Tag: RNC

National Standardizers, Time to Speak Out against Federal Coercion

Maybe because it’s now hitting schools, or because it’s gotten high on the radars of Michelle Malkin and Glenn Beck, or because national science standards have raised a ruckus, but for whatever reason the Common Core is finally starting to get the national—and critical—attention it has desperately needed. Indeed, just yesterday Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) sent a letter to the Senate appropriations subcomittee that deals with education urging members to employ legislative language prohibiting federal funding or coercion regarding curricula. That follows the Republican National Committee last week passing a resolution opposing the Common Core.

It’s terrific to see serious attention paid to the Common Core, even if it is probably too late for many states to un-adopt the program in the near term. At the very least, this gives new hope that the public will be alert if there are efforts to connect annual federal funding to national standards and tests through a reauthorized No Child Left Behind Act. And there are certainly some states where nationalization could be halted in the next few months. Perhaps most important, the Grassley letter gives Common Core supporters who’ve said they oppose federal coercion a huge opening to act on their words—to loudly support an effort to keep Washington out. They can either do that, or substantiate the powerful suspicion that they are happy to use federal force to impose standards, they just don’t want to admit it.

The GOP’s Insipid American Exceptionalism

I’ve had it with “American exceptionalism.” Enough already.

The phrase has garnered a considerable amount of attention lately, namely because Republicans are saying it over and over again. The Atlantic points out that the term itself was coined by Joseph Stalin, lamenting America’s inability to go communist (cf. Louis Hartz). Of course, the concept that America was different than Europe goes back at least to Tocqueville, but is it too much to ask that we recall Tocqueville was writing nearly 200 years ago? Might we not pause, at least momentarily, to reconsider the argument from authority and subject it to a bit of scrutiny?

I complained about the pervasive theme at the Republican convention in my podcast yesterday, and Alex Massie holds forth against the exceptionally exceptionalistic speechifying at Foreign Policy today. Republicans—and the rest of us—ought to just shut up about exceptionalism already. As it stands now, a few word substitutions could make Herder or Fichte feel right at home at a GOP convention. We ought not to like this.

Encouraging citizens to reify, then flutter with excitement at the uniqueness of their own “imagined community” lubricates both the administrative capacity of and enthusiasm for the Great American Welfare/Warfare State that is presently bankrupting our unborn children. Those of us who would like a bit more federalism, veering toward sectionalism even, do so realizing that this would create downward pressure on the centralization of our lives in the body of the national government. (“Who is this fellow 2,000 miles away from me and why should I subsidize his career and pay his flood insurance and pension?”) That the disgrace of slavery accompanied the last era of sectionalism in this country is no reason to throw out the concept itself.

Bizarrely, the GOP married this nationalistic theme with an ostensible concern for how America is viewed across the world. Might we not consider that the world finds this constant self-congratulation unseemly and perhaps even dangerous? Imagine your coworker, or neighbor, or spouse, constantly parading about, preening and pronouncing that he is the greatest person ever to have been made and marveling at how lucky are those subject to his ministrations. Any impartial observer would forgive you for nudging him off a pier, and all the more so if he were, in fact, great.

This is perhaps the saddest part of the whole garish spectacle. The United States is a great country. Take a look around you. Saying it over and over again doesn’t make it any more so; in fact it makes it less. All the bleating about our exceptionalism from our leaders is enough to make you think that they don’t really believe it. The party doth protest too much, methinks.

The next time your would-be ruler holds forth about exceptionalism, remind yourself what Mencken said:

Democratic man, as I have remarked, is quite unable to think of himself as a free individual; he must belong to a group, or shake with fear and loneliness—and the group, of course, must have its leaders. It would be hard to find a country in which such brummagem serene highnesses are revered with more passionate devotion than they get in the United States. The distinction that goes with mere office runs far ahead of the distinction that goes with actual achievement.

That’s what this is all about: If we allow the other party or candidate to insert its peculiar and grotesque proboscides into our homes, wallets, and lives—well, we’ll be just that much less exceptional.

Much more in the podcast:

‘Contract on America’ Parody Actually Sounds Pretty Good

In an apparent attempt to simultaneously slander the Tea Party movement and preempt some of the themes the Republican Party will run on come Labor Day, the Democratic National Committee is announcing today the “Republican Tea Party Contract on America.”  Echoing Newt Gingrich’s 1994 “Contract with America,” the faux manifesto contains the following ten points:

  1. Repeal the Affordable Care Act (Health Care Reform)
  2. Privatize Social Security (or phase it out altogether)
  3. End Medicare as it presently exists
  4. Extend the Bush tax breaks for the wealthy and big oil
  5. Repeal Wall Street Reform
  6. Protect those responsible for the oil spill and future environmental catastrophes
  7. Abolish the Department of Education
  8. Abolish the Department of Energy
  9. Abolish the Environmental Protection Agency
  10. Repeal the 17th Amendment which provides for the direct election of senators

Now, I might quibble with some of the phrasing for both accuracy and PR – e.g., “permanently lower tax rates” rather than provide “breaks” for any particular group; nobody’s talking about protecting BP from liability but the drilling moratorium has spawned riskier practices farther away from the coast – but otherwise this looks pretty good.  The Democrats may well have stumbled on a winning platform, the only way they can forestall the massive losses expected this fall!

I mean, sustained majorities of Americans already favor number 1, support for number 5 drops the more people find out what’s in the actual “reform,” and numbers 7 and 8 have been popular ever since the GOP put them in their Reagan-era platform (since removed).  Again, a lot depends on how you understand each particular item – “end Medicare as it presently exists” could mean anything from nationalizing to privatizing to means-testing – but this list is a great start for taking back America from bureaucrats and big-government types and restoring lost individual freedoms.

For more ideas, see Cato’s Handbook for Policymakers.