations have been turned on their head, and more than one establishment has been routed.

A decent interval should be set aside for sheer astonishment.

We face six months of what will be a historically hellacious campaign. Yes, we picked the wrong time to stop taking opioids.

Before I go to larger issues I mention how everyone, especially the media, is blaming the media for Donald Trump’s rise. I hate to get in the way of their self-flagellation but that’s not how I see it. From the time he announced, they gave Mr. Trump unprecedented free media in long, live interviews, many by phone, some possibly from his bathtub. We’ll never know. It was a great boon to him and amounted, by one estimate, to nearly $2 billion worth of airtime.

But the media did not make Donald Trump’s allure, his allure made for big ratings. Mr. Trump was a draw from the beginning. If anyone had wanted to listen to Jeb Bush, cable networks would have been happy to show his rallies, too.

When Mr. Trump was on, ratings jumped, but it wasn’t only ratings, it was something else. It was the freak show at its zenith, it was great TV—you didn’t know what he was going to say next! He didn’t know! It was better than everyone else’s boring, prefabricated, airless, weightless, relentless word-saying—better than Ted Cruz, who seemed like someone who practiced sincere hand gestures in the mirror at night, better than Marco the moist robot, better than Hillary’s grim and horrifying attempts to chuckle like a person who chuckles.

And it was something else. TV producers were all sure he’d die on their show. They weren’t for Mr. Trump. By showing him they were revealing him: Look at this fatuous dope, see through him! They knew he’d quickly enough say something unforgivable, and if he said it on their air he died on their show! They took him down with the question! It was only after a solid six months of his not dying that they came to have qualms. They now understood they were helping him. Nothing he says is unforgivable to his supporters! Or, another way to put it, his fans would forgive anything so long as he promised to be what they want him to be, a human bomb that will explode by timer under a bench in Lafayette Park and take out all the people but leave the monuments standing.

In this regard today’s television producers remind me of the producers of 1969 who heard one day that Spiro Agnew, the idiotic new Republican vice president, was going to make a big speech lambasting the media for its liberal bias. They knew Agnew was about to make a fool of himself. Who would believe him? So they covered that speech all over the place, hyped it like you wouldn’t believe—no one in America didn’t hear about it. It made Agnew a sensation. The American people—“the silent majority”—saw it as Agnew did. “Nattering nabobs of negativism,” from the witty, alliterative pen of William Safire, entered the language.

The producers had projected their own loathing. They found out they and America loathed different things.

That’s a little like what happened this year with TV and Mr. Trump.

My, that wasn’t much of a defense, was it?

The Trump phenomenon itself would normally be big enough for any political cycle, but another story of equal size isn’t being sufficiently noticed and deserves mention. The Democratic base has become more liberal—we all know this part—but in a way the Republican base has, too. Or rather it is certainly busy updating what conservative means. The past few months, in state after state, one thing kept jumping out at me in primary exit polls. Democrats consistently characterize themselves as more liberal than in 2008, a big liberal year. This week in Indiana, 68% of Democratic voters called themselves liberal or very liberal. In 2008 that number was 39%. That’s a huge increase.

In South Carolina this year, 53% of Democrats called themselves very or somewhat liberal. Eight years ago that number was 44%—again, a significant jump. In Pennsylvania, 66% of respondents called themselves very or somewhat liberal. That number eight years ago was 50%.

The dynamic is repeated in other states. The Democratic Party is going left.

But look at the Republican side. However they characterize themselves, a majority of GOP voters now are supporting the candidate who has been to the left of the party’s established thinking on a host of issues—entitlement spending, trade, foreign policy. Mr. Trump’s colorfully emphatic stands on immigration have been portrayed as so wackily rightist that the nonrightist nature of his other, equally consequential positions has been obscured.

In my observation it is a mistake to think Mr. Trump’s supporters are so thick they don’t know his stands. They do.

It does not show an understanding of the moment to say Donald Trump by himself has changed the Republican Party. It is closer to the mark to say the base of the party is changing and Mr. Trump’s electric arrival on the scene made obvious what was already happening.

For this reason among others, I do not understand the impulse of the NeverTrump people to anathametize and shun those Republicans who will not vow to oppose Mr. Trump and commit to defeating him. They have been warned that if they don’t do these things they will not be allowed to help rebuild the party after Mr. Trump destroys it. Conservatives love to throw conservatives out of conservatism; it’s like an ancestral tic. But great political movements should not be run like private clubs. And have the anathemitizers noticed they aren’t in charge anymore? That in the great antiestablishment disruption of 2016 they have been upended, too?

We don’t know what’s coming in 2016, or what happens to the GOP if Mr. Trump wins or loses. If there is a rebuilding of the party, as opposed to an ongoing reinvention, we don’t know when that will commence. If it is a rebuilding, on what grounds do the NeverTrump forces think it will be rebuilt? As a neoconservative, functionally open-borders, slash-the-entitlements party?

I am not sure, whatever happens in 2016, that there will ever again be a market for that product. All this cycle I’ve been thinking of what Lee Atwater said when he wanted to communicate to a politician that a policy was not popular: “The dawgs don’t like the dawg food.”

Centers of gravity are shifting. The new Republican Party will not be rebuilt and re-formed in McLean, it will be rebuilt or re-formed in Massapequa.

Finally, can Mr. Trump win? Of course. Uphill but possible. If this year has taught us anything it is what Harrison Salisbury said he’d learned from a lifetime in journalism: “Expect the unexpected.”

Simple Patriotism Trumps Ideology - After 16 years, Americans have grown tired of both conservative and liberal abstractions.

Peggy Noonan writes in The Wall Street Journal:

The wind is at Donald Trump’s back, and it’s the kind that doesn’t lessen but build. Last week he won the New York primary with an astounding 60% of the vote to John Kasich’s 25% and Ted Cruz’s 15%. This week he swept the five-state Northeast regional primaries with numbers that neared or surpassed the New York results—54% in Maryland, 57% in Pennsylvania, 58% in Connecticut, 61% in Delaware and 64% in Rhode Island. He beat Mr. Kasich in Greenwich, Conn., the affluent enclave of the old moderate Republicanism. Amazingly, he carried every county in all five states, and every county in New York except Manhattan. With 10 million votes, Mr. Trump is on track to become the biggest primary vote-getter in GOP history. He did well with varied demographic groups, old and young, college graduates, rich and not.

This is the kind of political momentum that tends to grow. A political saying attributed to Haley Barbour is that in politics this is the dynamic: Good gets better and bad gets worse. Very smart analysts and reporters have been translating all these victories into delegate counts, which of course is the key question. But as I look at where we are I think: Get your mind off 1,237; get your mind on the wind at Donald Trump’s back. After all the missteps and embarrassments of the past few months, his support is building.

“I consider myself the presumptive nominee,” Mr. Trump said in his victory remarks. He is.

Nothing wrong with Mr. Cruz and Mr. Kasich continuing to forge on. If you added their votes together the other night, Mr. Trump still would have beaten them. But they’re imagining they still have a shot, and Mr. Cruz just brought inCarly Fiorina as a reinforcement. His admiration of Ronald Reagan is such that he even imitates his blunders. That is what it was for Reagan in 1976 when he picked a running mate before the convention. Desperate gambits are more likely to work when they don’t look desperate.

Here I note an odd aspect of this cycle. Candidates at this point, roughly nine months in, are supposed to be dog-tired, near the end of their personal resources, exhausted and, if they’re not winning, depressed. That’s how it usually goes. But Mr. Kasich is clearly having the time of his life and told me as much in November. Mr. Cruz told me the same thing last week, at a Journal editorial board meeting. I expected to see him tired and dragging. No, fresh as a daisy. Mr. Trump too is clearly having a ball.

I find their joy distressing. America is faced with overwhelming problems, the voters are deeply concerned about our future, and they’re happy little chappies in the cable news town hall. I think they’ve absorbed too well the idea of the power of the happy warrior. I would respect them more if now and then they’d outline our problems and look blue.

In my continuing quest to define aspects of Mr. Trump’s rise, to my own satisfaction, I offer what was said this week in a talk with a small group of political activists, all of whom back him. One was about to begin approaching various powerful and influential Republicans who did not support him, and make the case. I told her I’d been thinking that maybe Mr. Trump’s appeal is simple: What Trump supporters believe, what they perceive as they watch him, is that he is on America’s side.

And that comes as a great relief to them, because they believe that for 16 years Presidents Bush and Obama were largely about ideologies. They seemed not so much on America’s side as on the side of abstract notions about justice and the needs of the world. Mr. Obama’s ideological notions are leftist, and indeed he is a hero of the international left. He is about international climate-change agreements, and leftist views of gender, race and income equality. Mr. Bush’s White House was driven by a different ideology—neoconservatism, democratizing, nation building, defeating evil in the world, privatizing Social Security.

But it was all ideology.

Then Mr. Trump comes and in his statements radiate the idea that he’s not at all interested in ideology, only in making America great again—through border security and tough trade policy, etc. He’s saying he’s on America’s side, period.

And because people are so happy to hear this after 16 years, because it seems right to them, they give him a pass on his lack of experience in elective office and the daily realities of national politics. They accept him even though he is a casino developer and brander who became famous on reality TV.

They forgive it all. Not only because they’re tired of bad policy but because they’re tired of ideology.

You could see this aspect of Trumpism—I’m about America, end of story—in his much-discussed foreign-policy speech this week. I have found pretty much everything said about it to be true. It was long, occasionally awkward-sounding and sometimes contradictory. It was interesting nonetheless. He was trying to blend into a coherent whole what he’s previously said when popping off on the hustings. He was trying to establish that there’s a theme to the pudding. He was also trying to reassure potential supporters that he is actually serious, that he does have a foreign-policy framework as opposed to just a grab bag of emotional impulses.

The speech was an attack on the reigning Washington foreign-policy elite of both parties, which he scored as incompetent and unsuccessful: “Logic was replaced with foolishness and arrogance, and this led to one foreign-policy disaster after another.” Mistakes in Iraq, Egypt, Libya and Syria threw the region “into crisis,” and helped create ISIS. He described democracy-promotion efforts as destructive, costing “thousands of American lives and many trillions of dollars.” Our resources are overextended, our allies must contribute more, our friends don’t trust us, nor do our allies respect us. He called for “a coherent foreign policy based on American interests.” His interest is “focusing on creating stability.” “We must stop importing extremism through senseless immigration policies,” including a “pause for reassessment,” which will help prevent the next San Bernardino.

He positioned himself to Hillary Clinton’s left on foreign policy—she is hawkish, too eager for assertions of U.S. military power, and has bad judgement. This will be the first time in modern history a Republican presidential candidate is to the left of the Democrat, and that will make things interesting. It reminded me of how Mr. Trump, in his insistence that he will not cut or add new limits to entitlement spending, could get to Mrs. Clinton’s left on that key domestic question, too.

He certainly jumbles up the categories. Bobby Knight, introducing him at a rally in Evansville, Ind., on Thursday, said that Mr. Trump is not a Republican or a Democrat. The crowd seemed to like that a lot.

Those conservative writers and thinkers who have for nine months warned the base that Mr. Trump is not a conservative should consider the idea that a large portion of the Republican base no longer sees itself as conservative, at least as that term has been defined the past 15 years by Washington writers and thinkers.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

In Defense of Bill Clinton - No Democrat will speak up for his record in reducing crime.


From The Wall Street Journal:

Unleashing Bill Clinton as a Hillary campaign surrogate carries risks, as the former President can morph from effective advocate to roving liability, often in one sentence. The press is calling Mr. Clinton’s verbal dismantling of Black Lives Matter activists on Thursday an example of the latter, but in this case he is right on the merits and it’s a shame no one else in the Democratic Party will say so.

Protestors at a Philadelphia event heckled Mr. Clinton over 1994 bipartisan legislation to reduce crime, blaming the measure for more incarceration. One wielded a sign saying “black youth are not super predators,” a reference to a term Mrs. Clinton deployed in 1996 to describe young gang members, which she’s since apologized for. This is when Bill erupted.

“This is what’s the matter,” he said, motioning at the agitators. “I don’t know how you would characterize the gang leaders who got 13-year-olds hopped up on crack and sent them out onto the street to murder other African-American children. Maybe you thought they were good citizens.” He dug in further: “You are defending the people who kill the lives you say matter!”

Over some 13 minutes Mr. Clinton ticked off statistics on the drop in crime over the past two decades, including declines in murder and gun violence. He’s right that the bipartisan efforts of that era helped reduce crime enough so that policy makers can now consider criminal justice and sentencing reforms. Progressives at the time were happy to go along with Mr. Clinton’s New Democratic policies when center-right positioning seemed essential to winning the White House. But now they’re too intimidated by Black Lives Matter to tell the truth.

Mr. Clinton told a crowd at Penn State-Behnrend on Friday that he “almost” wanted to apologize for the incident, and it’s a sign of the progressive times that even a former President must kowtow to radical children with a political megaphone but no historical memory. The Black Lives Matter agitators should thank President Clinton, not excoriate him.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Unite to Defeat Radical Jihadism - Unite to Defeat Radical Jihadism

Peggy Noonan writes in The Wall Street Journal:

In striking at the political heart of Europe, home of the European Union, the ISIS jihadists were delivering a message: They will not be stopped.

What we are seeing now is not radical jihadist Islam versus the West but, increasingly, radical jihadist Islam versus the world. They are on the move in Africa, parts of Asia and of course throughout the Mideast.

Radical jihadism is not going to go away, not for a long time, probably decades. For 15 years it has in significant ways shaped our lives, and it will shape our children’s too. They will have to win the war.

It will not be effectively fought with guilt, ambivalence or double-mindedness. That, in the West, will have to change.

The usual glib talk of politicians—calls for unity, vows that we will not give in to fear—will produce in the future what they’ve produced in the past: nothing. “The thoughts and the prayers of the American people are with the people of Belgium,” said the president, vigorously refusing to dodge clichés. “We must unite and be together, regardless of nationality, race or faith, in fighting against the scourge of terrorism.” It is not an “existential threat,” he noted, as he does. But if you were at San Bernardino or Fort Hood, the Paris concert hall or the Brussels subway, it would feel pretty existential to you.

ISIS is essentially “medieval” in its religious nature, and “committed to purifying the world by killing vast numbers of people.” They intend to eliminate the infidel and raise up the caliphate—one like the Ottoman empire, which peaked in the 16th century and then began its decline.

Normal people have seen that a long time, but the leaders of the West—its political class, media powers and opinion shapers—have had a hard time coming to terms. I continue to believe part of the reason is that religion isn’t very important to many of them, so they have trouble taking it seriously as a motivation of others. An ardent Catholic, evangelical Christian or devout Jew would be able to take the religious aspect seriously when discussing ISIS. An essentially agnostic U.S. or European political class is less able. Thus they cast about—if only we give young Islamist men jobs programs or social integration schemes, we can stop this trouble. But jihadists don’t want to be integrated. They want trouble.

Our own president still won’t call radical Islam what it is, thinking apparently that if we name them clearly they’ll only hate us more, and Americans on the ground, being racist ignoramuses, will be incited by candor to attack their peaceful Muslim neighbors.

I end with a point about the sheer power of pride right now in Western public life. Republican operatives and elected officials in the U.S. don’t want to change their stand on illegal immigration, and a key reason is pride. They’re stiff-necked, convinced of their own higher moral thinking, and they will have open borders—which they do not call “open borders” but “comprehensive immigration reform,” which includes border-control mechanisms. But they’ll never get to the mechanisms. They see the rise of Donald Trump and know it has something to do with immigration, but—they can’t bow. Some months ago I spoke to an admirable conservative group and said the leaders of the GOP should change their stand. I saw one of their leaders wince, as if I had made a faux pas. Which, I understood, I had. I understood too that terrorism is only making the border issue worse, and something’s got to give.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

It’s Time for The Speech - Like JFK, Nixon and Obama, the moment is now for a big, campaign-saving speech.

Daniel Henninger writes in The Wall Street Journal on 3-3-2016:

It’s time for The Speech.

Readers who have spent a lifetime absorbing the melodramas of America’s presidential election politics, such as this one, will recognize instantly what I am proposing here. It is time for Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz to deliver The Speech—or lose. Lose the campaign, the party, the Supreme Court and an already diminished country’s next four years.
“The Speech” is the title history has conferred on Ronald Reagan’s 1964 speech called “A Time for Choosing.”

Reagan delivered the speech in October 1964 on behalf of the foundering presidential campaign of the Republican Party’s nominee, Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona. Goldwater suffered a historic loss to President Lyndon Johnson, but the televised, roughly 30-minute speech, launched Reagan’s political career. It was an electrifying—and accessible—definition of conservatism in America’s politics then.

An understanding of when the moment has arrived to give The Speech requires naming three other masterpieces of the art: Sen. John F. Kennedy’s address in 1960 about his Catholicism to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association two months before the election; Sen. Richard Nixon’s 1952 Checkers speech, also less than two months before the election; and Sen. Barack Obama’s speech on race, “A More Perfect Union,” in March 2008.

Their purpose: to rescue a campaign on the brink of dying for reasons seemingly beyond the candidate’s ability to control. All these speeches accomplished what no one thought possible. They overcame an enormous political obstacle, reversed the candidate’s fortunes and reopened a path to victory.

The political obstacle now is Donald Trump and a roiling base of support for Mr. Trump—revealed again in Super Tuesday’s results as about 35% of those voting.

The Trump candidacy is thought to be a political colossus, virtually unstoppable. The problems faced by Kennedy, Nixon and Obama were also said to be campaign killers.

Nixon’s Checkers speech, derided by some today, was in fact an astonishing feat of political reversal. Accused of financial improprieties, Gen. Dwight Eisenhower’s running mate was regarded as beyond saving. The televised speech, which Nixon paid for, was watched by 60 million people and produced an overnight outpouring of support for the beleaguered candidate.

Point: The concrete never sets in American politics. Opinions can change, or be changed.

In Kennedy’s case, a well-organized, public opposition of Protestants alleged that the first Catholic president would be a tool of the pope. It threatened to kill Kennedy’s chances in a tightly fought election. JFK’s reply, in the Houston speech before the ministers, was so powerful that it eliminated the issue from American politics.

Sen. Obama’s “More Perfect Union” was of course his Rev. Wright speech. The “fiery preacher” stories had brought the Obama campaign to a standstill. Essentially, Mr. Obama used the speech to elevate race in America to such sublime heights that it subsumed the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. The Speech righted the campaign.

Critics of these speeches to this day carp about the details. Their side lost.

The GOP Establishment’s Civil War - A free-for-all between Christie, Rubio, Cruz and others, while Trump hovers above it all.

Peggy Noonan writes in The Wall Street Journal back on 1-9-2016:

He said he’d build a wall and close the border and as the months passed and his competitors saw his surge, they too were suddenly, clearly, aggressively for ending illegal immigration.

Mr. Trump touched an important nerve in opposing the political correctness that has angered the American people for a quarter century. He changed the debate when he asked for a pause in Muslim immigration until America “can figure out what’s going on.” In the age of terror, that looked suspiciously like common sense. Americans do not want America to become what Europe is becoming.

You only have to look at what is reported to have happened in Cologne, Germany, on New Year’s Eve to get a sense that Europe’s establishment, with its politically correct thinking, is losing control. Angela Merkel is a great lady and most of her leadership has been sound as a drum, but she will probably lose her job eventually because of her epic miscalculation in accepting more than a million Middle Eastern refugees.

Her decision was no doubt driven by heart and sympathy, but it reminds me of the fall of Margaret Thatcher. In 1989 Thatcher moved to impose a change in the British tax system. This caused resentment and then unrest. She wouldn’t back down, and the next year she fell. Years later she told me what she’d learned. People are afraid, she said; they live closer to the margins than we understand. When you propose a big change you can leave people feeling as if the rug is being pulled from under them. That’s a big thing to learn, and she spoke of it with humility.

She lost her job by being too tough. Ms. Merkel has imperiled hers by being too soft. But the lesson is the same: know how close to the edge people feel, how powerless, and respect their anxiety. Don’t look down on it, and them.
Read more »

Monday, February 22, 2016

How Donald Trump’s Army Is Transforming the GOP - Populist agenda trumps traditional conservative ideologies for the new breed of Republican voter

Gerald Seib writes in The Wall Street Journal:

Amid all the odd changes unfolding in this election cycle, the most startling may be the way the Republican Party is transforming right before our eyes.

Whether Donald Trump is responsible for this transformation, or merely the beneficiary of it, is a chicken-and-egg question for history to decide. But the change now has been unleashed regardless of his electoral fate.

Through balloting in three states, it appears that a new set of voters is driving the GOP now. Their agenda is more populist and less ideological than has been the case for Republican voters in the past. They are prepared to break with the party’s traditional positions on a number of fronts, particularly on issues important to the Republicans’ core business constituency. They have little respect, and to some degree outright antipathy, for the party’s leaders.

Some of these voters appear new to the GOP, but many have been bouncing around in the party, lured in over the years by their differences with Democrats on cultural issues. The difference now is that they are energized, as opposed to apathetic, and united behind a single candidate. They are driving the primary process and changing the party in the process.

The voters Mr. Trump has pulled together in winning New Hampshire and South Carolina and coming in second in Iowa is a coalition of the economically and culturally alienated, voters who look angry but also a bit frightened. It is a far cry from the traditional GOP winners’ coalition.

In each of the first three states that have voted, Mr. Trump has carried by a wide margin Republican voters with a high-school education or less, according to polls of voters. In New Hampshire, he won almost half of such voters. In South Carolina, he also won 40% of those with some college education but not a college degree.

He also has won in each of the first three states among ideologically moderate Republicans and among those who consider themselves politically independent. He does better among older voters than younger ones; in both New Hampshire and South Carolina, he won among those age 65 and older. He does better among those on the lower half of the income scale than those on the upper half.

It’s important to note that Mr. Trump is drawing votes from across a broad spectrum of Republican voters; he fishes in every pond. But his core voters are in this new populist alignment.

To some extent, the Trump core looks like the voters who propelled Pat Buchanan, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum in earlier Republican election cycles. But not exactly: Their coalitions were more heavily tinged with evangelical voters, who are part of but not the heart of the Trump crowd. And those earlier contenders eventually became marginal candidates, not front-runners.

To some extent, this coalition also is a descendent of the tea-party movement that sprang to life in 2010, largely in response to the health-care law of President Barack Obama and his Democratic Party. Yet this coalition is different from that as well. Tea-party adherents were, by and large, ideologically conservative. The Trump coalition isn’t conservative in the traditional sense, or ideological at all.

This isn’t the country club, Wall Street, Chamber of Commerce or religious-conservative set within the GOP. It isn’t the deficit-hawk coalition, either, for Mr. Trump has proposed a tax plan that, according to outside analysts, would blow the biggest hole in the side of the budget. And he’s the GOP candidate most outspoken about not cutting benefits for Medicare and Social Security recipients.

Nor is this the coalition of neo-conservatives on security policy, for Mr. Trump has blasted the Iraq war those neo-cons inspired, and has kind words to say about Vladimir Putin, the Russian leader they abhor.

Ronald Reagan used to define the Republican Party as a three-legged stool made up of social conservatives, fiscal conservatives and national-security conservatives. The Trump coalition isn’t precisely any of those three.

This is a populist coalition, and Mr. Trump has won its support in part by breaking defiantly with traditional Republican economic policies. He mocks free-trade agreements that have had broad support within the party, and particularly within its normally powerful business wing. He has shredded the more open Reagan philosophy on immigration. He can sound more like a Democratic populist than a Republican one when talking about taxing hedge funds and private-equity firms.

He has openly ridiculed the last three presidential contenders of the Republican Party: Sen. John McCain, former President George W. Bush and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. He is critical of his party’s leaders in Congress and mocks his party’s donor base.

The voters drawn to these apostasies have moved from the GOP fringes to its heart—and other candidates trying to catch Mr. Trump ignore them at their peril.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Thorny Economics of Illegal Immigration - Arizona’s economy took a hit when many illegal immigrants left, but benefits also materialized

From The Wall Street Journal:

MARICOPA, Ariz.—After Arizona passed a series of tough anti-immigration laws, Rob Knorr couldn’t find enough Mexican field hands to pick his jalapeño peppers. He sharply reduced his acreage and invested $2 million developing a machine to remove pepper stems. His goal was to cut the number of laborers he needed by 90% and to hire higher-paid U.S. machinists instead.

“We used to have many migrant families. They aren’t coming back,” says Mr. Knorr, who owns RK Farms LLC, an hour’s drive from Phoenix.

Few issues in the presidential campaign are more explosive than whether and how much to crack down on illegal immigration, which some Republican candidates in particular blame for America’s economic woes. Arizona is a test case of what happens to an economy when such migrants leave, and it illustrates the economic tensions fueling the immigration debate.

Economists of opposing political views agree the state’s economy took a hit when large numbers of illegal immigrants left for Mexico and other border states, following a broad crackdown. But they also say the reduced competition for low-skilled jobs was a boon for some native-born construction and agricultural workers who got jobs or raises, and that the departures also saved the state money on education and health care. Whether those gains are worth the economic pain is the crux of the debate.

Gordon Hanson, a University of California at San Diego economist who has studied the issue for the nonpartisan Council on Foreign Relations, has detailed how large-scale immigration undermines wages for low-skilled workers. In Arizona’s case, he thinks the state is paying an economic price for its decision. “As the U.S. economy continues to recover, the Arizona economy will be weighed down by slower growth and by less export production in traditional industries” such as agriculture where illegal immigrants play a big role, he says.

Proponents of doing more to curb illegal immigration say the mass departures helped the state economically in several ways. Government spending on health care and education for illegal immigrants and their U.S.-born children dropped. Wages for plasterers, landscapers, farmworkers and other low-skilled laborers jumped because of scarcity, according to employers and federal data.

“Even if the size of the state’s GDP decreased, the decrease in immigration redistributed income from employers to employees, particularly at the bottom end of the labor market,” says Steven Camarota, research director of the Center for Immigration Studies, in Washington, which favors reduced illegal immigration. “That’s a good deal.”

 Big drop

Between 2007 and 2012, Arizona’s population of undocumented workers dropped by 40%—by far the biggest percentage decline of any state—according to the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan think tank whose numbers are cited by pro and anti-immigration groups. California, the biggest border state, lost just 12.5% of its illegal immigrants during that time period. Since 2012, Arizona’s illegal-immigrant population hasn’t grown much, if at all, according to state economists and employers and preliminary data from Pew. Since 2007, about 200,000 undocumented immigrants have left the state, which has a population of 6.7 million.

The cost of illegal immigration has been a big political issue in Arizona for years. But pinning down exactly how much it costs the state, and how much is collected from illegal immigrants through taxation, is surprisingly hard to do. The state doesn’t count it. Estimates vary widely, depending in part on debatable issues such as whether to include the cost of educating U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants.

In 2004, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a Washington-based group that seeks to reduce immigration, calculated that undocumented workers cost Arizona taxpayers more than $1 billion a year for education, medical care and incarceration, after subtracting the estimated taxes they pay.

Four years later, Judith Gans, then manager of the immigration-policy program at the University of Arizona’s Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy, examined the issue for all immigrants, not just illegal ones. She concluded that immigrants accounted for nearly $1 billion more in annual tax revenue than they cost the state.

Moody’s Analytics looked at Arizona’s economic output for The Wall Street Journal, with an eye toward distinguishing between the effects of the mass departures of illegal immigrants and the recession that hit the state hard beginning in 2008. It concluded that the departures alone had reduced Arizona’s gross domestic product by an average of 2% a year between 2008 and 2015. Because of the departures, total employment in the state was 2.5% lower, on average, than it otherwise would have been between 2008 and 2015, according to Moody’s.

The recession, of course, also hurt the state’s economy. Mr. Hanson, the immigration economist, said the economic downturn led many migrants to leave.

Economic activity produced by immigrants—what economists call the “immigration surplus”—shrank because there were fewer immigrants around to buy clothing and groceries, to work and to start businesses.

These days, construction, landscaping and agriculture industries, long dependent on migrants, complain of worker shortages. While competition for some jobs eased, there were fewer job openings overall for U.S.-born workers or legal immigrants.

According to the Moody’s analysis, low-skilled U.S. natives and legal Hispanic immigrants since 2008 picked up less than 10% of the jobs once held by undocumented immigrants. In a separate analysis, economists Sarah Bohn and Magnus Lofstrom of the Public Policy Institute of California and Steven Raphael of the University of California at Berkeley conclude that employment declined for low-skilled white native workers in Arizona during 2008 and 2009, the height of the out-migration. One bright spot: the median income of low-skilled whites who did manage to get jobs rose about 6% during that period, the economists estimate.

Arizona’s population of illegal immigrants grew nearly fivefold between 1990 and 2005, to about 450,000, according to Pew Research. Starting around 2004, the state approved a series of measures, either by ballot initiatives or legislation, aimed at discouraging illegal immigration. Undocumented immigrants in Arizona, about 85% of whom came from Mexico, are barred from receiving government benefits, including nonemergency hospital care. They can’t receive punitive damages in civil lawsuits. Many can’t get drivers’ licenses and aren’t eligible for in-state tuition rates. Arizona developed a national reputation for tough enforcement of the rules.

Some current Republican presidential contenders also take a tough line on immigration. GOP front-runner Donald Trump backs a “deportation force” to send home those here illegally, and he wants to build a wall on the Mexican border to keep out others. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz also wants a wall and would end Obama administration measures that have halted deportations of many undocumented workers.

On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders would allow illegal immigrants already here to become citizens, and would continue the Obama administration policies.

Arizona’s immigration flow started to reverse in 2008 after the state became the first to require all employers to use the federal government’s E-Verify system, which searches Social Security records to check whether hires are authorized to work in the U.S. That law coincided with the collapse of the construction industry and the recession. The combination persuaded many illegal immigrants to leave for neighboring states or Mexico.

In 2010, as the state economy began to recover, the Legislature stepped up pressure. Under a new law, SB 1070, police could use traffic stops to check immigration status. Another section of the law, later struck down by the Supreme Court, made it illegal for day laborers to stand on city streets and sign up for work on construction crews.

“It was like, ‘Where did everybody go?’ ” says Teresa Acuna, a Phoenix real-estate agent who works in Latino neighborhoods. Real-estate agent Patti Gorski says her sales records show that prices of homes owned by Spanish-speaking customers fell by 63% between 2007 and 2010, compared with a 44% drop for English-speaking customers, a difference she attributes partly to financial pressure on owners who had been renting homes to immigrants who departed.

SB 1070 prompted some unions and other organizations to boycott the state, in some cases canceling conventions. In Latino neighborhoods, sales declined at grocery stores and other businesses catering to migrants. At the Maryvale Market, in an immigrant community of ranch homes, Ashok Patel says his business is down by half since 2008.

On the other side of the economic ledger, government spending on immigrants fell. State and local officials don’t track total spending on undocumented migrants or how many of their children attend public schools. But the number of students enrolled in intensive English courses in Arizona public schools fell from 150,000 in 2008 to 70,000 in 2012 and has remained constant since. Schooling 80,000 fewer students would save the state roughly $350 million a year, by one measure.

During that same period, annual emergency-room spending on noncitizens fell 37% to $106 million, from $167 million. And between 2010 and 2014, the annual cost to state prisons of incarcerating noncitizens convicted of felonies fell 11% to $180 million, from $202 million.

“The economic factor is huge in terms of what it saves Arizona taxpayers,” primarily on reduced education costs, says Russell Pearce, who as a state senator sponsored SB 1070.

Worker shortage

As the Arizona economy recovered, a worker shortage began surfacing in industries relying on immigrants, documented or not. Wages rose about 15% for Arizona farmworkers and about 10% for construction between 2010 and 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some employers say their need for workers has increased since then, leading them to boost wages more rapidly and crimping their ability to expand.

Before the immigration crackdown, Precise Drywall Inc., of Phoenix, would deploy 50 people for jobs building luxury homes. “I could pull out phone books where I had 300 or 400 guys’ numbers” to fill out crews, recalls company President Jeremy Barbosa. No longer. Many immigrants left and haven’t returned, while other workers moved on to other industries.

“Now you have to put out feelers, buy ads, go on Craigslist, tap job agencies just to get a few men,” says Mr. Barbosa. “Growth is based on the ability to hire.”

At a Home Depot store in Maryvale recently, a dozen men from Mexico and Central America milled around the parking lot looking for work. Juan Castillo, a gregarious Mexican who said he had regularly crossed the border illegally over the past 10 years, said he and his colleagues can do landscaping, concrete work, drywall or whatever else is needed.

Before E-Verify, 30 to 40 men would show up at 4:30 a.m. and would usually find jobs by 10 a.m. Since then, the job seekers rarely thin out during the day despite the worker shortage because employers are shying away from hiring undocumented workers.

“E-Verify is a problem for us,” Mr. Castillo said. “We can work for a week. It takes that long for the paperwork. Then we’re out.”

Another would-be worker, Manuel Bernal, noted that because the Mexican economy has improved, laborers with families in that country are more inclined to stay there. Pew Research says that, nationally, more Mexicans now are heading home than coming into the U.S. The Center for Migration Studies estimated the number of undocumented immigrants fell to 10.9 million in 2014, from 12 million in 2008.
 
The labor shortage has caused some wages to rise. Carlos Avelar, a placement officer at Phoenix Job Corps, a federal job-training center, says graduates now often mull two or three jobs offers from construction firms and occasionally start at $14.65 an hour instead of $10.

At DTR Landscape Development LLC, the firm’s president, Dick Roberts, says he has increased his starting wage by 60% to $14.50 an hour because he is having trouble finding reliable workers.

One immigrant-heavy industry, construction, has added about 15,000 jobs in Arizona since 2011 and now has total employment of 127,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, half the number of 2006. Employment in farming, which also depends on immigrants, has rarely exceeded 9,500 since 2008, according to the bureau, whose numbers mainly cover workers on large farms.

Mr. Knorr, the pepper grower, says he planted just 120 acres last year, down from as many as 550 in years past, because he couldn’t find enough harvest workers.

Some peppers he was unable to harvest by Thanksgiving turned red on the vine—“chocolate,” in farmer parlance. That made them useless to salsa makers, who want only green peppers. He plowed the plants under.

He says mechanization is his future. He continues to pour time and money into a laser-guided device to remove stems from peppers, which pickers now do by hand in the field. Another farmer in the area developed a mechanical carrot harvester.

Mr. Knorr says he is willing to pay $20 an hour to operators of harvesters and other machines, compared with about $13 an hour for field hands. He says he can hire skilled machinists at community colleges, so he can rely less on migrant labor.

“I can find skilled labor in the U.S.,” he says. “I don’t have to go to bed and worry about whether harvesting crews will show up.”

Write to Bob Davis at bob.davis@wsj.com