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20 November 2017

Alabama Special Election - Poll Predictions

In my previous post, I laid out a defense of Judge Roy Moore, Republican candidate for US Senate in Alabama's special election.  Prior to a series of lurid sexual allegations, Moore was hugely favored to win the deep-red State's senate seat.

In light of these allegations--and amid cowardly calls from the Republican Establishment to withdraw from the race--Moore's poll numbers have wavered.

That's not surprising.  What is more interesting, however, is that Moore's numbers have not changed substantially; rather, his opponent, Democrat Doug Jones, has enjoyed a bump.

At the time of writing (Thursday, 16 November 2017), the RealClearPolitics average of polls (link) has Moore ahead by a meager 0.8%, with 47.2% of likely voters.  Jones has the support of 46.4% of likely voters (in one Fox News poll, Jones enjoys a six-point lead!).

Just a week prior (Thursday, 9 November 2017)--before the bulk of the accusations against Moore materialized--Moore sat at 48%, with Jones at 42%.

Note that Moore's average poll numbers have only fallen by 0.8%--hardly a catastrophic slide.  Jones's numbers, on the other hand, have seen a 4.4% boost.

Even on 9 November, 10% of likely Alabama voters were undecided.  Now, that number has fallen to 6.4%.  In other words, in one week, 3.6% of undecided voters have "decided" for Jones, while only 0.8% of Moore voters have flipped.

That infamous Fox News poll?  It had a sample size of about 500 voters, and polls tend to skew toward Democratic voters (presumably, they have the free time from guzzling sweet, sweet government bennies to answer phone polls).

Meanwhile, a local Fox affiliate in Alabama, Fox10, commissioned its own poll with Strategy Research (link).  That poll has a healthier sample size of 3000, and puts Moore up over Jones by a respectable six points, 49% to 43%, respectively, with 8% of voters undecided.

Of those polled, 35% said the allegations made them more likely to vote for Moore.  Among undecided voters, 6% said the allegations made them more likely to vote for Moore, 44% less likely to vote for Moore, and a whopping 51% were either undecided or said that "the allegations make no difference in their vote."

Doug Jones, Democratic Candidate (top) and Judge Roy Moore, Republican Candidate for Senate (bottom; Source:  https://realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2017/senate/al/alabama_senate_special_election_moore_vs_jones-6271.html#polls)

What does this all mean?

For one, the election will come down to undecided voters.  If any of the truly wicked allegations against Moore are proven (it's unorthodox, to be sure, but I don't consider respectful courting of legal-aged women--with their mothers' permission!--in the late 1970s as particularly wicked), that 51% of the 6-8% of undecided will likely push Jones over the top.  However, if no plausible evidence emerges to indict Moore decisively in the public mind, then he should win over enough of those undecided voters to get the Senate seat, although I predict he'll take a hit among women either way.

Support from his existing supporters remains solid.  Take a look at that 35% who are more likely to vote for Moore after the allegations.  Surely a solid third of Alabama Republicans aren't supporting Moore because he's said to have dated teenagers (and to have inappropriately groped a half-naked fourteen-year old).  Why would they stick with him?

The answer:  they smell a rat.  Media bias reeked throughout the 2016 election, when Donald Trump--whom Alabamans supported in droves--fought off sexual harassment allegations of his own.  Those allegations looked like they would swamp Trump's candidacy when they aired in October 2016--a month before the election.  He batted them away by turning the tables on Secretary Hillary Clinton's lothario husband, former President Bill Clinton.

Moore is in a nearly-identical situation:  he's a lovable culture warrior who has put his career on the line for his principles.  He's bucked the Establishment of his own party, and his allure goes beyond policy specifics.  He's a Jacksonian hero who, while he may be rough around the edges, appeals to everyday folks with his common sense and tenacity.  While Trump was a household name throughout the country, Moore is a household name in Alabama.

So when these allegations emerged almost exactly a month before the 12 December election day, Moore supporters naturally had to be skeptical, especially coming from the Washington Post, an outlet that endorsed Doug Jones.

When Senate Majority Mitch McConnell, "Republican" Senator John McCain, and other Establishment heavies began calling for Moore to withdraw from the race, more than a few Moore voters had to suspect that the machinery of the Trump-skeptical GOP congressional leadership was either involved, or gleefully hoping to oust a damaged candidate.

When faced with the prospect of voting for a partial-birth abortion-supporting Jones or a potentially flawed conservative Christian culture warrior with a penchant for younger women, many Moore voters must have drawn the conclusion--as they did with then-candidate Trump--that a flawed conservative is better than a pure, progressive Democratic.

"[Moore is] a Jacksonian hero who, while he may be rough around the edges, appeals to everyday folks with his common sense and tenacity."


I have another--controversial--theory that, if correct, could wreck any poll numbers that put Jones up by less than 3-5%:  just as Trump enjoyed more support than the polls--even exit polls--suggested, I believe Moore will experience a similar phenomenon.  Right now, few people want to tell a phone pollster (even a computerized voice) that they support a man accused of, at best, dating teenagers.

This reluctance will be most prevalent among men (again, I suspect that Moore will take more damage from women, regardless of what revelations the future holds).  There are probably thousands of men in Alabama tonight who are thinking, "Well, I wouldn't want a 32-year old dating my daughter, but I can see why he would have dated younger women."  They can never utter this aloud, but they're thinking it.

Finally, just look at any comment thread on any story about Moore, especially one a local website.  The pro-Jones folks are invariably insufferable Lefties from out-of-state lecturing to the good folks of Alabama to "not be stupid" and the like.  The Moore supporters are grassroots and ready to back their candidate to the hilt.

While anything could happen, I think the trends on the ground will favor Moore.  If he can fight back the accusations, he can turn the election into a fight against Democratic outsiders attempting to influence the election, AND the Republican Establishment trying to keep him down.

We're in the age of the outsider, and Roy Moore is the ultimate outsider.  Let's see if he can pull a Trump and do some good in the Senate.

17 November 2017

The Alabama Special Election, Principles, and Persecution

The campaign of Alabama Senate candidate Judge Roy Moore is reeling after allegations that, in the 1970s and 1980s, Moore dated several teenage girls.  The Washington Post article that broke the news focuses on Leigh Corfman, who alleges that Moore approached her at the courthouse in Etowah County, Alabama, when she was only fourteen-years old.  After obtaining her phone number, Corfman claims Moore met with her and forced her to touch him over the underwear.

Several other women also told the Washington Post that they dated Moore while he was in his early 30s and they in their late teens.  These other women were between sixteen and eighteen (sixteen is the legal age of consent in Alabama), and report that their dates with the young deputy district attorney were respectful, involving no physical contact beyond hugging and kissing.  One of the women even said her mother was thrilled that her daughter was dating a successful attorney.

Judge Moore denied all of the allegations, but each day seems to bring some fresh revelation or twist.  He has since said that he may have dated some teenagers of legal age when he was younger.  The truth is difficult to discern, but here is what we do know:
  • Four women--all above the legal age of consent--reported that Moore was respectful (one noted that after her mother forbid her from dating an older man, their relationship ended, apparently without any further fanfare).
  • Leigh Corfman, who was fourteen at the time of the alleged groping, was the only woman accusing Moore of any explicitly illegal and illicit sexual activity.
  • Tina Johnson emerged a few days into the controversy, alleging that Moore grabbed her butt in 1991. (Link)
  • Judge Moore has been married to his wife, Kayla Moore, who is younger than him by fourteen years, for decades.  She has defended her husband fiercely in the face of these accusations.
  • Moore has run multiple local and statewide campaigns--many of them controversial--and no allegations have emerged during any of these (highly contentious) campaigns.
  • Moore is a boogeyman for the political Left, and something of a Jacksonian folk hero for the Right.  He famously refused to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from the grounds of the Alabama Judicial Building after a federal court ruled it constituted an establishment of religion (Alan Keyes eloquently denounced that federal court order in a classic essay--and, for my students, perennial Government class assignment--entitled "On the Establishment of Religion:  What the Constitution Really Says"), leading to his removal from the Alabama Supreme Court in 2003.

    He was reelected to the Alabama Supreme Court ten years later, only to be removed again in 2016 for refusing to comply with the Supreme Court's dubious decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, the landmark case that read into the Constitution a heretofore unwritten and unrecognized right for same-sex couples to marry.
  • Moore was favored by the Bannonite-wing of the Republican Party (if such a thing exists) in the intense Republican primary run-off battle against Senator Luther Strange, who had been appointed to fill the vacant seat after Jeff Sessions was tapped to serve as Attorney General in the Trump administration.  The Republican Establishment--notably Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, but also President Trump--supported Strange, while Moore was cast as the "Trumpian" candidate.
Those last two points raise my eyebrows.  Here's a man who is no stranger to (political) controversy, the consummate culture warrior in an age when every political battle seems to connect to cultural and social values.  Moore's firm religious convictions make him evil in the eyes of progressive Democrats, and embarrassing to well-heeled, Establishment, country-club Republicans.

It's no secret that the Washington Post endorsed Moore's opponent, Democrat Doug Jones.  Then the Post sought out women who claim to have had encounters with Moore.  For a heavily left-leaning publication hoping to humiliate the sitting president and the Republican Party in a deep red state, the temptation to go after a popular but controversial populist figure would have to have been palpable.

The disdain of the Establishment Republicans for Moore (and, by extension, President Trump) could explain the fervor with which they have gone after Moore, calling for him to resign within mere hours of the Post's story breaking.  It's as though McConnell was just waiting for something like this to cross his desk, so he and other RINOs could rush out to denounce Moore and try to twenty-three-skidoo in their preferred candidate.

It seems that Republican leadership has succumbed to the same mania for virtue-signalling that dominates the Left.  I can barely read National Review--formerly one of my favorite publications--because of its consistently noodle-wristed editorializing whenever any populist-oriented Republican speaks out of turn.  Just read David French's off-putting essay on "creepy Christianity" here.  With friends like these, who needs enemies?

Judge Roy Moore in 2011 (Photo Credit:  BibleWizard, extracted from YouTube, accessed 16 November 2017 from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Judge_Roy_Moore.jpg)

The worst of the accusations--the groping of the fourteen-year old and the incident in 1991--don't seem to fit the pattern of the stories the other women told the Post.  I'm fully willing to concede that, based on what we're learning now, a young Roy Moore dated some girls in their late teens.  He married a woman fourteen years his junior.  Clearly, he had a taste for younger women, but he hasn't committed adultery, as one of his most vocal critics, Senator John McCain, did, and his relationships, by all accounts, were above-board.  He's remained faithful--as far as we know--to his wife.

"For a heavily left-leaning publication hoping to humiliate the sitting president and the Republican Party in a deep red state, the temptation to go after a popular but controversial populist figure would have to have been palpable."

It may seem unorthodox now--and I am certainly not advocating that thirty-two-year old men start dating sixteen-year olds!--but such age-disparate relationships were more common and socially acceptable forty years ago.  For a fuller examination of this point, I refer you to Frank J. Tipler's piece at American Thinker; read it here.

Regardless, the Left has no logical grounds for objection.  How can a philosophical and political movement that endorses every sexual arrangement imaginable stand against legal, age-disparate, consenting relationships and maintain even a modicum of internal consistency?  Again, this is no endorsement of such relationships, but if you're the party of transgender, bisexual, polyamorous, gay, lesbian, queer, inter-species rights, how can you draw the line here?  You've already run miles past it.

Ultimately, squeamish National Review-and-Establishment types are claiming the moral high ground, arguing that a US Senate seat isn't worth sacrificing principles.  At this point, though, their haste to condemn Moore smacks of moral cowardice and political opportunism.  Are they not going to at least entertain the idea that the man is innocent, or was just a bit unorthodox in his dating habits forty years ago?  Rather than try to scuttle a still-popular candidate before he barely has a chance to defend himself, could not McConnell and other Senate Republicans attempt to reach out to the Moore campaign?  Even if he's not your style of Republican, you could learn to work with him, rather than prome to expel him from the Senate if he wins!

This video from Stefan Molyneux (below; WARNING--NSFW) gets down to brass tacks:  preserving the Republican's razor-thin majority in the Senate is worth showing some political backbone, rather than allowing a partial-birth abortion-supporting Democrat to snag the seat.



This election suggests that Establishment Republicans, for all their talk of decorum and principles, are sometimes little better or different than their Democratic opponents.  They don't want a scrappy culture warrior  And despite some dire poll numbers, the accusations may not stick:  according to RCP polling, Moore was up 3 points over Jones (as of 14 November), though he has fallen to a far more dicey 0.8% lead (as of 16 November, the date this post was written).  That's within the margin of error, though certainly not the double-digit lead Republicans want in Alabama.  More on those poll numbers, and my analysis of them, to come.

If we learn that Moore did indeed assault Leigh Cofrman, than I'll retract my defense of him immediately.  But for now, we have no consistent pattern of bad behavior, and what appears to be some very powerful opponents arrayed against a man who has suffered professionally for his beliefs.  From where I'm sitting, Judge Moore's treatment looks more like persecution than justice.

31 July 2017

Kid Rock - The People's Senator

This piece will (probably) be published soon at American Patriot Radio (Link).  You can read some of my other writings there; I recommend "Pat Buchanan's America." 

Political wags and armchair pundits--like yours truly--have been abuzz about the possibility of a Kid Rock Senate run in 2018.  He'd be running against Democratic incumbent Senator Debbie Stabenow--if he can win the Republican primaries--in a Trump-style insurgency campaign.

Immediate speculation focused on Kid Rock's website, www.kidrockforsenate.com, and whether or not the Detroit rocker was serious, or just boosting publicity for his music.  Kid Rock (real name Robert Ritchie) is offering campaign apparel on the website, including bumper stickers.

I purchased a bumper sticker ($5... plus $6.99 shipping) and it billed to Warner Brothers, not a "Kid Rock for Senate" campaign committee.  Nevertheless, Kid Rock appears to be serious:  he's made an announcement at www.kidrock.com (link).

The announcement is straight out of Trump's playbook:  he goes after "fake news," promises to be "a voice for tax paying, hardworking AMERICANS," and invokes "We the People."

Kid Rock is a populist at heart, and we're living in a populist moment.

There's not much to add to what's already been said, but I'll go out on a limb and say that Kid Rock should definitely run--and I think he can win.  As Michigan native Jordan Gehrke writes at The Federalist:

"The Michigan Senate race will be the most-watched campaign in America in 2018 if he runs. It’s got everything: celebrity, a battleground Trump won in 2016 and must win again to get re-elected, a conventional, disciplined, well-funded Democrat, a re-run of 2016, and a trailer for 2020, all rolled into one."  (Link)

Naturally, the Establishment is poo-pooing Kid Rock's potential run as the "dumbing down" of America.  Sure, he's crude, he's crass, he's kind of trashy--but he really seems to care about the people of Michigan.  And they love him.  While it's unlikely that any Republican will ever win Detroit in its current state, none has the opportunity to suck up votes in the city better than hometown hero Kid Rock.  With the support from rural Michigan--bona fide Trump Country--Kid Rock could best a powerful, well-funded Democratic incumbent.  A new poll from the Trafalgar Group has Kid Rock winning the Republican primary against potential opponents handily, and within the margin of error against Stabenow

Kid Rock is a populist at heart, and we're living in a populist moment.  His care for the common man shows in his music career; for years, he's been giving big concerts (with some big-name opening acts, like Foreigner) for just $20 a ticket.  In the face of ever-rising concert ticket prices, that concern for his fans' wallets spoke volumes.  That's the same kind of connection with the "little guy" that could propel him into office on a platform of government transparency and reform.

Regardless, one thing is for sure--if Kid Rock runs, 2018 will be the most exciting midterm election season in years.

13 June 2017

A Portly Politico Update; Site Re-Launch (Coming Soon)

Hi there, Portly Fans.

Since last summer, I've only made one post--my 2016 election guide--and I have definitely missed out on some major events.  I'd originally planned to write about the presidential election and its aftermath, covering the ups and downs of the process.  Unfortunately, teaching obligations--and, I'll admit, the unusually heated rhetoric of the campaign trail--kept me quiet during a very loud election.

I hate to confess it, but this election was the first time I didn't relish debating my progressive friends and colleagues.  The gulf in worldviews, as well as the overall rancor toward then-candidate Trump, dampened my enthusiasm for dialogue, debate, and discussion (that didn't stop me from wearing a bright red "TRUMP" hat to school the morning after the election, but that's a story for another time).  That might make me weak, but I opted to work quietly rather than talk to an ideological brick wall.  Apparently, millions of Americans did the same, and made their voices heard at the ballot box.

Regardless, here's a recap of (most) everything that's occurred since last summer:

- Donald J. Trump won a convincing Electoral College victory, proving once again the wisdom of that institution.  Hallelujah!

(I don't know which is better--Trump winning, or Secretary Clinton losing--but I'm thrilled either way.)

- Donald J. Trump was inaugurated President of the United States.  I still feel like I'm living in a dream.

- Republicans maintained control of Congress (not that it's done much good, but we got Neil Gorsuch).

- Speaking of, President Trump--mmmm, it's soooo good to type that--nominated Neil Gorsuch, a constitutional originalist, to the Supreme Court.

- Insufferable Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) have lost a LOT of ground culturally, and globalist elites are gnashing their teeth.  I don't want to relish in Schadenfreude--and, honestly, the day-after-the-election reactions were so ridiculous, they took the fun out of good-natured ribbing--but it's refreshing to win one, especially when it seemed so unlikely.

(On the note of the culture wars, many more Americans--as well as some of the youngest Americans--are red-pilling; don't pop the bubbly yet, but radical feminism and post-modernism are taking a beating.  Here's a bit of my favorite kind of evidence--anecdotal:  while I witness some gender-bending, I overhear some conversations among students that lean heavily toward a traditional worldview.  Girls want to be treated like ladies and to be feminine; boys want to be men... in general.  One of my former students transformed from a Sandersnista into a Trumpster in less than a year; that's how rapidly the battle lines are shifting.)

- National conservatism took some lumps, however, in France (and, most recently, in Britain with Prime Minister Teresa May's humiliating showing in the special election), but Brexit rolls on (woo-hoo!).

While history happened, I ate burgers in Hawaiian t-shirts.  Even this picture isn't new--but it is ALL-AMERICAN.  Make Lunch Great Again!

- SC Governor Nikki Haley became the United Nations Ambassador, putting Trump supporter Henry McMaster into the Governor's Mansion.

- The Left has continued to persecute the Trump Administration, but he keeps winning (maybe not legislatively, but he slayed incompetent FBI Director James Comey, and he's all but beaten the increasingly desperate claims that he colluded with the Russians).  It feels like we're living through the Nixon era again (but that's not a bad thing--it's Pat Buchanan's America, baby).

- Our constitutional system faces a major threat from the "deep state"--the "swamp" of Trump's campaign rhetoric, coupled with the powerful intelligence agencies that influence (control?) the government outside of constitutional and democratic accountability.  That's a terrifying topic for a future post.

- The future of conservatism is up in the air, but it is probably due for an update.  We've ignored the working class for too long.  Nixon won a landslide in 1972 reaching out to the Silent Majority.  Trump played the exact same playbook and had a 1968 outcome.  If he can weather the Left's storm--and if they continue to radicalize leftward--2020 might be a repeat of 1972 (except that the country is far more divided in its worldview now).  2016 demonstrated that Americans were fed up with eight years of a progressive administration that kept spiking the football after every political and cultural victory.

***

Naturally, I've got a lot of catching up to do.  Here's my vision for the future of The Portly Politico:

- A new platform.  I've enjoyed using Blogger, but I've hit a wall with the features I'd like to implement.  In the near future, I'll be moving to a new website, and will maintain this page as an archive for older essays.

- Short posts.  In the meantime, I'll be making short posts to the existing Blogger site.  These posts won't be as long as my output from Summer 2016, but they'll offer quick commentary on current events.

- eBooks.  I'm working on an eBook about the importance of social and cultural conservatism.  I'm also planning a series of books on great historic leaders, drawing lessons from their lives that are applicable to morality, ethics, and politics today.

- Podcast.  I'll be introducing a weekly, 20-or-30-minute podcast.  More details to come.  Maybe Audible will become a sponsor?

- Public speaking.  Especially after the eBook launches, I hope to book talks with local groups.  I've already worked up two good talks, one a reassessment of Samuel Huntington's "A Clash of Civilizations?," the other a general overview of contract theory.  Exciting stuff.

- American Patriot Radio (www.patriotic-radio.com).  I've been associated with the good folks at APR for a few years now.  I'm also a guest contributor, and I've linked to some of my pieces there throughout this post.  My hope is that I'll contribute a few shorter pieces there a few times a week, and I'll provide links from my new site when it launches.  In the meantime, you can check out submissions from various writers here.

***

That's just a sampling of what's to come.  What would you like to see from the TPP?  What's your take on the past seven months?  How's Trump doing?  Leave an angry comment below and let me know!

08 November 2016

The Portly Politico's Hastily-Written, (Mostly) Unbiased Guide to the 2016 Election

Hi faithful TPP Readers,

I've been gone for awhile--nearly three months. My plan was to write post on a weekly basis, covering the presidential election and other events as they occurred.

Unfortunately, life and work have a tendency to take over during the school year, and I've been woefully behind in updating the blog. As such, my planned eBook on social conservatism has been delayed, as had a campaign-oriented book about the rise and worldview of Donald Trump. I anticipate working on both in the near future.

For my brief comeback, I thought I'd share with you a a brief election guide that I write every election year for my colleagues and students (those that are eligible to vote, that is). As noted, I've been very delayed in putting it together due to various disruptions, mostly related to Hurricane Matthew. As such, this year's guide is much briefer (and more hastily-written) than my expansive SC Presidential Primaries Election Guide. That being the case, I'm only going to focus on a few races (note--for readers primarily interested in the presidential election, scroll down, as I start with some local races; also, note that some of my assessments of local candidates are admittedly broad; finally, I do not link extensively to corroborating stories in the presidential section, so you feel free to do some additional research. In short, these summaries are impressionistic sketches of the races and candidates. I have not received any compensation from any candidates or candidate committees for these reflections):

Florence (SC) City Council

There are two "at-large" seats up for grabs this cycle, with three candidates: Democratic incumbent Octavia Williams-Blake; Democratic contender (and former Republican Councilman) Glynn Willis; and Republican hopeful Chris Wegmann. Because there are two seats available, you can vote for two of these three candidates.

Councilwoman Blake seems to be a competent individual, but otherwise I don't know much about her.

I know both Glynn Willis and Chris Wegmann personally, to varying degrees. Willis served on the Council for two years as a Republican, before losing a re-election bid to Democrat George Jebaily (whose son I once taught). Willis switched parties for several reasons, not just political opportunism, but one has to suspect that, the demographics of urban races being what they are, Willis calculated that he'd do better with a "D" after his name than an "R" (currently, there is only one Republican on Florence City Council, Councilman Robbie Hill, who is leaving at the end of his term). Willis is a nice guy, but his party-swapping might smack of careerism to voters.

Chris Wegmann is a Government teacher and coach (women's golf and men's track, I believe) at West Florence High School. He is a sharp, intelligent, perceptive individual, and is very passionate about improving Florence. He seems to be on-board with the Downtown Revitalization Project, and has done a good job of reaching out to all voters, not just Republicans. He recently garnered the endorsement of Tony McElveen, Sr., which demonstrates either his ability to win over traditionally Democratic black voters, or represents a serious political liability; it depends about what you think about Tony.

I strongly recommend Chris Wegmann to those of you that live in Florence's city limits. I also think Councilwoman Williams-Blake will continue to do a fine job.

To learn more about the candidates, read this piece from The Florence Morning News: http://www.scnow.com/news/election_2016/article_45961960-8d99-11e6-b7e9-e30dfcfaa711.html

Florence County Sheriff

Again, I don't know much about the candidates in this race, but I do know it's very difficult to defeat an incumbent sheriff, especially a popular and good sheriff. That's the situation in this race: incumbent Sheriff Kenney Boone enjoys a great deal of respect through the community, and his office seems to be handling the post-hurricane recovery fairly well (you may disagree).

His challenger is Jody Lynch, an Air Force veteran who would be the only female sheriff in the State of South Carolina. Her platform seems to focus on community outreach and looking at the long-term rehabilitation of criminals. Mostly, I've just noticed her annoying, hot pink campaign signs, which seem not-so-subtly to advertise, "vote for me because I'm a girl." I don't care if the sheriff is male, female, or a demiqueer otherkin; I just want him/her/xyr to be good at his/her/its job.

This one is up to you. You can read more about the candidates here: http://wbtw.com/2016/11/04/florence-county-sheriffs-race-candidates/

US House District 7

I honestly had to spend about five minutes Googling just to figure out who incumbent Congressman Tom Rice's (R) opponent is. That does not bode well for Democratic challenger Mal Hyman. Rice was first elected in 2012--the first year that District 7, which comprises most of the Pee Dee, as well as Horry and Georgetown Counties, elected a representative--and has done an admirable job. He currently sits on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. Through his position, he convinced the White House to designate Florence a "disaster zone"--and, therefore, made it eligible for FEMA assistance--after Hurricane Matthew. His main focus since 2012 has been "jobs, jobs, jobs."

On a personal note, Congressman Rice is one of the most down-to-earth, endearing individuals I've ever met. He's very laid-back--he often shows up to swanky campaign events wearing jeans--and loves giving lengthy tours to students and adults of the Capitol Building. But when it comes time to work, he works hard for his constituents.

That's all to say that I know very little, if anything, about Mal Hyman, so I can't be too much help. Look for Tom Rice to win in a landslide (unlike his first run against Gloria Tinubu in 2012). The 7th District has grown redder since he was first elected.

US Senate

The US Senate race features another charismatic and personally-likeable Republican, the affable Senator Tim Scott, against a relatively unknown Democrat, Thomas Dixon (you can also vote for the awesomely-named Rebel Michael Scarborough of the American Party, or the less-awesomely-named Bill Bledsoe, who is running under both the Constitutional and Libertarian Party banners).

Senator Scott was appointed by Governor Nikki Haley to fill a vacancy left by former Senator Jim DeMint when he left to head up the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank. He has subsequently been on the ballot every two years, and I believe this is the first time he'll be running for a full term in his own right. He is the first African-American Republican to be elected to the Senate from a southern State since Reconstruction. Despite being (because he is?) very conservative, he enjoys immense popularity and favorability throughout the State, even among Democrats. He's an effective Senator and has done well in the role. His remarks about his experiences with police--while a Senator!--as a black man struck a chord in the midst of numerous controversies over police conduct.

Again, I don't know much about Thomas Dixon or the third-party candidates. To learn more about the US House and US Senate candidates, check here: http://www.sciway.net/sc-elections/

US President

I am very reluctant to include this section, as it's almost guaranteed to make everyone upset, but it's obligatory. There's another reason I haven't posted much this election cycle: like many voters, I'm not particularly comfortable discussing the presidential election in anything but the broadest terms, as I don't particularly relish being yelled at in public (that reluctance is at the heart of the "Trump Effect" theory, which we'll get to test today). That being said, here are my summaries of the two major candidates:

- Hillary Clinton (D): The odds-on-favorite until a few days ago, Clinton is a former Senator from the State of New York; served as Secretary of State under President Obama from 2009-2013; and is a former First Lady. Her husband, President Bill Clinton, served during a period of unprecedented peace and economic expansion. Some voters appear to support her because of her husband's legacy (she mentions it frequently, and has alluded before that he would be a central part of her decision-making process--though at other times she has backed away from this implication). Other voters are excited about the prospect of electing the first woman president. Finally, some simply don't want to risk electing Donald Trump, her Republican rival.

What kind of president will Clinton be? She will likely continue President Obama's policies in incremental fashion. She's made big promises to her base--the result of running harder to the left because of popular primary challenger Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders--such as free college tuition and an increase in the minimum wage.

Ultimately, however, it's difficult to discern what Clinton will do. She seems to be more concerned with maintaining the current political establishment--and her own vast system of political influence, funneled primarily through the controversial Clinton Foundation--than with any sort of ideological consistency. For example, as a Senator she was strongly in favor of school choice (but not vouchers), arguing that semi-public charter schools provided an opportunity for underprivileged children to gain a better education. When far-left school unions indicated dissatisfaction with this position, however, Clinton backed off, adopting a hard, public-school-only line in her run for president.

That's just one of many examples that demonstrate how Clinton has shifted previously-stated beliefs to suit contemporary political needs. Another is her shift on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal that she touted as the "gold standard" of such arrangements, until reversing her position during the Democratic primaries.

That's not to mention the various scandals involving her use of a private e-mail server to send and receive classified information, the investigation of which was re-opened last week. FBI Director James Comey cleared her (again) of any wrong-doing on Sunday, but it does call into question her judgment.

- Donald Trump (R): Bold, brash, politically-incorrect, (probably) sexist: if the mockumentary This is Spinal Tap were about political campaigns instead of 80s hair metal, Donald Trump would be the main character (and he'd probably say, "What's wrong with being sexy?"). Trump descended from a golden escalator at Trump Tower over a year ago to announce his candidacy, immediately sparking controversy over his suggestion that some illegal immigrants are rapists and criminals (which, taken at face value, is objectively true). His positions have shifted, from his once sweeping (and, while not technically unconstitutional, probably impractical) ban on all Muslim immigration (he now calls for "extreme vetting" of refugees from terror trouble spots) to his immigration plan (he still claims Mexico will pay for the wall, which he plans to do through ending remittance payments--basically wire transfers of money--from Mexican nationals in the US to their countrymen back home).


One gets the impression that his shifts, unlike Clinton's, are more due to his pugilistic, shoot-from-the-hip approach to policy formulation, rather than sheer political calculus (although that certainly is part of it): The Donald tosses out an idea, doubles down on it, then lets his surrogates work out the details. Surprisingly, that approach has tended to work.

Trump's platform is essentially a mix of Theodore Rooseveltean "good government" reformism, Jacksonian populism, and old-fashioned American (perhaps Polkian?) nationalism. His campaign's slogans are a hodge-podge of past ideas, from "Make America Great Again" (an idea from Reagan's 1980 campaign) to Nixonian "Law and Order" to "America First." His primary concerns seem to be reforming government to make it work more efficiently; reorienting government programs to benefit American citizens; ending illegal immigration and (possibly) limiting legal immigration; and pursuing a more traditionally realist approach to foreign policy. He has cast himself, in some ways, as the anti-Clinton: an outsider who knows how the game is played, but who wants to fix it so the little guy can play again.

Many voters are concerned that Trump is a "loose cannon," someone temperamentally incapable of serving as president. Others don't think he has a consistent program, or that he's too unpredictable. At best, Trump seems to be a pragmatic nationalist, one who throws ideas at the wall and sees what sticks (in this way, he's not too different from Democratic deity Franklin Delano Roosevelt), but always with the goal of doing what's best for the nation.

Regardless, Trump is a controversial figure (I won't recount his many, many controversies here), and that gives many voters pause; thus, the massive uncertainty that still exists in many polls, even as voting begins.

***

So, what do you do you? If you think President Obama has done a good job; if you're broadly in agreement with a push for greater globalism (and, perhaps, less American sovereignty); if you want more sweet government bennies; and if you think massive immigration and ratification of illegal immigration are positive, then Clinton is for you.

If you think President Obama's legacy has undermined constitutional order; if you're a critic of globalism and believe that American nationalism is healthy and natural; if you want to maintain Social Security and Medicaid, but don't want to expand other social programs; if you're skeptical of the claims of pro-immigration policies and/or want to see illegal immigration curtailed; or if you simply want to blow up The System, then Trump is your man.

Of course, there is third-party Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, who is a soft-leftist at heart--not an appealing choice for conservative Republicans or progressive Democrats. Evan McMullin is running as a conservative alternative to Trump, and may--but probably won't--win Utah, which could create all kinds of havoc in the Electoral College. I won't even discuss Jill Stein, whose claim-to-fame as the perennial Green Party candidate seems to be getting arrested every four years.

Or, you can simply not vote the top of the ballot, and vote for all the other deserving individuals mentioned herein.

As for me, well... let's just say I'm voting for Milo Yiannopoulus's "Daddy." Kaboom!

God Bless America!

--TPP

15 August 2016

Reflections on a Summer of Portliness

I'd like to thank everyone who has read and supported The Portly Politico for the past couple of months.  I've been very pleased with the overall response, and I love the engaging questions, comments, and personal attacks I've received.

Because the school year resumes this week--and my blissful summer break draws to a close--I will be slowing down the rate of output to one piece per week, probably to be released Monday mornings at 6:30 AM.  While I would love to maintain the Monday-Wednesday-Friday releases, I've taught long enough to know that keeping up that pace would be detrimental to the quality of the posts (and probably to my teaching, which keeps the lights on).

As such, I'd like to dedicate today's post to looking back on the summer, and to share some insights into how I put this thing together.

Enjoy!

--TPP

 
The Author in Repose.
(Original image c/o The Portly Politico)

***

- The Process:  When I relaunched this blog in early June--after six years without a single post--I figured I'd keep it up for a few weeks before cutting back on the frequency of posts.  After those first couple of weeks, though, I was hooked, and became committed to sticking to a regular, three-posts-a-week schedule.

It was not always easy (although, to be honest, how hard is it really to sit at a keyboard and write?).  As so often happens, my best-laid plans to have two or three pieces on file at any time quickly went astray. Just like the college history major I used to be, I found myself writing most of this summer's posts at around the same time as this one:  9 PM the night before the 6:30 AM release.  Some were written at more sensible hours (which my body, tired after long hours at my summer job as a facilities maintenance man, appreciated); Sunday afternoons often saw me writing a post for Monday.

"Deadlines... inspire.... a due date--even a self-inflicted one--is a surefire cure for writer's block."

Most of the posts took about two hours to write and edit, though some took longer.  My process usually goes something like this:  the day I needed to write a post, I'd start brainstorming ideas (if I didn't already have one in my head).  Once I hit upon a topic, I'd begin "writing" it in my head--pretty much how I've always written, going back to school--and then sit down in the evening to hammer it out.  If I'd had trouble dreaming up a topic, I'd scan The Drudge Report for headlines, hoping to find some inspiration.  Many of my posts were adapted from lectures given in the AP US History, AP Comparative Government, and US Government classes I teach during my day job.

Current events, of course, fueled the output, though I tried to avoid particularly controversial or complicated issues when they first broke.  My general policy for this blog and for political discussions is to withhold judgment until all (or most) of the facts are in, especially in the case of shootings.  That's why I never wrote about any of the various shootings that occurred over the summer, whether by or of a police officer.

Deadlines, however, inspire, and I always managed to come up with something.  It's amazing how a due date--even a self-inflicted one--is a surefire cure for writer's block.

I also required myself to post a link to every piece on Facebook, both to attract readers and to force myself to address criticisms (and, in some cases, to face attacks).  It certainly helped sharpen my thinking, and clarified the importance of citing sources frequently!

- Tough Times:  The most discouraging moment of the summer occurred while writing my "Life after Brexit" piece.  I'd had a long day and spent a very long time hammering out that piece (a good bit of which--probably for the better--was wrong), and had actually completed the post.  I was about to go to bed, but I had finished reading an op-ed National Front leader Marine Le Pen wrote to The New York Times, and wanted to include a quotation.  Somehow--and, despite my basic level of computer savvy, I don't know how--I managed to delete the entire post.

That was the closest I came to calling it quits for the night and posting a lame apology the next morning.  I rallied, however, and finally got into bed after 1 AM.  Needless to say, the next morning was not fun, but I'd stuck to my self-imposed deadlines.

The other more amusing moment was the response to "Music is for Everyone," a relatively non-controversial premise.  Someone posted a rather snarky, ridiculous commentary on a very innocuous Facebook post I made; I (against my better judgment) responded with the post linked above.  Needless to say, this nasty fellow did not take kindly to be calling out (though I suspect now it was exactly what he wanted).

"It's been a tough century for conservatives, and we needed a win.  Brexit was a major victory...."

While it was all a bit blown out of proportion, I couldn't let a vile bully go unchallenged.  Mockery is a powerful weapon against normalcy and decency; no one wants to look foolish, so no one attempts a defense.  This minor issue probably wasn't the hill to die on, but at this point, if we can't all enjoy cultural products without fear of being "appropriative" or because we don't share the artist's political beliefs, what kind of society can we hope to have?  Either one of total conformity, or none at all.

- Fun Times:  While some of my posts performed dismally, it was fun to see which posts were well-received.  I was particularly surprised that the "Family Matters" series was so popular.  To date, the initial post is the most-viewed post of all time, finally eclipsing (fairly substantially) the first true comeback post, "American Values, American Nationalism."  Apparently, many people were eager to read about the decline of the two-parent nuclear family.  Those posts generated a LOT of discussion, too, and it was interesting to read some of the comments about divorce, particularly from those who have been through it.  Many of the comments essentially acknowledged that there are exception, but that most of the time, the two-parent nuclear family is the best way to run a family.

- Brexit:  Speaking of fun times, I had a blast writing about Brexit.  It's been a tough century for conservatives, and we needed a win.  Brexit was a major victory for nationalism and sovereignty against totalizing globalism.  The predicted economic catastrophe didn't happen (and I even thought it would--I argued it was a price worth paying for independence); in fact, the stock market is reaching new heights.  We certainly haven't seen the last of the potential fallout, but I was thrilled to cover such an historic event on this humble blog.

- Monetization DeniedFull disclosure:  one sinister reason for starting this blog was to help generate a little extra cash; after all, I'm a capitalist.  For some reason, though, my AdSense application keeps getting dinged for "insufficient content"--a laughable proposition.  Even though your sweet, sweet ad dollars didn't start rolling in, I still enjoyed the challenge and the intellectual workout of putting these posts out there.  And if you ever want me to come speak at your organization, please shoot me an e-mail at tjcook.history@gmail.com.

What happens to a dream deferred?  Does it shrivel up like a raisin in the sun?  Or does it ask for your donation to keep quality content alive and well?

- eBook:  While I won't have as much time to write new material, I plan on taking some of these posts and adapting them into one or two short eBooks.  I've already decided to take my "Family Matters" series and turn into a larger defense of social conservatism and tradition.  I'm also hoping to put together an election guide for the 2016 presidential election, with detailed information on the major and minor party candidates.  Stay tuned for more details; I recommend signing up at the top of the page to receive e-mail updates.

***

Well, that's enough navel-gazing for one day.  Thanks again for your support.  It's been a wonderful summer.  See you next week!

12 August 2016

Capitalism Needs Social Conservatism

For the past week, I've written about the decline of the nuclear family, with follow-up posts about divorce and sex education, and about the negative impact of the of the welfare state on family formation.  These post have generated some wonderful discussions and input from followers, and I've been surprised by their popularity.

As I wrote in "Values Have Consequences," I'm devoting Friday posts to discussions of social conservatism.  Social conservatism is increasingly the red-headed stepchild of the traditional Republican "tripod" coalition that also includes national security and economic conservatives (with the rise of Trump, populist nationalism could count as a fourth leg).  Politically, this marginalization makes some sense, as it's not likely that fifty or sixty years of cultural attitudes and values will be changed at the ballot box.

Nevertheless, social conservatism is an important leg of the tripod.  Indeed, I would argue that the three coalitions are not at odds, but create logical synergies that allow each leg to stand.  The stool is much more stable when the three legs work together.

Economic conservatism--by which I mean the belief that freer markets, fewer and lighter regulations, and lower taxes, or what is more properly called neoliberalism (after the classical liberalism of the 18th-century thinkers like Adam Smith)--is wonderful and hugely important.  It's led to massive gains domestically and globally, lifting untold millions off people out of poverty.  It allows people to enjoy a greater variety of goods and labor-saving devices, and provides more leisure time (and plenty of things to do during that time).

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But free markets unmoored from guiding principles, strong and stable institutions, and the rule of law can morph into mindless Mammon worship.  Without a shared sense of trust and belief in human dignity, capitalism becomes cold and abstract.

Further, full-fledged economic liberalization without the limiting principles applied by constitutionalism and a morality supported by strong families and a robust civil society can lead to socially-destructive disruptions and behaviors.

As I've argued many times, making mistakes or bad choices is the necessary price of liberty.  But for self-government to work effectively--and to avoid social instability--a healthy dose of social conservatism is the best medicine.

 
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee wears the most socially conservative outfit ever; later, he played bass on Fox News.
(Image Sourcehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Huckabeemike.JPG; photo by Craig Michaud)

To offer an illustration from recent history, contrast the post-Soviet experiences of Poland (and most of Eastern Europe) with that of Russia.  Despite decades under Communism--an ideology that was aggressively atheistic, stressing loyalty to the state and Communist Party over all else--Poland roared back into the West.  It adopted neoliberal (modern conservative) economic policies, and was one of the few European nations not to suffer severely during the Great Recession.

Russia similarly adopted "shock therapy" after the Soviet Union collapsed for good in 1991.  Rather than experiencing a huge economic boom, however, well-connected former Communists and others close to the old regime made off like bandits, leaving most Russians left holding the bag.

What's the difference?  For one, the Russians lived under Communism for nearly a generation longer than the Poles, meaning there were several generations of downtrodden, state-dependent Russians by the time the USSR collapsed.  Many of these Russians were unable to adjust to a free-market system after living in a closed economy for so long.

Another key difference--and one that I think is extremely significant--is that Russians lost any scrap of civil society they might have possessed prior to the Bolshevik takeover in late 1917.  Civil society--the institutions between the basic family unit and the government, like churches, schools, clubs, civic organizations, etc.--was automatically preempted when every club, organization, or activity became part of the Soviet government.  The severely crippled (and, as I understand it, collaborationist) Russian Orthodox Church was unable or unwilling to push back against Soviet rule, providing little in the way of a spiritual alternative to the totalizing influence of Communism.

"[F]ree markets unmoored from guiding principles, strong and stable institutions, and the rule of law can morph into mindless Mammon worship."

Poland, on the other hand, managed to maintain its deep Catholic faith.  The Catholic Church as an international organization (and with powerful, influential popes, most notably the Polish anti-Communist John Paul II) could never be wiped out completely by Soviet Communism.  Further, the Poles formed the Solidarity trades union movement, which offered an alternative to official Communist organizations.

Thus, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Poland emerged with a strong civil society anchored in a richly Christian worldview and ethic.  The shared sense of morality--one that stresses mutual respect, the dignity of human life, and the importance of honesty--allowed the complex deals and uptempo economic exchanges of capitalism to occur smoothly and rapidly.  From these civil and religious values came a firmer grasp of and respect for the rule of law, making predictable economic activity and long-term planning possible.

Russia, on the other hand, devolved into a fast-paced, nationwide run on the national cupboard.  Those with good connections grabbed whatever public funds and goodies they could.  Normal Russians couldn't figure out whey their government checks and free lunches stopped coming, and couldn't understand why (or how) to pay taxes.  With the collapse of the Soviet Union, all civic organizations ceased to exist, because they were all part of the Soviet government.  Without any civil society or other enduring institutions to model good behavior and to stress and enforce moral values, Russia struggled--and continues to do so--to adapt to global capitalism and democracy.  Not surprisingly, they've turned to a dictatorial strongman for guidance.

***

What of the American context?  As I've written before, I'm skeptical of full-fledged libertarianism--what I would broadly define as the marriage of economically conservative and socially liberal views--because it fails to acknowledge the need for strong moral values to uphold its own economic assumptionsLiberty and self-government can only really work when coupled with self-imposed order and restraint.  Without moral common ground and shared values that stress self-control, liberty rapidly turns to libertinism.  Libertinism without a great deal of wealth leads to shattered lives, which in turn wreck families and communities.

Eventually, unbridled, unchecked lasciviousness--even among (formerly) responsible adults--results in social chaos, requiring a dwindling number of hardworking, honest, and thrifty individuals to pay for the ramifications of poor moral choices that have been magnified many times over.

"[L]ibertarianism... fails to acknowledge the need for strong moral values to uphold its own economic assumptions.  Liberty and self-government can only really work when coupled with self-imposed order and restraint."

Capitalism's blessing of unparalleled abundance is also a potential curse.  Without a strong civil society that stresses good moral values--and without proper historical perspective--it becomes easy to take that abundance for granted.

That abundance also allows, for a time, more and more individuals to pay for the price of bad decisions.  Prior to the modern era, few people were wealthy enough to risk the negative consequences of immorality.  Now, Americans and Westerners enjoy a level of material comfort and well-being that can absorb at least some of the unpleasantness of questionable choices.  Over time, however, that security breaks down.

Richard Weaver likened the situation to an alcoholic who is so addicted to his drink, he's unable to do the work necessary to pay for his addiction.  The more he needs the alcohol, the less capable he becomes of obtaining it.  Likewise, the more individuals become addicted to luxuries, the less able they are to work hard to maintain them.

To avoid the fate of Weaver's drunk, we must recognize the importance of social conservatism.  While we should maximize individual liberty as much as possible, and within the bounds of the Constitution, we should also stress the moral and religious underpinnings that make that liberty both possible and responsible.

10 August 2016

Family Matters Follow-Up Part II: The Welfare State and the Crisis of the Family

My series of posts on the decline of the traditional family unit in the United States and the West has generated a great deal of discussion (and, occasionally, some bitter recriminations).  Thus, after the overwhelming feedback and requests for clarification I received to "Family Matters," I decided to expand upon some portions of that piece (click here to read "Follow-Up Part I" about divorce and sex education).

One of the claims of "Family Matters" concerned the "havoc" President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society/War on Poverty wreaked on the black American families.  In the original post, I failed to link to any data or articles to substantiate this claim, but I've since updated the post with links to Daniel Patrick Moynihan's famous "Moynihan Report" (actual title:  The Negro Family:  The Case for National Action) and a piece from 2015 that summarizes some of the main points of the report.


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The late Daniel Patrick Moynihan--who would go on to serve as US Ambassador to India and the United Nations, then as a Democratic Senator for New York--enjoys a rare respect as a liberal among conservatives.  Though he was a leftist on many issues, he was first and foremost a scholar with a commitment to following the data wherever it took him.

The so-called "Moynihan Report"--which he wrote while working as a bureaucrat in the Department of Labor in 1965--demonstrated that many of the problems of the black community were caused only in part by discrimination, but much more so by a decline in marriage and stable family formation.  While racial discrimination was (and--I would like to think to a lesser extent--still is) a major problem in the 1960s, it alone could not explain adequately the plight of many black Americans.

Instead, what Moynihan discovered was that well-intentioned government programs inadvertently subsidized single motherhood, and were destroying the black family.  Indeed, the "national action" for which Moynihan called was that which would reinforce "the establishment of a stable Negro family structure."  This national goal would be "difficult," but "it almost certainly offers the only possibility of resolving in our time what is, after all, the nation's oldest, and most instransigent, and now its most dangerous social problem."  (Moynihan, The Negro Family)

Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan--a Bureaucrat who actually deserved a fat government paycheck.

I once heard a conservative black gentleman from Darlington, South Carolina, summarize Moynihan's argument thus:  at a time when black men faced legitimate discrimination in the workforce, and could lose their jobs on the flimsiest of pretexts, the federal government came along offering generous support to single mothers.  By 1975--ten years after Moynihan's prophetic report--a head of household would have to earn $88,000 (in 2015 dollars; about $22,000 in 1975) to out-earn the benefit from the federal government.  (Jack Coleman, "Juan Williams:  Daniel Patrick Moynihan 'Had it Right' About Breakdown of the Black Family")  As Jason Riley, author of Please Stop Helping Us:  How Liberals Make it Harder for Blacks to Succeed wrote in a 2015 op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, "In effect, the government paid mothers to keep fathers out of the home--and paid them well."

Not surprisingly, many women took note of this benefit.  Some of them--and, yes, I know what you're about to read will be hard to believe, but it actually happened--calculated that they were better off divorcing their husbands or having a child out of wedlock, especially given the real, costly discrimination their husbands faced.  Government do-gooding, coupled with a legacy of racial discrimination, caused many young black children to grow up without fathers.

Initially, that might not have been a huge problem... but it metastasized.  Young boys grew up without father figures to shape them, and came to expect that leaving a woman, or having children with multiple women, was natural.  Young girls grew up thinking they had no reasonable expectation of their man sticking around.  With each generation, the problem grew worse and worse, until now roughly 72-73% of black children born in America are born to a single parent.

"[S]imply replacing one parent with a paycheck does not fulfill a child's many needs."

Single parenthood is sometimes the only option, but it's a tough row to hoe.  Not only does it place financial burdens on the parent; it also removes from her or him the ability to parent a child adequately.  To quote economist Walter Williams at length:
"Whether a student is black, white, orange or polka-dot and whether he's poor or rich, there are some minimum requirements that must be met in order for him to do well in school. Someone must make the student do his homework. Someone must see to it that he gets eight to nine hours of sleep. Someone has to fix him a wholesome breakfast and ensure that he gets to school on time and respects and obeys teachers.

"Here's my question: Which one of those basic requirements can be accomplished through a presidential executive order, a congressional mandate or the edict of a mayor, a superintendent of schools or a teacher? If those basic requirements aren't met, whatever else that is done in the name of education is for naught." (emphasis added; Walter Williams, "Can Racial Discrimination Explain Much?")
In other words, simply replacing one parent with a paycheck does not fulfill a child's many needs.  Children born out-of-wedlock and raised by a single parent are more likely "to experience a variety of cognitive, emotional, and behavioral problems," according to Dr. Paul Amato in "The Impact of Family Formation Change on the Cognitive, Social, and Emotional Well-Being of the Next Generation."   That creates ripple effects for generations to come, and the cycle is difficult to break.

***

The problem was prevalent even before Moynihan wrote his report (which, not surprisingly, caused many of his fellow-liberals to accuse him of "racism" and bigotry--common tactics when faced with an unpleasant truth).  Ronald Reagan, while campaigning for Arizona Senator and Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater in 1964, told the story in his magisterial "A Time for Choosing" speech of a mother who divorced her husband to get a check from the government, and how she learned to do it after talking to two other women who'd also gamed the system.

We've now had fifty-one years of the Great Society, and while some of its programs helped alleviate malnutrition and other problems that are, thankfully, dwindling issues, its good intentions created a host of other problems.  In 1965, one could still plausibly claim that government do-gooders merely didn't know any better.  Now, the argument seems to be, "Well, we're trying to do the right thing, so that's all that should matter."  That's prime paving stone for the road to hell.

"The decline of the family is a problem all Americans will have to address."

Moynihan argued that black Americans in particular were experiencing the decline of family formation most heavily because of the "tangle of pathologies" stemming from centuries of slavery and a century of legal, social, and economic segregation, and that this legacy dovetailed disastrously with the perverse incentive toward divorce and single motherhood.  As he predicted, this tangle morphed into a multi-generational cycle that has ground many black Americans further into poverty.

In 2016, the negative consequences have not only magnified the problem among black Americans; it's spread throughout American society.  There's been a crisis among black families for fifty years; we ignored it at our peril.

The experience of black American families since the 1960s is a sad story, though there are many brave black mothers and fathers who raise their children with love and support.  They are struggling to break a dangerous cycle, one that swirls in a murky stew of cultural, social, and economic pressures against the two-parent family and traditional marriage.

Racism appears to have enhanced the deleterious effects of the welfare state in the case of black families, but now those negative consequences are increasingly color-blind.  The decline of the family is a problem all Americans will have to address.

(For additional reading, check out the works of Walter Williams, a brilliant economist and political conservative who, as it happens, is black.  Start here for an appetizer:  http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/can-racial-discrimination-explain-much/article/2556814; after that, get Race and Economics:  How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?)
But it almost certainly offers the only possibility of resolving in our time what is, after all, the nation's oldest, and most intransigent, and now its most dangerous social problem - See more at: http://www.blackpast.org/primary/moynihan-report-1965#sthash.njnh8YBT.dpuf
the establishment of a stable Negro family structure - See more at: http://www.blackpast.org/primary/moynihan-report-1965#sthash.njnh8YBT.dpuf
the establishment of a stable Negro family structure - See more at: http://www.blackpast.org/primary/moynihan-report-1965#sthash.njnh8YBT.dpuf
the establishment of a stable Negro family structure. - See more at: http://www.blackpast.org/primary/moynihan-report-1965#sthash.njnh8YBT.dpuf
the establishment of a stable Negro family structure. - See more at: http://www.blackpast.org/primary/moynihan-report-1965#sthash.njnh8YBT.dpuf

08 August 2016

Family Matters Follow-Up Part I: Divorce and Marriage; Sex Education

Last Friday I wrote a post entitled "Family Matters" about the decline of the traditional family in the United States and the West, which I called "our true national and civilizational crisis."  To my surprise, the post was very well-received and popular.  To date, it is the second-most read blog post on the site, and I look for it to eclipse the most-read entry, "American Values, American Nationalism."  It certainly shattered single-day records for The Portly Politico.

It also garnered quite a bit of discussion on my Facebook page, where I always share links to these posts.  There was a great deal of excellent discussion, including questions for clarification on some points.  People also shared some of their personal experiences with matters of family and what sorts of arrangements work and in what circumstances.

As such, I thought I'd dedicate today and Wednesday's posts to following up on some of the comments, questions, and observations I received.  I do so to facilitate further discussion and to help clear up any confusion about some of my contentions.

(Note:  As I wrote this post, I decided to split it into [at least] two parts.  Wednesday's portion will deal with questions about same-sex couples and the impact of the Great Society upon black families.)

 

Like what you're reading?  Mad as hell?  Either way, you'll feel good supporting The Portly Politico.  Help keep quality, civil content alive and well with your generous donation.  --TPP<3b>
- Divorce:  I did not mention divorce at all in Friday's post, but many of the comments I received dealt with this painful scenario.  Certainly, no picture of the decline of the traditional family is complete without a discussion of dissolved unions.

With roughly 50% of marriages ending in divorce, the model of the stable, two-parent family is further threatened, although increasingly families are forming outside of formal marriage.  Neither of these scenarios is ideal.  The rate of divorce naturally increased in the twentieth century in part because divorces became easier to obtain, especially with the rise and success of the women's suffrage and rights movements.

The relative legal ease of acquiring a divorce, however, does not tell the full story.  Divorce also increased because of increasingly relaxed attitudes about marriage and family formation.  As the single working mother morphed from an object of sympathy into a perverse ideal--and as social signals and laws increasingly downplayed the importance of fathers and privileged mothers--both men and women came to see marriage as less of an institution and more of a formality.

"[Parents]... should make a good-faith effort to raise their children in a stable home, and to spare them the misery, confusion, and familial turmoil of divorce."

As several commenters noted, sometimes divorce is, sadly, the better option, such as when a spouse is abusive.  I suspect many such unfortunate unions take place precisely because we've come to take marriage (and love) so lightly.  The erosion of a broad, common set of cultural and religious values could also play a role, as more and more "oxen" are unevenly "yoked," creating deep tensions within relationships.

Of course, marriage is hugely complicated, and couples part way for many reasons (usually money).  However, it does seem that, absent abuse, infidelity, or criminality, couples with children should make a good-faith effort to raise their children in a stable home, and to spare them the misery, confusion, and familial turmoil of divorce.

 
If your husband is pointing a gun at you, it's probably time to call it quits.  Otherwise, make the best of a bad situation.  At least you can still get 2 for $20 entrees at Chili's (tm).

Marriage, after all, is--or, at least, should be--a serious obligation entered into by two sober-minded adults with shared values and principles.  Of course, actual human relationships tend to be messy even in the most ideal of circumstances, but a proper focus on the point of marriage--two people coming together as one in the presence of God--would go a long way to help realign and heal struggling marriages.

 "Marriage, after all, is... a serious obligation entered into by two sober-minded adults with shared values and principles."

- Sex Education:  One friend argued that we need more sex education in schools, as well as free birth control for young people to prevent unwanted pregnancies.  While I believe that abstinence is the best method of birth control to emphasize, I'm enough of a realist to know that teenagers find particular joy in doing what they're told not to do.

The problem I see is two-fold:  first, we already provide sex education in most public high schools throughout the United States; second, the call for more sex education and access to contraceptives merely demonstrate the crisis of the family I've noted.

The proper realm for sex education is the home.  The popular media has perpetuated the myth that parents don't talk to their children about the pitfalls of premarital sex because they're uncomfortable or prudish, so the schools have to do it to prevent millions of unplanned pregnancies.

The problem, rather, is that so many children are growing up in homes without proper parental guidance, they're missing out on important lessons about sex, marriage, and familyAbsent fathers aren't there to teach their children that it's wrong to get a woman pregnant and then to leave her.  Sex outside of the framework or expectation of marriage becomes devoid of any larger sense of responsibility.

 "[S]o many children are growing up in homes without proper parental guidance, they're missing out on important lessons about sex, marriage, and family."

Therefore, teachers have had to take on yet another responsibility that should rest primarily, if not solely, with parents.  Add to this lack of parental involvement the glorification of sex in the media and the general "if-it-feels-good-do-it" philosophy of postmodern America, and you have a recipe for moral disaster.

It's unfortunate that schools have had to adopt this responsibility, at it suggests a massive decline in the understanding of what parents are supposed to do for their children.

To the point about free birth control in schools, I've never really understood this argument.  I understand that the logic goes, "it's worth taxpayers' money because it prevents the births of children who would become wards of the state; therefore, it's ultimately more cost-effective."  But many forms of birth control are incredibly cheap and readily available.  There's no compelling argument for why the government should force taxpayers to pay for a box of condoms for high school students.

As far as the birth control pill for girls, it's actually Republicans who want to make it available over-the-counter, which would further drive down the cost and allow young women experiencing shame or uncertainty to obtain it more easily.

 "[P]roviding birth control pills to minors through public schools introduces a host of sticky constitutional and legal concerns...."

Most importantly, providing birth control pills to minors through public schools introduces a host of sticky constitutional and legal concerns, the biggest being, "what if a family's faith forbids the use of contraceptives"?  A devout, traditional Catholic, for example, would no-doubt object to being forced to pay for birth control for his daughter and the daughters of strangers.  He would likewise experience a crisis being required to purchase condoms for his or others sons.

Just because most people--including, apparently, most Catholics--are morally comfortable using traditional birth control and contraceptive methods doesn't mean that we should make those who disagree pay for it.  The need to fund contraceptives becomes even less pressing when the low cost is considered.  Why cause an unnecessary, stressful crisis of faith for millions just to save a kid a quarter on a gas station rubber?

At this point, I would agree with my friend that, unfortunately, schools do have to take some role in sex education, especially given the increased likelihood children won't receive it at home, since the traditional family unit is on the decline.  If private non-profit organizations want to provide additional information or free contraceptives, no worries--there's no infringement upon religious liberty via official coercion.  Additionally, schools should stress the moral and financial obligations of parents to their children, especially in those communities where good role models are lacking.

Unfortunately, another government program to hand out free condoms is not a lasting solution to a problem that is one of the soul, not of the pocketbook.  Let civil society address these problems (perhaps with a revival of the good, old-fashioned shotgun wedding).

***

These are certainly thorny problems, and I fully recognize that as a single, never-married man I don't possess the same perspective as, say, a married couple of twenty years or a divorcee.  Nevertheless, I reject the notion that a lack of personal experience disqualifies one from the discussion (even while acknowledging that personal experience often provides a great deal of clarity).  Besides, I've witnessed first-hand the power of strong marriages and stable families.  Indeed, I'm the beneficiary of one such union.

Finally, I appreciate lively (and civil) feedback and discussion, and I look forward to expanding further on this topic on Wednesday.