The fraying of the national political consensus.Oct 12, 2015, Vol. 21, No. 05 • By JAY COST
The latest political happenings—the rise of Donald Trump, John Boehner’s surprise resignation as speaker of the House of Representatives, Hillary Clinton’s slide against the septuagenarian socialist Bernie Sanders—remind me of a verse from the old Rolling Stones song “Jigsaw Puzzle”:
Oh, there’s twenty-thousand grandmas.
Wave their hankies in the air.
All burning up their pensions
And shouting, “It’s not fair!”
There’s a regiment of soldiers
Standing looking on.
And the queen is bravely shouting,
“What the hell is going on?”
Like the queen in the song, the Beltway class is watching the voters back home with self-righteous bemusement, wondering: Why are all these once-quiescent voters suddenly having such a fit? They used to be so well behaved, and we took good care of them to boot.
Those hoping for the storm to blow over must be disappointed by now. Our system of government was deliberately designed to make it difficult to effect change. Fads in public opinion usually peter out before our system ever acts on them. So when discontent is wide and deep enough to cashier a speaker of the House, it is past time to pay serious attention to the public mood.
According to the polls, people have been unhappy with the course of government policy for over a decade. In just one federal election of the last five (2012) have they voted for the president’s party. Instead, voters regularly direct their fury at whichever party has the misfortune of being in charge. We have not seen such sustained dissatisfaction since public opinion polling began. In fact, we’d have to travel back to the 1890s to discover so prolonged a bout of electoral distemper.
Such deep and abiding frustration must be distinguished from the nastiness and hyperbole typical of politics. The quest for office is intense, so politicians often have an incentive to inflame the passions of constituencies that oppose each other for economic, cultural, or social reasons. But there is often a broad, underlying consensus that delimits the options policymakers may pursue.
For instance, it is hard to find a nastier campaign than Harry Truman’s in 1948. He went so far as to compare his opponent, the mild-mannered Thomas Dewey, to Adolf Hitler. But was the distance between Truman and Dewey really that great? The Republican party had, by then, abandoned most of its opposition to the New Deal (at least those parts not overturned by the courts) and disavowed isolationism and protectionism. The Democrats, meanwhile, had cast out the Communists and were in the process of doing likewise to the segregationists. There were genuine disagreements, like the intense fight over national labor policy. Still, a robust political-economic consensus underlay broad areas of policy over which the two parties were not fighting.
Contrast that with 1860. The only issue of importance was slavery, and party positions ran the gamut. The Republicans called for confining slavery to its existing domain, while the Southern Democrats endorsed the nationwide slavocracy envisioned by the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dred Scott. This substantial divergence was a signal that the consensus that had more or less governed the national attitude toward slavery since the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 had broken down.
In our time, the political-economic consensus has been fixed roughly since the end of World War II, with important modifications during the Johnson and Reagan administrations. Both sides basically aver that the government should take a role in promoting economic growth to benefit most Americans. This implies broad agreement on the need for federal management of the economy, its regulation for noneconomic purposes (such as the environment or consumer health), and the distribution of social welfare to those who get left behind. Methodologically, this consensus presumes an abiding faith in the capacity of experts to calibrate policies to meet the demands of the day, an experienced cadre of officeholders to implement such policies over the long haul, and political professionals to communicate the agenda to the public.
8:27 AM, Sep 26, 2015 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
On Monday, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, the Republican presidential front-runner on April Fools' Day, quit the contest. There had been no scandal which disgraced him, no momentous mistake which undermined him. It was simply that he once had support from Republican primary voters; he no longer did.
The surprising 2016 race.Oct 5, 2015, Vol. 21, No. 04 • By FRED BARNES
Nearly everything that was expected to happen in the 2016 presidential race hasn’t, and many things that weren’t expected have. The rise of Donald Trump—even that he would run—was not predicted. Nor was the fall of Scott Walker or the weakness of Jeb Bush’s candidacy. Polls have proved to be unreliable indicators of where the Republican and Democratic campaigns are headed. Hillary Clinton’s coronation as Democratic nominee, we were told, was a sure thing. Now she’s sliding toward underdog status.
Ann Coulter, twit.Oct 5, 2015, Vol. 21, No. 04 • By P.J. O'ROURKE
Toward Ann Coulter I had always taken a “suffer little children to come unto me” attitude. Not that she ever came on to me or anything. It’s just that she’s a kid. She was born in 1961. I’ve got skinny Brooks Brothers neckties in the back of my closet older than that.
Ann Coulter grew up during the “I-was-conservative-after-conservatism-was-cool” era, helping found the Cornell Review in the early 1980s. She’s noisy and she gives me a headache. But kids are, and kids do. I have several.
12:29 PM, Sep 23, 2015 • By SHOSHANA WEISSMANN
On Tuesday, the Washington Post published the cease and decist letter that Donald Trump's lawyer reportedly sent Club for Growth president David M. McIntosh, along with the promise of a multi-million dollar lawsuit if the group doesn't comply.
Where is the Republicans’ Goldilocks?Sep 28, 2015, Vol. 21, No. 03 • By JAY COST
Judging by the number of House and Senate seats, governorships, and state legislative seats it holds, the Republican party is stronger than at any point since the 1920s. Yet, going by the presidential nomination battle alone, the party is a mess. There are too many candidates, a few of whom are distracting the public with their self-aggrandizing shenanigans, spurred on by ratings-hungry cable-news networks.
Sep 28, 2015, Vol. 21, No. 03 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
How big a problem is it that the two leading Republican candidates for president aren’t actually qualified to be president?
“Oh, come on,” you’re inclined to respond. “It’s not that much of a problem. After all, Donald Trump and Ben Carson aren’t really the leading GOP presidential candidates, are they?”
A winning tax reform.
Sep 28, 2015, Vol. 21, No. 03 • By FRED BARNES
Some Republican presidential candidate was sure to come along with a credible tax reform plan to erase tax loopholes, preferences, and special breaks, broaden the tax base, and lower rates. Now Jeb Bush has done it. This marks a departure point in the GOP race.
2:18 PM, Sep 11, 2015 • By SHOSHANA WEISSMANN
Today, Jon Favreau, the former director of speechwriting for President Obama, tweeted that Vice President Joe Biden should run for president.
On September 11th, 2013, Donald Trump wanted to extend well wishes, even to "haters" and "losers."9:43 AM, Sep 11, 2015 • By SHOSHANA WEISSMANN
Update: Turns out Trump re-sent the tweet hours later in 2013, and has not yet deleted it.
This morning, Donald Trump deleted one of his most iconic tweets.
It was sent on September 11th, 2013—the day on which many are mourning the loss of loved ones, or recalling where they were on the day that changed American history.
On September 11th, 2013, Donald Trump wanted to extend well wishes, even to "haters" and "losers."
Why has Trump risen so far, so fast?Sep 21, 2015, Vol. 21, No. 02 • By JAY COST
The Donald Trump candidacy has inspired a hundred writers to pen a thousand think pieces about the meaning of it all. Is Trump’s surge the sign of a new breed of populism? Is it the Tea Party reborn? Is it the reemergence of the old Ross Perot-Pat Buchanan strand of protectionism? Does it signal a right-wing nativism similar to what is bubbling up in Europe?
Maybe what’s going on is simpler: The Trump surge is, primarily if not entirely, about Donald Trump.
What would James Burnham make of our ruling class?Sep 21, 2015, Vol. 21, No. 02 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
What is happening in the world? When one looks at recent news, one can’t help feeling a sense of bewilderment. A storied Olympian announces his new gender on the cover of Vanity Fair, the Supreme Court declares same-sex marriage a constitutional right, racial violence returns to St.
Sep 14, 2015, Vol. 21, No. 01 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
The American people believe the country is heading in the wrong direction. When pollsters ask whether the country is on the right or the wrong track, wrong track prevails by better than two to one. And the American people are right. We are going the wrong way: The economy isn’t strong, the government doesn’t work, social trends aren’t great, and the world’s going to hell in a handbasket.
Here's how Hillary solved that problem.12:35 PM, Sep 1, 2015 • By SHOSHANA WEISSMANN
In one of the newly release Hillary Clinton emails, a mostly redacted message from Philip Gordon to Huma Abedin and Jacob Sullivan ends with, "To quote Huma, I don't get paid enough." Abedin, Clinton’s closest aide, was able to change her fortunes with a little help from friends.