« February 2006 | Main | April 2006 »

March 28, 2006

Kadima Breaks Through, Likud Melts Down

With most of the vote in, the Israeli elections appear to have confirmed the much-expected mandate for Ariel Sharon's creation, the Kadima Party, to lead the next government, though with fewer Knesset seats than expected. The real shocker, however, was the collapse of Likud under Bibi Netanyahu, who wrested control of the party from Sharon: it will apparently be the fifth-ranking party in the next Knesset, behind Kadima, Labor, the Sephardic party Shas, and the Russian-immigrant dominated Yisreal Beiteinu. Indeed, Likud, the dominant right-wing party in Israel for decades, barely finished ahead of the Pensioner's Party, a purely domestic- oriented political group that surprised everybody with its straightforward representation of the interests of the elderly.The scattered partisan results, and the remaining uncertainty regarding the imminent negotiations over the shape and size of a Kadima-led governing coalition, make all sorts of interpretations of the election possible, as evidenced by insta-reactions in the Israeli press and the blogosphere. Some will emphasize Kadima's emergence, and note the vindication of Ariel Sharon, who, as Haaretz's Robert Rosenberg noted, spent his last night as Prime Minister of Israel in a coma. Others will focus on Labor's relatively strong showing under its new leader Amir Peretz, an Algerian-born union leader who represents a break with his party's long identification with an Ashkenazi, kibbutz-centered elite. Still others will send up alarms about the rise of Yisreal Beiteinu's Avigdor Lieberman, who could wind up being the leader of the official opposition. And the Pensioner's Party, whose performance was so unexpected in a country long obsessed with security issues, will get attention as well.But the most compelling analysis I've read was actually written yesterday, by The New Republic's Yossi Klein Halevi, which predicted low turnout and an inconclusive result, and suggested it was "Israel's saddest election," based on widespread despair. The "Greater Israel" ideology that once enlivened Likud and other right-wing parties is dead, said Halevi; it's really an academic question as to whether Sharon was a lot or just slightly ahead of the curve in recognizing that and adjusting his policies accordingly. And just as importantly, the Hamas victory in the recent Palestinian elections confirmed the experience of the Second Intifada in largely extinguishing the "peace party" in Labor and on the Israeli left generally. Nearly all Israelis, said Halevi, have endorsed Sharon's "separation strategy," with the arguments being over time, place and manner of that separation. Even Lieberman's right-wing party has distinguished itself by arguing for a strictly ethnic-based "separation" in which Jewish settlements would remain in Israel while Israeli Arab enclaves would be ceded to the proto-Palestinian state. Invidious as that idea is, it's a far cry from "Greater Israel" and a permanent occupation of Palestine as a whole.Halevi's hypothesis helps explain the historically low turnout in today's elections (63 percent, which is robust by American standards, but is well below the traditional Israeli benchmark of 80 percent), and also the emergence of domestic-policy-only focused parties like the Pensioners. But he's right: it's very sad. Israelis are largely united on a "separation strategy" that every major faction in Palestinian politics rejects, most notably the hyper-rejectionist Hamas, which can't bring itself to even accept the legitimacy of Israel according to any configuration. Perhaps the most important question about today's Israeli elections is whether anyone on the Palestinian side recognizes and acts upon the challenge and the opportunity of the new Israeli consensus for a two-state solution, which is becoming a reality beyond all the past rhetoric on both sides.

Hard Work

Andy Card's resignation today does not, as my colleague The Moose has noted, mean much of anything in terms of the direction, or lack thereof, of the White House or the Bush administration. The official explanation will likely be that Card is simply tired after five years as chief of staff. This raises a question that I thought about while staring at a recent Washington Post article that essentially blamed some of the blunders being committed by the administration on systemic fatigue among key White House staffers. Fatigue from what, exactly? I mean, it's not like this administration has been terribly active in terms of meeting the big domestic or national security challenges facing the country, right? It has horribly mismanaged the war in Iraq; is frightenenly sloppy in terms of securing the country against terrorism; botched Katrina; refuses to do anything about the burgeoning fiscal crisis; and can't find its collective butt with both hands on much any other issue. Moreover, as we know from a variety of sources, most notably the famous DiIlulio disclosures, this is a White House whose burdens do not include any particular interest in policy development. I guess we have to assume that bad government is, to use the president's own favorite phrase, "hard work." And 24-7 spinning of bad government is really hard work.

March 26, 2006

Signs and Portents

There was a light, funny article in yesterday's Washington Post about the growing phenomenon of church marquees sporting nuggets of folksy wisdom and spiritual encouragement. (Examples included: "Prayer is the best wireless connection," and "Pessimists need a kick in the can'ts.")It prompted me to recall my personal favorite in this genre, spotted in South Georgia some years ago: "Read the Bible daily. It will scare the hell out of you."But the marquee wisdom, while growing, is not universal, particularly in my own Episcopal Church, whose typically traditional and often gorgeous church architecture does not alway lend itself to bright signs with therapeutic messages. I remember a parish meeting I attended a few years back at an Anglo-Catholic Episcopal Church, in which one parishoner suggested a welcoming message on the wooden mass-schedule board outside. When another parishoner objected, she said: "Look, I'm not asking for much. Just that the first thing a passerby sees isn't 'Confessions Available On Request.'"

March 24, 2006

The Domenech Fiasco

As those of you who read a lot of blogs undoubtedly know by now, there's been a firestorm in every corner of the blogosphere this week over the hiring by washingtonpost.com of a prominent young conservative blogger, Ben Domenech, one of the founders of redstate.org (where his handle has been Augustine), to do a new blog called Red America. At first the furor was over (1) why the Post site (independent of the newspaper, BTW) felt the need to set up an abrasive conservative blog, without at least creating a progressive counterpart, (2) various aspects of Domenech's background as the scion of a well-connected conservative family, and (3) several dumb and offensive things he's said, such as calling Coretta Scott King "a communist" the day after her death. In this early phase of the controversy, it was a classic left-right battle. But almost effortlessly, several progressive bloggers came up with an ever-escalating series of examples of plagiarism by Domenech going back to college newspaper work, but continuing with pieces for professional organizations like National Review Online. Conservative bloggers quickly split between some who defended Domenech, and others who distanced themselves. And the fracas ended today with Domenech's resignation from washingtonpost.com, and a statement by the site's managing editor wishing him good riddance and apologizing for the fiasco. Considering how long it took for earlier plagiarism scandals at major newspapers to come to light and bite the perpetrators and enablers in the butt, the lightning speed of the whole affair was impressive. To the extent you care about exposing plagiarists, it's a good argument for the value of a wide-open blogosphere that can often serve as the enforcer of journalistic ethics, not just as a rules-free zone. As for Domenech's underlying sin, I generally dislike getting too self-righteous about other people's destructive habits, especially after they are exposed, since the Good Lord has a strong tendency to punish first-stone-throwers. But I have to say, plagiarism--like, say, upper-class kleptomania--is one sin I really have a hard time accepting. It combines sloth, avarice, and pride--three of the Seven Deadly Sins, no less--and is especially incomprehensible for someone who, like Mr. Domenech, does not seem to have been under any kind of extreme deadline pressure. Plagiarism, of course, is a lot easier than it was back in the day. For Old Folks like me who learned the writing craft on a Selectric II typewriter, and had to go to an actual library to do research, plagiarism would have been entirely too much work. Why not just write the thing yourself? (The parallel sin Old Folks tend to commit is self-plagiarism, which is the literary equivalent of telling your friends, family and colleagues the same damn stories over and over again). The ease of cutting-and-pasting, and the vast candy-store of online stuff to steal, has to increase the temptation. But technology giveth, and technology taketh away, and as Ben Domenech has now discovered, it's real easy to search your online writing, pick out a few passages, google the words, and see if anything identical or very similar pops up. If it does, and it was published earlier--kaboom!Whatever it means for Domenech, for washingtonpost.com, or for a large number of disappointed and embarassed conservatives, this fiasco will probably result in a sharp drop in new incidents of plagiarism, at least among those bloggers and/or journalists who invite scrutiny.

March 23, 2006

Blogging Around

An apology to faithful readers for the dearth of posts this week. In part, it's because I've been blogging around on you. I'm participating in a TPMCafe Book Club discussion on Kevin Phillips' latest provocative tome, American Theocracy. As my post indicates, I was certainly provoked by Phillips' hypothesis that the "southernization of politics and religion" is largely responsible not just for the Bush Era, but for its most egregious excesses: huge public and private debt, an oil-focused energy policy, and the bungled war in Iraq. I probably pulled my punches in commenting on this hypothesis; one of the interesting features of TPMCafe Book Club is that it involves a direct discussion with book authors. It's a useful structure, but one that inhibits me (unlike the brave Kevin Drum) a bit. No matter what he's writing now, I will always esteem Kevin Phillips for his very first book, The Emerging Republican Majority, which did for political analysis what Bill James did for baseball analysis: create a statistical foundation for a truly comprehensive understanding of trends over many, many decades. In particular, Phillips consolidated an enormous amount of data on the non-economic determinants of voting behavior, especially religion, ethnicity, and amazingly persistant regional patterns based on large, traumatic events (most famously the Civil War). To this day, whenever I encounter one of those neo-populist Democrats who assume that today's cultural politics represent an aberration from "natural" class-based politics, I direct them to Phillips book for a decisive rebuttal. Though The Emerging Republican Majority is generally regarded as a true classic, its influence took quite a while to develop. It was published in 1969, based in part on Phillips' work in the 1968 Nixon campaign. Nixon's subsequent re-election in 1972 seemed to confirm the title of the book, but the '72 landslide was so enormous and national--and Republican non-presidential performance that year was so weak--that it didn't do much to validate Phillips' analysis. And then, of course, came Watergate, the Agnew and Nixon resignations, the Democratic landslide of1974, and the election of a Democratic president from the very region stipulated by Phillips as the hinge of the Republican majority. By the time of Reagan's election in 1980--which really did validate his hypothesis--Kevin Phillips was largely a forgotten prophet. There's another book that suffered a similar initial fate--one that in fact was explicitly modeled on Phillips' classic. John Judis and Ruy Teixeira's The Emerging Democratic Majority had the misfortune of being published just before the decisive Republican midterm victory of 2002, followed by Bush's re-election. It will be interesting to see if they turn out ultimately to be prophets as well. I certainly hope they are.

March 21, 2006

New New Gore

I'm sure Ezra Klein's cover story on the "reborn" Al Gore will get a lot of attention in the blogosphere and perhaps well beyond it. In case you don't have time to read it, Ezra's basic take is that Gore's post-2000 political career has represented a thoughtful and integrity-filled repudiation of the Veep's own cautious, centrist past; of the failed strategy of his 2000 campaign; and most especially, of the "old media" mindset that did him so much damage in 2000. I obviously don't share Ezra's characterization of Gore's New Democrat heritage as one of "equivocating" and playing the mainstream media's game. (I sometimes despair of convincing bloggers that people like me support what we support and oppose what we oppose for reasons of principle). Nor do I think it's a particular badge of honor if Ezra's right in saying that Gore has evolved from the 1990s cool-kids prefererence for New Democrats to the contemporary cool-kids attachment to the Dean Campaign legacy.But there's no question Ezra is right about one thing: whether or not he's campaigning for president (we should probably take him at his word that he's not), Al Gore is clearly campaigning against his own past, about as systematically as anyone could do. Unlike Ezra, I think that reversal began during, not after, the 2000 campaign, when Gore could not bring himself to consistently campaign on the successful record of his own administration (his real blunder, IMO, not his occasional "populism," which if a bit disembodied was fine). And that, not his previous loyalty to Clinton and his policies, was his real moment of "equivocation."

March 19, 2006

Busted Brackets

Like, well, a fourth of the U.S. adult/adolescent population, I participated in a NCAA tournament pool in my office, and like a lot of people, my brackets were completely busted on the first two days. Actually, I participated in a second pool in which four of us "drafted" teams, on a seed times round basis, and I've completely bombed in that one as well.I'll get over it within the next few hours, but for the record, my fate is a good example of how stupid the Conventional Wisdom is in any sport, including politics.The principles that guided my picks included:1) Don't be a homer. My beloved Georgia Bulldogs were not in the tournament, so I had to be wary of the temptation to irrationally favor the teams from my work-place home of Washington, D.C. I picked the three "Georges"--Georgetown, George Washington, and George Mason--to lose in the first round. All three won, and the Hoyas and Patriots actually advanced to the Sweet 16. I wish this result could be noted by the various people who email me now and then to accuse me of being a Washington Insider.2) Go for the hot young teams. Everybody's Hot Young Teams were Kansas and North Carolina. The former lost in the first round; the latter in the second.3) Don't pay attention to irrelevant traditions. Alabama has a great basketball tradition, but had a lousy, underachieving season. All the cool kids had them losing in the first round, while all the ignorant pickers chose them to beat Marquette, whose own tradition was too remote to be of interest to those ignorant pickers. Alabama won, of course. Same thing happened with Indiana and San Diego State and N.C. State and Cal: "smart guys" picked SDSU and Cal; dumb guys rightly picked IU and N.C. State.4) Pick judicious upsets: Most pools give bonuses for picking first-round upsets. Three years ago I was briefly in the running in my office poll for picking lots of those upsets. The last two years, I bombed by picking just as many upsets. This year was supposed to be another Year of the Upset, and it was, but I generally picked them wrong, going with San Diego State, Northern Iowa, Marquette, Seton Hall, UNCW, UAB, instead of Bradley, George Mason, Northwestern State, Montana or N.C. State.5) Focus on coaches' tournament records: Tom Izzo has an incredible tournament record at Michigan State; I picked them to go to the Elite Eight, and the Spartans lost in the first round. Same scene with Kansas and North Carolina: their coaches never underachieve, except when they do, as in this year.The bottom line at this point is that people who filled out their brackets intuitively, or even ignorantly, are doing a lot better than us pseudo-sophisticates. Next year I'm probably going with the system of "whose mascot would win in a fight," which at least presents some interesting metaphysical issues of how a Blue Devil would fare against a Bruin.

March 17, 2006

Harris Shows Them the Money

As you may have heard by now, Florida Congresswoman Katherine Harris spent a good part of last week leading (relieved) Republicans to believe that she was going to withdraw from her can't-lose-the-primary, can't-win-the-general race against Sen. Bill Nelson. She would make a "major announcement" this Tuesday, she said. But instead of getting out of the race and giving Florida GOPers a prayer against Nelson, she went on Hannity and Colmes and announced she was about to dump $10 million in money inherited from her father into her campaign.Leave it to Harris to think that a lack of money was her main problem--and, for that matter, to think that her difficulty in attracting other people's money might not be a indication of a deeper set of problems.But if she had to do what she had to do, then she should have probably gone to the trouble to pay some hush money to her top political strategist (prior to this week), the ol' vote-suppressor Ed Rollins, who proceeded to tell the Orlando Sentinel that he and everybody else around the campaign had urged her to withdraw.

Harris' chief strategist, Ed Rollins, gave a sober assessment of her chances a day after her television appearance, revealing that he and other key advisers concluded it probably would be best if she abandoned the race against Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.Rollins said they worried about Harris' sluggish fundraising, her inability to generate excitement among top Republicans and future fallout from illegal campaign contributions she took from a defense contractor who has since pleaded guilty to bribing a California lawmaker.

And that wasn't the only less-than-enthused reaction to the Harris announcement. Quoth Gov. Jeb Bush: "I think for Congresswoman Harris to win, this has to stop being about her and has to start being about Senator Nelson and about the future of our country and the future of the state."

I think Jeb should save his breath. For America's most notorious political Drama Queen, it will never "stop being about her."


March 16, 2006

Port Security: GOP Really Doesn't Get It

Via Kevin Drum, and a report from ThinkProgress, I was interested, and literally angry, to learn that House Republicans blocked a budget resolution amendment today that would have provided money for U.S. customs agents to inspect high-risk cargo at overseas ports which ship directly into this country, and to set up radiation monitors at all U.S. ports. The amendment was sponsored by Martin Sabo (D-MN); all 194 House Democrats who were present and voting supported it, while 210 of 222 House Republicans present and voting opposed it, enough to defeat it on a tie vote.Were House GOPers simply worried about the money involved ($1.25 billion)? Not hardly, since they are in the process of approving a $781 billion increase in the public debt limit.This is an especially outrageous vote in the wake of widespread concerns about port security raised by the aborted Dubai Ports World lease of U.S. port operations. But it does explain one thing. Bush's reaction to the firestorm raised by disclosure of the Dubai deal was to angrily accuse his critics of anti-Arab and/or anti-Muslim prejudice. Maybe he did that because mere prejudice was precisely what he was hearing from his congressional Republican allies. Presumably most of the House Republicans who voted against beefed-up port security today were also lined up to oppose the Dubai deal. And clearly their motivation had little or nothing to do with national security.UPDATE: Not that it matters much to the underlying argument, but the Sabo Amendment was offered not to the congressional budget resolution, but to the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for war costs and hurricane recovery. The ultimate bill did not, BTW, include significant new money for levee construction in New Orleans.

March 15, 2006

Defining An Intraparty Free Speech Zone

Having implicitly accused Chris Bowers of MyDD of failing to thoroughly read the writings of Steve Waldman and Amy Sullivan on Democrats and religious outreach, I must confess that I did not thoroughly read Chris' latest post on the subject. Yes, I noted his argument against targeting evangelical voters, but he went on to make the rather different complaint that people who called for a different Democratic strategy towards such voters were reinforcing the Republican meme that Democrats were anti-religious.Now this is a complicated argument for Chris to make, since he has invested a fair number of words to the proposition that Democrats ought to build a "non-Christian coalition." But the more important issue is that this exchange illustrates the Dialogue of the Deaf within the Democratic Party about "reinforcing opposition talking points," which is what Chris accuses "third way types" like me of doing, and which I suggested Chris was doing in the coda of my own post.This is truly classic: "centrists" worry that lefties or hyper-partisan netroots types are feeding Republican stereotypes about our party, and then the objects of this criticism respond that "centrists" are helping the opposition by making such arguments. You see this sort of exchange all the time, though most of the anger these days is coming from the non-"centrist" side of the debate.I've personally come to the conclusion that all of us in the progressive camp have gotten a little too obsessed with the "enemy is listening" fear.Yes, I know about the Right-Wing Noise Machine and its influence. Yes, I've seen the famous Rob Stein presentation; yes, I've read and agreed with Off Center, and as a matter of fact, I've written a fair amount on my own dime about the novel nature of today's conservative movement and Republican Party. But all of this does not really justify the totalitarian power we sometimes attribute to the opposition, and the corresponding, guerilla-like belief that anyone on our side whose words can be used by the State Police needs to be immediately repudiated, if not liquidated. Difficult as it is to accept, the truth is that nothing said by Chris, or Markos, or Amy Sullivan, or Marshall Wittmann, or me, is likely to turn up in Republican television ads, or affect actual voters in any major way. We're all on the periphery of politics, not at its heart.Moreover, a lot of this is really about fighting the last war. The famous Machine is crumbling, by all accounts. Democrats need to talk honestly about how to administer the coup de grace in the next two election cycles, without resorting to secret meetings in smoky (or more likely, non-smoking) revolutionary bars.This brings me to Garance Franke-Ruta's astute comment about Chris Bowers' concerns over the Sullivan/Waldman critiques of Democrats:

If progressives can't have honest conversations in their own magazines and blogs, where are they supposed to do it? Voters can scarcely recall what is said directly to them in advertisements during the height of election season; articles like those in the Monthly are unlikely to swing elections one way or another any more than are Bower's own extremely frank blog items. At best, they may make political actors think more about certain issues over time.
Amen. We need to define an intra-party free speech zone that includes political arguments that one position or another hurts us or helps them, but does not begin or end with the assumption that the only possible sin is to fail to flail Republicans with the maximum force on every topic. That might have been a superior tactic to what Democrats did in 2002 or even 2004, but its wisdom, or that of any particular strategy being offered by "centrists," is not self-evident today.Let's really talk about it.

March 14, 2006

In Defense of Religious Outreach

One of my favorite progressive bloggers is Chris Bowers of MyDD, in no small part because he is impeccably honest and open to new evidence, and willing to admit (a rare quality in political discourse generally) on occasion that he's been wrong. After reading his post today endorsing Tom Schaller's assault on the idea that Democrats should reach out to Christian religious folk, including evangelicals, and on Steve Waldman and Amy Sullivan for advancing that idea, I hope this is one topic he is willing to rethink.Here's Chris' main argument:

Internalizing and following the obviously poor election strategy offered up for Democrats by pundits within the established news media is one of the greatest problems we face when trying to win elections. The basic problem is that we are repeatedly told, and repeatedly believe, that in order to win, we must not go after either swing votes or rev up our own base, but instead focus our main strategy on actually trying to win over the Republican base itself. I call this the "Democrats Must Court The Limbaugh Vote" strategy syndrome, both because we tend to follow the election advice given to us by Rush Limbaugh types, and because that advice invariably means that we must target the hard-core Rush Limbaugh audience.
Now, as someone who's probably read just about everything published by Steve Waldman and Amy Sullivan on this subject, I have to say that Scheller and Bowers do not know what they are talking about. Amy Sullivan's many writings on religious outreach have one exceptionally consistent message: there are millions of voters attending "conservative" churches who are not in any meaningful sense part of the "Republican base." They do not, in fact, listen to Rush Limbaugh, or for that matter, James Dobson. They attend the churches they attend for reasons that have nothing to do with the agenda of the Cultural Right. They have all sorts of political, moral and civic beliefs that are entirely consistent with the values and policy positions of Democrats. But they have voted, and will vote, Republican if there's no real competition for their votes, and if they perceive, erroneously, that Democrats live in a different moral universe than theirs, or have contempt for their beliefs.Steve Waldman has actually written very little in the way of direct pitches for Democrats to appeal to "conservative" Christians. But as someone who discarded a successful career as a Washington journalist--first, to help run AmeriCorps, and then, as an Internet entrepreneur, to pursue his insight that Americans increasingly view religious options from a consumer's point of view--he has a keen understanding of the complicated and unpredictable connection between religion and politics. And like Sullivan, and myself, he's convinced there is a segment of the electorate among self-consciously religious people that is just waiting to be harvested by a progressive message that takes them seriously.Take a look at the latest issue of The Washington Monthly, which includes (a) a piece by Amy Sullivan reporting on the open and increasingly avid willingness of some key evangelical Christian leaders to defect from the Republican Coalition; (b) a more historical article by Steve Waldman reminding evangelicals of the heritage of religious liberty their leaders have forsaken in their recent "marriage" to the conservative movement and the GOP; and (c) a straight reportorial job by yours truly predicting impending doom for that great symbol of the Christian Right, Ralph Reed.Search in vain for any argument that exploiting the political opening created by the impending crack-up of the Christian Right machine requires Democrats to compromise core convictions or become, as Chris invidiously put it in a recent post, the "second white Christian party." We're talking about picking up low-hanging political fruit simply by deploying the language and respecting the values and lifestyles of people who are half-way to Democratic voting habits already.In fairness to Chris, his argument on this subject gets into a very technical set of views about voter targeting, which frankly, though I respect them, create all sorts of false choices. Democrats do not have to choose between energizing the base and reaching out to obvious or potential swing voters; you can do both, keeping in mind that turning swing voters (defined not as "undecideds," BTW, but as persuadable voters) has double the electoral value of turning out people who will vote for you if they vote at all.I have less sympathy for Chris' argument that the progressive future lies with cultivating a "non-Christian coalition" based on demographic projections that conflate (a) increases in non-Christian but religiously affiliated voters, who are often likely to welcome the same religious outreach that might help Democrats with "conservative" Christians, and (b) indications that young voters aren't religious, which ignores life-stage patterns of religious observance and non-observance that have gone through predictable cycles among the baby boomers and Gen-Xers who are now flocking to megachurches. Maybe Chris is right that something more fundamental is suddenly going on, but the idea that Democrats will flourish by flouting their credentials as the Party of Baal, or whatever, strikes me as implausible, and more to the point, irrelevant. Are irreligious voters really in danger of defecting to the theocratic GOP, or for that matter, refusing to vote, if Democrats open a dialogue, without sacrificing their principles, with religious voters? I don't think so.And that's why I think the backlash against sensible advice from progressives like Amy Sullivan and Steve Waldman is misguided. As a person of faith myself, the only thing that aggrieves me more than the claim by conservatives that God is a Republican, is to hear progressives, however few, say they are right. This, my friends, is an example of "reinforcing the opposition's talking points" that should be taken just as seriously as any other boon to Fox News--and to Rush Limbaugh.

March 13, 2006

A Peek Inside the Id of the Cultural Right

Today, reading a recent edition of the excellent Political Insider column by Atlanta Journal-Constitution political reporters Jim Galloway and Tom Baxter, I ran across this revelation into the little-known nexus between two issues cultural conservatives often focus on, abortion and immigration, as expressed by a Georgia Republican legislator:

Democrats have been buzzing about comments made by state Sen. Nancy Schaefer (R-Turnerville) at a recent eggs-and-issues breakfast in Hart County. We quote from the Hartwell Sun newspaper: "Commenting on illegal immigration, Schaefer said 50 million abortions have been performed in this country, causing a shortage of cheap American labor. 'We could have used those people,' she said."

Now that's a novel talking point that even the eager abortion-criminalizers of South Dakota haven't thought of yet: overturn Roe v. Wade, and replenish the supply of cheap, English-speaking help.

March 12, 2006


It is, as sports fanatics everywhere know, Selection Sunday, when the 65-team field of the NCAA basketball tournament is revealed, and--thanks to an entire industry of "bracketology"--the one or two remaining mysteries about "bubble teams" and seedings are resolved. I will not watch the official Selection Sunday show on television, with its endlessly tedious references to "dancing" and "dance cards," and its sadistic focus on live coverage of a team or two that will be left out. I will view the brackets online, however, and try to finally figure out which team or teams I will embrace during next week's frenetic first and second round games. My beloved Georgia Bulldogs will not, of course, be in the mix; they are still rebuilding from the calamity of the Jim Harrick years, and after a brief spate of exciting success earlier in the year, finished 15-15, probably not qualifying for an NIT bid. But their future looks bright. (The Georgia women's team will, as always, be in the tournament, and perhaps they won't break my heart with an early upset loss this time around). Selection Sunday always brings back fond memories of the one time I actually attended NCAA tournament games: it was in 1990, in New Orleans' Superdome (ah! how painful it is to type those words today!). Georgia Tech was playing in the regional semifinals and finals, and I decided to put aside my usual disdain for the Dirt Daubers and cheer for them as a matter of home-state chauvinism. I managed to get tickets through a media contact for seats better than that enjoyed by Tech's president, and was rewarded with two incredibly exciting games: the Jackets beat Michigan State in the semis on a controversial last-split-second shot by Kenny Anderson, and then beat Minnesota in overtime for the championship. Aside from the games themselves, my most vivid memory was of the young woman from Minnesota who sat behind me in the Final, dressed up as a gopher, and constantly recited the school's charmingly atavistic cheer, which sounded like something out of an early Mickey Rooney college movie (Sota! Sota! G-o-o-o-o Gophers! Rah!). That was sixteen years ago, and I wonder: where is that woman today? Does she still dress up as a gopher? And does she blog? The whole scene was a nice reminder of the essential silliness of the tribal loyalty so many of us assign to sports teams. Years after this event, I learned that my paternal grandfather, who died when my father was an infant, actually attended Georgia Tech for a brief while before the money ran out and he had to get a full-time job. Nobody in my extended, and generally non-college-educated family, attended the University of Georgia. My father was largely indifferent to sports, and my mother, good southern liberal that she was, reserved her loyalities for the Dodgers baseball team that played Jackie Robinson. Yet I was a confirmed Georgia Bulldog fan from early childhood. Why is that? I couldn't possibly have known that I would wind up attending law school in Athens. Was it the mascot, UGA? The school colors? I have no clue.And so, on this Selection Sunday, I cast about for an irrational attachment to other peoples' tribes. Should I risk further identification as a Washington Insider by supporting Georgetown or George Washington? Choose a Southern Surrogate for the absent Bulldogs? Get into an emotionally satisfying and vaguely progressive Mid-Major obsession? Speaking for God knows how many other people who face this particular dilemma, I must say, dear friends, that this is why they call it March Madness.

March 11, 2006

Class, Race, and Republicanism in the South

As regular readers of this blog know, there is no political subject that fascinates me more than party politics in my native South--both the historical question of how the region became "red," and the immediate question of whether and how Democrats can become more competitive.Earlier this week a colleague sent me a book review that provides a good excuse for revisiting that first, historical topic. The New Republic's Clay Risen reviewed The End of Southern Exceptionalism for the Boston Globe, and concluded that the book offers fresh evidence that economics, not race, was the central factor in the rise of southern Republicanism.I've ordered, but have not yet received, a copy of the book, written by Byron Shafer of the University of Wisconsin and Richard Johnston of the University of British Columbia. But the surprising thing to me about Risen's review is that the book's hypothesis seems to be so controversial, "one that few observers of the postwar South will agree with."This is not to say I believe in a purely economic interpretation of the South's Republican resurgence, but given the apparent supremacy of a purely racial interpretation, it's a good corrective.Certainly the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were decisive events in breaking down the ancient alliance between the National Democratic Party and a whites-only regional Democratic Party that had dominated most of the South since the Civil War. But the civil rights revolution did not necessarily, and did not in fact destroy state and local Democratic parties. And if you look at the dynamics of two-party competition in the South, even today, the picture is too complicated to support the claim that race, or any other one factor, has caused the rise of southern Republicanism.My own informed-amateur "wave theory" of party politics in the South places great emphasis on the efforts of each party, and especially my own Democratic Party, to constantly create and recreate new coalitions, depending on the demographics of individual states. But this improvisational coalition-building was a big part of the originial post-World-War-II Republican effort to create a viable two-party system in the South.According to Risen, Shafer and Johnston focus on the rapid urbanization that occured thoughout much of the region from the 1940s through the 1960s, which created a self-conscious urban and suburban white middle-class that voted Republican just like similar places elsewhere (indeed, a heavy in-migration of already-Republican voters from the northeast and midwest, already a large factor in Florida in the 1940s, spread throughout southern suburbs in later decades). But in four states, Tennessee, North Carolina, Kentucky and Virginia, there was already a sizable Republican voter base among Appalachian whites (until quite recently, the very poorest people in America) who had been voting that way since the Civil War. The pre-Civil Rights strength of Republicans in any given state was largely a function of the size of these two very different elements of the population. Moreover, states with few Appalachian voters and smaller cities and suburbs had weak Republican Parties that did ultimately depend on their occasional success in reaching large numbers of rural white voters through race-based appeals.It should come as no surprise, then, to discover how well Eisenhower did in relatively-urbanized states like Florida (which he carried twice) or Texas (won in 1956), and in states with both growing suburbs and cities and Appalachian pockets (Tennessee and Virginia, which he won twice, and North Carolina, where he narrowly lost twice). In 1960, Richard Nixon, then considered a liberal on racial issues by southern standards, did nearly as well in precisely the same places.This complicated picture was confirmed, not obliterated, by Barry Goldwater's race-based rural southern breakthrough in 1964. Although he swept the Deep South, he lost all the border states, including those carried by Ike and Nixon, and even within the states he carried, he ran behind the previous GOP candidates in many urban and suburban areas.At both the presidential level and--especially--the state and local level, Republican fortunes have ebbed and flowed according to the same shifting of coalitions in the ensuing decades. And even in the contemporary era, where Republicans have an advantage in most, though not all, statewide elections in most of the region, the components vary from state to state. In places like South Carolina and Mississippi, the party system represents a widespread racial polarization, and you can definitely say the basic partisan dynamics point straight back to the civil rights revolution. But in my own home state of Georgia, while race has been a factor, the explosive growth of the suburban population has clearly tilted the state to the GOP, which also means the Democratic counter-trend that has so often set in as suburbs mature could be a big factor in Georgia's political future.In other words, there is no universal theory that really explains the past, present or future or southern politics, and that is why I am more optimistic than most in predicting that Republican hegemony in the South is far less than inevitable or permanent.UPDATE: Here's another concrete indication that the Shafer/Johnston hypothesis is not exactly revisionist history. After writing this post, I picked up the copy of Samuel Lubell's 1955 book, The Future of American Politics, that sits in an honored place on my bookshelf, and quickly found this sentence: "The strongest single force for political change in Dixie Land today is the newly developing urban middle class who, by Northern standards, would be classed conservative."UPDATE II: Before someone sends me a mocking email, I will affirmatively acknowledge the irony involved in posting an "update" about a prediction made in 1955. Old Guy Syndrome strikes again....

March 10, 2006

Bai's Big Warner Profile

One of the great rituals of American politics is the First Big Profile of a potential presidential candidate in one of the Newspapers of Record. This Sunday's New York Times Magazine's cover story is Matt Bai's initial take on Mark Warner. (You can read a summary, and down in the comment thread, the actual text, here.)The piece is generally interesting, and fair to its subject, but it suffers from an obsession with Warner's potential rivalry with Hillary Clinton. Much of Bai's analysis looks at Mark Warner as a non-Clinton, an anti-Clinton, and even as a Clintonian Not Named Clinton. It would have been nice if Bai had devoted a few graphs to what Warner might represent if Hillary does not run, just as an analysis of Hillary's husband in 1990 might have benefitted from the assumption that Mario Cuomo might not run.But IMO, Bai redeems himself with a very solid paragraph about Warner's particular appeal to rural voters in the South and elsewhere:

Warner's constant theme, which a lot of Washington politicians talk about but few seem to actually understand, was the need to modernize for a global economy. The days when you could walk down the streetand get a job at the mill were over, Warner would say,and new jobs — the state gained more than 150,000 ofthem on his watch — would require new skills and infrastructure. So Warner, working with Nascar, pushed through an accelerated program that enabled 35,000 more Virginians to get high-school equivalency degrees, and he introduced a program to deliver broadband capacity to 20 Southern counties. "In the 1800's, if the railroad didn't come through your small town, the town shriveled up and went away," he told me once, explaining his rural program. "And if the broadband Internet doesn't come through your town in the next few years, the same thing will happen." If he ultimately decides to run for president, Warner will try to build a national campaign around this same technology-driven approach.
This take on Warner's potential appeal to southern and rural voters is a nice corrective to the conventional wisdom that in Virginia he just seduced the folks by hiring bluegrass bands and Nascar teams and coming out for huntin' and fishin'. All these things mattered, but his real pitch to rural Virginians tired of losing in the Old Economy was that the New Economy offered new hope, not a new threat. This is a message that could resonate in "backward" areas all over the country. And ironically, Hillary Clinton has spent a lot of time mining this very promising vein as well.Bai rightly suggests that Warner, like any governor, has to come up with a clear message and agenda on national security. But it would be helpful if journalists profiling Warner, or Hillary Clinton for that matter, would contrast potential 2008 Democrats not just with each other, but with the former governor in the White House who is so thoroughly screwing up international and domestic policy every single day.

March 9, 2006

Dubai, U.S., Whatever

It will take a while to completely unravel the meaning of today's announcement by Dubai Ports World that it intended to divest itself of its leases to run six major U.S. ports. The only really clear thing is that it will probably buy the Bush administration some time to regroup and save face when it was cruisin' for a bruisin' in threatening to veto bipartisan legislation to stop the deal. But my own hope is that none of us get so hung-up about the identity of port operators, or are so tempted to declare victory if a U.S. firm replaces Dubai Ports World, that we forget the underlying security issue this brouhaha exposed.The federal government is doing a really crappy job of conducting security at all U.S. ports, with only five percent of cargoes being inspected. If that doesn't change, then I won't feel much better if the companies operating our ports--wide open invitations to the kind of materials that could feed a nuclear 9/11--are as American as apple pie.

March 8, 2006

Evangelical Openings

If I may brieflt interrupt the debate I've apparently helped catalyze about the definition and political importance of universal health coverage (go check out the TPMCafe.com site and follow the links if you are interested), Amy Sullivan has written and long and important cover story for the Washington Monthly about the growing openness of younger evangelical Christian leaders to a divorce with the Republican Party, if not a marriage with Democrats.Amy's poster boy for this phenomenon is Randy Brinson, an Alabama-based evangelical leader who has rapidly evolved from his role as (1) a cutting-edge GOTV operative for Republicans in 2003 and 2004, to (2) a spokesman for evangelicals unhappy about the compromises being made on issues of domestic and global equality in exchange for empty GOP promises on such subjects as abortion, and then (3) an open dissenter against the Christian Right and an advocate of cooperation with Democrats in Alabama and nationally.Whatever you think of Brinson, or of his nationally better-known fellow heretic Richard Cizick of the National Association of Evangelicals, there is a political and cultural opening they offer that Democrats would be fools to spurn or ignore. The tactical alliance forged during the 1990s between older conservative evangelical leaders and the Republican Party has had doleful consequences for American politics and religion alike. Busting this alliance up would have similarly positive results.

March 7, 2006

Burden of Proof

All of a sudden, two bloggers I respect, Kevin Drum and Matt Yglesias, seem to be identifying me as a rare and lonely voice who needs to explain why Democrats shouldn't unanimously embrace a single-player approach to universal health coverage. And some people say the DLC isn't relevant any more.In my public exchange of posts with Kevin late last night, I suggested that a whole lot of credible people across the range of party opinion didn't think much of the single-payer approach, and sure didn't think it was the only way to get to universal coverage. I mentioned the six leading candidates for the presidential nomination in 2004, and asked: "Were they all compromising wimps? Did they all privately acknowledge that single-payer was the goal, and just cringe from saying it publicly?"Today Kevin did a post that answered these questions affirmatively:

Here's my guess: in private, I'll bet all of these gentlemen do acknowledge that a simple single-payer national healthcare plan is the best policy. But for tactical political reasons, they think it's more effective to talk about incremental solutions.
Well, that's a pretty strong statement to make about six very different politicians, eh? I mean, did each and every one of them, from Dean to Lieberman, sit down with his advisors and basically say: "Dennis Kucinich is right, of course. But we need to be tactical about this, and in fact, that means talking more, not less, about the value of private health insurance in a universal system."I don't much see it, but there are a lot of people out there, including some bloggers, who were closer to the campaigns than I was, so how about a little help? Hey, netroots Deaniacs: did the Doctor deliberately wimp out on health care policy as a "tactical" thing, in the midst of an audacious campaign to defy the Washington Conventional Wisdom? Or did he actually think Dr. Dinosaur was a decent model for where we ought to go nationally on health care? You tell me, and tell Kevin.Matt Yglesias provides a more direct challenge, accepting my suggestion that the differences among Democrats is about means rather than ends, and expressing disappointment that I did not make a plenary argument for alternatives to single-payer.I'll be happy to respond in a day or two, when I can digest and deal with my new responsibilities as a lonely progressive defender of a path to univeral coverage that includes choice, competition and individual responsibility. But the burden of proof among progressives on heath care remains with those who think the single-payer approach--so seductively simple, but so systematically at odds with past Democratic and national principles about health care--is the self-evident Silver Bullet. "Everybody who denies it believes it in their hearts" is not an argument that meets this burden of proof.

March 6, 2006

Who's Definining UHC?

Having just done two adulatory posts about articles in The Washington Monthly, and planning another for tomorrow, I guess it's a matter of balance to take serious issue with the Monthly's blog, Political Animal, wherein Kevin Drum just posted a petulant and abusive attack on the Progressive Policy Institute's proposal for universal health coverage.All you really need to know about Kevin's point of view is this statement about the PPI proposal:

[I]t's far too timid about at least acknowledging that our eventual goal should be a full-fledged, single-payer national healthcare system.
Well, hell, Kevin, if that's the case, I would agree with you that the PPI plan is too complicated, too compromising, too infeasible, etc., etc. Sure, PPI proposes one very simple idea--making the federal employee health plan a national model--but if the only definition of "universal health care" is to abolish private health insurance and cover everyone publicly, then obviously, anything short of that earns all those abusive adjectives. But I somehow missed the moment when single-payer became not only progressive orthodoxy, but the only way to achieve universal coverage. As recently as 2004, John Kerry, John Edwards, Howard Dean, Dick Gephardt, Wesley Clark, and Joe Lieberman offered health care plans that would take the country pretty damn close to UHC without embracing a single-payer system at all. I'm not sure any of those plans could have been described in the seven points you consider so incredibly complex. Were they all compromising wimps? Did they all privately acknowledge that single-payer was the goal, and just cringe from saying it publicly?As I suggested in my first comment on UHC a few days ago, the big debate among progressives isn't so much about whether to cover 90 percent, or 89 percent, or 100 percent of Americans, but the relative role of public and private insurance in getting there. That's a debate we have to have, and it's not advanced by those who deny there's anything to talk about.

Religion and Liberty

Another fine feature of the new issue of the Washington Monthly is a carefully reasoned and solidly researched article by BeliefNet founder Steve Waldman about the all-but-forgotten history of evangelical Christians' passionate support for the most radical notions of religious liberty during the founding period of the Republic.What makes Waldman's account especially valuable is that he directly comes to grips with a whole generation of conservative evangelical revisionist history on this topic, particularly the claim that the First Amendment was only intended to prevent establishment of a particular Church, and should not be understood as prohibiting general public support for Christianity. As Waldman explains, Virginia had a very clear and specific debate on this proposition in the years immediately following the Revolution, when Patrick Henry proposed a system allowing citizens to designate a tax to support the church of their choice, and James Madison, soon to become the "Father of the Constitution," strongly opposed it. Madison ultimately prevailed in this debate, in no small part because of vocal support from evangelicals, and especially the Baptist forefathers of today's most avid opponents of the "wall of separation" interpretation of the Establishment Clause.Waldman's evocation of Madison's key role in promoting a more radical idea of religious liberty is also useful because another revisionist theory often suggests that the whole idea of church-state separatism was little more than a typically heretical quirk of the notoriously heterodox Thomas Jefferson. If Madison, who once trained for the Anglican priesthood, and remained faithful to that communion throughout his life, shared Jefferson's Deist tendencies, he left little record of it. And for that matter, even Jefferson himself raised his children as Anglicans, and was a vestryman for an Anglican parish outside Charlottesville until his death (I know this personally, having attended a church in that parish for a while). These were not men determined to fight respect for religion.Yet Jefferson and Madison were jointly responsible for Virginia's radical religious liberty laws, and clearly sought to implement them nationally in the First Amendment. It's more than slightly odd that the descendants of their strongest allies in that fight have so decisively changed sides.

Chickens Coming Home To Roost For Reed

For those of you who share my interest in the fate of one Ralph Reed, candidate for Lieutenant Governor in my home state of Georgia, you might want to check out a piece I did for the Washington Monthly, just out today.The bottom line is that Ralph finally appears to be in deep trouble, not just because of his continuing embroilment in the Abramoff scandal, but because, well, a lot of Georgia Republicans just don't like the guy, and haven't for years. Some of it has to do with the disastrous campaign he helped run for another candidate for Lieutenant Governor back in 1998, which helped drag down the entire GOP ticket. And some of it has to do with his behavior as Georgia state party chair in 2002, when he took a little too much credit for a big year, and disrespected gubernatorial candidate Sonny Perdue a little too much for his own good. My own conclusion is that Ralph is probably going down, if not in the August primary, then in November, even if he doesn't get a lethal visit from the process servers in the meantime. We'll know soon enough, but this is clearly a guy who is having to live with the consequences of his past misdeeds, ethical and political.

March 5, 2006

From the Book of Numbers

I'm still far too cold-remedy-fogged to offer any cogent thoughts on universal health coverage on this Sunday, but did want to point you to a couple of interesting articles about poll numbers from today's Washington Post.Alan Abramowitz, from my undergraduate alma mater of Emory, probes Bush's lagging approval ratings and suggests that W.'s systemic lack of credibility is finally and perhaps irreversably infecting the conservative base that has sustained him all these years.More playfully, but no less meaningfully, Richard Morin compares Dick Cheney's current 18 percent approval rating and compares it to other current and past public figures commonly thought to be loathsome.The bad news for Cheney is he's:

Less popular than singer Michael Jackson, bedmate of little boys and world-class screwball. One in four Americans -- 25 percent -- told Gallup polltakers last June they were still Jackson fans after the onetime King of Pop was found not guilty of child molesting.Less popular than former football star O.J. Simpson was after his arrest and trial for murdering his estranged wife and her companion. Three in 10 -- 29 percent -- of all Americans had a favorable view of Simpson in an October, 1995 Gallup poll.Less popular with Americans than Joseph Stalin is with Russians. In 2003, fully 20 percent said Stalin, blamed for millions of deaths in the former Soviet Union during the 1930s and 1940s, was a "wise and humane" leader. Thirty-one percent also said they wouldn't object if Uncle Joe came back to rule again, according to surveys conducted by Russian pollsters.Much less popular than former Vice President Spiro Agnew in his final days in office. Forty-five percent approved of the job that Agnew was doing as President Richard Nixon's veep in a Gallup Poll conducted in August 1973, little more than a month before Agnew resigned and pleaded no contest to a criminal tax evasion charge arising from a bribery investigation.

The good news for Cheney? Here it is:

Even at 18 percent you're not the least popular public figure in America. You're slightly better liked than that fabulously blond and brainless party girl Paris Hilton. She was viewed favorably last June by 15 percent of the public, according to Gallup.

That must be an enormous consolation to the man who used to be thought of as the colorless grownup of the Bush administration, forever lending his great credibility to W.Thus endeth today's lesson.

March 3, 2006


A vibrant debate over the political and substantive aspects of a Democratic recommitment to Universal Health Coverage has broken out all over the wonkier avenues of the progressive blogosphere (especially at TAPPED, where Ezra Klein and Garance Franke-Ruta have a bunch of recent posts). I plan to cautiously weigh in on this debate over the weekend, if and when my current vicious cold allows me to emerge from my mental fog. But for the time being, I just wanted to let you know about the Progressive Policy Institute's plan for UHC, which combines some of the smarter recent ideas about how to deal with the triple problems of cost, coverage and (especially) quality. Today's New Dem Dispatch briefly lays it all out, and the main DLC web page currently features a nice little box that combines links to PPI's critique of the atavistic Bush health care agenda and its positive progressive alternative.

March 2, 2006

Bush and Darwin

The well-known advocate of "intelligent design" theories, George W. Bush, is not a guy you would normally associate with Charles Darwin. But when it comes to social policy, Bush has no particular problem with Social Darwinism.That's particularly true of his health care agenda, which may seem light and lame-o to casual observers, but actually reflects a systematic effort to unravel the whole system of risk-sharing on which not only public programs but private insurance pools depend, and make access to health care a matter of "survival of the fittest." Read all about it in today's New Dem Dispatch.

March 1, 2006

Still Another Assault On National Service

Having done a brief meditation on mortality in my last post, I should mention the passing of a very good man recently: Eli Segal, who among other things, was the founding father of AmeriCorps. Al From wrote a tribute to Eli's service to his country and his party that you can read here.My own most vivid memory of Eli was of a phone call I received from him at home late one night in the midst of congressional consideration of the original AmeriCorps legislation. Some veterans group had become concerned that the post-service educational benefits proposed for AmeriCorps participants were too generous in comparison to veterans' benefits, and Eli was trying to get in touch with my former boss, long-time national service champion Senator Sam Nunn, to help put out the fire. But he greeted me with the words: "Ed Kilgore! History is calling!"At the time I thought the line was very funny, and typically Eli. But as I get older, I think he might well have been correct: tracking down Sam Nunn that night might have been one of my few personal contributions to the national welfare. Eli Segal had to put out many other fires that threatened the Clinton administration's small but proud national service initiative, particularly after the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994. He probably felt vindicated when George W. Bush made national service a major theme of his 2003 State of the Union Address, and promised to stop GOP efforts to kill AmeriCorps and related programs. But that's why it especially outrageous that Bush's latest budget renewed the Republican assault on national service, proposing to shut down the National Civilian Community Corps, an ancillary program to AmeriCorps whose members have particularly distinguished themselves in post-Katrina recovery efforts. The Office of Management and Budget's rationale for this proposal is that the per-participant cost of NCCC is marginally higher than that of AmeriCorps. Well, that's hardly surprising, since the whole point to NCCC is that it is a residential program targeted in no small part to young people from very disadvantaged backgrounds, who need residential support. Guest-blogging at Political Animal, Washington Monthly editor Paul Glastris goes after this proposed elimination of NCCC, and offers some alternative cuts if Republicans are actually serious about cutting frivolous federal spending. And like Paul, a whole generation of national service advocates, among whom I am proud to be a charter member going back to the 1980s, is mobilizing to expose the Bush proposal for the hypocritical joke that it actually is.Somewhere, Eli Segal is smiling.

Ash Wednesday

Remember, O man, that dust thou art, and to dust thou shalt return!This is, at least in the traditional Catholic and Anglican versions, what priests say to Christians during the imposition of ashes (created from the previous year's Palm Sunday fronds) on this first day of Lent. The line comes from God's injunction to Adam and Eve in Genesis about the consequence of their disobedience, which is mortality.It's not a bad time for all of us to devote a day to the remembrance of our mortality, individually and as a species. And recent months have represented fine times for the Grim Reaper, in places ranging from Darfur to Iraq to subsarahan Africa to New Orleans. It's also not a bad time for everyone to take notice of our collective responsibility that could lead to a virtual suicide of the human race, such as our potentially catastrophic tampering with global climate patterns, and our tolerance of a renewed nuclear arms race across the breadth of Asia. As the economist John Maynard Keynes once famously said when arguing with some long-term prediction: "In the long run, we'll all be dead." That's true, and aside from our particular convictions about a life beyond death, it's why the best possible meditation on Ash Wednesday is on ways we can give hope to those who will succeed us in this life. I know that sounds like some liberal injunction to collectivism and to the idea of investments in the future. But it's an entirely Biblical train of thought. You could look it up.