George Will argues in his Washington Post column today that what he terms the Justice Department's "drive to federalize voter registration" is an unnecessarily complex answer to "the non-problem of people choosing not to vote," and that high voter turnout isn't all it's cracked up to be, citing the German elections of the early 1930s that resulted in Nazi dictatorship.
Describing "obvious reasons for non-voting," he writes:
[T]he stakes of politics are agreeably low because constitutional rights and other essential elements of happiness are not menaced by elections. Those who think high voter turnout indicates civic health should note that in three German elections, 1932-33, turnout averaged more than 86 percent, reflecting the terrible stakes: The elections decided which mobs would rule the streets and who would inhabit concentration camps.
There's a lot to unpack here, but I'll try to keep it brief. Germany in the early 1930s was reeling from the global depression, increasingly bitter over the outcome of World War I and the punitive terms of the Treaty of Versailles, and overrun by extremist parties with their own paramilitary wings brawling in the streets and shooting at each other outside political rallies. Anti-Semitism was widespread, everyone hated the Weimar government, and nostalgia for the heady days of the Kaiser led most people to actually yearn for a dictatorship of some form. And in this toxic political environment, the Nazis managed to prevail over the other extremist groups -- largely due to popular support, but also through conspiracy and outright intimidation.
None of that, however, is an argument against the high voter turnout as a sign of "civic health." It's an argument against war, depression, anti-Semitism, Nazis, Communists, and political violence. Will could just as easily have argued that representative government, or elections themselves, aren't a sign of "civic health," given how they were misused and perverted by Hitler and his associates.
From the December 18 edition of ABC's This Week with Christianne Amanpour:
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In a November 17 Washington Post column, George Will suggested "economic growth decreased" following a 1990 budget deal that included a tax increase. In fact, the United States experienced sustained economic growth soon after the debt deal, which continued for a decade.
Politico reported Friday that more than a week prior, the wife of conservative Washington Post columnist George Will took a messaging position with the campaign of Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry. Politico noted that Will had since discussed the GOP primary and disparaged Perry's primary opponents in two Post columns and on ABC's This Week, all without disclosing his wife's position. The article also indicated that while Will had told his Post editors that his wife's role was unpaid, it is in fact a paid position.
This morning, Will finally disclosed his wife's position during ABC's This Week. When given the opportunity by host Christiane Amanpour to do some "personal housekeeping," Will did not apologize for his failure to reveal this information, nor did he pledge to continue to make such disclosures in the future. In fact, Will's only "housekeeping" was mentioning that "some of the more excitable and perhaps less mature members of the Romney campaign have tried to make this personal."
From the November 13 edition of ABC's This Week:
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Politico reported that the wife of Washington Post columnist George Will has taken a job with the campaign of Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry, a fact Will reportedly plans to disclose on Sunday on ABC News and in future columns.
As noted* by Politico's Dylan Byers, the ties between the Perry camp and Will's wife, Mari Maseng, developed in recent weeks as Will was discussing Perry's opponents in Washington Post columns and during appearances on ABC News.
Washington Post editor Fred Hiatt, however, dismissed concerns about Will's past columns:
"There was no relationship between his wife and any campaign the last time he wrote a column on the campaign, or any aspect of the campaign," Hiatt said. "This developed after the last column that was two weeks ago. He has never written a column while there was a relationship between his wife and the campaign."
Will has however had multiple columns within the last two weeks. His most recent column for the Post was published online November 9 and in print November 10. A column about the GOP debates was published online November 4 (in print November 6), and a column that disparaged Romney as "the pretzel candidate" was published online October 28 (in print October 30).
And there is some confusion over Maseng's status: Both Hiatt and Washington Post Writer Group editor Alan Scherer say that when Will informed them of Maseng's role, he said it was unpaid. However, Miner told us that this was a paid position. Will did not return more than half-a-dozen calls.
Maseng's job may also pose a problem for Will's relationship with ABC News. On November 6, two days before the debate and after Maseng started her work for the campaign, Will appeared on ABC's "This Week" and faulted Perry's GOP challengers, including Romney.
*Updated to reflect changes in the Politico article.
UPDATE: Politico is now reporting that Will's wife also sought work with the Romney campaign:
In addition to her current work for the Perry campaign and her earlier work for the Bachmann campaign, a source knowledgeable of the situation tells us that Maseng sought out a role with the Romney campaign in June.
On June 28, Maseng went to Boston and met with multiple, "high-level officials" in the Romney campaign about joining on as an adviser. No formal offer was ever made, according to the source.
Writing in the Washington Post today, George Will does the punditry equivalent of kicking open the screen door and screaming at the damn kids on his lawn:
In scale, OWS's demonstrations-cum-encampments are to Tea Party events as Pittsburg, Kan., is to Pittsburgh, Pa. So far, probably fewer people have participated in all of them combined than attended just one Tea Party rally, that of Sept. 12, 2009, on the Mall. In comportment, OWS is to the Tea Party as Lady Gaga is to Lord Chesterfield: Blocking the Brooklyn Bridge was not persuasion modeled on Tea Party tactics.
Lord Chesterfield was Philip Stanhope, the 4th Earl of Chesterfield, an 18th-century essayist and quote-monger who devised many well-known aphorisms. Lady Gaga is a popular musician who wears strange clothes, has legions of fans, and is confusing to the older generations. I doubt the Occupy Wall Street protesters would view the comparison as quite the insult George Will intends it to be. And Lord Chesterfield, his gifts of insight and brevity notwithstanding, never came up so meaningful a saying as: "Keep your government hands off my Medicare."
But let's not get distracted -- George Will is here to punch hippies, and he even takes a fond look back at the days when people actually punched actual hippies:
Imitation is the sincerest form of progressivism because nostalgia motivates progressives, not conservatives. Tea Party Envy is leavened by Woodstock Envy -- note the drum circles at the Manhattan site -- which is a facet of Sixties Envy. Hence, conservatives should be rejoicing.
From 1965 through 1968, the left found its voice and style in consciousness-raising demonstrations and disruptions. In November 1968, the nation, its consciousness raised, elected Richard Nixon president and gave 56.9 percent of the popular vote to Nixon or George Wallace. Republicans won four of the next five presidential elections.
Seriously? I know that it's easy to overstate the influence of the counter-culture movement, but come on...
A less cynical person might point out that the period of "consciousness-raising demonstrations and disruptions" happened to coincide with the height of the Civil Rights movement, which Republicans exploited -- along with Vietnam fatigue -- to fracture the old Democratic coalitions and ride to power. (There's a reason George Wallace carried five states in 1968, and it wasn't the anti-drum circle vote.)
Also: conservatives are not motivated by "nostalgia"? There's not one time period, or one president, that gets them all misty-eyed when the memories start trickling down?
Anyway, George Will envisions the coming election as a battle between the hippies and the "real" America. "So: OWS vs. the Tea Party. Republicans generally support the latter. Do Democrats generally support the former? Let's find out. Let's vote." Great idea! Though given that the OWS protesters at the moment have a net positive approval rating, whereas the Tea Party's is very much negative, it's possible that Will and the rest of the hippie-punchers might find themselves encircled by drums.
George Will recently argued that it was unconstitutional for states to set maximum hour limits for certain workers, a view that the Supreme Court took in 1905, but repudiated in 1936. Will's argument also put him at odds with seven of the nine current Supreme Court justices, including Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito. Even Will himself once opposed the decision striking down maximum hour laws.
Now, Will has turned to attacking business regulation more generally. In today's Washington Post, without pointing to any provision in the Constitution to back him up, Will adopted the argument that "the Constitution protects the individual's right to earn a living free from unreasonable regulation." That might be all well and good in the abstract, but in practice, such a doctrine would put minimum wage laws (it would be unconstitutional to stop an individual from "earn[ing] a living" if she had decided to accept a job that pays $3 per hour), as well as child labor laws, at risk.
Vong, 47, left Vietnam in 1982, and after stops in Indonesia, Thailand, Taiwan and Hong Kong, settled in San Francisco and lived there for 20 years before coming here to open a nail salon with a difference. Her salon offered $30 fish therapy, wherein small fish from China nibble dead skin from people's feet. Arizona's Board of Cosmetology decided the fish were performing pedicures, and because all pedicure instruments must be sterilized and fish cannot be, the therapy must be discontinued. Vong lost her more-than-$50,000 investment in fish tanks and other equipment, and some customers. Three of her employees lost their jobs.
The plucky litigators at the Goldwater Institute are representing Vong in arguing that the Constitution protects the individual's right to earn a living free from unreasonable regulations. In a 1932 case (overturning an Oklahoma law requiring a new ice company to prove a "public need" for it), the U.S. Supreme Court said that the law's tendency was to "foster monopoly in the hands of existing establishments." The court also said:
"The principle is imbedded in our constitutional system that there are certain essentials of liberty with which the state is not entitled to dispense. . . . The theory of experimentation in censorship [is] not permitted to interfere with the fundamental doctrine of the freedom of the press. The opportunity to apply one's labor and skill in an ordinary occupation with proper regard for all reasonable regulations is no less entitled to protection."
Unfortunately, soon after 1932, New Deal progressivism washed over the courts, which became derelict regarding their duty to protect economic liberty.
The move to take us back to the Gilded Age started at the fringe, has moved to Fox News, and now has a prominent place on The Washington Post's op-ed page.
As we pointed out last week, George Will hyped a book by law professor David Bernstein that aims to defend Lochner v. New York, a much-reviled 1905 Supreme Court decision that struck down a New York state law regulating maximum hours for bakery workers. Bernstein has now set his sights on the federal law that outlaws child labor.
Yesterday, Bernstein wrote a blog post responding to a Center for American Progress report that highlights the fact that tea party hardliners believe we should "return to the world where federal child labor laws are unconstitutional."
Bernstein responded: "Shocking! Or maybe not so much." He continued:
As I pointed out recently, by the time Hammer was overruled in the late 1930s
every one of the forty-eight states had laws banning [for younger kids] and regulating [for older teens] child labor. Unlike the national Fair Labor Standards Act passed in 1938, most of these laws restricted children under fourteen, as opposed to sixteen, though a sixteen-year rule was gradually gaining traction.
And that was seventy-plus years ago; assumedly, the laws would have gotten stricter over time. Federal child labor laws, in short, were a solution in search of a problem. But they have served a useful purpose-providing an easy rhetorical device for those who oppose any meaningful constitutional limits on federal power.
In other words, because the states had banned child labor for children under 14 and might have continued on the path of strengthening their child labor laws, federal child labor laws were superfluous. (Is it really true that all states would have eventually enacted stricter bans on child labor? Even if so, tell that to 15-year-olds in 1938.) But they have served the harmful purpose of allowing the federal government to extend its power.
By the way, as the Center for American Progress mentioned in a section of its report quoted by Bernstein, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld child labor laws in 1941.
Exit question: Is George Will on board with dismantling federal child labor laws, or did he not know what he was getting into when he endorsed Lochner?
George Will has joined the Fox News-led crusade to overturn the 20th century.
In his Washington Post column, Will argued that the Supreme Court "correctly decided Lochner v. New York" and that the opinion remains "relevant to current arguments," lauding David Bernstein's Rehabilitating Lochner: Defending Individual Rights against Progressive Reform.
The Lochner decision, decided in 1905, struck down a New York State law regulating maximum hours for bakery workers. Will explained:
An 1895 New York law limited bakery employees to working 10 hours a day and 60 hours a week. Ostensibly, this was health and safety legislation; actually, it was rent-seeking by large, unionized bakeries and the unions. Corporate bakeries supported the legislation, which burdened their small, family-owned competitors. The bakers union hoped to suppress the small, non-unionized bakeries that depended on flexible work schedules.
One such was owned by Joseph Lochner, who challenged the law, prevailing in the Supreme Court, 5 to 4. The majority said "clean and wholesome bread" does not depend on limiting workers' hours: Workers are "in no sense wards of the state," and there is no evidence that baking is an especially unhealthful profession, so the law was an unconstitutional "interference" with an unenumerated right of individuals, the liberty of contract.
The court essentially nullified its decision in 1936, and states and the federal government have since been free to enact maximum hour laws, minimum wage laws, and the like to great public approval. Without such laws there would be no weekend. But according to Will, the Lochner opinion "flowed from bedrock American doctrine" of "liberty of contract," only to be "reviled" by liberals.
Contrary to Will's mythology, Lochner is in no way a liberal bogeyman.
In his syndicated Washington Post column, chronic climate change misinformer George Will falsely suggested that a supposed "global cooling" scare in the 1970's is comparable to the current scientific consensus on global warming.
After relentlessly pushing the false claim that the so-called "Climategate" controversy showed climate scientists deceitfully manipulating data, conservative media are celebrating a Rasmussen Reports poll finding that a majority of Americans believe "some scientists" have likely "falsified research data" to support "their own theories and beliefs about global warming."
Glenn Beck may be gone from Fox News, but it looks like he has left a giant mark on the network. Five days after his final Fox News show, George Will parroted some of Beck's outlandish claims on ABC's This Week in attacks on Woodrow Wilson and progressives, who were two of Beck's most favored targets to demonize.
On Friday, it was Mike Huckabee's turn to assume the role of Beck puppet when he likened President Obama's economic policies to dropping "a lit match" into a "can of gasoline."
The reason Huckabee's comments seem so familiar is because they are eerily reminiscent of Beck's unforgettable gag in April 2009 in which he claimed to be imitating Obama pouring gasoline -- which Beck later stated was water -- on an actor portraying "the average American." During his demonsration, Beck asked, "President Obama, why don't you just set us on fire?"
Unfortunately, Huckabee's appearance on Your World With Neil Cavuto on Friday is evidence that Beck's bizarre and dangerous tactics have left their mark, and are being spread by other Fox commentators in his absence.
Glenn Beck may have departed Fox News, but his wacky crusades live on, in some unlikely places through some unlikely messengers.
In a discussion of the Constitution on the July 3 edition of ABC's This Week, host Christiane Amanpour asked panelist George Will whether he thought the Constitution was "under siege," as conservative activists have claimed. Will responded: "It has been for a century. Woodrow Wilson, probably the rest of the progressive movement, set out to say, the Constitution was all very well once, but now we're a more complicated society with more grand ambitions for the government, and therefore what the founders did, which was to put the government on a short leash, has to be undone, we have to cut the leash on government. And that's what the progressive project has been through a century."
Later, when Amanpour asked Will who his favorite founding father was, Will said that it was James Madison, adding a weird Ivy League-centric twist: "The argument we're having today is whether James Madison of the Princeton class of 1771 can save the Constitution from Woodrow Wilson of the Princeton class of 1879 and the progressive movement. It's an intramural argument at Princeton."
Sound familiar? Check out these clips from Beck's TV and radio shows:
What's next? Will warning us not to tease the panther?
From the July 3 edition of ABC's This Week:
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