The State of the Race


Debate2This won’t be another debate recap post. An army of pundits (Please note: Worst. Army. Ever.) has already dissected last night’s proceedings and the emerging consensus seems about right to me: Carly Fiorina dominated, Marco Rubio and Chris Christie both had some pretty good moments, and Donald Trump’s pilot light kept shutting off. Everyone else was basically treading water. In the undercard debate, Bobby Jindal and Lindsey Graham both looked serviceable, but c’mon — it’s not that big of a deal to win the NIT.

So let’s play the story forward: after last night, what dynamics play out over the six weeks until the next GOP debate takes place in Boulder, Colorado? (Seriously, RNC? Boulder? Was George Soros’ penthouse booked that night?) Here are some of the trends I’ll be watching for:

Carly in the Crosshairs

Changing of the Guard


Hartford Mayor-elect Luke Bronin (left) and current Mayor Pedro Segarra.

Yesterday, Hartford selected its new mayor. To be precise, it was primary day, and the Democratic Party selected its candidate. But in this Democrat-dominated Northeastern city, the winner of the primary is almost certain to win the general election in November.

Rep. Polis: ‘Sorry I’m Not Sorry’ For Belittling Student Due Process Rights


Jared PolisSome of you may remember my post last week about the disturbing comments Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) made in an exchange with FIRE’s Joe Cohn during a congressional hearing on “Preventing and Responding to Sexual Assault on College Campuses.” When discussing due process rights for the accused, Polis made the shocking suggestion that college students accused of sexual assault should be expelled even if they are innocent:

“If there are 10 people who have been accused, and under a reasonable likelihood standard maybe one or two did it, it seems better to get rid of all 10 people.”

After receiving considerable media backlash, on Tuesday, Polis wrote a piece in Boulder’s Daily Camera explaining that he “misspoke” at the hearing and apologizing to his constituents for his apparent contempt for the due process rights of the accused.

Do Republicans Care About Winning?


DebateThe question dogs any woman who writes about politics: “Don’t you want to see the first woman elected president of the United States?” The unstated premise, always obvious, is that you are some sort of traitor to your sex if your hand isn’t itching to pull the lever for someone with the correct chromosomes. My answer has always been, “That depends upon what she believes.”

Hillary Clinton banked on the First Woman President effect from the start — an understandable gambit for someone with no substantive accomplishments and many flaws. Her sex may be the only thing she hasn’t lied about. She doubtless lulls herself to sleep at night by lovingly eyeing the cross tabs of election data showing that women are an ever increasing share of the total electorate (53 percent in 2012); that single women in particular lean hard to the Democrats (67 percent voted for Obama in 2012); and that marriage is on the decline among younger voters.

Two things will disturb her reverie. One: In the past two months, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll, Mrs. Clinton’s support among Democratic women voters has dropped by 29 points, from 71 percent to 42 percent. Two: Carly Fiorina demonstrates what a true leader looks like.

Can You Imagine that Debate Without Carly Fiorina?


Carly_fiorina_speakingI only just finished watching the debate a minute ago and I have already forgotten everything that was said. Honestly who here feels the same way? If there is one thing I learned from this debate it is that they need to have a third higher level of debate reserved for Carly Fiorina. She was the only person on that stage that was actually interesting (with a small caveat for my man crush Rubio who I think always give good answers, but who seemed to be mostly ignored in this debate). She fought her way into the conversation and she laid the smack down on every question. Can anyone recall a bad answer from her? She even managed to give a great put down of that 10 dollar bill question.

Aside from Fiorina, the only real other story out of this debate is just how bad it was. Did Hugh Hewitt even ask any questions? I know he did, but if you were just tooning in and out of the debate I doubt you ever saw any candidate answering one of his. This CNN/Salem thing was a farce. Talk about being a token conservative. Also the early round of questions were an embarrassment for CNN and Jake Tapper. The goal of a debate isn’t to get the candidates fighting like schoolchildren about the immature things Trump has said. It is to move the discussion beyond that. I’m sure it will give people a lot of gossip and saucy sound clips to play, but this is more suited to a reality TV show than a respectable news organization. I really thought much more of Jake Tapper, whose show on CNN has always seemed above par when I have caught it.

I think the next Debate needs to be smaller, hopefully this will just happen naturally, but if it doesn’t I don’t see much reason for Rand, Huckabee, and Christie to be there next time. Hopefully a few others drop out too.

Scott Walker’s Dilemma


Governor Scott Walker is exactly the kind of leader conservatives want in the Oval Office. He fights for what he believes, and he believes basically all the things conservatives hold most dear. He has held to key principles, consistently and demonstrably, for years. He has not enriched himself by his office. Every major policy proposal he has made is credible and conservative. He knows the Left like no one in the field. He is a skilled executive with experience in accomplishing the kind of things we want done in Washington.

Wedding Crasher


GOP 2016 State of PlayIn his weekly column in the Wall Street Journal, Bill McGurn neatly sums up Jeb Bush’s problem:

Mr. Bush is like the father of the bride dealing with a belligerent drunk who’s crashed the wedding reception. At every juncture, the drunk is willing to escalate insults. Because he’s long beyond shame, moreover, he doesn’t mind an incident, and might even want one.

Long past shame. That’s The Donald, all right.

Hoover Elections Podcast, with David Brady and Douglas Rivers: “How Trump Does It”


Hoover Institution
How Trump Does It
Hoover Institution How Trump Does It

hoover institution podcastThere’s been a lot of armchair punditry in recent weeks about why exactly Donald Trump has captured so much support in the early days of the race for the Republican presidential nomination. What most of it lacks is any actual research to back it up. That’s not the case with Hoover fellows David Brady and Douglas Rivers, the latter of whom is the chief scientist for the polling firm YouGov PLC. They’ve just finished up an extensive round of polling aimed at deciphering who potential Trump voters are, why they’re drawn to The Donald, and what it means for the rest of the GOP field — and what they’ve discovered seems to violate every rule of thumb about how the Republican primary electorate usually behaves. Listen in below to hear them describe the results.

Tony Abbott: Australia’s Last Good Prime Minister?


Tony_Abbott_-_2010It’s often said that Australia needs to become a republic because of our lagging reputation in Asia. Many believe, for example, that our institutional attachment to the British Monarchy puzzles the masses and implies an old-world attachment that tugs on our standing in the region.

Much less discussed, however, is how silly we must look changing leaders as often as our dirty clothes. Until recently, the turbulence of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years was behind us. We weren’t suffering from closed-door union deals and the disruptive leadership of the Australian Labor Party. Abbott had stopped illegal boat arrivals to Australia, was fiercely paying down Rudd’s debt, ending silly government programs, and restoring a relative lack of prestige to the executive arm of government.

Yet Australia’s modern media cycle won’t permit such stable conduct: it is, after all, boring. The constant scan for sensationalism means that minor issues like giving out awards (Abbott’s honor to Prince Phillip) and, most recently, harmless jokes about rising sea levels in the South Pacific choke out issues of substance and having a steady pair of hands on the nation’s wheel.

Unintended Consequences of Cutting Corporate Tax Rates


Jeb!’s tax plan provides a good opportunity to explain why cutting corporate tax rates below individual tax rates will only worsen problems with the existing tax structure.

We tend to think of large multinationals, or at least publicly-traded corporations, as the paradigm corporate taxpayers. But according to the 2012 IRS Corporate Income Tax Report, 86 percent of Form 1120 filers (commonly known as C Corps) had assets of less than $1 million. (I used the data in Figure F, to separate out the S Corp returns.)

Shakeup in the Ricochet Primary


The results of Ricochet’s August GOP primary poll are in! [Editor’s Note: Not a Ricochet member? That’s easily fixed.] As you will notice, Governor Scott Walker’s commanding lead over the field has completely vanished and he is now tied with Carly Fiorina as the top pick. Below, is the first choice among Ricochet members:

1st choice

Q: Who is your first choice for the GOP Nominee?

A View from the Other Side: Ideological Purity and Trump


I started a new job last week with a large non-profit focused on a specific disease prevention, treatment, research, and cure. I now work from home, but was in the corporate headquarters earlier this week. Much like the government and academia, there is an implicit assumption there that anyone who is educated and cares about people is politically liberal. This always leads to little insights into how the non-fringe, non-activist wing of the other side thinks.

Here are a few snippets to mull over.

A VirtuCon Manifesto


shutterstock_244246870That’s VirtuCon manifesto, not the VirtuCon manifesto. I suspect there are more visions of how virtue theory and conservatism could interact than there are actual VirtuCons. This rough first draft is a contribution to the conversation Rachel Lu rekindled last week — see Tom Meyer’s response and the conversation that followed it as well — about what an emphasis on virtue means for other parts of the conservative worldview.

Please note: The word “virtue” has recently (in the last century or so) undergone something of a change in meaning. The “virtue” in virtue theory harks back to the older meaning. Do not be misled by this choice of vocabulary, imposed by some 2,000 years of philosophical reflection.

  1. There is such a thing as human nature.
  2. There is such a thing as a form of life that promotes human flourishing. In the past this was also referred to as “happiness.”
  3. Virtues are those habits of character that tend to human flourishing. In the past, the development of these habits was also referred to as “the pursuit of happiness.”
  4. Virtues are not general understandings, but the application of general understandings to particular cases. This is known as practical wisdom.
  5. The virtues are inculcated in childhood through the enforcement of rules, in adulthood through deliberative practice, and in both stages of life through example. Enforcement by — and examples found in — family, local church, and one’s immediate community are better (more effective) than those enforced by or demonstrated in more distant institutions.
  6. Politics is an important area of human flourishing. Real participation in the life of a community requires that the rules and norms of that community are decided by its members, not imposed from afar.
  7. For these reasons, virtue requires a “hard” subsidiarity, where power is (sparingly) delegated upwards from the local to the general polity. (This contrasts with ‘soft’ subsidiarity, where the higher power delegates downwards, but always maintains real control, usually disguised as “support”).
  8. In the past, this was also referred to as “liberty.”
  9. Poverty, ignorance, and dishonour are the enemies of virtue. All three are opposed by the voluntary institution of the free market. Free markets create wealth, spread knowledge, and do not require social position to succeed. A free market requires the exercise of virtues, and assists in promoting them.
  10. In the past, this was also referred to as “life.”
  11. The realization of a continent-spanning republic amenable to human flourishing is a daunting task, but it requires an exquisite modesty. Fortunately, that modesty is the sure route to success, eschewing all temptation to tyranny. We need only have regard to three things:
  • Life – adequate means of existence, provided by the voluntary interactions of persons making choices in a condition of freedom.
  • Liberty – the room to learn and grow in practical wisdom.
  • The pursuit of happiness – the exercise of wisdom and the road to human flourishing.

Obama 2016 — Michelle, Not Barack


Hillary Clinton And Michelle Obama Host Int'l Women of Courage AwardsTo the assumption that there’s but one Democrat in the White House who can ride to the party’s rescue and save it from the comedy/tragedy that is Hillary Clinton’s presidential effort — his name being Vice President Joe Biden — I’d like to suggest an alternative.

Mr. President, look not to the West Wing but to the East Wing. For the better alternative to Hillary just may be . . . First Lady Michelle Obama. Ok, stop rolling you eyes in disbelief and hear me out:

The pro-Biden arguments pretty much boil down to:

Abe Lincoln 2016


Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 08.57.00May I recommend two books? Harold Holzer’s Lincoln at Cooper Union and Lewis E. Lehrman’s Lincoln at Peoria are wonderful treatments of wonderful speeches. The authors present Lincoln’s moral genius and rhetorical power in the context of the critical issue — the extension of slavery —  and the era’s state and national party politics.

Of the two eponymous speeches, I especially like Peoria. Lincoln gave this speech as he shadowed Stephen Douglas on the hustings in Illinois. Douglas was addressing voters in support of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which opened the west for the extension of slavery.

Here’s why I like Lincoln’s Peoria speech: the audience.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Victory, oh Victory!


shutterstock_158132165The most common form of contemporary conservative electoral argument is flawed in its premise. They argue that we don’t win elections because we don’t follow their advice (give up on social issues / double down on social issues / the same for fiscal issues and/or foreign stuff / use stronger language / use more moderate language / educate the public on abstract issues / stop talking about abstract issues / talk about gaffes more / talk about gaffes less).

In fact, we win elections. We run the legislature in most states, reaching a level of (small d) democratic control rarely seen in American history. We have most governor’s mansions, again, right at the edge of the historical record. We have the House; after decades of suffering from Ike’s neutrality and Watergate, we got it back in 1994 and we’ve mostly kept it. We have the Senate. Even presidentially, we’ve lost just five out of the last twelve races, with the “always losing” argument often resting on the last two. If you decide on the basis of receiving two tails after tossing a coin twice that the coin must be faulty and have no heads on it, you’re probably excessively predisposed that belief.

When people tell you that we’re losing and the only way to win is to buy their snake oil, whether classy snake oil like Arthur Brooks’ or off-brand oils like Mike Murphy’s or Mark Levin’s, they’re wrong in two ways. Firstly, we’re winning, and secondly, many of those who are winning are not from their faction of the party. Ron Johnson and Pat Toomey win in blue-purple states while being unapologetically socially conservative, whatever Murphy might prefer; while Graham, McCain, Murkowski, Capito, Cochran, and Alexander can win in red states despite Levin’s assurances that their path is doomed to fail.

Why ‘Small Government’ Isn’t Enough


shutterstock_269057810About a year ago, I generated some controversy around here with a series of threads on something I called “virtue conservatism.” Originally, I was merely looking for a new name for what we now call “social conservatism.” Over the course of the discussion, it became clear that this was about more than just branding. The central idea, however, is that conservatism needs to be about more than just beating back the administrative state. Small government principles are important, particularly in the realm of policy, but our vision needs to be more substantive that. And that broader vision should be evident in our rhetoric and our culture.

After that rather interesting conversation, I distilled some of my thoughts in a longish essay. It got sidetracked several times, and finally made it into print just today! But since the piece was very much inspired by conversations here at Ricochet, I thought I would post it with my thanks, and also invite commentary (or criticism!) from anyone who is interested. The title is: Slaying the Hydra: Can Virtue Heal the American Right?

Here’s the central metaphor, which is entirely Ricochet-inspired:

Trump v Univision


It’s  3:00 a.m in Paris, and I’m awake owing to a cat-related incident. After realizing that no, I wasn’t going to be able to fall asleep, I checked the news. As one does. Headlining: Donald Trump kicked TV’s most influential Latino newsman out of a press conference. Oh, I thought. Is this really the most important thing happening in the world right now? To judge from the headlines, you’d think so. Here’s the first part of the exchange:

Rubio, Walker Release Plans to Slay the Obamacare Dragon


Marco-Rubio-Scott-WalkerAs Peter Suderman writes in Reason any Republican effort to repeal and replace ObamaCare is likely going to be disappointing, given both the enormity of the task and the fact that they’ll be starting with a ball further down left field than when the President took office.

Still, there’s room to maneuver and maybe even to reverse the ratchet in a few areas. Last week, Sen. Marco Rubio and Gov. Scott Walker issued fairly similar plans that attempt to do just that (Walker issued a short white paper; Rubio wrote an op-ed for Politico that sketches his ideas, albeit with fewer details).

After repealing ObamaCare, both plans start by removing the single greatest inanity of our system: that insurance purchased through one’s employer is tax-free, while insurance purchased directly is not. This system is virtually unique in the world — a bad example of American exceptionalism if ever there was one. Moreover, making it easier for people to purchase insurance directly not only removes an extraneous layer from the healthcare system but also will reduce a major source of governmental intrusion (i.e., Hobby Lobby).