Archive for November 11th, 2008

November 11, 2008

Where’s that C-130?

David Brooks:

The reformers tend to believe that American voters will not support a party whose main idea is slashing government. The Reformers propose new policies to address inequality and middle-class economic anxiety. They tend to take global warming seriously. They tend to be intrigued by the way David Cameron has modernized the British Conservative Party.
Moreover, the Reformers say, conservatives need to pay attention to the way the country has changed. . . . They cannot continue to insult the sensibilities of the educated class and the entire East and West Coasts.

Would it “insult the sensibilities of the educated class” to shove David Brooks out the cargo door of a C-130 flying about 50,000 feet above Jalalabad? Because that’s the kind of Change I can believe in . . .

UPDATE: John Hawkins:

David Brooks . . . can pretty much be counted on to love any idea that loses elections for Republicans.

Airdrop his pointy head on the Taliban, I say, and let the healing begin.

November 11, 2008

Video: Palin on ‘Today’

I watched this interview this morning and noted her disturbing deployment of the Hispanic vote excuse:

Via Allahpundit, who says:

If you think she’s going to jettison her position on amnesty now that she’s free of Team Maverick’s clutches, I think you’re kidding yourself.

We shall see. I am betting that Governor Palin hasn’t spent much time chitchatting with Mark Krikorian about the blunt reality of immigration politics. Let’s face it, Anchorage isn’t being overrun by Mexicans wading across the Bering Straits. And it is thus easily possible that Palin hasn’t really sat down to ponder the net-gain/net-loss electoral calculus that exposes the Tamar Jacoby/Wall Street Journal open-borders stance as political suicide for Republicans.

Sarah Palin could get plenty of Hispanic votes in 2012 without having to engage in amnesty pandering. And if she wants to engage in amnesty pandering, she might as well stay in Wasilla, because there is no shortage of Republicans like Mike Huckabee who’ll compete for the open-borders sellout vote in the GOP primaries. Remember that Juan McAmnesty finished the primary campaign with just 47% of the vote. He “lost” the Republican primaries before he lost general election.

November 11, 2008

Obvious question, obvious answer

Allahpundit asks:

Is McCain hanging Palin out to dry to distract attention from his own mistakes?

Duh. It is important for the punditocracy to believe that the Republican Party can nominate a candidate who supports amnesty, opposes tax cuts and despises evangelicals without suffering electoral disaster. A scapegoat is required to make that belief possible.

November 11, 2008

Granholm, Bonior volunteer to help Obama destroy U.S. economy

Fools and villains, indeed:

Thanks to a state government long run by moonbats, the economy of Michigan is on life support. The vicious cycle of liberal policies suppressing the economy, making more people dependent on the government so that they will elect fools and villains to inflict more liberal policies, has produced a permanent recession that worsens with every passing year.
So naturally the Obama team has signed up these fools and villains to provide advice on how to impose the same condition on the rest of the country . . .
Bonior is described as “long an ally of organized labor” — the main cause of the decline of our auto industry, which is taking Detroit and the rest of Michigan down with it. Granholm is a Berkeley-educated Canadian socialist who has responded to economic ruin by raising taxes while the state hands out free iPods.
It all makes perfect sense, if you don’t object to our standard of living crashing through the floor. Why wouldn’t the most liberal Senator want the country to look like its most liberal city?

Watching the U.S. economy go up in flames like an abandoned house in Detroit on Devil’s Night should be amusing.

November 11, 2008

Cognitive partitioning & meritocracy (Part II)

(This is the second part of a blog essay about how the processes of meritocracy have created a social and cultural gap between conservative intellectuals and grassroots conservatives. In Part I, I discussed how widespread standardized testing and the democratization of higher education fostered a “cycle of selectivity” in which America’s brightest students have come under increasing pressure to grind it out academically in order to gain entrance into top schools.)

My late Aunt Barbara was a high-school biology teacher, frequently honored for her excellence. A couple of years before her retirement, she found herself under pressure to change grades for some of her students who had scored poorly on a big test. The students were among the valedictorian candidates at LaGrange (Ga.) High and the poor test grades in an advanced honors course threatened to affect the final selection of valedictorians. (Like many other schools, LaGrange now recognizes multiple valedictorians, reflecting the “prizes for all” trend.)

Aunt Barbara refused to budge on the grades, but as she explained the pressure parents applied to the system (this incident was just one example), it reinforced my perception of what a sea change had occurred in public schools since my own youth. Bright students are nowadays herded into “gifted” programs in elementary school and into the AP/honors track in high school. The 4.0 all-A average that used to be the acme of academic excellence is no longer sufficient for the aspiring young meritocrats. Honors classes award extra credit so that a 5.0 is now possible.

Since making all A’s and a high SAT score no longer suffice to guarantee admission to the top colleges and universities — plenty of ultra-smart grinds have tasted the Bitter Thin Envelope of Rejection from Harvard or Yale, to which their hopeful parents had insisted they must apply — these young grinds also cram their teenage lives full of extra-curricular activities designed to highlight their “leadership” or illustrate that they possess that “something extra” which will make their application stand out amid the pile of applications from the brainiac herd.

By the time a kid gains admission to a top school, then, he hasn’t had an unscheduled moment since eighth grade, and nearly all of his overscheduled adolescence has been spent in the company of his brainiac peers. And, with rare exceptions, these peers are all offspring of affluent, ambitious, college-educated parents like his own, so that for all the rhetorical emphasis on “diversity,” there is a stultifying sameness to the millieu in which these teenage strivers are reared.

Even if there were more diversity in their backgrounds, however, the brainiac’s actual teenage experience has become homogenized. Think of Anthony Michael Hall’s character in The Breakfast Club. Now clone him several times over, and you will have a useful portrait of the AP/honors classroom at the typical large “comprehensive” high school in the leafy upper-middle-class suburban cul-de-sac enclaves where most of these nerds are raised. (Except that, two decades after The Breakfast Club, more of the nerds are Asian.)

Peers and perceptions
While it continues to be my firm belief that David Brooks ought to be dumped from a C-130 onto a Taliban position east of Jalalabad, Brooks is nevertheless a keen-eyed sociological observer. In 2002, he wrote an interesting article in the Weekly Standard about the “almost crystalline meritocracy” that produces the students who inhabit our nation’s elite campuses:

They grew up from birth being shepherded from one skill-enhancing activity to another. When you read their résumés, you learn that they got straight A’s in high school and stratospheric board scores. They’ve usually started a few companies, cured at least three formerly fatal diseases, mastered a half dozen or so languages, and marched for breast cancer awareness through Tibet while tutoring the locals on conflict resolution skills and environmental awareness.

Brooks can be forgiven the hyperbole, for he exaggerates only slightly. One important influence of this pressure-cooker process — the factor that relates most directly to the defects of our conservative intellectual class today — is that it isolates the young meritocrat within a peer group of his fellow nerds. Since ninth grade (if not before), the National Merit Scholar finalist has associated with and measured himself against other brainiac nerds like himself. These are the only true peers he has, against whom he competes for academic honors, and with whom he can recall shared experiences.

Think how narrow is the path to high achievement that results in a 17-year-old receiving the Sweet Thick Envelope of Acceptance from his first-choice college. That path may seem wider in a posh suburban school district where the AP/honors track is crowded with the sons and daugthers of hyperachievers, but that is a cruel illusion.

There might be 35 kids at Sodded Lawn High who could succeed at Harvard, but it’s unlikely that more than two or three of them will actually gain admission there. There will be dozens of those super-bright grinds who are cursed to attend those schools whose campuses are populated almost entirely by Ivy League rejects — Tulane, Swarthmore, Duke, Haverford, Wesleyan, Emory, Colgate — students whose failure will stand as burning reminders to future waves of ambitious nerds how easy it is to fall short even by the second-rate standards of Penn, Brown and Cornell.

Because this elite path is so narrow, because any minor slipup might mean the kind of admissions-process embarrassment that compels a kid with a 1,440 SAT to accept a scholarship offer from State University, those in the “almost crystalline meritocracy” seldom have any non-meritocratic friends. They don’t spend their weekends helping a buddy install a custom cam in his third-hand Ford, nor will you find them working a part-time job at Old Navy. They’ve never worked the summer toting boards on a construction crew or gotten wasted at a farm party or engaged in any other activity that would have put them into the familiar company of those slackers and losers and hell-raisers who constitute the non-elite extracurricular club known as Future Republican Voters of America.

Meritocratic prejudice
I arrived in Washington from North Georgia 11 years ago seeking an answer to a question I’d heard over and over from conservatives down home: “What the hell is wrong with those Republicans in Washington? We elect ’em and send ’em up there and then it’s like they forget why they’re there and who put ’em there.”

A big part of the answer to that question involves this socio-cultural gap that the “crystalline meritocracy” creates between conservative intellectuals and the typical Republican voter. The editors and writers at major conservative publications, the wonks at the think tanks, the analysts and “senior fellows” and other functionaries of the rightward infrastructure in Washington — these people are drawn from the ranks of top university graduates who are the end product of that meritocracy. They reflect, in greater or lesser degree, the distinctive prejudices of their class, and these prejudices tend to alienate them from the Republican rank-and-file.

Just one illustrative anecdote: About a year ago, a bright young operative in Washington (who is certainly not a snobby elitist Ivy League type) told me in all seriousness that virtually all college-educated women under 30 are pro-choice. Now, I don’t doubt that hard-core, single-issue pro-lifers are a minority in the college-educated female 18-29 demo, but I do doubt that hard-core, single-issue pro-choicers are a majority in that demo.

The available exit-poll data don’t allow such a detailed demographic analysis, but if 44% of 18-29 white voters punched the button for McCain-Palin, I think it safe to say that some signficant plurality of college-educated young women are pro-life. And I further believe that, ceteris parabus, the pro-life position is not a sufficient deal-breaker for enough college-educated under-3o women that the Republican Party dooms itself to defeat by being pro-life. In other words, there are a lot of “soft” pro-choice women who are either somewhat persuadable to a pro-life stance, or else aren’t strongly interested in the politics of abortion, caring more about economic issues, etc.

Having not been isolated within the intellectual class, however, I know that the absolute solid bedrock of the 21st-century GOP coalition are the pro-life activists. Those are the folks who put butts in the voting booth — they deliver on Election Day. The Republican Party can easily afford to lose 100% of the Harvard vote, but if the GOP loses the pro-lifers, you can kiss it good-bye, people. That isn’t to say the pro-lifers should be endlessly pandered to, but you can’t piss ’em off, either.

As with abortion, so on down the line on various other issues. To have a political movement that is active, energetic and confident enough to secure that magical 50-percent-plus-one of majority power, conservatives have to hunt where the ducks are and dance with the ones that brung ’em. The hard-core “base” alone may constitute only 30% of the electorate, but without the enthusiastic support of the base, you cannot then reach out successfully to the undecided, independent “swing” voters. And you can’t get the enthusiastic support of the base when the most prominent spokesmen for the movement are taking to the pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post to urinate on the party’s grassroots, or to engage in cowardly hand-wringing about the Hispanic vote. (Question: Why is pandering to Hispanics acceptable, while pandering to blue-collar evangelicals is not?)

Real trouble vs. imaginary crisis
Economic issues and the Bush administration’s blunder-plagued foreign policy are the sine qua non of the Republican Party’s electoral woes in 2006 and ’08. “Brand damage” and “Bush fatigue” are undeniable realities. The GOP lacks popular conservative leaders with strong crossover appeal to independents.

Yet what do we hear from so many of our Beltway conservative intellectuals? They conjure up a complex existential crisis of conservative ideology, and make important-sounding noises along the lines of, “The party of Ronald Reagan today stands at a crossroads …”

From these pompous beginnings, they proceed to cherry-pick the vote totals and exit polls, make ostentatious allusions to Russell Kirk or Barry Goldwater, throw in a bit of anecdotal example, all preparatory to pointing fingers at the usual suspects: Those damned Republican voters! Those ignorant xenophobic hicks in Flyover Country who foolishly insist that the conservative movement ought to try to actually conserve something! How dare those backwoods holy-rollers attempt to influence the party of David Brooks, Christopher Buckley, Francis Fukuyama and George Freaking Will!

Is it really so? Are the problems of the GOP really the fault of Republican voters, rather than the fault of the intellectuals? Go scan their output from 2001-04 and try to see if you can find where any of these eminent pundits warned of the political and policy errors by which the Bush administration rendered the Republican Party label increasingly toxic to independent voters. When you find that David Brooks column from 2003 warning about the baleful effects of the Community Reinvestment Act and the dangers of pumping liquidity into an already overheated housing market where traditional standards of creditworthiness had been abandoned, please let me know.

Damn. Once again, I’ve gone off on a mad tangent and haven’t fully explicated what I meant to tackle. I need to cool off a bit and try again. I want to talk about how summer internships have replaced summer jobs, and how the meritocratic conservative elites tend to flock to Washington at age 22 or 23, and how this exempts them from the kind of exposure to non-elite folkways that would inspire confidence in the common sense of common people. I realize that it may be unpopular for a conservative to defend the common sense of the electorate immediately after Barack Obama was elected with a 53% majority, but let’s face it: Voting against John McCain is a very easy thing to do — 53% of Republican primary voters voted against him, too.

To be continued . . .

November 11, 2008

The man of Steele

Ralph Z. Hallow reports in The Washington Times that GOPAC Chairman and former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele “definitely” wants the RNC top job:

A behind-the-scenes battle to take the reins of the Republican National Committee is taking off between former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele.
Neither man will acknowledge his interest in the post, but Republicans close to each are burning up the phone lines and firing off e-mails to fellow party members in an effort to oust RNC Chairman Mike Duncan in the wake of the second consecutive drubbing of Republican candidates at the polls.

I was among those who felt that Steele should have gotten the RNC job after the 2006 election, when instead the Bush White House insisted on Florida Sen. Mel Martinez.

(Cross-posted at AmSpecBlog.)

November 11, 2008

Paul Broun, moderate

Believe it or not, calling Obama a Marxist is a centrist, mainstream position in Georgia. I’m sure some of Dr. Broun’s constituents have said worse things about the president-elect. Dr. Broun is a physician and an ex-Marine, so he’s not a stupid man. Plus, you must admit, the “civilian security force” idea is kind of extreme, isn’t it? Like … a militia? Or maybe the Minuteman Project? Don’t liberals hate all that vigilante-type stuff?

And if that wasn’t what Obama was talking about, well, what was he talking about? Maybe somebody in the press corps should have asked him about that during the campaign. But I guess it’s hard to ask questions while performing fellatio.

November 11, 2008

Two headlines

Bush leaving office more unpopular than Nixon

For South, a Waning Hold on National Politics

The mere fact that Bush speaks in a drawl has badly hurt the South’s reputation. I’m a native Georgian, so trust me this isn’t the first time I’ve been embarrassed by a Southerner in the White House.

November 11, 2008

Wiccans for Obama

Kathy Shaidle informs us that Obama got 64% among voters who had a favorable view of Wicca. Of course, Obama was actually their second choice. In the primaries, all the witches supported Hillary, whose Secret Service codename was “Broomrider.”

November 11, 2008

Palin: A praying woman

During her interview with Greta Van Susteren, Sarah Palin discussed the possibility of a 2012 presidential campaign:

“You know, I have — faith is a very big part of my life. And putting my life in my creator’s hands — this is what I always do,” said Palin, who served as running mate to Senator John McCain.
“I’m like, OK, God, if there is an open door for me somewhere, this is what I always pray, I’m like, don’t let me miss the open door. Show me where the open door is,” she added.
“Even if it’s cracked up a little bit, maybe I’ll plow right on through that and maybe
prematurely plow through it, but don’t let me miss an open door.
“And if there is an open door in ’12 or four years later, and if it is something that is going to be good for my family, for my state, for my nation, an opportunity for me, then I’ll plow through that door.”

I remember, shortly after she was nominated, seeing a video of her talk to a church group, where she said she hoped that the U.S. mission in Iraq was in accordance with God’s will. And I felt, at that moment, a great calm. This is obviously a praying woman, who sincerely seeks God’s will, and it seemed obvious that He had some work for her to do in the mysterious scheme of Providence. Whether or not, the Republicans won, I felt that God had a hand in it, and so I am perfectly at ease with the idea that Obama’s election is likewise part of the divine plan.

Shortly before the election, and long after I had written off the possibility of a Republican victory, a Christian woman I know told me that she’d heard that the McCain campaign had instituted daily prayer sessions. And I told her that I was taught that God always answers prayer — but “no” qualifies as an answer. She didn’t mind that reply, and though she desperately wanted the GOP to win and was heartbroken by the defeat, she remains steadfast in her faith that God’s will is ultimately sovereign.

God’s chosen people, the Israelites, were enslaved by Egypt, then conquered by the Assyrians and the Babylonians. A remnant of Judah was restored, but then conquered by the Romans, who ultimately destroyed the temple at Jerusalem and scattered the surviving Jews. Does this mean that God favored Egypt, Assyria or Rome? No, those heathen nations were mere instruments in His work of chastising Israel for its sins, and in ultimately perfecting His great work of salvation.

We can deserve no favor of God. He is sovereign, and any blessing He bestows upon us is grace and mercy, since we deserve nothing but destruction. We should be grateful even for His chastisement as a blessing, an indication of His special interest in us. If it is God’s will to destroy us, nothing can save us. However, if it is His will to save us, nothing can destroy us. Therefore we ought to be humble and grateful to have hitherto escaped destruction.

If Sarah Palin believes in that basic Romans 8:28 kind of truth — and it seems she does — and He “opens that door,” then I will feel that it is for a reason, without presuming to know what the reason is. But the fact that this formerly obscure woman is now the No. 1 news topic in America (frankly, she’s far more interesting than Obama) ought to be recognized for the miracle it is.

Hey, Allah: Believe, baby!