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The end of the Grand Old Party

GOP Presidential Candidate Donald Trump Holds Indiana Primary Night Gathering In New York

Trump's rise confirms the alarming decay of the Republicans.

Read my Spiked article in full here.

Unsafe Space

unsafe spaceI'm excited to see that Unsafe Space, a new book of essays on free speech on campus, has just been published in the US. I'm one of the contributors, with a chapter on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement: "BDS: Demonizing Israel, Destroying Free Speech." The book is edited by Tom Slater, deputy editor of Spiked

The book is packed with excellent contributions, from Brendan O'Neill and other Spiked writers, Greg Lukianoff of FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) and Peter Wood of the National Association of Scholars, among others. From the back of the book:

The academy is in crisis. Students call for speakers to be banned, books to be slapped with trigger warnings and university to be a Safe Space, free of offensive words or upsetting ideas. But as tempting as it is to write off intolerant students as a generational blip, or a science experiment gone wrong, they’ve been getting their ideas from somewhere. Bringing together leading journalists, academics and agitators from the US and UK, Unsafe Space is a wake-up call. From the war on lad culture to the clampdown on climate sceptics, we need to resist all attempts to curtail free speech on campus. But society also needs to take a long, hard look at itself. Our inability to stick up for our founding, liberal values, to insist that the free exchange of ideas should always be a risky business, has eroded free speech from within.

The book is recommended by free speech heroes Jonathan Rauch, Harvey Silverglate and Nadine Strossen. Here's what Rauch has to say about it:

Trigger warning: If universities' becoming hostile environments for intellectual freedom doesn't worry you already, it will after you've read the passionate, wide-ranging, and sometimes startling essays in Unsafe Space. Fortunately, when you pick up this book, the solution--more speech, better arguments, and moral courage--is in your hands.

Continue reading→

Berned out

Boiled down, Bernie Sanders’ message was just too pessimistic.

Read my Spiked article in full here.

US election podcast

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In the latest episode of Spiked's weekly radio show, I spoke with Tom Slater, Spiked's deputy editor, about why Bernie Sanders has failed to make his "revolution" a reality.

Tom also speaks with lawyer and social critic Wendy Kaminer about the victim politics of Donald Trump.

You can listen to the podcast here.

Articles of note

"Pro-Trump, anti-Mexican messages chalked on California campus as 'chalkening' movement spreads," Washington Post, by Susan Svrluga

"Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are delusional on trade policy," Daily Beast, by Will Marshall and Ed Gerwin

"What's behind the revolt against global integration?" Washington Post, by Lawrence Summers

"A drought of ideas," The American Interest, by Walter Russell Mead

"Dear attorneys general, conspiring against free speech is a crime," USA Today, by Glenn Reynolds

"An overheated climate alarm," Wall Street Journal, by Bjorn Lomborg

"Exhibiting bias: radical environmentalists want museums to stop taking donations from conservatives," City Journal, by John Tierney

"Religious liberty in Mississippi," American Conservative, by Rod Dreher

"Stanford students want Western Civilization studies back as the PC backlash begins," Daily Beast, by Lizzie Crocker

"The ages of distraction," Aeon, by Frank Furedi

Is the game rigged against Trump and Sanders?

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No, these outsiders aren't being done in by their parties.

Read my spiked article in full here.

After Wisconsin

Billboard on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Sean Collins)

Billboard on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Sean Collins)

The front-runners took it on the chin in last night's Wisconsin primaries. Ted Cruz beat Donald Trump, 48% to 35%, while Bernie Sanders defeated Hillary Clinton by a similar margin, 57% to 43%.

So, what did we learn from these results?

Republicans

  • Cruz cruises: Last night’s victory was an impressive one for Cruz, and for the so-called Stop Trump movement. His 48% was the largest share of the vote he has received in any primary. To date, Cruz has relied on evangelical voters for his support, but Wisconsin showed he could win without a large evangelical population (but that said, Wisconsin does have a sizeable group of Christian two-parent families, and they plumped for him). He has benefited from the winnowing of the field, and is emerging as the main anti-Trump candidate. Indeed, there is some indication that some suburban voters – who have traditionally been repelled by Cruz – may have voted tactically in order to try to stop Trump.
  • Kasich struggles: In contrast to Cruz, Kasich had a bad night. Since his win in his home state of Ohio, his challenge was to hope for momentum and replicate that result, especially in states that are nearby and share similar features as Ohio. He didn’t deliver in Wisconsin. In fact, his 14% was below what he received in earlier primaries in Michigan (24%) and Illinois (20%). Even though he likes to cite polls that show he could beat Hillary Clinton in November, Kasich won’t get serious consideration if he performs like he did in Wisconsin.
  • Trump hits a ceiling: A loss in Wisconsin is certainly a blow to Trump. In one sense, he performed in line what should have been expected, as he gained a similar proportion of votes as he did in neighboring states like Iowa, Michigan and Illinois. But it’s interesting that he did not expand his support as the field of candidates narrowed. Trump encountered concerted opposition in Wisconsin, from Governor Scott Walker (who backed Cruz), SuperPACs spending millions on advertisements, and conservative talk show hosts. But he also caused his own problems: he faced a rough time in the media the prior week after his statement on punishing women who have abortions and an accusation of battery leveled against his campaign manager (among others – it’s hard to keep up with his controversies). Trump is a polarizing figure: while he supporters are loyal, he has turned off many other Republican voters. He is so well-known now, and with nearly everyone having formed an opinion of him, it is hard to see how he can substantially broaden his support.
  • What to look for now: Wisconsin could prove to be a turning point for Trump. After Wisconsin, it is much more likely that he will not reach the majority of delegates (1,237) before the July convention. But it is still possible for Trump (and impossible for Cruz and Kasich). Many of the upcoming primaries are in states in the Northeast and West coast, which Trump should do well in, if past performance is a guide. Cruz has yet to prove he can win in those regions. On paper, Kasich should appeal to voters in those regions given his stances, but you have to be pessimistic about that happening given that there’s no evidence that he received a post-Ohio bounce. On the other hand, the math for Trump is daunting (he needs to win 69% of bound delegates going forward), and he doesn’t appear to have momentum – if anything, Wisconsin shows his support may be ebbing. The Republican contest looks like it will go down to the last set of primaries, which includes California, on 7 June.
  • A wild convention?: Many are now looking ahead to the possibility of a contested convention in Cleveland. If Trump doesn’t reach the magic 1,237 in advance, I don’t see him getting the nomination, even if he falls short by a relatively small number of delegates. Not having secured 1,237, he would most likely fail on the first ballot, and then a number of delegates pledged to him will become free to vote as they wish (and even more delegates free up after a second ballot). There is no sign that these delegates – who are, for the most part, longstanding Republican party members in each state – are pro-Trump. If anything, many delegates see the polls that show Trump would be trounced by Hillary Clinton in a general election, and are looking for any opportunity to dump him. Trump is a one-man show with not much of an organization behind him, and the word is that Cruz (who has a real operation on the ground) is far ahead of Trump in wooing the delegates. You hear pundits say “If Trump comes just short of 1,237, there’s no way the Republican establishment will take the nomination away from him. That would be suicidal.” But the point they miss is that the party hierarchy can’t control the outcome: even if they wished for Trump to get the nomination, they can’t make that happen, as they have little means of swaying the delegates. It seems more likely to me that, in a scenario where Trump doesn’t get a majority, the delegates will either switch to Cruz in the second or third ballot, or hold out for a new name altogether in a later ballot (rumors are that it might be Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House). It would not be unprecedented for an American party to hold a contested (or “brokered”) convention (the most recent cases were in 1952, when both Republicans and Democrats had such conventions), or to give the nomination to someone who had not run for the primaries before the convention (last seen in 1968, when Democrats selected Hubert Humphrey).

Continue reading→

Articles of note

"The Obama doctrine," The Atlantic, by Jeffrey Goldberg

"Chaos in the family, chaos in the state: the white working class's dysfunction," National Review, by Kevin Williamson

"What Donald Trump gets pretty much right, and completely wrong, on China," New York Times, by Neil Irwin

"What happens when Wal-Mart dumps you," The Daily Beast, by Joel Kotkin

"The matter of black lives," The New Yorker, by Jelani Cobb

"How 'safe spaces' stifle ideas," The Chronicle of Higher Education, by Robert Boyers

"Marquette's gender regime," First Things, by Mickey L. Mattox

"The new fiction of solitude," The Atlantic, by Nicholas Dames

"Top 10 players to watch in the 2016 NCAA tournament," Real Clear Sports

Takeaways from the Ides of March primaries

trump-clinton

The Ides of March primaries won't be seen as turning points in world history, but they were pretty critical in determining who will be the parties' 2016 presidential candidates. 

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton won big last night. There were five states in play for both Republicans and Democrats: Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina and Ohio. Trump won four of five (Ohio was his only loss), while Clinton took a clean sweep. These two are clearly the front-runners, and, as of today, you have to say the most likely outcome is a Trump-Clinton contest in the fall.

What else did we learn from last night's results? Here are some takeaways:

Republicans

  • Goodbye Marco: Trump’s most impressive win was in Florida, where he demolished Rubio, 46% to 27%. Florida is Rubio’s home state, and the “stop Trump” movement poured in $15-20 million in negative ads, yet Trump blew him away. Rubio announced he was ending (technically, “suspending”) his campaign. Some say Rubio’s failure was down to a poor debate in New Hampshire, and his childish digs at Trump for his digit size (trying to out-Trump Trump). But the rot was much deeper than these tactical moves. Rubio was revealed as a flawed candidate, with a lackluster message filled with platitudes and little support on the ground. The so-called “Republican Savior” (according to Time magazine) was a candidate manufactured in the elites’ heads, and his failed campaign has exposed the Republican establishment’s entire post-2012 strategy as bankrupt.
  • Cruz underwhelms: Cruz’s losses to Trump in Missouri and North Carolina were by narrow margins. But rather than applaud him for coming a close second, as some of his backers do, it should be acknowledged that Cruz should have won those two states - if he is supposed to be, as he claims, the only one who can stop Trump. Cruz’s entire strategy is to win his apparent base - the evangelical vote, which is mainly located in the South - and then try to broaden from there. After last night, we have to say Cruz has failed. Indeed, one of the most important – and under-appreciated - keys to Trump’s success to date has been the way he has won much of the evangelical vote away from Cruz. It’s interesting to see how class has trumped religion for a segment of these voters. In general terms, Trump has won the blue-collar and lower income evangelicals (including those who are more likely to be single or divorced, and do not go to church), while Cruz has won the middle and upper class evangelicals (who are more likely to be married church-goers).
  • Kasich’s firewall: John Kasich, the governor of Ohio, delivered his home state last night by a fairly wide margin over Trump, 47% to 36%, and showed that Trump is not invincible. Kasich had the support of Mitt Romney and other top party leaders, and now becomes the de facto hope for the Republican establishment. As I have noted before, on paper Kasich could appeal to moderate Republicans in the “blue” states of the North, Midwest and far West, but that’s just on paper. For now, Ohio will be put down as a win on his home turf, with not necessarily any wider significance.
  • The delegate math going forward is formidable for Trump: It is now estimated that Trump now needs to win about 55-60% of the remaining delegates in order to secure the majority before the Cleveland convention in July (the magic number of 1,237 delegates). That’s important because, if Trump doesn’t gain that majority in advance, there is a good chance he will be denied the nomination in a contested convention. If the nomination process was based simply on picking up delegates on a proportional basis, Trump would be facing a huge obstacle, given that he has been winning about 35% of the Republican primary votes, well below that 55-60% needed. However, 10 states that have yet to vote award delegates on a “winner take all” basis (I’ve excluded California, which applies a winner-take-all system by congressional district), and that gives Trump a better chance of securing the majority. Still, Trump faces a significant hurdle: I calculate that, if he wins 40% of the delegates in the remaining states that award delegates proportionally (that is, slightly higher than he has performed to date), he would have to win at least three-quarters of the delegates in the winner-take-all states in order to obtain the magic number.
  • But politics is not math: The math might sound daunting for Trump, but, on the current trajectory of the election campaign, he can certainly win the majority. He might need to win three-quarters of the winner-take-all states, but there’s no reason he couldn’t win 100% them. It is most likely that Cruz’s best days are behind him: there are only a few states remaining that have significant evangelical populations (and, as mentioned, he doesn’t necessarily win all of those voters), while to date he has performed poorly in non-evangelical states. Kasich would have to get a real bounce from his Ohio victory to win other states. In other words, if you want to stop Trump, you have to beat him, and neither Cruz or Kasich has proven they can do so on a consistent, broad basis. For months now, there have been lots of “stop Trump” or “#neverTrump” campaigns emerging – from both the Republican establishment as well as the pro-Cruz Tea Party types and National Review ideologues – and these have been picking up in intensity in recent weeks. Yet, all of this activity does not seem to halt Trump – in fact, the evidence from Florida suggests that the negative ads and other anti-Trump moves will backfire and actually lead to an increase in Trump’s support. The basic flaw in these campaigns, which their proponents are amazingly blind to, is the fact that an argument against Trump does not work if you can’t make an argument for another candidate.  It’s the weakness of the non-Trump candidates that makes Trump look so strong, and the biggest reason why Trump remains the favorite to be the party’s nominee.

Continue reading→

Trump: a monster made by PC

Thumbnail : Trump: a monster made by PC

The elite can’t fight The Donald because it unwittingly created him.

Read my spiked article in full here.

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