Smart Ideas: The Democrats' Missteps on Kavanaugh

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July 12, 2018, 8 p.m.

The plastic crisis is a corporate problem

Matt Wilkins, writing for Scientific American

Individual consumers are not to blame for the world’s plastic problem. “The real problem is that single-use plastic—the very idea of producing plastic items like grocery bags, which we use for an average of 12 minutes but can persist in the environment for half a millennium—is an incredibly reckless abuse of technology.” The idea that individual stewardship can save the environment dates to the middle of the 20th century, when big beverage companies launched an ad campaign called “Keep America Beautiful” to target “litterbugs.” This corporate “greenwashing” helped divert the public focus from government regulation and waste management and onto “consumer recycling behavior.” Between 1989 and 1994, for example, “the beverage industry spent $14 million to defeat the National Bottle Bill,” which would have added a deposit to recyclable cans. The result: “a legal framework that punishes individual litterers with hefty fines or jail time, while imposing almost no responsibility on plastic manufacturers for the numerous environmental, economic, and health hazards imposed by their products.” Lawmakers should fix this imbalance by passing “deposit and bag-tax bills,” and by imposing “opt-in” policies on plastic. “Litterbugs are not responsible for the global ecological disaster of plastic.”

Democrats are their own worst enemies on judges

Noah Rothman, writing for Commentary

The political Right “has been united, strategic, and remarkably effective” at confirming originalist federal judges. In their opposition, Democrats have been “tactically maladroit, schismatic, and irrational.” The Democrats’ latest strategy: “radicalize their voters” against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Sens. Chuck Schumer, Ed Markey, Cory Booker, and self-described Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have argued that Kavanaugh would shield Trump from Mueller’s investigation. That argument is based on the distortion of a legal paper that Kavanaugh wrote in 2009, in which Kavanaugh argued it was “debatable” whether a sitting president can be indicted, and that “Congress should clarify that debate in law.” This is a perfectly reasonable opinion that “is not only consistent with what the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel under Bill Clinton concluded about a sitting president’s immunity, but it also captures Kavanaugh’s belief in the limits of judicial power.” Eventually, Democrats will have to come to grips with their hypocrisy. “But the fevered fantasies that compelled Democrats along on this wild speculation are the same ones that compelled the party to filibuster Neil Gorsuch, even though everyone knew it would result in the end of the judicial filibuster. … The party is cultivating a fanatical base, but it is sacrificing sanity in the process. That’s a tradeoff Democrats will one day soon regret.”

Canada offers lesson on populism

Derek Thompson, writing for The Atlantic

The United States and Europe have witnessed an explosion of anti-immigrant populism in the past several years. Canada, by comparison, has retained “exceptionally high levels of immigration without facing an illiberal populist groundswell.” Some factors, like geography, population density, and Canada’s historical multilinguistic polity cannot be replicated in the United States, which also has a "legacy of slavery" that "permanently poisons its relationship with race.” But immigration policies are different. Canada “carefully selects for skill” by assigning points to migrants for “fluency in English and French, their education level, and the number of years they have worked.” This means that even conservatives in Canada generally see “incoming workers as an economic benefit.” This has helped Canada avoid the “liberal doom loop,” which posits that an “influx of people would make certain groups (particularly white, older, and less educated) afraid” and turn to populist candidates. “Like any country, [Canada] has its nativist media figures, anti-immigrant gangs, and terrorist attacks meant to shock the country back into a monocultural identity.” But unlike the United States, its strongest populist groups “have been pro-immigrant.”


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