Category: Politics


Republican Speed-Dating?

I heard a story on Marketplace Morning Report this morning about Occidental College’s new speed dating program. It seems that 93% of alumni that marry within the faith – that is, marry fellow alums – give to the college. Thus, the speed dating program provides the Oxy development office two great opportunities: a chance to reconnect with disconnectd alums and the potential to create two-person donation machines.

Of course, college fundraisers aren’t the only ones trying to battle intermarriage. Institutional Judaism (for some people that means their local synagogue, for others mom and dad) has been fighting to keep marriages within the faith for years. Recently, the Reform Jewish movement has begun to re-emphasize that while interfaith couples are welcome, synagogues should work to convert the non-Jewish partner. The theory, presumably, is that single faith couples are more likely to share Judaism with the children, and to promote it with greater intensity.

So what about political intermarriage? It seems to me that this cuts both ways. On one hand, politics is evangelical: a Democrat wants to find ways to convert non-Dems to the party. In that sense, intermarriage offers opportunities. If a Republican marries a Democrat, that Democrat may be successful at changing – or at least tempering – his mate’s political proclivities. Of course, that’s a doubled edged sword: the Republican may transform the Democrat. In the end, I expect the Replicrat Kids will probably be miniature John Breauxs or Lincoln Chafees. So what is a party to do? I suspect the answer is to follow in the footsteps of Occidental: Speed Dating.

When a Republican meets another Republican at a GOP dating event, it produces tremendous good will for the party. Disconnected conservatives may start to see the GOP as a fun gang to be involved with. This might produce more donations as well as more labor at election time. And when romantic stars do align, the newly produced couple will be far more reliable donors, at least if college fundraising is any indicator. In the end, the party will probably be better off encouraging their members to marry within the faith. That pure Republican couple will probably vote Republican with even greater intensity than they did alone (if Cass Sunstein’s research on voting patterns among single-party judicial panels is any indicator) and the big pile of donations can then be used to convert those Dems.


Should the Democrats Create a “Contract with America”?

contract1.jpgA common criticism of the Democrats is that although they are scoring some points when criticizing the Republicans, they are coming up empty in stating what they really stand for. I believe that there is some truth to this criticism. What surprises me is how ineffective the Democrats have often been in rallying around a basic theory; in articulating how specific policies will best advance their goals; and in selling their theory to Americans.

Back in 1994, the Republicans created the “Contract with America,” a document that set forth a list of concrete legislative goals. Perhaps it is time for the Democrats to produce their own Contract with America. I think that doing so would force the Democrats to articulate and rally around a set of concrete policy proposals that provide a clear alternative to the Republicans.

For example, I think that the Democrats need to come up with a plan for addressing security issues. When the Democrats criticize the Bush Administration for its surveillance measures, they need to also propose how they would address security without infringing upon civil liberties or abusing power. For example, they should propose more concrete plans for getting better international cooperation, tracking down loose nukes, and devising surveillance programs that are carried out with judicial oversight within the legal parameters of FISA.


The Meaning of “Well Settled Law”

Lawyers use the phrase liberally in their briefs; judges sprinkle their opinions with it. But hardly anyone agrees what it means. The phrase: “well settled law.” One of the most interesting exchanges occurred during the Alito hearings over this very phrase:

Ms. Feinstein asked whether Judge Alito did not agree that Roe “was well settled in court.”

He said, “It depends on what one means by the term ‘well settled.'”

This was followed by an extended back-and-forth and careful parsing of what the phrase may or may not mean to Alito.

It would be a mistake to see Alito’s equivocation as merely a product of confusion over terminology. Indeed, Alito’s hesitation to accord Roe the status of “well settled law”–he finally said only that it must be accorded “respect” as “very important precedent”–cannot be understood in an internally coherent way.

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A Tale of Two Blogospheres: The Red and the Blue

politicalparties1a.jpgI’ve been quite surprised that the vast majority of the larger blogs linking to us at Concurring Opinions have been conservative blogs rather than liberal ones. After all, many (though not all) of us at Concurring Opinions consider ourselves to be liberals. Despite criticisms of the conservative blogosphere as an echo chamber, I’ve been impressed that conservative bloggers are linking to us. Many of us have tried our best to be balanced rather than partisan, and perhaps this is why we’ve received many links from the conservative blogosphere. What continues to strike me as a bit odd, however, is the great disparity in links from the prominent conservative blogs versus the prominent liberal ones.

This phenomenon got me thinking more broadly about the liberal blogosphere versus the conservative blogosphere. With the caveat that this is just my personal impression, I think that the conservative blogosphere is much better integrated in its intellectual and activist dimensions. For example, the conservative political blogosphere seems much more deeply connected to the legal blogosphere, where political bloggers seem to more routinely tap into the expertise of law professors about various legal issues. Indeed, many of the prominent political bloggers in the conservative blogosphere are academics; fewer of the liberals are.

This strikes me as representative of a larger difference between the Left and Right. The Left must better connect its intellectual and activist sides. Indeed, an article about Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, the founder of Daily Kos (one of the largest and most influential liberal political blogs) states:

Moulitsas is just basically uninterested in the intellectual and philosophical debates that lie behind the daily political trench warfare. By his own admission, he just doesn’t care about policy.

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What Else?

question.jpgCongress is gearing up to investigate the NSA domestic surveillance program. That’s better than Congress doing nothing—but it doesn’t give much reason to cheer. The NSA program is only one of a recent series of disturbing revelations about the Administration and the war on terror: detention of suspects with little or no process; secret prisons in Europe; people being hooded, stuffed in planes, and delivered to foreign governments; and, quite possibly, the use of torture.

If Congress is serious about checking Presidential powers, it needs to look far beyond what it already knows has taken place.

Rather than simply get to the bottom of domestic surveillance, Congress needs to get a better handle on what else the Administration is doing and plans to do in this war.

At this point, very little seems unimaginable. Are there, for instance, American citizens held secretly in this country or abroad? What kinds of interrogation techniques have American officials practiced and what are they trained to do? What plans are currently in place to get information from a captured suspect in the event of a ticking bomb? Are other agencies involved in spying without warrants? Have people been removed from the United States without a hearing? Under what circumstances are detainees denied counsel? Has the government asked anybody to give up U.S. citizenship in exchange for dismissing criminal charges?

Have family members of a suspect been taken into custody to exert pressure on the suspect? Has there been spying on leaders of political organizations or members of government? Who will be rounded up in the event of another attack? Is there a plan for martial law?

Congress has the resources to explore these kinds of issues. Congress might of course—and, to a large extent, it probably should—conduct its investigation without revealing what it finds to the general public.

But the bottom line is this: when all is said and done, history must show that whatever happened in the war on terror, Congress knew about it and gave approval.


Scientists Say The Sun Rises in the East

This story (via Andrew Sullivan) on Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s view of Israel and the holocaust, contains the following paragraphs:

“Some European countries insist on saying that Hitler killed millions of innocent Jews in furnaces and they insist on it to the extent that if anyone proves something contrary to that they condemn that person and throw them in jail,” [a news organization] quoted Ahmadinejad as saying.

“Although we don’t accept this claim, if we suppose it is true, our question for the Europeans is: is the killing of innocent Jewish people by Hitler the reason for their support to the occupiers of Jerusalem?” he said.

“If the Europeans are honest they should give some of their provinces in Europe — like in Germany, Austria or other countries — to the Zionists and the Zionists can establish their state in Europe. You offer part of Europe and we will support it.”

Historians say six million Jews were killed in the Nazi Holocaust.

Those crazy historians and the things they “say.”

It isn’t as though Reuters doesn’t believe that it can state things as facts. Other examples of facts, shorn of attribution, from the article include:

Ahmadinejad’s earlier “call in October for Israel to be ‘wiped off the map'” “sparked widespread international condemnation.”

“Close allies when Iran was ruled by the U.S.-backed Shah, Iran and Israel have become implacable foes since Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution.”

Jews trace their roots in Israel back to Biblical times.


Memory on the Sewanee Campus

sewaneeflags.jpgIt doesn’t take a lot of skill to predict that this New York Times article about the controversy over what we used to call “The University of South” and what’s now called “Sewanee: The University of the South” is going to generate, well, a lot of controversy.

First, some background. A few years ago, apparently motivated by a marketing study, the University of the South began emphasizing the “Sewanee” part of its name. Alumni have been concerned (to put it mildly) that it’s not just about the name, however. They think there is a lot more at stake on the campus–like how the University deals with its distinguished and complex history. At the center of that history is the University’s founder, Leonidas Polk. Bishop Polk was, also, a general in the Confederate States Army.

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Is this right?

A refrain I sometimes hear is that “there are no conservative organizations for law students, except for the Federalist Society.” For one recent example of this, see this comment at Confirm Them:

Most law schools (I went to a top 25 school) have a large, strong liberal activist groups which include the ACLU groups, Gay-Transgender groups, Environmental Groups, American Constitution Society (the anti-Federalist Society), and various “Human Rights” groups. The ONLY conservative group on most law campuses is maybe the Federalist Society and a Republican group here or there.

I don’t think this is correct, based on my own observation. At Columbia when I attended, there was a number of conservative or conservative-leaning student organizations: Christian law student society, Catholic law student society, LDS (Mormon) law student society, pro-life organization (Coalition for Life), plus the Republican student organization and the FedSoc. And I may be forgetting one or two. In any case, there’s at least six conservative organizations at that bastion of conservative thought Columbia University.

My current employer is Thomas Jefferson law school. It’s a school that an observer would almost certainly characterize as leaning left. Again, there is more than the FedSoc. TJSL has a Republican group, a Christian law student society, and the FedSoc; it also has an LDS law student society in the process of organization. (I know, because I’m their faculty advisor).

Over the tiny sample size that I’m particularly familiar with, the accusation that the FedSoc is the only conservative organization on campus is quite clearly not true. But perhaps my own lack of data is hindering me here. Are there any schools where the FedSoc is truly the only conservative voice on campus?

(Note — The broader argument — that left-leaning student organizations outnumber right-leaning organizations — is true at both of the schools with which I’m familiar, and I see no reason to believe it’s not true in many other schools. I’m speaking to the particular statement, which to me seems hyperbole, that the FedSoc is the only conservative organization at law schools.)


A frightening idea

tenco.jpgFrom a message to a conservative e-mail listserv:

I just received a suggestion from [name redacted] that Judge Roy Moore be nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court. What a great idea. Let’s all call President Bush and our congressmen, representatives and senators, supporting this suggestion.

It’s hard to think of a worse candidate. Whatever one thinks of Alito, Roberts, Souter, Scalia, Thomas, Ginsberg, Breyer, whoever — and I disagree with much about the politics Alito, and with various decisions and statements of each of the Justices — at least it’s clear that they all share a basic understanding of how the rule of law operates.

The same cannot be said for Moore.


1950s and 2000s Conservatism


Last spring I went to a talk by Phyllis Schlafly at the University of Alabama. It was the most entertaining evening I’ve spent in years, much better even than the O’Reilly Factor on a good day. And I left with an “I love capitali$m” poster, which is one of my prized possessions.

Ms. Schlafly did what I take to be her usual stump speech-–opposing judicial activism and, of course, feminism. She was plugging her new book, The Supremacists (about left-wing judges). She had some amusing lines. Something along the lines of, “Feminists are pushing their way into the military. Forty-five percent of women can’t throw a hand grenade far enough to keep from killing themselves. So I guess you can say that feminism leads to death. Ha, ha, ha.” I took the laughter to be a realization that her arguments in this case were laughable–a wonderful self-insight. I have a warm spot in my heart for people who don’t take themselves too seriously. It’s an appealing character trait, to be able to be not too serious. Wish I had more of it.

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