WASHINGTON -- "Socialism has known increments of success, basic failure and massive betrayal. Yet it is more relevant to the humane construction of the twenty-first century than any other idea."
With those words, the late Michael Harrington began his book "Socialism," published in 1972. In his day, Harrington was often called "America's leading socialist." He was also one of the most decent voices in politics, a view shared not just by his friends but also by most of his critics.
Harrington founded Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), which, in the often splintered politics of the left, was a breakaway group from the old Socialist Party. My hunch is that Harrington -- whom I counted as a friend until his death in 1989 at the age of 61 -- would be amazed, though not entirely surprised, by the extraordinary growth of DSA since Bernie Sanders' 2016 presidential campaign.
It would thrill him that the organization is now heavily populated by the young, although I also suspect he would have spirited tactical arguments with youthful rebels about what works in politics. Harrington was a visionary realist, and the dialectic between those two words defined his life. He preached vision to those worn down by a tired political system, and realism to those trying to change it.
During the recent NATO summit meeting, a rumbustious Donald Trump tore off a thin scab of niceties to reveal a deep and old NATO wound -- one that has predated Trump by nearly 30 years and goes back to the end of the Cold War.
In an era when the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact are now ancient history, everyone praises NATO as "indispensable" and "essential" to Western solidarity and European security. But few feel any need to explain how and why that could still be so.
Does NATO still protect the West? Does it prevent destructive European feuding? Does it ensure the postwar global order of free trade, commerce, travel and communications? And is NATO -- or the United States and its leadership of NATO -- the real reason there has not been a World War III or a return to global tribalism and chaos?
NATO's post-Cold War expansion to 29 nations and to the border of Russia meant the alliance became more expansive at the very time the old existential Soviet threat disappeared. Larger membership tended to weaken common ties, even as common dangers disappeared.
WASHINGTON -- The Trump administration may have declared it over, but a new War on Poverty is coming anyways. It will be fought largely over the "work requirement" -- should the government require welfare recipients either to get a job or to train for one? It's a philosophical as much as a practical question.
A work requirement addresses a dilemma of all welfare programs. If you make eligibility and benefits too generous, you destroy the incentive to work. People will just collect their welfare checks. But if the program is too stingy and strict, many genuinely needy people may lack support. A work requirement tries to disarm this dilemma by conditioning welfare benefits on having a job or training for one.
There's already a work requirement for TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families). That's traditional welfare; it mainly assists single mothers and their children. Now the Trump administration proposes work requirements for two huge programs: Medicaid, health insurance for the poor; and food stamps, now known as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).
A little background.
Are President Trump's threats and insults against our allies just an obnoxious negotiating tactic? It hardly matters, because they haven't worked. And it's worse than not working. Trump has turned "made in America" into consumer poison around the globe.
Trump is not content to wage a simple war on trade, itself an economically ignorant endeavor. He feels compelled to also dump invective on the foreigners who buy our goods and services. Whether to entertain his base or to serve the interests of Vladimir Putin, the result is long-lasting damage to our producers. No discernable American interest hides in this rubble.
China is playing it cool so far, but it can also play it hot. When South Korea last year deployed a missile shield -- seen as a hostile move in China -- a Chinese celebrity told her 2.7 million followers on social media to boycott Korean products. In a mere month, the Korean carmaker Hyundai saw its market share in China fall by nearly half.
A 2012 dispute with Japan over the East China Sea set off a violent reaction in China. Enraged Chinese "patriots" tore apart a Toyota dealership and torched a Panasonic factory.
The indictment of a dozen Russian spies explained, in great detail, the extent of their interference in the 2016 election. Americans learned about the depth and extent of the Russian operation to interfere.
That the Russian activity altered the outcome of the election to "make Trump win" has become an article of faith for many who still cannot fathom how Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton. This will persist as a subject of speculation in book after book, for a long time. What will be of less concern to the same researchers and writers is the far greater impact of the anti-Trump trio of media, academia and Hollywood.
Professor Tim Groseclose, author of "Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind," makes the case that were the media truly fair and balanced, the average state would vote the same way Texas votes, in favor of Republicans. But media bias gives Democrats a bump of about 8 to 10 points. Of 20 major sources of news, Groseclose found about 15 years ago, 90 percent lean to the left.
The late Barbara Bush said she was surprised when her son won the presidency in 2000: "I just thought it's too difficult. And you're not going to like this, but my gut feeling is that all the media is against George, Republicans, any Republican." That Democrats and liberals in the media outnumber Republicans and conservatives is a fact. Years ago, the Pew Research Center conducted a survey of over 500 national reporters, editors and media executives and found that only 7 percent self-identified as 'conservative." Most of the major newspapers endorsed Clinton over Trump. The New York Times hasn't endorsed a Republican for president since 1956. The Washington Post, which has only been endorsing presidents for 42 years, has never endorsed a Republican.
Based upon census bureau projections, 69 percent of all Americans are projected to live in the 16 largest states. Given the uncertainties of predicting how people will live in an era of self-driving cars and other cultural changes, the precise numbers may be a bit off. But, it is certainly true that a handful of large states will hold the bulk of the population. That's the way it's always been and probably always will be.
These states will dominate the House of Representatives. If they have 69 percent of the population, they will have roughly 69 percent of the seats in Congress.
The Senate, however, is different. Each state is represented by two Senators regardless of population. California gets two Senators for its 39 million residents. But Wyoming gets two as well, despite having barely 600,000. At a very instinctive level, that seems unfair. Our underlying view of democracy demands that every person should have an equal voice in selecting government officials.
On a larger scale, some pundits express great concern that the 34 smaller states will have an outsized presence in the United States Senate. A recent Washington Post column noted that roughly "30 percent of the population of the country will control 68 percent of the seats in the U.S. Senate." Critics also note that these smaller states are generally in the center of the country and are demographically different than the larger coastal states.
We at RealClearPolitics’ Fact Check Review are making an earnest effort to better understand how fact checkers work -- and to share our findings with the public. We are doing so because much is unknown about the fact-checking process. What is clear, however, is that fact checkers are becoming increasingly influential -- even to the point of being able to censor what you read.
The core of our project is hosting a site where you can view and search the data we are collecting about fact checks and the organizations that publish them. But to provide context beyond the numbers, we have also been regularly writing about observations we make while assessing the fact checks.
Since our only agenda is to better understand, we do this with no partisan or institutional bias. That means we offer praise and criticism as appropriate. For the fact-checking site Snopes, one of the longest running in the business, we have done both.
Snopes deserves praise because of the six sites we are examining -- which are the same ones helping Facebook determine what you see on your feed -- we have found that it is the least likely to “fact-check” matters of opinion. It is impossible to verify a subjective matter, so “fact-checking” opinions is a fool’s errand. It is also a surefire way to introduce bias into the fact-checking process, as the natural counter to an opinion is often another opinion.
Let’s face it: The president of the United States is an agent of Russia, an enemy power. He demonstrated it for all the world to see in Helsinki on Monday, but it follows a long string of Trump actions to aid Vladimir Putin’s strategic aims.
But it remains to be proved whether Trump is a witting Putin collaborator or an unwitting (or witless) dupe. The evidence mounts that it’s the former, but it’s too early for Trump adversaries to scream “Treason!” or call for his impeachment.
What’s required is for Special Counsel Robert Mueller to complete his investigation and demonstrate a case against Trump as meticulously as he did against the 12 Russian intelligence officers indicted last week for tampering with the 2016 election to help Trump win. Only overwhelming evidence will convince a majority of the country, Republicans included, that Trump has violated his constitutional oath to defend the country and silence the Trump claque shouting that a “deep state” conspiracy is conducting a political “witch hunt.”
And it’s imperative that Democrats not blow their chance to take over the House of Representatives in November to be in a position to process Mueller’s product. Republicans, terrified of Trump’s base, cannot be depended upon to do so.
The new rising star of the Democratic Party is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The 28-year-old former bartender doesn't know much about politics -- this week, she bungled her way through an interview answer by referring to Israeli "occupation" of Palestine and citing her lack of expertise on the issue despite her international relations degree. But she's young; she's energetic; and she speaks in glowing terms about rights to housing, food, college and health care. She's a charter member of the Democratic Socialists of America, a group, we're informed by The New York Times' Michelle Goldberg, that is on the rise. "Its growth has exploded since the 2016 election," Goldberg reports, "from 7,000 members to more than 37,000."
What exactly is democratic socialism, and what distinguishes it from socialism plain and simple? Ocasio-Cortez doesn't know. When asked about it by Meghan McCain on "The View," she stated that there is a "huge difference" between the two notions but then concluded, "I believe that in a moral and wealthy America, in a moral and modern America, no person should be too poor to live in this country." Which doesn't explain the difference at all.
The difference is truly between socialism and social democracy. Socialism suggests state ownership and control of all major resources -- and generally ends with the complete collapse and destruction of the productive population. Social democracy suggests redistribution of capitalistic gains -- more like Denmark or Norway or Sweden. It's unclear where Ocasio-Cortez lies on this spectrum considering that the DSA openly acknowledges its desire to abolish capitalism.
But let's assume that what Ocasio-Cortez and Democrats want is actually just European-style social democracy. If that's the case, they're still misreading the tea leaves: The Nordic countries aren't thriving and healthy because they're socialist; they're thriving and healthy because they are small and homogenous. In fact, Nordic lifestyles means that Nordic life expectancy outclassed life expectancy in the United States before the Nordic states tried to grow government redistributionism radically. The left is fond of citing Norway and Sweden -- even though both are now moving in a politically right-wing direction -- but neglecting Switzerland, which is just as successful and far less socialistic.
Democrats are so desperate to torpedo Brett Kavanaugh's appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court that they're resorting to scare tactics, telling Americans that his confirmation would put 130 million people at risk of losing their health insurance.
Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., says Democrats can sink Kavanaugh by showing how his appointment will lead to a court majority that "repeals ACA with its protections for pre-existing conditions." It's demagoguery. And it's working, as demagoguery too often does.
Senator Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., a frequent Trump opponent, is already moaning that the SCOTUS appointment will determine if "West Virginians with pre-existing conditions will lose their health care."
Not true. Even if the Supreme Court does strike down the Affordable Care Act someday, the era of insurance companies turning down applicants with health problems is over. Across the country, Republican and Democratic state lawmakers agree on that. They are busy devising smarter ways to protect people with pre-existing conditions and keep insurance affordable, with or without Obamacare. Not one of these plans throws people with health problems under the bus. Democrats' rhetoric about losing coverage for pre-existing conditions is hysteria.
It costs a pretty penny to earn a diploma in stupid.
The annual list price to attend Boston University -- including tuition, fees, room and board -- currently rounds out to $70,000. To acquire a degree in economics from this tony institution of higher learning, an undergrad must complete courses in calculus, microeconomic and macroeconomic analysis, empirical economics, statistics and assorted electives.
Four years, 52 credits and nearly $300,000 later, the school promises that BU economics majors will depart "with a firm understanding of core microeconomic and macroeconomic theory" and the "empirical skills that are essential to applying economic reasoning in our increasingly data-driven world."
How, then, to explain the abject economic illiteracy of meteoric media darling and democratic socialist "political rock star" Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez? The 28-year-old BU alumna graduated with an economics and international relations degree in 2011. She calls herself a "nerd" and bragged about her academic credentials, tweeting earlier this month:
Good morning, it’s Wednesday, July 18, 2018. Fifty years ago today, a precocious clique of innovators, having left their previous employer together, started their own new enterprise in Santa Clara, California.
That locale was at the time referred to by the local Chamber of Commerce as “The Valley of the Heart’s Delight.” The name derived from the area’s hospitable year-around weather as well as the sheer physical beauty of a place known for its extensive fruit orchards, profusion of flowers and native plants. Soon, it would become known as Silicon Valley, named after the substance used as the semi-conducting element in tiny new devices that would change the world.
The company launched on this date in 1968 would have much to do with that revolution. Its top three executives were Robert Noyce, Andrew Grove, and Gordon E. Moore. Their firm, which they called Intel -- a condensed version of Integrated Electronics -- was dedicated to building integrated circuits, or microchips.
In a moment, I’ll have a further thought on the birth of Silicon Valley, which I’ve written about previously in this space. First, I’d point you to RealClearPolitics' front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion columns spanning the political spectrum. We also offer original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following:
WASHINGTON (AP) — Blistered by bipartisan condemnation of his embrace of a longtime U.S. enemy, President Donald Trump on Tuesday backed away from his public undermining of American intelligence agencies, saying he simply misspoke when he said he saw no reason to believe Russia had interfered in the 2016 U.S. election.
Rebuked as never before by his own party, including a stern pushback from usually reserved Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the U.S. president sought to end 27 hours of recrimination by delivering a rare admission of error.
“The sentence should have been, ‘I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t, or why it wouldn’t be Russia’” instead of “why it would,” Trump said of the comments he had made standing alongside Vladimir Putin on Monday’s summit stage in Helsinki.
That didn’t explain why Trump, who had tweeted a half-dozen times and sat for two television interviews since the Putin news conference, waited so long to correct his remarks. And the scripted cleanup pertained only to the least defensible of his comments.
HELSINKI (AP) — Plenty of U.S. presidents have created commotion in their travels abroad, but none as much as President Donald Trump.
The president’s tumultuous trip across Europe, historians say, smashed the conventions of American leaders on the world stage.
Trump’s “America first” approach to foreign policy had him seeming to accept the word of a hostile power over his own intelligence agencies, insulting allies and sowing doubts about his commitment to the NATO alliance.
“We’ve never had a president go abroad and not only lecture to our NATO allies, but also to embarrass them,” said Russia expert William Pomeranz, deputy director of the Kennan Institute at the Wilson Center. “We’ve never had our president go on a foreign tour and categorize our allies as foes. And we’ve never had our president hold a joint news conference with a Russian leader where he assigned blame, from his perspective, to both parties, but in fact dedicated most of his time to blaming the U.S. Justice Department and intelligence services.”
MILLBROOK, Ala. (AP) — U.S. Rep. Martha Roby won Alabama’s Republican runoff, fighting through lingering fallout from her years-old criticism of then-candidate Donald Trump in a midterm contest that hinged on loyalty to the GOP president.
The four-term incumbent will now represent the GOP on the November ballot having defeated Bobby Bright, a former Democrat who tried to cast himself as the more authentic Trump ally in the low-turnout Republican contest.
The Trump White House was on Roby’s side.
“It’s been a true privilege to have the support of the White House through this campaign,” Roby told cheering supporters Tuesday night, her voice cracking with emotion at times. “I am so humbled that the people of Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District have again placed their trust and their confidence in me.”
Regarding his Helsinki joint press conference with Vladimir Putin, perhaps President Trump should channel Frank Sinatra and croon, “Regrets, I’ve had a few…but then again, too few to mention.” After all, both at home and abroad, the record of his first 18 months in office represents an almost uninterrupted string of successes large and small.
Nonetheless, I believe there are important lessons to be gleaned from the president’s missteps Monday -- and even bigger realities unveiled by the almost comical overreaction of his critics, particularly those in the media.
Let’s summarize the respective gaffes:
Trump’s Unforced Errors
Good morning, it’s Tuesday, July 17, 2018, the scheduled date of Major League Baseball’s annual All-Star Game here in the nation’s capital. I say “scheduled” because possible thunderstorms are in the forecast, which is what happened 49 years ago, the last time the Midsummer Classic was played in Washington, D.C.
I believe we’ll be okay tonight. Certainly, Monday night’s festivities in Nationals Park seemed like a good omen: Nats’ slugger Bryce Harper won the Home Run Derby in dramatic fashion in front of 43,698 cheering fans while dressed as a patriotic pirate -- and his own father pitching to him. And his hair was perfect.
Homer-hitting contests of this type date back at least 60 years. Owing to the miracle of YouTube, you can watch footage of Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle engaged in a one-on-one Home Run Derby in an empty stadium. That was 1959, the year Mays would be joined by another Willie on the San Francisco Giants. It was this “other Willie” who stole the show when the All-Stars came to D.C. 10 years later.
I’ll have more on this game, and this player, in a moment. First, I’d point you to RealClearPolitics' front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion columns spanning the political spectrum. We also offer original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following:
ABBEVILLE, Ala. (AP) — Rep. Martha Roby is seeking Republican redemption in an Alabama runoff election that hinges on her loyalty to President Donald Trump.
Roby is facing Democrat-turned-Trump Republican Bobby Bright on Tuesday, trying not to become the third congressional Republican to lose her job this primary season.
From the outside, the race shouldn’t be close. Roby is a four-term incumbent in deep-red Alabama. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have endorsed her. And her Republican opponent supported Nancy Pelosi when he served as a Democrat in Congress.
But as is often the case in the Trump era, the conventional rules of politics do not apply.
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — In his highest profile speech since leaving office, former U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday denounced the policies of President Donald Trump without mentioning his name, taking aim at the “politics of fear, resentment, retrenchment,” and decrying leaders who are caught lying and “just double down and lie some more.”
Obama was cheered by thousands in Johannesburg’s Wanderers Stadium as he marked the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birth by urging respect for human rights, the free press and other values he said were under threat.
He rallied people to keep alive the ideals that the anti-apartheid activist worked for as the first black president of South Africa, including democracy, diversity, gender equality and tolerance.
Obama opened by calling today’s times “strange and uncertain,” adding that “each day’s news cycle is bringing more head-spinning and disturbing headlines.”
LEVITTOWN, Pa. -- Here in the heart of the American suburb, the battle for the ultimate swing district is underway. The contest between incumbent Republican freshman Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick and Democratic millionaire donor and philanthropist Scott Wallace for a House seat promises to be the most expensive race in the country. And the most watched. For Wallace, the test is whether he can convince voters that he is one of them. Despite a newly gerrymandered map that favors the Democrats and a much-ballyhooed blue wave of anti-Trump voters expected at the polls, he is struggling to connect with people in the district.
The grandson of former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's second vice president, Henry Wallace, the younger Wallace has long maintained a home in the district but spent the past few decades living in Washington, D.C., or South Africa as the co-chair of the Wallace Global Fund, a social justice organization.
"Bucks County is very much a place where people vote on local issues and people want to hear their issues reflected in the candidate's talking points," said Amy Strouse, a Democrat and chairperson for the Middletown township board of supervisors. "I think that's what Scott's going to need to turn his attention to -- making the race not a national campaign."
Strouse is convinced Wallace will make that argument.