Monday, April 13, 2015

That next election

Over at The American Conservative, Daniel Larison explains why it makes little sense for Marco Rubio to run for president:

When [Rubio] was absurdly being touted as a “savior” of the party, he played at being like McCain and backed the Senate immigration bill, which angered many conservatives in the process and caused some of his previous supporters to feel that he had let them down. Alarmed by the backlash, he then ran away from the bill and started going out of his way to placate his conservative critics in a most Romney-like fashion. This has mostly earned him a loss of respect from both sides of the debate. As far as his conservative critics are concerned, he showed his true colors in supporting the bill, and in the eyes of “reform” supporters he caved immediately when he encountered the slightest resistance. In the end, the one big legislative effort Rubio was involved in produced no results, and he suffered political whiplash in the process.

Conservatives would be wise not to forget this episode. The National Question, as John Derbyshire has termed it, is too important to get wrong.  Politically speaking, creating millions of new voters, most of whom will support the Democratic party is sheer folly.  More importantly, it's insulting to unemployed and under-employed Americans.

But this incident is illustrative for another reason.  The immigration bill which Rubio sponsored was to be his signature legislative accomplishment; it was to demonstrate his readiness for higher office.  This would have set him apart in the field of candidates, for not a single one boasts a solitary success at the federal level.

Those who hold federal office and are seeking the Republican nomination are newcomers: in addition to Rubio, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz are running.  None of these have accomplished anything substantial; their candidacies all hinge on the fact that they have won federal elections, but are seen as too fresh to be held accountable for the paucity of their congressional records.

The other groups are former governors, notably Jeb Bush, but also Scott Walker; and those who claim success outside of the realm of politics, such as Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, and Doctor Ben Carson.  There will always be something appealing about non-politicians, for any sensible conservative or libertarian is thoroughly sick of the political class.  But the nature of the race is such that these candidates lack the resources, acumen and name recognition to be successful.

It is of some interest that, from the Republican side of things, there is nothing I say here that could not have been said about any recent campaign.  Such has been the utter irrelevance of Republican achievement in Washington, that, dating back to Reagan, and excepting the single-term of the elder Bush, all the Republican Presidents had previously been governors.  Based solely on this, I would predict that Jeb Bush becomes the nominee, with Scott Walker as his only real threat. 

It occurs to me, however, that what is true of the Republicans is equally true of the Democrats.  Certainly, Obama had served part of his term as an Illinois Senator before becoming President, but this brief tenure was bereft of achievement.  It's hardly surprising that Republican senators cannot run on a record of futile resistance to government largesse, but it's not clear why Democrats cannot run on the perceived success of any federal program.

This may be the signature feature of the upcoming election.  The Republicans will nominate someone they suspect will fail to enact any significant piece of legislation; but so will the Democrats.  The latter may be uninterested in repealing Obamacare, but we will not see Nancy Pelosi swept into power on the waves of its passage.  We will not see this any more than we have seen any Republican capture the presidency due to his elimination of a government program--if, indeed, a Republican has ever eliminated a government program.

From that standpoint, I can't see how this next election is of a concern to anyone at all, save for this.  The more inept and idiotic our government appears, the more the people clamour for it to do something substantial and sensible.  It is a noble hope.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

On journalism

Those of us who are conservative by temperament do have the tendency to view the past through rose colored glasses.  But if the good old days were seldom quite so good as we remember, that does not mean that decline does not exist.  It is a mistake to believe that another era was better in all respects, for civilization is an amalgam of sundry aspects of humanity.  The Renaissance was a great age for art, but a bad age for morals. 

Three recent stories highlight the decline of journalism in our time, and its replacement with something entirely different: advocacy.

First, the hullabaloo over the passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in the state of Indiana, which I have already written about.  Note the manner in which the law was characterized by the press, not only in editorials, but in what passed for news. 

Second, the revelation that the story at the heart of Rolling Stone's much vaunted article about rape on college campus was a fabrication.  A writer--I will not say journalist--named Sabrina Rubin Erdely shopped around until she found the perfect story to fit her narrative: the preponderance of rape at American universities. 

A modicum of journalistic integrity would have demonstrated that this story was fabulous, and a good editor would have prevented its publication.  For starters, the lead rapist didn't even exist.  But, like the Duke lacrosse non-rape, the story was too good not to publish. Richard Bradley, who helped uncover the hoax, has the details at his site. 

Third, the reporting surrounding the controversy over the Hugo awards.  For those who are unfamiliar, the Hugos are awarded to science-fiction and fantasy writers.  Last year, Larry Correia, of Monster Hunter fame, put up a slate of nominees for the Hugos.  His purpose was twofold: 1) to demonstrate that the primary test for the Hugos was not literary, but political, namely, that which accorded with leftist identity politics; and 2) to end puppy related sadness, the leading cause of which is reading dull social justice warrior propaganda disguised as fiction.

Correia was nominated, the rabble was roused, and denounced him for being hateful, racist, other progressive pejoratives.  Many insisted they would not read his work, but would vote against him.  Correia failed to win, which demonstrated his point, but no matter.

Since the puppies were still sad, Correia offered another slate this year.  Brad Torgersen and others jumped in, and Sad Puppies 3 managed to sweep the nominations. 

Whereupon the social justice warriors became rather angry.  For instance, here's one headline: "Hugo Award nominations fall victim to misogynistic, racist voting campaign" courtesy of one, Isabella Biedenharn.  Note that the headline and link were subsequently changed, but there was no excuse in publishing such an outlandish calumny in the first place.

There are other examples, but these should suffice to demonstrate my point.  In the cases outlined above, the facts of the story were viewed as inessential.  Journalism exists, not to tell what happened, but to tell a story, to fit the facts into the narrative, like animals are corralled into a pen. 

Once one knows that social conservatives are bigots who hate homosexuals, it's not necessary to familiarize oneself with the particulars of a bill.  Its mere passage is confirmation of the pre-determined intent.  Similarly, whether or not a particular girl was raped by a particular man at a particular fraternity isn't important.  What matters is that college girls are being raped all the time, and anything which reinforces this narrative is useful.

If the narrative is sound, it shouldn't be too difficult to find facts which fit.  That so many of our stories are riddled with falsehood doesn't disprove the larger explanation, but it does suggest that we proceed with scepticism.  It may turn out that the narrative is as false as the fabricated story.