Saturday, September 05, 2015

Compare me to Jesus or GTFO

Rep. Steve King (R-IA): Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis is a latter-day Rosa Parks.

Kim Davis: Don't compare me to that layabout. She "had it easy."

[Note that I'm having trouble verifying whether the latter letter is genuine. Steve King, though, is absolutely being his usual self].

We Want Dawes!

Shorter Rand Paul : The struggles of Native Americans began when we took their land. In conclusion, we should abolish Native American sovereignty and demand they be fully assimilated into American culture.

Personally, I think any Republican who doesn't support restoring the Dawes Act is a RINO.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

I'm a Celebrity! Roundup

I've been busy basking in the glow of my status as a big magazine contributor. That means that I haven't had as much time to do regular blogging as I'd like, and that means it's time for a roundup.

* * *

* Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who refuses to issue marriage licenses to gay couples and has defied court orders requiring her to fulfill her official duties, has been jailed for contempt of court. Will any Republican candidate take a stand for the rule of law here? I can actually respect -- to some degree -- someone whose deeply-felt personal beliefs require them to abstain from certain public activities. But the right choice in such a circumstance is to resign from office, not to demand a public salary while obstructing the law.

* The ADL, incidentally, has just issued a statement that gets this issue 100% right. Good on them.

* Former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin has a great column up on the threat post by extremist Jewish settlers. Unlike him, though, I'd rather we not "wait for it to get worse so that it might get better."

* Wouldn't it be hilarious if, after all the sound and fury on the American side, it was Iran's parliament that rejected the deal? Actually, that outcome would probably be the single best thing that could happen for the anti-deal conservatives here in America.

* Dan Drezner urges that Political Science not emulate Economics. Hear, hear (says the political theorist)!

* Local news, but semi-important: Rep. John Kline (R-MN) will not seek reelection. Kline was my representative during college (he represents the area south of the Twin Cities), and his district is trending towards the Democrats. But Kline himself was pretty well-entrenched, so his departure is a big boost to Democratic pickup chances.

* Oh, one more: Virginia Postrel on what's actually driving stressed over-achievers at elite universities. It's not crass desire for fame or materialism, and it's not pushy caricatured Tiger Parents.

* Fine, two more. Shorter PJ Media: If Hillary Clinton is elected, conservatives will break every law that they possibly can and possibly launched an armed revolution. This reflects poorly on Hillary Clinton.

The Cultural Cognition of Pro-Israel: Public Reactions

I want to thank the Tablet editors for hosting my posts on the threat partisanization poses to the pro-Israel consensus and what can be done to combat it. The reactions to the piece have been both gratifying and illuminating. Clearly, my diagnosis seems to have struck a chord with liberal Zionists in the Democratic Party -- unsurprising, since I count myself among their number. Equally interesting was the responses coming from the further reaches of the left and right -- both of whom celebrated the polarization trend because both were supremely confident that they'd win the resulting throwdown in a rout. 

Left-wing respondents were sure that polarizing the American community on Israel was a surefire way to break the back of the occupation once and for all. Their right-wing fellows were equally convinced that the trend would lead to a permanent conservative ascendency and rock-solid protection for Israel no matter how the winds of foreign policy blew. The highlight, then, was the person on twitter who said he supported polarization because it would finally lead to the "end of weapons shipments". I had to ask -- did he mean shipments of weapons from the US to Israel (that is, a total left-wing victory) or the shipment of weapons from Iran to Hamas (a sweeping conservative triumph)? Either one would have been perfectly compatible with the overall thrust of reactions. The real-time convergence of left and right-wing worldviews was fascinating to behold.

My prediction, though, is that neither of these outcomes are likely. Polarization instead is most likely to lead to stasis, instability, and poor decision-making as Israel policy becomes just another partisan squabble. And this is something that should concern conservatives and liberals alike who care about Israel and want matters of Israeli policy to be considered carefully and deliberately. As Kevin Drum observes, the wages of this strategy can be seen in the Iran Deal opposition, which he argues was doomed from the  start because of its partisan character:

Ever since 2009, [Republican] political strategy has been relentless and one-dimensional: oppose everything President Obama supports, instantly and unanimously. They certainly followed this playbook on Iran. Republicans were slamming the deal before the text was even released, and virtually none of them even pretended to be interested in the merits of the final agreement. Instead, they formed a united, knee-jerk front against the deal practically before the ink was dry.
[B]y forming so quickly, the Republican wall of opposition turned the Iran agreement into an obviously partisan matter. Once they did that, they made it much harder for Democrats to oppose a president of their own party. A more deliberate approach almost certainly would have helped them pick up more Democratic votes.

I noticed this as well -- I had to struggle against my first-blush reaction to the Iran Deal opposition, which was to simply slot it in as yet another Republican temper tantrum that characterized their entire political strategy since Obama was elected. Each move which elevated the partisan salience of the debate -- from the ill-fated invitation for Bibi to address Congress to the histrionic allegations of Obama as a deliberate appeaser of terrorism -- made it less likely that liberals would view conservative objections as anything other than cynical attempts to rev up the base. And even for persons who were trying to listen neutrally and dispassionately in order to appraise the merits of the deal, it was hard to find the seeds of valid criticisms amidst the overwhelming din of partisan hyperbole which quickly overtook the conversation.

The deal -- and matters of Israel policy generally -- deserves better deliberation than that. But partisanization prevents that from happening; the cultural formation of beliefs guarantees that once an issue is seen in primarily partisan terms, that character will dictate most of the resulting positions. The full-court political press against the deal made it so that nearly everyone's decision -- for or against -- became a function of political identity rather than independent judgment. And that's a cost to Israel no matter what one's views are on the merits of the deal.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

King of the Ash

AIPAC chief Howard Kohr, who spearheaded the failed push to block the Iran Deal in Congress, visits a Maryland synagogue:
Kohr’s final appeal is for the activists to make the calls to their lawmakers not because they will win — but because they will be able to tell future generations that they did the right thing.

He praises congregants who brought their children to the event, as the kids scamper through the aisles. By making the calls to Congress, Kohl says, they can look into their children’s eyes now and for generations to come and say, “When American interests were jeopardized and when Israel’s existence was at stake, I did everything that I could to ensure that America, the greatest country on earth, stood at Israel’s side.”
There's some irony here, as if AIPAC is to be believed once this deal goes through there won't be a future generation of Jews to be told about "doing the right thing". The Israel and, perhaps, the entire western world will have dissolved in a cloud of Iranian-induced radioactive ash (thanks, Obama). By contrast, precisely because Kohl imagines we'll could be having this conversation in 20 years' time implies that the deal actually worked largely as its proponents promised.*

* Yes, yes, none of this is technically true -- not the least of which because Israel could be destroyed while American Jewry remained untouched. But in such a horrifying event, I'd hope that our main communal response wouldn't be to say "I told you so."

The Cultural Cognition of the Pro-Israel Consensus, Continued

My follow-up column is now up on Tablet. It gives three recommendations to the pro-Israel movement to avoid a partisan schism where "pro-Israel" is equated with "right-wing". In a nutshell: First, don't treat someone as a permanent adversary just because they oppose you on one issue; second, take back control of the movement from partisan (often Evangelical) groups who have no interest in preserving the historical pro-Israel consensus, and three, eliminate the double-standard whereby liberal deviations from the pro-Israel orthodoxy are policed to the letter while conservative departures are treated with kid gloves.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

"Playing with Cards" Now Available (Again)

A few months I posted, and then took down, a draft essay entitled Playing with Cards: Discrimination Claims and the Charge of Bad Faith. It came down at the request of the journal reviewing it, which generally doesn't allow such pre-posting. This policy was unknown to me at the time, since such draft distribution is quite common in law, but I was happy to oblige (and want to thank the journal for its flexibility in not peremptorily rejecting the piece then and there).

In any event, though, the piece has been formally submitted and accepted in Social Theory and Practice, and they have now officially given permission for a pre-publication copy to be placed back online. So for those of you who missed it the first time (or just want to bathe in its glory again), the essay can be found either on SSRN or, as per your preference.

Monday, August 31, 2015

The Cultural Cognition of the Pro-Israel Consensus

The first of a two-part series I wrote has been posted on Tablet. It explains the social psychology of "pro-Israel", the incentive for the conservative right (and anti-Israel left) to identify "pro-Israel" as a conservative position, and the potentially catastrophic consequences such an identification could pose for the future of pro-Israel advocacy.