Thursday, January 22, 2015

Is Hillary Stronger Without a Primary Opponent?

Today, Joe Biden made noises about running. Jerry Brown and Bernie Sanders have also stirred. Jim Webb, and, of course, Elizabeth Warren wait in the wings, pondering, perhaps planning.

Will Hillary have a challenger?

I suspect strongly she will. One of the above will say "it's for the good of the party that there be a choice." If it's Warren, she'd stand a real chance, as I've written before.

Perhaps the interesting question, though, is whether Hillary would be better (or worse) off with a primary opponent. Most pundits I listen to assume she wouldn't be, and I don't doubt Camp Clinton would just as soon dispense with the whole matter. But might she be better off? Normally, my answer would be yes.

A vigorous challenge in the primaries is almost always good for a nominee (assuming, of course, you survive the challenge itself). You get to fine tune your campaign's machinery, hiring and firing to get the optimal staff before the main event, hone your message. You get to practice debating. In Hillary's case, this will be vital, because the Republican nominee will have cut his teeth on nine debates with multiple challengers. And let's face it, Hillary is not a natural. 

Quick, what was the last time Hillary campaigned for office? Answer: 2008. One can assume she's rusty, and she's not a gifted campaigner to begin with, possessing none of her husband's elan or empathy on the trail. In short, the primaries are like spring training, and Hillary will need the innings.

Let's look at the other side, though.

Money is something most people immediately point out. Spend lots of it in the primaries, and you have less for the general. Sure, most of the time, but access to money is not a Clinton weak point. She will have gushers and gushers of it.

Then there's the pesky fact that Hillary's poll numbers always decline the more people are exposed to her. Hiding out for a few months, going to fundraisers in Hollywood while the Republicans exchange blows, seems wise.

But there's something else, something much deadlier, and it's the real reason Hillary desperately wants a coronation. Any of her would-be challengers will come at her from her left flank, and that poses a major problem. 

Now, as an aside, Naked Dollar readers might not think there's much room there, and I would agree. But there's a bit on foreign policy, where she's a sometimes-hawk, and her tight relationship with Wall Street (particularly Goldman Sachs) will be awkward, but really, the situation is that she's a liberal who will be attacked, potentially, by an uber-liberal. Given that Democrat primaries are dominated by the more liberal elements in the party, Hillary will be forced to tack left, and that is not where she wants to go, not at all. For instance, would she have to match Warren's ardor for more Obama-like redistributionist tax schemes? She might, and that would pose a huge problem in the general.

No Democrat ever gets elected president by campaigning as a liberal. Basically, they have to lie about their beliefs. This is most particularly true of Obama, who blatantly campaigned as a middle-of-the-road alternative to Republican extremism, a post-partisan man.

There is a reason this is so, and it's because not very many Americans are liberal. Oh, I know it seems like it, particularly if you live on the coasts, watch mainstream news, or have any exposure to our universities, but it's not the case. Very consistently over time, only 20% Americans self-identify as liberals. (There are far more Democrats than liberals, interestingly.)

Twenty is a long way from fifty, so to win a national election, any Democrat must crush it among moderates. (The opposite is true for Republicans - 40% of America self-identifies as conservative, so Republicans have to run base elections to win, something they seldom seem to understand.)

Hillary would love to spend the primary season staking out all sorts of unchallenged, milk-toasty moderate positions. She would raise the art of vagueness to new heights because that would be the smart thing to do, and how convenient that a platitudinous approach is right in her wheelhouse. But forced by a challenger to apply salve to the base, come the general she won't survive having to defend the things she'll have to say.

I almost always say candidates are stronger having fended off a primary challenge. This time I do not. Camp Clinton is using all its muscle to scare away the pretenders, and their instinct is right.

P.S. The Republican field should be licking it's lips, because this is a win-win for them either way. Rusty Hillary or Liberal Hillary. Game on.

Friday, January 16, 2015

In Defense of Hazing

Have you noticed there has been an explosion of hazing and sexual harassment on America’s campuses? It's everywhere. Not a day goes by when we don't hear of another terrible accusation leveled at some school, somewhere. For every one we hear about, there are likely a hundred that we don't. What's going on?

Much of this stems from the left's usurpation of the language, which I wrote about in De-Coding the Language of the Left. Progressives have been actively redefining certain concepts in order to make them seem like bigger problems than they are, and by so doing, gin up outrage, raise money, and accumulate power. 

President Obama told us recently that one-in-five college women have been the victim of sexual harassment. One in five! Holy cow, our campuses are plagued with rapists. 

It turns out that Obama wasn't lying...if you accept the federal government's new definitions of sexual harassment.

Obama knows, of course, that most of us still think that when he says "harassment," he's referring to "rape." That's what he wants you to think. Outrage, money, power. Repeat. 

Here is an excerpt from the EEOC guidelines on sexual harassment:
Harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature, however, and can include offensive remarks about a person’s sex. For example, it is illegal to harass a woman by making offensive comments about women in general.

Wait, wait, wait - sexual harassment doesn't have to be of a sexual nature? I can just yell, say, "I hate women!" and suddenly I am a sexual predator? Yikes! 

You don't have to take my word for this, you can read the EEOC guidelines here. See for yourself how the bureaucratic minions of the left have been justifying deeper intrusions into American society (Title IX is a popular cudgel).

Of course, the recent Rolling Stone/UVA hoax, as well as Lena's Dunham's fabricated story about being raped by a prominent college Republican, have exposed the Big Lie behind all this, at least to all except the left. It turns out the actual incidence of rape on college campuses is 0.6%, which is actually less than for the rest of society.

At best, sexual harassment is a silly matter, a wolf whistle, at worst something that sends you to prison. You can't say it’s ever a social positive. And therein lies the difference with hazing, for which I'm going to offer a slightly different take. Much of the time is a good thing, one that serves a purpose. That purpose is to bind groups of people together, people who may not have had a connection previously.

Let's take an almost silly example. At my son's school, there is a beautiful grass circle in the middle of campus, and there's a quaint tradition whereby freshmen are not allowed to cross the circle - they have to walk around. If upperclassmen catch them, they chase the offenders off, usually with snowballs or water balloons. They did, that is, until the school administration decided that this constituted hazing. 

As a student, you don't want to mess with a hazing charge, not in today's environment. It can get you expelled in a hurry. "But, ma'am, it was only snowballs" doesn't fly. You are guilty of hazing. You are labeled. The word itself has become politically charged, and it is poison.

The freshman enjoyed the whole ritual, though. Sure, it was a pain to walk around, or to occasionally have snowballs hit you in the face, but it was something they shared, that they endured together. The next year, they would take pleasure in meting out the same punishment to the new kids. Years later, they would reminisce; a small thing, maybe, but a bond nonetheless.

Then there's the typical fraternity initiation, and I speak from experience here. Much of what we were put through I'd be hesitant to put in print (and I'm pretty sure I'd be violating some long-forgotten secret oath), but suffice it to say, while much of the process was harmless, there were other aspects that, if inflicted on anyone at Gitmo, Diane Feinstein would be crying torture and issuing 800-page briefs. The Times would swoon. 

But here's the thing: it was fun. I’ll never forget it. 

It also served a purpose. I didn't know most of the other guys at the start, but by the end I considered them lifelong friends. We had been through this ordeal together, and had to act as a team. I also felt closer to the older guys, because they, too, had endured the same process. So had brothers ten, twenty, or thirty years older. We all had a bond.

Perhaps the harshest example is basic training. Most of us know someone who's been through it, or perhaps you once saw An Officer and a Gentlemen - it's brutal, and it lasts months. But here again, there is a higher purpose, one that saves lives. It's about fitness, teamwork, and esprit de corps. You go in a man, and come out a soldier, as the saying goes. It's not fraternity-like fun, but few say they regret going through it.

So, here's where I have to give the obligatory caveat: there are obviously lines that can't be crossed, mostly ones involving physical harm. But most cases don't cross this line. We need to use some common sense and realize that not all hazing created equally. 

The problem is that hazing has been sucked up into the maelstrom of cultural politics. Think about the institutions most frequently associated with hazing - they are exactly the sort of patriarchal organizations that progressives loathe. Broadening hazing's definition to include harmless traditions is part of a strategy of diminishment. Let's not kid ourselves, it's effective. 

Hazing accusations have been used so successfully that they are now a permanent part of the left's arsenal.

Thank you, sir, you may not have another.