Links to Consider, 8/19
Will Marshall on state capacity; Yuval Levin on children and the Internet; Martin Gurri on the culture/political war; Tim Roemer on electoral sabotage;
Paul Light of the Brookings Institution, a leading expert on public attitudes toward government, reports that demand for “very major” reform of government is at a 20-year high, rising from just 37 percent in 1997 to 60 percent today.
Light sorts voters into four groups with distinct perspectives on government. The largest (44 percent) is “dismantlers,” who favor smaller government and big changes in how it operates. “Rebuilders” (24 percent) want bigger government but share the dismantlers’ desire for major government reform.
“Expanders” (24 percent) are most enthusiastic about bigger government and less interested in reform. “Streamliners” (10 percent), want smaller government and only some reform.
It’s the state-capacity libertarian moment!
Marshall’s fear is that the “expanders” have outsized influence in the current Democratic Party. He wants reformers to have more influence. He suffers from Clinton nostalgia the same way that many on the right suffer from Reagan nostalgia.
By raising the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act’s minimum age from 13 to 18 (with an option for parents to verifiably approve an exemption for their kids as the law already permits), and by providing for effective age verification and meaningful penalties for the platforms, Congress could offer parents a powerful tool to push back against the pressure to use social media.
Reliable age verification is feasible. For instance, as the policy analyst Chris Griswold has proposed, the Social Security Administration (which knows exactly how old you are) “could offer a service through which an American could type his Social Security number into a secure federal website and receive a temporary, anonymized code via email or text,” like the dual authentication methods commonly used by banks and retailers. With that code, the platforms could confirm your age without obtaining any other personal information about you.
My instinct is to reject this idea, although I cannot articulate my reasons. Off the top of my head, I would say that I don’t want to encourage more partnership between social media companies and government, I don’t want to give parents the sense that government can do their job for them, and I don’t want to encourage the view that targeted advertising is the root of all evil in modern technology.
Since conservatives and Republicans are politically strong but culturally nonexistent, they will flex their political muscle to try to right the imbalance. Virginia and Florida have banned the teaching of certain progressive doctrines in public schools. When Disney, Florida’s largest employer, vocally condemned these laws, the company was punished with the removal of local privileges. Should Republicans win Congress and the White House, I would expect American politics to experience a cultural Armageddon. The output of culture can’t be legislated on demand: otherwise, the Soviet Union would have been a golden age of creativity. But raw political power can make the cost of cultural monopoly—and of idle posturing, Disney-style—unpleasantly high.
I wonder how this will play out. As you know, I don’t think very highly of using political means to fight the culture war. But the counter-argument is that the rest of us are “culturally nonexistent” and so we have no choice.
John Gibbs, a former Trump administration official who questions the outcome of the 2020 election, spent almost $339,000 to spread his message in last Tuesday’s Michigan Republican congressional primary. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent even more—$450,000—to prop up Mr. Gibbs on TV and propel him to a narrow win over Rep. Peter Meijer, one of only 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump after Jan. 6, 2021.
I regard this as the most indefensible political trick of my lifetime. We should not have one political party choosing its opponents by intervening in the other party’s primaries. I would like to see as a one-time punishment all of the Democratic Congressmen who work on the DCCC be stripped of committee assignments for two years. What I fear instead is an escalation of dirty tricks.
I think "culture wars" is an inaccurate (and losing) description of what the right is fighting against. A more accurate description of a large part of the fight is the fight against institutionalized anti white (and anti asian) racism. One side favors race based discrimination; the other doesn't.
The right had been so demoralized by the left that they are terrified to call things by their proper names and instead use euphemisms like culture wars.
Regarding electoral sabotage, this can backfire. In the 2016 presidential campaign, many Democrats were enthusiastic for a Trump nomination believing he was the least electable of the primary candidates.