Monthly Archives: July 2012

Of Chicken Sandwiches, Free Speech and Cheap Politicians

The people who run the fast food chain Chick-fil-A are serious Christians.  They close their 1,608 restaurants on Sundays even though they lose a huge amount of revenue doing so.  The President of Chick-fil-A has spoken out against gay marriage.  As a result Democrat politicians, who have as much understanding of freedom of speech as they do morality, have decided to punish a legal business.

First up was Thomas Menino, mayor of Boston, who sent an unintentionally hilarious letter to the president of the company.  This Boston Herald editorial noted the humor:

But which part of the First Amendment does Menino not understand? A business owner’s political or religious beliefs should not be a test for the worthiness of his or her application for a business license.

Chick-fil-A must follow all state and city laws. If the restaurant chain denied service to gay patrons or refused to hire gay employees, Menino’s outrage would be fitting. And the company should be held to its statement that it strives to “treat every person with honor, dignity and respect — regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation, or gender.” But beyond the fact that Chick-fil-A is closed on Sundays, the religious beliefs of the company’s top executive don’t appear to control its operations.

The situation was different when Northeastern University blocked a proposed Chick-fil-A amid student protests. In that case, a private institution made its own decision not to bring the company in as a vendor. But using the power of government to freeze the company out of a city sends a disturbing message to all businesses. If the mayor of a conservative town tried to keep out gay-friendly Starbucks or Apple, it would be an outrage.

Ironically, Menino is citing the specific location along the Freedom Trail as a reason to block Chick-fil-A. A city in which business owners must pass a political litmus test is the antithesis of what the Freedom Trail represents. History will render judgment on the views of Chick-fil-A executives. City Hall doesn’t have to.

Next up was Chicago’s mayor Rahm Emanuel, former Chief of Staff of President Obama.  Ben Shapiro at Breitbart gives us the details: Continue reading

Military Chow

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A truly hilarious video from 1943, Food For Fighters, detailing the dedication of the Army to quality rations for the troops.  I imagine a room full of GI’s watching this video and laughing their heads off.  Virtually every veteran of World War II I have encountered has complained about the quality of the rations.  My late father-in-law was a Navy cook during the War.  He developed a life long detestation  of mutton when he was forced to prepare it for six months aboard ship because it was the only meat they were supplied.  He did his imaginative best, and he was a very good cook, but the sailors were ready to mutiny by the time the ship received a different type of meat.

Veterans of more recent conflicts have been slightly more complimentary as to the quality of military food, although I would note that when servicemen and women are given a choice they usually choose to not eat in mess halls, although the food is free for most enlisted personnel, and a common nickname for MREs, Meals Ready to Eat, is Meals Rejected by the Enemy.  Never fear however, something new is on the horizon:

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The Army has developed a sandwich that purportedly stays fresh for two years. Continue reading

The French Are Proof of God’s Sense of Humor

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The French don’t care what they do, actually, as long as they pronounce it properly.

                         Professor Henry Higgins, My Fair Lady

As longtime readers of this blog know, I have a weakness for humorous posts.  However, it is increasingly difficult to come up with imaginative pieces more humorous than reality.

The hooting and catcalls began as soon as the Cabinet minister stood, wearing a blue and white flowered dress. It did not cease for the entire time she spoke before France’s National Assembly. And the heckling came not from an unruly crowd, but from male legislators who later said they were merely showing their appreciation on a warm summer’s day.

Cecile Duflot, the Housing minister, faltered very slightly, and then continued with her prepared remarks about an urban development project in Paris.

“Ladies and gentlemen, but mostly gentlemen, obviously,” she said in a firm voice as hoots rang out. She completed the statement on her ministry and again sat down. None of the men in suits who preceded her got the same treatment from the deputies, and the reaction was extraordinary enough to draw television commentary and headlines for days afterward.

The same French Assembly on Tuesday took up a new law on sexual harassment, more than two months after a court struck down the previous statute, saying it was too vague and failed to protect women. In the meantime, there has been nothing. All cases that were pending when the law was struck down May 4 were thrown out. And, without a law, there can be no new cases. Continue reading

Cardinal Burke: How to stop mandatum abuse…

 

The Cardinal Newman Society (CNS) has released a new report, “A Mandate for Fidelity,” concerning the mandatum (a bishop’s mandate) that’s required to teach theology in a Catholic institution of higher education.

 

 

The mandatum was specified by the 1990 Apostolic Constitution on Catholic Universities, Ex corde Ecclesiae, and as implemented in the United States, requires a theology professor to request mandatum from the local bishop where the theologian teaches.  The professor commits, in writing, “to teach authentic Catholic doctrine and to refrain from putting forth as Catholic teaching anything contrary to the Church’s Magisterium.”

 

Canon 812 of the Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law also requires theologians to possess a mandatum:

Those who teach theological disciplines in any institutes of higher studies whatsoever must have a mandate from the competent ecclesiastical authority.

 

In addition, Canon 810 describes the responsibility of academic administrators at Catholic institutions of higher education in this regard:

It is the responsibility of the authority who is competent in accord with the statutes to provide for the appointment of teachers to Catholic universities who, besides their scientific and pedagogical suitability, are also outstanding in their integrity of doctrine and probity of life; when those requisite qualities are lacking they are to be removed from their positions in accord with the procedure set forth in the statutes.

 

The Motley Monk thinks the CNS report is especially worth reading for two reasons.

 

The first reason concerns the number of administrators and professors in the nation’s Catholic universities and colleges who have not taken the mandatum seriously.

 

The CNS report draws attention to a 2011 survey of U.S. Catholic university and college academic administrators indicating that:

  • 42% of respondents said their institutions have neither a department nor a chair of Catholic theology as required by Ex corde Ecclesiae
  •   7%+ responded that Catholic theology isn’t taught in their institutions.

 

Of the remaining 51% of respondents who said their institutions have a department or chair of Catholic theology:

  • 36% said they didn’t know whether their Theology professors have received the mandatum;
  • 10% reported some but not all of their theologians have received the mandatum; and,
  •   6% said no professors have received a mandatum.

 

The “dirty little secret” is that more than two decades after the publication of Ex corde Ecclesiae, nearly 50% of the nation’s Catholic universities and colleges don’t have a department or chair of Catholic theology.

 

The second reason for reading the CNS report concerns how, during those 2+ decades, many administrators and professors have “privatized” the mandatum, making it a private matter between the bishop and theologian.  And, apparently, bishops in whose dioceses Catholic universities and colleges are located aren’t very much interested in pushing the issue.

 

This conduct has evidently been brought to and caught the attention of Pope Benedict XVI, who in a May 5, 2012 ad limina address to a group of American bishops, expressed his concern that “much remains to be done” toward the renewal of Catholic identity in U.S. Catholic colleges and universities.  The Pope highlighted, in particular, “such areas as compliance with the mandate laid down in Canon 812 for those who teach theological disciplines.” He then cited “the confusion created by instances of apparent dissidence between some representatives of Catholic institutions and the Church’s pastoral leadership.”

 

So, then, what does Canon 812 require?

 

Responding to a CNS inquiry, the Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura (the Vatican’s Supreme Court), Cardinal Raymond Burke, pointed to Pope Benedict XVI’s description of the mandatum as “a tangible expression of ecclesial communion and solidarity.” Asserting that the mandatum is a public not private matter, Cardinal Burke said:

It’s tangible in the sense that it’s a public declaration, in writing, on the part of the ecclesiastical authority that a theologian is teaching in communion with the Church, and people have a right to know that so that if you, for instance, are at a Catholic university or parents are sending their children to the Catholic university, they know that the professors who are teaching theological disciplines at the university are teaching in communion with the Church.  They are assured in that by the public declaration of the diocesan bishop.

 

Cardinal Burke added: “The fact that I teach in accord with the Magisterium is a public factor.  That’s not some private, secret thing between myself and the Lord” (italics added).

 

Should only theology professors with the mandatum be employed at a Catholic university or college?

 

Cardinal Burke responded “Yes,” adding:

…[T]he Catholic university will want that all its teachers of theology or the theological disciplines have a mandate and will not, of course, retain the professor in teaching Catholic theology or the theological disciplines who does not have a mandate, because to do so would be to call into question the whole raison d’etre of the university.  If a Catholic university doesn’t distinguish itself for its care, that those who are teaching theology and the other theological disciplines are doing so in communion with the Magisterium, what reason does it have to exist?

 

 

 

The Motley Monk concurs with Cardinal Burke’s assessment.

 

Academic administrators at the nation’s Catholic universities and colleges should take the mandatum seriously, if only because it provides a tangible—public—recognition of an institution’s fidelity to the Church and its teaching, which constitutes the essential identity of Catholic higher education.

 

If those academic administrators are not willing to require a mandatum as a condition for employment as well as tenure and promotion in rank for those who teach theology and theological disciplines, they should—at a minimum—make public to students and their parents those professors who teach theology or theological disciplines and are in communion with the Church.

 

Unfortunately, Cardinal Burke has no ordinary jurisdiction in the matter as he is not the Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education.  However, his opinion as the Church’s highest ranking juridical official after the Pope does carry great moral weight and should influence the thinking of the diocesan bishops in whose territory Catholic universities and colleges are located.  They can and should require those who teach theology or theological disciplines to possess a mandatum.

 

 

To read the CNS report, click on the following link:
http://www.cardinalnewmansociety.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=04qM51k4t9Q%3d&tabid=36

To read Ex corde Ecclesiae, click on the following link:
http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/apost_constitutions/documents/hf_jp-ii_apc_15081990_ex-corde-ecclesiae_en.html

To read The Motley Monk’s daily blog, click on the following link:
http://themotleymonk.blogspot.com/

Father Wilson Miscamble Defends the Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

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Getting the annual Saint Blogs August Bomb Follies off to an early start.  Father Wilson Miscamble, Professor of History at Notre Dame, and long a champion of the pro-life cause, defends the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the video above. The video is a summary of the conclusions reached by Father Miscamble in his recent book, The Most Controversial Decision.  Go here to read a review of the book by British military historian Andrew Roberts.  Go here to read a review of the book by Father Michael P. Orsi.  Go here to read a review by Michael Novak. Continue reading

Is The Public Crazy Not To Support Gun Control?

A number of opinion writers have taken the occasion of the mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado to express disgust with the fact that the American public shows little inclination towards increased gun control. According to Gallup, the percentage of Americans who say they “feel that laws covering the sale of firearms should be made more strict” dropped from 78% to 44% during the period from 1990 to 2010.

Some of the more hyperbolic has claimed this is because the US is seized by a “death cult” or that it “worships violence”, but I think the actual reason is quite rational.

If we look at the percentage of people supporting stricter gun control in relation to the percentage of people who say they own guns (also from Gallup) and the US homicide rate, we see that the homicide rate dropped by 49% from 1990 to 2010 while gun ownership rates have remained fairly flat.

Since people readily perceive that gun ownership remains common, and yet violent crime has fallen significantly since the height of the ’80s and ’90s crime wave, people seem to implicitly believe that restricting gun ownership is not necessary in order to deal with crime.

We can get a somewhat longer term view of this if we look at an older Gallup question which is available in the same study, the percentage of Americans who say they support a ban on civilian handgun ownership. The question has been asked somewhat sporadically by Gallup, so we have only a few data points from the 50s, 60s and 70s, but the pattern is still very interesting.

Gallup first asked the question in 1959 when the murder rate had just gone up from 4.1 in 1955 to 4.9 in 1959. Support for a ban was quite high as 60%. Support for a ban dropped rapidly while crime increased. In 1979 31% of Americans supported banning handguns and the murder rate was 9.8. Support for a handgun ban then rebounded, reaching a recent high of 43% of American in 1991, which was also one of the worst years for violent crime with a murder rate of 9.8. However, violent crime then fell sharply and has continued a gradual decline, and support for banning hand guns has declined along with it with only 29% of Americans supporting such a ban in 2010.

This suggests to me that Americans actually have a pretty reasonable approach to the question. Despite the occasional headline grabbing catastrophe, the current murder rate is down at the same level as the 1950s, despite the availability of Glock handguns and “assault rifles”.

The mainstream media and the Leadership Conference of Religious Women: “Fair and balanced” reportage?

 

The so-called “mainstream” media had a feeding frenzy immediately after the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) announced its doctrinal assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).

If one was to believe the reports, an institution led by patriarchal, misogynists who don’t “get it” are now attempting to strike back by discrediting “the good sisters.”

Bishop Leonard Blair
Diocese of Toledo (OH)

There’s another side to the story not being reported by the main stream media.  It’s provided by Bishop Leonard Blair, who led the initial inquiry into the LCWR.  In an article entitled, “Reality Check: The LCWR, CDF, and the Doctrinal Assessment,” Bishop Blair explores what he calls “the distortions and misrepresentation of the facts being asserted by the mainstream media.

These include:

  • The claim that CDF has no direct authority over the LCWR.  In fact, the LCWR’s function, responsibilities, and statutes have been approved by the Holy See and to which the LCWR remains accountable.
  • The claim that the CDF and the bishops are attacking or criticizing the life, work, and members of women’s Catholic religious congregations in the United States.  In fact, the CDF’s concerns are doctrinal.
  • The claim that the “investigation” is directed at women’s religious congregations and their members.  In fact, the word “investigation” mischaracterizes the doctrinal “assessment” ordered by the CDF.  The assessment was aimed at the LCWR’s operations, including its programs and publications.
  • The claim that the assessment was covert, blindsiding the LCWR and its members.  In fact, the assessment was carried out in dialogue with the LCWR leadership, both in writing and face-to-face, over several months.

For Bishop Blair, the fundamental question was simply this: “What are the Church’s pastors to make of the fact that the LCWR constantly provides a one-sided platform—without challenge or any opposing view—to speakers who take a negative and critical position vis-a-vis Church doctrine and discipline and the Church’s teaching office?”

Suffice it to say, the Church’s pastors had every reason to be concerned about the LCWR’s doctrinal positions.  After listing some causes for concern, Bishop Blair then asks:

[Is] it the role of a pontifically recognized leadership group to criticize and undermine faith in church teaching by what is said and unsaid, or rather to work to create greater understanding and acceptance of what the Church believes and teaches?

Note too, Bishop Blair asserts, that those who are criticizing the CDF and the bishops for assessing the LCWR don’t hold the teachings of the Catholic Church or are Catholics who dissent from those teachings.

A good observation.  Why should those who dissent from Church teaching—Catholic or not—determine for the Church what constitutes a “legitimate cause for doctrinal concern” about the activities a pontifically-approved organization?

More interesting is Bishop Blair’s prognosis about what the future portends.  He writes:

The response thus far is exemplified by the LCWR leadership’s choice of a New Age Futurist to address its 2012 assembly, and their decision to give an award this year to Sister Sandra Schneiders, who has expressed the view that the hierarchical structure of the church represents an institutionalized form of patriarchal domination that cannot be reconciled with the Gospel.

So much for the much-touted, post-Vatican II spirit of “communio.

To The Motley Monk, it’s sounding more and more like heresy and schism.

Call it what it is and be done with it as nature follows its inevitable trajectory.

 

 

To read Bishop Blair’s article, click on the following link:
http://thecatholicspirit.com/that-they-may-all-be-one/bishop-blair-offers-a-reality-check/

To read The Motley Monk’s daily blog, click on the following link:
http://themotleymonk.blogspot.com/

Men Acting Like Men

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Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

John 15:13

 

Remember these men who, sadly, are no longer with us:  Matt McQuinn, Jonathan Blunk, and Alex Teves.    One of the prime duties of any man is to defend those he loves, and these gentlemen lived up to that responsibility at the cost of their lives:

They took bullets for their beloveds.

Three young men are being hailed as heroes for their old-fashioned chivalry  and courage under fire in saving the lives of their girlfriends.

While using their bodies as shields, Matt McQuinn, 27, Jonathan Blunk, 26,  and Alex Teves, 24, were killed in the worst mass shooting in US history.

Nine others were also murdered when deranged gunman James Holmes unloaded a  fusillade of bullets into the packed Century 16 theater early Friday in Aurora,  Colo.

McQuinn dived in front of his girlfriend, Samantha Yowler, also 27, when the  gunfire erupted. She was shot in the knee. McQuinn was fatally struck three  times.

Jonathan Blunk threw his date, Jansen Young, 21, to the floor, pushing her  under the seat.

“Stay down!” he told her, moments before he was shot to death.

“He took a bullet for me,” Young told NBC’s “Today” show.

“He always talked about if he were going to die, he wanted to die a hero,” Blunk’s estranged wife, Chantel Blunk, told NBC News.

Teves, of Phoenix, used his body to cover girlfriend Amanda Lindgren, Teves’ grandmother Rae Iacovelli told The Post.

“He shielded her. He got down on the floor and covered her up,” said  Iacovelli, who lives in Barneget, NJ. “She was pulled out from under him. I  don’t know who pulled her out.” Continue reading

Genesis, the Government Revised Version

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The sharp eyed Iowahawk gives us a reading from the Book of Barack:

In the beginning Govt created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the economy was formless and void, darkness was over the surface of the ATMs, and the Spirit of Govt was hovering over the land.

3 And Govt said, “Let there be spending,” and there was spending. 4 Govt saw that the spending was good, and that it separated the light from the darkness. 5 Govt called the spending Investments, and this he did in the first day.

6 Then Govt said, “Let there be roads and bridges across the waters, and let dams divide the waters from the waters.” 7 Thus Govt made the infrastructure and the patronage jobs for eternity under the firmament from the Potomac which was above the firmament; and it was so. 8 And Govt called the firmament Washington. This Govt did on the second day.

9 Then Govt said, “Let the regulations and the guidlines under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the Bureaus appear”; and it was so. 10 And Govt called the Bureaus demigovts, and the gathering together of them He called AFSCME. And Govt saw that it was good.

11 Then Govt said, “Let there be police, and firefighters, and teachers according to their kind, for they will create more jobs”; and it was so. 12 And then Govt bade the void bring forth crime, and arson, and stupidity, that each would yield seed to bring forth more police, and firefighters, and teachers, and jobs. And Govt saw that it was good. 13 So the evening and the morning were the third day.

14 On the fourth day Govt said, “Let Us make the economy in Our image, according to Our likeness; let it have dominion over the cars of the road, over the appliances of the supercenters, and over the pet groomers of the strip malls, over all the clickthroughs of Amazon and over every creepy thing of the Dollar Stores.” 15 So Govt created the economy in His own image; services and wholesale and retail He created them. 16 Then Govt blessed them, and Govt said to them, “Be fruitful and use the multiplier effect; fill the land with jobs; thou have dominion over thy realm, within limits, as long and thou remember to get thy permits and tithe thy taxes, for they are good. Hope to see you at the fundraiser.”

17 And on the fifth day Govt made an official Govt holiday, and headed off for a 3-day golf weekend at Camp David. But first Govt said to the economy, “you are free to eat from any tree in the garden, except the tree of Knowledge. There is a serpent in that thing, and thy health care does not cover it.”

18 So when Govt was on vay-cay the economy set about the garden, plowing its fields and generating revenue for the glory of Govt. They obeyed the regulations and were not ashamed.

19 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the balanced, publicly-funded birds the Lord Govt had made to sing news to the economy. The serpent was on the AM band. He said to the retail sector, “Did Govt really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’? ”

20 “Only yours, serpent,” said the retail sector.

21 “Don’t be a wuss,” the serpent said to the retail sector. 22 “For Govt knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will wise to Govt’s scam.”

23 When she saw that the fruit was pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, and also free to download, she took some and ate it. She emailed a copy to her wholesaler, and he ate it; and then the wholesaler to the manufacturer, and he to the servicer. 24 Then the eyes of all of them were opened, and they realized they were being taxed naked; so they outsourced fig leaves to make coverings for themselves.  Continue reading

I Built This

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Hattip to commenter Phillip.  A truly devastating reply to Obama’s remarks here.  Put me down for building my law practice.  Did I do it alone?  Certainly not!  My right hand woman, Chris, my secretary for 27 years and counting, deserves a large share of the credit, as does my wife, with her love and support, along with helping out at the office.   My parents, who taught me that with hard work I could be what I chose to be, will always get all the credit I can muster for anything good I’ve accomplished in this world.  Finally, my clients, who have blessed me with their business over the years, will always have my humble thanks.  All that having been gratefully acknowledged, I think my usual 50 plus hours a week that I put in at the law mines might have had a wee bit to do with it.  Continue reading

July 22, 1862: Lincoln Advises Cabinet of Emancipation Proclamation

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One of the more momentous dates in American history.  On July 22, 1862, President Lincoln stuns his cabinet by showing them a preliminary draft of the Emancipation Proclamation.  Artist Francis Carpenter in February 1864 heard from Mr. Lincoln’s own lips about this cabinet meeting.  This was appropriate since Carpenter spent six months in the White House immortalizing the scene for future generations in his painting First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Lincoln which is at the bottom of this post.  Here is what Carpenter recalled Lincoln saying:

“It had got to be,” said he, “midsummer, 1862. Things had gone on from bad to worse, until I felt that we had reached the end of our rope on the plan of operations we had been pursuing; that we had about played our last card, and must change our tactics, or lose the game! I now determined upon the adoption of the emancipation policy; and, without consultation with, or the knowledge of the Cabinet, I prepared the original draft of the proclamation, and, after much anxious thought, called a Cabinet meeting upon the subject. This was the last of July, or the first part of the month of August, 1862.” (The exact date he did not remember.) “This Cabinet meeting took place, I think, upon a Saturday. All were present, excepting Mr. Blair, the Postmaster-General, who was absent at the opening of the discussion, but came in subsequently. I said to the Cabinet that I had resolved upon this step, and had not called them together to ask their advice, but to lay the subject-matter of a proclamation before them; suggestions as to which would be in order, after they had heard it read….. Various suggestions were offered. Secretary Chase wished the language stronger in reference to the arming of the blacks. Mr. Blair, after he came in, deprecated the policy, on the ground that it would cost the Administration in the fall elections. Nothing, however, was offered that I had not already fully anticipated and settled in my own mind, until Secretary Seward spoke. He said in substance: “Mr. President, I approve of the proclamation, but I question the expediency of its issue at this juncture. The depression of the public mind, consequent upon our repeated reverses, is so great that I fear the effect of so important a step. It may be viewed as the last measure of an exhausted government, a cry for help; the government stretching forth its hands to Ethiopia stretching forth her hands to the government.” His idea,” said the President, “was that it would be considered our last shriek, on the retreat.” (This was his precise expression.) “Now,’ continued Mr. Seward, ‘while I approve the measure, I suggest, sir, that you postpone its issue, until you can give it to the country supported by military success, instead of issuing it, as would be the case now, upon the greatest disasters of the war!’” Mr. Lincoln continued: “The wisdom of the view of the Secretary of State struck me with very great force. It was an aspect of the case that, in all my thought upon the subject, I had entirely overlooked. The result was that I put the draft of the proclamation aside, as you do your sketch for a picture, waiting for a victory.” Continue reading

Debunking Realignment Theory

For well over half a century political scientists have promoted the idea of electoral realignments or critical elections. Popularized by the likes of V.O. Key, the idea is that every 32 or 36 years electoral currents shift radically to favor one party or the other. Roughly speaking, the critical elections have been 1800 (Jefferson and the emergence of the Jeffersonian Republican), 1828 (Jacksonian Democracy), 1860 (the Lincoln Republicans), 1896 (McKinley and the dominance of the GOP), 1932 (FDR and the New Deal), and 1968 (Nixon and the New Right). According to this theory, we are overdue for a critical election. Some assumed Barack Obama’s 2008 victory marked such a shift. John Judis and Ruy Teixeira argued back in 2002 in The Emerging Democratic Majority that demographic trends favored the Democrats, and that the party would be ascendant for the foreseeable future.

David Mayhew wrote the definitive rebuttal to the realignment school of thought. Mayhew dug deep into the electoral data and showed that political scientists had overvalued demographic trends and missed subtle clues that completely contradicted the critical election theory.

Sean Trende builds upon Mayhew and also rebuts realignment theory in The Lost Majority: Why the Future of Government is Up for Grabs – and Who Will Take It. Trende looks back at electoral data dating into the 19th century and argues that those who advocate on behalf of realignment theory conveniently ignore elections that do not quite fit in with their neat picture. For example, if the 1896 election began a period of Republican dominance, what happened in the 1910s? To argue that Wilson’s election in 1912 was a fluke ignores the fact that Democrats had won control of the House in 1910, and had done quite well until World War I shifted the electorate back towards the Republicans. Trende also points out that the McKinley-Roosevelt-Taft GOP was a different beast than the Harding-Coolidge-Hoover GOP, as the party had become much more conservative.

Trende’s most startling argument – and one which the data certainly supports – is that the New Deal coalition did not flame out in the 1960s; rather, the New Deal coalition was dead as early as 1938. Southern Democrats had tolerated FDR’s early New Deal program, but his advocacy of greater government intervention pushed the southern Democrats away. Though Democrats retained nominal control of Congress for much of this period, Republicans and conservative Democrats had an effective majority.

Along these same lines, Trende postulates that if any real realignment occurred, it took place during the Eisenhower administration. The Eisenhower coalition, as he puts it, pushed the GOP to decisive victories in seven of nine presidential elections. Moreover, the solid Democratic south began shifting towards the Republican party at this point. In fact the south’s gradual shift towards the GOP had begun as early as the 1920s, but the Depression halted Republican advances here. Once the New Deal had ramped up, the Republicans again began making inroads. Republicans began being truly competitive in presidential elections during the 1950s, then started making inroads in Congressional races in the 1970s and 80s, and are finally now the dominant party on the local level.

Trende’s thesis effectively destroys the notion that Republicans only began being competitive in the south once Nixon deployed the “southern strategy” to woo racist southerners after the Civil Rights Act. As already mentioned, the GOP vote share in the south had been incrementally creeping up in the 1930s, with GOP vote shares moving out of the 15-20% range and inching up towards parity slowly and surely. In fact the GOP vote share in the south did not noticeably increase during  the 1960s, but instead crept up in the same incremental 1-2% annual range. Where Republicans really started making dents were with younger southern voters, as older southerners continued to cling to the Democratic party even though the national party’s values no longer matched their own. Considering that younger voters tended to have much more liberal racial views, the transformation of the south into a Republican stronghold has to be explained by something other than racial matters.

Even though Trende doesn’t come right out and say this, if anything the changing electoral map can just as easily be explained by the Democrats pursuing a northern strategy. As the Democrats began appealing to elite northern voters by pushing a more liberal agenda, this drove southerners and midwesterners away from the party. This trend would continue until Bill Clinton pursued a much different strategy, crafting his agenda to appeal to suburbanites and middle income whites. Clinton and the New Democrats were able to rip into Republican strongholds by advancing a more moderate platform. The end of the Cold War, as well as the rise of the Evangelical right, fractured the Eisenhower coalition, allowing the Democrats to win presidential elections.

But the Democrats do not have a stranglehold on the electorate themselves. First of all, their coalition is an uneasy one, consisting of discordant demographic groups (upper-class and working-class whites, for instance) that have potentially conflicting interests. And despite their ability to attract large chunks of the minority vote at the current moment, Trends believes that pundits are mistaken in their belief that Democrats will continue to perform at their current rate among these different groups for decades to come. For example, Latinos vote more like whites as they advance economically. Though middle class Latinos still vote more Democratic than do their white counterparts, as they assimilate they do tend to vote more Republican. It is for this reason that he dismisses arguments advanced by those who claim that exit polls actually over-represent GOP-leaning Latinos. These individuals point out that since Republicans win around 20% of the vote in precincts that are almost wholly Latino, it is inconceivable that Republicans could be claiming 35-40 percent of the Latino vote. But these communities tend to be among the poorer ones, and therefore there is nothing incongruous with wider GOP support from Latinos living in more affluent and mixed neighborhoods.

Trende also notes that the signs of the collapse of a Democratic majority were already apparent in the 2008 election. Obama’s electoral majority was actually fairly weak considering the state of the economy and widespread disapproval of George Bush. Moreover, the Democratic Congressional majority, as large as it was, was helped by Democratic over-performance in Republican-leaning districts. When Obama pursued what was largely considered to be a very liberal agenda, this pushed those Republican-leaning districts back into the GOP fold. Finally, the state of the economy at the time of the 2010 mid-terms cannot explain in full the size of the Republican victory that night, as most models based on the economy suggested a slightly more moderate Republican victory.

In general, Trende believes that prognosticators put entirely too much stock into economic performance. Though the state of the economy certainly plays a role in elections, it hardly tells the whole story. In fact most recent national elections have gone against economy-based projections. There are too many variables at play to simply base electoral projections on the unemployment rate and GDP growth.

Long story short, Trende thinks that electoral fatalism (ie. the idea that we are headed towards a period of one-party dominance) is mis-placed. Events will always transpire that will alter the electorate one way or the other. With that being said, upcoming elections are truly up for grabs.

Fireworks Melody

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Something for the Weekend.  I always find the Handel composition Music For the Royal Fireworks (1749) to be stirring.  It was written to celebrate the ending of the War of the Austrian Succession and the signing of the peace of Aix-La-Chappelle in 1748.  It turned out to be merely a truce before the start of the Seven Years War, the big war of the Eighteenth Century, known as the French and Indian War in America, and initiated by a 22 year old George Washington!  Counting the fighting in America which began in 1754, it should properly be known as the Nine Years War. Continue reading

Lincoln and the Modern GOP

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Jackie Hogan, head of the Sociology department at Bradley University in Peoria, wrote a piece for the Christian Science Monitor in which she argued that Abraham Lincoln would have difficulty in winning the presidential nomination of the modern Republican Party.  The article cries out for a fisk, and I am happy to oblige:

1. Lincoln ‘invented’ income tax

While Republican candidates today win kudos for signing Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge, it is unlikely that Lincoln would sign on, since he, in effect, invented income tax. That is to say he was the first American president to sign federal income tax into law. And not only that, but it was a progressive income tax, with the wealthiest Americans paying a higher rate.

He made no distinctions between earned income and capital gains – money made was money earned – and Lincoln’s administration needed its cut to pull the nation back from the brink of collapse. Strike one against Honest Abe.

Actually current Republicans would hail the Lincoln income tax.  It had two rates, 3% and 5%.  Many Republicans have been calling for a flat tax for years, and Lincoln’s two tier system with very low rates would receive thunderous  approval from a GOP audience.

2. He didn’t advertise his faith

Strike two: He didn’t advertise his faith. Debate over Lincoln’s religious beliefs is heated. But there’s good evidence that he questioned Christian orthodoxy, perhaps not so surprising at a time when Biblical verses were routinely used to defend slavery, an institution he found morally repugnant.

While it’s true that Lincoln frequently evoked the Divine in his speeches, he never took up membership in a church, and certainly never spoke publicly about his personal relationship with Christ.

I find this to be simply bizarre.  Few Presidents have invoked God more frequently than Lincoln.  This section from the Second Inaugural would certainly brings calls for Lincoln’s impeachment from the American Civil Liberties Union:

 Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.” If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.” Continue reading

Please Pick A Nobody

I’ve made the following points before, but they are worth repeating:

1. The Vice Presidency is the most useless institution ever devised by man. With rare exceptions, the Vice President has almost no pull within an administration, and is usually shunted off to state funerals and the like.

2. Vice Presidential candidates rarely have a major impact on the polls. As with point number one, there have been exceptions – notably the 1960 election – but there is little evidence that the Vice Presidential nominee moves the polls much one way or the other. There is almost certainly no LBJ-like figure on the horizon.

3. Losing Vice Presidential candidates go on to have non-descript political careers. Again, there are exceptions, including someone who went by the initials FDR. Lloyd Bentsen would also become an important cabinet member in the Clinton administration. By and large, however, these individuals do not ever come close to reaching the prominence they did as a losing candidate.

So with all that in mind, I whole-heartedly second Warner Tood Huston’s post titled: Dear GOP, Let’s Not Waste Romney’s VP Pick on One of Our Best Guys, OK?

I don’t want Paul Ryan to be Romney’s Vice Presidential pick. I also don’t want Bobby Jindal, Chris Christie, or Marco Rubio to be picked. It’s not because I don’tlike these guys, but because I do like them. It is precisely because they are good politicians, necessary politicians, effective politicians that I don’t want them wasted as a measly VP pick.

Does that seem counter intuitive? Well, as the founders always used to say, let’s let history be our guide. History tells us that the vice presidency is a career killer, a position to which we should try to avoid nominating our best guys.

Not only do Rubio, Ryan, and Jindal all have bright futures that should not be wasted by a losing Vice Presidential run that will tarnish their image, or by spending four or eight years as a non-entity, but all these individuals have important work to do in their own spheres. The GOP is going to need Ryan to be their economic leader in the House a lot more than they need him to be the guy judging spelling bees. Bobby Jindal still has work to do in Louisiana, as does Chris Christie. Choosing any of these guys to be VP would be akin to relegating the best pitcher on a Major League baseball team to mop-up relief duties.

The sad fact is that though the Vice Presidency is itself fairly worthless, the VP can instantly become the most powerful man (or woman) in the world in the blink of an eye. So some thought should go into the pick. The best choice would be someone with some executive experience who has otherwise solid conservative credentials, and who is near the end of his term in office or already out of office. It would help if nobody would really notice if this individual never had the public spotlight again should Romney go down in flames.

If only there were such a potential candidate out there.

 

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