The Wizard of Bogeyman Narratives

Yahoo News has thrown up (in the fullest sense of the term) a piece by Chris Moody on Grover Norquist.  It’s accompanied by a gaudy, melodramatic illustration that’s more at home disgracing the cover of the now defunct liberal siren Newsweek.  But if by invoking The Wizard of Oz imagery Yahoo wants to claim squatter rights to that niche, that’s fine by me.

Here’s a painful point of Moody’s text:

But Norquist is like a bearded Lernaean Hydra, which grows only more powerful the more you attack it. The evidence? A majority of Republicans have not publicly joined the rogue moderates, reinforcing the narrative that they remain under Norquist’s binding spell.

Where is this “narrative” coming from?  Perhaps Mr. Moody is describing an out-of-body experience, because it is media that drive narratives, and he is very much a part of that enterprise.

That Republicans don’t budge on their no tax pledge is a point even Chuck Todd can understand.  There is an electoral base that must be answered to.  And no, these constituents to whom congressmen are accountable are not drooling, rabid, or themselves cult followers of a giant, green, bearded head.  Some segment of the population even finds their demands sensible.

Of course, it hurts the noggins of liberal journalists too much to try to draft anything other than “GOP beholden to extremist” pieces.  They could try an expose on Michael Moore, who recently touted–under delusion–a strong re-election mandate as a justification for President Obama to lead a righteous charge off of the fiscal cliff.  But then again, journalists are supposed to target powerful and relevant voices.

Our media corps’ oblivious lopsidedness is the price of the free market, where people with big soft hearts–and reasoning most often just as soft– funnel into a self-selecting army that’s out to change the world.  Thankfully there are today many means of recourse to soft pieces like Yahoo’s Norquist essay.

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Political prudence for the GOP

It’s been almost two weeks now since the Great Disappointment of 2012.  In 1844, the Millerites were let down in their expectation of divine deliverance.  With the wailing and self-flagellation of some after Romney’s 2012 defeat, one could be forgiven for thinking an event of similar cosmic significance had transpired.

To be sure, there is much to talk about.  And I myself have had some hearty discussions or else tracked the ongoing conversation.  This time of ferment offers a fresh opportunity to applaud realistic thinking as well as call out and smack down the sillier and more destructive ideas.

Two or three days after election, I came across one of the self-flagellation pieces on American Thinker.  The article looks back to the GOP’s post-Gingrich Revolution profligacy.  It seems the author is laying some significant portion of the election blame there.  But these transgressions happened an eternity ago on the political timescale.  It’s a little hard to imagine any number of voters bemoaning Trent Lott’s appropriation decisions from 17 years ago.

Yet the idea persists that Republicans are still suffering from the veto of off-put fiscal purists.  Michael Medved counters this notion with a rhetorical image: where is this mythical army of conservative voters who are withholding for the right candidate?  Only 40% of the country identifies as conservative, and we pretty well turned them out this last time.  The decisive work ahead lies not in squeezing an elusive reservoir of more conservatives but winning more moderates in the middle.  The numbers bear this out.

Meanwhile, a piece from Forbes offers a different message: this latest defeat is a chance to shake free of Karl Rove and the Bush II cadre.  Per the commentary, its high time for true Reaganites, in the Jack Kemp mold, to climb back to power.  I’m not really knowledgeable on the comparative schools of GOP politicos, but I took the editorial with a grain of salt.  Just think of Reagan’s 11th commandment: “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.”  Certainly, there’s room to criticize of our fellow partisans, but we ought to be wary of taking away such a simplistic narrative.  And we need to watch out for the damage that comes from publicly airing our internecine struggles.

Reading articles is nice, but one doesn’t even have to look that far to examine a slice of the conservative movement.  There’s Twitter for that.  And a lot of what has been floating in the past few days is junk.  There is the talk of secession.  Just dumb.  Neither is a dire outlook of the Republican brand appropriate.  And please, let’s suffer no more talk of RINOs.  This kind of sourness doesn’t help grow the party.  But to Twitter conservatives’ credit, folks seem to be on the ball in registering their disdain for unelectable candidates like Todd Akin.  If anyone needs to be kicked out, it’s brand-destroyers of that vein.

A bright spot in the post-election conservation is Daniel Henninger’s deconstruction of the Obama victory.  He has exposed the repulsive shape of future campaigns that Democrats have pioneered.  It will be in your face, all the time, and begging for every last penny.  Democrats, drawing on the progressive obsession with number-crunching technocratic solutions, have perfected the division and manipulation of the voting populace.

The rank and file of the GOP is too idealistic by comparison.  We’re always waxing about “articulating ideas.”  But I know we have some unsavory electorate-dicing operatives among us; or at least, we ought to.  We need them to act with the resources and range of their Democratic counterparts.

One more take away from post-election discussion comes from Michael Medved.  Per his recent piece, the key to Obama’s reelection victory was voter suppression.  You read that right.  Not Black Panther intimidation or tampering with ballots, though that surely happened too.  The winning strategy was deeply cynical: turn off swing voters, and push your base to the polls at all costs.  There’s nothing magical we can’t replicate there.

I think the GOP definitely has the ability to turn things around in the next few elections.  But even if you disagree, I would implore you to hold the myopic moping, conspiracy theories and intra-partisan vitriol.  Don’t spoil the hunt for the rest of us; too much is at stake.

GOP bombs Womenistan

The other day after work I heard a report by Ari Shapiro on All Things Considered.  He was gauging voter sentiment in the swing state of Colorado.  One interviewee who made the cut was a female business owner.  She expressed her indecision thusly (emphasis mine):

“I don’t know that I can, in good conscience, vote for the Republican Party. I mean, it just – it seems to me that they don’t think much of women. But I don’t know if I can vote for the Democrats, because I don’t know that they think much of small business people. So, you know, the things that I hear from both sides, they do affect me. But there is, you know, it’s like a tug of war at this point. I don’t know who to vote for.”

I wish Ari Shapiro would have had the mind or maybe the time to pursue the vague yet provocative claim that Republicans “don’t think much of women.”  What must GOP women make of this statement?  The real story should be how Democrats’ continue to cobble their coalition with the same shopworn, cartoonish tropes for the past four decades.

It’s my fervent hope that voters such as the woman interviewed will think clearly and come to shake off the manipulative “war on women” narrative when they enter the booth come November.

Muffin consumption pivotal issue in 2012. Really?

A writer who teaches at Columbia managed to file another subjective, liberal polemic with the New York Times the other day.  In the piece, the author invokes the memory of her deceased, Korean immigrant father to denounce . . . you guessed it, Mitt Romney.

And the decisive issue for Asian immigrants in 2012?  How one eats a muffin.

This time, the opinion writer drags us along an arc strewn with references to airline peanut packets and Burberry scarves, whatever those are.  She arbitrarily parks the words “Anglo-Saxon” in the vicinity of Ann Romney’s name, in a bald attempt to evoke from her readers whatever animus may have been deposited by past ethnic studies professors.

As for breakfast habits, the writer would have us believe that, for miserly immigrants like her father, they’re a game changer:

I can only imagine what he would have had to say about a presidential candidate so heedless he eats only the top off a muffin. No matter how loyal a Republican, my father would likely have declared Mr. Romney a very silly, profligate man — not the kind of man to be trusted with his precious tax money. Perhaps his vote would have gone to a Democrat for the first time ever. Politico has declared the Asian-American vote “key for both parties.”  Will muffin-top-gate cause other immigrant parents to join their Democratic-leaning children?

This passage, besides being an unrealistic fantasy, betrays the totalizing tendency of liberals.  That is chiefly, the conflation of private behavior with public obligations.  If a police officer tucks in his daughter at night with a tender kiss, does he become too gentle to chase and pin down a violent suspect the next day?  In the same way, how a businessman spends his own earnings has no connection with his performance at his day job.

Indeed, it was President Clinton who called Romney’s business record “sterling.”  Car elevators and the alleged discarding of muffin bottoms don’t erase the over 100,000 jobs and healthy profit Romney generated at Bain; neither do they negate his tremendous service to the Salt Lake Olympics.

And since we’re counting, let’s not forget all the penny-pinching, middle class markers of Mr. Romney: his “cheap” kitchen light bulb fix, the family vacations in a wood-paneled station wagon, and his regular trips flying economy class, even at the risk of air rage fisticuffs.

The appropriate scrutiny for this election is not on what a businessman does with privately-purchased muffins, but what a public steward like President Barack Obama has done with the people’s money.  An added $6,000,000,000,000 to the debt, the failed $800 billion stimulus (check the graph here), support of green flops like high speed rail and Solyndra, and an otherwise total lack of leadership on the federal budget make a better case for profligacy than any half-eaten baked breakfast good ever could.

If we’re going to talk muffin waste, Barack Obama has wantonly discarded untold dumpster loads of them, in the belief that he could always tax the muffin-rich or inflate his way out of the muffin debt.

So there we have it.  A mainstream publication continues to avail itself as a platform for utterly unconvincing liberal carping.  It would have been genuinely interesting to have an honest exposition of what ideas animated the writer’s allegiance to the Democratic party.  For now, the consuming public must be content with a couched, self-referential diatribe of cross-generational rebellion.  That, and whatever else the enlightened editors toss our way.

Paul Ryan: naive, inexperienced?

Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.

C.S. Lewis

As far as I know, neither I nor Virginia Heffernan is a philosopher in the professional sense, but I would submit that Lewis’s dictum is just as valid for bloggers.  And so it is that I must report on the Yahoo writer’s latest hit piece, because it is bad blogging.

Like her other columns, Heffernan’s latest meanders through obscure pop culture references, though fewer than usual.  This time, the most outlandish example is of some dusty blue book that every American must have owned circa 1970.

The author’s alternately snarky and earnest jaunt down memory lane serves an end of course.  In this case, it is to tie herself to her subject, the estimable Paul Ryan.  He is one year her junior, and as such is the first of Generation X to contend for the vice presidency.

The face of inexperience?

Heffernan proceeds to portray her college years as a perigee where she flirted with but ultimately moved away from a Jack Kempian conservatism.  Looking for bonus points with those harboring an unflattering memory of the Reagan years, she offers television character and teenage Republican Alex Keaton as a possible analog for Mr. Ryan.

By the end of the piece, it is clear than in so many words Heffernan has endeavored to say that compared to herself, Paul Ryan is naive and inexperienced in the ways of the world.  But for all of her musings on Generation X, she’s only managed to grasp the one elementary tool of commendation that the relativistic, existentially-driven Baby Boomers left behind: anecdotal evidence, the mere telling of personal experience.

Heffernan supposes that Mr. Ryan never faced a hard day in his life.  Meanwhile, she had some undescribed encounters that delivered her from a simplistic, uncaring worldview.  Maybe she saw a sad, hungry puppy shivering by the side of the road.  That is why, unlike the experientially impoverished Mr. Ryan,   she was able to grow out of an infatuation with that extreme ideology called fiscal restraint.

What a condescending take.  Did Heffernan fail to research that Paul Ryan discovered his father dead in bed when he was 16?  Or that his Alzheimer’s-stricken grandmother moved in for care shortly thereafter?  Indeed, the teenage Paul Ryan worked at McDonalds.  Those earnings, along with Social Security survivor’s benefits, allowed him to go to college.  And when he got there, he supported himself further with a side job selling hot dogs for Oscar Meyer.  Does this sound like some sort of silver spoon background, or the picture of naivete conjured by fictional teenage Republicans of TV yesteryear?  Contrary to her boast, it is Ryan, not she, who is the old soul.

Rather than offer commentary of value, Heffernan merely pollutes the national conversation with solipsistic bubble gum blogging.  She permits her readers to dismiss the latest Republican candidate as heartless, aloof, and extreme.  And in the same moment, they are left with fond recollections of leg warmers and ’80s prom hair.  Given the state of the entertainment establishment, this is hardly a novel achievement.

As I’ve warned before, Yahoo! News is more an entertainment outpost than an outlet for truth.

Scientists campaign against Republican, conservative brains

Back in April, I was dismayed to learn that my alma mater was hosting a speaker promoting a new book titled The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science and Reality.  (Read Jonah Goldberg’s take on the book here)  It’s become a refrain of mine that no one should be shocked at liberal bias in media or academe. But that a campus would sanction an event branded with such a patent insult is a new low for discourse.  Doubtless, the glorified ad hominem that Republicans are wired to deny reality would go unnoticed by the campus’s “Civility Project,” which rather than treat civility seriously, reinforces notions of victimhood and grievance.

Andrew Ferguson at The Weekly Standard has managed to capture the zeitgeist of liberal academics who try to analyze conservatives. The New Phrenology, as he calls it, has roots as far back as the “F Scale” psychological test of the 1940s. It was meant to gauge one’s conservative tendencies. The “F” stands for Fascism.

Looking at more recent studies of the same vein, Ferguson finds some recurring faults. In a couple of cases the sample groups consisted entirely of college students. Hormonally-driven and still maturing, these folks are hardly suitable representatives for the population at large.  Furthermore, the subjects were also disproportionately Asian-American and female. One study assessed subjects’ conservatism by asking whether they felt “powerful” that day. The methodology leaves much to be desired.

Remember when Farleigh-Dickinson University’s Public Mind Institute reported that watching FOX News makes you dumber? They recently touted the study’s results were “confirmed” with a follow-up. But by asking the same questions as the first time, they repeated the same mistakes. A self-reporting NPR or evening news consumer is going to get a solid block of news, but a watcher of a 24-hour cable news network quite possibly could miss out on substantive programming. And the questionnaire’s focus on Syria favors a misguided, cosmopolitan set that believes the UN might actually be effective. It’s not FOX News but The Public Mind Institute that has made the world dumber with its junk studies.

Meanwhile, one Marcus Arvan has attempted to pin conservatives on the pages of a journal called Neuroethics. The determinism implied in the journal’s title is striking; as if morality were some lightning to be captured in a materialistic bottle. Arvan alleges conservatives share in a “Dark Triad” of personality traits, among them a Machiavellian bent. It’s nothing to worry about. That’s just what people label realists when they don’t like what they have to say.

But on the contrary, anthropologist T.M. Luhrmann finds evangelicals to inhabit a fantasy land.  She sees her native tribe of secular liberals as results-focused, but evangelicals as strangely obsessed with self-improvement and how people could be. Last time I checked, it was liberals who were pie-in-the-sky, swaying to John Lennon’s “Imagine.”  Serious Christians remain firmly rooted in reality, thanks to a cognizance of sin. Among other things, this is the idea that no one, not even ourselves, is perfect or perfectible on this Earth. The Incarnation excluded. Far from enabling delusion, real knowledge of sin and fallenness equips Christians with an ideal, double-edged skepticism. Like the kind that informed America’s great system of governance.

If anyone, it’s secular liberals who ought to be concerned for their own views of reality. Progressives can’t question the very thing they’re progressing toward. There’s no room for genuine critique if there’s a real war on with capitalism, patriarchy, scientific illiteracy, or some other ill of preference. And, as with war, secular liberals demand that problems be dealt with centrally and in totality. This embarrassing prescriptivism should have died with eugenics and all the other awkward progressive-era vestiges long ago.

Still, we are burdened with the unquestioned assumptions of the liberal-scientific consensus. We’re not allowed to question computer models of climate change. But the layman recognizes the hubris in forecasting a city’s weather one month in advance let alone global conditions one hundred years hence. On policy, the consensus demands economy-crushing carbon taxes, lest famines and war break out. But these conditions prevail already.

It’s maddening that the liberal-scientific consensus recuses itself from the possibility of error. Meanwhile, it treats people and the environment as fragile and unable to adapt–in fact, in need of a strong, capable hand–a scientific and liberal hand.  On this view, everything is material, knowable, and solvable. Their knowledge is so certain that even their critics’ reasons for criticism can be deconstructed with empirical precision.

No one likes to deal with this kind of impenetrable certitude. All the more that liberal scientists and academics should abandon their shameful quest to dismiss conservatives with the cudgel of science. Then we can get around to solving real problems.

The Economic Red Button

The economic red button

Today’s strip continues the cafe conversation.  Probably you’ve heard people try to judge presidents by the shape of their economies.  This kind of logic is mistaken, but it is the bread and butter of progressives and Democrats.  They survive pretty much on promises of government activism.  But because of the harm that most often comes from government meddlings in the market, the best kind of president would lead with a hands off style.  Better a good steward than an all-out commander.

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