This Is Not Your Home

What is “feminism?” For some people it is a credo that embraces equality between the sexes: equality of opportunity as well as equality of intersocial conduct. This brand of feminism might best be categorized as “treat everyone the same and be nice to them.”

Then there is the now-dominant strain of feminism, the one practiced by tenured academic scholars and media stars like Lena Dunham and self-effacing “male feminists” who are always apologizing on behalf of other men. This brand of feminism is persecutory, frequently delusional, vindictive, spiteful, obsessed with pronouns and “microagressions” and menstruation blood and other silly things. This particular ethos might be styled “modern feminism” or, even better, “totalitarian feminism,” though “paranoid persecution complex” might work just as well, I don’t know.

Modern feminism is also really, really, really obsessed with abortion: for today’s feminists it is almost a sacrament, and at the very least it is a sacramental.  Witness, for example, the backlash over the guest list of the “Women’s March on Washington:”

The Women’s March on Washington faced backlash Monday after reports circulated that anti-abortion group New Wave Feminists had been granted partnership status.

Now organizers of the march are saying that the group was added as a partner in error and are making it very clear that the march will stay in line with the values stated in its policy platform. That platform includes a call for “open access to safe, legal, affordable abortion and birth control for all people, regardless of income, location or education…”

The Women’s March on Washington released a statement Monday evening on Twitter and Facebook: “The Women’s March platform is pro-choice and that has been our stance from day one.” The statement also said that “the anti-choice organization in question is not a partner of the Women’s March on Washington.”

Whoops. Well, so much for the sisterhood: it turns out pan-gender solidarity is predicated on a remarkably narrow set of political and philosophical beliefs. One of the principal practical effects of totalitarianism, after all, is a ruthless, uncompromising conformity of thought. As Amanda Marcotte puts it, “you cannot be [pro-life] and feminist.” Sorry, honey.

Modern feminism being inordinately preoccupied with the killing of innocent human beings, it is not, all things considered, all that surprising that this particular demonstration would kick a bunch of women to the curb for daring to believe that, you know, we shouldn’t murder defenseless humans out of convenience. Still, it is somewhat shocking. Even this late in the game, with so many bodies piled up behind us, we still sometimes have reason to be shocked. Abortion, after all, is murder: it kills a living human being, unjustly and with premeditation. Nobody who is remotely knowledgeable about the basic, ground-level facts of human biology can possibly argue otherwise. And so it is with no small amount of nausea that we witness an activist organization excluded from polite society simply because they believe that the murder of innocents is unjust.

I suppose there are two possibilities that will come of this: either (1) our descendants will look back on our behavior with horror, or (2) we will continue to allow the most innocent and defenseless among us to be killed.

My money is on #1, but you should not, under any circumstances, rule out the possibility of #2; it will do us no good to underestimate feminism’s passionate, single-minded devotion to legal abortion, as exemplified by Cecile Richards, who recently wrote that

the ability to decide when or whether to have children is key to women’s opportunity to be financially secure and pursue their dreams.

Richards is of course speaking about “opportunity” in the context of abortion. But it is odd that pro-choicers never seem to consider any other option when it comes to women “deciding when or whether to have children:” they could, say, not have sex—or have sex only when the potential outcome of sexual activity is more affordable and appropriate. But modern feminism is almost literally incapable of imbuing women with this type of agency; as an ideology it cannot really imagine a woman exercising any real measure of practical chastity or sexual decorum. For people like Cecile Richads, women are apparently mindless sex-bots who cannot help but stumble into sexual intercourse without any agency whatsoever. I guess when you’re determined to infantilize women to such a degree, it will only be natural to demand something like legalized abortion in order to compensate: if we can’t expect women to exercise any judicious restraint regarding their sexuality, after all, then I suppose we can’t possibly expect of them to carry a pregnancy to term.

Know Your Place, Kiddo

If the GOP does indeed succeed in repealing Obamacare, it will be a great boon to the countless people—myself included—who have seen our health insurance rates rise dramatically under this awful law. Nevertheless, there are a great many people who are afraid of losing the ACA, though many of their reasons are, let’s say, less than convincing:

It’s looking like women may have to go back to paying out-of-pocket for contraception if Obamacare gets gutted.

Senate Republicans took the first step toward repealing the Affordable Care Act during Thursday’s “vote-a-rama” — and while voting on a budget plan that would help dismantle Obamacare, the GOP-controlled Senate rejected an amendment that would have required insurance companies to continue to cover birth control…

Roughly 55 million women now receive contraceptives with no out-of-pocket costs, according to the National Women’s Law Center. And birth control costs can be significant: A 2015 study found that “the ACA is saving the average pill user $255 per year, and the average woman receiving an IUD is saving $248.”

Ah, okay. Got that? The “Affordable Care Act” is so affordable that it’s saving women less than seventy cents a day on birth control! Doesn’t that seem like a great reason for upending the insurance industry and laying waste to our constitutional order?

This phenomenon—wherein the Left freaks out over women theoretically having to pay 69¢ a day for oral contraception (or 67¢ in the case of an IUD!)—once again raises an interesting question: do liberals believe that women are capable of anything? I am not so sure. I, for one, think that the average American woman is more than able to afford what amounts to insanely cheap birth control if she so desires it: she does not need a gargantuan health insurance law to help her pay such an extraordinarily small bill. Progressives apparently believe otherwise: they are evidently under the impression that American women are helpless, useless, incompetent, incapable and inept in just about every way imaginable. How else are we to explain the demands that the federal government ensure that women be relieved of the burden of paying $21/month for elective prescriptions?

ThinkProgress claims that Republicans voted against allowing women “access [to] the affordable coverage they need.” There is an assumption, in other words, that women “need” birth control, and moreover that they need it to be cheaper than sixty-nine cents a day in order for it to be “affordable.” It says a lot about modern liberalism that, as a political philosophy, it is unable to treat women as adults: it infantilizes them instead, turning them into helpless waifs dependent upon the beneficence of the federal government. One good thing that the repeal of the ACA may accomplish is this: it might show American women that they are perfectly able to rise above the low, low expectations of the Democratic Party.

Once More Unto the Screech

At some point liberals are going to have to decide how they wish to approach the presidency of Donald J. Trump: do they want to deal with the foibles of this administration like irrational little children, or mature grown-ups? Now, we all surely remember the presidency of George W. Bush—eight years of faux-patriotic histrionics and around two or three billion accusations of Nazism—and so we might be tempted to assume that progressives are just going to do that again. Maybe it’s the only way the American liberal order knows how to respond to adversity anymore, I don’t know. But they must understand that, if they elect for the kindergarten route, it’s probably not going to end well for them.

Maybe they’ve already made their decision. On Wednesday, President-elect Trump held a press conference, his first since the election, in order to clear the air regarding some ethical conflicts involving his family and his business, as well as the reportedly looming Russian kompromat scandal. You can judge for yourself, but I can save you a click and say that the presser wasn’t all that exciting or alarming: there remain some genuine concerns regarding Trump’s business holdings, but overall the whole thing was rather unremarkable, and there were even some refreshing moments, such as when Trump (correctly) accused the dime-store news website Buzzfeed of being a “failing pile of garbage.”

What was the liberal response to this event? Patton Oswalt sums it up best:

Do tell. To be fair, of course, Oswalt is presumably not being literal when he tells us to “hoard food.” But he’s using hyperbole to make a very literal point, which is that, in his own words, “we’re fucked.”

But why are we “fucked?” It is not at all clear—not from Oswalt, to be sure, but more importantly not from the press conference that caused Oswalt to apparently pee his pants. It is hard to adequately quantify the magnitude of the overreaction on display here: the mind struggles to approach it in a dignified manner. One imagines that Patton Oswalt felt very excited to write that tweet; you can picture him, giddy with the self-righteous indignation that is endemic to American liberalism, delighted to raise an alarum about the perilous state of the American experiment: “We’re fucked.” But Oswalt knows we’re not fucked—he knows that, though Trump will probably not be a good president and will possibly be a very bad one, this country will almost certainly be okay; he probably also knows that Trump didn’t say or do anything at the press conference to warrant such a reaction. So why did he write what he did?

The answer is to be found in the perpetual childishness of progressivism, which generally cannot interact with the world at a political or cultural level without resorting to this puerile kind of hysterics. For most liberals, every conservative policy has to be a world-ender; every Republican politician has to be Hitler; every conservative cultural impulse has to be an evil throwback to the Formica tyranny of Mayfield and the Strange Fruit racial mentality of 1920s Alabama. Wherever it starts, modern American progressivism invariably ends at one of these termini.

These convictions rot the analytical brain, eventually making real rational discourse almost impossible: hence why a slightly bombastic Republican president-elect can hold a presser and cause Patton Oswalt to lose his mind. And this isn’t just a one-off. In 2004, Oswalt claimed that “If Bush wins, then we all surf a turd, Slim Pickens-style, into the maelstrom of history’s dustbin. Blue and red. And purple, whatever the fuck that was. Right on top of Ancient Rome, Prussia, Spain and Great Britain in the 1880’s.” Well over a decade later, he has not learned; intellectually he has not grown a single day. For liberals, any practical manifestation of conservatism—or even the bloviating of a faux-conservative Republican—is always, forever, unavoidably, the end of the world. The paradigm of progressive thought simply does not allow for any other exegesis.

But wait: it gets worse. Because Trump refused to take a question from CNN’s Jim Acosta and eventually declared that the network was “fake news,” Vox correspondent Elizabeth Plank decided to take a string from Patton Oswalt’s bow and go absolutely nuts:

This is almost a parody of liberal histrionics, like a bad Mad Magazine piece featuring satire so close to the target that it’s really not even funny. Consider, just for a moment, the fact that the entire Democratic establishment has been arguing for years that the government should be able to ban books, something that—you’d think—would have caused Elizabeth Plank to have gotten upset sometime between 2008 and 2016. Consider also, the astonishing interpretation she has drawn from Trump’s presser: the president-elect’s brash back-and-forth with a single media outlet is “the beginning of the end of freedom of press.” Does this make any sense to you? Of course not: it makes no sense to anyone, not even to Elizabeth Plank; surely she is aware that she appears to be quite insane. The only way to understand such a wildly illiterate claim is to place it in its proper context and interpret it by its intended effect: Plank does not want to raise any concerns about “freedom of press” so much as she wants to, you know, freak out about Trump.

That’s the whole end-game, the entire purpose of such a profoundly incorrect and juvenile interpretation of events: not a constructive or helpful criticism of Donald Trump’s policy, but rather a shrieking condemnation of a Republican qua Republican. When a Democrat did literally exactly the same thing barely three months ago, nobody could be bothered to care; the anguished wails over “freedom of press” were conspicuously absent. It makes you wonder if liberals are sincere in their political beliefs, or if it is all just a matter of, I don’t know, opportunism and hair-pulling theatrics.

A healthy society would have more contempt for such nonsense; if our politics were ordered properly, we would be piling contempt on top of contempt for the likes of partisans like Patton Oswalt and Elizabeth Plank and the countless others who act like them. This childish and terminally oblivious behavior would be regarded as kind of a political novelty rather than a viable political philosophy. But here we are nonetheless. And the challenge of the next four years is going to be this: do we laugh at this pathetic state of affairs, or cry? Maybe both?

The Stubbliest Injustice in the World

I know very little about British consumer habits, though I’m aware that they regularly eat something called a “Mars Bar,” a confection which may or may not contain nougat (furthermore, I’m still not entirely sure what “nougat” really is).

Anyway, as far as the British economy goes, apparently some kind of gross inequity exists in the British economy, so much so that British women are forced to pay higher prices than men for effectively the same product. This practice extends even to what I thought was the relatively static and unremarkable shaving razor market: British ladies evidently have to shell out more money for those little pink razors than British men do for the man-colored ones.

Thankfully, one enterprising MP has successfully rallied to quash this robber baron-ish scheme:

Tesco has reduced the price of women’s standard razors to match that of men’s in the latest victory in the battle to eliminate gender discrimination in high street products…

A newspaper investigation at the start of last year showed that women were paying an average of 37% more for gender-targeted items, ranging from toys to beauty products. Razors were found to be among the more marked-up products, with women often paying a premium just because the product was a different colour – pink.

Tesco was charging £1 for a pack of five women’s twin-blade razors, twice the price of the men’s equivalent. The Labour backbencher Paula Sherriff, who recently persuaded Boots to trial donation boxes where customers could leave sanitary products for distribution to food banks, put pressure on Tesco to reduce women’s disposable razor prices.

Really—women were “paying a premium just because the product was a different colour?” What does Tesco have to say to such an incredible accusation?

[Tesco representative Kari] Daniels said the disparity in price was not the result of gender bias, but added: “In the instance of our twin-blade razors, the difference is driven by the fact that male razors are produced and sold in significantly higher volumes, which reduces the price we pay for them.”

Oh. Well, that kind of explains the price differential. But hey—who’s to say Tesco isn’t lying? Maybe we should trust Paula Sherriff’s word over theirs. Who do you think knows more about a company’s economic strategy and bottom line—the company itself, or a British politician who has taken up a stupid and fiscally illiterate feminist crusade? I think the answer is clear.

Here is a question for the Paula Sherriffs of the world—those men and women who imagine themselves to be economic geniuses who understand market forces better than corporate CEOs: why don’t companies like Tesco just charge more money for everything? If they can get away with charging women £1 for a pack of disposable razors solely on grounds of corporate greed driven by sexism, why don’t they charge men the same amount and make tons more money? Are nefarious multinational conglomerates really so dedicated to “gender bias” that they’ll miss out on millions and millions in profits every year, just to keep women down?

Does this conspiracy theory make any sense to you? Of course not—it only makes sense to people like Paula Sherriff, who have diligently trained themselves to be paranoid social justice warriors determined to root out “bias” where it doesn’t exist.

Meanwhile, one British woman is suitably unimpressed with Sherriff’s victory:

Since its introduction 15 years ago, the cost of emergency contraception has steadily increased to a whopping £30. If you don’t have time to get it free from your local GP – with queue’s [sic] up to 3 hours – or a sexual health clinic – with appointments as scarce as their budget – a woman’s only option is the morning after bill [sic]. Forcing British women to pay this ludicrous price for reproductive control is archaic; focusing our attention instead on the cost of razors is borderline laughable.

Good grief—£30 is not at all expensive; it’s a few hours’ work at the average hourly wage in the United Kingdom. Quite honestly, if a woman can’t shell out thirty pounds to compensate for a reckless sex life—if she is resorting to Plan B so often that she absolutely can’t afford it—then maybe she really shouldn’t be having sex at all. Call me crazy.

Though maybe there’s a quick and easy workaround to this problem: if a British woman does indeed find herself in need of “emergency contraception,” but she believes it to be too expensive, maybe she can just send a man into the pharmacy to purchase it for her. If the British economy is as infected by “gender bias” as we’re led to believe, they’ll probably charge him less for it.

What Do They Know of Divorce?

A couple of years ago, in a genuinely sloppy and legally indefensible decision, the Supreme Court took it upon itself to re-define marriage, broadening the definition to include same-sex couples.  There are a whole host of problems with a gay marriage regime, but there is also, at its heart, a fascinating socio-linguistic question as well, namely: do words mean anything? Does the word “marriage,” with heretofore applied exclusively to a union between a man and a woman, actually just mean, well, whatever? That was the gamble of the gay marriage crusade—that “marriage” means whatever we want it to mean, which is to say it means nothing at all—and, for now at least, it seems to have paid off.

But, to be fair—and in defense of gay activists—the word “marriage” had been corrupted long before the Supreme Court came along and corrupted it a little more. By way of example we have Meredith Maran in the New York Times, who write, appropriately enough, about her experience getting both “gay married” and “gay divorced:”

In 2013 I Googled “gay divorce lawyer” and found only “gay family law” attorneys. I called the one with the best Yelp reviews.

“I need to file for d — ” The word caught in my throat.

In many cities over many years, my wife and I had marched for marriage equality. We’d argued with the haters and we’d argued with the gay people who said that legal marriage would co-opt us, diminish us, turn us into a caricature of “normal” married people. We swore we could enjoy the rights only marriage conferred and still have our gender-fluid commitment ceremonies, our chosen-family configurations, our dexterity at turning friends into lovers and vice versa.

Divorce felt like more than a betrayal of my wedding vows. It was a betrayal of my people and our cause.

Leave aside, for now, the paranoid gay politics and focus on Maran’s first contention: the idea that divorce would be “a betrayal of [her] wedding vows.” As she writes, she and her partner vowed to “love, honor, and keep each other, in sickness and in health, as long as we both shall live.” As long as they both shall live: their marriage was supposed to last forever, until one or both of them died. And yet they ended up getting divorced, as many married couples invariably do.

The question is this: what does “divorced” really mean in this context? Two people pledged (vowed, even) to stay with each other “as long as they both shall live.” But now they’re split—and not just in the sense that they live separately, but that, in Maran’s own words, her marriage “didn’t last.” It’s over. But how can it be over, if indeed they made those vows with full consent and with every intention of seeing them through?

The argument seems to go like this: “Well, every married couple makes those vows, but sometimes things just don’t work out, and people need to be able to get out of a marriage that doesn’t work.” Okay, maybe so. But that seems to assume a priori that there is a possibility for divorce—which is to say that, for couples who are at least theoretically open to divorce, the vows aren’t made in total sincerity, that they carry with them an implicit back door that would allow for dissolution of the marriage. In which case we have this fascinating conundrum: are couples who (a) believe in divorce and (b) are themselves willing to divorce—are these couples actually married? Do the vows of these couples, which generally include a stipulation of lifelong commitment, really mean anything at all?

I would submit that the answer is likely no: that if your wedding vows include a tacit stipulation “…but only if things don’t sour,” then you’re not doing marriage right—or rather you’re not doing it at all. A “marriage” that can end isn’t a “marriage” at all; it is, rather, an arrangement premised, at its foundation, on convenience and potential transience rather than fidelity and unquestionable permanency: many things it may be, but a marriage it is not.

All of which is to say that gay “marriage” is not the first perversion of marriage to develop in our society; properly understood, it’s not even the most dire. A transient marriage culture is, in the end, far more of a threat to a healthy society than two women making vows to each other—indeed, as Maran shows, even gay unions aren’t impervious to the scourge of divorce. If we genuinely want to reform our culture of marriage, then we’ll likely have to begin by fixing not our marriage laws but the divorce laws that make a mockery out of marriages in the first place.

Please Remember to Rewind

The new year has depressingly brought with it some old faces, ones that are indicative of a sad cultural milieu that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Netflix’s reboot project of the Magic School Bus is continuing apace, now apparently with several of the old former child voice actors on-board to provide cameos; Sarah Michelle Gellar has indicated a willingness to reboot Buffy the Vampire Slayer;  Netflix is releasing a reboot of the CBS sitcom One Day at a Time; and NBC recently ordered up a ten-episode revival of Will & Grace.

This isn’t an isolated phenomenon; there are countless reboot movies in the works, among them the Batman story (which was literally just rebooted last year), Flight of the Navigator, Jumanji (because you didn’t get enough Jumanji the first time around), A Nightmare on Elm Street (which already had its own reboot just a few years ago), and Friday the 13th (which has been rebooted two or three times already, depending on one’s canonical preferences). Elsewhere, earlier this year Netflix released its second season of the Full House sequel “Fuller House” (which actually turned out quite good), as well as a four-episode miniseries sequel to “Gilmore Girls” (which was just as insufferable and unwatchable as the original).

I’m not sure what the total market share value of reboots and sequels to 1990s-early 2000s entertainment is, but taken together it probably isn’t peanuts: Millennials love to gush over remakes of the crap they used to watch at 3:30 PM after coming home from school. Just the same, there is something profoundly cheerless and irritating about this reboot phenomenon, a genre that seems to be growing only more popular with each passing year. Part of it is the sight of grown men and women sort of pathetically desperate to re-live their elementary school days: scan the comments of any Youtube video associated with these reboots and you’ll get the picture. But the bigger concern is that we may be losing our ability to tell new stories—that instead of a fresh and interesting new tale, movie studios will instead take shelter underneath a nostalgia-laden remake of Weird Science or Starship Troopers. Even the more traditional sequel-style movies often suffer from reboot syndrome: witness Terminator Genisys, which was nominally a continuation of the series’ storyline but which ending up functioning as an effective intra-series reboot (incredibly, the same reboot function was performed by the television show Terminator: the Sarah Connor Chronicles, released seven years prior to Genisys).

Last year at the Atlantic, Amanda Ann Klein and R. Barton Palmer wrote that it is unfair to “dismiss movies, or TV shows, because they’re inspired by, or part of, a preexisting franchise or series,” because “Self-cannibalizing cycles and sequels…are filmmaking strategies dating back to the industry’s first decade, not a symptom of contemporary culture’s inability to create anything new.” Maybe. But this tiresome reboot phenomenon seems less part of a “cycle” and more part of a genuine creative drought. We’re not dealing with clever dressings-up of old folk stories or heroic Greek myths, after all; nor are we witnessing the rehashing of much older material to which a new generation of audiences can be freshly exposed. Since 2002, there have been no fewer than three  individual Spider-Man film franchises, with the most recent two separated by only three years. Say what you want about “filmmaking strategies,” there is absolutely no creative reason to make three different concepts of the same exact character within less than fifteen years of each other; it’s simply a matter of artistic laziness.

Well, surely money has something to do with it as well, which is depressing in its own right. That’s not to say filmmakers from the past weren’t concerned about making a buck; only that they were often willing to do so on a broader creative plane. In their defense, I suppose writers and directors today are, in part, just catering to the desire of their audiences—which means that our stupid reboot culture is an indictment of the moviegoing public, as well. What kind of society wants eight freaking Spider-Man movies? What have we become?

A Hack, By Hacks, For Hacks

The election of Donald Trump has brought American political discourse to its nadir—no small feat, given that Donald Trump himself previously brought it lower than anyone before him. But we’ve hit bedrock, in a way: the histrionics, the frothing conspiracy theories, the emotional meltdowns—all of it coming almost exclusively from the left—is a sorry sight for a political heritage that includes the Gettysburg Address and “I Have a Dream” and the Federalist Papers.

How bad has it become? Consider:

52% of Democrats believe Russia tampered with vote tallies to get Trump elected (per Economist/YouGov poll).

There’s no evidence for this.

So, two months after the election and a few weeks before the new president is to be sworn in, a quarter of the electorate believes a falsehood: that Russia “hacked” the election—literally hacked it, mind you: we’re not talking about the slipshod, wild-eyed usage of “hacked” employed by deranged New York Times opinion writers, but a genuine conviction that the election results are fraudulent.  Looking at the full poll data, the numbers are actually worse: only 16% of  Democrats are willing to believe that the Russian vote hacking conspiracy theory is “definitely not true.” Which is to say that as much as 84% of the Democratic electorate—over 4/5 of it—believes that Donald Trump’s electoral victory is illegitimate.

This is troubling for a unique and important reason. The full data of this poll actually reveal that a lot of Americans believe a whole host of kooky conspiracies—that Obama was born in Kenya, that a cabal of Wall Street bankers orchestrated the 2008 recession, that the September 11th attacks were planned by the United States government, that Hillary Clinton was involved in some sort of pedophile pizza scandal—and belief in many of these theories largely breaks down along party lines depending on the issue. But these wacky convictions persist, overwhelmingly, in spite of the reported facts of the matter, not because of them: the media have aggressively debunked the “Pizzagate” controversy, for instance; there have never been any credible indications that the United States had a hand in planning 9/11; every major media outlet and 99% of the minor ones has refuted the Obama-is-a-Kenyan conspiracy; and so forth.

The exact opposite thing has happened regarding the Russian election controversy: the media have aggressively promoted the false narrative that Russia “hacked” the election. The New York Times called Russia’s actions “election hacking.” So did the BBC. So did the Wall Street Journal. So did ABC News. So did USA Today. So did the Atlantic. So did countless other outlets and pundits and writers. It was the political term du jour, bolstered by an echo-chamber media full of partisans desperately searching for an explanation as to why Hillary Clinton lost: rather than her own wooden, robotic unelectability, she had to be the victim of an “election” “hack.”

“Election hacking” is the wrong way to describe what Russia did: so far as we can tell, Russian meddling in the election was limited to a data breach of DNC e-mails and a phishing scam of John Podesta. There is good reason to be seriously concerned about these actions. But to call these exploits “election hacking” is intellectually dishonest and quite obviously opportunistic. The term “election hacking” conjures up precisely the types of images the media know it conjures up: Russian operatives digitally manipulating voter ballots in swing states in order to hand the election to Donald Trump. You don’t get the same effect from a headline that announces, say, “Hillary Clinton’s terminally clueless and incompetent campaign chairman got nailed by the Russian equivalent of a Nigerian prince scam.” All of these outlets could have easily written “e-mail hacking” or “DNC hacking” or “campaign hacking;” instead, they ran with the provocative and misleading “election hack” angle, thus helping to ensure that perhaps more than 75% of Democrats believe Donald Trump is the beneficiary of international voter fraud.

All of which is to say that, in spite of what we believed during the primaries and the general election, our political discourse can in fact get lower. What is most ironic is that we were warned, leading up to the election, that Russia’s principle aim was not to elect Donald Trump but to sow doubt among Americans regarding the integrity of our voting system and our democratic republic. They apparently succeeded, in large part because our media remain heroically determined to explain away the humiliating defeat of Hillary Clinton. The media are unwittingly playing the role of Russian dupes, and half of all Democrats went right along with them.

The Indiscriminate Knife

If, like me, you are one of the millions of Americans who have been buffeted by the winds of Obamacare, then you’re holding out hope that the Republican majorities in Congress will be able to work with the new president to repeal this dreadful, nasty little law. Hope is about all we have to work with: Republicans are known for squandering electoral victories to great effect, and there is good reason to believe that Donald Trump doesn’t really have any interest at all in doing anything about the Affordable Care Act. But let’s keep our fingers crossed.

Repeal or no repeal, the law is still on rather shaky ground, at least as far as some of its more controversial and celebrated provisions go. As the new year turned, for example, Texas put a block on one of Obamacare’s core sops to progressive interest groups:

A federal judge in Texas on Saturday issued a court order barring enforcement of an Obama administration policy seeking to extend anti-discrimination protections under the Affordable Care Act to transgender health and abortion-related services.

The decision sides with Texas, seven other states and three Christian-affiliated healthcare groups challenging a rule that, according to the judge, defines sex bias to include “discrimination on the basis of gender identity and termination of pregnancy.”

In granting an injunction one day before the new policy was to take effect, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor held that it violates the Administrative Procedure Act, a federal law governing rule-making practices.

The judge also ruled that plaintiffs were likely to prevail in court on their claim that the new policy infringes on the rights of private healthcare providers under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

It is a sign of the madness of our constitutional order that a law pertaining to abortion violates a federal procedure rulebook and a religious freedom statute but not, you know, the rights of the unborn: you can strike down a policy on the grounds of legal esoterica, but not on grounds of whether or not it’s okay to deliberately kill an innocent human being.

That being said, there is another weird, inexplicable aspect to this rule. Obamacare explicitly gives credence to the theory of “gender identity,” which holds that, say, if a woman honestly believes she is a man, then she is, in fact, a man—for all philosophical purposes and, if the woman chooses to go the extra mile, for all legal purposes, too. But a woman who “transitions” into “being” a man—assuming she hasn’t had a hysterectomy or undertaken a severe drug regimen to alter her body beyond repair—is still capable of getting pregnant, which means “he” is also capable of having an abortion.

What this means in a practical sense is obvious: gender ideology is insane and makes no sense. But within the socio-legal framework of Obamacare, it is also self-defeating: if transgender ideology is now the law of the land, then, by that logic, it must necessarily be the case that any anti-abortion statutes on the books also applies to men. A law that applies equally to women and men cannot at the same time be indicative of “sex bias!”

(One might argue that, given the low number of transgender “men” who seek out abortions, anti-abortion laws nevertheless qualify for the old legal proviso of “disparate impact” against women. But you could make the same case in the opposite direction for murder laws more generally: nearly 90% of murderers are men. Yet nobody is proposing we abolish these laws based on their “disparate impact” against male murderers.)

Liberals these days seem to prize abortion—the taking of innocent life—over everything else, so I suppose the likeliest outcome of this case, depending on how the ruling eventually goes, is that the Left will abandon the gender fight (at least as it applies to Obamacare) and instead focus on the crown jewel of modern progressivism, the “termination of pregnancy.” The pro-life movement, of course, will be waiting. In the meantime, we should also not forget the scourge of gender identity, which is quite obviously a mad stew of toxic lunacy that subjects vulnerable people to whimsical make-believe.

What Laws May Come

Why do so many people distrust gun control activists? Part of it is for the simple reason that gun control itself doesn’t really work. But there is another, stronger reason that many people oppose gun control: it’s because they understand, both instinctively and from empirical observation, that gun control never, ever stops with just one law. There’s always one more regulation, one more restriction right around the corner. Consider, for example, the European Union:

The European Union has agreed to ban sales of the most dangerous semi-automatic firearms, and to make it much harder to legally buy other weapons in the EU.

People across the EU will now have to go through medical checks before getting a license to buy firearms. Online sales will also be limited.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the head of the European Commission, called the agreement a “milestone in gun control in the EU.”

“We have fought hard for an ambitious deal that reduces the risk of shootings in schools, summer camps or terrorist attacks with legally held firearms,” he said.

Do tell. As a matter of fact, the EU already has fairly restrictive firearm laws on the books; why do they need more? Presumably it’s because the current laws failed to stop various criminals and terrorists from committing mass murder with guns. But it is important to examine the nature of that failure: it is worth asking whether the laws simply fail to prohibit the gunmen from acquiring their weapons (was it outright legal for the gunmen to buy their weapons?), or if the laws failed on an extrasystemic level (did the gunmen simply ignore the laws and buy their guns illegally?).

Evidence points to the latter, at least in a lot of cases—that the criminals simply ignored the laws and bought their weapons illegally. This appears to be the case in both of the recent Islamist attacks in Paris, in the July 2016 Munich massacre, the 2011 Liege attack which featured M84 stun grenades, the July 2016 shooting in Serbia—and surely numerous other lower-profile attacks that haven’t been widely reported on. In all of these cases, the gunmen broke the laws that already existed instead of taking advantage of any lax laws already on the books; the problem, therefore, is likely not one of legality. Nevertheless, the European Union is set on throwing up even more roadblocks for law-abiding gun owners. That’s the modus operandi for gun controllers: they punish people who have done nothing wrong in order to impede criminals who aren’t going to obey the law in the first place.

Gun activists are thus correct to resist any efforts to impede on our gun rights: these efforts never stop, for one, and the intended targets of these laws (potential mass murderers) are far less affected by these efforts than countless law-abiding people who just want to keep themselves and their families safe. But for the tireless efforts of the gun rights lobby in America, we could have easily experienced many more “milestones in gun control” in this country; thankfully, we have the Second Amendment, and a fiercely independent culture willing to defend it.

The Intentions of Your State

The reaction to Trump’s victory last month has taken some strange shapes—it has spurred a growing movement to have California secede from the Union, for instance—but most prominent among the reactions has been a kind of hardening of political outlooks, a sort of stick-to-it-iveness in response to what Trump represents. Take, for example—-again—and also please—California:

Foreign governments concerned about climate change may soon be spending more time dealing with Sacramento than Washington.

President-elect Donald J. Trump has packed his cabinet with nominees who dispute the science of global warming. He has signaled he will withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement. He has belittled the notion of global warming and attacked policies intended to combat it.

But California — a state that has for 50 years been a leader in environmental advocacy — is about to step unto the breach. In a show of defiance, Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, and legislative leaders said they would work directly with other nations and states to defend and strengthen what were already far and away the most aggressive policies to fight climate change in the nation. That includes a legislatively mandated target of reducing carbon emissions in California to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

Now, on the one hand, you can imagine the response were the shoe on the other foot: if, say, Texas vowed to “work directly with other nations” in contravention of Hillary Clinton’s policy goals, liberals would be howling “treason” from every solar-panel-covered rooftop they could find. Then again, on the other hand, you can imagine a red state potentially attempting an end-run around a Democratic president’s policies “in a show of defiance;” it’s not the most unlikely thing in the world.

You might be tempted to conclude that both sides are given to hypocrisy, supporting “defiance” when their side is doing it and decrying such “defiance” when the other guy does it. Well, maybe, sure. But in the end this is less a commentary on base political inclinations and more a commentary on the genius—and paramount necessity—of federalism. Under a properly-arranged federalist framework, after all, there is no reason that a state like California shouldn’t be allowed to pursue its own environmental and climate policies, however daffy they may or may not be. I am not sure whether or not Article 1, section 10’s limitations on international state treaty-making would apply with whatever goober regulations Jerry Brown might come up with, but there’s a case to be made that, within an admittedly narrow context, such treaties might be perfectly acceptable, at least insofar as they do not affect or implicate other states or the federal government itself.

That is the genius of Madison’s constitution (or at least it was): the compartmentalization of certain powers at certain levels of government, with all power ultimately resting within the only true sovereigns themselves: the people. We have forgotten that to a large degree, both politically and culturally, which is why the policy foibles of a single state can seem so scandalous when, under our system of government, they really shouldn’t be that remarkable at all. In a very odd way, Jerry Brown’s climate crusade is what the peculiar American variety of small government should look like. Here’s to hoping we see more of it under the Trump administration—from every state, no less.