French has been unfairly caricatured — but the caricature is worth defending.
Near as I can tell, the David French controversy revolves around allegations that the man is too much of an accommodating pragmatist on social issues. The charge is amusing to me, given that one of my defining experiences here at NR occurred when French denounced a column I wrote last year about the need for conservatives to pragmatically accommodate transgender Americans.
Joe Biden is offering a return to normalcy. Elizabeth Warren aims to bring big corporations to heel and prop up the working class. Bernie Sanders wants a political revolution.
Kamala Harris’ one-sentence rationale for wanting the presidency is less clear.
Harris, who has now begun fleshing out her policy agenda, told POLITICO in an interview that she’s looking to offer something tangible to voters. She’s pitching herself as the kitchen-table realist of the field, the candidate who eschews lofty speeches and understands the day-to-day financial struggles of regular Americans and, bottom line, wants to put more money in their pockets.
Harris’ plans include big raises for public school teachers, a proposal to pay women equally to men and a tax plan that calls for a $500 monthly credit for families earning less than $100,000 a year. Her paycheck agenda, which one adviser described as a platform of “big tangible solutions,” centers on how Americans are experiencing the economy and is aimed at people whose wages aren’t keeping pace with the cost of living. She’s trying to reach voters who are too often left out of the conversation, with an emphasis on women — and women of color.
Harris said she thinks about the issues she’s taking on in the context of “literally looking at people through the prism of their lives—not some plate glass windows.”
“It’s about solving the problems that keep people up at night,” she said.
“It’s about the value of work and dignity of work and paying people their value — understanding that people are working hard, but they still aren’t able to get through the month and make it with dignity,” Harris added. “And it’s about meeting people where they are.”
Another adviser compared her positioning with the other Democratic candidates more bluntly: Harris is calling for direct payments to families to ease their paycheck-to-paycheck burdens. It’s a simple message they hope will set her apart as a proactive “doer” focused more on delivering immediate results than waiting around for broad, systemic overhauls. “She’s not creating liberal trickle-down policy,” the adviser said. “She’s focused on bottom-line economics, not abstract economics.”
Harris’ big challenge will be breaking through on policy in a way that captivates voters and tells a broader story — about herself, but also what she’s trying to accomplish. Ben LaBolt, a veteran of Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns, credited Harris’ tough stance against Trump, calling it smart. “Democratic voters are looking for a candidate that can take the fight to Trump and win,” LaBolt said.
He noted that Harris had breakout moments during Judiciary Committee hearings when she grilled then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Attorney General William Barr to the point that they appeared to trip over their answers.
But LaBolt suggested it won’t be as easy for Harris to stand out on policy. “As the Clinton campaign learned, it is difficult for pragmatism to match or drown out Trump’s provocation in the headlines — and driving powerful and memorable moments to communicate our message will be more powerful than white papers this cycle,” he said.
Harris is betting that her focus on issues people worry about at “3 a.m.” — “when you wake up in a cold sweat”— will pierce the noise. Her next opportunity in front of a national TV audience comes Tuesday night in an MSNBC town hall in South Carolina. Her faith that the approach will catch on is based partly on her own experience and partly on what she’s heard over and over on the campaign trail.
The teacher pay idea, for example, wasn’t planned as a standalone proposal but turned into one because Harris heard from so many educators.
Harris’ platform has taken shape over several months. She laces her stump speech with statistics and anecdotes diagnosing economic disparities: Nearly half of American families are one unexpected $400 expense away from financial distress, she often says, and in 99 percent of the counties in America, a minimum-wage worker can’t afford market rate price of a one-bedroom apartment.
She describes how her late mother, a breast cancer researcher, sat at the kitchen table and shuffled through bills after Harris and her sister had gone to bed. “She was focused on the demands of what it means to keep all the trains moving on time,” Harris said of her mother, who split with her husband early in her daughters’ lives and took charge of raising the children.
Harris’ policy remedies take a page from Democrats who ran during the 2018 midterm election cylce, when pocketbook issues such as jobs, health care, prescription drug costs and infrastructure resonated with voters in swing districts. Her pitch aims to strike at primary voters who want direct action more than changes that could take generations to bear fruit. She’s keeping it simple and avoiding talk of radical change even when the plans include significant changes to government.
In the interview, Harris sought to ground her policies in a broader governing philosophy. She stressed that Americans’ hardships are largely the result of policies written over many decades and designed to favor the wealthy at the expense of working people. She blamed those in power for the lack of meaningful commitments on more affordable childcare, universal pre-K and paid family leave. Even the tax overhaul Trump signed, Harris said, was pushed by Republican lawmakers and interest groups that long pre-dated Trump.
“The spirit behind the tax bill—that is not new. It’s not an aberration,” Harris said.
“A large part of what I do, and I try to do, is to actually see people,” she added, turning her attention to Trump. “And that requires having some curiosity and concern about the condition of the lives of people other than one’s self. And then when you ask the questions and you hear the stories, seeing what the opportunities are to actually bring solutions.”
But a rough consensus emerged over Mr. Trump’s two-day visit that his administration had shown itself to be more pragmatic than advertised. Many were inclined to view the president’s most extreme positions as just aggressive bargaining postures.
.. “There’s a very constructive mind-set in the Trump administration to find the best path forward,” said Vas Narasimhan, global chief of drug development for Novartis
.. He left the impression that he was above all eager to woo foreign investment, as if he were leading some amped-up American Chamber of Commerce.
.. Economists note that the American economy is into its ninth year of expansion, a trend that speaks to how the aftermath from the 2008 financial crisis has finally run its course.
.. And he gained the unbridled endorsement from the man who heads the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab, whose eagerness to flatter his interlocutors is legendary.
.. Whatever the optics of the head of an institution dedicated to reducing economic inequality offering his unqualified support for Mr. Trump’s tax cuts, Mr. Schwab was indeed speaking for business.
Mr. Muzinich, a 39-year-old newcomer to Washington, has emerged as a central player in the Trump administration’s tax overhaul effort. The former investment banker and hedge fund manager is the Treasury point man on taxes, accompanying Mr. Mnuchin into “Big Six” meetings with top Republican lawmakers drafting the tax plan and laying out the administration’s positions on which taxes and deductions to cut or preserve.
.. He fits the mold of Mr. Trump’s top economic advisers, Mr. Mnuchin and Gary D. Cohn, the director of the National Economic Council, both of whom made a career on Wall Street. While not a Goldman Sachs alumnus, as they are, he brings an extensive background from the world of finance, having been a banker at Morgan Stanley and the president of Muzinich & Co., an international investment firm founded by his father.
.. His Wall Street brashness sometimes shines through when he gets into deal-making mode.
.. Mr. Muzinich, who holds an M.B.A. from Harvard and a law degree from Yale
.. In a 2007 Op-Ed article in The New York Times, Mr. Muzinich and a co-author, Eric Werker, called on Congress to offer tax credits to companies that build factories in developing countries and to offset the lost revenue with reductions in foreign aid.
.. “I think that he is pragmatic,” said Glenn Hubbard, the dean of Columbia Business School, where Mr. Muzinich taught before joining the Treasury Department. “He’s looking for good policy solutions, not policy positions.”
.. Some economists have scoffed at Mr. Mnuchin’s promises that tax cuts would more than pay for themselves because of the robust economic growth he says they will create. The department came under fire for removing from its web site an economic study that contradicted the secretary’s analysis of the benefits of corporate tax cuts.
I may disagree with Mr. Flake on policy, but I consider him an honorable man, a loyal friend and a valued colleague. His retirement is deeply troubling to me because he represents a principled and patriotic Republican Party, one that has long championed strong American leadership around the world, and one I now fear is falling apart.
.. Over the past few decades, our political culture has corroded. Traditions of compromise and civility have given way to a zero-sum, winner-take-all approach that is now out of control. As Mr. Flake said on the Senate floor Tuesday, “Anger and resentment are not a governing philosophy.”
.. Republican leaders have offered occasional defenses of their colleagues from these attacks: Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, called Mr. Flake “a very fine man” of “high principles” on Tuesday. But they have largely remained on the sidelines as Mr. Trump and his allies have attacked those few Republicans who have dared to call for civility and compromise.
The consequences of this could be grave.
.. If the Republican Party under Donald Trump has no room for independent-minded conservatives, and if, in the coming years, senators like Jeff Flake and Bob Corker are replaced by fringe conservatives handpicked because of their blind loyalty to this president, it will be too late for responsible conservatives to salvage the party they’ve built over generations.
.. As Democrats call for independence and pragmatism from Republicans, we should be asking ourselves how tolerant we are of dissent within our own party and how much we are really willing to reach across the aisle.
Thomas Frank’s “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” In answering his title’s question, Frank argued that hardworking heartland Americans were being duped by a Republican Party that whipped up culture-war frenzy to disguise its plutocratic aims.
.. Middle-class and working-class Republican voters, he insisted, were voting against their own economic self-interest and getting worse than nothing in return.
.. You don’t have to be a dupe to be a “values voter”
.. believe that some moral questions are more important than where to set the top tax rate.
.. embracing theories about how the working class was actually undertaxed, rallying around tax plans that seemed to threaten middle-class tax increases and promoting an Ayn Randian vision in which heroic entrepreneurs were the only economic actor worth defending.
.. Trump has essentially become the Frankian caricature in full
.. a mistake for liberals to suggest that Trump is just returning to the Bush playbook
.. conservatism doesn’t have to be a mix of Randianism and racial resentment
.. a depressing percentage of American conservatives seem perfectly happy with the bargain that Frank claimed defined their party, with a president who ignores their economic interests and public policy more generally and offers instead the perpetual distraction of Twitter feuds and pseudo-patriotic grandstanding.
.. a segment of religious conservatives, like those gathered at last week’s Values Voters Summit, who cheered rapturously for an empty, strutting nationalism and a president who makes a mockery of the remoralized culture that they claim to seek.
.. Far better to have a president who really sticks it to those overpaid babies in the N.F.L. and makes the liberals howl with outrage — that’s what a real and fighting conservatism should be all about!
.. they’ve decided to become part of the caricature themselves, become exactly what their enemies and critics said they were, become a movement of plutocrats and grievance-mongers with an ever-weaker understanding of the common good.
they claim patriotism as their own, try to spiritualize secular laws, and demonize immigrants.
Maybe Trump can supporters can live well on spite, resentment, and the veneer of religion (“Merry Christmas!), but I can’t.
.. Jesse The Conservative
The biggest fear of Democrats, is that Conservative Republicans will gain the upper hand–and actually enact some of their ideas–lower taxes, less regulation, free market health care, school choice, tightened welfare guidelines, and control of our borders and enforcement of immigration laws.
Democrats are scared to death that American will become accustomed to lower taxes, more disposable income, a smaller, less intrusive government, a vibrant economy, better schools, better health care, and the enforcement of the rule of law. Liberals know full well, that as soon as Americans return to their free-market, capitalist roots, Conservative messaging will be powerful and direct. Americans will have no problem understanding where their newly-found prosperity comes from.
.. I’m a Republican. I don’t like big government. I am against almost everything they do in DC night and day, aka, The Swamp. I vote on moral issues first and all the rest second. AND, I want the government to do something to return moral values to the center of American life.
What’s wrong with this picture? I don’t like government and I want government to do something about it!
.. Does anyone remember that Obama was staging war games in Texas a couple of years ago as part of a master plan to take over the country and stay in office? Never mind.
- The old south still hates “the north” from the Civil War.
- The far west hates Washington because it owns and controls so much public land.
- The Republicans generally hate federal taxes because of the vast power amassed by Washington to tax for the common good. They aren’t really interested in that all that much. They want to whack away at “common” and shift to “good for me”, which is, after all, a basic human instinct.
.. Nothing is going to satisfy the dissatisfied 1/4 to 1/3. NOTHING. They are wedded to their grievances.
.. Victor James
.. So forget Reagan and think Brownback, the Kansas version of Trump who led that state into financial ruin. Brownback only denied financial reality, but Trump has that beat by a mile.
.. Francis W
.. The most depressing thing about the rise of Trump is that a sizable percentage of the population really wants a bullying, inexperienced narcissist to be president and and another substantial percentage didn’t see it as a major problem when they cast their vote last fall.
.. There has been one balanced, pragmatic, Republican President since Dwight Eisenhower, and that’s George H.W. Bush, and the party cast him out for trying to be responsible about the budget deficit. Trump did not create the current Republican party, he merely fully unmasked it. The Republican party of today is full of a lot of very dark and dangerous thinking, governing out of animus and resentment, all from a base of ignorance. It’s bad out there.
Originally founded as the Knights of the Temple of Solomon to protect pilgrims traveling to Jerusalem, the Templars became the most powerful military order of the Crusades. But in addition they were economic trailblazers and banking pioneers during the 12th and 13th centuries. “I don’t think it’s facetious to say the Templars were an incredibly sophisticated organization with rudimentary business practices and financial methods that you would want any business to emulate,”
.. The Templars are known for the drama of their downfall or their role as medieval special forces. But they had a vast business and commercial empire, with lands generating agricultural produce and revenue all the way from Ireland to Cyprus and the Crusader states. They owned property in big cities which was rented out and chartered shipping in worldwide ports.
Then there was the banking side of things. It’s sometimes said the Templars were the world’s first bankers. There was a system of banking of deposits — King John of England deposited the crown jewels with the Templars in London when he was in trouble before the Magna Carta. But that doesn’t do them justice. They weren’t the first world’s bankers. They were providing the world’s first financial-services company... They were paying royal officials there on behalf of the crown and running the books for the French King, his brothers and mother. They were collecting, on behalf of the Pope, the crusading taxes levied by the church in England, France, Hungary and parts of Spain and Italy.Their spread of properties all across Europe and presence in just about every kingdom made them unique. They crossed boundaries and weren’t subject to the authority or polices of any particular king. They were tax exempt in many jurisdictions across Europe. If you think about the deal between Google and the Irish government, the Templars had that times 20.
.. Alfonso I, the King of Aragon, left them a third of his kingdom in his will and Queens and Kings gave them huge landed estates. They were also the recipients of popular donations, what today we would call crowdfunding. People left them in their wills a donkey or a little plot of land, tiny donations that when you added them up were massive and funded military operations.
.. If you were a young guy who wanted to go to war and fight for God, you could join the Templars. If you were an old guy who wanted to atone for a sinful life but was no good for fighting, you could join and run the books in a regional Templar house. If you didn’t wish to join but wanted to accrue the spiritual benefits of involvement, you could donate. They had what today in business terms would be called amazing international branding. The white mantle, the red cross. It’s the Nike swoosh, the McDonald’s arches, the Apple logo of the day.
.. They embraced diversity. Although they were a militant Christian organization, they were flexible and pragmatic like in the East where they hired as soldiers Turcapole Syrian cavalry, who happened to be Muslim, as they were much better at fighting in the conditions.