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Blog - Election Watch 12

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Election Watch Podcast #3: Obamacare and Trayvon Martin

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31 March 2012


Something for the weekend: Luke and I have put together a brand new podcast for you guys. This week we're talking about the Trayvon Martin case and the Supreme Court's consideration of the Affordable Care Act. Listen in the widget below!


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How will Justice Kennedy vote?

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29 March 2012


Justice Kennedy

Tuesday's oral arguments were a cruel two hours for the Obama adminstration and supporters of the health care bill. The four key votes in the case, Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Alito, Scalia, and Kennedy, seemed all too willing to accept the petitioner’s claim that the individual mandate represents an unprecedented and troublesome expansion of governmental power. At the start of the day, most legal experts believed that the Obama administration's arguments would prevail; now, all bets are off.

An especially interesting wrinkle in the case has always been Justice Kennedy and Justice Scalia's embrace of broad federal powers in Gonzales v. Raich. In the 2005 case, which in many ways parallels the one currently before the Court, the two Justices joined the more liberal wing of the Court in ruling that Congress had sufficient power under the Commerce Clause to prohibit individuals from growing medicinal marijuana for private consumption.

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Liberals hoped that this ruling might compel even the very conservative Justice Scalia to uphold the law. Unfortunately for them, that no longer appears likely. Undeterred by the spectre of Raich, Scalia all but announced in oral arguments that he was going to vote to strike down the indvidual mandate.

Justice Kennedy was a bit less transparent. He declared that the "mandate fundamentally changes the relationship of a citizen with the government" but near the end of oral arguments seemed to entertain the idea that the consequences of the uninsured on the national health care system might make this case unique.

Reading the tea leaves in these cases is often a fruitless task, but, since I couldn't resist, I went over the transcript from Gonzales v Raich and compared the two Justice's statements from oral arguments to the votes they ultimately ended up casting. If Justice Kennedy-or perhas even Justice Scalia-appeared sceptical of the constitutionality of the law but eventually upheld it, perhaps they might do the same thing in the current health care case.

Despite ultimately siding with the federal government, Scalia did draw attention to several perceived holes in their argument.

“I mean, in these other... in these other cases, Congress presumably wanted to foster interstate commerce in wheat, in Wickard v. Filburn. Congress doesn't want interstate commerce in marijuana. And it seems rather ironic to appeal to the fact that home-grown marijuana would reduce the interstate commerce that you don't want to occur in order to regulate it. I mean, you know, doesn't that strike you as strange?”

However, far from contradicting his vote in the case, Justice Scalia's line of questioning actually makes a lot of sense given the concurring opinion he ended up writing. While Justice Stevens's majority opinion relied heavily on rationale of Wickard v. Filburn, Justice Scalia's concurrence focused more exclusively on the Necessary and Proper clause. In this context, it seems doubtful that Scalia had a change of heart between oral arguments and voting, but rather that he was trying to convince the other Justices of his own rationale for upholding the government's regulation.

At numerous other points, Justice Scalia appeared outwardly supportive of the federal government's position. He mentioned that the prohibition of marijuana appeared similar to an existing prohibition on the possession of endangered eagle feathers. In that instance, Congress had explained that there was no way of determining whether the feathers came through interstate commerce or not. Obamacare supporters who still cling to the irrational hope that Justice Scalia might uphold the mandate probably won’t take much solace in the oral arguments from Raich. Justice Scalia showed a sympathy for the Bush administration’s argument that was wholly absent from his line of questioning in the health care case.

Justice Kennedy was coyer. Many of his comments in Raich were clarifying questions, asking the lawyers to expand on statements they had made. But, the few viewpoints he did express offered cautious support for the federal government's position. Once, he reminded Bush’s Solicitor General of a case that would support their argument. He also hinted several times that the mere possession of marijuana might constitute economic activity, and that its "fungibility" made it difficult to establish whether it came through interstate commerce or not.

Kennedy voiced concern on Tuesday that the individual mandate could justify a whole host of new federal powers, but he never expressed similar worries over allowing the federal government to regulate private marijuana use within the home. All indications are that he sees the Obama adminstration's argument in the current case as at least somewhat weaker than the Bush's administration's argument for a blanket prohibition on marijuana. In Justice Kennedy’s eyes, Raich may be more or less in line with traditional congressional regulation of economic activity, while Obamacare is an unprecedented use of Commerce Clause power.

Of course, none of this means that Justice Kennedy is a sure bet to strike down Obamacare, only that he sees it representing a somewhat troubling intrusion on indvidual autonomy and state sovereignty. I could see Justice Kennedy going either way. He obviously seems troubled by the idea of government mandates, but, as others have pointed out, the outcome of the case might well hinge on whether he thinks he can uphold the law and still identify clear limiting principles that would restrain the government in the future.

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Do the oral arguments matter?

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28 March 2012


The Supreme Court has now heard two days of oral argument on whether the Affordable Care Act is constitutional, and experts are inferring, from the thrust of the justices' questioning, that the outlook for Obama's signature reform is grim. Here's Sarah Kliff, for instance:

Going into Tuesday morning’s Supreme Court arguments, there was decently widespread agreement that the health reform law’s mandated purchase of insurance would survive the Court’s questioning. One poll released Monday, of 69 former Supreme Court clerks and attorneys who had argued there, found that 65 percent expected the provision to be upheld. On InTrade, odds hovered just about 67 percent.

But when the Court let out after two hours of oral arguments on the individual mandate, observers seemed a lot less certain. Jeffrey Toobin told CNN that he thought the arguments were a “trainwreck” for the administration, predicting now that the provision would get struck down. Donald Verrilli, who represented the Obama administration, stumbled over his words in his opening statement while Paul Clement, representing the law’s opponents, delivered a strong performance. On InTrade, the odds of the mandate being overturned shot up to 55 percent.

Certainly the court seemed far more hostile to the individual mandate than observers expected — particularly the court's conservative judges, whom many observers expected to take a reticent stance based on precedent and a desire not to extend the court's reach too far into contemporary political debate.

But what if the day's arguments didn't matter that much? Jeffrey Toobin suggested to Ezra Klein that, in general, oral argument is not particularly important to the outcome of a case:

"Most Justices say their minds are changed by oral arguments a handful of times — fewer than five — per year," he e-mailed. "In my experience, the higher profile the case, the less oral arguments matter, because the Justices have strong and longstanding views about major constitutional issues. The Justices mostly use oral argument to talk to, and lobby, each other, through their questions to the lawyers." In other words: The minds the justices are looking to change may not be their own.

Further, Jonathan Bernstein cautions against getting too confident with predictions either way, and Lyle Denniston proposed that not much has changed from before the Court heard the arguments:

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If Justice Anthony M. Kennedy can locate a limiting principle in the federal government’s defense of the new individual health insurance mandate, or can think of one on his own, the mandate may well survive. If he does, he may take Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and a majority along with him. But if he does not, the mandate is gone. That is where Tuesday’s argument wound up — with Kennedy, after first displaying a very deep skepticism, leaving the impression that he might yet be the mandate’s savior.

Meanwhile, Mike Barthel thinks the politics will end up being far more important than the constitutional questions:

[T]he case you want to look to here, it seems to me, is Bush v. Gore. That case was decided on explicitly partisan grounds. The court came up with some legal logic, but then at the end of the decision they said that they weren’t establishing a principle and no one should apply this logic to any other case. They just sorta waved their hands and said “Hey, we wanted to decide this case this way, but we couldn’t really justify it, so we just decided it that way anyway and never mind why.”

The same thing is likely to happen here, I think. Of course Congress has the authority to tell everyone they have to do something. Even before reform, the health care industry in America was already so highly regulated that it looked like a Soviet grain production scheme. And the Court doesn’t have any interest in overturning that principle, not only because it would cause chaos, but because it would lessen their own authority. (The law that gives administrative agencies power to set regulation also gives federal courts the ability to adjudicate them; it’s the balance-of-powers equivalent of voting yourself a pay raise.)

And so, if they do overturn it, it’s going to be an incredibly narrow and nakedly partisan ruling.

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What evangelicals and Richard Dawkins have in common

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27 March 2012


Sunday’s Reason Rally in Washington D.C. brought around 20,000 people to the National Mall for a celebration of secular values. The keynote speaker was notable evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. In a post-rall interview on MSNBC, Dawkins made some provocative statements concerning the role of religion in politics. I couldn’t find any transcript of the conversion, so I had to transcribe it myself. I tried to be as accurate as possible, but some words or phrases may not be exact. The comments start around the 4:00 mark in the video.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

“The suggestion that there might be too much religion in politics, in a funny kind of way, I wonder if there might be too little. If you have a presidential candidate who says he is a Roman Catholic, challenge him publicly, do you seriously believe that the wafer turns into the body of Christ. Do you really believe that the wine turns into blood, don’t let him get away with truly ridiculous beliefs without challenging him on it.”

......

"You challenge a candidate about his beliefs on taxation and so, why not challenge him on his beliefs about the universe and the world...As a voter if I know the person who I am voting for believed that a 19th century man read some golden tablets, read them with the aid of a stone and a top hat, and translated them into 16th century English.... any modern politician who nails his colours to the mast of that particularly religion is someone I’m suspicious of."

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I see a lot of problems with this attempt to sand away the distinction between the public and private spheres. But here, I wanted to focus on an unlikely parallel in the thought process of both Professor Dawkins and evangelical voters.

It’s no secret that many conservative Christians are sceptical of Mormonism, and this distrust has had large implications on the Republican primaries. Steve Kornacki points out that while while Rick Santorum easily beat Romney in Louisiana amongst "evangelical or born-again Christians" (56 per cent to 20 per cent), Romney actually edged out Santorum amongst the rest of the electorate. Kornacki explains that this is part of a larger trend. Romney doesn’t have as much a problem connecting with very conservative Republicans, as he does connecting with evangelicals. Even more to the point, exit polling has shown that a large segment of voters think that it is very important for a candidate share their religious beliefs.

I don’t want to put words in the mouths of these evangelicals, but I would assume for many of them the thought process would go something like this.

"Mitt Romney thinks that Jesus visited America? He believes that there is no such thing as the Holy Trinity? You’re telling me he reject the idea of original sin? I’m pretty suspicious of this guy, even if I do agree with his tax policies."

For many of the devoutly religious, some of the teachings of Mormonism probably seem just as silly and illogical as they do to an atheist like Professor Dawkins. Obviously, voters can decide on whatever basis they want to vote for a particular candidate, but I would hope they would prioritize the substance of the candidate’s policies over his or her religious beliefs. As such, Dawkins’s statements are subject to many of the same criticisms that would be rightly levelled at a Catholic organisation who pressed a Jewish candidate on why he or she rejected the divinity of Christ.

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The etch-a-sketch, bounce, and Louisiana

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23 March 2012


The Republican primary campaign has been over for all real intents and purposes for a while now, and Mitt Romney's convincing win in Illinois this past Tuesday didn't do much more than mark off one more milestone in the former Massachusetts governor's slow, underwhelming march to the nomination. 

One decent indication that this race is over is the reaction to the infamous "Etch-a-Sketch" gaffe, in which Romney campaign advisor Eric Fehrnstrom told CNN that the Romney's conservative rhetoric during the primary campaign didn't matter, because when the general election campaign begins, "you can kind of shake it up, and we start all over again.” Where previous Romney gaffes were pounced on by his Republican opponents, the Etch-a-Sketch comment has been greeted by a flood of anti-Romney commercials produced by Democratic groups and affiliates. Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and Ron Paul might not have (publicly) accepted that they've lost, but Democrats do, and they're reacting according. The gaffe might not matter in the fall campaign, but it definitely won't prevent Romney winning the nomination.

So the next vote, on Saturday, is in Louisiana. Rick Santorum will probably win, and it will continue not to be enough to snare him the nomination. So let's not dwell too long on speed bumps, and instead enjoy a song from the Pelican State. After the jump, an artist of whom Santorum would likely not approve.

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My song for the Lousiana primary is "Gin in My System" by New Orleans bounce artist Big Freedia. It was one of the highlights when I saw her in Sydney last year, and has been adapted and reconfigured into more than a few subsequent tunes by Lousiaian rappers like Lil Wayne or Lil Boosie.

Big Freedia produces a native New Orleans music called bounce, a party genre focused on energetic beats, call and response vocals, and lyrics that are frequently sexually explicit (This song is fairly tame.) The entire genre rests heavily on what is called the Triggaman beat — samples from the song  "Drag Rap," by '80s New York rappers the Showboys. Like much New Orleans music, bounce is characterised by a libertine, celebratory spirit. Freedia, who calls herself the "Queen Diva," is sometimes talked about as being at the forefront of a sound called "sissy bounce." Sissy bounce is a real part of New Orleans culture, but I think identifying it as something exceptional misses the point. Although bounce has a notable subset of performers who are trans women, the music they produce isn't understood as anything separate from that produced by other folks. Bounce is the basis of a welcoming and inclusive scene, and represents a side of Louisiana not likely to be extensively represented in the socially conservative Republican electorate that will vote on Saturday.

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Voters should decide Obamacare

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22 March 2012


Obamacare

Next week, the US Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare.” The case centres on the central piece of the legislation known as the individual mandate, which requires citizens to buy health insurance or pay an annual tax equal to 2.5 per cent of their income.

There has been much public outcry about the mandate. Rick Santorum referred to the law as the single “greatest threat to American freedom,” and a recent poll found that two thirds  of Americans believe that requiring individuals to buy health insurance is unconstitutional.

Given the furor over Obamacare and the attention that the challenge is receiving, it would be natural to conclude that the case presents a very difficult constitutional question. This simply isn’t the case. The Affordable Care Act easily fits within the bounds of prescribed constitutional powers. One can debate whether the act is good policy, but this is a different question than whether it is legal or not. I can’t say for certain whether the Court will uphold the law, but striking it down would represent a sea change in constitutional law. In order to argue the law is invalid one must refute numerous convincing arguments.

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First, the individual mandate can be seen as a straightforward exercise of the government’s power to impose taxes and spend for the general warfare. As Yale Law Professor Akhil Amar explains, Congress clearly can tax citizens and then use that money to buy health insurance for them. As such, it would be extremely strange if it couldn’t instead direct citizens to buy health insurance directly. Those who want to overturn Obamacare are in essence arguing that allowing individuals the freedom to choose which insurance plan to purchase renders the law unconstitutional. Objections to “Obamacare” are anti-tax, not anti-mandate. This might make a good political argument but it’s not a good legal one.

However, the heart of the constitutional debate surrounds the limits of the Commerce Clause. The Constitution gives Congress the power “to regulate commerce ... among the several states.” It would take a book to explicate past Commerce Clause jurisprudence, but it’s fair to say that the Supreme Court has been extremely deferential to Congress in defining what constitutes interstate commerce. Since its founding, the US has transitioned from an agrarian economy to an industrial one in which economic interdependence between the states has steadily increased. The Court has rightly allowed Congress the tools to deal with these new and changing circumstances fulfilling the words of the first Chief Justice, John Marshall, who proclaimed that the Constitution was “intended to endure for ages to come, and consequently, to be adapted to the various crises of human affairs”

In 1942, the Supreme Court unanimously declared in Wickard v Filburn that Congress had the power to prevent a farmer from growing more than a given quota of wheat, even if the wheat never left his property. The majority opinion explained that even if the wheat was privately consumed it would still affect interstate commerce because Mr. Filburn would then not have to purchase wheat from other sources. If other farmers followed Mr. Filburn’s lead, there would be significantly less demand for wheat, and it would undermine the legislative objective of “driving up wheat prices in the wake of the Great Depression.”

A 2005 decision-Gonzales v Raich-affirmed that Congress has the authority to prohibit a state from allowing individuals to grow medicinal marijuana in their own home for private consumption. Justice Scalia agreed with the majority, citing the Necessary and Proper Clause of the Constitution which gives Congress the power to “make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution” its expressed powers. Scalia explained that Congress “may regulate even noneconomic local activity if that regulation is a necessary part of a more general regulation of interstate commerce.” In other words, Congress can regulate intrastate drug use since a failure to do so could undermine its ability to regulate the interstate market for illegal drugs.

It’s not difficult to see the relevance for the current health care case. The US spent more than $2.6 trillion on health expenditures in 2010, and health care policy has clear spill over effects between states. The choice of whether to buy insurance directly impacts the national health care market. Given its historical understanding, it should be obvious that the Commerce Clause provides sufficient power to justify the individual mandate.

Many opponents of the law have tried to focus on the distinction between activity and inactivity. Not buying insurance is not a form of economic activity they say, and the Commerce Clause does not allow for the regulation of inactivity. But, this argument doesn’t hold water. First, the Court has never distinguished between activity and inactivity. More importantly, not buying health insurance is very different from choosing not to buy a poodle or watch Dancing with the Stars; it’s a choice with substantial externalities.

Laurence Tribe explains that we cannot voluntarily opt out of health care services altogether: “virtually all of us swim in that stream at one time or another.” It’s not as if one can choose never to get sick. When the uninsured do fall ill, these costs are passed on to others. Emergency rooms are required by federal law to treat everyone regardless of whether they have insurance or not. The government then reimburses hospitals for these expenses and the burden falls on the taxpayers. The costs of this uncovered care totalled over $40 billion last year.

Further, when healthy individuals are allowed to opt out of the health care system, premiums increase dramatically. One of the goals of the Affordable Care Act was to prevent insurers from discriminating against those with pre-existing conditions. This can only work if insurance companies are able to pool the risk of those with pre-existing conditions together with lower risk groups. If insurers are prohibited from denying coverage to those who are sick then without an individual mandate people will just wait until they become ill to buy insurance.

At its heart, the individual mandate, the brainchild of the Heritage Foundation, reflects core conservative principles. It’s not based on the idea that the government should have the ability to regulate all aspect of one’s life, but rather the concept that one should take responsibility for decisions that impose burdens on others. When one can afford health insurance but chooses not to purchase it, there are reprecussions for the rest of society. To borrow the language of economics, the Affordable Care Act seeks to internalise these externalities. Given the economic consequences inflicted by the uninsured and the desire to extend coverage to the tens of millions of Americans without insurance, Congress was well within its power in concluding that the individual mandate was necessary and proper in achieving its larger goal of regulating and reforming the national health care system.

There are a few broader reasons for assuming the constitutionality of Obamacare. Fifty years ago, conservative legal scholar Alexander Bickel- who has been cited as an influence by both John Roberts and Samuel Alito- outlined the inherent tension between judicial review and democratic government based on the will of the majority. There has been much debate over how this "counter-majoritarian difficulty" should influence constitutional theory, but I do think it is especially relevant to the current health care case. The Affordable Care Act is an incredibly high profile piece of legislation that was championed by the President and passed by the most representative political body in the Union. It doesn’t simply reflect the will of a city council or a local law enforcement agency, but rather the judgment of a diverse cross section of political actors. As such, the Court should be reluctant to substitute their own views for those of Congress and the President.

I don't mean to suggest that the judiciary should refrain from striking down any major federal law. Obviously, each case is decided on its merits. But, there should be some deference to the political branch when it comes to deciding the fate of the most substantial legislative act in decades.

The current issue is further complicated by the contentious political climate surrounding health care reform. The majority of those decrying the law as unconstitutional are really much more interested in its policy implications than in any nuanced debate about federalism. A full throated embrace of the narrow conception of federal powers that many opponents of Obamacare seem to be calling for would bring into question the constitutionality of other well established and well liked federal legislation. Overturning Obamacare would likely mean one of two things: vastly reshaping Commerce Clause jurisprudence in response to a politically motivated attack on a particular law, or politicising the Court by finding a constitutionally suspect means of throwing out the law without threatening other popular pieces of legislation. Neither option is appealing.

Republicans were unable to block health care reform legislatively, so now they are trying to use the Constitution to promote their economic theories. Reasonable people can disagree about whether the Affordable Care Act provides an appropriate method for addressing the United States’ obviously problematic health care system, but these are disagreements that should be settled by elected officials, not judicial fiat. If you oppose Obamacare then vote for any of the GOP candidates who have promised to repeal it, but don't use the Courts as a means of circumventing the legislative process.

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Illinois primary preview

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20 March 2012


By this point, the primaries have become less about momentum and perception and more about delegate accumulation. Santorum may have gotten some good press with his wins in Alabama and Mississippi last week, but a few favorable headlines only mean so much when you trail Romney by nearly 300 delegates. As such, tomorrow’s primary in Illinois, the 5th largest state in the Union, is a key stop in the race. On paper, it seemed like a state that Santorum had an outside shot of winning. Of course, Romney was always going to be buoyed by the fact that 65% of the state’s population is packed into the Chicago Metropolitan area. However, only around half of Republican voters are from Chicago; and Southern Illinois, where citizen’s root for the Cardinals and vote like Missourians, is fertile territory for Santorum.

Nevertheless, things don’t look promising for the former Senator from Pennsylvania. All of the recent polls out Illinois show Santorum trailing Romney by fairly large margins, and the gap has been growing over the last couple of days. Santorum really could have used a strong performance in Illinois, but it doesn’t appear that will be the case.

As has become the custom, I’ll leave you with a tune from the Land of Lincoln. This one comes from Uncle Tupleo, who hail from Beleville, Illinois. Following their breakup in 1994, several members of Tupelo headed north to Chicago and stated Wilco. Here, Jeff Tweedy shows why he’s one of the most talented songwriters of his generation.

“He had a black eye, he was proud of, like some of his friends. It made him feel somewhere outside, of everything and everywhere he'd been.”

 


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Same sex marriage in California

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19 March 2012


Back in February I wrote a post for the American Review Blog applauding the 9th Circuit Court for only addressing the constitutionality of Prop 8 as opposed to the constitutionality of same sex marriage in all 50 states. Law professor Vikram Amar argues that if the Court’s goal was to reach such a narrow ruling, they would have been better served by holding that the proponents of Prop 8 lacked standing to “defend the measure.”  The ultimate outcome would have been the same, since the Governor and Attorney General of California have refused to defend the measure. Amar contends that there are numerous practical reasons for favouring this approach.

“This result would have been better for same-sex marriage proponents than Reinhardt's approach because even though the same result invalidating Proposition 8 would be reached: (1) California would join the ranks of the same-sex marriage states in the important national tally by virtue of decisions of elected California officials (Attorney General and Governor) and the voters who elected them, rather than by unelected federal judges (especially the notoriously liberal Reinhardt); (2); the likelihood of Supreme Court review would be much lower than it is even under Reinhardt's California-specific approach; (3) Judge Reinhardt could appear to be displaying judicial modesty and obedience by taking to heart the admonitions by the Supreme Court reversing a Ninth Circuit case he authored 15 years ago concerning the lack of initiative proponent standing in federal court; and (4) there would be no doctrinal externalities to other settings arising from Judge Reinhardt's curious reasoning.”


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Music for Missouri

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16 March 2012


In honour of the upcoming Missouri caucuses, here’s a song from Springfield, MO natives “Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin.” I saw them a couple times on campus while in college, and I assume it’s safe to say they have the greatest band name of all time.

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Gingrichian hypocrisy

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16 March 2012


Gingrich

Newt Gingrich has spent the last several months waxing poetic about the fight for conservative principles, the liberal bias of the mainstream media, and the corrosive establishment culture within Washington. At its core though, the Gingrich campaign has been about one thing, Newt Gingrich’s desire to be president, and he’s been willing to do or say whatever he thinks will help him achieve this goal. This is a candidate who defiled Mitt Romney as the Massachusetts’s moderate despite having many a moderate skeleton in his own closet. This is a candidate who gave CNN reporter John King one of the harshest tongue lashings in presidential debate history, then made sure to tell him afterwards what a great job he had done. This is a candidate who complained about Washington elites despite receiving 1.6 million dollars from the mortgage lender Freddie Mac. And this is a candidate who proclaimed that a second Obama term would be a “disaster for the US” yet seems unconcerned that his own nomination would certainly hinder Republican chances of capturing the White House in 2012.

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The latest sign of Gingrichian hypocrisy is his continued refusal to drop out of the race. In late January, it was Gingrich who was pressuring Santorum to get out, telling him that they could unite conservatives together and defeat Romney.

“The fact is, when you combine the Santorum vote and the Gingrich vote ... the conservative combined would clearly beat Romney."

.......

"My hope is that gradually conservatives will come together and decide that a Newt Gingrich conservatism is dramatically better than Mitt Romney's liberalism."

These quotes weren’t an anomaly. Over and over again, Gingrich stressed that Romney’s establishment ties and lack of conservative credentials left him unfit to be the GOP nominee. Now the shoe is on the other foot; Gingrich has only managed to win one primary since he made these comments and Santorum has re-emerged, transforming the election into a two man race. If Gingrich can’t win in the Deep South, he’s not going to be making any noise in other regions of the country. Going forwards, he will likely play little role in the primaries aside from siphoning votes away from Santorum.

The very same reasons Gingrich gave Santorum for stepping down now apply equally to him. If Romney is actually the anti-conservative Gingrich makes him out to be, than surely the former speaker would want to do all he could to prevent him from getting the nomination? Further, at the same time Gingrich was criticising Romney, he was going out of his way to heap praise on Santorum. So, here’s Newt’s chance to play a key role in rallying the conservative forces in an attempt to defeat “Mitt Romney’s liberalism.”

However, Gingrich has refused to heed his own advice from a month earlier. The truth is, he probably never viewed the campaign as a battle between the real voices of conservatism and a Massachusetts moderate; it was just a narrative that he thought might win him some votes. And even if he does oppose Romney as passionately as he claims, it’s clear that fruitlessly chasing his own glory takes precedence. It’s easy to cite principles when they suit your own campaign, but when the same principles require a personal sacrifice, so much the worse for the principles.

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