URLs du Jour

2019-10-29

[Amazon Link]

  • Down in Massachusetts, Greg Mankiw has had it: he's no longer a Republican.

    I just came back from city hall, where I switched my voter registration from Republican to unenrolled (aka independent). Two reasons:

    First, the Republican Party has largely become the Party of Trump. Too many Republicans in Congress are willing, in the interest of protecting their jobs, to overlook Trump's misdeeds (just as too many Democrats were for Clinton during his impeachment). I have no interest in associating myself with that behavior. Maybe someday, the party will return to having honorable leaders like Bush, McCain, and Romney. Until then, count me out.

    The second reason: he can vote in either party's primary. That's not an option up here in NH.


  • And speaking of Republicans, Jeff Jacoby has an offering in the Pun Salad "Sure, They Don't Have To, But They Almost Certainly Will" Department: Republicans made a mistake in 2016. They don't have to repeat it in 2020.

    The Trump years have turned American politics into a screaming freak show. They have tarnished our standing around the world and embittered our civic discourse at home. The original Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, implored his countrymen to heed "the better angels of our nature." Ronald Reagan, the 20th century's greatest Republican president, told Americans he "appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears; to your confidence rather than your doubts." Trump does the opposite.

    The Republican Party desperately needs a new standard-bearer. In 2016, the GOP allowed itself to be taken over by an unworthy and indecent scoundrel. Now, following an endless train of scandals and abuses, that scoundrel is about to be impeached. This would be a good time for his party to jettison him, as Republicans jettisoned Nixon. America is blessed with many honest, admirable, competent conservatives. The Republican Party ought to nominate one of them for president in 2020. One term of this exhausting, disordered, toxic administration is enough. What is needed now is a candidate who can make America normal again.

    Disclaimer, the link in the above excerpt goes to FiveThirtyEight, which lists a bunch of anti-Trump conservatives, some of whom stink pretty badly. But overall, I take Jeff's point.


  • Speaking of parties, though, George Will has an observation about them: Weak political parties smooth the way for demagogues.

    There are political moments, and this might be one, in which worse is better. Moments, that is, when a society’s per capita quantity of conspicuous stupidity is so high and public manners are so low that a critical mass of people are jolted into saying “enough, already.” Looking on the bright side, as he wisely is disinclined to do, Jonathan Rauch thinks such a moment might be arriving.

    Writing in National Affairs (“Rethinking Polarization”), Rauch, a Brookings Institution senior fellow, postulates a vast emptiness at the core of the politics that has engulfed us: “What if, to some significant extent, the increase in partisanship is not really about anything?” What if rival tribalisms are largely untethered from ideologies?

    Plausible, except Democrats do tend to be tethered to ideological statism, differing only on details. Should we travel down the Road to Serfdom at 90 mph, or a more stately 45?

    Mr. Will also notices Senator Liz's "grotesque — and classically demagogic" formulation from a couple months back:

    My message is, you have things that are broken in your life? I'll tell you exactly why. It's because giant corporations, billionaires, have seized our government.

    That's some dangerous bullshit.


  • I admire the attitude of a new website, Liberalism Unrelinquished.

    In the 17th and 18th centuries there was an ascendant cultural outlook that may be termed the liberal outlook. It was best represented by the Scottish enlightenment, especially Adam Smith, and it flowed into a liberal era, which came to be represented politically by people like Richard Cobden, William Gladstone, and John Bright. The liberal outlook revolved around a number of central terms (in English-language discourse, the context of the semantic issue that concerns us).

    Especially from 1880 there began an undoing of the meaning of the central terms, among them the word liberal. The tendency of the trends of the past 130 years has been toward the governmentalization of social affairs. The tendency exploded during the First World War, the Interwar Years, and the Second World War. After the Second World War the most extreme forms of governmentalization were pushed back and there have since been movements against the governmentalization trend. But by no means has the original liberal outlook been restored to its earlier cultural standing. The semantic catastrophes of the period 1880-1940 persist, and today, amidst the confusion of tongues, governmentalization continues to hold its ground and even creep forward. For the term liberal, in particular, it is especially in the United States and Canada that the term is used in ways to which we take exception.

    A number of smart people have added their names, like Deirdre McCloskey, Charles Murray, and Richard Epstein. (Not Greg Mankiw, yet.)

    (I decline to self-pigeonhole, lest I get embarrassed by one or more of the other pigeons in my hole. But that's me.)


  • Kevin D. Williamson writes on the George Bush & Ellen DeGeneres 'Controversy': Cooties Politics.

    When the Founders designed the basic architecture of the American system, they bore in mind among other antecedents the Roman republic. Their heirs are fascinated by a rather different model of social organization: the junior-high cafeteria.

    “Nobody should be friends with George W. Bush,” reads the headline over Sarah Jones’s essay in New York magazine, that purported bastion of urbanity. The article addresses the scandalization of American progressives by the private life of talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres, whose circle of friends is wide enough to encompass many people with whom she disagrees politically, including the former president.

    KDW notes that anyone who wears "the better part of $1 million on her wrist" (a vintage Rolex) has to be "at least a little bit Republican".

    Also, a Cher Horowitz reference, which I had to look up.


  • Enough politics? If you made it down this far, you deserve a breather, so you should check out Mark Steyn on that oldie by Bill Haley and the Comets: "Rock Around the Clock".

    One hundred years ago this weekend - October 26th 1919 - a man called James E Myers was born in Philadelphia. You may know him better as Jimmy DeKnight. More likely, you won't know him at all. But you'll certainly know a song he wrote. Or, again more likely, didn't write. But he certainly played a large part in the spectacular success thereof - a wild anthem of rebellious youth, thanks to a chubby-faced kiss-curled singer pushing thirty with a backing group named after a theory published in Synopsis Astronomia Cometicae in 1705 and a bit of help from a chap born in the nineteenth century:

    One, two, three o'clock, four o'clock rock!
    Five, six, seven o'clock, eight o'clock rock!
    Nine, ten, eleven o'clock, twelve o'clock rock!
    We're gonna Rock!
    Around!
    The Clock tonight...

    We have no plans at Pun Salad Manor to rock around the clock tonight, or any night. Our eyelids get irreversibly heavy at 10pm or earlier.