Rubio-Cruz, Cruz-Rubio

After the Iowa Caucuses, it increasingly appears to be a three-man race, with two serious candidates, Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.  The supporters of each are passionate, sometimes bordering on the maniac, but that’s how it’s ever been in American politics.

Sadly, Obama is living up to his promises of fundamental transformation, increasing both the role of the federal government in our day-to-day lives, making it harder for people to rise, making us more dependent on government programs, and hobbling us economically and overseas.  He has corrupted everything he has touched, from the IRS to the Justice Department to Defense to the intelligence agencies.  He has normalized the idea that it’s all right for the President of the United States to wield the power of the federal government against his political opponents.  He will leave the next president with dangerously little room to maneuver – politically fiscally, militarily, and diplomatically – but maneuver he must.

Therefore, I’m less concerned with the antics of their supporters, and more concerned with how each would govern and would affect the long-term prospects for conservatism and the Republican party as its vehicle.

Both Cruz and Rubio present risks in terms of how they would govern, but each presents a different payoff, as well.

Rubio’s benefit is obvious: he’s plenty conservative, and his joyful optimism is better-positioned to bring both the party and the country back to civility, grow the conservative movement among urbanites, minorities, and women, and give us some base for a growing demographic majority rather than a shrinking one.  He’s also more likely to hold onto those Congressional majorities, and keep the Democrats at bay at the state level for a while.

That last is more important than it seems.  The prospects for a Republican who can win blue states like Minnesota can’t be overstated.  As opposed to 1980, or even 1992, far fewer states have been in play at the Presidential level, over the last five elections.  Pending the state-level results in 2020, and redistricting, the country risks hardening into relatively evenly-balanced partisan geographic blocks, something we haven’t seen since the mid-1800s.

Worse, while the Republicans have been sweeping everything in their path at the Congressional and state levels, the Democrats have enjoyed an enormous, although not always insurmountable, advantage in the Electoral College.  This matters, because at the same time, they’ve been doing everything possible to unbalance our political processes so that winning the presidency is all that matters.  A Republican president needs to undo the latter trend, but the results will only have staying power if he can also undo the electoral trend, as well.

The question is how much a President Rubio willing to do with that majority.  He’s less likely to upset the apple cart of the established order, fundamentally rethink foreign policy, or take extraordinarily bold action early on.  So is the potential reward going to come in time to save the Republic?  That’s the risk that we think we’re getting with Rubio – a temperamentally conservative figure who will be more inclined to color inside the lines, turn the ship 15 degrees to starboard when it needs to go full reverse, and who will leave Washington basically unchanged in how it does business.

Cruz’s questions are different.  He’s a higher-reward proposition.  He’s much more likely to take bold, decisive conservative action, and much more likely to tell the “establishment,” whatever that means now, to pound sand, and thereby reorder how Washington works, if such is possible.  David Goldman (Spengler) makes a compelling case that he’s the only one with the intellectual chops to rethink foreign policy in a constructive, strategic way.

However, if he’s higher-reward, he’s also much higher-risk.  He will win by winning Romney’s states, plus Virginia, Florida, Ohio and then one other state – Nevada? New Mexico? Iowa? New Hampshire?  Which means he won’t be coming in on a landslide of goodwill.  Rather he’d win narrowly, and probably divisively.  I’ve mentioned before how it’s hard to govern when everyone hates you, and as an additional handicap, he won’t have the press on his side, and he won’t have a particularly large reservoir of goodwill.  When things start to go wrong – and things always go wrong – he won’t have very many friends to help him out without exacting a steep price.

Which leads to the internal contradiction of a Cruz Presidency.  He’s a man committed to restoring the Constitutional order, which means governing through Congress and rolling back federal power.  But he’s also a man who may find it impossible to make any of the domestic changes necessary, since that long-term change requires Congressional legislation.  It means that a President Cruz, who longs to restore the Constitutional balance, may be stuck having to rely on the power of the executive, which both betrays that plan, and makes any structural fiscal or regulatory reform short-lived.

That’s the calculus facing Republican voters.  It goes without saying that either Rubio or Cruz is a better bet for the country than corrupt Clinton or socialist Sanders.  Imagine after eight years of either, after eight years of Obama, with a presidency increasingly comfortable with truly imperial powers.  By then, it would be almost impossible to remember a time when the president couldn’t simply do whatever he or she wanted, or worse, when a citizen largely could do whatever he or she wanted.

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Chronic Clinton Fatigue Disorder

Bernie Sanders is once again tired of hearing about Hillary’s emails.

Hillary Clinton hasn’t even been elected President, and she’s already returned Clinton Fatigue to Washington.

Clinton Fatigue is that sense of exhaustion you get when trying to sort through the various lies, deceptions, evasions, inventions, and circumventions necessitated by various legal, ethical, and tangles, large and small, engaged in by the Clintons and their friends.

Clinton Fatigue was one of the major contributing factors to the election of George W. Bush in 2000.  People were exhausted by the sense that when they read the news coming out of Washington, they were forever walking in on a guilty child whose first reaction, like that of all guilty children, was to make something up.  They had rejected a second term for George H.W. Bush in the 1992 elections, putting these very same Clintons in charge.  Only eight years later, they elected his son of (nearly) the same name, so strong was the nostalgia for a time when the adults were in charge.

And now, with Madame Hillary holding no public office, only a candidate for President, it’s back.

It’s back in the lying about the lying about Benghazi.  In the emails that Bernie Sander is already impatient to move on from, and the classified information that was on them.  In the form that Hillary signed about the handling of classified info.  In the tax returns that the Clinton Foundation can’t seem to get quite right.  In the evidence that the Foundation had donors with business before the State Department.

It’s in the Hillary trying to turn herself into a hero of post-9/11 downtown reconstruction (where her daughter was not, in fact, jogging on that infamous day).  For the record, because we cling to the hope that the record still matters, was how Hillary was received by the families of the NYPD and FDNY just a few weeks after 9/11:

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It’s in the lies she tells because she has to and the lies she tells because she wants to and the lies she tells because she just can’t help herself.

It’s in the “can’t remembers” when she doesn’t like the memory, or the lingering questions that never get answered but always have been.

It isn’t helped by the conspiricists who insist that Vince Foster was shot or that the MENA Airport was a major hub for drugs, murder, and mayhem all overseen by the then-governor but that doesn’t make the fatigue any less real.

The Clintons don’t just bring the Fatigue with them, they’re carriers.  This time, it’s Huma Abedin who was personally put on the State Department payroll, signed a separation agreement which included the handling of classified information.

These lies, shadings, convenient memory lapses don’t just appear of their own accord.  When someone compiles that kind of a record, it’s because of character.

She is, by turns, personally venal and politically vindictive.  Does anyone doubt that she was selling access and potentially contracts the way she and her husband sold the Lincoln Bedroom a decade earlier?  Does anyone think that she would shy away from using the IRS to punish political opponents?

She is contemptuous of the people she claimed to represent, and claims to want to lead.  That booing in the post-9/11 video above came after her motorcade ran down a New York police officer there to provide security, and Madame Hillary couldn’t be bothered to stop to see if here was all right.  Her first response, “Don’t worry, I’m ok.”  With respect, we didn’t really doubt you were.

Whatever political skills Bill may have had, it should by now be abundantly clear to anyone who isn’t a hopeless partisan hack that Madame Hillary has, quit literally, none of the personal characteristics necessary for the Oval Office.

Does anyone doubt that a decade and a half of this sort of thing would irreversibly damage and distort our political institutions?

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Debating to Win

Tuesday night, Neil Cavuto asked the question about the bank bailouts, and whether or not a President Cruz, or Rubio, or Paul, or Bush, or Kasich, would help organize a government rescue of, say, BankAmerica if it were on the verge of going under.

Almost all those who answered the question – with the exception of Bush and Kasich, both of whom worked for banks, and both of whom answered incoherently – all of them said, no, they would let BankAmerican fail.  When Cavuto pressed them on the question of people’s savings, they continued to say no, they wouldn’t bail out BankAmerica, they’d let it go under.

And that was it.  No elaboration of what that would mean for people, no discussion of the consequences.  Just talk of “too big to fail” and how lousy Dodd-Frank is

I cannot begin to describe how awful an answer that is.

Without even talking about the policy, which might or might not make sense (although these same candidates for the most part didn’t want to talk about breaking up the “too big to fail” institutions, or how interconnected all the banks are), the answer as an argument to the people who were watching at home was catastrophically bad.

Cavuto pressed this point several times, and not one of the candidates – not even Ted “Smartest Guy In the Room And I’ll Make Damn Sure Everyone Knows It” Cruz – brought up the fact that we have deposit insurance in the form of the FDIC.  Individuals probably don’t have anything to worry about in terms of their own bank accounts, even pretty well-off individuals.  But nobody thought to mention this fact.

Look, I realize that the bank bailouts and TARP are, right now, as toxic among Republicans as a tranche of subprime mortgages was in 2008 to an institutional investor.  But when people hear “bank failure,” they don’t think, “Wall Street Fat Cats,” they think Jimmy Stewart cancelling his honeymoon to go save the Building & Loan in It’s A Wonderful Life, which people have only seen a thousand times in their own lives.  They think bank runs and desperate looks and breadlines and Mary Poppins and life savings’ wiped out and lives ruined.

They think personal devastation.

And yet not one word that any of these Presidential candidates uttered did anything to reassure people that it wouldn’t happen to them.

Now think for a second how a rational, intelligent version of Joe Biden would have answered that.  (Yes, I know, imagining such a thing is like imagining a vegetarian lion, but work with me.)

He’d talk about how people count on those banks, and count on they’re being safe in order to feed their families and pay their rent or their kids’ college tuition.  He’d talk about how he’d make sure that every last one of those workers were taken care of, how not one of them would lose s dime, but how the bankers who made those mistakes and put those lives at risk would have their toys taken away.

He’d talk about how nobody would get out of paying a penny they owed, and all those loans would go to a healthy bank, one run by people who weren’t greedy, and how all those savings would be made whole.  And he’d say that thank God and FDR we have deposit insurance, so the little guy can’t get trampled when the big guys make mistakes.  Because he grew up knowing people who had lost everything in the Depression, everything being not much to begin with, and by God he wasn’t going to let that happen again.

This is no small mistake, no “nobody’s perfect” moment.  This is basic stuff that wasn’t mentioned at all, and that Cavuto pressed people on, making it sound as though individual savings were at risk.  I’m sure he knows better and had a follow-up that would have made it clear, but with nobody biting, he never had a chance to bring that out.

The Democrats are going to demagogue this to death, and there’s no reason for it.

Fortunately, right now, Hillary, Woman of the People, seems to be Wall Street’s favorite candidate, so there should be other opportunities to push this line.  Let’s hope they make better use of it.

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Hillary Goes BLM

Hillary Clinton met with the mothers of Treyvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Tamir Rice Monday.  The meeting comes after several other efforts to court the Black Lives Matter (sic) organization.

There are – literally – millions of other mothers Hillary could have met with yesterday.

She could have met with the moms of some of the police officers killed. She could have met with Chris Mintz’s mom, or even Chris Mintz himself, since he’s still miraculously alive. She could have met with the moms of some people killed by thugs on the streets, or people who had their stores robbed, or people who intervened to stop those things.

She could have asked the board of the Clinton Foundation to throw a little money to the people of Ferguson who saw their town used as a staging ground for street violence, and their downtown burned to the foundations.

Instead, she decided to help legitimize that street violence by signalling to the Black Lives Matter crowd that she was on their side. For the record, she was also the very first guest on Al Sharpton’s show in his new Sunday morning time slot.

What’s at work here is the ultimately self-destructive and (one can only hope) self-defeating identity politics of the modern Democratic Party.  Barack Obama won re-election largely on the strength of an enormous turnout of black voters.

It’s also true that Hillary realizes that there’s probably no way that she can repeat that kind of performance, and that in order to win, she can’t let it slip all that far.  She needs enthusiasm, and if she can’t get that, she’ll settle for energy.  In a way, the joyless, angry Black Lives Matter is a great match temperamentally for the joyless, angry Hillary Clinton.

It’s to Barack Obama’s lasting shame (if he, indeed, is capable of such) that he has helped empower these street thugs and allowed others to think that they somehow represent the black community.  Madame Hillary may feel that she has no choice but to court them, in order to prevent the sort of disruptions that helped defeat Humphrey in 1968.  And if that means being unable to choke out the words, “All lives matter,” which are apparent now exclusive by virtue of their inclusivity, or something like that, well, that’s a small price to pay for the White House.

The problem is, it’s not a small price for the rest of us.  Interest groups can afford to be provincial.  Presidents should not, and the idea that “all lives matter,” even as a meaningless phrase, shouldn’t be controversial to the President.  The President, who will also appoint the Attorney General and help run the Civil Right Division.

After Monday, don’t say you weren’t warned.

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American Independents

Word is that former Virginia Senator Jim Webb will be dropping out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, and may consider an independent run for the office.

So far, the Sharf Curse remains intact.  My first two choices for the Republicans were Rick Perry and Scott Walker, so far the only two Republicans to give up their runs.  On the Democratic side, Webb seemed to be the only sane one running.  Although he was well to the left of me on economic policy, he seemed well-grounded on social issues, and was the only Democrat who was remotely connected to the real world when it comes to foreign policy.

I wasn’t the only one who noticed that Webb seemed to be on the wrong stage, and wished that the RNC and DNC general managers could get together and arrange a trade for Trump.

Given that, it’s not surprising that many Republicans are reacting favorably to the idea of Webb running as an independent, particularly as the idea grows that Trump might be the nominee.  (I myself remain serenely unconcerned about that possibility, for much the same reason that I don’t trouble myself over the prospect of a Sharf Administration.)  The reasoning goes that Webb, as a basically reasonable guy, would be able to work with the Republicans on foreign and, to some extent, social policy, and with the Democrats on economic policy.

In some ways, it’s an appealing thought, but it’s not going to happen.

For one thing, Webb can’t possibly get elected.  Even in this day of reduced party organizations, they can still mobilize ground support and GOTV efforts like no other.  It also doesn’t appear that Webb would have the support of any of the independent organizations (the Koch brothers’ AFP, or the Silicon Valley data-mining enterprises).

Even if he were to win, he would find himself without party support in Congress. This might not matter so much during normal times, and if the take-away for the parties from an independent being elected president were that people were tired of drama, we might get back to normal times.

But I don’t think that’s in the cards, with Nancy Pelosi in the House and Chuck Schumer leading the Democrats in the Senate.  There might be a honeymoon of sorts, and it might even last a while.  And for things like Supreme Court nominations, one could even argue that without a partisan target, the parties might be more willing to look at the merits of a nominee.  Personally, I think they’d be even more focused on outcomes rather than background and temperament.

Moreover, President Webb would have no party base of support to fall back on when things get rough.  To do so would be to risk becoming captive to one party or the other in Congress.  Either party would extract a steep price for going to the mat for him and expending political capital on his behalf during a difficult fight.

All of which points to an even more ominous development that a Webb presidency would portend – the extension of executive power even beyond its current, bloated form.

Think about it.  In foreign policy, the executive has primacy.  Webb is more likely to have Republican support for whatever his foreign policy looks like in practice, so they’re not likely to try to clobber him over that the way the Dems did to Reagan over Iran-Contra, or George W. Bush over the Iraq War.  Moreover, Republicans, barring outright catastrophic decisions like those we’ve been seeing since 2013, tend to be gunshy about undercutting the executive in this arena.

What they’re likely to have a problem with is Webb’s domestic policies.  While those policies are unlikely to resemble Obama’s aggressive, transform-the-country-into-Venezuela-cum-Norway approach, they’d still be his own, not Congress’s.

And the power dynamic hasn’t changed.  The executive branch still has broad regulatory authority that acts like legislative power, and Webb would likely, after a year or so of failed cat-wrangling of his own, likely find the temptation to use them to their fullest to be irresistible.

The Senate Democrats are practiced at running interference for liberal executive overreach.  The Republicans will be tempted to do to the same for things like changes to the EPA’s range of authority.  And Webb would have little incentive to seek legislation that would structually revert power back to Congress from the executive or back to the states from Washington.

So while a Webb Administration might provide some sanity and stability, it could probably only do so by entrenching the means for further lawlessness and chaos down the road.

 

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Podcast #2 – BLM Road Closures

Marjorie Haun has been doing yeoman work following the story of the BLM land closures.  In this podcast, I talk to some of the players – a business-owner whose customers will find themselves with less road to ride; an activist who’s working the legal side; and a member of the Mesa County Board of Commissioners who filed a protest.

In the story, we reference the BLM’s Resource Management Plan.  You can find the map of it here.

And a copy of the form letter protest denial can be found here.

Marjorie has filed two stories on the planned closures, one in May, one in September.

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A Modest Proposal on Murder

Today, in response to the UCC shootings, Hillary Clinton resurrected that old chestnut, making gun manufacturers liable for the misuse of their legal product.  She would allow the families of murder victims whose killers used a gun to sue the gun manufacturer for damages.

It’s a gun ban by another name, since no manufacturer would be able to afford the liability insurance required to stay in business.  And if you think this would end with the manufacture of guns, think again.  Gun ranges, gunsmiths, gun retailers (who are federally-licensed) would soon find themselves covered, making the transfer, sale, and repair of firearms effectively illegal.

The proposal is silly on the face of it.  Guns can be used for many purposes, almost all of them lawful, safe, and beneficial.  Guns are used for self-defense in this country every day.  As has been repeatedly mentioned, even as gun ownership has soared, crime rates, including the murder rate by guns, has plummeted.

But as long as we’re at it, let’s understand that while slightly fewer than half murderers use handguns, many use knives or blunt objects such as hammers.  If the goal is to reduce actual murder, rather than to simply get guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens, we should, by logic, allow the families of murder victims whose killers used hammers or steak knives to sue those manufacturers, as well.  In 2014, 71 people were murdered by fire.  We should then allow those families to sue match manufacturers.

Eighty-nine people were murdered by strangulation.  Strangling someone with one’s bare hands is hard; an object is usually used.  Clearly, the manufacturers of electrical cord, rope, belts, and other clothing should be liable.

In Israel, Palestinians have recently taken to driving cars into Jews standing at bus stops.  Were such a practice to become common here, the auto manufacturers should be held liable, as well.

Obviously, the economy would grind to a halt within minutes of such laws being passed, indeed, long before they actually became law, as retailers and manufacturers scrambled to get out of these suddenly-risky businesses.  But in principle, there’s nothing different between holding Ginsu responsible for the murderer who uses its kitchen knife and Glock responsible for the breakdown of social order in Chicago.

Despite having lost the gun control debate, Democrats holding and running for the White House continue to try to make a partisan issue out it.  The issue always fades away because the media and the Washington Democrats never learn that this isn’t a partisan issue anymore, with most Americans resisting new gun laws.

There are three former state senators here in Colorado who could remind them, though.

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Podcast Experiment

One of my fondest desires has been to produce a This American Life or RadioLab, only for free-market and conservative ideas.  Thanks to Stacy Petty, I’ve actually been given a chance to do this.

In one of his own podcast interviews, Dan Carlin of Hardcore History fame says that his goal has been to produce, for radio, a long-form edition of what a newspaper column would look like.  That’s kind of what I’m aiming for here, as well.  Edited, polished, but also using the illustrative and mood-setting background sound that radio give you, but newspapers don’t.

It’s unclear exactly what the format will be going forward, but here’s the first attempt, discussing PERA, the forthcoming State Auditor’s report on an early warning system, and small planes.  It runs 10:30, but I’m hoping to bring future editions in at exactly 10:00.

 

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It’s Not Just Separation of Powers – It’s Also Federalism

Facebook friend of mine Ken Gardner is fond of saying that a fair number of people who think they’re dissatisfied with Boehner and McConnell are really dissatisfied with the separation of powers.  After all, any real change requires legislation, any legislation can be vetoed, and the Democrats in the Senate have proven that they won’t even let it come to that, with their abuse of the filibuster over the Iran deal.

However, federalism plays as big a role as separation of powers.  Our senators and representatives are from specific states and district, which can look very different from each other.  In this respect, we are strikingly different from parliamentary democracies, even those such as Canada and the UK, where national slates really rule roost.  In Will Mrs. Major Go to Hell?, William F. Buckley tells the story about a married couple, she from Massachusetts, he from Virginia.  They discussed politics often, but never party registration.  Turns out he was a Democrat, and she was a Republican, which came as a surprise to both of them.  He being so conservative, she had assumed he was a Republican.  She being so liberal, he had assumed she was a Democrat.  Lots of fighting over that, apparently.

Those regional differences persist, even after the Great Reshuffling that began in earnest with the 1994 Congressional elections.  The map that decorates this post, showing a broad swath of Republican legislative control across the country, masks a broad range of opinion and viewpoints.  The Michigan and Wisconsin governments are run by Republicans, but I will promise you they are very different from Alabama and Mississippi.

That’s fine when you’re dealing with state issues.  It comes into collision in Congress, where these regional Republicans have to sit in the same body.
When I was growing up, southern Congressional Democrats, who often voted conservatively, were referred to as “boll weevils,” while their northern liberal Republican counterparts were the “gypsy moths.”  And it’s worth remembering that while Jesse Helms couldn’t have gotten elected in Minnesota, or Rudy Boschwitz in North Carolina, they both voted for the Reagan tax cuts.

What made it different was the “Reagan” part.  Yes, the president has the veto power, but he also has the bully pulpit, and is the only office-holder elected by the entire country.  He can set the agenda and give the party focus and direction in a way that it’s almost impossible for Congressional leaders to do.

There’s no question that Obama has broken the basic political agreement between citizens and the government:

Barack Obama has become the transformational president he aspired to be. Among the things he has transformed is the nature of the political compact between the rulers and the ruled in our republic.

Before Obama, citizens hoped that their elected leaders would be wise, independent, and disinterested leaders—but they never really counted on utopian vision. What they banked on was that the people they elected would, at the very least, be self-interested vote-seekers—so that if voters started punishing politicians for a specific course of action, the politicians would abandon it.

The passage of Obamacare broke this arrangement. And the impending passage of the Iran nuclear deal, in the face of voter discontent will cement this new relationship as the norm. In both cases, Democratic law makers went along in processes that were highly irregular (the nuclear option for passage of Obamacare; no treaty ratification with Iran); with initiatives they largely disliked on the merits; that voters demonstrably disliked in polling; and that had (or are likely to have) negative outcomes not just in the real world, but in the political world, too. This sort of power dynamic is new in American politics.

There’s also no question that Boehner and McConnell have been slow to recognize this shift, even as their opposite numbers on the Democrat side conspired in the reduction of Congress to an adjunct of the executive branch.

Whatever Boehner and McConnell may have “let” happen, real change will not come through Congressional action.  It will have to wait for a Republican president, and even then, it will only happen with an energetic president committed to pushing legislation that devolves executive power back to Congress, reduces actual regulatory authority, and devolves federal power back to the states.  It’s why primaries matter.

Obama is more Marius than Augustus, and we will not find our way back with a Sulla of our own.  Sulla, of course, thought he was restoring the old order, but in the end, his lasting accomplishment was to establish a road map for future despots.

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Politics and the Pope

It would be unfair to say that this morning’s Papal speech to Congress has been the subject of immediate politicization, since that started even before the speech was given.

Lachlan Markay noted on Facebook how embarrassing it was to have pretty much everyone in Washington picking and choosing favored parts of the speech.  Michael Walsh (alias David Kahane) implored non-Catholics to just shut up about the Pope, since he’s not an American politician.

Markay is right, that the attempt to claim the Pope for one’s own side is a trivializing exercise, mostly to the politicians involved.  And Walsh is right that non-Catholics probably don’t understand Catholic doctrine very well.

That said, it’s pretty much an impossible situation for our political culture.

The Pope is a religious figure, which we tend to see as a non-political figure, who doesn’t fit neatly into American political categories.  At the same time, he’s giving speeches where he opines on manifestly political topics, in an inherently political town, including one to an inherently political body.  Not discussing these issues in a political context would be absurd.  And indeed, why does the Pope speak on these subjects if not to influence the real world debate?  Of course, that’s what he wants, and his means of doing do is to influence the moral framework through which Catholics see these issues.

To those who don’t like mixing politics and religion, though, the Papal visit a good reminder that almost all political arguments are inherently moral ones.  Virtually every question in the public arena today is cast as a moral matter – from health care, to the environment, to welfare, to foreign policy, is a moral question.  One of the reasons that conservatives tend to lose these debates is because we’re terrible at pointing out that our side has at least as good a moral argument as the allegedly caring Left.  (It’s actually a far superior moral argument, but for purposes of this post, we’ll settle for there being two sides to the coin.)

That doesn’t mean the government has to get involved in everything, or that it should be a sectarian tool. But even libertarians make moral arguments about policy – they just claim that it’s more moral to leave the government out of most things.  The case is a bit of a bank shot, but it’s got solid fundamentals – if capitalism raises people out of poverty, and if moral societies are more robust when mediating institutions are strong on their own, then a smaller government usually is more moral.

Where libertarians tend to lose out is when the judgment that the government shouldn’t be making moral calls leads them to complain about any moral judgments at all, and I’ve seen this happen – a lot.  Both Thomas Merton and Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik would agree that no man is an island, that societies exist in the real world, and that they only work when they can internally enforce moral norms.

There is also some slight difference between starting from Catholic doctrine and arriving at political conclusions, and working backwards to find support for your politics in religious thought.  The reporting on this Pope’s comments has been so truly awful that I really can’t tell how much of it is the press trying to co-opt the Pope for its lefty agenda, and how much really is organic.  Much of the criticism of Pope Francis comes from people who assume he’s doing the latter.

It’s the same problem as when rabbis talk about politics from the pulpit, making the Reform rabbinate the marketing arm of the Democratic Party.  Tradtional Judaism, which is to say, actual Jewish thought grounded in sources and Jewish law, is anything but socialist and redistributionist, anything but passive in the face of existential threats.

The fact that it, too, doesn’t fit neatly into contemporary party politics doesn’t meant that it doesn’t have something to say about contemporary controversies, or provide a framework that can inform the Jewish point of view on those subjects.  It’s why the work being done by the Tikvah Fund, which works in the other, proper direction, is so admirable.

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