Republican Tsunami Building?

I leave the precise parsing of the poll data to Sean Trende, Nate Silver, Henry Olsen, and other numerologist/astrologists, and go by my gut feel, which is usually though not always right. As the 2012 election approached I had a nagging feeling that Obama was going to pull it out, or that if Romney did indeed win it would be by the narrowest of margins, and not the landslide some (including me at one early point) thought he might.

So I think Republicans are going to take the Senate going away, and will not only win all or nearly all of the currently close races, but will sneak up and take one or two unexpected ones, such as New Mexico (another dull Udall on the ballot), or even Minnesota or Illinois.

I’ll just go with macro data here: back in 1986, when the economy was booming, with incomes for all groups rising, with the “right track” poll numbers strongly positive, and Reagan’s personal approval rating around 65 percent (the Iran-Contra scandal didn’t break until just after the 1986 mid-term), and Republicans got crushed in the Senate, losing eight seats—seven of them incumbents. To be sure, some of those were weak first term GOP senators, but certainly some of the Democrat incumbents today (Begich? Hagan?) fit that bill.

But another factor is that the Democrats skillfully made the 1986 election about local and not national issues. It was out of that election that Tip O’Neill made his famous pronouncement that “all politics is local.” This year Democrats are having a hard time executing that maneuver, and while the GOP campaign could be stronger than it is, it is fairly good at attaching a national profile to the races.

It’s not just that Republican voters are more motivated this year. There’s a decent amount of data that they simply pay more attention to things. Pew’s most recent survey of “What Do Americans Know?” finds a decidedly partisan tilt: Republicans are simply better informed. Here’s the table from the survey, which Pew calls “modest,” but there’s a clear pattern here, and do you think the media would call this difference “modest” if it swung the other way?

Pew Table copy

Want another indication that Republican and Republican-leaning independents are more high information people? Check out this story from the Washington Post: Republicans Advertise on ‘The Big Bang Theory.’ Democrats Buy Ads on ‘Big Brother.” ‘Nuf said.

But then there’s this from Jim Geraghty’s Morning Briefing on NRO about the ignorance of Oregon’s liberal electorate:

Note this depressing statistic:

[A] poll found that voters in general aren’t paying much attention to this election.

66 percent of respondents couldn’t name the Republican candidate for Governor, Dennis Richardson. And 59 percent couldn’t name the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, Monica Wehby.

Governor John Kitzhaber did a little better; 62 percent could name him as the Democratic candidate for Governor, but 38 percent couldn’t. Senator Merkley was recognized by 46 percent as his party’s candidate.

As I mentioned Friday, this is an example of “Set It and Forget It Leftism.” Dear Oregonians, I get it. Your state is gorgeous. If I had one of the world’s biggest bookstores, huge farmers’ markets, endless chefs experimenting with all kinds of local produce and seafood, an exploding menagerie of breweries, wineries, distilleries, and seemingly limitless mountains and rivers to explore, I might not be that interested in politics, either. But come on. Check in every once in a while.

Actually, Oregon, don’t check in until the morning after the election. I’ll bet some mellows at Voodoo Donuts will be harshed.

Who’s afraid of “Rocky Mountain Heist”?

Michelle Malkin hosted the documentary “Rocky Mountain Heist” (trailer above) telling the story of the Democratic takeover of Colorado via a quartet of liberal millionaires and billionaires — known as the “Gang of Four” — in the course of a decade. Something there is that doesn’t love the documentary. Something there is that would love to erect a wall blocking the documentary before the upcoming elections. Michelle writes in her column:

Democrats here in my adopted state of Colorado did not want the new political documentary I hosted to see the light of day. They lost. This week, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals issued an emergency injunction declaring that our movie deserved the same free-speech rights as a “traditional” (translation: old-guard liberal) news organization.

One sees in this episode the totalitarian heart beating inside so-called campaign finance reform and so much of the rest of the “mainstream” agenda of the Democratic left.

As always, Michelle delivers the news with a full load of links (whole thing here). Please check it out. Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper responds to the documentary, sort of, here.

I don’t think it would take much more than another “liberal” Supreme Court justice to change the result in the case freeing Michelle’s documentary up for broadcast unconditionally before the midterm elections. Our freedom, such as it is, hangs by a few threads.

UPDATE: Here is more on the Tench Circuit order and the underlying litigation.

The surrender will not be ratified

Facing a November 24 deadline, the Obama administration is rushing to reach a final agreement surrendering to Iran in the P5+1 talks. Jennifer Rubin takes a look at recent reports and finds that the Obama administration is “Chasing a bad deal with Iran.” This shouldn’t be news; it’s implicit in the terms of the interim deal that we proclaimed as a famous victory late last year. But the desperation reflected in our current offer to the mullahs is worth noting.

Will the need to submit a final agreement for ratification by the United States Senate act as a damper on the concessions Obama is willing to make to the mullahs? There is a reason why this eventuality is never accounted for in reports on the ongoing negotiations. I believe the answer is negatory. The Wall Street Journal recently noted, for example:

Under the Constitution, the Senate is obliged to ratify formal treaties with other nations by a two-thirds majority vote. But the Iran deal would be a multiparty agreement, rather than a treaty, and thus doesn’t require Senate ratification. Most sanctions on Iran can also be lifted by executive order.

As for the sanctions relief that would accompany the surrender, see also “Obama sees an Iran deal that could avoid Congress” by David Sanger in the New York Times and also “On Iran: Congress, please step aside” by Navid Hassibi in The National Interest.

Although Sanger is focused on sanctions relief, consistent with the Journal editorial he observes in passing that an “agreement between Iran and the countries it is negotiating with — the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China — would not be a formal treaty, and thus would not require a two-thirds vote of the Senate.” I don’t know if the revolution will not be televised, but the surrender will not be ratified. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen, because Obama is working harder to obviate the need for congressional approval than to resist Iran so that he can play with with something like a free hand.

Good news from Kobani

I’ve offered mostly criticism, and only very occasional praise, for President Obama’s campaign against ISIS. I just haven’t been able to see how the president’s campaign is likely to destroy or seriously degrade the Islamist barbarians.

I’m happy to report, however, that the campaign may have prevented the fall of beleaguered Kobani, at least for now. Local officials say that ISIS has been forced to withdraw from several neighborhoods, due in part to intensified bombing by “coalition forces.”

According to John Brennan at NRO, the Pentagon attributes the increased bombing to improved ability to coordinate with Kurdish fighters on the ground and to the massing of ISIS troops in or near Kobani where they can be targeted. I suspect that a greater sense of urgency (perhaps resulting in part from political considerations) may also have played a part. In any event, the stepped up campaign is welcome news.

Brennan also reports that U.S. aircraft have dropped weapons, ammunition, and medical supplies to help the Kurdish forces in Kobani. These materials were supplied by the Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq.

This development is welcome too. In the past, we have been unwilling to arm Turkish Kurds despite the fact that they are, as Brennan says, some of the most pro-Western, secular, and effective forces in Syria.

It’s way too early to declare victory over ISIS in Kobani. But an imminent defeat, the prospect of which appears finally sparked the Obama administration into serious action, just might have been avoided.

Gay marriage vs. religious freedom, the latest installment

Two ordained ministers, a husband and wife, who perform marriage ceremonies but oppose gay marriage reportedly face a 180-day jail term and a $1,000 fine for each day they decline to celebrate a same-sex wedding.

The ministers operate a chapel in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. The city has an ordinance that prohibits discrimination, including on the basis of sexual orientation, in public accommodations. Recently, the ministers turned down a gay couple’s request to perform their marriage ceremony. They now face legal jeopardy.

It’s an indictment of the gay rights movement that these sorts of dispute arise at all. Who in his right mind would want to have his marriage ceremony presided over by someone who thinks the union is sinful? A wedding is supposed to be a joyful occasion, not an opportunity to punish one’s ideological opponents.

The Jewish community faces essentially the same pseudo-civil rights issue all the time. Many rabbis won’t preside over a ceremony that weds a Jew to a non-Jew. How do Jews respond? Not through legal proceedings. They respond the same way my daughter did when she married a non-Jew — by finding a rabbi who will perform the ceremony.

It’s unfortunate that some gay couples lack the civility to behave this way. It also suggests that gay activists are insincere when they invoke the principle of “live and let live” in support of gay marriage. Too many gay activists are authoritarian, not libertarian, at heart.

Fortunately, the law provides strong support for the Idaho ministers. Eugene Volokh argues that applying Coeur d’Alene’s ordinance to the ministers would violate the Constitution:

Compelling [the ministers] to speak words in ceremonies that they think are immoral is an unconstitutional speech compulsion. Given that the Free Speech Clause bars the government from requiring public school students to say the pledge of allegiance, or even from requiring drivers to display a slogan on their license plates, the government can’t require ministers — or other private citizens — to speak the words in a ceremony, on pain of either having to close their business or face fines and jail time.

Professor Volokh also believes that the ministers are entitled to an exemption under the Idaho Religious Freedom Restoration Act from being required to marry gay couples.

Requiring [the ministers] to violate their beliefs (or close their business) is a substantial burden on their religious practice.

And I find it hard to see a compelling government interest in barring sexual orientation discrimination by ministers officiating in a chapel. Whatever interests there may be in equal access to jobs, to education, or even in most public accommodations, I don’t see how there would be a “compelling” government interest in preventing discrimination in the provision of ceremonies, especially ceremonies conducted by ministers in chapels.

The ministers have moved for a temporary restraining order against Coeur d’Alene to stop the city from enforcing the fine and/or jail time. What a pity that it had to come to this.

Another Shining Example of Liberal Open-Mindedness

Writing about this year’s winner of the Nobel Prize for economics, Frenchman Jean Tirole, the New Yorker’s John Cassidy let’s fly with typical condescension right at the beginning:

In general, I’m not a fan of the economics Nobel. Too often, since it was first given, in 1969, it has been used to reward free-market orthodoxy, as evidenced by the plethora of prizes awarded to scholars at the University of Chicago.

Apparently it’s not enough that the Nobel Peace Prize and prize for literature are often used to endorse activist left-wing views.  The Nobel is only unsullied if it is uniformly liberal I guess.  Amazing how petulant liberals like Cassidy become when just one of the Nobels deviates from lockstep conformism with liberal conventions.

Hmm, maybe all those Chicago guys—Milton Friedman, George Stigler, Ronald Coase, etcetera*—deserved the economics Nobel because they had original and consequential insights into economic life that made a real difference in the lives of millions, unlike Nobel Peace Prize winners like Al Gore.  Friedman’s monetarism is accepted even by most left-wing governments; many liberals in the 1970s embraced Stigler’s findings about competition and regulation, and Ronald Coase’s 1961 essay “The Problem of Social Cost” remains the single-most cited law review article in history, respected by thinkers on the left as well as the right. I’ve got a hunch that Cassidy has never seriously read anything from the Chicago thinkers he disdains. Because New Yorker.

Meanwhile, if you’d like a good summary of Tirole, whose work appears forbidding and esoteric on the surface, check in with George Mason’s Tyler Cowen, who shoots about as straight as they come. Cowen likes Tirole:

It’s an excellent and well-deserved pick. . . . Overall I think of Tirole as in the tradition of French theorists starting with Cournot in 1838 (!) and Jules Dupuit in the 1840s, economics coming from a perspective with lots of math and maybe even some engineering.  I don’t know anything specific about his politics, but to my eye he reads very much like a French technocrat in terms of approach and orientation.

* Whether F.A. Hayek deserves to be considered a member of the “Chicago School” of economics is a controversial matter that I’ll leave for another time.

Jean Tirole

Jean Tirole

Ouch!

This is featured on Drudge at the moment:

Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 7.27.24 PM

The link goes to this Reuters story:

President Barack Obama made a rare appearance on the campaign trail on Sunday with a rally to support the Democratic candidate for governor in Maryland, but early departures of crowd members while he spoke underscored his continuing unpopularity.

When liberal news outlets talk about Obama in such blunt terms, things are grim. More:

Most candidates from his party have been wary of appearing with him during their election races because of his sagging popularity. …

A steady stream of people walked out of the auditorium while he spoke, however, and a heckler interrupted his remarks.

Far be it from me to kick a man when he is down, but note that those who walked out on Obama were all–presumably–Democrats. They didn’t leave because they disagreed with the president, but rather because they were bored by him. Which highlights a point I have made before: contrary to assurances the Democratic Party press has been giving us for eight or ten years now, Barack Obama is a mediocre public speaker, at best.