Over the Aisle: This You Must Defend

Marie Myung-Ok Lee finds herself conflicted about attending a controversial author’s reading and wonders: what does “speaking up” actually mean?

Source: Politics and Prose

Lee writes a fascinating article that is worth the long read for two reasons.

Most obviously, she is a progressive who is uncomfortable with the Antifa’s Red Guard style tactics. I take that as a positive: the more either side the US declines to align with its most extreme fringes, the more I nurture the hope that we will avoid civil war.

But what I find most telling is the grounds on which she criticizes the Antifa rabble shouting down a speaker: her problem is that the speaker is actually more sympathetic to their point than they realize, and if they listen they would understand. You see, the author they were shouting down was NOT someone like Richard Spencer. Because he was different than Spencer, because his position was closer to those of Antifa, he deserves to be able to speak.

It apparently does not occur to Ms. Lee that there is a greater crime being committed than the failure to recognize the importance of nuance in a political position. What Lee fails to do is to say – or even suggest – that the problem with the Antifa tactics is that they are not expressing their own right of free speech as much as they are denying someone else theirs. Lee – a writer who thrives on the rights granted by the Constitution – is unwilling to defend that right. By implication, indeed, free speech is not a right but a privilege to be granted only to those who agree with you.

I pick on Ms. Lee, and perhaps unfairly. She is not the issue. The problem is that on the progressive left it is okay to listen politely to someone you agree with, but that someone you disagree with does not even merit the privilege of a public forum. The problem is that it has become okay on the American left to suggest that those whose ideas I find repugnant have no right to self-expression; or, indeed, that there are ideas which must not be aired, even in a free society; and to do so without having to worry about being questioned by your fellows.

In so doing, the left runs the risk of sacrificing its opportunity to take political leadership of this country at a time when, even in the eyes of this conservative, the nation needs a liberal opposition capable of credible leadership.

The Democrats will probably take home a great victory in November, a “blue tide” that will give the Executive Branch the opposition it deserves. If it is to get the opposition that the nation needs, the left must make clear that it offers an inclusive vision of the future, one in which there is even a place for people whose ideas they find repugnant. Nothing will undermine that more quickly than questions about whether the left is prepared to uphold and defend the Constitution.

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Clintonistas Revisited

Looking back on the election now from the distance of eighteen months, it should be possible for all of us, regardless of political bent, to admit a few things.

One of those is the essential justifiability of attacks on both candidates.

I won’t go into Mr. Trump: he is doing a more than adequate job proving his detractors right.

As to Secretary Clinton, it is fair to say now that not every attack upon the Democratic candidate was correct or true. Time and reflection should make clear that not every question or charge was baseless, either. She was an imperfect candidate, chosen by her party at least as much for what she represented – a nostalgic hark back to more moderate days and a female contender – as for the principles for which she said she stood.

 

Pork the Navy Doesn’t Want

The $230 billion for operations and maintenance is $2.43 billion above the Pentagon request. The summary boasts of adding $550 million specifically for the services to “improve military readiness, including increased training, depot maintenance, and base operations support.” Whereas Congress added $12.9 billion above the figure requested by the Pentagon to purchase ships and aircraft. That is a 19 percent increase the Pentagon didn’t ask for to buy new equipment, compared to a mere 1 percent increase to solve the supposed “readiness crisis.”

Source: Military Readiness Sidelined For Ships the Navy Doesn’t Want | The American Conservative by Dan Grazier

I give the Pentagon a hard time for its role in procuring gold-plated weapons systems that don’t work and deliver low returns on our investment in national defense. (Cough F-35 cough LCS cough Humvee.) They deserve it: too many careers are built on weapons systems that wind up costing us dearly in American blood and treasure, and in the meantime throttle potential avenues of savings and innovation.

But the Pentagon is not the only culprit here, and Dan Grazier’s article points to the pork-barrel caucus in Congress as a huge part of the problem in the misallocation of our defense funds. In this case, the culprits are ranking Appropriations committee members Senator Richard Shelby from Alabama and Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin. And lest we feel that these distinguished Solons are simply doing their part to preserve America’s ability to build its own weapons:

Industrial base concerns are important, but when they’re the only remaining justification for a program, they amount to an admission that the product was never worth the investment. They also demonstrate that the keening about a “readiness crisis” is often just a subterfuge for more pork-barrel spending.

Keep in mind that Grazier is not coming at this from the armchair: he is a retired captain in the US Marine Corps and a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan.

So as we hold the Pentagon accountable, so must we hold Congress – and specific members of that body – accountable for their excesses. Do not let these people hide their corruption behind the flag or the Capitol Building.

 

 

The Upside to the Chaos at 1600

An unnoticed reason for cheerfulness is that in one, if only one, particular, Trump is something the nation did not know it needed — a feeble president whose manner can cure the nation’s excessive fixation with the presidency.

Source: Donald Trump’s Diminishing of the Presidency Is Good | National Review

Are we reaching the point in America where we are grasping for straws in our desperate search for something positive to take from our current predicament? Or is this the opening that will shift Congress from its interminable focus on intramural rivalries and on re-asserting the role of the Hill in the governance of the nation?

It can only be the latter if the leaders in the House and Senate realize that there is more at stake here than partisan one-upsmanship. The Russia sanctions bill was a good start. Let’s make it a trend.

Clean-up time

Not saying goodbye. Oh, well.
Not saying goodbye. Oh, well.

I’m not a Democrat, but from my vantage point about a biscuit to the right of the American centerline, it seems that DNC could use a Frank Slade flamethrower. Something akin to what Bill Clinton did in November and December of 1992. With the support of a group of Democrats who recognized that the New Deal Democratic Party was of declining relevance, Clinton helped rescue the party from over a decade in the political wilderness.

What the Dems need right now is someone who understands that the country has been re-aligned. The Clinton Coalition is no longer the answer. It is time for a new coalition to emerge, one that can champion the middle class and the aspirations of the working class without succumbing to a reliance on stale policy nostrums.

Perhaps that change is beginning. Nothing, however, could signal the opposite intention more forcefully than the retention of Nancy Pelosi as minority leader in the House for the 115th Congress. In both style and substance she is a testament to a bygone era, and lacks the finesse or credibility to build coalitions across the aisle. She is, indeed, the largest stumbling block to a bipartisan Capitol Hill counterbalance to a Trump White House.

As such, I would wager that if Trump White House manages to make it through his first year without laying waste to the nation (or the world,) wise Democrats will find a way to either tame or neutralize Pelosi, or get rid of her completely.

When this Election was Lost

Hillary Clinton is going to take a lot of Hell for losing the election. Many of her supporters will be tempted to blame the loss on Bernie Sanders for undermining her. Or on the FBI. Or on the Russians.

The truth is, she lost the election because the Democratic Party had become ossified around a coalition of educated urban progressives and special interests that had nothing to do with what the majority of America cared about.

Until Democrats and Progressives understand that by abandoning the South, abandoning Labor, and talking smack about a place they call “Flyover Country” they tossed this election long before Hillary declared, they are doomed to repeat their mistake.

We were all warned. The Tea Party in 2010 was the a shot across the bow that should have altered our reality. But the Left – and, too often, this blog – continued to behave toward this giant electoral rump like it was an aberration rather than a harbinger.

After last night, we all need to do some very real soul searching. The nation has voted on what we believe is important. And they told us we were wrong.

We can either decide that the nation has gone crazy, or we can probe the very real possibility that too many of us have lost touch with the throbbing heart of the nation.

The End of the Old Parties, and the Birth of the New

For the past year, we have been talking about how this election year is going to tear the Republican Party into pieces. It was time, and many of you looked on in fascination as Donald Trump swung the wrecking ball that brought the rotting edifice down.

But if there is one thing clear after election night, it is that the Democratic Party has collapsed. The result was an embarrassment to a political establishment that curried favor with coastal urban progressives, forgetting its roots in labor and the working class. The Clinton Alignment, which saved the Democratic Party from ignominy in the early 1990s, is no longer able to sustain the party of Wilson and FDR.

But there is more to this than either the Democrats or the GOP.

For the first time since 1856, we have the opportunity to build one or more political parties utterly separate from the current two party organizations. We can build 21st Century political parties constructed around the things we all care about.

And we’d better do that soon. Because the alternative is chaos, and the empowerment of leaders who serve themselves, not the people.