1. Some have been skeptical of my prediction below, thinking the Republicans will do somewhat better. (At this point, the Democrats’ keeping the House would end up as one of the greatest upsets in American poliitcal history.) But I note that REAL CLEAR POLITICS points toward a 50 seat pick up today. And in SENATE races: The only changes I see is that the Republican seems more likely to win in Washington and less likely to win in West Virginia. (I’ve thought for over a month that Harry Reid would lose.) The generic ballot difference in some polls is now 10%, which would translate to a somewhat bigger victory. But the president’s approval rating remains at 45-46%, which is better than Bush in 2006.
2. The most astute commentators (such as Chicago’s Chapman) see that Americans are thrilled with neither party right now. (They liked the Republicans back in 1994.) But they seemed more attuned to the advantages of divided government—both (and studies back them up) as a means of controlling spending and as a way of containing the evildoing specific to each side. The most cynical or angry American voters (such as some who go to Tea Parties) think that Bush and his Republicans and Obama and his Democrats were/are both irresponsible screw ups. So let incompetence and corruption counteract incompetence and incorruption (as FEDERALIST 51 sort of says).
3. Ralph’s taste of Manent below, of course, can readily be applied to the campaign. Europeans should be aware that, for now, the effectual protection of rights everywhere depends on American power. Americans, it follows, should be anxious about a president who even toys with buying into the European idea that the religion of humanity can reign with good intentions and noble words alone. We can say that, in some measure, that our election is about to have a very anti-European result (and I’m all for that!): We see that both the lurch toward their social democracy (when it comes, most of all, to health care) and the confusion of “soft power” with real power (or real guns [and the willingness to use them] and stuff) threaten our liberty. Both, the Europeans have shown us, are unsustainable. Most of all, many experts, including Obama himself, miscalculated when they assumed his victory was evidence that we wanted to be at least a little more European. Manent reminds us that our proud points of distinction serve not only our interests but those of those of those ungrateful Europeans.
4. I still hope, for the record, that divided government will make both sides better. I’ve become a big fan, over the last few years, of the thought that what’s best about America has been produced by legislative compromise—beginning with the Declaration of Independence.
5. At church, I picked up a summary of the political statement of the Catholic bishops relevant to this election. I note, gratefully, that the bishops’ insights aren’t intended to displace prudence, and that they are to be considered as somewhere between merely one opinion among many and an authoritative moral teaching. The emphasis was on life and dignity issues, beginning with the importance of prudently doing what’s possible to protect the most vulnerable among us, especially the unborn. What should be done now is a matter of controversy, but the least to be said is that Catholics should find it very hard to vote for a candidate not for working for the reversal of ROE v. WADE. Perhaps it’s inevitable that abortion policy will be the product of legislative compromise, but the Court needs to back off and make room for a compromise that does some justice to the pro-life position.
6. There’s a lot to be said for and against what the bishops say. But it seems to me that Catholics, against the libertarians, have to open to policies that alleviate the plight of the genuinely unfortunate. They even have to agree (with appropriate moderation) with parts of Jeremy Beer’s polemic against our meritocracy; all you have to do is glance at the scary movie THE SOCIAL NETWORK to see how much we’ve detached merit (defined as the mental labor that generates power) from any sense of virtue and personal responsibility.
7. And I agree that a road to citizenship should be made available to anyone working in our country (meaning, first of all, the “illegal aliens” that everyone knows are working here). Catholics, too, have to at least acknowledge that the “competitive marketplace,” globalization, and so forth at least exist in tension with what’s best for families. I also note that the bishops seem to endorse a prudent anthropocentic environmentalism, as opposed to a shrill and misanthropic one. Nothing I’ve said should be confused with a Porcher indictment of capitalism, the free market, high technology etc.