We begin the New Year by examining three breaking news stories (to go with three shots of whisky, of course), all of which add up to the conclusion that the liberal learning curve is flat. First, Portland’s Mayor Ted Wheeler is finally starting to understand that Antifa is an anarchist group that you can’t reason with like a teenager. Second, Nancy Pelosi’s fancy home in San Francisco was vandalized by leftists, which seems redundant since the Speaker is quite skilled at political vandalism without outside help. And third, we compare and contrast political and media interest in two military-related scandals: the infamous “Tailhook” scandal of 30 years ago, and the news out just in the last few days that West Point is not going to enforce its honor code on 73 cadets who were caught cheating on an exam.

From there we introduce what is likely to be a series or a running segment for several weeks to come on “the vindication of Donald Trump.” Let’s just say “Lucretia” and extend our usual dispute about whether conventional Republicans are pathetic or merely seem to be.

This week’s whisky

In another wide ranging episode (our last for the year), “Lucretia” and I review the best and worst Christmas movies, the best and worst Christmas music, the rank order of the best Will Ferrell movies, whether blended whisky is ever acceptable, why Finnish rock music sounds like a whale being tortured, and whether we can deduct the cost of our whisky under the tax changes of the COVID relief and omnibus spending bill Congress just passed.

This is without doubt The. Most. Gozno. Episode. Ever.

My sampler for the episode.

A suitable whisky for a foggy Saturday evening.

So there we were, armed with a fresh bottle of 10-year-old Ardbeg Islay whisky (not quite as peaty as Laphroaig or Talisker), and all set to plunge back into political philosophy again and escape yet another thrashing at the hands of Lucretia, but then the Supreme Court laid an egg, politicians acted stupidly again about COVID (in other words, as they usually act), and news came out about the further adventures of our favorite fictional professor, the archeologist Indiana Jones, giving rise to speculation about whether a film about the aging academic would include the by now obligatory Title IX complaint.

“Lucretia” and I had fully intended to work through our long-promised (or is it that threatened?) and now thrice-postponed seminar on the philosophical roots of leftist snobbishness and condescension, but we got diverted—strange that this keeps happening—by some notable campus news stories from last week. Naturally there were several stories of colleges disgracing themselves, capitulating to the student mob in the usual cowardly fashion (Haverford, Smith), but one university (yay Chicago!) showing how to tell the whiny mob to stuff it. So we ended up talking shop about the whole scene.

But wait—there’s more! The financial unsustainability of higher education is starting to show up in significant layoffs at last: employment is higher education institutions is down more than 10 percent since COVID hit, taking total college employment to a level not seen since before the housing crisis of 2008. Several universities are now starting to shrink core tenured core faculty positions, and closing down some liberal arts departments. But before you say “good riddance,” we note that the politicized departments of “gender studies” and such aren’t on the chopping block, and that we risk cutting down the tall trees and leaving the zoo animals unaffected.

At one point during the livecast recording of this week’s episode on Zoom, a commenter said the score was “Lucretia 6, Hayward 0,” so naturally I thought I was only behind by two field goals, and thus easy to make up in the 4th Quarter. But then the commenter clarified that he was using soccer scoring, which meant that I was getting crushed. “Ask Paul,” he added unnecessarily. Oh well.

What led to this ignominious rout? I foolishly tried to make the case that not all statistical anomalies (like the occasional clusters of twins born in small towns from time to time) are proof of something wrong, including voting, but Lucretia wasn’t having any of it, and to be sure while statistical anomalies may be just that, when you have several “anomalies” all trending in the same direction, pattern recognition takes over. But what are the legal remedies? It is not clear we can count on the courts to correct the counts.

At least the Supreme Court delivered one clear remedy for religious liberty this week, and our second whisky shot this week went beyond this ruling to talk a bit about the police power generally, and why many legal histories—but also Chief Justice John Roberts, alas—get this wrong.

After getting a review of new and unpronounceable whiskies out of the way (such as the one posted here) along with the miseries of the week just past that compel several drams of whisky, “Lucretia” and I had planned to talk about an obscure but profound essay from way back in 1973 that explores the serious philosophical roots of how today’s progressive left is best explained by the left’s formal commitment to snobbery. No really—we were! We had a whole seminar on “snobbish snobology” ready to go (is there a more fitting angle for single-malt whisky fanatics?), but we got diverted to—what else?—the election postgame show.

Among our questions and issues: What needs to be surveyed to make out a prima facia case of election fraud? And what kind of evidence is necessary to prove it? Given the low and continually falling trust in our leaders and institutions, is it any wonder that people (including apparently one-third of Democrats according to one poll) don’t think this election was on the up-and-up? We kick around the possibilities, and then ask our listeners: would you like us to do a live taping of the podcast next week? We could have a virtual happy hour under the new lockdown, though of course you’d have to bring your own whisky. Let us know.

Charles Lipson

Can American democracy walk and chew bubble gum at the same time? Charles Lipson thinks so, arguing in the Wall Street Journal today that normal transition activities can and should take place even as President Trump pursues his legal challenges to the election results. Lipson, professor emeritus of Political Science at the University of Chicago, is no shrinking violet when it comes to thrashing the left; he’s been arguing for months that the FBI attempted coup against President Trump is the biggest scandal in American history, nonetheless thinks that proceeding with a normal transition process will “show that amid deep political division, we can rely on constitutional norms, procedures and institutions.”

This week Steve and “Lucretia” survey the dismal scene of uphill recount prospects (and why game theory says Trump should fight on even past January 20), the impending COVID tyranny (“Lockdown II: This Time It’s Personal!”), and the latest social science nonsense, and decide the only sensible thing to do is pour another whisky and contemplate whether the long-term “Trump dividend” will offer a better return than the 30-year Treasury, or the “soft power dividend” that looks to be coming back under a prospective Biden Administration.

Among other highlights is Steve’s prediction of how and why Trump will haunt the waking dreams of liberals for at least the next 50 years, and Lucretia’s skepticism that Republicans have learned the right lessons from the Trump Show. And yes, the prospective change of scene means the Power Line Show may need to adopt a new tag line. Listen to the end to hear why, and what we’ll change to.

Hoo boy! I’m not sure three whiskies are enough this week. Fortunately I procured a relatively cheap Islay single malt—Finlaggan—to get me through the travails of Election Overtime.

The election is still a fast moving scene, so I decided that “Lucretia” and I should take a longer term view of the scene, and ponder the “metaphysics” of the election, which are not comforting to the left. In fact it is likely that “wokery” cost the Democrats badly. Above all, don’t count out Trump, both  for his chances of yet coming out on top, and more figuratively for the immense and enduring impact he has had on American politics. There are reasons to be happy, even while being outraged at the brazen attempt to steal an election right before our eyes.

As we go live we see the news that the Supreme Court has ordered late ballots in Pennsylvania to be sequestered, which no doubt is giving liberals flashbacks to Florida 2000. Here’s John Yoo’s article that we mention in our hectic conversation. Meanwhile, I need to refill my glass, and fetch more popcorn for the Democratic Party infighting starting up.

If Trump wins the electoral college again on Tuesday while losing the popular vote (perhaps by a bigger margin than he did in 2016), the left will lose its mind. Well that’s a given, but they’ll really lose their mind about the electoral college. After hoisting a couple of toasts to the passing of Sean Connery and a second sour whisky shot for Britain going back on COVID lockdown, “Lucretia” and I get down to business reviewing the republican case for the electoral college, and why it is a great institution that makes our political system better. Far from being an archaic relic, it is more necessary than ever in a country that the left calls “diverse” but which it actually views through perverse homogeneous lenses.

Michael Uhlmann

Better late than never, “Lucretia” and I team up to review what’s going on in the news along with drinking to the confirmation of Justice Barrett, but are most interested in thinking a bit about what is “metaphysically” wrong with the election scene, with poll after poll showing a solid Biden lead against lots of sense perception—and several historical examples—that argues for a different outcome. And so this became a crossover episode of the podcast, since I decided to pin down Henry Olsen, who I abuse for starting a competing podcast (ahem), and for his corrupt views about European “football.”

We did our best to refrain from too many #MeToobin jokes, but Chelsea Handler’s stunning echo of Joe Biden (“if you don’t vote for me, you ain’t black”) that we play right at the beginning is pretty revealing of the bedrock identity assumptions of the left these days. Talk about losing your grip.

Steve settles in with some Japanese whisky while “Lucretia” abandons her “whisky cougar” ways with a bona fide Glenlivet 18 so we can celebrate Amy Coney Barrett’s start turn driving Democrats to embarrass themselves last week. The hearings illustrate what’s wrong with the “side of history” liberals, as expressed in an especially lazy column from Nick Kristof in the New York Times, and a series of coordinated tweets from Democrats trying to assail constitutional originalism, but mostly succeeding only in exposing their own invincible ignorance.

The main event of this episode is reviewing our pick for Article of the Week, Bari Weiss’s essay “Stop Being Shocked” in The Tablet. It’s a great essay, with its bracing warning of the existential threat to Jews from the new illiberalism, but it has two problems: it get Trump wrong (though Lucretia proposes that this may be tactical cleverness), and its focus on the precariousness of Jews under the rising assault from the social justice left may not go far enough in forecasting the menace facing everyone. Guess who foresaw the problem of the Jews a decaying liberal democracy 60 years ago? Yup, that L– S—— guy again.

If you aren’t following Mark Perry’s Carpe Diem blog every day you’re missing out on one of the best sources for common sense analysis of current economic and social controversies. Mark, an economist at the University of Michigan and scholar at AEI, specializes in debunking economic fallacies (such as the perennial feminist talking point that women only earn 78 cents for every dollar a man earns), but he also has hit upon a sure fire method to make life miserable for campus diversicrats: file Title IX complaints against college programs that discriminate against men. So far he’s filed more than 200 such complaints, and has an excellent track record in making colleges and universities back down from egregiously discriminatory practices.

We also talk about his other specialty—using Venn diagrams to illustrate hypocrisy and inconsistent thinking mostly by liberals—as well as some of the economic mysteries of our time, such as why the relentless money-printing of the Federal Reserve hasn’t touched off inflation.

The basics.

This week’s recap starts off with a challenge to find the most unpronounceable scotch whisky you’ve never heard of (like Poit Dhubh, which is unavailable in the U.S.), plus a review of the 10 health benefits of drinking scotch whisky (some of which need a controlled experiment to validate properly, which we’re happy to conduct ourselves).

Lots of things to pour whisky shots for this week. Before returning to our short course on Leo Strauss’s perspectives on liberal education, “Lucretia” and Steve reflect on Joe Biden’s long career as a chameleon (if you didn’t know better, you’d almost think Biden had read Richard Weaver’s famous Ideas Have Consequences, since he thinks Antifa is an “idea,” and one that certainly has consequences), and why the 25th Amendment, which leftists have been hoping would be applied to Trump ever since January 20, 2017, is more likely to be applied to a President Biden in 2021 (should such a shudder-inducing possibility come to pass). Did you know that Section 4 of the 25th Amendment essentially gives Congress the power to impeach the President without a trial? We break it all down for you.

Having spent a lot of time on this week’s craziness, we only get about halfway through Strauss’s essay “Liberal Education and Responsibility.” We wrestle with the proposition that the idea of education in American democracy is the attempt to create a universal aristocracy, and understanding the distinction between the civic gentleman and the philosopher. We barely got started on this project before we ran out of whisky in our glasses (and also knowing we needed to take mercy on listeners), so. . . to be continued!

We’re delighted to bring Scott Yenor to the show this week to discuss his important new book, The Recovery of Family Life: Exposing the Limits of Modern Ideologies, which is being officially released tomorrow from Baylor University Press. Unlike many other fine books on the family today that rely chiefly on social science, Scott also brings his immense learning in political philosophy to bear on family questions, from Plato and Aristotle through to de Tocqueville—and even Russian novels.

Yenor takes us through a grand tour of the “rolling revolution” wrought by the ideologies of sexual liberation and unlimited individual autonomy over recent decades, which has led to, among other things, the degradation of love, and a civilization-threatening collapse in the birth rate. Scott has some thoughts on what policy makers can do to reinforce strong family life.

Our conversation ranges widely over the controversies Scott has had to weather on campus, and also how the left has attempted to purge him from Idaho’s State Advisory Commission on Civil Rights—an episode you can read about here. Also be sure to take in his essays at The American Mind, the new commentary website of the Claremont Institute. And there’s even something for college football fans in this episode!

Freshly resupplied with a shipment of Laphraoig, Talisker, and “Murdered Out” dark roast from Black Rifle Coffee, Steve and “Lucretia” drink to the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court, smack around Biden a little (but only a little because otherwise it would be elder abuse), and then resume our discussion from two weeks about about liberal education and Leo Strauss’s famous lecture entitled “What Is Liberal Education?”

Among other things, you’ll learn the crucial difference between Socratic skepticism of the classics, and the radical modern skepticism of Descartes, Nietzsche, or Heidegger. And if that doesn’t need a few shots of whisky to choke down, nothing will!

I know we promised listeners that last week’s episode would be the beginning of a three-part series on liberal education rightly understood, but the passing of Justice Ginsburg has thrown us off our plan. But rather than go in for the usual punditry about confirmation battles and the effect this will have on the election, Lucretia and I decided to step back and take on a truly radical perspective on the controversy. What if the Supreme Court wasn’t so important to our political order, and appointment to it were on the level of appointments to the Federal Trade Commission instead? How might that be accomplished?

Lucretia thinks maybe—perhaps—the trouble isn’t with “originalism” versus “activism,” or certain cases and periods when things went notably wrong (like the so-called “revolution of 1937”), but rather that the sweeping judicial review ushered in by the famous Marbury case in 1803 is the root of the problem. It is very nearly a heresy to regard Chief Justice Marshall as the root of all judicial evil, but maybe we haven’t got him, or Marbury, quite right. We go back through the peculiar politics and jurisprudence of the Marbury case, including the striking political parallels between our bitter election right now and the equally bitter contest of 1800, which I suggest could well be considered “the Frigate 93 Election.”

Is there room for another book on the rural voters who delivered the surprising outcome of the 2016 election? Yes, there is, when the book is Trump’s Democrats, by Stephanie Muravchik and Jon A. Shields, just out from the Brookings Institution. Muravchik and Shields do something unusual in this book; rather than do yet another excursion into survey data and statistical mumbo-jumbo, they went out to three diverse areas where Trump flipped a substantial number of Democratic voters, and talked to them.

The result is this compulsively readable and very insightful book that departs from many of the conventional explanations that have taken hold since 2016. (I’ll name just one: in the three areas they studied, there is no evidence that the Trump vote can be understood as a culmination of the Ross Perot-Pat Buchanan-Tea Party movements of the last 25 years.)

The book is brimming with judicious perceptions of the place-based politics of these Democratic strongholds, along with searching questions about the immediate and long-term future of the Democratic Party. Trump, many of these Democratic voters perceived, is more like an  old-style Democratic boss than a modern Republican, though it is not clear whether they will stick with Republicans after Trump is gone. Much depends on what strategic choices Democrats make, regardless of whether they win or lose in November. The key question: Is the Democratic Party of the New Deal on its way to disappearing for good?