Posts Tagged ‘election’

A preference cascade is forming.

Friday, February 26th, 2016


Glenn Reynolds has known about this for a long time.

“This illustrates, in a mild way, the reason why totalitarian regimes collapse so suddenly. (Click here for a more complex analysis of this and related
. Such regimes have little legitimacy, but they spend a lot of effort making sure that citizens don’t realize the extent to which their fellow-citizens dislike the regime. If the secret police and the censors are doing their job, 99% of the populace can hate the regime and be ready to revolt against it – but no revolt will occur because no one realizes that everyone else feels the same way.

Peggy Noonan has written about it several times.

But in my experience any nonpolitical person on the street, when asked who will win, not only knows but gets a look as if you’re teasing him. Trump, they say.

I had such a conversation again Tuesday with a friend who repairs shoes in a shop on Lexington Avenue. Jimmy asked me, conversationally, what was going to happen. I deflected and asked who he thinks is going to win. “Troomp!” He’s a very nice man, an elderly, old-school Italian-American, but I saw impatience flick across his face: Aren’t you supposed to know these things?

In America now only normal people are capable of seeing the obvious.

This is something I have been looking at for a while.

Can the GOP really be so out of touch with the legions of out-of-work Americans — many of whom don’t show up in the “official” unemployment rate because they’ve given up looking for work in the Obama economy? With the returning military vets frustrated with lawyer-driven, politically correct rules of engagement that have tied their hands in a fight against a mortal enemy? With those who, in the wake of the Paris and San Bernardino massacres by Muslims, reasonably fear an influx of culturally alien “refugees” and “migrants” from the Middle East?

I think it is. Today at Ann Althouse’s blog, I saw some interesting comments.

I don’t understand how it works to just crudely throw insults at Trump when your substance is that Trump speaks bluntly. David Begley, you, in particular, sound like the very problem you are trying to attack. Except your type of attack has been plainly unsuccessful, and Trump’s speech — whatever it is, however it is the same or different from yours — has been phenomenally successful. Don’t you think you need to analyze this communications problem? Or do you just spout simple insults that pop into your head? Is that what you imagine Trump is doing? Because you are wrong, and you don’t even bother to find out exactly how you are wrong. There is an art to blunt, clear, surprising speech. Most politicians don’t try to do it because it’s too hard to do right. At least KNOW that you’re not doing it right. Otherwise, this is just headslappingly stupid.

That was Ann to a commenter. An informed commenter who has attended quite a few public meetings of candidates in Iowa. The commenter responds:


Just fighting fire with fire. Trump called Bush “low energy” and it worked.

Trump is a coward, four time bankrupt loser, con artist, bully, 12 time business failure, WWE character, hypocrite, liar, dullard, loose cannon and has very poor character. He will lose in November and people need to wake up to that fact. Otherwise, hello President Hillary.

I think Vietnam vets will especially be interested in Donald’s own personal Vietnam, as told to Howard Stern. Google it.

I just don’t think this is helpful although venting may be useful in the Kugler-Ross stages of grief that seems to be going on. If it gets too far into the potential pool of GOP staff candidates, it might cause harm as Trump might avoid people who seem to hate him and choose less competent people to staff an administration. More from Peggy.

They are figures in government, politics and media. They live in nice neighborhoods, safe ones. Their families function, their kids go to good schools, they’ve got some money. All of these things tend to isolate them, or provide buffers. Some of them—in Washington it is important officials in the executive branch or on the Hill; in Brussels, significant figures in the European Union—literally have their own security details.

Because they are protected they feel they can do pretty much anything, impose any reality. They’re insulated from many of the effects of their own decisions.

One issue obviously roiling the U.S. and western Europe is immigration. It is THE issue of the moment, a real and concrete one but also a symbolic one: It stands for all the distance between governments and their citizens.

It is of course the issue that made Donald Trump.

We are seeing the same thing in Britain, which has an even worse problem with immigrants.

in Britain, both London Mayor Boris Johnson and mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith have come out against staying in the EU. On this news, author Jim Bennett emailed me: “Are we seeing a preference cascade for Brexit? Although many are already for it, of course, mostly they have been either old-line Tories or working-class marginal malcontents. Boris and Zac are part of the rich, well-connected, cosmopolitan London set which has always been presumed to be Europhiles. Watch this phenomenon.”

It used to be, of course, that the lower and middle classes were stuffy and constrained by social convention while the freethinkers at universities and in the ruling class got to experiment with unconventional ideas. If their experimenting got enough success, then it might eventually filter down to ordinary people. (The sexual revolution worked this way, more or less).

That was Reynolds about the situation in Britain. We visited friends in Britain in September.

It seems that traditional English are self-segregating into smaller cities in the southeast that have sky high real estate prices, somewhat similar to Orange County prices in California. In both cases, I think they are islands of safety and traditional values in countries being over run by immigration and deteriorating urban cores.

Here is another attempt to explain Trump.

But all that is not enough to explain his sudden rise. The missing piece of the puzzle is the artificiality of public life in the United States. In a land of chain stores, internet memes, pop-culture formulas, and endless consultants, Trump has his own highly charged way of communicating. Whatever the topic, he attracts notice when he speaks.

He’s a successful entrepreneur with a brand he’s created for himself without the aid of pollsters, focus groups, or handlers. As such, his words and actions are of course designed for effect—he’s a pro-wrestling version of a politician rather than an Andrew Jackson or a Mr. Smith trying to go to Washington—but his calculations are his own. They reflect intuition and long experience rather than the advice of consultants, and he’s willing to provoke outrage. So the effect is wholly different from that of another candidate repeating commercially prepared talking points.

I agree with this. What are his points ?

So he’s not for sale, part of the club, or susceptible to pressure, and today that counts for everything. To put it differently, he seems his own man, and he’s not politically correct. That matters, not just as a selling point, but substantively, because p.c. is a serious matter. At first people thought it a joke, then an annoyance, and eventually a constant drag on life in general. Now, in the age of flash mobs that enforce insane beliefs by destroying careers, people are realizing that p.c. is much more than that.

In fact, political correctness is a genuine threat to any tolerable way of life.

I agree with this as well. We are in an era when Brendan Eich, a successful technology expert and founder of the Mozilla Corporation, can be forced to resign because he once donated $1,000 to Proposition 8 in California that would have restated the status of marriage as “between a man and a woman.”

Critics of Eich within Mozilla tweeted to gay activists that he had donated $1,000 to California Proposition 8, leading Eich to say on his blog that he was sorry for “causing pain” and pledged to promote equality at Mozilla. Gay activists created an online shaming campaign against Eich, with OkCupid declaring they would block access to the Firefox browser unless he stepped down. Others at the Mozilla Corporation spoke out on their blogs in his favor. Board members wanted him to stay in the company with a different role.

On April 3, 2014, Eich stepped down as CEO and resigned from working at Mozilla after it was revealed that he donated funds to a California Proposition 8 campaign whose objective was to ban gay marriage in California.

Actually, the language did not mention “gay marriage,” but stated “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California,”

The proposition passed with 52% of the vote and was overturned by a federal judge with a history of leftist activism, who later married his gay lover.

The 9th circuit, a well known leftist court, upheld the ban and Jerry Brown, then Attorney General, declined to appeal. The gay activist movement also pursued the LDS Church and any other supporters of the proposition they could identify. The reign of terror toward opponents of gay marriage has continued with lawsuits and fines imposed by bureaucrats on cake bakers who declined to participate in gay marriages. Wedding photographers have also been pursued and punished for declining to participate on religious grounds.

Today the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that Christian photographers cannot decline to participate in gay-marriage commitment ceremonies,even though that state does not have gay marriage and the court acknowledgedthat providing services for the ceremony violated the Christian’s sincerely-held, traditional religious beliefs. This becomes one of the first major cases where religious liberty collides with gay rights, and could now goto the Supreme Court of the United States.

And the “protected” wonder where Trump came from.

In other words, p.c. is Totalitarianism 2.0: a bureaucratic system, seemingly gentle, that possesses unlimited power over human attitudes, understandings, and relations, and feels called upon to use that power to construct a self-contradictory system of equal freedom and esteem. The attempt will fail, just as Bolshevism and Maoism failed, but it will do immense damage before it is given up.

One aspect of that attempt, which is responsible for much of Trump’s popularity, is a radical reduction in popular influence on government. If popular habits and understandings need constant transformation in ever more basic ways, because they always fall short of evolving standards of decency, they obviously shouldn’t guide public policy. That is for those who know better.

Political correctness itself, with its celebration of diversity and suppression of traditional distinctions, advances the cause in a fundamental way by suppressing social connections—family, inherited culture, religion—except for the bureaucratic and market arrangements through which the intended system would function. Those older arrangements are considered irrational, unequal, and uncontrollable, and they act as if they have the right to decide things, so why allow them any legitimacy? Why not get rid of them by multiplying incompatible versions of each and insisting they all have equal status?

I rest my case.

The Trump Phenomenon

Sunday, December 27th, 2015


A good column in the NY Post today describes the elites horror at the Trump supporters.

It was quite evident at Meet The Press this morning as the guests expressed suitable horror at Mr Trump’s progress toward the GOP nomination.

Now, after months of whistling past the graveyard of Trump’s seemingly inexorable rise and assuring themselves that his candidacy will collapse as voters come to their senses, a CNN poll released Wednesday showing Trump now lapping the field has the GOP establishment in full meltdown mode. The survey shows Trump with nearly 40% of the primary vote, trailed by Ted Cruz at 18%, Ben Carson and Marco Rubio tied at 10%, and the also-rans (including great GOP hope Jeb Bush) limping along far behind.

I am not a Trump supporter but I am intrigued at the steady progress he is making toward success. I have been a fan of Angelo Codevilla’s characterization of America’s Ruling Class.

The recent collapse of Republican Congressional resistance to the left’s political agenda as noted in the surrender of Paul Ryan to the Democrats in the budget, has aggravated the Republican base and its frustration.

Ryan went on Bill Bennett’s radio show on Tuesday to tell his side of the story, which involves the fact that he inherited from outgoing Speaker John Boehner an unfavorable budget framework, as well as some of the tradeoffs involved (especially defense spending). He also laid out the argument I’ve heard elsewhere, which is that he needed to “clear the decks” so that a real return to “regular order” budgeting next year will be possible. You may or may not be persuaded, but the contrast with Boehner is fairly plain, I think.

In other words, perhaps the omnibus should be thought of as something like the Dunkirk evacuation. But if so, we still need our Churchill to explain it and chart the path forward in a compelling way. This requires the presidential field to step up.

Dunkirk brought the British Expeditionary Force home almost intact, although minus their weapons. Ryan did the equivalent of surrender.

Their panic was best articulated last week in The Daily Beast by GOP consultant Rick Wilson, who wrote that Trump supporters “put the entire conservative movement at risk of being hijacked and destroyed by a bellowing billionaire with poor impulse control and a profoundly superficial understanding of the world .?.?. walking, talking comments sections of the fever swamp sites.”

Some might take that as a backhanded compliment. Can the GOP really be so out of touch with the legions of out-of-work Americans — many of whom don’t show up in the “official” unemployment rate because they’ve given up looking for work in the Obama economy? With the returning military vets frustrated with lawyer-driven, politically correct rules of engagement that have tied their hands in a fight against a mortal enemy? With those who, in the wake of the Paris and San Bernardino massacres by Muslims, reasonably fear an influx of culturally alien “refugees” and “migrants” from the Middle East?

The Daily Beast is not exactly the Republican voter and the “GOP Consultant” seems to be ignoring the possibility that his job prospects might be harmed by his contempt for the voters he is supposed to understand and convince.


The Four Million Vote Myth. Romney in 2012.

Saturday, November 28th, 2015

We are in the midst of a very odd presidential campaign. My usual preference would be for a governor as candidate but Chris Christie is not one I would vote for and the other governors have pretty much cratered as candidates. Walker and Jindal, who I like, are out. Kasich, who I don’t like, is on life support by rich donors who are using him to trash Trump.

I am still a Romney guy and would vote for him again if given the chance.

This brings up the frequent allegation that Romney alienated “Religious Conservatives,” by which are meant religious fundamentalists.

I have my doubts about the conservatism of religious fundamentalists but they have been allies as they see themselves under attack by the left wing “secular humanist” wing of the Democrats.

However, there is doubt about the supposed absence of votes from the “Religious Right” in 2012. I do think that segment of the Republican electorate can be affected by events and I think one example is the Bush drunk driving arrest, which was concealed by the Bush campaign and revealed just before the election by a Democrat operative. Actually, the story was first broadcast by a Fox News affiliate in Maine.

I think this revelation, which occurred the week before the election, may have led some Religious Right voters to stay home in enough numbers to make the 2000 election a virtual tie.

The story of Republican voters staying home because Romney was either not conservative enough or because he is Mormon is just not true.

To the extent that any of these analyses are based on the proposition that Romney got millions fewer votes than McCain, they are provably wrong. What happened is pretty simple: some states and localities take longer to count the votes than others – some big cities are notorious for this, some count absentee ballots slowly, California traditionally counts very slowly, and some of the jurisdictions hit hard by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 were understandably slow getting finalized. But the final numbers are not what was originally available in the immediate aftermath of the election:


Conspiracy Theories

Sunday, May 12th, 2013

Last week was a week for the conspiracy theories. First, we had Benghazi and the hearings which interviewed career State Department officers, most of whom probably vote for Democrats. The fact that they were ordered not to talk to Congressmen and denied any attempt at help when under attack, even from as close as Tripoli, invites speculation about motive. Peggy Noonan, a little unusually, hits this one out of the park.

Since it is behind a pay wall, I’ll quote a few bits.

What happened in Benghazi last Sept. 11 and 12 was terrible in every way. The genesis of the scandal? It looks to me like this:

The Obama White House sees every event as a political event. Really, every event, even an attack on a consulate and the killing of an ambassador.

Because of that, it could not tolerate the idea that the armed assault on the Benghazi consulate was a premeditated act of Islamist terrorism. That would carry a whole world of unhappy political implications, and demand certain actions. And the American presidential election was only eight weeks away. They wanted this problem to go away, or at least to bleed the meaning from it.

That sounds about right to me.

Because the White House could not tolerate the idea of Benghazi as a planned and deliberate terrorist assault, it had to be made into something else. So they said it was a spontaneous street demonstration over an anti-Muhammad YouTube video made by a nutty California con man. After all, that had happened earlier in the day, in Cairo. It sounded plausible. And maybe they believed it at first. Maybe they wanted to believe it. But the message was out: Provocative video plus primitive street Arabs equals sparky explosion. Not our fault. Blame the producer! Who was promptly jailed.

If what happened in Benghazi was not a planned and prolonged terrorist assault, if it was merely a street demonstration gone bad, the administration could not take military action to protect Americans there.

Yup. That has to be it unless someone comes up with a better rationale. Maybe one of those additionla whistle blowers who are asking to testify.

Why couldn’t the administration tolerate the idea that Benghazi was a planned terrorist event? Because they didn’t want this attack dominating the headline with an election coming. It would open the administration to criticism of its intervention in Libya. President Obama had supported overthrowing Moammar Gadhafi and put U.S. force behind the Libyan rebels. Now Libyans were killing our diplomats. Was our policy wrong? More importantly, the administration’s efforts against al Qaeda would suddenly come under scrutiny and questioning.

The military disgraced itself, as well. Why no plans for evacuation or reinforcement ?

Maybe those generals and admirals who were relieved in the weeks after Benghazi were too willing to do something when the orders were to do nothing.

On October 18, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta appeared unexpectedly at an otherwise unrelated briefing on “Efforts to Enhance the Financial Health of the Force.” News organizations and CSPAN were told beforehand there was no news value to the event and gave it scant coverage. In his brief remarks Mr. Panetta said, “Today I am very pleased to announce that President Obama will nominate General David Rodriguez to succeed General Carter Ham as commander of U.S. Africa Command.”

AFRICOM was the area command that was asked for help.

The information I heard today was that General Ham as head of Africom received the same e-mails the White House received requesting help/support as the attack was taking place. General Ham immediately had a rapid response unit ready and communicated to the Pentagon that he had a unit ready.

General Ham then received the order to stand down. His response was to screw it, he was going to help anyhow. Within 30 seconds to a minute after making the move to respond, his second in command apprehended General Ham and told him that he was now relieved of his command.

The story continues that now General Rodiguez would take General Ham’s place as the head of Africom.

That sure sounds like it. However:

On Monday October 29 General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, released the following statement:

“The speculation that General Carter Ham is departing Africa Command (AFRICOM) due to events in Benghazi, Libya on 11 September 2012 is absolutely false. General Ham’s departure is part of routine succession planning that has been on going since July. He continues to serve in AFRICOM with my complete confidence.”

Well, that tells us more about Dempsey than about Ham. In 1964, as he edged into Vietnam, Lyndon Johnson repeatedly sidelined war fighters and replaced them with politicians like JCS Chairman Earle Wheeler, who spent six years presiding over the Vietnam debacle. Wheeler had no command or combat experience in WWII. He had always been a staff officer. It makes me think of Courtney Massengale, the villain of “Once an Eagle, Anton Myrer’s wonderful novel of military life. It is still required reading for military officers of all branches. I have often wondered if Myrer chose the name of his villain from the name of a popular douche at about the time he was writing the novel.

There were flag officers relieved right after Banghazi. Nothing to see here. Move along.

We will learn more about the Benghazi story and Democrats dishonor themselves by their transparent efforts to divert attention and discredit honorable officers.

The next scandal that erupted last week was the IRS auditing expose. Tea Party groups have been complaining about selective harassment by the IRS since 2009 when Obama joked about doing just that.

A BEDROCK principle of U.S. democracy is that the coercive powers of government are never used for partisan purpose. The law is blind to political viewpoint, and so are its enforcers, most especially the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service. Any violation of this principle threatens the trust and the voluntary cooperation of citizens upon which this democracy depends.

So it was appalling to learn Friday that the IRS had improperly targeted conservative groups for scrutiny. It was almost as disturbing that President Obama and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew have not personally apologized to the American people and promised a full investigation.

And that was the Washington Post !

And then we have the spectacle of the HHS Secretary asking health executives to fund Obamacare with donations.

“Nice little insurance company you’ve got there. It would be a shame if something happened to it.”

Over the past three months, Sebelius has made multiple phone calls to health industry executives, community organizations and church groups and asked that they contribute whatever they can to nonprofit groups that are working to enroll uninsured Americans and increase awareness of the law, according to an HHS official and an industry person familiar with the secretary’s activities. Both spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk openly about private discussions.

Yes, it was all voluntary.

Young said that Sebelius did not solicit for funds directly from industries that HHS regulates, such as insurance companies and hospitals, but rather asked them to contribute in whatever way they can.

But the industry official who had knowledge of the calls but did not participate directly in them said there was a clear insinuation by the administration that the insurers should give financially to the nonprofits.

And so goes another week of Obamaworld. And I didn’t even mention “immigration reform.”

Death Wish

Friday, December 21st, 2012

The Republican House members did not pass the “Plan B” legislation that would press President Obama to settle the “fiscal cliff” negotiations. They chose the perfect over the good or completely lost their nerve. It seems the revolt was mostly from the right, which demanded more spending cuts and increases in defense spending.

You would think that Romney had won the election and the GOP won the Senate. Boehner played a weak had well, and,if I were he, I would think hard about resigning.

Upstairs by the House floor, which was now closed after Boehner’s announcement, a handful of senior members discussed the whip count. They decided to go out for drinks near Union Station, in order to avoid their colleagues who’d be hanging at the Capitol Hill Club on the House side. “I don’t want to talk to the people who ruined this, at least right now,” a retiring House member told me. “They don’t get it.” Another senior member told me that Boehner was always going to struggle with the whip count since most House conservatives have little interest in seeing the speaker strike any kind of deal. “Boehner was trying to play chess and the caucus was playing checkers,” he said, sighing. “Boehner is willing to lose a pawn for a queen. I’m not sure about the rest.”

That’s how I see it. They wanted to act as if they had control when they don’t. Politics is often about image and “spin.” That was all Boehner had. Now the field is wide open for Obama to take control of the “tax cut” issue by letting all tax rates rise on January 1. Then a few weeks later, he can have the Democrat introduce a tax cut for the lower rate half of the public and take credit. The republicans will have to go along or face a real disaster in public image. They will have no leverage with the defense .

Representative Justin Amash of Michigan, a conservative with libertarian leanings, was stunned. As he walked back to his office, he said the episode was unfortunate, even though he was planning to vote against the measure. For the past month, since House leaders booted him off the budget committee, he has been railing against Boehner for his management style. But even Amash wondered whether the House GOP was making the right move. “Too many people in there were arguing that this thing is a tax increase, and I don’t think that’s what Boehner was trying to do,” he said. As much as he disagrees with Boehner’s approach, even he regretted how the speaker’s plan was killed.

Even the opponents of Boehner’s plan are distressed !

Plan B was Mr. Boehner’s attempt to salvage some political dignity and a policy victory or two in return for conceding on tax rates. The bill wasn’t even technically a vote to raise taxes because the rates are set to rise automatically on January 1 if Congress does nothing. The bill also kept the estate tax at 35%, rather than going up to 55% as now scheduled, and it made the tax cuts on lower incomes permanent.

With a narrow deal on taxes, Mr. Boehner figured he could live to fight another day on spending. But it is a measure of the mistrust the President has engendered that many Republicans didn’t want to give up even this much on taxes in return for nothing at all.

The best scenario for the economy now would be for Mr. Obama to offer to extend all the tax rates for six months and start negotiating anew in January. That would give everyone the chance to decompress and back down from the barricades.

Does anyone believe that Obama will not overreach in the state of mind he seems to occupy ?

Blogging pause

Saturday, December 8th, 2012

I notice that I haven’t been posting for a couple of weeks. Mostly this is a result of my discouragement about the election. I fear our best hope of resolving the financial crisis that is coming is now lost. As a result, my interest in politics has waned. If the Republicans were showing any signs of life or intelligence, I might get a bit more interested but I fear we are going to see more proof of the “stupid party” theory.

For example, one of the dedicated enemies of the GOP is the entertainment industry. Movies and music all tend to be part of the cultural decline but, more importantly, the people who make huge fortunes from the industry are almost reflexively leftist and fund the Democratic Party. Recently, a disgusting example of the failure of the GOP to recognize who its friends and enemies are, was the firing of a GOP Congressional staffer for a suggestion that the party in Congress support copyright reform.

A Republican staffer who wrote a position paper suggesting that the current system of copyright legislation might benefit some market-based reform has been summarily fired.

Last month the Republican Study Committee, an influential group made up of members of the US House of Representatives, put out a position paper saying that the current system “violates nearly every tenet of laissez faire capitalism” and instead ensures government-enforced monopolies rather than competitive stimulation.


Romney finally strikes back

Friday, August 10th, 2012

The past week has seen an amazing series of lies by the campaign of Barack Obama. First there was the steelworker ad, accusing Romney of complicity on his wife’s death even though the steel mill closed seven years before her final, short illness. Romney’s career at Bain Capital is the centerpiece of his campaign as he is not running as a professional politician but as a businessman who knows how to get the economy going again.

Obama is obviously ignorant of business, especially of the entrepreneur type. His ignorant riff of you didn’t build that ! is an example. Then we got the Harry Reid claim that he got a phone call from a former Bain investor who told him Romney hadn’t paid taxes for ten years. There was no evidence, or even the name of the accuser, provided. It is a felony for IRS employees to disclose tax records and a Bain investor would have no reason or method for determining Romney’s tax records.

Now we have the sad story of Joe Soptic who was featured in an Obama ad, then featured using the same video in a super PAC ad this summer. Campaign law requires that campaigns and PACs have no relationship so the recent ad is a felony.

The Obama staff has denied knowing anything about the new ad but there is a conference call including Stephanie Cutter, an Obama campaign staffer, who is clearly involved in the conference call. This is a felony.

The plot thickens. A new Romey ad briefly described the fisaco., including more an Axelrod’s involvement. They will be holding campaign meetings in federal prison soon.

The Mommy track

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

This photoshopped parody of a Newsweek cover is simply hilarious. Everyone knows that Obama’s sudden “conversion” to support of single sex marriage is pure fund raising pander. It might cost him some votes but black churches are unlikely to turn on him and the others who would be offended won’t be voting for him anyway.

The one beneficial effect is to instantly end the questions raised about evangelical support of the Morman candidate. Obama has consolidated Romney’s base for him in one statement.

Coolidge Summing up

Sunday, May 15th, 2011

Coolidge believed that the wedding of government and business would lead to socialism, communism or fascism. Hoover considered Henry Wallace a fascist for supporting the McNary-Haugen bill. Hoover, ironically, was to bring on the Depression by progressive measures that might have been called a form of fascism. The farm bill would be re-introduced under Hoover and die. Only during the New Deal would it find enough support to become law. The summer of 1927 was peaceful and prosperous. It was the summer of Babe Ruth’s 60 home runs. The Yankees would win the World Series and end up with a winning percentage of 0.714, still unsurpassed. In September, Gene Tunney defeated Jack Dempsey in the fight marked by the “long count.” The “Jazz Singer” came out that fall, the first talking feature picture. Charles Lindbergh flew the Atlantic in May of 1927. He and Coolidge were much alike yet different. Both were shy and diffident but Lindbergh was happy to cash in on his fame while Coolidge refused all offers after he left office.

Coolidge arranged for Lindbergh to return to the states aboard a US cruiser, Memphis, where he was met by a crowd and by cabinet members, then there was a huge parade through New York City. Lindbergh and his mother stayed with the Coolidges at the temporary White House where Dwight Morrow, close friend of Coolidge from Amherst, introduced the young aviator to his daughter Ann. Aviation stocks, along with many others, soared and the Dow Jones Average by year end was at 200, the record high.

In his December 6, 1927 State of the Union message, he mentioned an economic slowdown and asked for the same things he had been requesting; sell Muscle Shoals, help farm cooperatives and keep spending down. In May of 1928, he complained to reporters about Congressional spending. “I am a good deal disturbed at the number of proposals that are being made for the expenditure of money. The number and the amount is becoming appalling.” He managed to get another tax cut passed including a cut in the corporate tax rate. The surplus that year was $398 million.


The Presidency of Calvin Coolidge- II

Sunday, May 8th, 2011

Coolidge was more concerned with domestic issues than foreign policy. This had been true of most US presidents since the Civil War until 1917 and it was part of Harding’s “Return to Normalcy” plan. Coolidge knew little about other countries although he was not an isolationist. The true isolationist policy of the US was in the 1930s under Roosevelt who canceled a Hoover sponsored economic summit in Britain as soon as he was inaugurated. Only in 1939 and 40 was Roosevelt converted to the internationalist that is remembered by his supporters and biographers, internationalists themselves. I will have more to say about the slanders of Harding and Coolidge by the political left and the historians later.

Coolidge’s domestic agenda was dominated by a few issues. The first was the emergence of the “Farm Bloc” in Congress. The McNary- Haugen bill was the first of the “farm relief” bills and would dog Coolidge through his presidency as he vetoed it but it kept coming back as the farm bloc grew stronger. The background of the bill is well stated in the Wikipedia article:

World War I had created an atmosphere of high prices for agricultural products as European nations demand for exports surged. Farmers had enjoyed a period of prosperity as U.S. farm production expanded rapidly to fill the gap left as European belligerents found themselves unable to produce enough food. When the war ended, supply increased rapidly as Europe’s agricultural market rebounded. Overproduction led to plummeting prices which led to stagnant market conditions and living standards for farmers in the 1920s. Worse, hundreds of thousands of farmers had taken out mortgages and loans to buy out their neighbors property, and were now unable to meet the financial burden. The cause was the collapse of land prices after the wartime bubble when farmers used high prices to buy up neighboring farms at high prices, saddling them with heavy debts. Farmers, however, blamed the decline of foreign markets, and the effects of the protective tariff. They demanded relief as the agricultural depression grew steadily worse in the middle 1920s, while the rest of the economy flourished.

As the 1920s went on and Europe recovered, the rationale for the bill was less and less credible. Eventually, it would be the basis for the Roosevelt farm policy and has survived in some form until the present. The basic mechanism of the bill was to establish high tariffs for foreign farm products. The high tariffs on manufactured goods were the worst aspect of Republican policies in the 1920s and contributed to the financial instability that led to the crash in 1929. Europe could not sell to the US because of the tariffs and so could not generate the revenue to repay the war loans. That is an oversimplification but it was a factor. The farm bill would add price supports (equal to the tariff on imports) on farm exports to keep prices high. The government organized cooperatives would sell to foreign buyers at the lower world price and the difference would be collected as a tax or “equalization fee” on domestic sales of each export commodity. This would keep US food prices higher than the world price. We see something very much like this in sugar subsidies and in the ethanol tariff the prevents fuel companies from buying cheap Brazilian ethanol.

Coolidge supported a different approach which included rural electrification, modernization of farming with better hybrid seeds and better business methods. I should add that my own family were farmers in Illinois during this period. One farm family sent their son to agricultural college in the 1920s to the amused derision about going to college to learn how to farm from my grandfather. He returned home, revolutionized farming methods in Illinois with fertilizers, hybrid seed and crop rotation and his children now own most of the farmland where my ancestors once lived. Few Congressmen knew anything about farming and Coolidge’s approach did not stop them from sponsoring the tariff bill every year or two. He vetoed it twice.

Another major issue was the Ku Klux Klan. This was more of a problem for Democrats with their base in the “solid South” but it affected Republicans, as well. The Klan in the 1920s was unrelated, except in name, to the organization founded by Nathan Bedford Forrest after the Civil War. The “second Klan” did include some Republicans and was more concerned with immigration and anti-Catholic and anti-Jewish bigotry, both related to immigration. It had been founded in Atlanta in 1915 by Colonel William Simmons. Its attraction was in its pro-farmer and pro-poor native born Americans sympathies. It was anti-Wall Street and had more geographic diversity with active members in Oregon and California as well as in Maine and New York. A Texas Senator and an Indiana Senator were members and a number of governors, including in California and Oregon, had received Klan support. It had about 4 million members at its peak. The GOP convention had a proposed anti-Klan plank in the platform and that would be a fight when the time came.

Prohibition was a disastrous progressive experiment whose pathologies were becoming apparent in 1924. Coolidge said that Congress had passed the law and he would support it but he also added, “Any law that inspires disrespect for other laws– the good laws– is a bad law.” A number of organizations were formed to oppose the Volstead Act as the corruption and lawlessness grew. In support, there was actually a Prohibition Party, which held its convention on the day before the GOP convention and nominated candidates for president and vice-president. As previously noted, a number of Progressives had returned to the Republican Party in 1920 and they also constituted a Prohibition wing of the party. Hiram Johnson had shown how powerful they could be by denying Charles Evans Hughes the presidency in 1916.

Coolidge was more pro-civil rights than Harding had been but it has been largely forgotten in this country that the Democrats were the party of segregation. Woodrow Wilson had segregated the civil service in 1914 after it had been integrated since 1865. Coolidge gave the Commencement Address at all-black Howard University on June 6. He spoke of the progress of American blacks since the Emancipation Proclamation. He noted that, “in 1863, there were four million black Americans, 12 thousand of whom owned their own homes.” “In a little over half a century since, the number of business enterprises operated by colored people has grown to nearly 80,000, while the wealth of the negro community has grown to nearly $ 1,100,000,000.” He continued with a list of material and intellectual progress made since that point. He added, referring to the war, “The propaganda of prejudice and hatred which sought to keep the colored man from supporting the national cause completely failed. The black man showed himself the same kind of citizen, moved by the same patriotism, as the white man.”

The 1924 Convention opened in a placid mood on June 10. Coolidge was in control. Henry Cabot Lodge was a simple delegate and powerless. The country and the party had moved on. The power of the bosses was much diminished from 1920 and many of them were dead. Radio was breaking down the regionalism of the country just as it would eventually dilute regional accents. The Convention was the first to be broadcast on radio, a concept that did not even exist in 1920. The final platform did not mention the Klan but did congratulate the party for the improvement in economic conditions since 1920. They came out in favor of higher agricultural tariffs but not the McNary- Haugen bill. There was no mention of Prohibition or race relations. There was widespread concern that LaFollette would make a third party race on the Progressive ticket.

The Leopold-Loeb murder case competed with the Convention for public interest and newspaper coverage. The only uncertainty was the vice-presidential nomination. There were many names considered. Coolidge, through an intermediary, approach William Borah to determine his interest in joining the ticket. Borah, certain of his superior talents compared to Coolidge asked, “At which end?” Another bit of Washington gossip at the time was that Borah was the real father of Alice Roosevelt Longworth’s only child, daughter Pauline. Alice was none too discreet and Borah had a reputation for womanizing so the child was often called ” Aurora Borah Alice,” among the cognoscenti.

Coolidge favored a former Senator from Iowa and federal judge named William S. Kenyon. Kenyon had been a member of the Farm Bloc and a very astute opponent of Harding within the party. He was a progressive but had supported Taft in 1912 and was considered a “regular” although he was pledged to Hiram Johnson at the 1920 convention. Harding had offered him a federal judgeship to get rid of him from the Senate and Kenyon accepted but then became the judge who threw out the Tea Pot Dome oil leases and criticized Harding about the affair. Kenyon was a Coolidge supporter and would have made an interesting VP nominee. The Progressives would be pleased and might be lured from LaFollette if he ran. Unfortunately, Kenyon was not interested. The next candidate was Lowden, who was an excellent reform governor of Illinois and a serious presidential candidate in 1920. He also declined. The convention finally turned to Charles G Dawes, a banker who had an international reputation (and a Nobel Peace Prize) for his “Dawes Plan” for trying to deal with the reparations nightmare.

Dawes nomination was another example of serendipity as the man asked to nominate him agreed to do so because he wanted to run for the Senate in Nebraska and this would give him a chance to be heard in Nebraska on a national broadcast. A W Jefferis was a Nebraska delegate and not particularly a friend of Dawes. The radio in 1924 was a technological wonder and instant fame followed such an opportunity. Dawes was a bit of an independent politically. He had recovered from financial wipe-out in the Panic of 1893 and was Comptroller of the Currency under McKInley in 1901, which position he resigned to run unsuccessfully for the Senate. He served in the Army during World War I as head of the General Purchasing Board and ended the war as a brigadier general. He then took charge of the body responsible for liquidating the American supplies remaining in France at the end of the war. He became famous for his testimony before a House Committee on War Expenditures. The Republican majority was attempting to show that the Democratic Administration had been profligate in purchasing, if not dishonest. Dawes, of course, had been in charge of the purchasing and was outraged in spite of his Republican credentials. He became infuriated with the committee members’ ignorant questions and allegations of profiteering. His scathing and witty answers to the committee made him famous with the public. He was headline news the next day.

Dawes was a man of many talents. He played several instruments and composed music, including a piece in 1911 that eventually, with words, became the song “It’s All in the Game,” in the 1950s. After the 1920 election, he turned down the Secretary of the Treasury position but accepted the new position of Director of the Bureau of the Budget. The Coolidge tax cuts and the Dawes budget controls resulted in the government showing a budget surplus in each year of the Harding-Coolidge presidency. The Bureau of the Budget continued to control government expenditures until reorganized by John Kennedy in 1961. In 1923, Dawes was asked to join a Committee of Experts to rescue the German economy. The result was the Dawes Plan and the 1925 Nobel Peace Prize. Dawes was an outstanding choice for the vice-presidency. Coolidge, who hated to campaign, was greatly complemented by Dawes who enjoyed it.

Meanwhile, the Democrats imploded at their convention over issues like Prohibition and the Klan. The early favorite was Wilson son-in-law William McAdoo. He had an attractive resume but two glaring problems. He was supported by the Klan, although not a member, and he was a “dry.” His principal opponent, Senator Oscar Underwood of Alabama was a “wet” and a fierce opponent of the Klan. He privately believed racism was responsible for much of the poverty of the South. The Klan was powerful in the Democratic Party and Underwood had opposed Women’s Suffrage and Prohibition, both positions unpopular in 1920. Al Smith, Governor of New York, had not entered primaries and knew that the convention decision would depend on the issues of the Klan and Prohibition. Smith’s Catholic religion would also be a huge factor in the election if he were nominated, as he was in 1928. The Convention was to be held in New York, which encouraged Smith’s ambitions.

One of the first nominating speeches, by Forney Johnson of Alabama, speaking on behalf of colleague Underwood, threw down the gauntlet on the Klan. Like Underwood, Johnson was a fierce opponent of the Klan and his speech tore the convention apart. Live radio coverage magnified the effect. A motion to condemn the Klan failed by a single vote. The one positive development was Franklin Roosevelt’s nominating speech for Al Smith, the “Happy Warrior.” It marked Roosevelt’s return to the public scene after his polio rehabilitation. He had been the VP nominee in 1920. After 50 ballots, delegates talked of returning home without a nominee. Smith allies hooted from packed galleries and on the 100th ballot he led with about third of the delegates. Eventually,
on the 103rd ballot, the delegates turned to John W Davis, a distinguished lawyer and former Congressman and his VP nominee, Charles W Bryan Governor of Nebraska. Bryan was the younger brother of William Jennings Bryan, perennial Democratic nominee, famous for his populist politics and his “Cross of Gold” speech.

The Bryan brothers, ever hopeful.

The Democrats were crushed in the election but personal disaster struck Coolidge. On June 30, while playing lawn tennis with his brother, Calvin Jr developed a blister on his toe from playing without socks. He was 16 years old. The blister became infected and he died on July 7, 1924. His father never recovered. My son, who is diabetic, developed a similar blister on his toe when wearing firefighter boots. He works 72 hour shifts and, by the time he finished his shift and went to an urgent care center, he had positive blood cultures. He was hospitalized for several weeks and had a one year recovery including skin grafts and multiple surgeries. He is now back at work but, even with modern antibiotics and other measures, he was very ill and took a long time to recover. Calvin Jr was not diabetic but there were no antibiotics available and sepsis was a fatal complication.

Dawes and Coolidge had dinner together during the boy’s illness. Dawes had lost a 21 year old son to drowning in 1912 and understood the president’s concern although he did not realize the seriousness of the illness yet. As he left, he looked into Calvin Jr’s room. “As I passed the door of Calvin’s room, I chanced to look in. He seemed to be in great distress. The president was bending over the bed. I think I have never witnessed such a look of agony and despair that was on the president’s face.” We forget what the days before antibiotics were like. In the very early days of the development of penicillin, one of Howard Florey’s first patients was a policeman who had pricked his finger on a rose thorn. He was dying of streptococcal sepsis, the same infection that undoubtedly killed Calvin Jr. The amount of penicillin they had been able to isolate was very small. They treated the policeman and he improved but then they ran out of the drug. They tried everything including extracting it from his urine but could not get enough and he died.

Calvin Jr with hanging tobacco leaves.

The president agonized about his lost boy. He signed a book for friend who had also lost a son. “To my friend, in recollection of his son, and my son, who by the grace of God have the privilege of being boys throughout eternity.” Calvin Jr had had a previous serious illness, at age six years old, and required surgery to drain an empyema, a collection of pus in the chest following pneumonia. His father was very worried then, as well, but things turned out well. There is another story of this time in Coolidge’s life. Colonel Starling, the president’s Secret Service bodyguard, on his way into the White House, saw a small boy standing outside the railing looking in. “I asked him what he was doing up so early. He looked up at me, his eyes large and round and sad. I thought I might see the president,” he said. “I heard that he gets up early and takes a walk. I wanted to tell him how sorry I am that his little boy died.” “Come with me, I’ll take you to the president,” I said. He took my hand and we walked into the grounds. In a few minutes, the president came out and I presented the boy to him. The youngster was overwhelmed with awe and could not deliver his message so I did it for him. The president had a difficult time controlling his emotions. When the lad had gone and we were walking through Lafayette Park, he said to me: “Colonel, whenever a boy wants to see me, always bring him in. Never turn one away or make him wait.” There has been considerable speculation, based on some evidence, that the boy’s death left Coolidge in a prolonged depression that affected his presidency.

To be continued