Barbara Boxer Replay: Mickey Kaus on immigrants, new media, & bringing The Velvet Underground to Beverly Hills High (ca. 1968)…


…oh yeah, and his quixotic Senate bid against incumbent Barbara Boxer.

The Kaus family was deeply intertwined with California politics and culture long before journalist/blogger Mickey Kaus started his longshot bid to unseat Sen. Barbara Boxer in the 2010 Democratic primary.

Mickey's father, the Viennese-born Otto Kaus, was a well-respected jurist who sat on the California Supreme Court from 1981 to 1985. His brother Stephen is a prominent Bay Area civil-litigation attorney and a commentator for The Huffington Post. Mickey's maternal grandmother, Dorothy Huttenback, was a musical prodigy who headed up the Los Angeles Music Guild for three decades, and Dorothy's son Robert served as chancellor of the University of California at Santa Barbara. Both sides of the family were part of the historic wave of German-speaking Jews who fled the Nazis for Southern California in and around the 1930s, injecting a distinctive, semi-alienated yet intensely patriotic intellectual style to the Golden State's civic conversation.

Mickey Kaus' position within the national public policy discussion has always been that of a tweak-your-own-side contrarian. He was part of the group of writers at the left-of-center Washington Monthly in the 1980s who hatched what they called "neoliberalism"—a qualified rejection of interest-group politics and Keynesian economics in favor of policies intended to harness rather than oppose market forces. That frame led him to The End of Equality, a seminal 1992 book that stressed opportunities over outcomes and took on the liberal sacred cow of welfare. Kaus certainly hadn't abandoned the liberal fold—among other things, the book called for a federal jobs program, universal health coverage, and compulsory national service—but he wasn't an ordinary Democrat either.

By the end of the 1990s Kaus' name was synonymous with political blogging. He had launched one of the first and most influential journalist blogs, Kausfiles, which for most of its lifespan has been published by Slate. In 2005 he helped kick-start the video debate site with his friend and frequent sparring partner Robert Wright. There and elsewhere, Kaus has distanced himself from his own Democratic Party on unionism, health care reform, public sector pensions, and especially immigration.

In 2010 Kaus decided to put his money where his mouth is and run against Boxer, the powerful three-term senator, as a way to advance the discussion about modern Democratic priorities. Needless to say, Kaus has no chance of unseating Boxer in the California primary coming on June 8. Yet his insights on new media, unions, and politics more broadly are well worth hearing. And his story about bringing the Velvet Underground to perform at Beverly Hills High in the '60s is not to be missed. Editor Nick Gillespie spoke with Kaus in May, just after Arizona passed a controversial law about checking the immigration status of anyone who comes into contact with law enforcement.

About 40 minutes. Shot by Dan Hayes and Meredith Bragg; edited by Bragg. Go to for downloadable versions.

NEXT: Hang Out With The Great Matt Ridley (& Matt Welch & Ron Bailey & Jacob Sullum) For a Week on Reason's First-Ever Cruise in February 2011!

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  1. You are wrong about chicago.

    Downtown, and northside, you don’t see the effect of illegal immigration.

    In South chicago and the south chicago burbs you definitely do.

    The Polish who were everywhere in south chicago are more spread out now, and they assimilated. But the Mexicans, guatamalans, and Yes, even though they are born American citizens the puerto ricans, refusing to accept assimilation, even though puerto ricans have been ammericans for a hundred years.

    The problem is less about weeding out “the other” and more about taking the ones who accept us.

    That doesn’t happen in many of the southern high hispanic population burbs of chicago.

    1. *baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarf*

  2. Wow, 1968 was such a great year.


    1. Not as good as ’69!

  3. Like Chris Hitchens has rightfully said the US needs to rid itself of Teabagging Rednecks who vote against against their primary interest due to Aborto-Freak Wahhibi Christo-fags.

    1. Christopher Hitchens is a Marxist dumbass who couldn’t describe to you what his actual political principles are. The guy is great on atheism but completely clueless on politics.

    2. Like Chris Hitchens has rightfully said the US needs to rid itself of Teabagging Rednecks who vote against against their primary interest

      Right, we need more assholes that view gubmint as Santa Claus.

      That’t fix things.

    3. I’m sorry, “shrike”, could you try to repeat that? I couldn’t understand a word you were saying with my balls in your mouth.

  4. Good morning happy reason family!

    1. Good morning Suki.

  5. The Teaneck Redbag Freakfag Family are Puerto Chicago Christo aborto, IYKWIMAITYD.

  6. I wish someone — Republican, Democrat, or antiBoxertarian, whatever — could field a challenge to Boxer that wasn’t “Quixotic.” I have never understood this politician’s appeal and can only hope I live long enough to see her disappear from public life. The longer she stays in DC, the more damage the US suffers. I have similar comments concerning Feinstein and national damage, but at least she has shown herself to be a canny and shrewd politician on occasion. She certainly made the most of the career boost provided by the assassinations of George Moscone and Harvey Milk. At least, I can more easily understand how Feinstein got to DC and stays there. Boxer, not so much.

    IIRC, it was Feinstein who cleaned Tom Campbell’s clock in his previous run for US Senate, so he would seem to be damaged goods in a Senate run, even though I think that a Senate seat would suit him best. If Kaus can’t topple our junior Senator in the primary, I’d rather see Boxer go up against Carly Fiorina, especially in debate. In 2004, Boxer was extremely reluctant to debate her GOP challenger, and wouldn’t give the Libertarian candidate — the estimable Judge Jim Gray — the time of day. She acted as if her post were hereditary, and for that reason alone, I think we should have kicked her out. This year, I hope that the much touted “anti-incumbent” sentiment bounces her right back to Marin County, finally paying her back for the many years of clueless arrogance that she has inflicted upon us (California and the nation) for so many years.

    1. “…or the __many years__ of clueless arrogance that she has inflicted upon us (California and the nation) for so __many years__.”

      Sorry about the redundancy. Cut-n-paste gremlins strike again. How many years has this forum been online? How many years have we begged for a means to edit posts? How many years has that demand gone unfilled? Lack of post-publication editing features = Boxer, i.e., astoundingly persistent source of lots of embarrassing damage.

    2. It has to be “Quixotic.” To defeat her, you have to get past all those windmills.

  7. Dude that is like the craziest thing I ever seen.


  8. The question is asked early in the interview, “Who were the gardeners in California before there were Mexican immigrants.” (OK, a bad paraphrase of the question). I think you’ll find that previous waves of immigrants did the gardening and lawn care – Italians, Japanese, etc. Gardening seems to be a right of passage into the American mainstream.

  9. The Dome meets the Jacket. Confusion hath made its masterpiece.

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