September 3, 2012

70-Year Cycle, going much as predicted...

Republicans outnumbering Dems. By my 70-Year Cycle theory this should have happened abut 2000. But close enough. It was clear enough then where the wind was blowing...

Paul Rahe, Another Straw in the Wind:

...A few days ago, I drew attention to a Gallup poll indicating that, for the first time in the last twenty years, Americans thought better of the Republican Party than of the Democrats. Later that same day, I pointed to a Pew Foundation poll reaffirming the drift towards the Republicans. Today, I came across further evidence pointing even more emphatically at the same conclusion.

For ten years now, Rasmussen has been studying partisan trends. Its latest survey indicates that, for the first time in that period, more Americans self-identify as Republicans than as Democrats. To be precise, 37.6% now think of themselves as Republicans -- more than in September, 2004 -- and only 33.3% self-identify as Democrats. What makes this especially interesting is that two years ago -- on the eve of the Republican blowout in the 2010 midterm elections -- 35% self-identified as Democrats and only 33.8% self-identified as Republicans...

...A landslide is what you are going to see in November. And if Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan emphasize political principles (as well as managerial competence), they will have coattails, and the Senate will be ours...

A landslide would be what the theory expects, since pressure will have built up due to the delay of the Obama interregnum. If it had not been for the trickery of running Obama as the first "black President," (he's really the first Alinskyite president) the Dems would have had nothing to offer in 2008. Or I guess they would have had the "first female president" gimmick. But those "firsts" are just a fig leaf to cover their nakedness.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:39 AM

November 28, 2011

Time's up...

Professor Jacobson, » Barney Frank retires, Democratic self-decapitation continues :

I was in the car this morning when I heard on the news that Barney Frank was retiring and would not run for re-election.

Obviously there is a lot of snark which could be thrown around, but this represents a bigger deal than Barney.  As more and more senior Democrats retire, the realization is sinking in that there is no next generation of Democrats.

The younger generation of Democrats in Congress was wiped out in 2010 (along with some senior Democrats as well).  On the eve of the 2010 elections I wrote:
The Democrats face a political decapitation tomorrow.

Dozens of senior Democratic Party leaders in the House and Senate, and in Statehouses around the country, are likely to lose.  Unlike Republicans in 2008, there is no next generation of Democratic leaders.

Who are the Democratic Party equivalents of Marco Rubio, Mitch Daniels, John Thune, Bobby Jindal, Paul Ryan or Eric Cantor?

The Republican Party has numerous rising stars.  I cannot think of a single Democratic Party rising star. Can you?
The Democratic congressional problem remains the same.  Democrats in Congress have lost both their past and their future. Barney Frank's retirement is just another example.

The model of the world and politics and economics that Dems are using—what Walter Mead calls the "Blue Model" (or "the blue beast") —is no longer workable. It's an Industrial Age model that no longer fits with reality. They don't have a future until they find a new model. And all the senior people are too old and stiff to change.

Actually it may not be age that's the problem, but success. Sometimes that worst thing that can happen to people, or organizations, is to be successful. When people find something that works, they cling to it. Whereas the person who is more-or-less a failure is open to new possibilities. That's one reason why you should read Random Jottings. I've never been accounted a success at all. Rose petals have never been strewn in my path. So I'm totally open to the possibility that everything I know is wrong. And therefore if a new idea comes along, there is at least a fighting chance that I will be able to SEE it. Unlike people who already feel they have things under control.

That's the Dem's big problem right now. They were successful in the past, and now they are stuck. This also, by the way, fits with the theory of the 70-Year Cycle. Dems were hugely successful in the 1930's. But that generation grew up in a Republican-dominated world, and so they had a lot of humility. They knew darned well that there was another model of the world. The problem in the 70-year cycle comes with the second generation. They grow up in a world whee their model is pretty much unquestioned. A person like Frank can't even imagine that his model could be dysfunctional, because he grew up among those who thought that the Blue Model it was the end-point of all human endeavor.

Some time around 2030 we will start to see significant numbers of Dems who have something new to say, and the start of a new model.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:24 PM

August 11, 2011

Verdict not yet rendered...


We're in the midst of a great four-year national debate on the size and reach of government, the future of the welfare state, indeed, the nature of the social contract between citizen and state. The distinctive visions of the two parties — social-democratic vs. limited-government — have underlain every debate on every issue since Barack Obama's inauguration: the stimulus, the auto bailouts, health-care reform, financial regulation, deficit spending. Everything. The debt ceiling is but the latest focus of this fundamental divide.

The sausage-making may be unsightly, but the problem is not that Washington is broken, that ridiculous ubiquitous cliche. The problem is that these two visions are in competition, and the definitive popular verdict has not yet been rendered.

We're only at the midpoint. Obama won a great victory in 2008 that he took as a mandate to transform America toward European-style social democracy. The subsequent counterrevolution delivered to that project a staggering rebuke in November 2010. Under our incremental system, however, a rebuke delivered is not a mandate conferred. That awaits definitive resolution, the rubber match of November 2012.

I have every sympathy with the conservative counterrevolutionaries. Their containment of the Obama experiment has been remarkable. But reversal — rollback, in Cold War parlance — is simply not achievable until conservatives receive a mandate to govern from the White House....

Well, that's how our Constitution was written. The idea was that a temporary fad or frenzy could not result in hasty changes. You might reply that that's exactly what happened in 2008. But that was a very unusual situation. And even with Dems suddenly holding the White House and massive majorities in both houses, it's interesting how little they were actually able to pass. And Obamacare itself was only pushed through with legislative trickery. And they are still relying on back-door ways such as EPA regulations to create laws they can't pass.

Plus, 2008 was tied to the one big issue that our Constitution has never been quite able to deal with--slavery and its legacy. To put it in terms of the 70-Year Cycle, the first cycle started with ignoring the issue of slavery so as too contentious to touch during the founding, the second with the Civil War, the third with the battle to end segregation.

Now we are starting the fourth cycle with the first black president, and through him the exposure of the utter bankruptcy of third cycle ideas. That should clear the decks for the next big civil rights fight, which I suspect will be over education.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:47 AM

February 9, 2011

Bye bye, DLC...

Dems Show Centrists the Door -

...The DLC's decline is one more illustration that the core of the Democratic Party apparently has decided that no course correction is needed after what President Obama called its "shellacking" in the midterm elections. The DLC helped elect and re-elect Bill Clinton, one of its first chairmen, in the 1990s by promoting support for balanced budgets, free trade, welfare reform and tough law enforcement. But the organization fell on hard times after it was seen as insufficiently confrontational with President George W. Bush. And its support of the 2003 Iraq war angered a growing militant strain among left-wing Democrats.

I vividly recall Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman visiting The Wall Street Journal in 2005 and lamenting the shrinking ranks of the party's moderates. "There are just so many on the other side," he said. "They just keep coming over that hill." Mr. Lieberman lost his 2006 Democratic primary to an anti-war challenger and had to win election that fall as an independent. Last month he announced his retirement from politics....

This fits the 70-Year Cycle Theory, which I've blogged before, exactly. Because that is exactly what happened to the Republicans in the 1930's. The Republican party seemed to continue to be vigorous, because parts of the party were filled with passionate intensity, and the Party's war-chests were filled.

But the energy at the center was moving to the Dems. Industrial workers especially were moving from the Republicans to the Dems. The Democrats also pulled off the double-whammy of gaining Northern blacks while holding Southern whites.

We hear tons of howls from the press and other Democrat outlets about how the Republicans are extremists of the fringe. That's BS.

My guess is that Dems will fail to pull off a Clintonian move to the center, and therefore will be crushed in 2012.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:53 AM

November 1, 2010

It fits the 70-Year Cycle theory perfectly...

Election 2010: A correction, not a revolution | Washington Examiner:

...So the GOP could easily gain 60 seats in this election without making any incursions onto Democratic turf.

This math should dampen the triumphant Republican talk, but it should also worry the Democrats.

The bad news for Republicans: This election isn't really redrawing the map, and it doesn't represent a fierce reaction against the Democrats. Instead, the country is returning to where it was politically before the Republicans threw away their majority in 2006 and 2008 through overspending, two wars, and rampant corruption.

The bad news for Democrats: This suggests that America really is a Republican country, with 2006 and 2008 as aberrations. It appears that the Democrats are a narrow regional party, contrary to the post-2008 conventional wisdom they had become the dominant national party....

I'm writing this post mostly for my own satisfaction; I doubt anyone else cares. But I blogged about the 70-year cycle of party dominance for a while, and then I shut up as things moved Dem-ward in 2005 or so. But that movement is looking increasingly like an aberration, as the article agrees.

The theory says that America became a Republican country starting about the year 2000. (From 1860 Republicans were dominant, and then the Dems starting about 1930.) Each cycle is about two political generations. The 70 years before 1860 don't have today's parties, but they fit otherwise, with the Revolutionary generation and then a follow-on generation stuck in old habits of thought. And then a problem that needed a new political alignment to solve.

Here's a bit I wrote in a post back in 2004...

...The book [The Nemesis of Reform] is about how the Republicans reacted to the realignment that made the Democrats the majority party in the 1930's, after Republican dominance since the Civil War. I probably won't find time to write about the book in any way that does it justice. But I've encountered a number of interesting items that seem to parallel things that are happening now.

One is that the Republicans reacted to the move leftward of the country and the Dems by moving further right! The polarization of politics increased. This was disastrous for the Republicans electorally. It seems to have happened because the most energetic Republican interest groups were those who felt most threatened by the New Deal. The energy of the party was in the "antis." And because many centrist or Progressive Republicans were supporting Roosevelt...

Well, we can see that happening again! I'm more and more thinking that the real problem to be solved in this cycle is moving government into the Information Age. And that is a deadly threat to the core of the Dem Party, who have become suicidally angry and crazy. Thereby alienating many moderate Dems, and boosting the Republicans.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:28 PM

February 24, 2007


Orrin writes, concerning Tom Vilsack's withdrawing from the race...

It's at least notable that while Mr. Vilsack's bid was always dubious there's only one thing that changed this week: he participated in the first debate and there proposed a rational reform measure for Social Security and the Left declared him beyond the Pale of their party's ideology. There is no Third Way any longer for the Democrats. It's back to the 70s.

This is very interesting if you view all this through the lens of the 70-Year Cycle. In the 1940 election, the equivalent point in the cycle to 2008, the Republicans nominated Wendell Wilkie, who had until recently been a Democrat, and a New Deal supporter! There's certainly no sign of Democrats doing something like that.

On the other hand, Wilkie was also widely (and incorrectly) perceived to be an isolationist, which matched the mood of many Republicans at that time, and many Democrats today. That fits. Wilkie was also something of a Rorschach candidate, like Obama. People could see him as whatever they were hoping for.

Wilkie and Roosevelt split over the Tennessee Valley Authority, which was one of the most fascinating projects of the US in that period. But that's a whole other topic.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:25 AM

October 30, 2006

How these things usually go....

From Hugh Hewitt, a bit of context on mid-term elections with a President in his second term...

...First, some very basic political history:

In the 1986 election, Ronald Reagan saw the Democrats gained a net eight seats in the Senate and take control from the Republicans with a 55-45 majority. The Dems added 5 House seats to increase their majority to a 258 to 177 margin in the lower chamber. For the math challenged, that is an 81 seat majority for the Dems.

In the 1974 election, the sixth year of eight Republican presidential years, the Watergate/pardon election saw Democrats add four seats in the Senate, for a total of 60 Democrats. Democrats crushed the GOP in the House, adding picking up 49 seats for a post-election day margin of 291 to 144 --a 147 seat edge!

In the 1958 election, Ike saw the democrats add 14 senators (including two from Hawaii) for a 65-35 Democratic-GOP split. The Democrats added 48 seats in the House and controlled that body by a margin of 283 to 153. Again, math fans, that's a 130 seat edge!

Now, with some facts in hand, go back and read the Post's agenda journalism. President Bush's unique electoral record is matched only by FDR's, and FDR's Democrats lost 76 House in 1938, and six Senate seats.

The Bush-Rove political legacy is already established, and even a narrow loss of both the Senate and the House would not dent it. If neither body's GOP majority is held, but the margins remain narrow, the Bush-Rove record becomes the most potent political performance in modern times for an eight year presidency, and if either or especially both are held, retire the laurels....

My personal suspicion is that we are in a transition period such as happens every 70 years or so in America. (Link to other posts.) The best comparisons are with FDR's fist two terms. (The 1860's were also such a period, but the war removed most of Lincoln's southern opponents from the game, which makes comparisons difficult.)

Posted by John Weidner at 11:53 AM

August 2, 2006

Melting down...

People are talking about this WaPo article, on the current Democrat meltdown...

Top Democrats are increasingly concerned that they lack an effective plan to turn out voters this fall, creating tension among party leaders and prompting House Democrats to launch a fundraising effort aimed exclusively at mobilizing Democratic partisans.

At a meeting last week, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) criticized Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean for not spending enough party resources on get-out-the-vote efforts in the most competitive House and Senate races, according to congressional aides who were briefed on the exchange. Pelosi -- echoing a complaint common among Democratic lawmakers and operatives -- has warned privately that Democrats are at risk of going into the November midterm elections with a voter-mobilization plan that is underfunded and inferior to the proven turnout machine run by national Republicans....

If you believe in the 70-Year Cycle in American politics, this sort of thing is only to be expected right now. But the cycle itself is an example of one of the most important human characteristics: We cling to ideas or schemes that have been successful in the past with extreme tenacity.

The Dems are failing over and over, but they can't re-think. Partly this happens in any failing organization because those who can re-think tend to leave. (Or are driven to the margins, like Zell Miller or Joe Lieberman.) So the views of the remainder become ever more concentrated and distilled.

Liberals are stuck in 1973, when everything they did appeared to work well. (Actually everything they did was propelling Ronald Reagan towards the White House, but they don't dare admit it to themselves.) Every campaign in the WoT is declared to be another Vietnamish quagmire. Every minor political scandal is sure to be the new Watergate, that will drive Republicans from the temple. Liberals portray Republicans in the same silly cartoonish way that they did Barry Goldwater. (Or even more outdated, weak, shabby and stupid, portray them as fascists and Nazis.)

Posted by John Weidner at 9:38 AM

January 9, 2006

About every three generations...

I encountered this cartoon in a history of the Roosevelt family. It's a bit of evidence for the 70-Year Cycle theory, and is the sort of thing that doesn't often get into history books. People were deranged about FDR in exactly the way they were about Lincoln, and are now about Bush.
anti-Roosevelt cartoon
I expect that few histories a hundred years from now will notice that people in well-to-do urban enclaves buy anti-Bush baby clothes...

Posted by John Weidner at 9:07 AM

November 4, 2004

Coming tasks...

Our friend Andrew Cory writes in a comment to my post on gloating:

One would think, at this point, that hearing our cries and the lamentations of our women (wymon?) would be enough for you people...

Sheesh! I hope you’re right about the best direction for this country. For the next 2 years, you’ve got everything lined up your way...

More than the next two years. If my 70-Year Cycle posts are anywhere near reality, Dems will be flailing for 20 years or so. One generation. You will have occasional gains when Republicans mess-up (depend on it, we will) but generally your percentages will keep shrinking. Democrats of my generation, currently in charge, are too old to re-think and re-build. The current leadership will probably oscillate between being faux-conservative, much like Wendell Wilkie was a faux-Republican [Note to Mrs. Clinton: Your opportunity. Learn to bake cookies, and shoot a burgler. In the back.] and being more shrill-leftist than ever, as the people most alienated by conservative victories are and will be the most energized among Democrats.

During this decade and part of the next, things will be similar to the 1930's, when businessmen and bankers moved almost en masse to the Republicans, because they hated the New Deal. This was the wrong way for the Republican Party to move at a time when industrial workers were switching en masse to the Democrats. Republicans became very energetic, but as reactionaries. All they could say was "Stop! We don't like these innovations. We are the Party of Lincoln! We should be running things, the way we always have." They were also hate-filled and cranky. It was the heyday of Father Coughlin, and many people saw FDR as a communist demon who was bent on destroying America.

Your generation gets to start rebuilding the Democrat Party. You are roughly the equivalent of the WWII generation, of the Republican generation of Goldwater, Nixon and Reagan, and thinkers like Irving Kristol and Bill Buckley...Your Jeffersonian roots are waiting to be re-discovered.

[It occurs to me that all the advice-giving going on right now is probably more irritating to Democrats than gloating. George Will: "the Democratic Party should purge its Michael Moore faction..." Yeah, like that's Sooo easy. Just build a bonfire of giant puppets and fling those guys on it.]

Posted by John Weidner at 9:19 AM

October 30, 2004

Conspiracy theories...

Andrea quoted this bit, from a Salon writer:

...I have heard it argued that if the neocon cycle is short-circuited by a Kerry victory, then the neocons will simply go back underground to nurse their wounds and reemerge with a newer and even more attractive, subtle and utterly destructive plot in four years, and people will believe them because they weren't fully exposed...
The thing you have to realize about conspiracy theories is that they are comforting, they shield the theorist from painful reality. This poor girl is comforted by the thought that the whole problem is a handful of bagel-munching Fagins with Sharon-chips implanted in their noggins. She would be very upset if she were forced to confront the fact that it's Bush who has captured the neocons, not the other way around. And that they are just one of many tools he is making use of.

And she would be terrified if she were to were realize, though I doubt if she is capable of it, that Bush and his administration are themselves but tools being used to forward certain things that need to happen at this point in our history. There are a batch of reforms and changes that have to be made now, for us to move forward into whatever strange possibilities the new century offers. America, and really the whole world, is now like a snake that needs to shed its skin if it is to keep growing.

Even if Kerry was elected, even if he chopped the heads off of everyone labeled "neocon," the "neocon plot" will continue, with only a little delay. We've already seen this in the Clinton years. Remember NAFTA? Welfare Reform? Those were Republican schemes, and Clinton was powerless to stop them, and had to make them his own.

The long decades of Democrat and Leftish political dominance have created a vacuum in our public life, which is pulling the Republicans into power. If Bush fails to lead now, the pressure will just intensify until needed chores are done by someone else. But he won't fail, I think. This moment in history has created George Bush, summoned him forth from the vasty deep to do certain jobs.

As an example, liberal Democrats have for a long time attacked (in a thousand different undercutting, undermining sneering ways that are hard to confront) our armed forces. And with them the whole idea of "national defense," and the idea that we can use our power to make the world a better place, and to fight evil. And that our country is a force for good, and that our ideas are worth defending, and spreading to other places.

But what have they really done? Their nihilism has created a vacuum, a hunger in Americans for leaders who have the faith of earlier generations. A hunger for patriotism, and to honor the sacrifices of our soldiers. If Kerry is elected, that won't go away, and Democrats won't be able to escape its force. Think of the recent Dem Convention, with all those Lefties pretending to salute Old glory with tears in their eyes. Think of Kerry on the campaign trail, praising Reagan and pretending to be a man of faith. The "plot" is everywhere.

Poor cupcake imagines that if only the "plot" were exposed, it would be foiled. But there's nothing hidden, so nothing can be uncovered. Bush explains the plot in every speech. He says what he and the Republicans are going to do, and then...does it.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:38 PM

September 25, 2004

a few paces into the jungle...

Our friend Dave often jogs me out of my rut by posting strange things. This post, quoting David Niewert on how Republicans are morphing into some sort of Gatoraide fascism, is particularly interesting. But I'm afraid I have little future as an intrepid explorer hacking through jungles....The first paragraph was all I could manage. Here are some thoughts... [Not just pot-shots for fun, this does tie in with some other things I've been writing about]

[O]ne only needs review the current state of affairs to recognize that the "conservative movement" -- especially as embodied by the Bush administration -- has wandered far astray from its original values. Just how "conservative" is it, after all, to run up record budget deficits? To make the nation bleed jobs? To invade another nation under false pretenses? To run roughshod over states' rights? To impose a radical unilateralist approach to foreign policy? To undermine privacy rights and the constitutional balance of power? To quanitifably worsen the environment, while ignoring the realities of global warming? To grotesquely mishandle the defense of our national borders?
Mr Niewert seems to have absorbed some DNC talking points, labeled them "conservative original values," and is now complaining that we are fascists for not following them!

"To run up record budget deficits?" Conservatives have often supported budget deficits, especially in wartime. Reagan used them to splendid effect, to both revive our economy and bring the Soviet Union to its knees. And those paid off so handsomely that the debt that was incurred during the Reagan years is now a trifle compared to our much-enlarged economy. Also, the current deficit is only "record-breaking" in absolute numbers of dollars; it's historically unexceptional as a percentage of the GDP. That's a deceptious argument, typically Niewertian, and calls into doubt his whole project. If making your point requires telling tricky lies, why should we pay attention?

"To make the nation bleed jobs?" That's untrue, just more Democrat-campaign BS. We always lose jobs in recessions, but the recession is now long over and our economy is growing strongly, including employment. But even if it's TRUE, what "conservative principal" is involved? Guaranteed employment? Protectionism? Those are conservative ideas? Gimme a break. Conservatives have generally supported Free Markets, and guess what—sometimes that means economic pain, and loss of jobs.

"To invade another nation under false pretenses?" That's Kerry's argument. Most American conservatives disagree with him. I disagree with him. And the legalistic "International Law" pettifoggery that underlies the argument has never been a conservative principle. Nor has the type of thinking that usually accompanies such arguments: Saddam should be treated with respect, America should be treated with suspicion and doubt. That's exactly how America-hating "anti-war" activists think. That's how Jimmy Carter thinks. Never conservatives.

"To run roughshod over states' rights?" That one has some validity; most conservatives are more federalist than the administration. Though it doesn't make them "cupcake-fascists" any more than any of his arguments. Liberal Democrats have been long-been strongly anti-States Rights, so why aren't they "fascists?" Why isn't that worrisome?

"To impose a radical unilateralist approach to foreign policy?" So, now Jaques and Kofi are conservatives? American conservatives have traditionally been unilateralists. We hated the UN from the git-go. And there's nothing particularly radical about unilateralism, (or about preemption) at a time when rogue nations can build nuclear bombs. (I'll bet Niewert doesn't even want to know about all that Iraqi Uranium recently transported to Oak Ridge.)

"To undermine privacy rights and the constitutional balance of power?" Now the ACLU is conservative? We've reduced privacy during every war, and current items are trifling compared to past wars. Conservatives accept trade-offs in these things, we are not absolutists. It's the "theorist" types, such as socialists and libertarians, who can't flex when circumstances warrant.

"To quanitifably worsen the environment, while ignoring the realities of global warming?" Now Al Gore is conservative? If Niewert actually knew what he was talking about, or cared, he would know that conservatives have been arguing against global-warming pseudo-science for decades, and against the anti-capitalist agenda that pushes it. And he would know that the administration has a good environmental record, (except in the minds of collectivists.) If Niewert actually bothered to check with some conservatives, he would discover that we care about the environment as much as the general run of Americans do, though we strongly reject the anti-human-being and nature-as-pseudo-religion arguments of environmental extremists.

"To grotesquely mishandle the defense of our national borders?" One can argue the merits of the current border policy, but it would NOT be a clear question of conservative values, which are conflicted here. Many conservatives treasure our openness to immigrants and visitors, others would like to bar the doors. But more importantly, a more vigorous defense of our borders would certainly involve reducing privacy and freedom, increasing government spending, and increasing the power of Federal bureaucracies. And Niewert thinks were are trending fascist because we are NOT doing these things? That's cuckoo.

Anyway, that's what I think of the first paragraph. Neiwert has obviously decided on his thesis, then gone looking for any argument that might support it. I'd feel foolish to have wasted this amount of time on it were it not that this is a very good example of what I've been talking about in my writings on the 70-Year Cycle in American politics. When the two parties exchange majority/minority status, many who didn't see it coming are left shell-shocked and bewildered and bitter. The world they grew up with is suddenly gone. They embrace cranky theories. Many Republicans talked just like Niewert in the 1930's, though in their case they thought FDR and the Dems were communists. And Lincoln seemed equally menacing and dangerous to many, (and, to push the argument back another 70 years, so did the Founding Fathers.)

Also, some of the things complained about are actually the Republicans now assuming positions that have always belonged to the majority party in our country. For instance, from the 1860's to the 1930's, the Democrats were the party of limited government and States-Rights, and they were the deficit valetudinarians! Seems hard to believe, but it's true. Then, during the 1930's, the Republicans took over those roles, and held them until recently, while Dems embraced active government. Now we are flipping positions again. It seems monstrous if you don't understand what's happening.

Another point that should be made. There is not, and never was, any such thing as "fascism." It is a mythical beast. Those "fascist" regimes famous in history were actually just socialism tricked out in a few scraps of conservative and nationalist and militarist rhetoric. Both types of socialism have found it hugely useful to pretend to be protecting the world against the other type. Neither have anything to do with principled conservatism.

The funny thing is, when he's not riding his hobbyhorse Mr Niewert is a lucid and compelling writer. I remember a previous essay he wrote, where he discussed delightfully the near impossibility of defining the term fascism. He explained how philosophers and scholars have spent entire careers trying to pin it down, without success. Guess why, folks.....

Posted by John Weidner at 1:55 PM

September 15, 2004

"In descendency"

Brendan Miniter has a good article in NRO, on how the Republicans have become the majority party. (He should have read Random Jottings, I've already explained it. )

The Democratic Party is in descendancy. It's not just that John Kerry's campaign is sinking like a stone, or that George W. Bush is turning out to be a resilient politician. The Democratic leadership is in electoral denial, failing to grasp a profound shift among American voters and therefore on the cusp not of winning back control of one of the branches of government, but of handing control over to Republicans for a generation or more...
"In descendency." I like the term.
....Republicans have been in the White House for 16 of the past 24 years, held a Senate majority for 14 of those years and controlled the House for the past 10 years. GOP candidates aren't winning elections by luck. The Democrats had their "Great Society" and stayed in power by handing out welfare checks. It took a long time, but Republicans discovered something more valuable to hand out, a form of personal liberty that allows individuals to create real wealth. On self-interested grounds alone, health savings accounts and private Social Security accounts are an electoral inevitability.

After 9/11, a vigorous national defense that included a string of liberation wars was inevitable too. In the sweep of history, liberty trumps command and control. And despite the pounding President Bush took in the polls before the Democratic Convention, there's little evidence that Americans are growing disillusioned with the ideas on the right...

Posted by John Weidner at 8:14 AM

August 4, 2004

Another "70-Year Cycle" thought...

In the previous post, Ron Hardin commented:

...The 70-year cycle theory unfortunately focuses on the wrong thing. What has to be accounted for is why anybody gives Kerry the time of day. Somehow absolute phoniness slips through the normal filters of half of the nation. Is this every 70 years?...
Well, yes. Exactly that. I think the Democrats have become like a religion repeating rituals which have lost their meaning. (Same for Republicans in the 30's. This is all entirely apart from whether the ideas involved are right or wrong.) It isn't just Kerry who is phony, it's the Party.

A good example is the way Democrats cling to the Civil Rights Movement. For them it's always Selma. It's like my daughter said, about her expensive private school, "Black History Month comes four times a year." Similarly, I once heard a sermon by an Episcopal minister who spoke glowingly about how his college roommate's brother, or some such, a seminary student, was killed while on a march in the South. The connection was obviously an important point of pride and validation for the minister. The victim was actually described as "an Episcopal saint!" (If he had been killed while preaching the Gospel, they wouldn't have cared a fig for him.)

At the same time they are mostly blind to the real "civil rights" battle happening now, the battle to liberate minorities from the dependence-thinking that Democrats have fostered, and to liberate them from catastrophically bad big-city public schools. Battles which Dems are on the wrong side of, and George Bush is on the right side of.

Senator Kerry is, in fact, the perfect Democrat candidate right now. He thinks political power is his by right and inheritance. He thinks the mantle of JFK and FDR will descend on him automatically. He's a millionaire bashing the rich. He can give a "Black Power salute," but has no real connection with black Americans. He claims to represent the "little guy," but is in fact contemptuous of ordinary Americans, and can't even fake it when faced with a cheese-steak, or a deer hunt, or throwing a baseball.. He, like his party, is passionately "against," but can't tell us clearly what they are FOR. The Party and the man are phony in just the same ways.

Now that I think about it, every 70-year shift in our history has involved the question of race. The generation of the Revolution and the Constitution made the decision to not tackle the problem of slavery, because the survival of the Union was more urgent. (And I think that decision was much harder than we realize, and the lack of major debate was precisely because it was the biggest hot-potato of all.) The Republicans arose in the 1850's mostly in order to deal with slavery, and the Democrats took power in the 1930's with an obvious mandate to go the next step, where the Republicans had failed. And now I think Republicans are tasked with what one hopes will be the last step...

Posted by John Weidner at 9:48 AM

August 3, 2004

Dems in action...

Brendan Miniter notes in OpinionJournal that, while Kerry is calling for a larger military, Congress is actually working on it. With no help at all from "Senator" Kerry. Also:

... Then there's the small matter of getting soldiers the body armor they need in Iraq. No one can seriously suggest that the military isn't spending enough money. The problem lies in the supply chain, which somehow isn't getting all the necessary gear to frontline troops. But once again, legislation has passed the House to help address the problem and now is in need of a champion in the Senate. And in this case it even has a snappy name, "Rapid Acquisition Authority"--snappy by Capitol Hill standards.

This legislation is very simple. It would allow the secretary of defense to bypass Pentagon bureaucracy when it comes to equipping soldiers in the field during war. This power would only kick in when a combat casualty has occurred and wouldn't authorize any additional money to be spent. We know it works, because the bill was modeled on an Army test program that successful equipped troops shortly before they invaded Afghanistan.

Mr. Kerry was given two easy ways to champion the interests of military voters recently, and be flubbed both of them. Now he's asking for their votes.

I really was planning to avoid this sort of "carping at Kerry" post, but the stuff is so, well, bizarre. Kerry could put just a little time into these things, and then claim he was actually "doing something" about the problems. Actually "accomplishing" something as a senator. He's flubbed a big chance. I guess after decades of doing nothing, it doesn't even occur to him.

For really odd, imagine this: You are a political candidate at a rally, and a sudden rainstorm leads you to borrow a nearby lawyer's office for press interviews. She sits there quietly for 90 minutes while you impose on her space, and you never even talk to her or thank her!

...Kerry and Edwards retreated to De Blassio's law office as news crews from CBS, FOX and CNN conducted interviews with both men. De Blassio said neither Kerry nor Edwards acknowledged her even though she sat quietly through the more than 90 minutes they were questioned by the reporters.

"There was no etiquette whatsoever on the part of John Kerry and John Edwards," De Blassio said. "I was just disappointed. For guys doing a small-town stump, to stop in my office and not even acknowledge me, I thought it was inappropriate."... [link, thanks to Betsy Newmark]

Inappropriate? It's crazy! Unbelievable.

It's also a very good example of the 70-Year Cycle at work. Dems are three generations removed from coming into power in the 1930's. And now they are like people who have inherited money and a place in the family business from grandpa, but have no idea how the family business really works. They value things like being on the board of the Museum of Modern Art, and imagine that that makes them superior people destined to lead. Guess what, the other shareholders are tossing them out.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:56 AM

July 13, 2004

"It is not the Republicans who need worry about voters waking up"

David Cohen writes:

...The President also has an advantage that should be glaringly obvious but is often ignored. He is the conservative candidate of the conservative party in a conservative nation. Too often conservatives act as if they agreed with the far left that the left is the natural home of the poor and middle class and some day voters will wake up to that fact and never vote Republican again. This is nonsense. Americans believe that they can succeed if they work hard and that our liberties must be zealously guarded from government.

The majority of Americans who oppose the estate tax don't do so because they are fools; they do so because of their sense of fairness. The majority of Americans who believe taxes should be low, including on the rich, do not suffer from false consciousness; they believe that people should enjoy the fruits of their labor. The majority of Americans do not want abortion on demand or gay marriage or teachers who cannot be fired from failing schools. It is not the Republicans who need worry about voters waking up, but Democrats...

It's fascinating to watch what's going on through the lens of the 70-year cycle theory. Dems now are doing just what Republicans did in the 1930's. For instance, Republicans then, after losing badly in '32, came to think they were getting stronger because they were puffed-up with a lot of angry energy. Bankers and industrialists, infuriated by the New Deal, supported the party as never before, many switching from the Democrats. The war-chests were full. They felt strong. But they were living in a dreamland. Industrialists? The Democrat strategy of appealing to Northern industrial workers was about to really kick in. 1936 would be even worse...

Right now Republicans are working hard to gain the favor of blacks and Hispanics, the majority of whom are socially conservative. The correct Democrat response would be to move to the right, to become more conservative to shore up support in these core groups. But they can't even imagine doing so, because so much of their energy now is coming from the angry kooks. Their center-of-gravity is somewhere around Whoppi Goldberg...

Posted by John Weidner at 9:56 PM

July 5, 2004


Alan Sullivan writes:

Opinion Journal is worrying about how Republicans are spending like Democrats. Any party in power is the party of big government. The only curb is frequent change in rulership. But this is no time to be switching. The opposition has staked its policy ground: multilateralism abroad and discreet collectivism at home. As usual, the electorate is asked to choose between bad and worse.
Any party in power is the party of big government. I think he's about right. But, from my musings on the 70-Year Cycle, I would tend to say that the party in power is the party of active government. Active in solving problems.

Right now the Democrats are still the party of bigger gov. But they are pretty much stymied when it comes to solving problems. They've "shot their wad," they've solved the problems (or at least fussed with them endlessly) that they were brought into power to solve, and the ones most urgent now are precisely those they can't tackle, because doing so would harm part of their coalition.

And the Republicans are being pulled into majority status because they are free to come to grips with exactly those pressing matters.

And I'm coming to think active government is inevitable, that it's what the people want. That the philosophical position of "small government" will always be a critique coming from a minority. We Americans think of our government as us, and we are no more comfortable with leaving problems alone than we are with letting our front yards turn into weed-patches.

Which is why I think Bush's emphasis on choice is very important. Government isn't going to get out of things like medical care, education, retirement, and a lot of other social-safety-net stuff. It just isn't going to happen. My preference is for smaller government, but it just isn't on the menu. So the next-best thing is to take the decision-making in government programs out of the hands of bureaucrats, and give it to the people.

I hope and pray that, after November, when a mighty victory has replenished his reserves of political capital, the President brings out the really big guns to push his various choice-based proposals.

Posted by John Weidner at 2:36 PM

May 26, 2004

More on the 70-Year Cycle...

In one of my posts on the subject of party realignment, and the theory of 70-year cycles of realignments in American politics, Lance Jonn Romanoff posted a comment and suggested the book Nemesis of Reform by Clyde Weed. I'm reading it with great interest. Thanks! (and thanks to Zev for suggesting Grand Old Party. Also very good.)

The book is about how the Republicans reacted to the realignment that made the Democrats the majority party in the 1930's, after Republican dominance since the Civil War. I probably won't find time to write about the book in any way that does it justice. But I've encountered a number of interesting items that seem to parallel things that are happening now.

One is that the Republicans reacted to the move leftward of the country and the Dems by moving further right! The polarization of politics increased. This was disastrous for the Republicans electorally. It seems to have happened because the most energetic Republican interest groups were those who felt most threatened by the New Deal. The energy of the party was in the "antis." And because many centrist or Progressive Republicans were supporting Roosevelt.

There was also an enormous failure of perception. Republican leaders couldn't really see or grasp what was happening. They failed to see that the sectional politics they knew were being replaced by class-based politics. And after their heavy defeat in 1932 they began to imagine things were getting better. Contributions were up, as bankers and industrialists reacted to Roosevelt's policies. Republicans felt energized, (and polling hardly existed then, so their data was poor.) They were utterly wrong.

I don't think the 1930's Republicans had any good short-term options. And I don't think the Democrats have any today. We are in a WAR, and Kerry and company can't fake being strong on defense. It's like Kerry trying to be a regular guy but blowing the details of eating cheesesteaks or pizza. No dice. You can't fake it. And even if there were no war, the long Democrat dominance means there is a huge and pressing backlog of reforms that haven't been done because they conflict with Democrat interest groups. Clinton tried to fudge this by being a "New Democrat." But his heart really wasn't in it, and if it had been he would have lacked the necessary support in his party.

Posted by John Weidner at 5:18 PM

May 15, 2004

70-year cycle reducks...

I wrote here about the theory that dominance of American political parties moves in a 70-year cycle, and how strong the parallels are between what we see now, and politics in the 1930's (and probably in the 1860's, though I haven't been thinking much about that.)

I've criticized the Bush-haters for being totally negative, for being only against, and not for anything. But that's exactly how Republicans were in the 1930's. Stunned and bewildered and bitter. ...
Now this story, about many Democrats wanting McCain for Kerry's veep, reminds me that Wendell Wilkie, the Republican candidate in 1940, was, until just before the campaign, a Democrat! He once caused a flap by referring in a speech to "you Republicans."

Another interesting parallel I've been meaning to blog is the Panic of 1893. That was during the time of Republican dominance, from the 1860's to the 1930's. But the Democrats held the White House, under President Grover Cleveland. However, the Democrats then were the party that was against government action to mitigate such a crisis. They were the party of small government and State's Rights. They had no real ideas or policy to deal with the situation, and the confident Republicans crushed them in the next election. The actual measures being advocated were very different from today's, but the politics were very similar to the demise of Herbert Hoover.

Does anyone know who came up with the 70-year cycle theory? It's been a part of my mental-landscape for decades, but I don't remember whose idea it is.

Also, I've added a new posting category called: 70-Year Cycle.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:25 AM

April 24, 2004

Something like an apology

I think I've been a bit too hard on various people.

The political shift that we seem to be in the midst of, with Republicans now holding House, Senate, and the Executive Branch, and many state governments, is something people like me have seen coming for the last 20 years or so. And we view it as embedded in a larger pattern of 70-year cycles in American politics.

But to many, what's happening now is the world turned upside down! It's like going outside one day and discovering that the sky is pink! No more blue sky, get used to it, pal!

We grew up in a world where Dems controlled Congress and most state legislatures as a matter of course. Where Democrats, liberals, were considered to be the "party of reform." The party of progress. The good guys! The "grown-ups" who naturally decided the nation's agenda, set the tone, and spoke with authority as of right. Their gerrymanders and committee-chairmanships were time-honored parts of political life, not shocking innovations.

I've been thinking about these lines from the Jonathan Rauch article I mentioned a couple of days ago:

...In today's era of Saint FDR, people forget that Roosevelt was, in his own day, a bitterly polarizing figure. To his adversaries, he seemed no ordinary opponent but a larger kind of menace, a radical whose determination to aggrandize Washington and himself portended an American dictatorship. Behind the mask of geniality, they saw a ruthless partisan who intended not to govern alongside the Republicans but to obliterate them...
Obliterate them! I'll bet that's just how it feels to be a Democrat right now. "Vast right-wing conspiracy" probably seems to fit the facts.

In truth, I think the changes are driven by an inevitable build-up of pressure. The article talks about how the Republicans seem to be choosing to pursue those reforms that will harm the Democrat coalition. But I think that's got things backwards.

Republicans aren't choosing the reforms, the reforms are choosing the Republicans! The reforms that are most pressing, most exciting, are precisely those the Democrats could not effect, because they would harm members of their coalition. Democrats are boxed in. The things they can do, they've already done, or at least tried. The things they can't do are becoming increasingly urgent.

I've criticized the Bush-haters for being totally negative, for being only against, and not for anything. But that's exactly how Republicans were in the 1930's. Stunned and bewildered and bitter. (Dems may be getting a bit of luck. The Republicans of the 30's endured a decade of the New Deal, and then, just then the New Deal was probably running out of steam, they got our nations' biggest war, with FDR as a splendid war-leader! No fair.) The only thing they were for was for life to return to "normal."

By the way, if anyone knows of a good book or article on how Republicans were thinking and reacting around 1932, I'd love to hear about it. All the books seem to be written about the winners.

Posted by John Weidner at 12:47 PM

April 22, 2004

"Mencken's condescension would turn to hatred..."

This article, The Accidental Radical by Jonathan Rauch, is very interesting on what Bush is up to. (Bush haters might like it also; it includes a possible scenario where all Bush's reforms fail, and he retires to obscurity!) You may have already read it, it's from last summer, and I just encountered it again.

Fascinating to me are the parallels between Bush and FDR. I've been writing about the similarities between the rise of the Democrats in the 30's and the rise of the Republicans today. But the personal similarities between the two men surprised me.

"I was a lightweight trading on a famous name, they said." That was George W. Bush, then still governor of Texas, writing in his 1999 book, A Charge to Keep. He might have been pleased to know that "they," the purveyors of conventional wisdom, had said the same of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. "A pleasant man," the pundit Walter Lippmann famously called Roosevelt, "who, without any important qualifications for the office, would very much like to be president." H.L. Mencken dismissed him as "Roosevelt Minor."

When he sought the presidency, FDR had been governor of New York for all of four years. In that brief time, he had used his natural amiability to good effect, working the state's political machinery to pass some modest but significant reforms, but he had also taken care not to be seen as radical. In the presidential race, his views appeared to be eclectic bordering on confused....

...Quite early in his presidency, as it became clear that Roosevelt would press the powers of his office to the limit and beyond, Mencken's condescension would turn to hatred, an enmity that many Americans shared. In today's era of Saint FDR, people forget that Roosevelt was, in his own day, a bitterly polarizing figure. To his adversaries, he seemed no ordinary opponent but a larger kind of menace, a radical whose determination to aggrandize Washington and himself portended an American dictatorship. Behind the mask of geniality, they saw a ruthless partisan who intended not to govern alongside the Republicans but to obliterate them...

I occasionally heard some of that hatred of FDR in things my dad said. And he was a very thoughtful and reasonable man. Once he said something about Roosevelt treating the employees on his estate very badly. Perhaps he did, but it had the flavor of an urban legend, something cherished and passed on like people now pass about some ugly quote from Rush Limbaugh...

Posted by John Weidner at 7:14 PM

April 20, 2004

Ghost of Scoop Jackson seen walking at night...

This sounds good. Via OxBlog, a new Democrat foreign policy group:

...For those of you who feel you are Democrats longing for a party that takes national security more seriously, (or even borderline Republicans discontented with both parties) a new group has formed that would love to have you as members.  The Truman National Security Project ( is a group of young foreign policy professionals dedicated to creating a strong foreign policy platform for the Democratic Party, and working to move the national security debate beyond the tired battles between Cold Warriors and Vietnam-era liberals, to create new ways of thinking about foreign policy for an age of transnational threats and terrorism...
This sounds good, and I wish them all possible success.

My guess is that the Democrats won't recover electorally until a new generation arises. But the time to start is NOW. And the means is ideas! Thinking and questioning. There's a common cliché that Republicans are slow-thinking and unreflective, (or stupid and backwards, as some would say). Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact the world of American conservatives (similar though not exactly the same as the world of Republicans) is a place of intense intellectual activity and constant debate.

It wasn't always so. The truism once had a lot of truth. The Republican Party that was swept out of power in the 1930's was complacent and hidebound. And had for a long time been coasting on the momentum of the Civil War and the economic triumphs of the latter 19th Century. It was anti-intellectual, anti-New Deal, and not excited about much, except balanced budgets.

Serious thinking about conservative ideas only became common here in the 1960's, and even then it was very much under the radar. (It's pleasantly ironic that "officially" the 60's was the decade when intellectual life moved leftwards.) It had little effect on established politicians like Nixon or Rockefeller or Ford.

Ronald Reagan was the first important Republican politician who drew on the emerging conservative think-tanks and intellectuals. He was also, in the words of Irving Kristol, "...the first Republican president to pay tribute to Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the first Republican president since Theodore Roosevelt whose politics were optimistically future-oriented rather than bitterly nostalgic or passively adaptive." And he was influential in wooing the neo-cons away from Henry Jackson and Hubert Humphrey.

"bitterly nostalgic or passively adaptive." That's today's Democrats. I remember hearing about some other new "Democratic think-tank" last year. But it's purpose was apparently to provide talking points and clever arguments for Democrat congressmen. There was no suggestion that there might be a wee something lacking in the ideas for which talking points were needed. Or that anyone might be receptive to new ideas if they were provided. I didn't find that very impressive...

As to why I would want the Democrats to make a comeback...if you have to ask, you don't know me.

Posted by John Weidner at 5:25 PM