How Democracies Panic 

We are living in an era of political panic.

Yuval Levin writes: Some of President Donald Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters in 2016 were motivated to overlook his shortcomings by desperate fear that our system of government was near death and only the most extreme measures could save it. A poll conducted by PRRI and the Atlantic immediately after the election found that more than 60 percent of Trump’s voters believed the 2016 election was “the last chance to stop America’s decline.” As one pro-Trump essayist famously put it, things had gotten so bad that it was time either to “charge the cockpit or you die.”

” … Levitsky and Ziblatt essentially ignore core conservative complaints about the ways in which the left has undermined our constitutional norms and institutions. The progressive celebration of executive unilateralism, of the administrative state, and of a politicized judicial branch are left unmentioned. But even though they do not amount to autocracy, of course, these long-term trends are surely threats to American democracy and of at least the magnitude of President Trump’s tweets.

And yet to say so, Levitsky and Ziblatt suggest, would itself amount to an attack on our institutions. Without a hint of irony, they note that one of the ways the Tea Party movement undermined political norms was that it lodged the accusation “that President Obama posed a threat to our democracy.” Later they say, regarding Republican critiques of Obama, that “such extremism encourages politicians to abandon forbearance. If Barack Obama is ‘a threat to the rule of law,’ as Senator Ted Cruz claimed, then it made sense to block his judicial appointments by any means necessary.” Presumably this means that if you write an entire book arguing that Donald Trump threatens to bring the death of democracy, you are similarly justifying resistance to his administration by any means necessary.

Read the rest of this entry »


Nick Gillespie: Thanks, Liberals! You Applauded Obama’s Imperial Presidency, and Now We’ve Got Trump Rex 

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If Trump makes good on his promise to ‘bomb the shit out’ of ISIS without even token approval from Congress, we’ll know where he got the idea.

nickNick Gillespie writes: On Jan. 20, Donald Trump will become the 45th president of the United States. Along with the nation’s nuclear codes, he will be gifted presidential powers that have been vastly increased by Barack Obama.

Thanks a lot, liberals. It’s all well and good that Joe Biden is now lecturing us that “the worst sin of all is the abuse of power,” but where the hell was he—and where were you—for the past eight years, when the president was starting wars without Congressional authorization, passing major legislation with zero votes from the opposing party, and ruling almost exclusively through executive orders and actions?

“Hell, in the early months of Obama’s presidency, The New York Times’s Thomas Friedman held up China’s ‘one-party autocracy’ as the model to emulate.”

Mostly exhorting Obama to act “unilaterally” and “without Congress” on terrorism, immigration, guns, and whatever because you couldn’t dream of a day when an unrestrained billionaire reality-TV celebrity would wield those same powers toward very different ends. Hell, in the early months of Obama’s presidency, The New York Times’s Thomas Friedman held up China’s “one-party autocracy” as the model to emulate.

“Faced with recalcitrant Republicans and flagging public support, champions of Obama’s policy agenda voiced few qualms about a power grab that created an imperial presidency on steroids.”

There’s an old libertarian saw that holds “any government powerful enough to give you everything is also powerful enough to take everything away.” The same is even more true for the president, the single most-powerful actor in the government. Faced with recalcitrant Republicans and flagging public support, champions of Obama’s policy agenda voiced few qualms about a power grab that created an imperial presidency on steroids. “We’re not just going to be waiting for legislation,” Obama crowed in 2014, proclaiming a “year of action.” “I’ve got a pen… and I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions and administrative actions.”

Consider his willingness to wage war. As The Cato Institute’s Gene Healy writes in the latest issue of Reason, Obama didn’t just commit the U.S. military to action in Libya without any sort of Congressional authorization, he did so after campaigning on the statement that “the president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.” But when it came time under the War Powers Act to either seek retroactive buy-in from Congress or pull out, Obama simply asked around the executive branch until he found a State Department lawyer who, unlike his attorney general and others, said dropping bombs on Libya didn’t require authorization.

[Read the full story here, at The Daily Beast]

If and when Donald Trump makes good on his promise to “bomb the shit out” of ISIS—and god knows who else—without even getting token approval from Congress, we’ll know where he got the idea. Ditto for “secret kill lists” and drone strikes in countries with whom we’re not at war.

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And still, Obama has the temerity to counsel the president-elect not to overdo it with executive orders and actions, telling NPR recently that “going through the legislative process is always better in part because it’s harder to undo.” Unless, of course, actually working to build consensus keeps you from getting what you want. In fact, it is vastly easier to undo unilateral action, as Obama himself could tell you. Read the rest of this entry »


Newt Gingrich: I ‘Made a Big Boo-Boo’

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 reports: Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich on Thursday issued an effective public apology for suggesting earlier in the week that President-elect Donald Trump is past the phrase “drain the swamp,” a reference to stamping out Washington, D.C., corruption and influence-peddling.

“I want all of you to know: I goofed. Draining the swamp is in. The alligators should be worried, and you’ll hear me write more about alligators and the swamp.”

“I want to report that I made a big boo-boo,” Mr. Gingrich said in a video posted to his Facebook page.

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“I talked this morning with President-elect Donald Trump, and he reminded me: He likes draining the swamp,” Mr. Gingrich said. “I mischaracterized it the other day. He intends to drain the swamp.”

“He even describes it as DTS,” Mr. Gingrich said. Read the rest of this entry »


WikiLeaks: Post’s Dana Milbank Asked DNC Anti-Trump Research

The DNC research team worked together to come up with a list of things Milbank could use that was provided to Walker.

Peter Hasson reports: Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank appears to have asked the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to do the majority of the research for a negative column he wrote about Donald Trump in April 2016.

Milbank’s column was titled, “The Ten Plagues of Trump,” and featured a list of “outrageous things” said by Trump. One of the “plagues” listed by Milbank, for example, was “Blood” and centered around a quote from Trump about Megyn Kelly: “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.”

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Internal DNC emails suggest Milbanks asked for — and then leaned heavily on — DNC opposition research on Trump for the article.

[Read the full story here, at The Daily Caller]

The day before Milbank’s article, DNC deputy communications director Eric Walker sent out an email to the DNC’s research team. Read the rest of this entry »


FULL-SCALE NON-STOP GLOBAL PANIC GRIPS THE GOP, NATION, WORLD

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The Republican Party was in turmoil again Wednesday as party leaders, strategists and donors voiced increasing alarm about the flailing state of Donald Trump’s candidacy and fears that the presidential panic-mannominee was damaging the party with an extraordinary week of self-inflicted mistakes, gratuitous attacks and missed opportunities.

“A new level of panic hit the street. It’s time for a serious reset.”

— Veteran operative Scott Reed

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus was described as “very frustrated” and stressed by Trump’s behavior over the past week, having run out of excuses to make on the nominee’s behalf with donors and other party leaders, according to multiple people familiar with the events.

“The current race is which of these two is the more unacceptable, because right now neither of them is acceptable. Trump is helping her to win by proving he is more unacceptable than she is.”

— Newt Gingrich

Meanwhile, Trump’s top campaign advisers are failing to instill discipline on their candidate, who has spent the past days lunging from one controversy to another while seemingly skipping chances to go on the offensive against his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

[ALSO SEE – Report: GOP Exploring Contingency Plan in Case Trump Drops Out]

“A new level of panic hit the street,” said veteran operative Scott Reed, chief strategist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “It’s time for a serious reset.”

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Trump allies on Wednesday publicly urged the candidate to reboot, furious that he has allowed his confrontation with the parents of dead U.S. Army captain Humayun Khan to continue for nearly a week. They also are angry with Trump over his surprising refusal in a Tuesday interview with The Washington Post to endorse House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) or Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) — two of the party’s top elected officials — in their upcoming primary campaigns.

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, one of Trump’s most loyal defenders, warned that his friend was in danger of throwing away the election and helping to make Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton president unless he quickly changes course.

“The current race is which of these two is the more unacceptable, because right now neither of them is acceptable,” Gingrich said in a Wednesday morning telephone interview. “Trump is helping her to win by proving he is more unacceptable than she is.”

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Gingrich said Trump has only a matter of weeks to reverse course. “Anybody who is horrified by Hillary should hope that Trump will take a deep breath and learn some new skills,” he said. “He cannot win the presidency operating the way he is now. She can’t be bad enough to elect him if he’s determined to make this many mistakes.”

Reed, who managed Bob Dole’s 1996 presidential campaign, recommended that Trump “stop doing silly interviews nine times a day that get you off message” and deliver a major address seeking to reset the campaign establishing himself as the change candidate. Read the rest of this entry »


Hamtramck, Michigan: In 1st Majority-Muslim U.S. City, Residents Tense About its Future

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HAMTRAMCK, MICH. — Sarah Pullman Bailey reports: Karen Majewski was in such high demand in her vintage shop on a recent Saturday afternoon that a store employee threw up her hands when yet another visitor came in to chat. Everyone wanted to talk to the mayor about the big political news.

“In many ways, Hamtramck is a microcosm of the fears gripping parts of the country since the Islamic State’s attacks on Paris: The influx of Muslims here has profoundly unsettled some residents of the town long known for its love of dancing, beer, paczki pastries and the pope.”

Earlier this month, the blue-collar city that has been home to Polish Catholic immigrants and their descendents for more than a century became what demographers think is the first jurisdiction in the nation to elect amajority-Muslim council.

A statue of Pope John Paul II in Hamtramck’s Pope Park is a nod to the city’s Polish American beginnings. (Salwan Georges/For The Washington Post)

It’s the second tipping for Hamtramck (pronounced Ham-tram-ik), which in 2013 earned the distinction becoming of what appears to be the first majority-Muslim city in the United States following the arrival of thousands of immigrants from Yemen, Bangladesh and Bosnia over a decade.

“There’s definitely a strong feeling that Muslims are the other. It’s about culture, what kind of place Hamtramck will become. There’s definitely a fear, and to some degree, I share it.”

— Majewski, whose family emigrated from Poland in the early 20th century

In many ways, Hamtramck is a microcosm of the fears gripping parts of the country since the Islamic State’s attacks on Paris: The influx of Muslims here has profoundly unsettled some residents of the town long known for its love of dancing, beer, paczki pastries and the pope.

Hamtramck Mayor Karen Majewski adjusts hats inside her store, Tekla Vintage. (Salwan Georges/For The Washington Post)

“It’s traumatic for them,” said Majewski, a dignified-looking woman in a brown velvet dress, her long, silvery hair wound in a loose bun.

“Business owners within 500 feet of one of Hamtramck’s four mosques can’t obtain a liquor license, she complained, a notable development in a place that flouted Prohibition-era laws by openly operating bars. The restrictions could thwart efforts to create an entertainment hub downtown.”

Around her at the Tekla Vintage store, mannequins showcased dresses, hats and jewelry from the mid-20th century, and customers fingered handbags and gawked at the antique dolls that line the store, which sits across the street from Srodek’s Quality Sausage and the Polish Art Center on Joseph Campau Avenue, the town’s main drag.

“I don’t know why people keep putting religion into politics. When we asked for votes, we didn’t ask what their religion was.”

— Almasmari, who received the highest percentage of votes(22 percent) of any candidate

Majewski, whose family emigrated from Poland in the early 20th century, admitted to a few concerns of her own. Business owners within 500 feet of one of Hamtramck’s four mosques can’t obtain a liquor license, she complained, a notable development in a place that flouted Prohibition-era laws by openly operating bars. The restrictions could thwart efforts to create an entertainment hub downtown, said the pro-commerce mayor.

[Read the full story here, at The Washington Post]

And while Majewski advocated to allow mosques to issue calls to prayer, she understands why some longtime residents are struggling to adjust to the sound that echos through the city’s streets five times each day. Read the rest of this entry »


‘We Had to Burn the Village to Save the Village’: CNN Cancels ‘Sanjay Gupta MD,’ ‘CNN Money,’ ‘Unguarded’, and ‘Crossfire’

TVNewser reports: It was a short-lived return for CNN’s “Crossfire as the network has canceled the political debate show, TVNewser has learned.Crossfire304x200

“Crossfire” joins other half-hour specialty programs “Sanjay Gupta MD,” “CNN Money,” and “Unguarded” which were all canceled today.

Returning to the air in September, 2013 after an eight-year absence, the new version of “Crossfire” featured former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, former White House staffers Van Jones and Stephanie Cutter, and former MSNBC host S.E. Cupp.

All four hosts will remain with the network as political commentators. Some of the staff has already been absorbed into other DC-based programs, while the remainder have been encouraged to apply for open positions in the bureau. Read the rest of this entry »


Panetta Book: ‘Obnoxious and Lacks Stature’

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“‘Worthy Fights’ is highly self-regarding even for a Washington book.”

Peggy Noonan writes: There’s the sense of an absence where the president should be.

Decisions are made—by someone, or some agency—on matters of great consequence, Ebola, for instance. The virus has swept three nations of West Africa; a Liberian visitor has just died in Dallas. The Centers for Disease Control says it is tracking more than 50 people with whom he had contact.

“Publicly Mr. Panetta has always been at great pains to show the smiling, affable face of one who is above partisanship. But this book is smugly, grubbily partisan.”

The commonsense thing—not brain science, just common sense—would be for the government to say: “As of today we will stop citizens of the affected nations from entering the U.S. We will ban appropriate flights, and as time passes we’ll see where we are. We can readjust as circumstances change. But for now, easy does it—slow things down.”51O63wb9qqL._SL250_

[Check out Panetta’s “Worthy Fights: A Memoir of Leadership in War and Peace” at Amazon.com]

Instead the government chooses to let the flow of individuals from infected countries continue. They will be screened at five U.S. airports, where their temperatures will be taken and they will be asked if they have been around anyone with Ebola.

A lot of them, knowingly or unknowingly, have been around Ebola. People who are sick do not in the early stages have elevated temperatures. People who are desperate to leave a plague state will, understandably if wrongly, lie on questionnaires.

“He is telling partisan Democrats on the ground that he’s really one of them, he hates those Republicans too, so you can trust him when he tells you Mr. Obama’s presidency is not a success.”

U.S. health-care workers at airports will not early on be organized, and will not always show good judgment. TSA workers sometimes let through guns and knives. These workers will be looking for microbes, which, as they say, are harder to see. A baby teething can run a fever; so will a baby with the virus. A nurse or doctor with long experience can tell the difference. Will the airport workers?

None of this plan makes sense. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Marco Rubio: Immigration Reform Will ‘Never’ Pass in One Comprehensive Bill

More from the talking-head shows, from The Corner.  Rubio was on the defensive for most of the interview (who wouldn’t be, under the hot lights with interviewer Chris Wallace?) and for good reason: Rubio was a leading proponent of  comprehensive immigration reform, until he flamed out in the polls, and is now trying to reinvent his message. Here’s some of Andrew Johnson‘s summary of Rubio’s Fox News Sunday interview:

“We’re not debating what to do — we’re debating how to do it. I’m just telling you we will never have the votes necessary to pass in one bill all of those things — it just won’t happen.”

Though the political class hasn’t caught up with this yetAmericans are rightly skeptical of any public policy package with the word “comprehensive” on it. It’s kryptonite. Don’t open that package. Send it back.

[Chris Wallace grills Rubio on immigration: “If it’s not political, why did you flip?” – Mediaite]

Some of Rubio’s more interesting comments, not included here (I just watched the broadcast of Rubio’s Fox News Sunday interview a moment ago) was not about immigration, but in defense of characterizing Hillary Clinton as a “20th Century candidate“. Chris Wallace noted that some see it as a veiled reference to Hillary’s advanced age. Rubio responded that you can be 40 years old, and be a candidate of the 20th Century. Rubio launched into a fairly typical monologue outlining an entrepreneurial alternative to Hillary’s statism. Some of it was good, not defensive, occasionally colorful and distracting. Here’s a money quote:

“We are going through the equivalent of an industrial revolution every five years.”

True? Not true? Either way, it’s a campaigner’s flourish. Not unlike something an ascendant Newt Gingrich or Bill Clinton would say when they wanted to change the subject with futuristic-sounding language.  Read the rest of this entry »


A Message from Bill Clinton

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The Single-Payer Fantasy

Signing the Affordable Care Act into law, March, 2010.

Signing the Affordable Care Act into law, March, 2010.

Obamacare isn’t a Republican idea, and liberals could never get their dream of single-payer

Charles C. W. Cooke writes:  As Obamacare declines toward a possible fall, the assembled denizens of the professional Left are scrambling in earnest to register their excuses with the public. Thus far at least, the award for the most creative contribution goes to former labor secretary Robert Reich, whose Saturday paean to single-payer health care managed to combine all of the most dishonest talking points that have bubbled up since October 1 while constructing in tandem a counterfactual so dazzling that only the truest of apostles could be persuaded by it. Read the rest of this entry »


The shutdown fight within the GOP was over tactics and power, not ideology

Budget Battle

The Tea Party’s Wasted Energy

‘We’ve got to get the Rockefeller Republicans out of the party,” a fellow told me in Minnesota recently. Or was it Arizona? Or Wilkes-Barre, Pa.? Actually, I think it was all three. I hear it all the time as I travel around the country speaking to conservative groups.

For those of you who don’t know, the Rockefeller Republicans — named after the former New York governor Nelson Rockefeller — were the liberal, mostly Northeastern wing of the Republican party.

Liberal Republican sounds like a contradiction in terms today, particularly for young people who grew up in the age of strictly ideological parties. But for most of American history, the parties weren’t strongly ideological institutions so much as coalitions of interests. There were very liberal Republicans and very conservative Democrats. Occasionally parties were defined — or indeed created — over single issues (the GOP was created to fight slavery, for instance), but the idea that you can guess someone is a conservative or liberal just by their party ID is a fairly recent development.

Read the rest of this entry »


Washington at war: Political animosity reaches new, personal level

Speaker of the House John Boehner arrives at the Capitol in Washington, Saturday. There has been no sign of progress toward ending the government shutdown that has idled 800,000 federal workers and curbed services around the country. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Speaker of the House John Boehner arrives at the Capitol in Washington, Saturday. There has been no sign of progress toward ending the government shutdown that has idled 800,000 federal workers and curbed services around the country. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

With no end in sight for the government shutdown, the partisan animosity has gotten unusually bitter and personal, even for Washington. Americans are angry too.

Everybody knows that “politics ain’t beanbag,” as American humorist Finley Peter Dunne’s “Mr. Dooley” put it more than a century ago.

But the partisan animosity over the government shutdown has gotten unusually bitter and personal, even for Washington.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is quoted calling House Speaker John Boehner “a coward.” Mr. Boehner’s reported characterization of Democratic leaders in Congress – questioning the circumstances of their birth, to put it politely – is no less insulting. Read the rest of this entry »


History Suggests Shutdown Stakes May Not Be That High

1995 battle didn’t affect views of Clinton, Gingrich, nor U.S. in the long term

WASHINGTON, DC —Elizabeth Mendes reports: As the federal government prepares to shut down for the first time since 1995/1996, historical Gallup data reveal that the repercussions of that past conflict ranged from none to short-lived, in terms of Americans’ concerns about the U.S. and the political players involved. The 1995/1996 closure, which occurred when — just like today — Republican leaders in Congress and a Democratic president failed to agree on the budget, did little to impact Americans’ views of President Bill Clinton, Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, Congress itself, the U.S. economy, and the country in general in the months after the shutdown began.

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Before the U.S. government shutdown on Nov. 14, 1995, President Clinton’s job approval stood at 52%. It dipped to 42% in an early January Gallup survey, but bounced back up to 52% by mid-March. His favorable rating took even less of a hit, falling just five percentage points to 54% in mid-January 1996 — after the second shutdown ended — from 59% in early November. And, his favorability climbed back up to 58% in mid-March 1996. Read the rest of this entry »


The Late, Great Middle Class

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Victor Davis Hanson writes: The American middle class, like the American economy in general, is ailing. Labor-force participation has hit a 35-year low.

Median household income is lower than it was five years ago. Only the top 5 percent of households have seen their incomes rise under President Obama.

Commuters are paying more than twice as much for gas as they were in 2008. Federal payouts for food stamps, unemployment insurance, and disability insurance have reached unprecedented levels.

Meanwhile, the country is still running near-record budget deficits and is burdened by $17 trillion in aggregate debt. Yet the stock market is soaring.

How can we make sense of all this contradictory nonsense? Irony.

Read the rest of this entry »


Obamacare Shutdown Showdown: 2013 Is Not 1995, and Cruz Can Win

mrcruzRepublicans who fear the effects of a possible government shutdown over Obamacare next month seem, chiefly, to fear that Republicans will be blamed. This blame would translate into losses in next year’s mid-term elections, and if those losses are large enough, they could cost the GOP not only a shot at re-taking the Senate, but could cost control of the House as well. Democrat control of Congress would give Barack Obama nearly unchallenged power for his final two years in office.

Some Republicans fear the consequences of a shutdown so much that they’re smearing Sen. Ted Cruz, the Texan who is leading the defund effort, sniping at him in the media and even sending opposition research on him to Fox News Channel’s Chris Wallace.

Their fears are understandable, but they’re overblown.

The 1995 government shutdown, which pitted then House Speaker Newt Gingrich against President Bill Clinton, is widely seen today as a disaster for the Republican Party. It wasn’t. That shutdown put a major dent in President Clinton’s prestige and popularity, while at the same time most Americans actually experienced no ill effects from it. The sky did not fall. Read the rest of this entry »


Why Obama May Lose the Shutdown Battle

English: U.S. President is greeted by Speaker ...

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Rich Galen writes: President Barack Obama, fresh from having his lunch money taken from him by Russia’s Vladimir Putin, is flailing about trying to find someone he can shift the public’s attention to.

He has chosen House Speaker John Boehner (R-Oh) as the person and the upcoming end of the U.S. government’s fiscal year on September 30 as his verbal weapon.

I think that is the wrong fight against the wrong guy. Read the rest of this entry »


How to Explain Conservatism to Your Squishy Liberal Friends: Individualism ‘R’ Us

by P.J. O’Rourke

The individual is the wellspring of conservatism. The purpose of conservative politics is to defend the liberty of the individual and – lest individualism run riot – insist upon individual responsibility.

The great religions (and conservatives are known for approving of God) teach salvation as an individual matter. There are no group discounts in the Ten Commandments, Christ was not a committee, and Allah does not welcome believers into Paradise saying, “You weren’t much good yourself, but you were standing near some good people.” That we are individuals – unique, disparate and willful – is something we understand instinctively from an early age. No child ever wrote to Santa: “Bring me – and a bunch of kids I’ve never met – a pony, and we’ll share.”

Virtue is famously lonely. Also vice, as anyone can testify who ever told his mother, “All the other guys were doing it.” We experience pleasure separately; Ethan Hawke may go out on any number of wild dates, but I’m able to sleep through them. And, although we may be sorry for people who suffer, we only “feel their pain” when we’re full of baloney and running for office.

The individual and the state

The first question of political science is – or should be: “What is good for everyone?” And, by “everyone” we must mean “all individuals.”

The question can’t be: “What is good for a single individual?” That’s megalomania, which is, like a New Hampshire presidential primary, the art of politics, not political science.

And the question can’t be: “What is good for some individuals?” Or even: “What is good for the majority of individuals?” That’s partisan politics, which, at best, leads to Newt Gingrich or Pat Schroeder and, at worst, leads to Lebanon or Rwanda.

Finally, the question can’t be: “What is good for individuals as a whole?” There’s no such thing. Individuals are only available individually.

By observing the progress of mankind, we can see that the things that are good for everyone are the things that have increased the accountability of the individual, the respect for the individual and the power of the individual to master his own fate. Judaism gave us laws before which all men, no matter their rank, stood as equals. Christianity taught us that each person has intrinsic worth, Newt Gingrich and Pat Schroeder included. The rise of private enterprise and trade provided a means of achieving wealth and autonomy other than by killing people with broadswords. And the industrial revolution allowed millions of ordinary folks an opportunity to obtain decent houses, food and clothes (albeit with some unfortunate side effects, such as environmental damage and Albert Gore).

In order to build a political system that is good for everyone, that ensures a free society based upon the independence, prestige and self-rule of individuals, we have to ask what all these individuals want. And be told to shut up, because there’s no way to know the myriad wants of diverse people. They may not know themselves. And who asked us to stick our nose in, anyway?

The Bill of Rights tries to protect our freedom not only from bad people and bad laws but also from the vast nets and gooey webs of rules and regulations that even the best governments produce. The Constitution attempts to leave as much of life as possible to common sense, or at least to local option. The Ninth Amendment states: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” Continues the 10th Amendment, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

It is these suit-yourself, you’re-a-big-boy-now, it’s-a-free-country powers that conservatism seeks to conserve.

But what about the old, the poor, the disabled, the helpless, the hopeless, the addled and the daft?

Conservatism is sometimes confused with Social Darwinism or other such me-first dogmas. Sometimes the confusion is deliberate. When those who are against conservative policies don’t have sufficient opposition arguments, they call love of freedom “selfish. ” Of course it is – in the sense that breathing is selfish. But because you want to breathe doesn’t mean you want to suck the breath out of every person you encounter. Conservatives do not believe in the triumph of the large and powerful over the weak and useless. (Although most conservatives would make an exception to see a fistfight between Norman Schwartzkopf and George Stephanopoulos. If all people are free, George Stephanopoulos must be allowed to run loose, too, however annoying this may be.)

But some people cannot enjoy the benefits of freedom without assistance from their fellows. This may be a temporary condition – such as childhood or being me when I say I can drive home from a bar, just fine, thank you very much, at three a.m. – or, due to infirmity or affliction, the condition may be permanent. Because conservatives do not generally propose huge government programs to combat the effects of old age, illness, being a kid or drinking 10 martinis on an empty stomach, conservatives are said to be “mean-spirited.”

In fact, charity is an axiom of conservatism. Charity is one of the great responsibilities of freedom. But, in order for us to be responsible – and therefore free – that responsibility must be personal.

Not all needful acts of charity can be accomplished by one person, of course. To the extent that responsibility should be shared and merged, in a free society it should be shared and merged on the same basis as political power, which means starting with the individual. Responsibility must proceed from the bottom up – never from the top down, with the individual as the squeezed cream filling of the giant Twinkie that is the state.

Read the rest of this entry »