Why the Gallup Poll Means Deep Trouble for Hillary

Gallup headlines: Obama Approval Drops Among Working-Class Whites. Here, “working class” includes all non-college graduates, some 60-65% of the adult white population. Gallup’s chart shows President Obama’s approval rating among white college graduates and non-college graduates from the beginning of his administration to the end of October. His 27% approval rating among non-college graduates is indeed striking:

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But perhaps more important is Obama’s steep decline within that demographic. Since he took office, Obama’s approval rating has dropped 13 points among college-educated whites, but a remarkable 21 points among the non-college educated. Why the difference?

Our liberal friends, contemptuous of working-class whites as always, will say it is because Obama is black. But that is wrong: we are talking about the decline among those who approved of Obama when he was newly-elected. They didn’t become racists over the last six years. What did happen? They bore the brunt of Obama’s failed economic policies.

The Obama administration has been bad for higher-income Americans, but not disastrous. Quantitative easing has re-inflated the stock market, and middle-aged “knowledge workers” have suffered less than other groups. But for the working class, there is nothing good to be said about Obamanomics: high unemployment, a scarcity of full-time work, skyrocketing prices of food and fuel, more expensive health care, anemic economic growth, and wage decline caused in part by competition with unprecedented numbers of legal and illegal immigrants. What’s to like? Nothing. I think the Obama economy accounts for the steeper decline in his approval among non-college graduates.

Why is this bad news for Hillary Clinton? Because Obama’s economy has been even worse for minority members of the working class than for whites. The only reason why African-Americans and Hispanics express a higher opinion of Obama than whites is that, understandably, they see him as their guy. If they responded to pollsters in a manner consistent with their actual experience of Obamanomics, the president’s overall approval would be in the basement.

When Hillary runs in 2016 as the heir of Obama’s liberal economic and immigration policies, she will not have that built-in advantage with minorities. There is no reason why any substantial number of working-class people, white or minority, would wish for another four years of Obama’s policies. Nor–to put it delicately–is there anything about Hillary’s persona that will endear her to the majority of such voters.

So I think we can expect a backlash against Obama’s economic and immigration policies in 2016 that will take pundits–not to mention Hillary–by surprise.

Yes, the process in Wilson’s case was unusual, but it didn’t favor Wilson

Because the evidence seems to support the grand jury’s “no bill” ruling in the Darren Wilson case, critics and protesters have focused on the grand jury procedure. They argue that it was highly unusual, and they are right.

Normally, prosecutors try to guide a grand jury towards an indictment. Almost invariably, prosecutors succeed. Hence the cliche that a prosecutor can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich.

In this case, though, the prosecutor did not get an indictment. Nor, from all that appears, did he attempt to get one. If anything, he may have steered the grand jury away from indicting Wilson.

It is natural, therefore, that those who want to see Wilson prosecuted are crying foul on procedural grounds. However, on closer examination, it becomes clear that if anything Wilson was a victim, not a beneficiary, of the unusual procedure in his case.

To see why, we must begin by recognizing that, although prosecutors can “indict a ham sandwich,” they rarely do so. Why would they?

Prosecutors push through indictments when they believe a party has committed a crime and that they have a decent shot of proving so in court. If they believe a party is innocent of criminal wrongdoing and/or that they will lose at trial, prosecutors typically don’t initiate criminal proceedings before a grand jury. Why would they?

In Wilson’s case, the prosecutor obviously believed that Wilson should not be prosecuted. Normally, then, he would not have initiated criminal proceedings at all or, at most, he would have held a perfunctory hearing that resulted in no indictment.

Instead, the prosecutor held an elaborate grand jury proceeding. Meanwhile, Wilson remained uncertain about his fate for months.

Viewed in this light, we see that the true irregularity here was not a grand jury proceeding that produced no indictment. The true irregularity was a drawn out grand jury process involving a potential defendant the prosecutor thought was innocent.

Why did the prosecutor proceed in this unusual fashion? Because the case was racially super-charged. As such, letting Wilson off without the imprimateur of the grand jury would have been politically unacceptable.

The loser was Wilson who, under regular procedure, would not have gone through this process. The winner, or so the prosecutor could argue, is the public. It has the benefit of a full record from which to draw its own conclusions about the case.

The Brown family and its supporters neither win nor lost. The end result — no trial — is the same as it would have been if the prosecutor had not taken the case to the grand jury.

In sum, there is no sound basis for complaining that Wilson benefited from the unusual procedure followed by the prosecutor. If there’s a valid complaint by the Brown family and its supporters, it would have to be on the merits — i.e., that based on the evidence the prosecutor should have decided to prosecute Wilson and pushed through an indictment.

I haven’t reviewed all of the evidence. From what I gather, though, the forensic evidence tended strongly to support Wilson’s innocence, while the eyewitness testimony was conflicting at best (from the standpoint of a potential prosecution).

If so, there is no real basis for criticizing the prosecutor for not wanting to prosecute.

America’s first socialist republic

We provided the platform launching Professor Paul Rahe into the blogosphere. He is one of the country’s most distinguished scholars, but he has also proved to be a natural blogger as well. He now posts at Ricochet. In view of his study of Republics Ancient and Modern, Professor Rahe is the academy’s foremost authority on the history of republics. Although his more recent work on “soft despotism” (cited below) was not far from his Thanksgiving reflections when he wrote this column for us in 2009, neither was his older work on republics:

On Thanksgiving, it is customary that Americans recall to mind the experience of the Pilgrim Fathers This year, it is especially appropriate that we do so–as we pause, in the midst of an economic maelstrom, to count our remaining blessings and to reflect on the consequences of our election of a President and a Congress intent on “spread[ing] the wealth around.”

We have much to learn from the history of the Plymouth Plantation. For, in their first year in the New World, the Pilgrims conducted an experiment in social engineering akin to what is now contemplated; and, after an abortive attempt at cultivating the land in common, their leaders reflected on the results in a manner that Americans today should find instructive.

William Bradford, Governor of the Plymouth Colony, reports that, at that time, he and his advisers considered “how they might raise as much corn as they could, and obtain a better crop than they had done, that they might not still thus languish in misery.” And “after much debate of things,” he then adds, they chose to abandon communal property, deciding that “they should set corn every man for his own particular” and assign “to every family a parcel of land, according to the proportion of their number, for that end.”

The results, he tells us, were gratifying in the extreme, “for it made all hands very industrious” and “much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been.” Even “the women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn; which before would allege weakness and inability; whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression.”

Moreover, he observes, “the experience that was had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years . . . amongst godly and sober men, may well evince the vanity of that conceit of Plato’s and other ancients applauded by some of later times . . . that the taking away of property and bringing in community into a commonwealth would make them happy and flourishing.” In practice, America’s first socialist experiment “was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort.”

In practice, “the young men, that were most able and fit for labor and service, did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children without any recompense. The strong, or man of parts, had no more in division of victuals and clothes than he that was weak and not able to do a quarter the other could; this was thought injustice. The aged and graver men to be ranked and equalized in labors and victuals, clothes etc., with the meaner and younger sort, thought it some indignity and disrespect unto them. And for men’s wives to be commanded to do service for other men, as dressing their meat, washing their clothes, etc., they deemed it a kind of slavery, neither could many husbands well brook it.”

Naturally enough, quarrels ensued. “If it did not cut off those relations that God hath set amongst men,” Bradford notes, “yet it did at least much diminish and take off the mutual respects that should be preserved amongst them. And [it] would have been worse if they had been men of another condition” less given to the fear of God. “Let none object,” he concludes, that “this is men’s corruption, and nothing to the course itself. I answer, seeing all men have this corruption in them, God in His wisdom saw another course fitter for them.”

The moral is perfectly clear. Self-interest cannot be expunged. Where there is private property and its possession and acquisition are protected and treated with respect, self-interest and jealousy can be deployed against laziness and the desire for that which is not one’s own, and there tends to be plenty as a consequence.

But where one takes from those who join talent with industry to provide for those lacking either or both, where the fruits of one man’s labor are appropriated to benefit another who is less productive, self-interest reinforces laziness, jealousy engenders covetousness, and these combine in a bitter stew to produce both conflict and dearth.

Paul A. Rahe holds the Charles O. Lee and Louise K. Lee Chair in the Western Heritage at Hillsdale College. He is the author, most recently, of the companion studies Montesquieu and the Logic of Liberty: War, Religion, Commerce, Climate, Terrain, Technology, Uneasiness of Mind, the Spirit of Political Vigilance, and the Foundations of the Modern Republic and Soft Despotism, Democracy’s Drift: Montesquieu, Rousseau, Tocqueville, and the Modern Prospect.

Lincoln’s Thanksgiving

Lincoln’s famous Thanksgiving Proclamation of October 3, 1863, was drafted by William Seward and signed by Lincoln. The Union’s victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg lay in the background; the Gettysburg Address was to come the following month.

The proclamation pronounced the last Thursday of November “a day of Thanksgiving and Praise.” In it Seward seems to have reached to capture Lincoln’s thought; the proclamation strikes several Lincolnian themes. A copy of the proclamation signed by Lincoln is accessible online here; Andrew Malcolm sets the proclamation in context here.

Lincoln proclaims: “It has seemed to me fit and proper that [the gracious gifts of the most high God] should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.” Yet the proclamation closes with a move beyond gratitude toward repentance and charity: “And I recommend to [all Americans] that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.”

White Thanksgiving [Updated]

Here in Minnesota, we don’t have any worries about a white Christmas. It’s been white for quite a while. Cold, too: early this morning, my car thermometer read zero degrees. It’s beautiful if you are looking at it from indoors:

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As always, weather aside, we have much to be thankful for this year. No doubt you do too. So, to all of our readers who are celebrating the usual holiday and not Genocide Day–life is too short to deal with that again–we say:

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UPDATE: Now, this is funny! Click to enlarge:

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U.S. air support minimal as ISIS pushes deep into Ramadi

ISIS has intensified its push to capture Ramadi, a city of nearly half a million people and the capital of Anbar province:

Islamic State fighters on Tuesday penetrated to the core of Ramadi, the provincial capital of Iraq’s largest province, prompting local security officials to warn that the city was on the verge of falling to the extremists. Such a gain would be the Islamic State’s most significant victory in months.

An ISIS takeover in Ramadi would, indeed, be huge:

Ramadi is one of the last pockets of government control in Anbar, the province that abuts Baghdad on the west and the scene of some of the bloodiest battles waged by American troops during the U.S. occupation of Iraq from 2003 to 2011

Consolidated control of Anbar would open up Islamic State supply routes to Syria and would position the group for an advance on the Iraqi capital. 

Fortunately, local security forces and Sunni tribesmen have offered fierce resistence in Ramadi against ISIS. In fact, despite ISIS’s penetration to within meters of the government’s compound, the local forces appear thus far to have repelled the enemy.

U.S. air strikes had been instrumental in helping to kee ISIS at bay. Without such support, the defenders of Ramadi have said they cannot hold out.

Unfortunately, during the recent rounds of fighting, U.S. air support reportedly was minimal. Local officials say they were told that U.S. aircraft are occupied on other fronts. It’s difficult to imagine what front is more critical right now than Ramadi, the site of some of the most intense fighting by U.S. troops during our war against al Qaeda in Iraq.

U.S. Central Command confirms the paucity of U.S. bombing. A spokeman said that the U.S. made two attacks on ISIS in the Ramadi area during the period from Friday through Monday. On Tuesday, it carried out one additional strike.

We have noted before that the U.S. bombing campaign against ISIS fails remotely to approach the intensity of our efforts during the early days of the Afghanistan war or during the Kosovo campaign. Even so, our failure to average even one raid per day while ISIS came close to overrunning the defenders of Ramadi is shocking.

The fight for control of Ramadi continues. Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi pledged today to send more support to Ramadi. Let’s hope that President Obama steps up U.S. support in the form of air strikes.

Who would be Obama’s Secretary of Defense?

Not Michèle Flournoy. She has ruled herself out. Reportedly, her goal is to be Hillary Clinton’s Defense Secretary.

In theory, holding the position under President Obama doesn’t preclude holding it under Clinton. Moreover, it is far from certain that Clinton will ever be in a position to offer Flournoy the job. But she must believes that running Obama’s Pentagon is a toxic gig.

Not Sen. Jack Reed, another frequently mentioned possibility for the job. He has said he “does not wish to be considered for secretary of defense or any other Cabinet position.”

The MSM wants to attribute the reluctance to serve as Obama’s Secretary mainly to the fact that Obama doesn’t listen much to cabinet members. This, very likely, is a factor.

However, Obama’s tendency to rely on his inner circle of White House advisers and, above all, himself isn’t new. Yet until now, he apparently hasn’t had difficulty filling the Secretary of Defense position. Nor is there any indication that he struggled to find someone willling to be his Attorney General.

What, then, has changed that relates specifically to the Pentagon?

The obvious answer is that Obama has formulated a no-win strategy against ISIS. He assigned the Pentagon with responsibility for degrading and ultimately destroying the terrorist outfit, but refused to authorize measures that might accomplish the job.

Obama has also slashed the Defense Department budget. No self-respecting member of the defense establishment thinks that’s a good idea. Even Chuck Hagel seems finally to have figured out that it’s not.

In short, Obama’s defense and national security policy is bankrupt. Only a hack would want to be a party to it.

Hacks are in no short supply, so Obama will find his man or woman. But Obama’s selection will be discredited at the outset by the unwillingness of Flournoy and Reed to be considered.