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Apparently 90% of Harvard Faculty Can Agree On Something: Giving To Democrats (Forbes.com) May 7, 2015

Posted by daviddavenport in Newspaper Columns/Essays, Op/Eds.
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I guess we now know why William F. Buckley famously said:  “I’d rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University.”  According to a recent study by the Harvard student newspaper, 84% of Harvard faculty giving to political campaigns goes to Democrats.  In the College of Liberal Arts and the Law School it was a stunning 96% and 98% respectively, and 86% at the fair and balanced Kennedy School of Government.  Even in one typical campus bastion of conservatism, the business school, 62% of political giving went to Democrats.

In one sense, this is hardly news, except for the near unanimity of any action on the part of presumably thoughtful, independent people.   An old saw says that faculty can’t agree on anything except to hang the dean, and even then they can’t agree on when and where.  So having hundreds of smart, notoriously independent people all decide to give their money to one political party over another surely makes a powerful statement.  Even the Dean of the Harvard College of Arts and Sciences, Michael D. Smith, admitted to being “amazed at how high that number is.”

Lest you jump to the conclusion that the Harvard Crimson must have cooked up some crazy statistical anomaly, previous studies tend to support these results.  In 2012, Campus Reform studied giving by faculty and staff at the 8 Ivy League colleges and found that $1,211,267 was given to President Obama and only $114,166 to Mitt Romney.  Brown University led the pack with 96% of faculty and staff donations going to Obama, with Dartmouth (where an occasional conservative voice is at least heard) and the University of Pennsylvania bringing up the rear with 94% donating to the Obama campaign.

In an earlier day, a few studies of professorial voting registrations were collected.  In one study of 15-20 California institutions, nearly all had 80%+ faculty registered as Democrats, with only two institutions, both of which had reputations for being quite conservative, having close to 50/50 voter registrations.  Obviously just being balanced politically looks wildly conservative in the Alice in Wonderland world of higher education.  An article, “Why are Professors Liberal?” by sociologists Neil Gross and Ethan Fosse summarizes some of these studies, noting that the liberal tendency of the professoriate has “grown over time.”

So what, one might say.  At least that’s what Harvard officials said, more or less.  Harvard Business School professor Jay W. Lorsch, who gave approximately $65,000 to Democratic causes from 2011-14, said:  “I think most faculty here are pretty careful about not imposing their political views on students.”   Even if that is true—and having been on college campuses myself for over 40 years I do not believe it—UCLA Professor Alexander Astin has long pointed out that students learn more from the “implicit curriculum” of a University than what is actually taught.  The implicit message is clear:  it’s only ok, or intellectually responsible, to be a Democrat.  Academic debates are framed within a narrower spectrum.  Courses are accepted in the curriculum and new faculty are hired—or not—from that fundamental premise.

The fact is that American higher education has come to represent a diversity of everything but ideas.  We seek ethnic diversity, gender diversity, sociological diversity, geographic diversity—but not a diversity of ideas or points of view.  And, after all, isn’t that supposed to be the fundamental business of education, the pursuit of ideas?

On the seal of my alma mater are the words “the wind of freedom blows.”  In real life, sometimes those winds blow left, sometimes right, often center.  But not in the artificial and dangerous world of higher education, and certainly not at Harvard.

Link to Forbes.com:  http://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddavenport/2015/05/07/apparently-90-of-harvard-faculty-can-agree-on-something-giving-to-democrats/

A Lump of Coal for Obama (National Radio Commentary / Salem-Townhall.com) April 23, 2015

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds, Radio Commentaries.
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With Congress and the President at odds, the President continues to use his executive power pen in powerful and unconstitutional ways.  Now the executive branch’s Environmental Protection Agency wants to force coal plants to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 30 percent.

But a complicated policy question of energy independence versus clean air is not a matter for an administrative agency to decide on its own.  Even President Obama’s liberal constitutional law professor from Harvard, Laurence Tribe, agrees this goes too far.  He says “burning the Constitution should not become part of our national energy policy.”

Those who defend the President argue that he has not issued an extraordinary number of executive orders.  But it’s not just about quantity—it’s also about substance.  When a president tries to run everything from immigration to gun control to health care and now the environment by executive order, it’s too much.

The courts must stop him.

Link to Salem-Townhall.com audio:  http://townhallreview.com/2015/04/davenport-lump-coal-obama-4-21-15/

Religious Conscience vs. Gay Rights (National Radio Commentary / Salem-Towhall.com) April 14, 2015

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds, Radio Commentaries.
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It appears that in Indiana and eventually everywhere, we are about to throw out the baby with the bathwater.  In the name of expanding and securing gay rights under the 14th Amendment, we are prepared to give up people’s religious rights under the 1st Amendment.  This is both unfortunate and unnecessary.

The hard case is the individual baker, photographer, florist or caterer whose religious beliefs hold that marriage is between a man and a woman and cannot in good conscience participate in gay marriage.  On the other hand, the law increasingly says same-sex marriage is legally protected.

In a clash of constitutional rights, courts must decide.  It seems like there is room to uphold gay marriage while allowing those who perform personal services and whose religious beliefs do not allow for gay marriage to decline to participate.   

Gay rights advocates won’t like that, but the harm of finding a different baker seems less than forcing someone to violate religious conscience.

Link to Salem-Townhall audio:  http://townhall.com/talkradio/dailycommentary/699514

A Liberty Moment (National Radio Commentary / Salem-Townhall.com) April 10, 2015

Posted by daviddavenport in Radio Commentaries.
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The controversy over religious rights in Indiana presents an important “liberty moment” when the lights come on and we recognize that big government is in fact out to take away our freedoms.

Remember the promise about health care? If you like your policy, Obamacare won’t hurt you, you just keep your private policy.  But no, millions of those policies were in fact declared illegal by Obamacare and people had to buy more expensive policies with mandatory coverages like pregnancy insurance for young males, they didn’t want or need.

That was the promise of same-sex marriage: It won’t hurt or affect anyone, it’s just extending a right for two people who want to marry.  But no, in Indiana, Arkansas and elsewhere, it turns out that bakers, photographers, florists and caterers whose owners’ religious beliefs do not permit them to participate in gay marriage ceremonies must either violate their religious conscience or give up their business.

Attention 2016 voters:  this is a liberty moment.

Link to Salem-Townhall.com audio:  http://townhall.com/talkradio/dailycommentary/699512

Bringing A Little Sanity To Indiana’s March (Religious) Madness (Forbes.com) March 30, 2015

Posted by daviddavenport in Newspaper Columns/Essays, Op/Eds.
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You would think the sky is falling in Indiana.  Hundreds of protestors carried signs at the state capitol Saturday:  “hate costs the state” and “liberty for all Hoosiers.”  The mayors of San Francisco and Seattle rushed to announce that city employees could not travel to Indiana on government money anymore.  The new wise men of public policy—basketball analysts Charles Barkley and Reggie Miller and the Silicon Valley CEOs of Apple, Salesforce and Yelp—all decried hate and discrimination in Indiana.

But wait.  What really happened in Indiana?  The state enacted a Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  The U.S. Senate voted 97-3 for such a federal law in 1993 and President Clinton signed it.  Forty percent (19) of states have such laws, and others are considering them.  These laws—including Indiana’s version—essentially do one thing:  they set a legal standard in lawsuits where a defendant feels his or her religious freedom is being harmed by the application of a law or regulation.  More specifically, these religious freedom laws require a showing that the government has a “compelling interest” in whatever regulation is in question and that it is meeting that interest in the “least restrictive way” to the individual’s religious practice.

The words “gay” or “gay marriage” do not appear anywhere in the law.  A classic case under the federal law was whether members of a New Mexico church might imbibe psychotropic tea as part of their religious ceremonies in the face of a law against such substances.  The Supreme Court said that the state did not have a compelling interest in preventing that kind of private religious practice.  Or in Minnesota where a court said that a law requiring vehicles including Amish buggies to use bright fluorescent lighting should have used an alternative less restrictive to Amish religious practice such as reflective tape or kerosene lanterns.

But, of course, the knee-jerk reaction is that this law was passed to allow Christians to discriminate against gays and gay marriage and it is therefore hateful, discriminatory and unacceptable.  So far, however, no such bill has actually trumped local nondiscrimination laws, such as exist in Indianapolis and a dozen other Hoosier cities.  And in both the states of Washington (where a florist refused to serve a gay wedding) and Colorado (a baker did the same), courts have held that religious rights do not trump anti-discrimination laws against gays.  Admittedly neither of these states had a religious freedom restoration law, but again that only provides a legal standard or balancing test, not necessarily implying any different outcome.  How they are actually applied by courts vis-à-vis gay marriage is yet to be seen.

If the law on this is different than the protests suggest, so is the politics.  The federal law was sponsored by then-Congressman Chuck Schumer, apparently in line to lead the Democrats in the U.S. Senate.  And it was signed by Democrat Bill Clinton.  Then state senator Barack Obama voted for Illinois’ version of the bill.  Of course this was before his views “evolved” but it at least suggests that historically these bills have not been about hate and discrimination.

In the current white-hot debates over gay marriage, I submit that what the Indiana and other bills actually do is help manage an important policy dilemma.  As a society, do we value gay rights?  Increasingly the answer is yes.  Do we value religious freedom and practice?  Historically the answer is yes.  We value both, but they do not always live easily together.  What this bill does is help courts manage the dilemma—while protecting against discrimination, also protecting religious rights where the state has no compelling interest in violating them or where alternative policies less restrictive to religious rights should be pursued.

In a sense, there’s nothing to complain about in such a bill which sets up an appropriate constitutional balancing test.  The proof of the test will be in its application in the courts, not in its enactment.

Link to Forbes.com:  http://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddavenport/2015/03/30/bringing-a-little-clarity-to-indianas-march-religious-madness/

How About Simply “Conservative”? (National Radio Commentary / Salem-Townhall.com) March 17, 2015

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds, Radio Commentaries.
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I am wary of a number of the adjectives used by recent Republican presidential candidates—adjectives modifying the noun conservative.  George W. Bush ran as a “compassionate” conservative, and John McCain was a “maverick” conservative.  Mitt Romney unsuccessfully tried to sell himself as “severely” conservative. Now the frontrunner for the 2016 nomination, Jeb Bush, has come out as a “reform” conservative.

Isn’t anyone content to be just a conservative anymore?

In Bush’s case, I’m concerned that “reform” indicates a willingness to accept big government solutions.  His two major reform ideas so far, K-12 education and immigration, aren’t classically conservative. One would apply common core standards and more testing to a field that has always been under state and local control. And his immigration reform would legalize millions who came to this country illegally.

Big government conservatism isn’t really conservative.  At best it’s conservatism lite.

Let’s hope candidates will stand up for individual liberty, limited government and true conservatism.

Link to Salem-Townhall.com audio:  http://townhall.com/talkradio/audioplayer/699452

The Supreme Court Case of the Year (National Radio Commentary / Salem-Townhall.com) March 5, 2015

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds, Radio Commentaries.
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This week the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in its most important case of the year:  King v. Burwell.

In some ways, it’s a simple case:  did Congress mean what it said when it provided for subsidies for low-income individuals in states that establish healthcare exchanges?  Since two-third of states have chosen not to create exchanges, the Obama administration has decided state exchange includes the federal exchange. So the Supreme Court is asked to fix what’s presented now as a “glitch” or “drafting error” in the bill.

All courts are bound to the plain meaning interpretation of laws—that words take on their ordinary meaning unless the law provides a specialized meaning. So: state means state.

But if millions lose their subsidies over this, perhaps the Court becomes nervous and decides to rewrite the law.  Maybe they fear a divided Congress won’t be able to fix it.

But the Court should do its proper job, the Congress should fix its own mistakes—and the administration should live with the consequences.

Link to Salem-Townhall.com audio:  http://townhall.com/talkradio/dailycommentary/699414

 

Jeb Bush a ‘reform’ conservative? America doesn’t need conservatism lite (FoxNews.com) February 27, 2015

Posted by daviddavenport in Newspaper Columns/Essays, Op/Eds.
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I am wary of the adjectives Republican presidential candidates like to place in front of the word “conservative.” George W. Bush ran as a “compassionate conservative,” though after 9/11, when his administration turned from domestic policy to national security, he became better known as a neoconservative.

John McCain was a “maverick conservative” and Mitt Romney, a pragmatic businessman without a clear political philosophy, tried to market himself as “severely conservative.” And now comes the leading candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, Jeb Bush, who has styled himself a “reform conservative.”

Isn’t anyone content to be just a conservative anymore?

Richard Nixon popularized the classic Republican campaign strategy: first run to the right to secure the party’s nomination, then run toward the center to win the general election. But today’s Republican presidential candidates apparently feel the need to build all that ambiguity into their stance from the start.

Yes, I’m a little bit right, but also leaning into the center. But it doesn’t really work. It leaves conservatives rightly feeling like they’re being served conservatism lite: a third less calories than your regular conservatism but also less filling. And in the general election, the adjectives disappear anyway as the liberal opponent attacks the noun: he’s a conservative.

So now I am wary about Jeb Bush proclaiming himself a reform conservative in his big speech in Detroit recently. I get the reform part—his two signature policy platforms have been education reform and immigration reform. But his positions on those issues are not classically conservative. His idea of reform conservative feels a little to me like one of those oxymorons: jumbo shrimp or virtual reality. The dictionary definition of reform is suitably vague: making changes in order to improve something. In that sense, everybody wants to reform something. But what is conservative reform, and is that what Jeb Bush is really about?

To me, Bush’s idea of reform conservatism sounds more like big government conservatism. Take education reform for example. For Bush, who famously led such reforms as governor of Florida, it meant more government testing and accountability. It was related to his brother’s No Child Left Behind and Common Core, movements under fire among conservatives for turning K-12 education, the classic responsibility of state and local government, over to the feds. If not a philosophical dilemma, this is at least a political problem for Bush, since polls show conservatives overwhelmingly (94% accordingly a Pew Research Center poll) oppose things like the Common Core curriculum. A Bloomberg/Des Moines Register Iowa poll of likely 2016 caucus participants shows nearly 2/3 feel Bush’s positions on immigration and education reform are problematic to them.

And let’s face it, big government conservatism did not work well for Jeb’s dad and brother. George H.W. Bush, seeking a “kinder and gentler nation,” ended up with sufficient government growth that he turned his back on his no new taxes pledge and was voted out of office. Similarly, George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind and Medicare prescription drug coverage have grown into expensive federal expansions. So conservatives are right to be wary of Jeb Bush’s reform conservatism turning out to be another form of big government conservatism—essentially using the federal government for conservative policy ends, rather than limiting government power and size.

There is a more promising version of reform conservatism promoted by some young intellectuals and policy thinkers. Their view is that conservatives need to demonstrate more specifically how conservative ideas about free markets actually help the middle and lower classes better than an overgrown welfare state. They are enamored of using subsidies, tax credits and other government tools to help middle-income households, especially. One thing they have right, I think, is that the heart of conservatism, individual liberty, has become an abstraction and people need to see how it matters in their lives. But, at this point, these ideas are more of a conversation than a movement, and are not yet ready for a prime time race to the White House.

Barry Goldwater, in some ways the father of the political conservative movement, spent a lot of time and energy countering the influence of the Eastern liberal Republican establishment and remaking the party in a more conservative image. My fear is that all these adjectives attached to conservatism today will lead us back toward a form of big government Republicanism, not forward toward greater liberty.

Link to Foxnews.com:  http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2015/02/27/jeb-bush-reform-conservative-america-doesnt-need-conservatism-lite/

Brace Yourself For The Most Important Supreme Court Case Of The Year (Forbes.com) February 27, 2015

Posted by daviddavenport in Newspaper Columns/Essays, Op/Eds.
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On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in its most important case of the year, King v. Burwell.  The case is most obviously significant because it could invalidate subsidies for low income individuals covered by Obamacare in the approximately two-thirds of states that did not establish their own exchanges.  This in turn could leave millions of people essentially without healthcare, unless and until Congress or the states did something to repair the problem, all of which is being worked on now.

But at a more subtle level, this case is an important indicator of what the Supreme Court is willing to do (and not do) in an era of deeply divided government in Washington.  The question here is whether the Supreme Court should play the role of proofreader or auto-corrector when Congress legislates without sufficient care and is too conflicted to address the problem itself.  You would like to think that a sweeping change such as Obamacare was worked through with great care, including lots of drafting, testimony, amendments and compromise, all the hallmarks of good legislative work.  But if you think that’s how Obamacare was adopted, your memory is faulty.  The bill itself was massive (one version ran over 2400 pages, the final 906 pages), prompting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s plea:  “But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what’s in it.”  And the most sweeping social program since the 1960’s was slammed through on a straight party-line vote, with no Republican support.

Even when a bill is passed, it’s just the beginning.  Various agencies then must adopt regulations and structures to implement the law (so far 10,000 pages and still counting).  And, of course, in this case President Obama has weighed in through executive orders, unilaterally (and probably illegally) changing and delaying aspects of the law.  Even Chief Justice Roberts took it upon himself in an earlier case to give the law an extreme makeover, transforming it from an unconstitutional penalty into a constitutional tax in order to save it.

So now the Supreme Court is faced with the clear provision in the law that subsidies are available to people who live in states with healthcare exchanges “established by the State.”  Since most states elected not to establish their own exchanges, the plaintiffs argue that no subsidies should be available in those states.  It has been described as a “glitch” or a “drafting error” by Congress.  And so, the argument goes, the Supreme Court ought to fix it, and simply declare that state-run exchanges really meant to include federal exchanges as well.   To refuse to do so would be, as New York Times commentator Timothy Egan put it, “one of the most brazen manipulations of the legal system in modern times.”

In fact, it is the other side that is straining to redefine clear terms.  Courts are bound by the “plain meaning” rule of interpretation:  unless a statute provides a specialized meaning, courts should apply the ordinary meaning of the word.  Clearly, if Congress meant something other than “established by the State” it could and should have said so.  And the obvious legal approach for any court to take in such a case is to rule that the law means what it says and send it back to the legislature if they want it to mean something else.  Courts are not legislators—as Chief Justice Roberts famously said in his confirmation hearing, judges are more like umpires, calling balls and strikes.

Ah, but here’s the problem.  By pushing the bill through without compromise or support from both parties, the bill lacks not only careful drafting but also bipartisan support.  That is the blowback from a party-line vote:  no one from the other side has enough ownership to help you fix it later.  It’s like that old car mechanic commercial:  you can pay me now (upfront, preventive maintenance) or you can pay me later (expensive, or in this case impossible repairs when it blows up).

Link to Forbes.com:  http://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddavenport/2015/02/27/brace-yourself-for-the-most-important-supreme-court-case-of-the-year/

California Legislature on the Bleeding Edge (National Radio Commentary / Salem-Townhall.com) February 26, 2015

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds, Radio Commentaries.
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They say that California is on the bleeding edge of national change, so perhaps we should take a look at some of the 930 new laws that went on the books in 2015.

California struck its own blow for immigration reform by allowing driver’s licenses for undocumented residents.  This will be expensive, with 1.4 million new applications to be processed by new offices and personnel.

But don’t worry if you take a naked selfie in California.  A new law protects the privacy of such photos. Meanwhile, the state will be safe from plastic bags, banning them July 1 in groceries and pharmacies. Chickens are also safer, with roomier cages now legally required for egg-laying chickens, dog owners can take their pets to outdoor cafes, and thank goodness Confederate flags can no longer be sold in state souvenir shops. 

What better case could there be for a part-time legislature?   

As Mark Twain said, “no man’s life, liberty or property are safe while the legislature is in session.”

Link to Salem/Townhall audio:  http://townhall.com/talkradio/dailycommentary/699370

 

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