The Constitution Is Still Constitutional, For Now

I think Scott was the first person I heard say that one day, the Supreme Court may rule the Constitution unconstitutional. That didn’t happen yesterday, when the court decided the Schuette case on a 6-2 vote, but it could have. The issue in Schuette was whether it is permissible for a state to prohibit race discrimination by public institutions. The majority held that a state can indeed ban discrimination on the basis of race. Whew! Some of us thought that issue was settled by the 14th Amendment. But two justices, Ginsburg and Sotomayor, dissented: they would have held that states are required to engage in race discrimination, no matter how much a state’s citizens may protest in favor of equal treatment.

The 14th Amendment guarantees all Americans the equal protection of the laws. For a public entity like a university to discriminate against an applicant because of his or her race is an obvious violation of the 14th Amendment. Indeed, the amendment was adopted precisely in order to ban race discrimination by public authorities. Yet Ginsburg and Sotomayor were prepared to hold the 14th Amendment “unconstitutional”–i.e., disapproved by the official Left–and require that all states discriminate on the basis of race (or at least preserve the option to do so) whether they like it or not. Their position was pretty much unanimously applauded in the liberal media.

America’s liberals hold, with only a few exceptions, that the Constitution, specifically the 14th Amendment, is “unconstitutional,” and that paying no attention to race is “racist.” How liberalism came to this point is a long and torturous story, but if human history has ever seen a self-refuting philosophy, this is it.

Note that Schuette does not hold–contrary to the characterizations of some commentators–that race discrimination is illegal. Rather, it holds, much more narrowly, that it is permissible, at least under some circumstances, not to engage in race discrimination. Affirmative action (i.e., systemic racism) lives to fight again another day.

Michael Ramirez sums up this sad state of affairs graphically. Click to enlarge:

ramirez-042414-racist.gif.cms

South Carolina moves to rein in its universities

You might think that the takeover by the radical left of liberal arts instruction at American colleges and universities would be more difficult to accomplish at state institutions than at private ones. After all, state colleges depend on politicians for funding. And conservative to moderate politicians are in ascendency in many, if not most, states.

In fact, though, the rot appears to have spread largely unimpeded at state colleges. This is clear, for example, from David Horowitz’s work, including One-Party Classroom: How Radical Professors at America’s Top Colleges Indoctrinate Students and Undermine Our Democracy. Many of the outrages Horowitz cites occur at public universities (Penn State seemed like a particularly chronic offender, if I recall correctly).

The fact is that politicians don’t seem interested in what occurs in the classrooms of state supported schools. Only in extreme cases that carry the possibility of significant embarrassment — such as Ward Churchill at the University of Colorado — do conservative legislators become involved. And once the storm blows over, their focus returns to the traditional political issues that they feel more comfortable with and that promise a higher rate of political return.

In South Carolina, though, the legislature may be serious about curbing the leftward drift of the state’s colleges. According to the Washington Post, the seriousness manifests itself in two ways. First, the legislature has paved the way for the appointment of Lt. Governor Glenn McDonald as the next president of the College of Charleston.

Second, the legislature has cut the budget of both the College of Charleston and the University of South Carolina Upstate in retaliation for assigning students to read books with gay themes. In the case of the College Charleston the book was a graphic novel about a lesbian, which the college supplied to all incoming freshmen. The legislature is contemplating further cuts for the staging of a play, off-campus but hosted by the college, based on that novel.

The first move, appointing a political conservative, as president of a state university is, in theory, welcome. It probably represents the best way of ensuring that attention will be paid after the hoopla over gay novels and plays dies down.

As State Sen. Lee Bright, who happens to be opposing Lindsey Graham in the Republican Senate primary says:

We’ve got to start moving the debate. For too long, conservatives have just said “okay, these institutions are liberal.” Why would you cede that?

Exactly.

If the new president is intelligent, he will quickly see how far the left-wing rot has spread. Backed by the power of the state’s purse, he can then take measures to restore some semblance of balance to the school’s intellectual life.

Questions have been raised about the particular politician in question, Glenn McConnell. Critics point out that he is a Civil War reenactor who once owned a store that sold Confederate memorabilia. However, he also helped broker a deal that removed the Confederate flag from the top of South Carolina’s State House, and he helped erect an African-American monument near the capitol grounds.

From this, it sounds like he has at least some skills of a good college administrator.

As for the withholding of money, I have mixed feelings. In theory, it’s an appropriate, attention-getting method of reining in rampant leftism at state colleges. And I don’t believe that colleges should require students to read books of any political persuasion (other than our nation’s Founding Documents), which of course includes books promoting gay rights or gay lifestyles.

I’m not sure, however, that in this case the punishment fits the “crime.” And I’m very uncomfortable with withholding funds for the staging off-campus of a play that, presumably, no one was required to attend.

Politicians should oversee state colleges to make sure they don’t become centers of political indoctrination. But they shouldn’t ban expression they don’t like. Students should have the opportunity, if they wish, to be exposed to nearly the full spectrum of art, literature, and dogma. This easily includes gay-themed books and plays.

If South Carolina is too heavy-handed, it will become the object of deserved ridicule which, in turn, will discredit attempts by politicians to oversee higher education. But if South Carolina promotes true academic freedom, an endangered phenomenon on campus these days, it could start a trend.

And, by filling a huge void in higher education, South Carolina will gain for its colleges a potential competitive advantage over other state schools. Call it the “fair and balanced” niche.

About that New York Times Arkansas Senate poll

A new poll by the New York Times has Sen. Mark Pryor 10 points ahead of Rep. Tom Cotton, 46-36. Even with that result, the RCP average (which includes three additional polls taken since February) has Pryor ahead by only 2.2 points.

Thus, the Times poll is, by definition, an outlier. But does it nonetheless reflect the current state of the race?

I don’t think so. As Bill Kristol points out, the sample used by the New York Times contained an almost equal number of Romney and Obama voters. Yet Romney carried Arkansas by 24 points.

Has public opinion in Arkansas shifted this strongly in Obama’s favor since November 2012? There is no reason to think so. Obama’s approval rating among Arkansans remains quite low. FiveThirtyEightPolitics recently estimated it at 30 to 33 percent.

If Romney and Obama would run neck-and-neck in Arkansas today, Tom Cotton is in big trouble. If Arkansans would vote roughly as they did in 2012, Tom faces a tough but winnable race.

The New York Times’ Arkansas survey also contains a high percentage of respondents — 32 percent — who say they didn’t vote in the 2012 presidential election. I wouldn’t assume that non-voters in 2012 will show up for a mid-term election. Thus, a survey one-third of whose respondents say they didn’t vote in the last presidential election strikes me as a poor indicator of how a 2014 Senate race will go.

Don’t Look Now But . . .

I follow the stock market fairly closely, always have Barron’s on the top of my weekend reading pile, and, as a conservative, incline toward Benjamin Graham-style value investing.  But I never give stock market advice, even when friends ask.  That’s a good way to risk a friendship if they followed your advice and things went sideways.  If I wanted to “invest other people’s money until there’s nothing left” (as Woody Allen put it in one of his long-ago roles), I’d have become a stockbroker.  Hence, I almost never discuss the market here on Power Line.  If nothing else, I figure the SEC has better things to do than determine whether this site should be a registered adviser or something.

So I’ll break this rule slightly right now to say: I hate the current market.  I always hate the stock market when it reaches close to a record high, even though of course you have to reach a record high to break through to new highs, which is the long-term story of the stock market.  I love the kind of market you have in March 2009, when everyone is panicking and you can pick up stocks for a song.  Not for the faint of heart, to be sure.  And especially when you have Obama still finding out how to get to the men’s room in the West Wing.

There are lots of warning flags out right now that the market is overvalued.  The good folks at SeekingAlpha.com (annoying registration required), borrowing from the very fine Alhambra Investment Partners, point out some ominous trends in corporate revenues.  In short, revenue growth among the S & P 500 companies has slowed precipitously over the last year.  The first chart shows that McDonald’s sales growth has nearly flatlined (I don’t just love to eat at McDonald’s–I love their stock, too; it has moved very nicely over the last decade):

McDonalds copy

This same shift is seen across the S & P 500:

Alhambra 1 copyThis erosion is actually worse than the run-up to the Great Recession in 2007-2008:

Alhambra 2 copy

What’s going on here?  SeekingAlpha analyst Jeffrey Snider says:

McDonald’s latest results confirm that something is very much amiss on the consumer side. Total global revenue grew only 1% Y/Y, including new store launches and acquisitions. However, as has been the pattern since 2012, U.S. comparable store sales lagged markedly. The rate of contraction in Q1 was actually the worst in more than a decade.

Even if you believe that the cold and snow of January and February played a role, it could not have explained that comparison. There is simply no way that anything other than consumer exhaustion can create the chart above.

This doesn’t necessarily mean the economy is headed toward another recession (auto sales are going strong for now, as are some capital equipment categories), but it likely means the recent bull market is unlikely to continue and economic growth will continue to be pathetic.  Perhaps something worse could happen.  Odds for a continued QE policy from the Fed is likely.

P.S.  I’m keeping my McDonald’s stock.  So should you.  I’m still lovin’ it. I expect they will keep hiking their dividend even if revenue growth remains sluggish.  But S & P put options are starting to look attractive, too.

The Dems Are In Trouble In Oregon

In Oregon, little-known Senator Jeff Merkley is running for re-election. His opponent is Dr. Monica Wehby, a pediatric neurosurgeon. I don’t know much about Dr. Wehby, but she is playing for keeps. Check out this ad; it is pure dynamite:

If Oregon wasn’t in play before, it is now.
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Media Alert

I will be on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show this afternoon at 6:20 EST, 5:20 CST, talking about the epic hypocrisy of Tom Steyer, which Hugh commented on here. If you are not sure where to find Hugh on your radio dial, you can listen online here.

The Genius of John Kerry

The short video below captures our alleged secretary of state John Kerry in full.  He speaks about the “bipolar” world of the Cold War, but it really isn’t a very good idea for a person of his limited mental capacities to use the word “bipolar.”  More to the point: it takes a lot of moxie to talk about how foreign relations during the Cold War were “easier” or “simpler” than today.  Back in the day, it was left-liberals like Kerry who complained endlessly that the Cold War was “complicated,” and disdained Ronald Reagan for his supposed simplicity in pointing out the simple fact that we were dealing with an evil empire that needed to be put in the course of ultimate extinction.  You need to see this, not to believe it:

Kerry said What copy

JOHN adds: To be fair to Kerry, he has been relatively consistent. During the Cold War, he took the position that things were clear and stark–the United States and its armed forces were evil.