Commentary Magazine


Topic: Ross Perot

Is This the Ryan Teachable Moment?

Liberals are catching their breath after spending the first few days after Mitt Romney’s announcement of his vice presidential choice huffing and puffing about how happy they are to have Paul Ryan to attack this fall. But amid the complacent over-confidence, some are claiming to welcome the opportunity to have a debate about debt and the budget that Ryan’s presence on a national ticket will ensure. On the New York Times’ op-ed page, Joe Nocera attempts to broach the discussion in a serious manner while on the paper’s website, the less serious Roger Cohen also writes that such a debate would be good. Both seem to assume that most Americans share their prejudices about Ryan’s “radical” ideas about shrinking government but understand that the instinctive liberal refusal to contemplate a limit to federal spending is bad for the country’s long-term security.

This shows that despite their glib self-assurance that Americans can be Mediscared out of listening to Ryan’s ideas about reforming the government, some on the left are beginning to understand that Democrats must come up with an answer to the challenge posed by the intellectual leader of the GOP. Read Virginia Postrel’s suggestion yesterday in Bloomberg that the Republicans place Ryan front and center in a series of infomercials about the fiscal crisis this fall. The model would be the half hour prime time commercials that were broadcast by Ross Perot’s campaign in 1992 in which the eccentric and wealthy independent galvanized public attention on the budget with hand-held charts and lectures. While this idea may give heart attacks to some of Mitt Romney’s media consultants, it has some merit. For all of the arguments we’ve heard lately about the public’s willingness to listen to serious budget proposals like the one promoted by the GOP veep, the Republicans ought not to ignore the possibility that giving Ryan the opportunity to present his ideas is the last thing President Obama should want.

Read More

Liberals are catching their breath after spending the first few days after Mitt Romney’s announcement of his vice presidential choice huffing and puffing about how happy they are to have Paul Ryan to attack this fall. But amid the complacent over-confidence, some are claiming to welcome the opportunity to have a debate about debt and the budget that Ryan’s presence on a national ticket will ensure. On the New York Times’ op-ed page, Joe Nocera attempts to broach the discussion in a serious manner while on the paper’s website, the less serious Roger Cohen also writes that such a debate would be good. Both seem to assume that most Americans share their prejudices about Ryan’s “radical” ideas about shrinking government but understand that the instinctive liberal refusal to contemplate a limit to federal spending is bad for the country’s long-term security.

This shows that despite their glib self-assurance that Americans can be Mediscared out of listening to Ryan’s ideas about reforming the government, some on the left are beginning to understand that Democrats must come up with an answer to the challenge posed by the intellectual leader of the GOP. Read Virginia Postrel’s suggestion yesterday in Bloomberg that the Republicans place Ryan front and center in a series of infomercials about the fiscal crisis this fall. The model would be the half hour prime time commercials that were broadcast by Ross Perot’s campaign in 1992 in which the eccentric and wealthy independent galvanized public attention on the budget with hand-held charts and lectures. While this idea may give heart attacks to some of Mitt Romney’s media consultants, it has some merit. For all of the arguments we’ve heard lately about the public’s willingness to listen to serious budget proposals like the one promoted by the GOP veep, the Republicans ought not to ignore the possibility that giving Ryan the opportunity to present his ideas is the last thing President Obama should want.

Liberals have been telling themselves the more Americans learn about what Ryan believes, the less likely they will be to vote for Romney. They believe, as Cohen says, that Ryan is the most radical Republican leader since Barry Goldwater and are sure that this guarantees a victory for the Democrats. But the genius of Ryan’s appeal is that he combines Ronald Reagan’s down home geniality with the sort of wonkish command of economics we have rarely seen in a national candidate. Rather than hoping Republicans will feature Ryan and his proposals, Democrats should fear the exposure he will get. The more people listen to Ryan’s notions about economic freedom and reining in the cycle of federal spending and taxing, the less likely they will be to accept the Democrats’ lame defense of the status quo.

There are good arguments against allowing Ryan to overshadow the top of the ticket. And, as Postrel admits, Ryan videos about the budget could provide Democrats with more material to attack. But as she rightly points out, the danger to the GOP isn’t that they would provide Obama’s campaign with ammunition, but that the attention span of the American people in 2012 is so much shorter than it was in 1992 that no one would listen to Ryan the way they did to Perot. But as she writes, no one expected the public to listen to Perot then either. The reason they did is there was a palpable hunger for new ideas and serious proposals about a problem most thinking people cared about. Ultimately, the voters rightly decided Perot wasn’t the sort of person who should be trusted with nuclear weapons, but his message resonated.

Republicans are capable of doing better than Perot’s primitive ads and they have a far better spokesman. It’s also possible to promote these ideas in a way in which the pecking order on the ticket is not reversed. Twenty years after Perot changed American politics, it may well be time for another lecture series on the budget and the size of the government that will ensure we have the serious debate about the fiscal crisis the country needs and deserves. Rather than a bonanza for the Democrats, the teachable moment for Paul Ryan’s ideas may have arrived.

Read Less

Despite Hype, Does Bloomberg Candidacy Have a Rationale?

The Washington Post pitches in today to join those hyping the notion that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is a viable third-party candidate for president in 2012. The Bloomberg boomlet, such as it is, is mostly the result of the nonstop efforts of the mayor’s staff and the billionaire’s various publication and public relations businesses, such as the Bloomberg Government website. But there have always been enough non-Bloomberg employees attracted by the mayor’s supposed centrism and independence to keep the idea alive.

So what’s the scenario for a Bloomberg candidacy? Of course, it starts and ends with money: Bloomberg has enough money to fund a first-class 50-state presidential run. And as his three mayoral victories demonstrate, he will spend as much money as is necessary.

Another integral element of the scenario is the ideological slot into which Bloomberg can fit. The former member of both the Democratic and Republican parties and his paid flacks have carefully crafted an image of a pragmatist middle-of-the-road technocrat who eschews labels and ideological rigidity. With American politics becoming increasingly polarized and the nation basically split between Red Staters who watch FOX News and Blue Staters who listen to NPR, Bloomberg is supposedly the perfect man to appeal to independents and partisans who are sick of gridlock.

The putative Bloomberg candidacy is helped by the current state of both major parties. The Democrats, led by an unpopular hyper-liberal Barack Obama, have lost the center. At the same time, the Bloomberg boosters are whispering that the Republicans, though on the rebound from their 2008 disaster, have swung too far to the right to appease their conservative base and the Tea Party insurgents to capture the centrists they’ll need to recapture the White House in 2012. And if Sarah Palin is the Republican nominee, they claim the GOP will be doomed. With the nation split between a leftist Obama and a right-wing Palin, a centrist Bloomberg will slip neatly between them and, lubricated by a campaign war chest that could dwarf even the impressive amounts raised in the last cycle by Obama, the mayor will cakewalk to victory, becoming the first ever third-party president.

It’s a neat plan, and if Palin is the GOP standard-bearer and if the economy is still in the doldrums in the summer and fall of 2012, thereby sinking Obama’s hopes, it’s just possible the wealthy mayor could win. Read More

The Washington Post pitches in today to join those hyping the notion that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is a viable third-party candidate for president in 2012. The Bloomberg boomlet, such as it is, is mostly the result of the nonstop efforts of the mayor’s staff and the billionaire’s various publication and public relations businesses, such as the Bloomberg Government website. But there have always been enough non-Bloomberg employees attracted by the mayor’s supposed centrism and independence to keep the idea alive.

So what’s the scenario for a Bloomberg candidacy? Of course, it starts and ends with money: Bloomberg has enough money to fund a first-class 50-state presidential run. And as his three mayoral victories demonstrate, he will spend as much money as is necessary.

Another integral element of the scenario is the ideological slot into which Bloomberg can fit. The former member of both the Democratic and Republican parties and his paid flacks have carefully crafted an image of a pragmatist middle-of-the-road technocrat who eschews labels and ideological rigidity. With American politics becoming increasingly polarized and the nation basically split between Red Staters who watch FOX News and Blue Staters who listen to NPR, Bloomberg is supposedly the perfect man to appeal to independents and partisans who are sick of gridlock.

The putative Bloomberg candidacy is helped by the current state of both major parties. The Democrats, led by an unpopular hyper-liberal Barack Obama, have lost the center. At the same time, the Bloomberg boosters are whispering that the Republicans, though on the rebound from their 2008 disaster, have swung too far to the right to appease their conservative base and the Tea Party insurgents to capture the centrists they’ll need to recapture the White House in 2012. And if Sarah Palin is the Republican nominee, they claim the GOP will be doomed. With the nation split between a leftist Obama and a right-wing Palin, a centrist Bloomberg will slip neatly between them and, lubricated by a campaign war chest that could dwarf even the impressive amounts raised in the last cycle by Obama, the mayor will cakewalk to victory, becoming the first ever third-party president.

It’s a neat plan, and if Palin is the GOP standard-bearer and if the economy is still in the doldrums in the summer and fall of 2012, thereby sinking Obama’s hopes, it’s just possible the wealthy mayor could win.

But there is one thing missing from the Bloomberg formula that any candidate, let alone one who expects to win the presidency without the help of a political party, must supply: a rationale for his candidacy. If we look at the history of major independent presidential candidates in the past century — Theodore Roosevelt, Robert LaFollette, Henry Wallace, Strom Thurmond, George Wallace, John Anderson, and Ross Perot — it is clear that the one thing they all had was an issue or set of issues that motivated their followers and voters to buck party loyalties.

The best precedent for Bloomberg might be Ross Perot. In 1992 and 1996, Perot made credible independent runs for the presidency and could have actually won in 1992 had the unstable candidate not imploded under the pressure of the campaign. But Perot’s success was not based solely on the fact that he had the money to pay for his ads. He had an issue: the push for a balanced budget.

But what’s Bloomberg’s issue? There are lots of things he says he is for. As the Post details, he wants a carbon tax, immigration reform, and his attitude toward health care for the elderly seems to be along the lines of those death panels that liberals say are a figment of Sarah Palin’s imagination. But none of those are winners, let alone the sort of thing that will fuel a candidacy. Can he run as a successful businessman who will fix the economy? Maybe. But that alludes to his resume. It is not a cause. Nor can he run on his record in New York, since that will mean explaining the sort of nanny-state intrusions into the lives of citizens — like bans on smoking and trans-fats — that are bound to sink him.

All this leads me to believe that the Bloomberg candidacy is more ego-driven smoke-blowing than anything else. The only rationale for a President Bloomberg is that the billionaire mayor thinks the presidency is the natural next step for a man who conquered the business world and then became the unchallenged king of New York politics. That’s an impressive record, but it is not a reason why Americans will abandon their party loyalties and make him president.

Read Less

Who Would Bid on a Flop?

Howard Kurtz looks at the bidders for Newsweek:

One is Newsmax, a conservative Web site and monthly favored by Sarah Palin and founded by Christopher Ruddy, who once investigated conspiracy theories that Clinton administration officials Vince Foster and Ron Brown were murdered. Another is Thane Ritchie, an Illinois hedge-fund manager and Ross Perot fan who is angling to start a new political party. The third is OpenGate Capital, a private equity firm that two years ago bought TV Guide for $1. It’s hard to imagine any of them supporting Newsweek as a vibrant weekly that could compete with Time.

Ummm, it’s really not vibrant, and it apparently isn’t competitive with Time now, so what could these or any new owner do? But Newsweek says it has lots of other bidders. Tons, I am sure. Nevertheless, it seems there is anger among the staffers, who are aggrieved that “Editor Jon Meacham erred badly by transforming the newsweekly into an upscale, left-leaning opinion magazine.” But Meacham kept telling us it was news! Oh my, quite startling to learn this was all a flim-flam, and a grossly unsuccessful one at that.

Kurtz then opines:

On one level, the situation is a paradox. Here you have a magazine loaded with talent — from the Pulitzer-winning Meacham (who is pursuing his own bid to buy the magazine) to such media stars as Jonathan Alter, Howard Fineman, Mike Isikoff, Evan Thomas, Fareed Zakaria and Robert Samuelson — and few seem willing to bet on its financial future. That amounts to a no-confidence vote not just on the category of newsweeklies, which have long been squeezed between daily papers and in-depth monthlies, but on print journalism itself. The lucrative properties these days are digital, and Newsweek’s Web site has long been a flop, both creatively and commercially.

Oh, puleez. With the exception of Samuelson, these are predictable liberals parroting the anti-Israel, pro-Obama, anti-conservative line. It isn’t a vote of no confidence in the concept of a weekly — it’s a vote of no confidence in this product and those people. Whoever buys it, if anyone does, would do well to scrap the dreary liberal perspective, fire most of the current crew, and figure out something a lot of people actually want to read. I can tell you it’s not “a sort of a God” Thomas or Zakaria’s noxious views on Israel.

Howard Kurtz looks at the bidders for Newsweek:

One is Newsmax, a conservative Web site and monthly favored by Sarah Palin and founded by Christopher Ruddy, who once investigated conspiracy theories that Clinton administration officials Vince Foster and Ron Brown were murdered. Another is Thane Ritchie, an Illinois hedge-fund manager and Ross Perot fan who is angling to start a new political party. The third is OpenGate Capital, a private equity firm that two years ago bought TV Guide for $1. It’s hard to imagine any of them supporting Newsweek as a vibrant weekly that could compete with Time.

Ummm, it’s really not vibrant, and it apparently isn’t competitive with Time now, so what could these or any new owner do? But Newsweek says it has lots of other bidders. Tons, I am sure. Nevertheless, it seems there is anger among the staffers, who are aggrieved that “Editor Jon Meacham erred badly by transforming the newsweekly into an upscale, left-leaning opinion magazine.” But Meacham kept telling us it was news! Oh my, quite startling to learn this was all a flim-flam, and a grossly unsuccessful one at that.

Kurtz then opines:

On one level, the situation is a paradox. Here you have a magazine loaded with talent — from the Pulitzer-winning Meacham (who is pursuing his own bid to buy the magazine) to such media stars as Jonathan Alter, Howard Fineman, Mike Isikoff, Evan Thomas, Fareed Zakaria and Robert Samuelson — and few seem willing to bet on its financial future. That amounts to a no-confidence vote not just on the category of newsweeklies, which have long been squeezed between daily papers and in-depth monthlies, but on print journalism itself. The lucrative properties these days are digital, and Newsweek’s Web site has long been a flop, both creatively and commercially.

Oh, puleez. With the exception of Samuelson, these are predictable liberals parroting the anti-Israel, pro-Obama, anti-conservative line. It isn’t a vote of no confidence in the concept of a weekly — it’s a vote of no confidence in this product and those people. Whoever buys it, if anyone does, would do well to scrap the dreary liberal perspective, fire most of the current crew, and figure out something a lot of people actually want to read. I can tell you it’s not “a sort of a God” Thomas or Zakaria’s noxious views on Israel.

Read Less

Oh, Ye Obama Worshippers Of Little Faith

Look, chances are Hillary Clinton’s revival this week is only a pothole the Obama steamroller will have to fill in on its way to the nomination. He’s still ahead in delegates and in the popular vote. The math is against her. He’ll win the next few contests. She’ll win a few later. In a month’s time, his dominant standing will seem so obvious that the superdelegates will naturally gravitate to him and away from Hillary and effectively hand him the nomination. This is the likeliest scenario at the present moment. What will stop him, perhaps the only thing to stop him, is real trouble that the Clintons will have nothing to do with: Revelations at the Rezko trial, or a series of missteps of the sort that have afflicted his campaign in the past week (Susan Rice saying he’s not ready for that 3 am call; Samantha Power saying, well, just about anything).

If anything, Hillary is doing Obama a favor. She’s giving him a flavor of what he will get later on, and is toughening him up a bit and giving him room to develop stronger and more credible responses to the “he’s got no experience” charge that is McCain’s strongest card to play against him.

So why is Andrew Sullivan — the ultimate Obamamaniac on the web — having a hysterical, screaming, over-the-top fit about all this? I can’t link to a single item; you’d have to read two days’ worth of postings at andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com to get the full flavor of the rhetorical tantrum he’s pitching at Hillary Clinton’s refusal to stand aside and let America move on with its coronation of the Man Who Will Change Everything.

It’s not as though Hillary Clinton has no claim on the Democratic nomination. She’s not Ross Perot, who, in the end, ran for president solely to deny George H.W. Bush a second term in part out of a paranoid delusion about Bush disrupting Perot’s daughter’s wedding. She’s a hundred delegates back. She’s won a bunch of primaries, including in the nation’s largest states.

There is nothing illegitimate going on here. It’s an electoral contest. Hillary won Ohio and Texas fair and square. The very fact that the Obama fanciers like Sullivan and the entire cast of characters at the Huffington Post are so shaken by her unwillingness to lie down and die suggests to me that they are terrified Obama can’t handle the stress test she is forcing him to undergo. And if he can’t, then they shouldn’t want him to be the nominee, because he’ll collapse by Election Day.

Look, chances are Hillary Clinton’s revival this week is only a pothole the Obama steamroller will have to fill in on its way to the nomination. He’s still ahead in delegates and in the popular vote. The math is against her. He’ll win the next few contests. She’ll win a few later. In a month’s time, his dominant standing will seem so obvious that the superdelegates will naturally gravitate to him and away from Hillary and effectively hand him the nomination. This is the likeliest scenario at the present moment. What will stop him, perhaps the only thing to stop him, is real trouble that the Clintons will have nothing to do with: Revelations at the Rezko trial, or a series of missteps of the sort that have afflicted his campaign in the past week (Susan Rice saying he’s not ready for that 3 am call; Samantha Power saying, well, just about anything).

If anything, Hillary is doing Obama a favor. She’s giving him a flavor of what he will get later on, and is toughening him up a bit and giving him room to develop stronger and more credible responses to the “he’s got no experience” charge that is McCain’s strongest card to play against him.

So why is Andrew Sullivan — the ultimate Obamamaniac on the web — having a hysterical, screaming, over-the-top fit about all this? I can’t link to a single item; you’d have to read two days’ worth of postings at andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com to get the full flavor of the rhetorical tantrum he’s pitching at Hillary Clinton’s refusal to stand aside and let America move on with its coronation of the Man Who Will Change Everything.

It’s not as though Hillary Clinton has no claim on the Democratic nomination. She’s not Ross Perot, who, in the end, ran for president solely to deny George H.W. Bush a second term in part out of a paranoid delusion about Bush disrupting Perot’s daughter’s wedding. She’s a hundred delegates back. She’s won a bunch of primaries, including in the nation’s largest states.

There is nothing illegitimate going on here. It’s an electoral contest. Hillary won Ohio and Texas fair and square. The very fact that the Obama fanciers like Sullivan and the entire cast of characters at the Huffington Post are so shaken by her unwillingness to lie down and die suggests to me that they are terrified Obama can’t handle the stress test she is forcing him to undergo. And if he can’t, then they shouldn’t want him to be the nominee, because he’ll collapse by Election Day.

Read Less

Ron Paul’s Real Politics: The Case of Daniel Larison

One of the benefits of spending the past couple of weeks tracking down and reading Ron Paul’s old newsletters, interviewing his past and present associates and boning up on the history of libertarianism in America (see Reason editor Brian Doherty’s Radicals for Capitalism, which I recommend) was learning about the strange history of libertarians and paleoconservatives (also explored today by Dave Weigel and Julian Sanchez of Reason).

Daniel Larison is a prominent fixture in paleoconservative circles. He writes a regular column for Pat Buchanan’s American Conservative magazine and contributes to Buchanan crony Taki Theodoracopulos’s website. He also writes for the popular right-of-center blog The American Scene and is often cited by mainstream political bloggers and publications, including my own. He is no doubt an eloquent proponent of the paleoconservative cause.

He happens, in addition, to be a member in good standing (at least until 2005, when he celebrated ten years of membership) of the League of the South. A little background on the League of the South, which is the most prominent neo-Confederate group in America. The League describes itself as a “Southern Nationalist organization whose ultimate goal is a free and independent Southern republic” and “encourage[s] individuals and families to personally secede from the corrupt and corrupting influence of post-Christian culture in America.” For more on this merry band of would-be traitors, see the Southern Poverty Law Center’s 2000 report on the League, which SPLC labeled a “hate group.”

Read More

One of the benefits of spending the past couple of weeks tracking down and reading Ron Paul’s old newsletters, interviewing his past and present associates and boning up on the history of libertarianism in America (see Reason editor Brian Doherty’s Radicals for Capitalism, which I recommend) was learning about the strange history of libertarians and paleoconservatives (also explored today by Dave Weigel and Julian Sanchez of Reason).

Daniel Larison is a prominent fixture in paleoconservative circles. He writes a regular column for Pat Buchanan’s American Conservative magazine and contributes to Buchanan crony Taki Theodoracopulos’s website. He also writes for the popular right-of-center blog The American Scene and is often cited by mainstream political bloggers and publications, including my own. He is no doubt an eloquent proponent of the paleoconservative cause.

He happens, in addition, to be a member in good standing (at least until 2005, when he celebrated ten years of membership) of the League of the South. A little background on the League of the South, which is the most prominent neo-Confederate group in America. The League describes itself as a “Southern Nationalist organization whose ultimate goal is a free and independent Southern republic” and “encourage[s] individuals and families to personally secede from the corrupt and corrupting influence of post-Christian culture in America.” For more on this merry band of would-be traitors, see the Southern Poverty Law Center’s 2000 report on the League, which SPLC labeled a “hate group.”

Larison was stirred to write about his membership in the League after reading Commentary and contentions contributor Max Boot’s review of the pro-Confederate Politically Incorrect Guide to American History, the book Ron Paul recently blurbed. Larison challenges, shockingly, both Boot’s citizenship bona fides and his loyalty, writing of “the first-generation American (and I apply the term here very loosely) Boot.” Such charges of disloyalty, particularly against Jews (I have no idea if Max is Jewish, though he is a neoconservative, and there exists no such distinction for paleocons) is a common trope in paleoconservative polemics and Larison’s is no exception.

Larison’s open nostalgia for the Confederacy is a marvel to behold. While deriding the “freethinking, Yankee spirit and empire that has gone on to devastate so many other societies” he reveres “the humane and decent civilisation of the South that took root in the Southland.” As with most teary-eyed Confederate apologists, he makes no mention whatsoever of that “humane” civilization’s most inhumane practice, referring obliquely only to the fact that the Confederate-era South “was never without flaws.” And it wasn’t Abraham Lincoln and the Union Army who fought to restore America to its founding principles, but those who joined the internal rebellion against the United States, men “who rose to defend, first by the pen and oration and then by the sword, the true political inheritance of the Republic” (emphasis added).

If you can stomach it, read his last paragraph:

The defeat of the Confederacy, though the Confederate political experiment does not exhaust the richness of Southern culture and identity, was a defining moment when the United States took its steps towards the abyss of the monstrous centralised state, rootless society and decadent culture that we have today. In sum, the Confederacy represented much of the Old America that was swept away, and with it went everything meaningful about the constitutional republican system, and the degeneration of that system in the next hundred years was the logical and ultimately unstoppable result of Lincoln’s victory. All of this is in recognition that we are beholden to our ancestors for who we are, and we honour and remember their struggles and accomplishments not only because they can be established as reasonable, good and true but because they are the struggles and accomplishments of our people, who have made this land ours and sanctified it with their blood in defense against the wanton aggression of a barbarous tyranny.

A 1988 edition of the Ron Paul Political Report put this idea much more succinctly:

Beginning with the Civil War and continuing to the present day, advocates of big government have sought to transfer the American people’s loyalty away from Constitutional liberty and to the government.

Larison’s neoconfederate sympathies form a crucial component of the “Old Right” tradition from which Ron Paul emerges. Indeed, the notion that this man is a “libertarian” is laughable; he is an equal mix of the paranoid nativism of Ross Perot, the conspiracy theorizing of Lyndon LaRouche, and the crude populism of Pat Buchanan.

Readers may recall that during the 2000 presidential election, John McCain got himself into serious trouble for far more tenuous ties to neo-Confederates, ties that were also exposed thanks to an article in The New Republic. It’s not my intention to play Kosher Cop (apologies to Larison for using such an un-American word, but my paymasters in Tel Aviv enforce a very strict quota) for the conservative movement. And of course, diversity of political opinion — Larison provides immoderate commentary in spades — is vital in any democracy. But it is inexplicable to me how respectable conservatives make room for views as repellent and noxious as these.

Read Less

IOWA: Cold Buttons

Conspicuous by its absence in this Iowa campaign is the absence of any single, leading “anti-establishment” issue. Sure, there is the usual anti-Washington blather from Fred Thompson and John Edwards. But where is the equivalent of Steve Forbes’ flat tax, Ross Perot’s budget ovehaul, Buchanan’s anti-NAFTA tirades, or even Pete DuPont and his campaign for “change.” The anti-corporate stuff at Democratic debates has become Iowa boilerplate. But no one has introduced a killer single, “damn right” issue, not even Huckabee. Will this be an issue-less campaign?

Conspicuous by its absence in this Iowa campaign is the absence of any single, leading “anti-establishment” issue. Sure, there is the usual anti-Washington blather from Fred Thompson and John Edwards. But where is the equivalent of Steve Forbes’ flat tax, Ross Perot’s budget ovehaul, Buchanan’s anti-NAFTA tirades, or even Pete DuPont and his campaign for “change.” The anti-corporate stuff at Democratic debates has become Iowa boilerplate. But no one has introduced a killer single, “damn right” issue, not even Huckabee. Will this be an issue-less campaign?

Read Less

Class War 101

Yesterday the stock market edged up again, with the Dow Jones Index cruising once more toward record highs. This ought to be good news for Republicans entering the presidential season. But is it really? Although Republicans are loath to be candid on this point, a surging stock market really does disproportionately help the rich and the super-rich. The accompanying growth in income inequality is a big, ripe target for a John Edwards, a James Webb, a Barack Obama, and others who want to frame the next election around themes of rich versus poor.

For a Republican party that wants to attract the votes of Bill O’Reilly’s “folks,” extremes in income inequality aren’t getting easier to defend. Private equity deals are now roaring through Asia, often enriching a relatively small handful of the American financial elite. Until Republican politicians know how to speak with confidence about globalization, capitalism, and wealth creation, Democratic calls to punish the rich can be made without fear of rebuttal.

Even with Robert Rubin and Gene Sperling whispering in her ear, Hillary Clinton, with her hand firmly on the pulse of her pollster, remains likely to join the economic populism gang. In 1996, with Ross Perot breathing down his neck, Bob Dole, a life-long trade advocate, suddenly started talking about trade restrictions and offering second thoughts on NAFTA. There is no reason to believe Hillary is more principled.

Of course, it is not clear what exactly the economic populist proposals will consist of. A new tax on the super-wealthy is probably an inevitable plank of their platform. But in his State of the Union response, Senator Webb spoke about how much more a CEO makes than an average worker. Will he unveil a proposal, beyond raising taxes, to fix that?

What aspiring Democratic and Republican presidential candidates alike should bear in mind is that the evidence of whether class warfare “works” as an electoral strategy is mixed. A much-cited paper by a group of Columbia University professors shows it is not easy to assume that wealth or perceived inequality determines voting preferences.

Yesterday the stock market edged up again, with the Dow Jones Index cruising once more toward record highs. This ought to be good news for Republicans entering the presidential season. But is it really? Although Republicans are loath to be candid on this point, a surging stock market really does disproportionately help the rich and the super-rich. The accompanying growth in income inequality is a big, ripe target for a John Edwards, a James Webb, a Barack Obama, and others who want to frame the next election around themes of rich versus poor.

For a Republican party that wants to attract the votes of Bill O’Reilly’s “folks,” extremes in income inequality aren’t getting easier to defend. Private equity deals are now roaring through Asia, often enriching a relatively small handful of the American financial elite. Until Republican politicians know how to speak with confidence about globalization, capitalism, and wealth creation, Democratic calls to punish the rich can be made without fear of rebuttal.

Even with Robert Rubin and Gene Sperling whispering in her ear, Hillary Clinton, with her hand firmly on the pulse of her pollster, remains likely to join the economic populism gang. In 1996, with Ross Perot breathing down his neck, Bob Dole, a life-long trade advocate, suddenly started talking about trade restrictions and offering second thoughts on NAFTA. There is no reason to believe Hillary is more principled.

Of course, it is not clear what exactly the economic populist proposals will consist of. A new tax on the super-wealthy is probably an inevitable plank of their platform. But in his State of the Union response, Senator Webb spoke about how much more a CEO makes than an average worker. Will he unveil a proposal, beyond raising taxes, to fix that?

What aspiring Democratic and Republican presidential candidates alike should bear in mind is that the evidence of whether class warfare “works” as an electoral strategy is mixed. A much-cited paper by a group of Columbia University professors shows it is not easy to assume that wealth or perceived inequality determines voting preferences.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.