Crony Capitalism As A Principle

It seems Ramesh Ponnuru was a Never Trump person.  He wrote an article back in 2016 entitled “Never Trump.”  It ends:

In the end, though, the most important reason to back a conservative third-party run if Trump gets the nomination is not to affect the outcome of the November elections. It’s to demonstrate that conservatism stands for something better than Trump. Which is also a reason to strive to keep him from getting the nomination in the first place. [Emphasis added]

Well, it is a muted trumpet but everyone has their own writing style.  Because of Ramesh’s history we were interested to read his take on Marco Rubio call for crony capitalism (called Common Good) at NRO titled “Common Ground on Common Good.

Sidebar: We didn’t see any reference to Never Trump in Common Ground.  We wonder if he has changed his mind against Never in general or Never Trump?  We don’t know but we are curious.  End Sidebar.

Ramesh sets up to play the peacemaker.  He reminds us (we already knew) that us capitalistic orphans (people with a priority for free markets, free trade, and rule of law) are really orphans.  The left hates us and the right tolerates us but, as Ramesh details, doesn’t take us seriously so we don’t have much of a choice and rarely get what we want.  The Donald is far from perfect on economics but he has exceeded our expectations by reducing corporate tax rates and easing regulations.

Ramesh is telling us that Marco is just a little worse than previous GOP presidential nominees.  He is looking to find a majority because capitalistic orphans are a small group.  There is also a chance that we orphans might convince Marco to be more sensible over time.  The 2024 nomination is a long way away.

We shall see if Marco moves in a sensible direction.  Currently, we are considering Never Marco because he is opposed to us in principle.  He is against capitalism and we are for it.  It is going to be hard to split the difference.

In 2016 we voted for The Donald in the general election because he was a dominant choice.  He had positions rather than principles.  We didn’t like his behavior or position on trade but we would say the same of his opponent.  We did like his positions on corporate taxes, regulation, and judges.  And after clearing away all the hyperbole, we were closer to him on immigration.  So, for us, voting for The Donald did not involve any soul searching.  Pulling the lever for Marco looks to be a problem.  We think, to paraphrase Ramesh, that conservatism stands for something much better than Marco’s proposed economic policies. Making a decision to vote for either Marco or Josh in the general will be a tough decision because we would rather have the Democrat make those mistakes.

Next time we will talk about Ramesh’s nine questions.

 

Considering Never

We are not a fan of Never-The-Donald and the folks of that ilk.  Recent events have led us to a better understanding of them even though we still support The Donald.  Jim Geraghty was trying to explain it at NRO.  We are sure there are folks that support The Donald that meet his description:

And then one day in 2015, this outlandish celebrity came along who seems to agree with you most of the time. He’s a bit of a jerk, but you kind of like that; he treats everybody who disagrees with him with contempt, the same way the other side treats you with contempt. As time goes by, you realize he’s perhaps more than a bit of a jerk, he’s a raging narcissist and maybe a maniac, but you still like the way he responds to everyone you don’t like — the mainstream media, Democratic politicians — with this constantly erupting volcano of scorn. You feel like you’ve been mistreated for decades; now turnabout is fair play.

It is not us.  We suspect there are fewer folks like us than like the ones Jim describes but we are not sure.  We think it is a reasonably accurate description of The Donald but it is not why we support him.  We supported him because he dominated his opponent in 2016.  The things that we didn’t like about The Donald like tariffs and bad behavior but those were points of agreement between Herself and The Donald.  The Donald had no philosophy and, as Jim points out, he acts like a Democrat but he promised to do things like reduce taxes and regulation and nominate serious judges that were at odds with his opponent.  By and large he has kept his promises and the next Democrat nominee seems unlikely to be much of an improvement over Herself so we plan to support The Donald in 2020.

On the other hand, the two senators making noises for 2024 GOP nomination fill us with dread for 2024.  If Marco or Josh is nominated we will need to consider joining the never folks.  Why?  We will explain more in the coming weeks but it may take some time with Thanksgiving and all the family birthdays coming up.  A summary is that The Donald is an ad hoc guy.  We buy many of the things on his list with no serious unifying theme or philosophy.  Marco and Josh claim to have a philosophy.  We don’t buy it.  Thus, we can’t agree with them and don’t trust them.  We don’t know if we can get to never on either one because the opponent is part of our decision process.  Marco and Josh help us understand Never-The-Donald folks because we can see choosing to lose to the left rather than have either one of those as president.

The Post-The Donald Sweepstakes

We know we are not politically unique.  Yet it is disappointing that the pollsters never have a category for MWG.  The closest we have come so far is being the opposite of Rod Dreher’s Crunchy Conservatives.  We got that feeling again despite the fact the guy is right on our wavelength.

The guy is Matthew Continetti at the Washington Free Beacon.  He asks: What Do Republican Voters Want?  It has the subtitle: Rising GOP Stars Play Pin The Tail On The Elephant.  Matthew is on the same wavelength as us in that:

[Marco] Rubio and [Josh] Hawley are the standard-bearers of a shift against markets among some quarters of the right. They want to integrate the lessons of 2016 into a policy agenda for the years after [The Donald] leaves office. They point to a possible direction for American conservatism.

We should note that Matthew published his connections at 5:00 AM this morning while we slept later so he can rightly claim to be first with The Donald-Marco-Josh connection.  As we said earlier, we agree with Matthew that Marco and Josh are positioning themselves for 2024 and disagree with Marco and Josh on the particulars.  Matthew gets into the polling details by dividing the GOP into four parts: Market skeptics, core conservatives (traditional Republicans), country first conservatives (isolationists?), and new era enterprisers.

Sidebar: As always these categories seem designed to exclude us.  Again, we would only defined by opposition, in this case, opposition to market skeptics.  End Sidebar.

Where we disagree with Matthew is where he goes next.  He looks at how Marco or Josh might appeal to all these groups and wonders how they will get full support in the primaries.  We disagree because as we see it each presidential candidate tries to create a path to the nomination and then the general election.  We expect the primaries in open years to continue as they have.  In 2020, an open year for the Democrats, there are lots of potential nominees and we doubt that there will be a candidate that wins a majority of the primary votes.  Thus, the path for GOP nominee in 2024 will likely have many candidates and the winner will get a plurality just like The Donald earned.  Then the nominee will need to find a path to winning the general election.  Each nominee strives to find a winning Electoral College majority by getting strong turnout from their own party, winning some of the independents, and picking off some of the other party.  Most candidates have different strategies.  His opponent helped The Donald consolidate the GOP.  Perhaps Marco and Josh are counting on that.  We are firmly opposed to either Marco or Josh in the primaries in 2024 but we don’t share Matthew’s opinion that they do not have a path to the nomination.   Subject to the Democrat nominee, Marco or Josh might present a harder choice for us in the general than The Donald did.

No Surprise

David Harsanyi at NRO is covering the senior senator from Florida who recently made a speech on Common Good Capitalism at Catholic University and the text of it showed up at NRO.  David’s review is titled, “Marco Rubio’s Bizarre Turn Against Capitalism.”

We agree with just about every word David wrote except for bizarre.  You should read every word.  Since David takes care of the issues, we will restrict out comments to the trends.  Marco is for sugar tariffs and industrial policy.  As we see it, folks like Marco and Josh Hawley are expanding upon The Donald’s ambiguous support for capitalism.  Why are they doing this?  Because they think it is good politics.  We hope they are wrong but fear they are right.  Why might they be right at a time when capitalism has done so much for so many people and the alternatives have done so badly for so many people?  To pick up on David’s word, it is bizarre that we are even having this discussion never mind that there is a chance of losing the vote.  Why?  The left hates capitalism.  The right doesn’t trust the left but many folks on the right don’t embrace capitalism unless it has a modifier.  Here is a story from earlier this year where the right (National Conservatism Conference) endorses industrial policy.   Thus, the way to a majority is to create something like “Common Good Capitalism.”  It is way worse than Compassionate Conservatism from earlier in the century.

The Donald is not a capitalist but in office he has done some sensible things like reduce corporate taxes and reduce regulation.  He was in the general election of 2016 and will be again in 2020 the least bad presidential choice for us capitalists.  There is every reason to be concerned that the least bad presidential choice in 2024 general election will not be as good.

 

Still Never Trump

We are finishing up Jonah Goldberg’s new book.  We recommend it and will give a fuller review later but the book is diminished by him continuing to fight the Never Trump battle.  On p. 315 after he paints The Donald as a nationalist he says:

The traditional American conservative vision of limited governments and free markets has passed it sell-buy [sic] date.  The choice is now progressivism or nationalism. [Emphasis added]

We will limit ourselves to two observations.  First, if you don’t think The Donald is doing anything for limited government then Google “Trump reducing regulations” or some variant of it.  Jonah is absolutely right that the Donald isn’t a conservative but he has been very effective at advancing some conservative ideas.

Second, the choice in 2016 general election was Hillary or The Donald.  Jonah seems to have recognized that many of us are reluctant supporters of The Donald.  The next open election will provide some other choice.  We wish one of them wasn’t progressive but we are not optimistic.

Jonah needs to recognize that conservative can’t always agree and conservatives are a non-trivial part of the GOP but if the GOP only attracts conservatives it will almost always lose national elections.  Jonah supported eight years of Hillary because it would damage the brand and we might do better in 2024.  The evidence might change in the next six years but so far he is way wrong.

Hillary And Russia

James Freeman at Best Of The Web on the WSJ discusses the issue of how much trouble the previous administration should be in over its investigation into The Donald’s campaign and administration.  He is taking issue with the NYT over their recent reporting:

The NYT lays out a dossier-free explanation of the genesis of the federal investigation of the opposition political party [NYT follows]:

During a night of heavy drinking at an upscale London bar in May 2016, George Papadopoulos, a young foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, made a startling revelation to Australia’s top diplomat in Britain: Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton. [Emphasis added]

You should read it all if you are a subscriber.  We would like to take a different issue with the NYT: the words startling and revelation.  This is not startling.  It is not a revelation.  If you picked the Patriots to win the AFC East [either 2016 or 2017] at the same time you were not nearly as safe as George.  Is there any sentient being that thinks that Russia and several other countries do not have political dirt on Hillary and The Donald?  Even if you are not certain that Russia hacked Hillary’s email you know that Russia is serious about spying and Hillary is careless.  Of course Russia has dirt on Hillary and The Donald.  The difference is that Hillary knows that the press will keep her dirt under the rug unless somebody like Russia forces the issue.  The Donald doesn’t seem to care about the dirt.  The leverage that the dirt on Hillary would give Russia might matter.

What we can’t understand is why a top diplomat from Australia would be surprised about this.  Was it George’s certainty?  Australia’s diplomats don’t seem very up on world events.  Or perhaps it is the NYT that isn’t up on world events.

Enough Never Trump

We love Kevin Williamson, Jonah Goldberg is often entertaining, and David French writes but the NRO Never Trump Brigade needs to find a new song.  Today it is Kevin’s turn to salt the soil:

Some of the smarter right-wing talking mouths on cable news have already developed aggressive amnesia regarding their own complicity in Trump’s rise, and it is likely that many will follow. The line of argument will be: “Hey, I was a big Ted Cruz supporter, really, but, after the primary, it was Trump or Hillary.” Some people will need reminding of what they said and did.

To be fair to Kevin, he is against impeaching The Donald.  To be fair to us, we were for anyone but The Donald in the primary.  Like many, we were not a big Ted Cruz supporter but we voted for him in the primary because he was better than The Donald.  In the general election our first choice was Mitt’s second term but that wasn’t on the ballot.  The choice, and it was a binary one, was between The Donald and Herself.  We, and the country, made the right choice and voted for The Donald.

NRO deserves some credit for The Donald’s rise.  They were steadfastly against The Donald but tried to beat somebody (The Donald) with nobody for most of the primary season.  They, like many others, underestimated The Donald until it was too late and then nothing worked.

Many of The Donald’s supporters main concern was illegal immigration.  There has not been a legislative solution but there has been a change:

Illegal immigration across the southwest border is down more than 60 percent so far under President Trump, officials revealed Tuesday, even before the first new agent is hired or the first mile of his promised border wall is constructed.

Those supporters have gotten what they wanted.

It was a binary choice in November.  There were many folks that reluctantly supported The Donald.  It was the right choice.  If the Never Trump Brigade didn’t support The Donald in November then they were wrong.  They don’t need to admit it but the Never Trump Brigade needs to stop emulating The Donald.  Write less silly stuff.  Instead let us talk of serious things.

Binary Still

The Morning Jolt is discussing Conrad Black’s polemic when Jim says:

Maybe you saw Election Day 2016 as that strict binary choice. But we’re past Election Day. It’s time to stop measuring Trump merely as an alternative to Hillary and to start measuring him on his own merits. [Emphasis added]

Maybe?  The 2016 presidential election was a binary choice.  It still is.

Sidebar: Has Conrad ever written something that is not a polemic?  We enjoy him but  he can’t help recycle the same material: Nixon and FDR were great presidents and the US justice system.  This time Conrad says the Never Trump group has defected from being conservative Republicans.  It is a wonderful turn of phrase designed to infuriate his friends.  End Sidebar.

Moreover, comparisons, this time not binary, are how we measure presidents.  Reagan isn’t a great president because he batted 1.000.  He didn’t and no president is anywhere close to that mark.  Instead we compare presidents.  We need to criticize The Donald when appropriate but recognize the road ahead.

The 2020 presidential race is not yet a binary choice. If The Donald runs for the GOP next time is there anyone in the current crop of Democrats that you prefer?  We are not suggesting that you become a shill for The Donald but that you remember that there will be binary choices in the future.  So, yes, The Donald is still the [superior] alternative to Herself.

 

Never Forget

With the mitigated joy of having The Donald as president, it is good to remind ourselves of the horror of his predecessor.  David Horowitz does just that for foreign policy at the PowerLine.  His opening salvo:

During the eight years of the Obama administration, half a million Christians, Yazidis and Muslims were slaughtered in the Middle East by ISIS and other Islamic jihadists, in a genocidal campaign waged in the name of Islam and its God. Twenty million others were driven into exile by these same jihadist forces. Libya and Yemen became terrorist states. America – once the dominant foreign power and anti-jihadist presence in the region – was replaced by Russia, an ally of the monster regimes in Syria and Iran, and their terrorist proxies. Under the patronage of the Obama administration, Iran – the largest and most dangerous terrorist state, with the blood of thousands of Americans on its hands – emerged from its isolation as a pariah state to re-enter the community of nations and become the region’s dominant power, arming and directing its terrorist proxies in Lebanon, Syria, Gaza and Yemen.

Do read the whole thing.  It is quite a powerful reminder.  We don’t love The Donald but he is an improvement and he is a better choice than the Secretary of State that implemented these disasters.  It does mean that The Donald has a big job.  We hope he is up to it.

 

Never Trump Again

Jonah Goldberg continues to spend time trying to justify his NeverTrump obsession.  It was a good idea that NRO put the newsletters on the website so they are easy to reference.  Jonah says:

Conservatives for most of my life argued that character matters. That went by the wayside for many people in 2016.

Well, we suppose it depends on what he means by many but we continue to have a different take than Jonah.  We don’t think that conservatives generally changed their evaluation systems in 2016.  Character didn’t matter in the 2016 presidential election because it wasn’t on the menu.  Folks didn’t worry if The Donald or Herself were an iota less reprehensible because character was not a positive attribute for either.

Sidebar One: Why has iota survived as definition for a very small quantity?  We assume it was used in this meaning in schools at one point but when?  We used and saw lots of Greek letterers we were in grad school all those years ago but none of them were named iota.  When did iota happen?  End Sidebar One.

Jonah wants to measure character on an absolute level.  Character was a positive attribute for every GOP nominee between Nixon and The Donald.  This is not to say every GOP nominee had relatively superior character than their opponent but they had a positive absolute level of character.  Character can also be measured on a relative level.

Sidebar Two: There has been much discussion about the left’s attempts to smear the character of previous GOP nominees made telling the truth about The Donald’s character difficult.  There is some insight to this point of view but we see that bringing up character when you are trying to promote Herself is a losing proposition.  End Sidebar Two.

Sidebar Three: We once asked students if Rita Crunwell, who embezzled millions from Ronald Reagan’s hometown or fictional Walter White was worse.  It was a fun exercise because, like 2016, both were of poor character on an absolute scale.  End Sidebar Three.

The Donald was a dominate choice in 2016 because of the alternative, Herself.  The worst attributes of The Donald, character and trade, were matched by Herself.  The Bernie is an economic fool of epic proportions but his nomination would have made a more difficult choice for conservatives because he would win the character argument.  Character does matter but it didn’t matter in 2016 because it wasn’t an option with either candidate.