A Key Measuring Stick for the Media: Coverage of the March for Life

by Jim Geraghty

Terry Schilling offers a simple and fair measuring stick for how much the national media is willing to attempt to make up for past mistakes and misdeeds: how extensively and how well do they cover this Friday’s March for Life?

Shilling contends this weekend we saw “breathless coverage of the pro-abortion, non-inclusive ‘Women’s March on Washington.” The women’s march warranted considerable coverage; it was a big crowd, and the opposition to Trump will be a big deal in the coming year. But year after year, huge crowds of pro-lifers head out in late January – usually among the most miserably cold days of the year. (It will not surprise you that as with the Inauguration crowd and the Women’s March, there’s considerable debate about the number of marchers. To quote K2SO, “It’s high. It’s very high.”)

Most years the March for Life gets cursory coverage, if it gets coverage at all. As Dan McLaughlin noted…

… virtually any reliable source on the March for Life acknowledges the sprawling size of the annual turnout, year in and year out, including busloads arriving from Catholic parishes and colleges across the country. But the media annually yawns and treats this simply as a ho-hum part of the annual DC landscape, not as a sign of broad popular resistance, after all these years, to the brutality of abortion, and tends to bury the story far from the front page. I can predict with great confidence that they will do so again this year.

The irony is this year the March for Life is a delicious, complicated story. A Republican president who claims to be pro-life but who has no real history of activism in pro-life causes has just taken office. He repealed the Mexico City policy, ensuring family planning funds only go to groups that would agree to not perform abortions or lobby foreign nations to overturn their pro-life laws. Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway is speaking at the march. The repeal of Obamacare is allegedly in the works. How much faith do pro-lifers have in the Trump administration? How patient are they willing to be? What Supreme Court justice nominees do they want to see? A hugely consequential story is waiting to be reported. Let’s see if the national media gets interested, and if they resist the urge to imply that march participants have horns and hooves. 

National Review Job Opening: Associate Editor

by NR Staff

We’re seeking a new associate editor to assist in the editing and production of National Review’s print magazine and its daily Web publication, National Review Online.

Location: New York, N.Y. (but strong applicants for remote work will be considered)

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Florida Court Kills Teachers’-Union Lawsuit against Scholarship Program for Poor Families

by Paul Crookston

Florida’s highest court delivered a key victory for school choice last week, when the Supreme Court of Florida (SCOFLA) allowed the popular Florida Tax-Credit Scholarship program to continue. This was the third time that the state’s largest teachers’ union, the Florida Education Association (FEA), saw fit to sue over a program that helps mostly poor and minority students without spending taxpayer money.

Joining the FEA in filing the suit were the Florida NAACP and the Florida League of Women Voters, both of which claimed to represent the very constituencies that benefit most from the program. (A majority of the program’s beneficiaries are either single-parent or minority households.) These plaintiffs stayed on even after the case lost in court, then again on appeal. But now SCOFLA has ended it for good.

As I argued previously, this suit was particularly outrageous, even for the reliably partisan organizations that brought it:

The complaint against the program is the ubiquitous claim that money is “drained” from public schools. It’s an especially preposterous argument in this case, since the tax-credit scholarships are actually funded by corporate contributions. Because they are funded by tax-credits, the government does not subsidize scholarships to certain schools through the program, yet opponents still call them “vouchers” to create the sense that they are costing Floridians money. The FEA also claims that since the tax-credit scholarships can go toward religious schools, the program violates the Florida Constitution’s separation of church and state.

By a 4–1 vote, the court ruled that none of those claims give the plaintiffs standing to sue.

While the case was being considered, a diverse coalition expressed support for the program and demanded that the plaintiffs drop the suit. Martin Luther King III, son of the civil-rights icon, is a school-choice advocate who spoke last year at a rally in Tallahassee opposing the suit.

Being a Democrat, he takes issue with how the NAACP and unions have turned school choice into a matter of tribal allegiance. “It is partisan, but it shouldn’t be,” he said. “It should be based on whether the kids are performing or not.”

With school jchoice making national headlines following Donald Trump’s selection of Betsy DeVos to lead the federal Education Department, many experts and advocates have repeated the point that education is still primarily a state and local matter. It’s good that Florida’s courts are not going to impede that process by taking the side of the FEA and its nationally prominent backers.

Do Democrats Really Want Their Own Tea Party? Be Careful What You Wish For

by Dan McLaughlin

Response To...

The Democrats Find Their Own ...

There has been, as Jim notes, a fair amount of talk on the Democratic side — especially after Saturday’s rallies — about imitating the grassroots-driven protest energy that the Tea Party brought to the Republican party in 2009–10. Democrats should think long and hard about whether they are prepared for the implications of that.

To start with, it’s worth remembering what Democrats thought, or at any rate said, until this week. First, they spent the past eight years calling the Tea Party a bunch of racist, unpatriotic terrorists — and now they want in on that! Second, they also spent the past eight years chortling about how self-defeating the Tea Party was for Republicans — and even if the outcomes in the House, the Senate and all the other states had been exactly the same, they’d still be saying the same thing today (even louder) if Hillary Clinton had won Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan.

But set aside the hypocrisy, which is not that much different from that of Trump supporters who spent eight years calling Obama the devil and simultaneously brag about Trump imitating his tactics. Are Democrats really ready for the level of disruption that a true Tea Party of the Left would bring? This is, after all, the same political party that gloried in using its superdelegates to cut off Bernie Sanders’ path to the nomination, and that takes great pride in its top-down organizing structure. (Indeed, a major reason House Republicans are wary of holding health-care town-halls this year is knowing that Democrats can easily bus in out-of-district rent-a-crowds from their professional activist cadre.) The Democrats’ 2006 comeback, after all, was a classic D.C.-run operation, as Rahm Emanuel carefully cultivated Democratic candidates who were more in tune with swing voters in their districts than with the DailyKos Left, which wanted more Ned Lamonts. When the progressives finally captured the party’s leadership, they did so behind a man — Barack Obama — who owed much of his career to the favor of the Chicago machine and who was equally at ease raising a billion dollars from the party’s established donor class.

The Tea Party’s vitriol in 2009–10 was directed just as much at the D.C. and professional leadership of its own party, and that exacted a heavy cost on veteran politicians like Charlie Crist, Robert Bennett, Dick Lugar, Mike Castle, Eric Cantor, and David Dewhurst in a series of bloody primary battles in 2010, 2012 and (to a lesser extent) 2014. Tea Party challengers forcibly retired GOP veterans in the safest of deep-red states and districts, and they cost the party winnable elections in swing races (the Castle–O’Donnell primary being the most obvious example). Even if you think the movement has been on balance a boon to Republicans, the costs have been undeniable, and they fell disproportionately on the party’s efforts to control its own strategy.

This is especially true in the Senate. The dynamics of off-year elections hurting the party in power should be expected to favor Democrats by 2018, but the 2018 Senate map is absurdly loaded against them: Republicans are defending just eight seats (nine if a special election is held in Alabama to replace Jeff Sessions), and only four of those are in states where Trump got less than 57 percent of the vote and one of those is Texas, and another is Utah, where Mike Lee won his Senate race by 41 points. Democrats, by contrast, are defending ten Senate seats in states Trump won, some of them very-deep-red territory:

A good national environment can help alleviate a lot of those vulnerabilities, but only if Democrats are running candidates appropriate to their states. The Democrats who ran the best in 2016 in red states — Jason Kander and Evan Bayh, who ran far ahead of Hillary Clinton in Missouri and Indiana, and Roy Cooper and Jim Justice, who won the governor’s races in North Carolina and West Virginia — didn’t run as wild-eyed leftists (Kander’s campaign took off after an ad bragging about how he “supported Second Amendment rights” as a state legislator while assembling an AR-15 blindfolded). Primary challenges that replaced people like Manchin and Tester with urban-style progressives would likely be as suicidal as running Christine O’Donnell in Delaware, and just as likely to elevate some amateurs who were not ready for prime time.

A true Tea Party of the Left would also target safe-district elected officials who are corrupt and out of touch with their constituents, as is true of — but look how ugly that got when Charlie Rangel’s district had an open primary in June.

Be careful what you wish for, Democrats. You just might get it.

No, of Course You Can’t Punch Nazis in the Face

by Charles C. W. Cooke

The New York Times asks:

Is it O.K. to punch a Nazi?

That is not a brainteaser or a hypothetical question posed by a magazine on Twitter. It is an actual question bouncing around the internet after an attack on a well-known far-right activist, Richard B. Spencer, in Washington after the inauguration of Donald J. Trump as president on Friday.

I must confess to being surprised that we’re debating this as earnestly as we are, and to being even more alarmed at how many self-described “liberals” are among those answering “yes.” Of course it’s not acceptable to punch non-violent actors in the face. This isn’t a matter of degree. It’s not a question of timing. It’s a matter of foundational Enlightenment principle.

It is uncontroversial to note that violence can be an acceptable response to violence. It is widely accepted, too, that if violence is imminent or guaranteed, some preemptive action can be warranted. But violence can never be an acceptable response to passive ideology. That goes for Richard Spencer as much as for anyone. As far as I can see, the most common “argument” in favor of punching Nazis rests upon some pretty brazen special pleading: To wit, that Nazism is “different” because a) it exists outside our accepted cultural tramlines and b) it has a shocking history when put into practice. But that’s always the argument for the violation of norms, which is precisely why we have those norms in the first instance. To prevent the government from deciding who is permitted to speak and who is “different,” we enjoy the First Amendment. To prevent private citizens from making the same determination, we have laws against assault and battery. In neither provision is there a lacuna-creating asterisk: “* Unless you really dislike them.”

“Different,” by definition is invariably in the eye of the beholder. Do I personally think that Richard Spencer’s views are illiberal and toxic? Yes, I do. Do I think that the ideology he espouses is inimical to the order that I cherish? Yes, I do. Does that give me the right to punch him in the face? No, it damn well does not. You don’t fight for liberalism by abandoning liberalism, and you can’t burnish your “anti-fascist” credentials by appropriating that which you hate. Richard Spencer is an American citizen. He’s as entitled to be as wrong and as destructive and as ugly and as doltish as is anybody else with that privilege.

This is not mere philosophy; it’s practically important, too. Why? Well, because those who would carve out an exception for Spencer and his ilk are, whether they know it or not, opening the door to a suicidal debate as to which ideologies can be deemed sufficiently threatening to lose civilizational protection. I will grant happily that Nazism is incompatible with American liberty. But there are a good many other doctrines that share that honor, among them communism and radical Islam. Does this mean I can punch Angela Davis in the face, or that my doing so would be fine? Should I have been given a free pass and a shrug of the shoulders if I’d clocked Eric Hobsbawm? And how much latitude should we give to individuals to draw up their own lists of Acceptable Punchees? I happen to believe that the half of Democrats who want to ban “hate speech” are enemies of liberty. Can I assault them?

A great test of any free country is how it treats its dissenters. The man who agrees with the majority is in no more need of protection than the man who parrots the talking points of the cultural and political establishment. But the heretic — the man who for better (Martin Luther King) or for worse (Richard Spencer) declines to endorse the tenets of the status quo? That’s the guy who you need to watch. Within the bounds of liberty he may be reviled or championed, ignored or followed, and shunned or emulated. But he should never, ever be punched in the face for his opinion.

WATCH: NR Live Interview with Filmmaker Ami Horowitz

by NR Staff

Our weekly Facebook Live interview series continues with a conversation with filmmaker Ami Horowitz this week. We regularly feature Horowitz’s social-experiment style videos at National Review and several are linked below:

Threats v. Buffoonery — The Case of Madonna

by Andrew C. McCarthy

At the Washington Examiner, Byron York compiles photo evidence of the freak show that Saturday’s “Women’s March” devolved into — “Women’s March” being the euphemism for the hard-left anti-Trump protest whose organizers excluded pro-life and conservative women. The lowlight of the affair was a rant by the moronic Madonna. Between F-bombs, the aging “Material Girl” proclaimed, “Yes, I have thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House. But I know that won’t change anything.”

It is perfectly appropriate for critics to highlight this bile and mark it indelibly on Saturday’s protest march. It’s even fine to link it with the rioting at the inauguration the day before as indicative of the modern community-organizer left’s notions of dissent and civility. What would really be poor judgment, though, is to equate the fading pop star’s idiocy with felony violations of law.

There are some reports that the Secret Service will open an investigation. That agency, of course, enforces such laws as section 871 of the federal penal code, which makes it a crime, punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment, to “knowingly and willfully” threaten murder, kidnapping, or the infliction of bodily harm against the president of the United States.

Even taken at face value, Madonna’s bombast was not such a threat. If you take her seriously (I don’t), the most she said was that she had fantasized about doing President Trump harm but realizes this would be pointless. Would that Madonna had kept all her fantasies to herself lo these many decades. In any event, her remarks were not in the nature of “I’m going to blow up the White House,” or “We should go blow up the White House.”

There is often some subtlety involved in discerning threatening statements or distinguishing them from harmless commentary. If you are called to testify at a trial and a friend says, “You better tell the truth on the witness stand tomorrow,” that is good advice. On the other hand, if Luca Brasi shows up on your doorstep with a baseball bat the night before your testimony and utters the exact same words, that is a threat. The circumstances make all the difference. But c’mon: there has never been anything subtle about Madonna.

The incident would not be worth commenting on except that we are in a time when the Left is cracking down on political speech everywhere – on campus, in the media (including social media), in regulations and resolutions. That is the threat to fret over. I realize that, on a gut level, many will find it appealing to imagine Madonna blubbering her way through a visit from a couple of stern Secret Service agents who warn her to be careful when she speaks about the president. But that is exactly the thing we shouldn’t want.

It’s important that we appreciate, and demonstrate that we appreciate, the difference between real threats or incitements and Madonna’s bloviating. The Secret Service and other law-enforcement agencies should find better uses of their time – like prosecuting to the full extent of the law the thugs whose “protest” during the inauguration ceremonies included threats, assaults, vandalism, torching, and other forms of rioting.

Senator Lee on Tax Reform

by Michael R. Strain

In a thoughtful essay published today by The Federalist, Senator Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, outlines a vision for tax reform:

Tax reform should not be about accepting the broken status quo, and just skimming off the top of the global economy for political redistribution. President Obama tried that. Nor should it be about shutting down the global economy with a zero-sum trade war that would hurt us far more than it would help.

Rather, our goal should be to harness globalization to the interests of American workers, to bring the global economy here rather than sending the American economy abroad. Under this framework, free trade would no longer be a mixed blessing for working Americans. It would work for all Americans, both as consumers and as workers. President Trump could even kick off this new era with a new trade alliance with Prime Minister Theresa May and our brave friends in post-Brexit Great Britain.

The senator continues:

The bottom line is that federal tax policy, like all federal policy, should serve the interests of the American people, and especially struggling families and communities currently being left behind. The goal of this tax reform is twofold. First, to channel more of the global economy to the United States. And second, once it’s here, to channel more of its fruits to American workers.

The lesson for populist-minded conservatives is this: globalists may be a problem, but globalization isn’t. Smart, principled-populist tax, trade, and immigration reform can finally put the forces of globalization to work for American workers.

In describing his plan — and you should read the entire essay to learn more about it — the senator highlights similarities to a plan written by economists at the Urban Institute and the American Enterprise Institute (where I am a resident scholar):

A number of economists on the Right and Left recognize the advantages of cutting corporate taxes and raising shareholder taxes. Although there are some important differences, this general approach is similar to a 2014 plan by Eric Toder of the Urban Institute and the American Enterprise Institute’s Alan Viard. Indeed, in a global economy with global investment opportunities, there is no reason for the United States not to tax all income the same.

To read more about Toder and Viard’s ideas, see this op-ed, this Harvard Business Review paper, and their full paper, updated in June 2016.

And be sure to read Senator Lee’s entire essay here.

National Review Summer Internship

by NR Staff

National Review is accepting applications for its summer internship. The intern will work in our New York office, receive a modest stipend, participate in every part of the editorial process, and have some opportunities to write. The ideal candidate will have an excellent academic record and some experience in student or professional journalism. If you wish to apply, please send a cover letter, your résumé, and two of your best writing samples (no more, please) to editorial.applications (at) nationalreview.com.

Just 44 Percent of Massachusetts Voters Say Warren Deserves Reelection

by Jim Geraghty

Massachusetts Democratic senator Elizabeth Warren is a shoo-in for reelection in 2018, right?

Eh, that doesn’t look quite like the ironclad lock that some might expect:

Asked whether Sen. Elizabeth Warren deserves re-election in 2018, 46 percent of Mass. registered voters said someone else should get a shot at the job, according to a new poll from WBUR/MassINC Polling Group.

Forty-four percent of poll respondents said she deserves re-election. Ten percent said they didn’t know or were undecided.

The same survey of 508 registered Massachusetts voters found Governor Charlie Baker’s approval rating at 59 percent. That’s actually down a little bit; last year Baker’s approval was in the 70s.

The perception of popularity is often quite different from what the numbers say. How many folks interested in politics would guess that the most popular governors in the country are two blue-state Republicans, Baker and Larry Hogan in Maryland? How many would recognize that the least popular and most endangered are Republican Sam Brownback in Kansas and Democrat Dannel Malloy in Connecticut?

Rubio and Tillerson

by Kevin D. Williamson

The Washington Post wonders whether Senator Marco Rubio will “defy” the president and vote against Rex Tillerson’s nomination for secretary of state.

If Senator Rubio were to vote against Tillerson, he would not be “defying” anybody. Rubio is in the Senate, which is part of one of the three co-equal branches of government. He cannot “defy” the president any more than he could “defy” the dean of students at Bryn Mawr College or the chairman of General Electric, because Senator Rubio is not answerable to the president. The Washington Post needs a civics refresher.

If it were me, I’d vote for Tillerson. I understand and share the concerns about his closeness to the government of Vladimir Putin and do not think “Well, he ran a big oil company” is an excuse. But he’s a smart and realistic man who is not likely to be lured by flattery or buffaloed — and who would be good to have around for the next few years. It does not seem likely that Donald Trump is going to choose a better candidate.

But, that being said, Senator Rubio should do what he thinks is in the best interest of the country, even if he disagrees with the president about what that is. Consent can be withheld as well as offered, or else it is not consent. The idea that the president is owed some kind of presumptive allegiance from legislators (whether members of his own party or not) is fundamentally at odds with our constitutional order.

And if Rubio’s opposition were to do a little to help Congress rediscover its self-respect — as opposed to its self-importance — then that would be welcome outcome as well.

The Democrats Find Their Own Version of the Tea-Party Movement

by Jim Geraghty

From the first Morning Jolt of the week . . . 

Day Four of the Trump Administration. Sky status: Intact.

The Democrats Find Their Own Version of the Tea Party Movement

If the Tea Party movement had held its first rally on January 21, 2009, instead of midsummer of that year, would anything have changed?

Probably not, as the Obama administration and the majority of congressional Democrats were hell-bent on passing Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, their version of the stimulus, and so on. Scott Brown’s improbable Senate victory in Massachusetts didn’t drive them to the center, so it’s unlikely that any outside force could have spurred them to rethink their approach to governing in the opening years of the Obama presidency.

Critics argued that the Tea Party movement was driven by a panoply of issues: opposition to Obamacare, outrage over the TARP bailouts, the threat of tax increases, the growth of government, concern about the national debt, among others. It was a fair criticism, but it was ultimately moot. Most members of the Tea Party unified around the idea of staunchly opposing what that guy in the Oval Office is doing.

The Women’s March on Washington Saturday certainly had its own smorgasbord of concerns: abortion rights, racial profiling, gay rights, opposition to deporting illegal immigrants, opposition to Islamophobia, workers’ right to organize, concern over global warming . . . 

But as much as we on the right might chuckle at the contradictions – a lot of labor unions work in the industries that environmentalists would like to see shut down, and a lot of Muslims have views on gay rights that this movement would oppose – the people involved in Saturday’s marches will unify around the idea of staunchly opposing what that guy in the Oval Office is doing.

Fear is a powerful motivator; fear gets people’s butts up off their couches. When you have more people caring about what’s going on in Washington, you have more people who become interested in running for office. In 2010, Republicans suddenly had bushels of candidates – usually good ones – in places they rarely had one before: “After surpassing a goal to recruit 80 candidates in key races, Leader Boehner set a more ambitious objective of 100. At the end of the day, McCarthy and the team at the NRCC were able to help get a Republican on the ballot in 431 of the 435 House congressional districts.”

The Tea Party movement gift-wrapped a message for Republican candidates: Democrats in Congress had grown arrogant and out of touch, and were completely oblivious to the growing anger and dissatisfaction in their districts:

The townhall protests that erupted in August 2009 provided the first visible signs of the anger and frustration that Americans of all political parties were feeling. While Speaker Pelosi and other Democrat leaders criticized these citizens as “un-American,” the NRCC embraced the movement and highlighted the rude awakening that vulnerable Democrats were receiving with daily emails entitled “Recess Roastings.” Events held by Reps. Baron Hill (IN-09), Steve Driehaus (OH-01) and others became instant YouTube sensations and were proof that Democrats had a much bigger problem on their hands than they originally expected.

Throughout the Obama presidency, the Democrats desperately yearned for their own version of the Tea Party. They envied the crowds, the passion, the visible signs of grassroots opposition, cropping up across the country. You only demonize something if it matters.

It now appears that as the Trump presidency dawns, angry liberals are building something akin to the Tea Party movement. It will look different, it will be geographically concentrated in different areas, and of course, it will get much more sympathetic media coverage. But it will be there, and it could be a big factor in 2018 midterms.

It’s also worth remembering that the Tea Party was ultimately a mixed bag for the Republican party. Yes, it brought them Mike Lee, Nikki Haley, Marco Rubio, Paul LePage, Trey Gowdy, Ron Johnson, etc., but it also brought Sharron Angle, Christine O’Donnell, Carl Paladino, and Richard Mourdock. An impassioned grassroots movement giveth, and an impassioned grassroots movement taketh away.

Other People’s Children

by Jay Nordlinger

Impromptus today is a mishmash, in time-honored tradition: a little politics, a little policy, a little language, a little music — etc. If you don’t like one of the items, go on to the next one. Or to the one after that.

I mention that I met a couple who have started something like 20 charter schools. They aren’t doing it for their own kids. Their kids could go to the best and toniest schools around — and they do. No, they are doing it for other people’s kids, and for society as a whole.

And this applies to Betsy DeVos, doesn’t it? (She is the nominee — my fellow Michigander — for secretary of education.) In an ideal world, or a kinder world, even her critics would give her credit.

She is very, very rich. For her own kids’ education, she could import V. S. Naipaul to teach them English, Stephen Hawking to teach them physics, Christa Ludwig to teach them singing, Jack Nicklaus to teach them golf …

Jane Goodall to teach them about chimps.

But she has devoted much of her life to making education better for other people’s children, and, in the process, uplifting society at large.

Setting aside their disagreements about policy — shouldn’t her critics give her credit for that? I mean, one could just lounge around the pool, or jet to a ski chalet, or scarf bon-bons — and be done with it.

(I think I’ll have a bon-bon.)

Shootout at the Deploraball

by Rich Lowry

I’m sure I’m missing the subtleties here, but Trumpian nationalists trying to purge the alt-right seems like a good thing. Oliver Darcy, who does great work, has a report on the ideological currents at the Deploraball.

Tillerson Is in Like Flynn

by Rich Lowry

McCain and Graham will vote for him. This makes sense — defeating Tillerson would have been a thermonuclear act at the outset of the relationship between President Trump and Congress, and without much justification. This also means that Rubio’s choice now has more to do with Rubio than Tillerson’s fate.

The Crowd Wars

by Yuval Levin

Both our new president and some of his most vociferous opponents have spent his first weekend in office flaunting the number of people they were able to draw into the streets. Trump has insisted that the size of his inaugural crowd not be understated, and the organizers of the various anti-Trump women’s marches around the country (and the world) have sought to make a point by showing off the crowds they could attract. 

This likely will not be the last time that Trump and his sharpest liberal detractors turn out to be mirror images of each other. And in this case, their common instincts about how to approach the broader public point to a problem they share: Both wish to understand themselves as intensely popular, but both are in fact distinguished by a marked lack of popularity. 

Trump enters office as the least popular new president since the invention of polling. Yet he insists, and maybe he believes, that he has ridden into Washington on the back of a mass movement the likes of which America has never seen. The activist Left enters this era having managed to lose a national election to Donald Trump. Yet it behaves as though it takes itself to be the obviously rightful voice of both reason and the masses. Both seem persuaded that they would be even more popular if only they were more like what they already are. 

They would both be wiser to consider how to broaden their appeal, rather than doubling down on what has limited that appeal and searching for ways to flaunt its reach. Yet both have acted in these opening days of the Trump era in ways likely to intensify the allegiance of those who are already committed and to diminish the chances of drawing more supporters. 

The imperative to mind the limits of your own popularity and to try to be less off-putting and more broadly inviting and winsome ought to come naturally to anyone engaged in the public life of a democracy. Yet the instinct to make such broad appeals seems now to be in short supply. This shortage looks to be rooted at least in part in the fragmented character of our national life. And it contributes an awful lot to the tenor of our times–with the emphasis on awful. 

The Stupid Crowd Size Debate

by Rich Lowry

I’m not a crowd scientist, but it seems inarguable that Trump’s crowd was smaller than Obama’s in 2009. His critics loved pointing this out, although it is completely meaningless. It will have zero effect on anything that happens the next four years (and as many news stories have sensibly pointed out, the turnout for Trump may have been affected by the fact that Washington, D.C. and its environs aren’t exactly Trump country). Predictably, though, Trump couldn’t let this go and had to inflate the crowd size, and Sean Spicer followed suit. For Trump, anything that has to do with wealth, ratings, book sales, crowd size, or poll numbers involves his honor and his sense of self. Plus, he has lived and thrived for decades in the tabloid capital of the world, in part, by exaggerating all these kind of numbers, so it’s become second nature. The crowd size contretemps, of course, isn’t an aberration — it’s the sort of thing that will dominate our political debate for the duration, even as truly consequential things begin to happen in Congress and the executive branch.


by Peter Augustine Lawler

So I haven’t watched either President Trump’s inauguration or the coverage of all the marches yesterday. Why not?

I’m attending an intimate conference in an undisclosed location about the great French thinkers Montaigne and Pascal. They both say politics isn’t so important. But they may also both be a bit weak on the nobility of the virtues displayed through political involvement.

I have read about what’s been going on, including the president’s speech and the lavish and hugely favorable coverage of the marches.

Here’s a word that jumps off the page in both cases: solidarity. It’s not a word we Americans use much, and it’s one we often associate with misguided “collectivism.” But the truth is, maybe, that we’ve suffered a bit from a shortage of solidarity. And it’s possible to see something good about both the speech and the marches.

The president talked about the solidarity or experience of unity we can experience as loyal citizens of our country. And that patriotism should be the American remedy for all forms of bigotry.

Now his words have been criticized for an excessive display of nationalism. That is true. But it’s also true that our nation is divided these days into bubbles — into the two or more alternative realities — because we’ve slighted citizenship, those shared dignified and egalitarian experiences that are an antidote to our vast disparities in wealth and status. It’s through being citizens that we learn how to trust and respect strangers, and to connect personal privileges to common responsibilities. The shortage of such experiences these days really does produce both cosmopolitan elitism and xenophobic tribalism.

Both liberal humanitarians and conservative individualists tend to reduce citizenship to national chauvinism and an illegitimate form of “rent seeking.” They criticize it from the point of of human rights, shared by all human beings everywhere.

The truth is, however, that rights are protected only by the soldiers, police, and so forth of a particular nation. And that point the president made clear.

Still, the president erred by forgetting the solidarity that unites the human race. He talked about total allegiance to America, forgetting who each of us is as a free individual and a member of the universal City of God.

The truth is that each of us has privileges and responsibilities as citizens. But we’re not merely citizens, and so we have other duties, loyalties, and loves. The marchers today were all about the solidarity of women everywhere. Their thought is: My deepest allegiance is to those who share my nature or irreducible personal identity. There’s something good about transnationalist solidarity today, and there’s something to the thought that someone is more fundamentally a woman than a citizen.

So it might be fair and balanced to celebrate, a bit, the correction of individualism in both expressions of solidarity over the past couple of days.

It might be better for the peacefully demonstrating women also to be in solidarity with all their fellow citizens, to share the patriotism that can be at least somewhat of a remedy to all forms of tribalism and bigotry. Men and women can be free and equal citizens together with shared privileges and responsibilities that transcend sexual differentiation and gender expression. Loyal citizenship should also transcend the partisan division that separates those who voted for Trump and those who voted for Clinton.

It would be better for the president to also express his solidarity with free men and women everywhere. That’s what American leaders did, for example, in solidarity with the anti-Communist dissidents (who also spoke so eloquently of solidarity as indispensable for resisting tyrants of all kinds). That form of solidarity did not lead, in the case of President Reagan, to imprudent humanitarian interventions or even to bad trade deals.

America First is often reasonable, as our leaders think of protecting our citizens first. And loyalty and solidarity are neglected virtues day, and that neglect is one cause of Trump’s unexpected victory. Having said that, solidarity can’t be reduced to a quality of someone who’s& an American exclusively and absolutely.

Trump’s Inaugural Address--Special Unity Edition

by Rich Lowry

If Trump had done his address a little differently–say, acknowledging worries about his presidency up front, or invoking our civil religion as is the tradition–the reaction it to might have been different. Lost in the shock and outrage are the unobjectionable calls for national unity throughout. Even the infamous “carnage” line is part of a riff about how we are one nation. Here is a bowdlerized unity-only version. It was a short speech, so these passages are some not inconsiderable proportion of the whole thing: 

Chief Justice Roberts, President Carter, President Clinton, President Bush, President Obama, fellow Americans, and people of the world: Thank you.

We, the citizens of America, are now joined in a great national effort to rebuild our country and to restore its promise for all of our people.

Together, we will determine the course of America and the world for years to come.

We will face challenges. We will confront hardships. But we will get the job done.

Every four years, we gather on these steps to carry out the orderly and peaceful transfer of power, and we are grateful to President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama for their gracious aid throughout this transition. They have been magnificent….

Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families, and good jobs for themselves. These are the just and reasonable demands of a righteous public.

But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists: Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge; and the crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.

This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.

We are one nation — and their pain is our pain. Their dreams are our dreams; and their success will be our success. We share one heart, one home, and one glorious destiny.

The oath of office I take today is an oath of allegiance to all Americans….

At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other.
When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice. The Bible tells us, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.”

We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity.

When America is united, America is totally unstoppable.
There should be no fear — we are protected, and we will always be protected.

We will be protected by the great men and women of our military and law enforcement and, most importantly, we are protected by God.

Do not let anyone tell you it cannot be done. No challenge can match the heart and fight and spirit of America.

We will not fail. Our country will thrive and prosper again.

We stand at the birth of a new millennium, ready to unlock the mysteries of space, to free the Earth from the miseries of disease, and to harness the energies, industries and technologies of tomorrow.

A new national pride will stir our souls, lift our sights, and heal our divisions.

It is time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget: that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots, we all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same great American Flag.

And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the windswept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky, they fill their heart with the same dreams, and they are infused with the breath of life by the same almighty Creator.

So to all Americans, in every city near and far, small and large, from mountain to mountain, and from ocean to ocean, hear these words:

You will never be ignored again.

Your voice, your hopes, and your dreams will define our American destiny. And your courage and goodness and love will forever guide us along the way.

Together, We will make America strong again.

We will make wealthy again.

We will make America proud again.

We will make America safe again.

And yes, together, we will make America great again. Thank you. God bless you. And God bless America.

The Trade War is Coming

by Rich Lowry

One notable thing about Trump’s inaugural address is that it seemed more explicit about his views on trade than he usually is. Here is the passage:

Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength.

The only way this could have been more explicit is the addition of an -ism: 

Protectionism will lead to great prosperity and strength.

Usually, Trump just talks in terms of cutting better deals; this was a more fundamental statement. It, together with what we’ve seen over the last few months, makes me believe that we will see some sort of trade war–or battles–in the early-going here. Whereas a bunch of Trump’s picks are conventional Republicans with views in tension with his–General Mattis is exhibit A–Trump’s picks in the area of trade agree with him 100 percent and are fully committed on the issue. And I think Trump almost has to follow through on his repeated threats to impose some tariffs. If he doesn’t, he is going to lose credibility, when a key part of his economic strategy is using his bully pulpit to push companies away from off-shoring. If a year or six months from now corporate America has concluded that he’s a paper tiger, Trump’s jawboning will lose force. Finally, the president has a lot of unilateral authority in this area, so it doesn’t matter so much if Paul Ryan and congressional Republicans are opposed to new tariffs. 

Now, maybe the Trump team really does just want to rattle some cages in China and Mexico to get better deals and concessions, but I would brace for something bigger and more ambitious. 

(By the way, Derek Scissors of the American Enterprise Institute has an excellent and informative piece on how to think about trade with China in our new issue.)