So much for ecstatic modes of living.Jul 6, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 41 • By JAY COST
In 1969, a young Hillary Rodham was chosen to give a commencement address to the graduating class of Wellesley College, and she used the occasion to deliver some fairly radical remarks. She spoke of her generation feeling “that our prevailing, acquisitive, and competitive corporate life, including tragically the universities, is not the way of life for us. We’re searching for more immediate, ecstatic, and penetrating modes of living.” She praised the student protest movement as “an attempt to forge an identity in this particular age” and said that she and her peers perceived society as hovering “between the possibility of disaster and the potentiality for imaginatively responding to men’s needs.”
To be sure, it was a confusing, middle-class, soft-New Left radicalism—hardly the stuff of the old farmer-labor coalition. But it was still a challenge to the established order. Surely, if those listening had been told that in half a century this young woman would be a candidate for president, they would have expected her to run as a radical.
But the opposite is true. Since she left the State Department, Hillary Clinton has been consumed with two decidedly nonradical activities: making as much money as possible and developing a precisely modulated candidacy, built on small ideas so as to cobble together a critical mass of voters. It’s a left-wing approach, for sure, but it is premised on a liberalism that views the status quo as mostly fine.
Somewhere along the line, Clinton left behind her youthful radicalism and embraced the assumptions of mainstream progressivism. And good for her. College life is lived in a bubble inside which it is easy to waste time indulging leftist nonsense. Growing up usually means leaving this behind.
Still, the juxtaposition of the youthful aspirations of Clinton in 1969 and the joyless, money-grubbing Clinton of today says something about progressivism. By embracing the “prevailing, acquisitive, and competitive corporate life,” progressive elites have made a lot of money, but they can no longer “imaginatively respond . . . to men’s needs.” Clinton, as presumptive nominee of the major progressive party, embodies this denatured idealism.
When it began, the progressive movement was actually a middle ground between early-20th-century “reactionaries,” who wanted to retain a corrupt status quo, and surging radical forces, notably agrarian populists and urban socialists. The progressives called for abandoning the Constitution’s limits on the national government. They believed fervently that an alliance between the state, business, farmers, and laborers could solve the nation’s problems. The progressives presumed to manage everything, from growing the economy to regulating business responsibly, providing social welfare, mitigating inequality, and combating corruption.
To a large extent, both parties have accepted the core assumptions of the progressive model. Much of the GOP’s domestic agenda during the George W. Bush administration—targeted tax credits, a Medicare prescription drug benefit, an expanded federal role in education, and substantial use of earmarks—was cast in this mold. It was progressive for Republicans to expand the scope of the state via a broad political alliance of “stakeholders,” even if they made heavier use of free market concepts than leftists and jilted many Democratic clients in the process.
Yet it is increasingly difficult to accept the premises of progressivism. Over the last 15 years, the economy has stagnated, inequality has worsened, cronyism is much worse than it was even in the Gilded Age, and the United States is now burdened by a large structural deficit that yearly adds to an already $18 trillion national debt. These problems can be traced, at least in part, to the inherent limitations of the progressive model.
Above all, progressivism requires an omnipotent government coordinating a broad alliance of factions for, it believes, the greater good. Over time, this approach tends to heighten inequality, as the groups with the resources to acquire influence win the most favors. It facilitates cronyism, as politicians cash in on their connections. It puts upward pressure on budget deficits, as the political incentives inevitably favor increasing expenditures without commensurately raising taxes. It constrains the options of policy-makers, as all proposals must win the consent of a vast array of clients. And it stifles reform, as stakeholder factions thwart changes that hurt their bottom lines, regardless of the public interest. Progressivism eventually produces sclerotic and corrupt government.
Hillary Clinton is a demagogue, but the GOP is AWOL.Jun 22, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 39 • By JAY COST
Speaking at the historically black Texas Southern University earlier this month, Hillary Clinton gave a fiery speech on voting rights. She accused Republicans of spearheading “a sweeping effort to disempower and disenfranchise people of color, poor people, and young people from one end of our country to the other.”
A revolutionary campaign finance idea. Jun 15, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 38 • By JAY COST
Writing recently in the Daily Beast, John Pudner of Take Back Our Republic, a conservative reform group, offered an interesting proposal for improving our campaign finance system. He suggested that each political donor receive a tax credit worth up to $200:
What you want in a leader won’t show up on the résumé. Jun 8, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 37 • By JAY COST
Former Texas governor Rick Perry is gearing up for another presidential run and recently fired a shot across the bow of some of his competitors. In an interview with The Weekly Standard, Perry said that while he had “great respect” for senators Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul, they were not ready to be president:
Blame for the 2008 financial collapse is, and should be, widespread.Jun 1, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 36 • By JAY COST
In The Semisovereign People, political scientist E. E. Schatt-schneider argues that “political conflict is not like an intercollegiate debate in which the opponents agree in advance on a definition of the issues. As a matter of fact, the definition of the alternatives is the supreme instrument of power. . . . He who determines what politics is about runs the country.” Schattschneider calls the organized effort to ensure that some alternatives remain illegitimate “the mobilization of bias.”
May 18, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 34 • By JAY COST
Conservatives have been disappointed with the track record of Republicans in Congress since their 2010 takeover of the House. There have been a few bright spots—the cuts in domestic discretionary spending brought about by the sequester, for instance—but from Obamacare to Iran to taxes to financial services regulation, President Obama and the left seem to retain the upper hand. Yet there is one issue percolating in Congress that could provide a rare victory. Conservatives are working hard to take down the Export-Import Bank, and they might succeed.
Hosted by Michael Graham.4:20 PM, Feb 3, 2015 • By TWS PODCAST
THE WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with staff writer Jay Cost on whether the GOP will take the Obamacare fight to insurance companies
And secret friend of the one percent.Feb 2, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 20 • By JAY COST
In last week’s State of the Union address, President Barack Obama came across as the ultimate class warrior. His domestic agenda consists of more spending on roads and infrastructure, new entitlement programs for community college and preschool, and tax preferences targeted to low- and middle-income earners. All of this he would pay for with new inheritance taxes on the wealthy, a hike in the capital gains tax, and a special levy on the biggest financial institutions.
Hosted by Michael Graham.5:15 PM, Dec 3, 2014 • By TWS PODCAST
THE WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with staff writer Jay Cost on why the fight over President Obama's immigration executive action is really a fight over separation of powers.
Censure-plus.Dec 1, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 12 • By JAY COST
For responding to a president who defies his constitutional limits, Congress is said to possess four powers: to impeach, to defund, to investigate, and to withhold confirmation of nominees.
But there is a fifth recourse, which the new Republican Congress might consider in view of President Obama’s executive amnesty for illegal immigrants: the power to censure. In fact, censure could work in tandem with Congress’s other powers, helping the legislature make the moral case for responding to the president’s lawlessness.
Is there a formula for Republican success with Latino voters? Nov 10, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 09 • By JAY COST
Since Barack Obama’s reelection in 2012, immigration reform has been at the top of the national agenda. Of course, very little has come of it—apart from some legally dubious executive actions, as well as a lot of blather from pundits, left and right, who seem to have no understanding of the Hispanic community. All we ever get are variations on the same theme: Unless they accept a terrible immigration bill, loaded up with payoffs to special interests, conservatives will be doomed to a permanent minority status.