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Keeping the American right wing respectable


Because this is 2020, the New York Times had to do a Cletus safari to my very own high school, interviewing several people who went there a few years after I did. My sister remembers Jamie Denison well as the friendly cute boy with the always perfectly feathered hair, who often sat next to her in class because of alphabetical seating charts:

Mr. Trump’s handling of the coronavirus has done nothing to dent his appeal for Mr. Denison, who often repeats some of the conspiracy theories trafficked by some of the president’s followers. “It is tragic that a man-made, intentionally released, politically motivated virus has taken innocent lives,” he said. “It is even more tragic that the same people responsible for creating and releasing it are still trying to use it to win the upcoming election.”

This barking lunacy is presented as just another one of those odd things good-hearted ordinary — aka white, Republican — people in Flyover believe.

Denison is keeping his four children in racially diverse (although often heavily segregated by neighborhood) Kalamazoo, instead of fleeing to the lily-white surrounding small towns, because of the Kalamazoo Promise: a remarkable program that the piece mentions but doesn’t really describe.

Set up 15 years ago by anonymous donors — some extraordinarily wealthy people are from Kalamazoo, including various scions of pharmaceutical and medical supply fortunes who have shown up on a number of Forbes 400 lists — the Kalamazoo Promise is a trust fund that pays the the full tuition cost of attending any public college or university in the state of Michigan to any child who attends the city’s public schools from kindergarten on. (Children who attend for shorter periods get a graduated but still very substantial benefit — 95% of full tuition for children who attend from third grade on for instance). ETA: The program has now been expanded to cover private colleges and universities as well.

Given that annual in-state undergraduate tuition at, for example, the University of Michigan now runs $16,000-$18,000, this is quite an incentive for even right wing nut cases to continue to send their kids to school with Those People.

Speaking of which, here’s Cass Sunstein doing yeoman’s work for the never-ending elite project of converting contemporary America right wing radicalism, aka the Republican party, into something far less disturbing to the mental equilibrium of your average Harvard Law School professor than it ought to be:

A well-functioning democracy requires at least two parties, armed with different ideas and approaches. If Republicans lose the White House to Democratic nominee Joe Biden, what ideas and approaches should they champion? 

Many Republicans might want to go back to basics and recover some of the foundations of conservative thought, as laid out by such thinkers as Edmund Burke, Michael Oakeshott and Russell Kirk. They might not be eager to seek advice from anyone who is not a trusted conservative. But one of the most clarifying accounts of the conservative tradition comes from a remarkable book, “The Rhetoric of Reaction,” written by the economist Albert Hirschman in 1991. . .

Hirschman divided the objections to progressive reforms into three different categories: perversity, futility and jeopardy.

Of these, the most effective is the perversity argument. The basic claim is that many seemingly appealing reforms are self-defeating; they hurt the very people they are supposed to help. Societies are systems, and if you interfere with one part of them, you might not like what happens.

Suppose that in an effort to help the working poor, you increase the federal minimum wage to $15 (as Biden is promising to do). The objection is that by doing that, you’ll actually hurt the working poor — because employers won’t be able to hire as many people, meaning that a lot of working people will find themselves priced out of a job.

The claim that a policy has perverse effects does not question the goals of the reformers. It merely doubts their means. It suggests that reformers are clueless. They don’t see that things bite back — and that many public-spirited changes to the status quo end up biting the most vulnerable members of society.

Sunstein goes on to argue that progressives need to remember that conservatives really want to help the poor, combat climate change, etc., but that they’re just skeptical of progressive methods for pursing these admirable goals that any decent person naturally supports.

This is complete nonsense. The radical right in this country — which again is now totally synonymous with the Republican party — has zero interest in helping the poor or protecting the environment, because it’s in the grip of among other things apocalyptic Calvinism on meth (dibs on the album title).

ACOM rejects the whole idea of helping the poor via government intervention, not because government intervention has perverse effects, but because poor people deserve to be poor, and helping them is morally wrong, except via private charity, maybe.

Similarly, the Green New Deal isn’t a bad idea because it won’t work, but because climate change is a liberal hoax and Jesus is coming soon anyway. (If you think I’m being hyperbolic, welcome to America, I hope you enjoy your time here, and avoid the fried Twinkies at the state fair, they’re not worth it believe me).

The reason Even the Liberal Cass Sunstein won’t or can’t understand this is because he needs to invent an imaginary reasonable center right party that doesn’t exist in this country, because otherwise he and the rest of his pals at Harvard and Yale couldn’t in good conscience spend so much time trying to hook up their kids with clerkships for Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett etc etc.

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