Newt Gingrich Didn’t Break American Politics

The Times podcast focuses less on Gingrich’s style and more on his use of so-called “wedge issues.” Times columnist Jennifer Senior interviews Republican former congressman Vin Weber about how the GOP “exploited” American differences on cultural issues such as partial-birth abortion and gay marriage to help hand them their first majority in two generations.

But it turns out that “wedge issue” is just another word for “popular position.” In the early 1990s, there wasn’t a meaningful electoral constituency for gay marriage. There wasn’t much public support for partial-birth abortion. By bringing up cultural issues, the Republicans not only gave voice to millions of Americans who had deep concerns about the cultural direction of the country, but also exposed divisions in the Democratic coalition.

Gingrich’s Contract with America (you can read it here) was extensively poll-tested to present only promises that had overwhelming public support. Gingrich was a political street fighter, yes, but he was playing a very strong political hand. Congress was overdue for serious change.

.. it’s hard to argue that he “broke politics” when the GOP House and the Clinton administration worked together to enact significant legislation.

.. What? The president of the United States (a man who is almost certainly a sexual predator, by the way) had an affair with an intern in the Oval Office and lied about it under oath. He lied to the American people. He conducted a systematic smear campaign against his accusers and his investigators. None of this was Newt Gingrich’s fault.

.. It is absolutely worth profiling Gingrich and considering his role in American politics — including the undeniable part he’s played in American polarization. Some of his tactics have absolutely been destructive. But the diagnosis here is just fundamentally wrong.

.. Did Newt Gingrich “break” American politics more than Roe v. Wade did? Do progressives know or care about the shock waves Ted Kennedy’s “Bork’s America” speech sent rippling through conservative America? Lest you need reminding, here is the key part of that vile text:

Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists would be censored at the whim of government, and the doors of the federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is often the only protector of the individual rights that are the heart of our democracy.

But for progressives, Roe is good and Bork is bad, and so a bit of sloppy judicial reasoning or rhetorical excess is but a trifling compared to the worth of the broader cause. It’s the arc of history bending towards justice, and that’s not always neat or clean.

.. There’s no question that Newt Gingrich was an important figure, but he was an inevitable important figure. If Gingrich hadn’t ended Democratic dominance of the House, someone else would have. There were tensions in the Democratic coalition that could not be avoided. The Democratic hammerlock on the House was out of step with the composition of the American electorate. The tidal forces of cultural conflicts launched decades before were going to tear apart Congress in the same way they’d torn apart campuses and caused conflict at kitchen tables.So, no, Gingrich didn’t break American politics. But he did help break a progressive monopoly on the House, which the GOP has controlled 20 of the 24 years since. And given the aggression and incivility they overlook on their own side, it’s clear that for many commentators on the left, ending Democratic dominance is Gingrich’s truly enduring sin.

What Is the Democratic Story?

Choosing between a focus on race or class is the wrong choice to begin with.

.. There’s a lot of discussion about how far left the Democratic Party should go these days. Is it destroying its electoral chances when its members call for a single-payer health plan or abolishing ICE?

That’s an important question, but the most important question is what story is the Democratic Party telling?

.. As Alasdair MacIntyre argued many years ago, you can’t know what to do unless you know what story you are a part of. Story is more important than policies.

.. The story Donald Trump tells is that we good-hearted, decent people of Middle America have been betrayed by stupid elites who screw us and been threatened by foreigners who are out to get us.

.. Back in the 1980s, the Democrats told two different stories. One was the compassion story associated with Mario Cuomo and Ted Kennedy: Too many Americans are poor, marginalized and left behind. We must care for our brothers and sisters because we are all one family.

.. The other was the brainpower/meritocracy story associated with Gary Hart and later the New Democrats: Americans are masters at innovation. We must use our best minds to come up with innovative plans to solve our problems and head into a new technological century.

I don’t hear those two stories much anymore. The Democrats are emphasizing fighting grit these days, not compassion or technocratic expertise.

Today’s Democrats tell two other stories.

  1. The first is the traditional socialist story associated with Bernie Sanders: America is rived by the class conflict. The bankers and the oligarchs are exploiting the middles. We need a fighter who will go out and battle concentrated economic power.
  2. The second is the multicultural story: American history has been marked by systems of oppression. Those who have been oppressed — women, African-Americans, Latinos — need to stand together and fight for justice.

.. Racial justice socialism seems to be the story of the contemporary left. This story effectively paints Trump as the villain on all fronts, and Democrats do face the distinct problem of how to run against a bully like Trump. But is it good politics for the entire Democratic Party to embrace it?

.. no national Democrat has ever fully embraced this story successfully. In fact, Democrats like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama went to great lengths to assure people they were not embracing this story.

  • .. They did because Americans trust business more than the state, so socialism has never played well.
  • They did it because if you throw race into your economic arguments you end up turning off potential allies in swing states like Wisconsin, Iowa and Pennsylvania.
  • They did it because if you throw economics into your race arguments you end up dividing your coalitions on those issues.

In brief, Democrats have stayed away from this narrative because the long hoped-for alliance between oppressed racial minorities and the oppressed white working class has never materialized, and it looks very far from materializing now.

.. for 100 years, Democrats have tended to win with youthful optimism and not anger and indignation.

.. The Democrats who have won nationally almost all ran on generational change — on tired old America versus the possibilities of new America:

  • F.D.R.’s New Deal,
  • J.F.K.’s New Frontier,
  • Bill Clinton’s bridge to the 21st century and
  • Obama’s hope and change.

If I had to advise on a Democratic narrative I’d start with three premises:

  1. First, by 2020 everybody will be exhausted by the climate of negativism and hostility.
  2. Second, the core long-term fear is American decline; are we losing our mojo?
  3. Third, communities and nations don’t come together when they talk about their problems; they come together when they do something on behalf of their children.

Maybe the right narrative could be rebuilding social mobility for the young: America is failing its future. We need to rally around each other to build the families, communities, schools, training systems and other structures to make sure the next generation surpasses this one. People are doing this at the local level, and we need a series of unifying projects to make national progress.

.. This story pushes people toward reconciliation. It is future-oriented.

How Conservatives Can Win Back Young Americans

(By Ben Shapiro)

Young Americans are moving to the left. On virtually every issue, they support the Democratic party.

.. among likely American voters aged 18-29, fully 65 percent supported Democratic control of Congress. Polls consistently show greater warmth for socialism among millennials than their elders, greater sympathy for regulation, and less interest in protecting core constitutional liberties ranging from freedom of speech to freedom of religion

..  “If you’re not a liberal when you’re 20, you have no heart; if you’re not a conservative by the time you’re 40, you have no brain.” We tell ourselves that as Americans age, get married, have children, and pay taxes, they’ll inevitably move to the right.

Not anymore.

.. Older conservatives, clutching the Trump presidency like a security blanket, sound less like steady advocates for calm and more like the man questioned about how things are going just after jumping off the top of the Empire State Building: “So far, so good.”

.. among Generation Xers (born between 1965 and 1980), 29 percent considered themselves liberal in 1994; today, that number has shot up to 43 percent.

..Typically, conservatives combat this sort of broad-based political change by pointing out the extremism of the left. During the Carter era, things certainly looked dark for the GOP, but conservatives were able to point out Carter’s incompetence; after Bill Clinton’s 1992 election victory, Republicans ran against Hillarycare and higher taxes; after Barack Obama’s landslide 2008 election, conservatives made war on Democrats’ overspending and regulatory overreach.

..  Thought leaders like Ta-Nehisi Coates have sought to replace the blue-collar base of Bill Clinton with the intersectional coalition of Barack Obama, using identity politics as a club against Americans who refuse to admit their “white privilege.”

.. Instead of looking at young Americans vs. older Americans, let’s look at young conservatives vs. older conservatives. The data show that young conservatives tend toward libertarianism on issues like drugs and sex but share the same priorities as older conservatives on fiscal and economic issues.

.. It makes sense, then, that liberal social values have resonated with younger Americans. They believe that the case for religious freedom is actually a case for religious bigotry and think that opposition to same-sex marriage reflects a hackneyed version of Old Testament sexual repression. Millennials were raised on the gospel of diversity and tolerance, not the Judeo-Christian moral standards of their grandparents.

.. But the leftward shift on social issues has infused even young religious conservatives. Forty-five percent of millennial evangelicals said they supported same-sex marriage as of 2014; the numbers are undoubtedly higher now

.. Young conservatives in general are far more likely to support gay rights and marijuana decriminalization as well as openness to immigration. But they’re not embracing gay rights and marijuana decriminalization for the same reasons as liberals. Young liberals embrace the LGBTQ agenda because they believe that the strictures of traditional sexual lifestyles are damaging and intolerant; some even embrace marijuana decriminalization because they think that broadening one’s experiences by smoking pot is a necessary precondition to maturity. Young conservatives are far more likely to support same-sex marriage and marijuana decriminalization because they believe that the government should leave everyone alone.

.. Young liberals call for tolerance because they want to promulgate a lifestyle, in other words; young conservatives call for tolerance because they actually believe in tolerance, even of lifestyle choices with which they disagree.

.. Tolerance is a moral touchstone, then, for young Americans on both the left and the right, but for different reasons.

.. All of which suggests young conservatives have a shot at winning over their friends and classmates: They’re operating in the same moral universe as many of their peers.

.. They’re small government, leave-everyone-alone libertarians. Young conservatives may not care about same-sex marriage, but they’re deeply pro-life and pro-gun.

..  They militantly oppose the myth of a racist, sexist America, even as they condemn individual cases of racism and sexism.

.. An incredible 82 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning voters between the ages of 18 and 24 say they “want another Republican to challenge President Trump for the party’s nomination in 2020.”

.. Why don’t young conservatives like Trump? It’s a question that baffles older conservatives. To older conservatives, Trump has been a savior.

..  Yes, he’s rough around the edges and impolitic; he’s crude about women and ignorant about policy. But he’s politically incorrect, and he speaks the language of the average American. What’s not to like?

.. Young conservatives, however, are more likely to see Trump as an obstacle to progress.

.. they see him mainly as a club the left can wield against the right in perpetuity—a political monster living under the bed that Democrats can dredge up every time conservatives seem to be making headway. They cite his egregious response to the Charlottesville alt-right march and subsequent terror attack and his willingness to wink and nod at the alt-right during the campaign; they point to his nasty comments regarding women, as well as his penchant for bedding porn stars; they cringe at his reported comments about immigrants and balk at his nearly endless list of prevarications.

.. Older conservatives judge Trump on his politics; younger conservatives judge Trump on his values.

.. older conservatives already fought the character battle over Bill Clinton, and they carry the scars from that ordeal. They remember arguing that Bill Clinton was unfit for office based on his treatment of women and his perjury, and they remember losing that argument. They remember arguing that character counts, even as Democrats held aloft the banner of “Lion of the Senate” Teddy Kennedy, who left a woman to drown in his car and made waitress sandwiches with fellow Democratic senator Chris Dodd.

.. Older conservatives remember Mitt Romney, the cleanest candidate for high office in modern American history, being destroyed by the media over pure nonsense. Older conservatives weren’t looking for character in 2016. They were looking for a hammer.

.. Younger conservatives, however, still feel that the battle over character is unfolding, which it is—among young Americans. Young Americans are still trying to decipher which party best reflects their moral values. Trump presents a serious problem for young conservatives trying to make the character argument in favor of the Republican party. Young conservatives didn’t see the battle of 2016 as a battle in which character had already lost. They saw it as presenting a question about their own character.

.. Young conservatives want to be able to tell their friends—all future voters, by the way—that they didn’t stand by silently when a candidate of their party said he could grab women by their private parts.

.. Second, older conservatives saw the 2016 election as a cataclysmic event, perhaps, indeed, the end of the republic. Hillary Clinton posed an existential threat to the future of the country.

.. They believed that Hillary, if elected, would usher in a generation-long rule of the hard left.

.. Donald Trump’s victory, in that view, was a miracle of biblical proportions, the hand of God reaching down and plucking a reality TV star out of the realms of cornball theatrics and plopping him into the Oval Office in the biggest upset in political history.

.. Younger conservatives were far more sanguine about 2016. In their view, Hillary would certainly have been a rotten president. But would she bar the door to all future conservative victories? Younger conservatives thought such an outcome unlikely.

After all, Republicans were likely to retain control of the Senate and the House.

Furthermore, Hillary was widely disliked, burdened by scandal, and unpopular even with her own base.

Older conservatives looked at young Americans and saw the end of the country; young conservatives looked at other young Americans and saw the possibility of change.

.. Third, because young conservatives and older conservatives disagreed about the consequences of 2016, they also disagreed about the level of risk to the Republican party.

.. Thanks to the crisis mentality of older Americans, the brand damage done by Trump became of secondary concern;

thanks to the lack of a crisis mentality among younger conservatives, the brand damage done by Trump became a crucial problem.

.. Young conservatives simply couldn’t understand how so many older conservatives were willing to dispose of key planks of the Republican platform to back Trump, or why so many older conservatives who had preached to them about personal values were suddenly gushing over a man who bragged about sleeping with other men’s wives.

.. Young conservatives knew that they were constantly being called racist, sexist, and homophobic by their comrades at school; they had always responded by saying that they and their party were being slandered. And they were right. But here was Trump—a man who, during the election cycle, feigned ignorance about David Duke—providing a custom-made caricature for the use of young liberals.

.. fourth area of controversy between older and younger conservatives regarding Trump: Is Trump an asset in the fight against political correctness?

.. 71 percent of Americans “believe that political correctness has silenced important discussions our society needs to have.”

.. Older conservatives resonate to the verbal brickbats thrown by President Trump. They see him as a bull in a china shop, but he is our bull in their china shop. That’s the reason Trump could so easily escape punishment for political snafus that would have crushed any other conservative. He routinely claimed his own blunderings were the result of his willingness to fight political correctness. “Sure, he says dumb stuff sometimes,” the argument goes, “but he’s also willing to label the New York Times fake news. Nobody else fights like Trump fights!”

.. Young conservatives, by contrast, see Trump’s strategy for fighting political correctness as counterproductive. It’s one thing to attack politically correct viewpoints with data —to “destroy,” in the common YouTube parlance, political opposition through superior intellectual heft. But saying innately offensive things and then justifying those offensive statements under the rubric of political incorrectness actually undermines the battle against political correctness.

.. The left wants to make the case that when conservatives say they’re being politically incorrect, they’re actually covering for their own bigotry; lending that case a helping hand by promoting bigotry under the guise of fighting political correctness does the left’s work for it.

.. conservatives must stop promoting the notion that policy victories translate to political victory. Foolishly hopeful Republican legislators keep repeating the tired nostrum that if they simply pursue solid policy, young Americans will follow—if they pass tax cuts, cut regulation, and build up the military, they’ll stave off the impending generational electoral tsunami.

.. That argument did little to stir older Americans who had been through the political wars; it didn’t upset seasoned politics-watchers who knew that Hillary Clinton was more than a little deplorable herself. But it worked among young Americans, and it will continue to work so long as conservatives’ response is “but Hillary.”

.. So, how should conservatives respond?

They should respond by acting morally and arguing morally.

First, and most pressingly, with regard to President Trump this means condemning bad behavior.

.. Young Americans aren’t judging Trump. They’ve already judged him. They’re judging you and determining whether or not they can ever vote for the same candidates you endorse based on whether or not they admire your character.

.. Second, conservatives must argue in moral terms, and they must use moral terminology young Americans understand. This means learning to argue on secular grounds rather than religious grounds and recognizing that tolerance is a key value to young Americans.

.. Arguing in secular terms doesn’t mean arguing without reference to values. It means arguing against the controlling hand of the left. Capitalism is good because you own your own labor and you have the right to exchange that labor for someone else’s labor and no one has the right to steal your labor from you. Socialism is evil because it says that a third party can tell you what your labor is worth.

..  Political correctness and identity politics are evil because they utilize censorship to box you into a group identity that denies your individuality.

.. Most of all, conservatives can’t lose hope. A crisis mentality breeds poor decisions and short-term thinking that sacrifices long-term interests. We’ve seen discouraging trendlines before. But they can be reversed. In 1976, it would have been difficult to imagine the Reagan Revolution that was just four years away.

Chappaquiddick: The Kennedy Cover-up

In the above video, radio host Howie Carr explores some of the unanswered questions of the Chappaquiddick incident and Ted Kennedy’s cover-up. He is the author of “Kennedy Babylon: A Century of Scandal and Depravity.” Carr wrote the forward for the new re-release of Leo Damore’s book, “Chappaquiddick: Power Privilage, and the Ted Kennedy Cover-up.”

The Pigs of Liberalism

a certain kind of powerful liberal creep only gets his comeuppance when he’s weakened or old or in the grave. The awfulness of Ted Kennedy, at Chappaquiddick and after hours in D.C., can be acknowledged only now that he’s no longer a liberal lion in the Senate. The possibility that Bill Clinton might be not just an adulterer but a rapist can be entertained now that he’s no longer protecting abortion from the White House. The sins of Woody Allen … well, I’m sure Hollywood will start ostracizing him any day now.

.. If your culture’s code is libertine, don’t be surprised that worse things than libertinism flourish.

.. while not everyone knew exactly how Harvey Weinstein treated women, everyone knew what kind of man he was. The women he harassed didn’t have the power to restrain him, but plenty of powerful people did.

.. Weinstein didn’t like my question about O, there was an altercation; though the recording has alas been lost to time, I recall that he called me a cunt and declared that he was glad he was the “fucking sheriff of this fucking lawless piece-of-shit town.” When my colleague Andrew (who was also then my boyfriend) intervened, first calming him down and then trying to extract an apology, Weinstein went nuclear, pushing Andrew down a set of steps inside the Tribeca Grand — knocking him over with such force that his tape recorder hit a woman, who suffered long-term injury — and dragging Andrew, in a headlock, onto Sixth Avenue.

.. Such was the power of Harvey Weinstein in 2000 that despite the dozens of camera flashes that went off on that sidewalk that night, capturing the sight of an enormously famous film executive trying to pound in the head of a young newspaper reporter, I have never once seen a photo.

.. those who had encountered Weinstein often spoke of the conviction that they would never be believed.

.. But another reason that I never considered trying to report the story myself, even, truly, in the years after I did start writing about gender and power as my beat, was because it felt impossible. Sisyphean. I remembered what it was like to have the full force of Harvey Weinstein — back then a mountainous man — screaming vulgarities at me, his spit hitting my face. I had watched him haul my friend into the street and try to hurt him. That kind of force, that kind of power? I could not have won against that.

.. The best reporters out there tried, for years, perhaps most memorably David Carr, for this magazine. But Weinstein didn’t just exert physical power. He also employed legal and professional and economic power. He supposedly had every employee sign elaborate, binding nondisclosure agreements. He gave jobs to people who might otherwise work to bring him down, and gave gobs of money to other powerful people, who knows how much, but perhaps just enough to keep them from listening to ugly rumors that might circulate among young people, among less powerful people.

.. The accounts in the remarkable New York Times piece offer evidence of the ways in which power imbalance is so key to sexual assault, and in the case of Weinstein, to the ability to keep it from coming to light for so very long.

.. they all speak of the abusive thrill gained not from sex but from the imposition of your will on someone who has no ability to resist or defend themselves from you, an exertion of power on the powerless.

.. Recent years have seen scores of women, finding strength and some kind of power in numbers, come forward and tell their stories about Bill CosbyRoger AilesBill O’ReillyDonald Trump. In all of those cases, as in this case, the history of allegations has been an almost wholly open secret

.. Barack Obama, whose daughter recently worked as his intern.

..  I was also struck by his physical diminishment; he seemed small and frail, and, when I caught sight of him in May, he appeared to be walking with a cane. He has also lost power in the movie industry, is no longer the titan of independent film, the indie mogul who could make or break an actor’s Oscar chances.

.. His legal team also includes David Boies and Charles Harder, the lawyer who successfully sued Gawker on behalf of Hulk Hogan. Anita Dunn, who worked in the Obama White House, reportedly gave Weinstein pro bono PR advice in recent weeks; Weinstein has also, supposedly, reached out to the Clintons’ crisis PR honcho Lanny Davis.

The Vatican’s America Problem

The Republican Party, which under George W. Bush wrapped the Catholic-inflected language of “compassionate conservatism” around its pro-life commitments, has been pinballing between an Ayn Rand-ish libertarianism and the white identity politics of the Trump era.

.. old 20th century approaches to Catholic politics — both the ethnic-Catholic liberalism of a Mario Cuomo or a Ted Kennedy and the Catholic neoconservatism that shaped figures like Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio or Paul Ryan — seem like they’re out of energy and influence.

.. Western liberalism writ large seems at once hostile to traditional religion and beset by internal contradictions, making the moment ripe for serious Catholic rethinking, a new and perhaps even post-liberal Catholic politics.

..  the religious votes for the cheerfully pagan Trump and the growing interest in traditionalism, radicalism and separatism, are not the culmination of the Catholic-evangelical alliance but rather a reaction to its political and cultural failures — and the failures of liberal religious politics as well.

.. leaders and thinkers have spent decades rallying to the republic, trying to bring about its moral and political renewal … only to see republican virtues decaying, liberalism turning hostile to religious faith, and democratic capitalism delivering disappointment and dislocation

.. in their evident paranoia about what the Americans are up to, you see a different spirit: a fear of novelty and disruption, and a desire for a church that’s primarily a steward of social peace, a mild and ecumenical presence, a moderate pillar of the establishment in a stable and permanently liberal age.