New Zealand votes out woke Labour government by a big margin

October 14, 2023 • 9:15 am

Although if I were a Kiwi I’d probably be a member of the Labour Party, I have criticized them strongly for their education policy: a policy that has constantly tried to insinuate Māori “ways of knowing” (Mātauranga Māori ) into school science curricula (it’s fine if taught as history or sociology).  Labour has also been engaged in a frenetic bout of “decolonization,” trying to get the country to adhere to the Treaty of Waitangi (1840), which has been dubiously interpreted as “Māori get half of everything: jobs, science grants, language in publications, etc.”

This “decolonization”, particularly in schools and colleges, has gone so far that no Kiwi citizen dares oppose it for fear of demonization. Academics, for example, won’t speak up because they’ll be fired. That’s why I get a ton of emails from disaffected New Zealand academics who are afraid to speak up against the insinuation of MM into science curricula, and it’s why I write so much about it. Who else can criticize “decolonization” in NZ without risking their job? (Only retired professor!)

As I’ve also documented, New Zealand’s schools aren’t doing their jobs: they’re slipping in student performance, in student attendance, and in quality when compared to schools in similar countries like Canada, Australia, Singapore, and the U.S.  Kiwis are perfectly aware of this and worried about it, but again—they can’t object. (This decline in educational standards and accomplishment can’t be attributed solely to MM, as it’s been going on for several decades.)

But Labour, first under Jacinda Ardern (for whom I had great hopes) and then Chris Hipkins (former Minister of Education), must take the blame for what’s happened in the last six years, which includes a huge push for “decolonization.”

Apparently the public is fed up with Labour, as this report at the AP shows that Labour just lost the election, while the “conservatives” cleaned up big time (see also the report from the BBC and the live coverage at Stuff).  The new PM, Christopher Luxon, isn’t really “conservative” in the way that American Republicans are; the NZ party is are closer to American “centrism”—or so I’m told:

From the AP:

Conservative former businessman Christopher Luxon will be New Zealand’s next prime minister after winning a decisive election victory Saturday.

People voted for change after six years of a liberal government led for most of that time by Jacinda Ardern.

The exact makeup of Luxon’s government is still to be determined as ballots continued to be counted.

Luxon arrived to rapturous applause at an event in Auckland. He was joined on stage by his wife, Amanda, and their children, William and Olivia. He said he was humbled by the victory and couldn’t wait to get stuck in to his new job. He thanked people from across the country.

“You have reached for hope and you have voted for change,” he said.

Supporters chanted his campaign slogan which promised to get the country “back on track.”

Outgoing Prime Minister Chris Hipkins, who spent just nine months in the top job after taking over from Ardern in January, told supporters late Saturday he had called Luxon to concede.

Hipkins said it wasn’t the result he wanted.

“But I want you to be proud of what we achieved over the last six years,” he told supporters at an event in Wellington.

Ardern unexpectedly stepped down as prime minister in January, saying she no longer had “enough in the tank” to do the job justice. She won the last election in a landslide, but her popularity waned as people got tired of COVID-19 restrictions and inflation threatened the economy.

Her departure left Hipkins, 45, to take over as leader. He had previously served as education minister and led the response to the coronavirus pandemic.

With most of the vote counted, Luxon’s National Party had about 40% of the vote. Under New Zealand’s proportional voting system, Luxon, 53, is expected to form an alliance with the libertarian ACT Party.

Meanwhile, the Labour Party that Hipkins leads was getting only a little over 25% of the vote — about half the proportion it got in the last election under Ardern.

And in a result that would be particularly stinging for Labour should it lose the seat,

A 40% vote for National versus a 25% vote for Labour is a huge difference, especially when compared to Ardern’s landslide. The NZ public clearly heaved out the old party with alacrity. I don’t know about National’s other policies, but it has promised to reform education, cracking down on schools to improve literacy and reforming curricula. Here are National’s six highlights for educational reform:

National will:

  1. Progressively improve the adult-to-child ratio for under two year olds in early childhood education.
  2. Invest an additional $4.8 billion in school infrastructure, including $2 billion over five years for the Fix New Zealand’s Schools Alliance, and another $2.8 billion over a decade for new classrooms and schools to accommodate growth and reduce the need to impose restrictive zoning requirements.
  3. Establish a $160 million per year fund to support children with additional learning, behavioural and physical needs – allocated based on school roll and need – so schools can invest in the initiatives they believe are appropriate for their student community.
  4. Invest $150 million over four years to fund an additional six million hours of teacher aide support in classrooms, equivalent to around 1500 new teacher aides (at 25 hours per week), or an average of 600 hours per school each year.
  5. Invest $340 million over four years to deliver smaller class sizes by progressively reducing student-to-teacher ratios in primary schools. This will reduce teacher workloads and make sure children get more focused teacher attention in their foundation years.
  6. Establish at least 25 new partnership schools by 2023, including some focussed on high-priority learners such as Māori and Pasifika; children with additional learning needs; and in specialist education areas such as Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM).

A quality education can make all the difference in the future of a child. National knows how important it is for children to leave school with firm foundations in core areas, but also for parents to feel empowered to make the choices that will best suit their child’s needs.

Now #6 does address indigenous people, but it is true that Māori and Pasifika children do poorly compared to others, like whites or Asians.  So I have no objection to giving them special attention, so long as it’s not in the form of a Kiwi-an “affirmative action.” And the reform will concentrate on STEM, the area being most corrupted by decolonization.

But somehow I get the feeling that National is not going to truckle to indigenous demands that their “ways of knowing” be taught as equivalent of modern scientific ways of knowing.  We may have a substantial time to find out, too, as there is no fixed term for NZ’s prime minister: they typically leave office when they lose an election or a confidence vote (in Ardern’s case, she simply resigned claiming she was worn out).  In the 20th century, Kiwi PMs have stayed for up to 13 years.

The voters have spoken—and loudly. Stay tuned.

An update on House and Senate prognostications, and a question about the elections

August 9, 2022 • 9:30 am

FiveThirtyEight has posted its latest prognostications, which show that, in its simulations, Democrats take the Senate a little more often, but Republicans take the House a lot more often. Remember, these simulations have presumably factored in Biden’s latest legislative victory as well as the overturning of Roe and the widespread disapproval of that decision. Remember, we have 3 months to go before round #1, and 27 months before round #2, so we’re just having fun here. My question to readers is below:

The Senate:


The House:

Here’s the question. It looks like either both houses of Congress will be Republican after the 2024 elections, or the Senate will be Democratic and the House Republican. The chances that both will be Democratic seems to me almost zero.

Two hypothetical questions:

If the Senate and House are dominated by different parties, which house of Congress would you prefer be Democratic, and which Republican?


Does your answer change if the President is a Democrat or a Republican?

Let’s assume that the President (knock on wood) is a Democrat.  If the Senate were highly Democratic (60% or more), then Republicans voting as a group couldn’t filibuster to prohibit Democratic legislation from passing the Senate. But 60% Democrats is out of the question. But even if only half the Senate were Democratic, as it is now, ties on reconciliation bills could be broken by the VP’s vote.

The problem, of course, is that the question hypothesizes a Republican House, which wouldn’t vote for any bill approved by a Democratic Senate (I’m assuming near-unanimity of party votes here, which seems likely).  The ultimate result is that unless substantial bipartisanship arises, we’re screwed. And because of the President’s veto power, no Republican-initiated legislation could overcome that veto. (It takes a 2/3 vote of both houses to override a veto.)

Now let’s assume that the President is a Republican.  A Republican Senate would be the same as the Democratic Senate is now: it could pass reconciliation bills but unless there are more than 60 Republicans, which seems unlikely, they couldn’t prevent a Democratic filibuster and bring “normal” bills to a vote. And since this hypothetical includes a Democratic House, no Republican bills would be passed there anyway.

If the House were Republican but the Senate Democratic, legislation is again stymied. There is no chance of a Democratic VP breaking a tie, and even if reconciliation bills are passed by a simple majority in the Democratic Senate, they’d be voted down by the House.

In fact, under a Republican President, a split congress could never pass any Democrat-approved legislation because the President would simply veto it.

The way things look now, if the Congress is split,  Democrats could never get their agenda passed, and that doesn’t depend on the party of the President. But the same goes for Republicans.  This is because legislation must be approved by both houses of Congress, and neither party is in the mood for bipartisanship. Only the most innocuous bills could be passed.

A split Congress is a recipe for disaster, particularly if a Republican President begins issuing executive orders.

I’m so tired that I have a feeling I made a mistake, but I can’t find one.


Andrew Sullivan on the election and CRT

November 6, 2021 • 11:45 am

It seems that much of the gubernatorial election in Virginia turned on the issue of Critical Race Theory (CRT) being taught in schools. Youngkin denounced it while McAuliffe deprecated parents’ “rights” to have a say in their kids’ schooling.  After McAuliffe’s loss, upset Democrats accused the Republicans of “dog whistling”: using CRT as a cover for their racism and white supremacy.  In this week’s main article on Andrew Sullivan’s website, he notes that this criticism may have held a wee bit of truth, but in general was wrong.  His thesis:

What has happened this past week, I suspect, is that the woke revolution has finally met its match: educated parents. People can tolerate sitting through compulsory “social justice” seminars, struggle sessions, pronoun rituals, and the rest as adults, if they have to as a condition of employment. But when they see this ideology being foisted on their children as young as six, they draw a line.

I believe you can read his piece for free by clicking on the screenshot below.  But again, I urge you to subscribe if you read him frequently.

The one bit of Sullivan’s column I disagree with is the almost palpable joy with which he greets Youngkin’s victory.  Who can be happy that a Republican, particularly one who may have a covert agenda that may jibe with many Republican stands? But you could argue as well that this is a necessary wake-up call for the Democrats to reorganize, listen to the electorate, and thereby promote future victories. Only a major loss—or, in this case, the repudiation of several Woke initiatives throughout the U.S., could do that.

Dems have also argued that CRT was not being taught in Virginia schools. Well, not in the academic form, but Sullivan dispels that with some data. I’m giving a long excerpt here, for it contains links you can consult. Emphasis below is mine:

Look at recent polling. A big survey from the Manhattan Institute of the 20 biggest metropolitan areas found that the public, 54-29, wants to remove CRT concepts such as “white privilege” or “systemic racism” from K-12 education. That includes black parents by a margin of 54-38. And that’s in big cities. A new Harris poll asked, “Do you think the schools should promote the idea that people are victims and oppressors based on their race or should they teach children to ignore race in all decisions to judge people by their character?” Americans favored the latter 63-37.

And when the Democrats and the mainstream media insist that CRT is not being taught in high schools, they’re being way too cute. Of course K-12 kids in Virginia’s public schools are not explicitly reading the collected works of Derrick Bell or Richard Delgado — no more than Catholic school kids in third grade are studying critiques of Aquinas. But they are being taught in a school system now thoroughly committed to the ideology and worldview of CRT, by teachers who have been marinated in it, and whose unions have championed it.

And in Virginia, this is very much the case. The state’s Department of Education embraced CRT in 2015, arguing for the need to “re-engineer attitudes and belief systems” in education. In 2019, the department sent out a memo that explicitly endorsed critical race and queer theory as essential tools for teaching high school. Check out the VA DOE’s “Road Map to Equity,” where it argues that “courageous conversation” on “social justice, systemic inequity, disparate student outcomes and racism in our school communities is our responsibility and professional obligation. Now is the time to double down on equity strategies.” (My itals.) Check out the Youtube site for Virginia’s virtual 2020 summit on equity in education, where Governor Northam endorsed “antiracist school communities,” using Kendi’s language.

Matt Taibbi found Virginia voters miffed by “the existence of a closed Facebook group — the ‘Anti-Racist Parents of Loudoun County’ — that contains six school board members and apparently compiled a list of parents deemed insufficiently supportive of ‘racial equity efforts.’” He found Indian and South Asian parents worried about the abolition of testing standards, as well they might be. And at school board meetings, in a fraught Covid era of kids-at-home, parents have been treated with, at best, condescension; and at worst, contempt. Remember how the National School Boards Association wanted the feds to designate some protests from these angry parents as “a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes” — and then withdrew that request?

The argument continues in the piece, but I’ve given the gist. So long as teachers and schools are pushing stuff that divides the children, so long as they repudiate Dr. King’s emphasis on character rather than color, then for that long the Democrats will continue to lose. Every time a kid comes home saying that she’s learned she’s bad because she’s white, the Democrats let a vote slip away.  As Sullivan says:

. . .  if the culture war is fought explicitly on the terms laid out by the Kendi left and the Youngkin right, and the culture war is what determines political outcomes, then the GOP will always win.

Nobody here, least of all me, claims that we should soft-pedal America’s history taught in full honesty: not only its glories but its abysmal failures, including its racism and the genocide of Native Americans. The textbooks and history lesson do need to be honest. But this is America, the “gumbo of diverse ingredients” that Carville describes, and in the end kids need to see it as it is—and was.  What should be taught are the facts, leaving out the ideology of CRT.

At the end Sullivan embraces the “Youngkin version of Republicanism”, saying that “he hopes it lasts.” I don’t, for I think Youngkin, while savvy about parents and schools, has a raft of Republican horrors up his sleeve. Get set for Virginia to pass a Texas-style anti-abortion bill.

The NYT gets a reality check from the elections

November 6, 2021 • 10:15 am

I haven’t yet heard a single political pundit deny that the Democrat’s “cultural agenda” hurt them badly in Tuesday’s elections. And now the Paper of Record has hustled over to the right side of history, which is a bit further Right than it was before.

Greg Mayer sent me this link yesterday with the email header, “NYT editorial board shifts sharply to center; the real left doesn’t like the fake-left progressives.” And ’tis true! It appears that the paper’s editorial stance changed radically with the elections. This alone shows that the paper hasn’t been in touch with political reality for years. But I still don’t trust them.

Click screenshot to read, and note that this is the opinion of the Editorial Board, not an individual, which gives it considerable heft as the paper’s stand.

Read for yourself, but I’ll give a few quotes:

Tuesday’s election result trend lines were a political nightmare for the Democratic Party, and no Democrat who cares about winning elections in 2022 and the presidential race in 2024 should see them as anything less.

Familiar takeaways like “wake-up call” and “warning shot” don’t do justice here because the danger of ignoring those trends is too great. What would do justice, and what is badly needed, is an honest conversation in the Democratic Party about how to return to the moderate policies and values that fueled the blue-wave victories in 2018 and won Joe Biden the presidency in 2020.

Given the stakes for the country, from urgent climate and social spending needs to the future of democracy, Americans badly need a rolling conversation today and in the coming weeks and months about how moderate voters of all affiliations can coalesce behind and guide the only party right now that shows an interest in governing and preserving democratic norms.

I don’t think the Squad is going to like this “coalition” business. But, as James Carville keeps saying, it’s what the Democrats need to do. In fact, I think the slogan below was Carville’s:

Bill Clinton’s mantra from 1992 of “it’s the economy, stupid” is rarely out of vogue, and it certainly isn’t now. But Democrats, looking left on so many priorities and so much messaging, have lost sight of what can unite the largest number of Americans. A national Democratic Party that talks up progressive policies at the expense of bipartisan ideas, and that dwells on Donald Trump at the expense of forward-looking ideas, is at risk of becoming a marginal Democratic Party appealing only to the left.

Yes, and a slice of elite Americana who truly lost sight of what can unite Americans is the fricking New York Times!

Finally, the paper dispels what may be two misconceptions about the election. First, that the passage of Biden’s two huge spending bills will make things right for our party:

Many in the president’s party point to Tuesday as proof that congressional Democrats need to stop their left-center squabbling and clock some legislative wins ASAP by passing both the bipartisan infrastructure bill and a robust version of the Build Back Better plan, the larger social spending and environmental proposal. They believe this will give their candidates concrete achievements to run on next year and help re-energize their base.

But Tuesday’s results are a sign that significant parts of the electorate are feeling leery of a sharp leftward push in the party, including on priorities like Build Back Better, which have some strong provisions and some discretionary ones driving up the price tag. The concerns of more centrist Americans about a rush to spend taxpayer money, a rush to grow the government, should not be dismissed.

The second is related to the first, involving the liberal media’s constant bashing of Manchin and Sinema:

Democrats should work to implement policies to help the American people. Congress should focus on what is possible, not what would be possible if Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema and — frankly — a host of lesser-known Democratic moderates who haven’t had to vote on policies they might oppose were not in office.

Democrats agree about far more than they disagree about. But it doesn’t look that way to voters after months and months of intraparty squabbling. Time to focus on — and pass — policies with broad support. Or risk getting run out of office.

Well, I suppose the NYT could use as its excuse for its past editorial adherence to the Woke Democratic Platform something like this: “How did we know that Middle America embraces the middle of the political spectrum? After all, all our editors, writers, and editorial columnists said otherwise.”  That won’t wash, though, because it’s the business of a paper like the NYT to take the ideological temperature of America. What happened is that the extremists had the loudest voices on both sides. But, as surveys have shown repeatedly, people have been cowed from expressing centrist or contrarian political opinions in public, especially if these folks are on the liberal side but not especially woke. So this time they spoke with their ballots instead of their voices.

You can see the NYT editorial board, which approves of this piece, here. Note that woke editor Dean “Spineless” Baquet, responsible for the paper’s “faculty lounge” atmosphere, is not included on the board.

The illiberal Right and the illiberal Left

November 3, 2021 • 9:45 am

I was going to write about this article today, but it almost seems outmoded in light of the drubbing Democrats are taking in various places. Clearly, the extreme “progressive” wing of the party is pulling it away from victory.  Youngkin won in Virginia largely because he played up the “Critical Race Theory in School” argument, but I wouldn’t want that victory to mean that schools should stop teaching about the real oppression in American history or about the Civil Rights movement, the odious treatment of Native Americans, and so on. We just have to do this sensibly, and I hope there’s a way that’s sufficiently sensible that Republicans can’t make hay of it.

But I digress. Below is a piece written on Bari Weiss’s site by David French, identified as “a senior editor at The Dispatch a columnist for Time, and a member of Persuasion’s Board of Advisers.” And I think it’s sensible and strikes the right tone.

Click to read for free (but do subscribe to her site if you read it often). Do note Norman Rockwell’s famous painting, “The Problem we all live with” (1964), depicting Ruby Bridges, the first black child to desegregate an elementary school in New Orleans in 1960.  She faced enormous opposition, of course, as shown by the n-word on the wall, the splashed tomatoes, and the four U.S. Marshals escorting her to the classroom.

There’s an introduction by Bari that includes this:

In the essay below, David French reports on the fallout of these bills in states like Texas and Tennessee, where he lives with his family. It is there that parents have complained about Norman Rockwell’s painting The Problem We All Live With (shown above) which depicts the courageous Ruby Bridges. David suggests that in the attempt to respond to left-wing intolerance the right is creating their own.

French is a conservative—not just that, but, as he notes, “a pro-life, ideologically conservative Evangelical Christian who upholds traditional church teachings on sex and marriage.”  As he says, he has all the bona fides that should make the Right appeal to him. But it doesn’t, for he sees the Right as illiberal (French, a free speech advocate, was once the president of FIRE):

But something is going wrong on the right. An increasing number of politicians, lawyers, and activists are responding to fears of left-wing intolerance with their own efforts to censor, suppress, and cancel. They’re doing so in different places and different jurisdictionsthe very places and jurisdictions where the right is dominant and where, all too often, the echoes of America’s most painful past can still be heard.

The most prominent example of right-wing illiberalism comes from the series of so-called “anti-CRT” bills being passed in legislatures across the country.

According to a Heritage Foundation tracker, the bills have been introduced in more than 20 states and passed in seven. They promise to protect children from a divisive and hateful ideology, but they’re largely a mess. They’re vague and poorly drafted, and they leave teachers utterly confused.

This has led to Right-wing censorship that has gone too far (remember, the Left does this too, but with different books). French mentions that a member of Texas’s House Committee on General Investigating sent a letter to all school districts demanding that they reveal whether they have any of 800 “problematic” books and identify other ones. These are, of course, books that emphasize the more unpleasant aspects of America or American history.

And it also happened in French’s home state, Tennessee:

In addition to the hundreds of books listed in Texas (including “The Indian Removal Act and the Trail of Tears,” “Between the World and Me,” and “The Confessions of Nat Turner”), what other books “might” make students feel discomfort? Our local experience in Tennessee sheds some light.

I live in Williamson County, one of the nation’s most prosperous counties and a bastion of state Republican power. This summer, an activist group called Moms for Liberty filed a formal complaint with the Tennessee Department of Education alleging that four young-elementary books—“Martin Luther King Jr. and the March on Washington,” by Frances E. Ruffin, “Ruby Bridges Goes to School: My True Story,” by Ruby Bridges, “The Story of Ruby Bridges,” by Robert Coles, and “Separate Is Never Equal,” by Duncan Tonatiuhviolated the state’s new, expansive anti-CRT law.

I’d urge you to read the entire complaint. It does not refer to a single example of actual critical race theory. The objection is instead to the effect of photographs and accurate depictions of the Civil Rights Movement. Exposure to these historical details, we’re told, “makes children hate their country, each other, and/or themselves.”

If you think I’m exaggerating, here are some of the objections to “The Story of Ruby Bridges”: “Pages 20-21 show images of white people yelling and protesting with accompanying text, ‘The crowd seemed ready to kill her.’” And: “Pages 12-13 show more white protestors surrounding Ruby and reads ‘Men and women shouted at her. They pushed toward her.’”

To be clear, the complaint is complaining about photographs and descriptions that depict what life was actually like for black Americans living in the Jim Crow South.

The many problems with  “Ruby Bridges Goes to School,” according to the complaint, include “photographs of a neighborhood sign that reads ‘WE WANT WHITE TENANTS IN OUR WHITE COMMUNITY’ and a smiling white boy holding a sign that says ‘We wont [sic] go to school with Negroes.’”

The complaint also takes issue with Norman Rockwell’s painting The Problem We All Live With, which depicts Ruby Bridges walking to school with the “n word” in the background and originally appeared, in 1964, in Look, a general-interest magazine published in Des Moines, Iowa. That’s right: They’re complaining about Norman Rockwell.

These people don’t want to face up to the fact that there are unsavory parts of American history. I shudder now to think how my own secondary-school texts glossed over the problem of civil rights and the genocide of American Indians. French ably defends the view that this history needs to be taught:

Why would parents appeal to a law meant to combat critical race theory to censor deeply troubling but wholly uncontroversial books? Because the law allows them to do just that. It bans any “concept” that  “promot[es] division between, or resentment of, a race, sex, religion, creed, nonviolent political affiliation, social class, or class of people.”

This extraordinarily subjective standard permits parents to object whenever their children express anger or discomfort.

There is no question that stories of American segregation are difficult to hear, but when they read about Ruby Bridges or Martin Luther King Jr., children are reading about national heroes. Consider Rockwell’s painting. That young girl, in all her courage, is an example for us all. And if one doubts the need for instruction about racism, one need only read recent stories from the same school district in the same county. For example, in 2019, the Tennessean reported that white middle school students locked arms in a hallway to form “Trump’s wall” and let only white kids pass.

Appropriately, my friend and William and Mary classmate Jim Batterson, who comments here, just sent me an email and photo when I was writing this. This typifies the everyday racism that obtained in Virginia when we went to school. He was in Newport News, I in Arlington. His class of 550 students had just three African-Americans and two Hispanics. Jim said this (posted with permission):

Here is a pic from my 1966 high school yearbook showing the cafeteria staff. Please notice that all are black with the exception of the cafeteria manager and that all blacks are listed by first name while the white cafeteria manager is given the honorary prefix “Mrs.” and no first name…a sign of respect for an adult. I expect things were the same at your northern Virginia high school. I think this is a good and simple example of racism. I also have a pic of custodial staff that is captioned similarly.

and the custodians—same deal:

It’s this kind of historical racism that kids need to learn about, and that we can’t let go down the drain because of the “CRT” fracas.  In the end, French also calls out the illiberal Left as well:

America is confronting two powerful illiberal movements, and where you stand on their relative threats can depend greatly on where you live. If you’re a conservative professor or student under fire in the elite academy, the travails of elementary school teachers in a Nashville suburb aren’t much on your mind. You’re fighting for your reputation and career against some of the most elite and powerful cultural forces in the United States.

But if you’re the parent of a black child who comes home in tears explaining that she wasn’t allowed past “Trump’s wall,” if you later witness a member of a school board audience shout “you’re in the South” when another parent laments the omnipresence of Confederate symbols, then the struggles of Ivy League conservatives don’t have much purchase.

And the consequences, which we’ve seen this morning:

But might does not make right, and if we use power punitively, then we create a nation of warring illiberal jurisdictions. Many of the same people who flex their muscles in Red America to pass expansive and vague anti-CRT laws cry foul when Blue America forces public school teachers to use preferred pronouns.

I remember, years ago, when I began my First Amendment litigation career, hearing FIRE’s two founders, Alan Charles Kors and Harvey Silverglate, challenge the idea that Americans were “too weak to live with freedom.” They believed that you trained even young Americans to venture forth in a pluralistic nation with confidence in their ideas and the fortitude to weather dissent.

That means encountering teachers and teaching you may not like. It means encountering words that trigger strong reactions. And, parents, that even means sometimes helping your children learn difficult truths and to question or even unlearn lessons they’ve learned at school. It’s not an easy path, but it’s a better path than the one we’re on nowwhere scholars are under fire from left and right, and in some schools even Norman Rockwell is out of bounds.

And that is an eloquent ending.

Republic Youngkin wins governorship of Virginia; country is doomed

November 3, 2021 • 5:45 am

This race was neck and neck to the bitter end—and the end is bitter. Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia gubernatorial race. Youngkin is a businessman with no political experience, but that didn’t matter: he leveraged Trump’s (lukewarm) support as well as issues around school “wokeness” to unify the G.O.P. Although the votes haven’t all been counted yet—that would be on Friday—the AP was confident enough of Youngkin’s margin that it called the election for him only a few hours after the polls closed yesterday.

Here are the figures from CBS News as of 5:30 a.m.

In case you can’t do subtraction, Youngkin won by 2.2%.  This is especially disheartening because Virginia has been a reliably blue state for a decade, and was getting more so. Now we’re back to square one.

More bad news (at least temporarily) from New Jersey: the incumbent governor, Democrat Gov. Philip D. Murphy, who was predicted to win handily, is in a too-close-to-call race against his Republican opponent Republican Jack Ciattarelli. And there are a million more Democrats than Republicans registered in that state! But there’s still hope. Here are the NJ votes, also from CBS:

The good news:  Democrat Michelle Wu became mayor of Boston, the first Asian-American and first woman to hold that post, and in New York City Democrat Eric Adams became the mayor, heavily supported by the black and Hispanic community.

But all this shows not only the polarization of America, but the slipping hold that out-of-touch Democrats have on the populace, something that many people have warned about in recent weeks. What is going on? Biden isn’t doing that poorly, despite his low approval ratings, and I’m confident that his two big bills, which will benefit working people, will pass.

I’m not a pundit, but there’s a clue in these two excerpts from the CBS report:

Exit polls indicated that just over half of voters said parents should have “a lot” of say in what is taught in their child’s school. In the final weeks of the campaign, Youngkin capitalized on McAuliffe’s response during a debate on whether parents should be able to opt their children out of reading certain books if they disapprove of the content. “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach,” McAuliffe said. Youngkin quoted McAuliffe repeatedly on the campaign trail and in ads. It resonated with Youngkin’s supporters  — 8 in 10 think they should have “a lot” of say in their children’s schooling. Only a quarter of McAuliffe voters agreed. Pre-election polls found this issue energized many Republicans. Slightly more Youngkin voters selected education as their top issue, compared to McAuliffe backers.

. . . In Minneapolis, voters rejected a ballot measure that would have dismantled the police department and created a new Department of Public Safety. In the city’s mayoral race, embattled incumbent Jacob Frey led in the first round of ranked-choice voting, according to the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office.

. . . In Buffalo, incumbent Mayor Byron Brown, who lost the Democratic primary to Democratic Socialist India Walton, ran a write-in campaign against Walton. A poll last week by CBS Buffalo affiliate WIVB had Brown leading by 17 points, and he appeared to be leading by 10,000 votes as of Tuesday night, according to WIVB.

A writ- in Democratic is beating the official Democratic candidate! Crikey!

The conclusions, as James Carville and Andrew Sullivan (and many others) have been telling us: the Democrats are out of touch with mainstream Americans, and the party’s movement toward the “progressive” Left—with its attendant crazy wokeness—has turned off the average Joe and Jane. This is just my guess, and of course it plays into my own prognostications, which is why I favor this explanation. But there are certainly many reasons the Republicans did so well.

But one thing is for sure: this should make us plenty worried about the return of Trump in 2024, as well as the midterm elections next year.If Democrats don’t learn a lesson from this, if they don’t stop the progressive craziness, if they don’t do something about immigration, then we liberals will be screwed, with all three branches of government in Republican hands.

My solution: make James Carville the chief strategist of the Democratic Party. He knows how to deal with the wokeness that’s causing our downfall.

To cheer yourself up, listen to Michelle Wu’s victory speech in Boston (13 minutes):

Discussion: Impeachment trial

February 13, 2021 • 11:00 am

I have no particular expertise—much less knowledge—about the second Trump impeachment trial, as I watched virtually none of it save the videos and thus can’t weigh in. All I can say is that I wish that the Democrats had made the indictment broader, as I indicated this morning in the Hili dialogue. Regardless, from what I know, I would vote to kick the s.o.b. out.

I’m also not sure what bearing a conviction has on his ability to hold future office. In truth, I’m also not sure—narcissist that he is—that he even wants future office. He may just be content with the role of “elder GOP statesman” for his fawning, slavering minions. But he’ll remain a danger so long as he has any political influence.

If you’d like to say your piece on the proceedings, or on the unlikely outcome that he’ll be convicted, by all means weigh in below. Will he be barred from office? How many Republican senators will vote for his conviction? Mitch “666” McConnell has remained strangely silent in the last several days; could it be that he’s rounding up 17 Republicans to vote for conviction, hoping to save the reputation of his party?

Whoops, cancel that. I just saw this on Twitter:

My friend Betsy sent me a New York Times summary of the defense’s case, which she found amusing in this description of one of Trump’s hastily-assembled team of lawyers:

“A personal injury lawyer whose Philadelphia law firm solicits slip-and-fall clients on the radio and whose website boasts of winning judgments stemming from auto accidents and one case “involving a dog bite,” Mr. van der Veen proceeded to lecture Mr. Raskin, who taught constitutional law at American University for more than 25 years, about the Constitution.”

If that isn’t snark in the news, I don’t know what is.

van der Veen, from the NYT. Credit: Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Impeachment articles drawn up by House, as well as request for Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment

January 11, 2021 • 1:00 pm

Just a a couple of hours ago, the House of Representatives introduced a motion to impeach the “President” for the second time. Click on screenshot to go to the pdf:

There’s one article: “Incitement of insurrection,” but that includes not only his speech to the protestors before they bum-rushed the Capitol, but also his sleazy phone call to Georgia’s Secretary of State, urging him to “find more votes” to overturn the state’s electors.

There’s also this resolution, based on the same data, calling for Pence to get the 25th Amendment rolling and call on Trump to resign, forcing him if he balks (click on screenshot):

House Republicans objected to the second measure, but they’re in a minority, so if that resolution comes to the floor, it will pass. But it’s toothless, for it has no power to force Pence to do anything. The NYT gives more details:

As expected, Republicans objected to a resolution calling on Mr. Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment, meaning that the House would have to call a full vote on the measure, most likely on Tuesday. Democratic leaders were confident it would pass, and pressured Republican lawmakers to vote with them to beseech the vice president, who is said to be opposed to using the powers outlined in the Constitution, to do so.

It was a remarkable threat. If Mr. Pence does not intervene “within 24 hours” after passage and the president does not resign, House leaders said they would move as early as Wednesday to consider the impeachment resolution on the floor, just a week after the attack. Already more than 210 Democrats have signed onto the leading charge, just shy of a majority of the House. Several Republicans were said to be considering voting to impeach for the first time, though party leaders were opposed.

I think there are grounds for invoking the 25th Amendment, as Trump is clearly incapacitated by some mental affliction, but this is a futile gesture. I have more hope for (and approval of) the impeachment, but with the proviso that if the House passes it (and it will), they wait a while before sending it to the Senate before trial. That would prevent Biden’s first days in office from being tied up in a fractious impeachment trial, and allow him—as, I believe, he wishes—to get going with his legislation. And we need him to get going, for we don’t know if he has longer than two years of a Republican Senate.

As they say every decade, “We live in interesting times.” But I never imagined I could see the day when a fascist could hold the reins of power and command his minions to storm the Capitol building. This is worse than Nixon, which is the worst I’ve seen since I’ve been alive.