Thursday, November 04, 2010

Political update for November, 2010

That was one hell of an exciting election.

2010 Elections.

Let’s start with the election. Seems like my predictions were relatively accurate in both houses, but, let’s face it, I had a lot of help. Ann Coulter pointed out that Charles Krauthammer’s predictions just before the election matched average exactly. And I certainly didn’t exactly examine 435 house races myself, although I did better than many. I looked at a bunch of polls, watched a bunch of debates, put my finger in the wind as to who was motivated and who resigned, and decided that those experts who were picking something between a 60 and 70 seat Republican advantage were probably closest. The Senate I figured out for myself, but, so did almost everyone else. Wasn’t hard.

And, as rarely happens, I got my wish too. I wanted the Republicans to win the House and to nearly win the Senate. I wouldn’t normally care if they won both houses, but I just don’t want to see impeachment nonsense for two years, and Democrat control of the Senate prevents that and also means that if he has to make an appointment, there can't be as much political nonsense. You can’t trust either party with power. I hope we never have one party have the presidency and the two houses together at the same time in my lifetime, again. Good luck to me, of course.

I watched President Obama’s speech and press conference after the election. He was humble, but I think he missed some of the point of the body slam Democrats received. Particularly, his notion that it is his core function to create jobs and fix the economy has troubled many. I like the following Lincoln quote, which you don’t see all that often:

“This is essentially a People's contest. On the side of the Union, it is a struggle for maintaining in the world, that form, and substance of government, whose leading object is, to elevate the condition of men---to lift artificial weights from all shoulders---to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all---to afford all, an unfettered start, and a fair chance, in the race of life. Yielding to partial, and temporary departures, from necessity, this is the leading object of the government for whose existence we contend.”

While Lincoln can also be criticized for his economic ideas (See Thomas DiLorenzo's books for that) this notion is the good model. I would refine it thus - government should guarantee us a republican form of government, due process, equal protection under the law and an equal playing field. It should provide for our defense. Almost everything else, unless listed in Article 1, section 8 of the constitution should be done by the states or the private sector (best) all subject to the constitution. The necessary and proper clause should have reasonable limitations. We should not retreat further from the great experiment.

While President Obama claims he did act out of necessity and it was a temporary, I disagree. The notion of too big to fail is a new one. I’ve argued Hayek to you before here (11/13/08, for one). If you give the people the feeling that there is no law which cannot be changed after the fact, then they will not behave as if there is law. Moral hazards, so often bandied about, are real. It led to the gruesome collapse of the real estate market and I still think there is another very large shoe to drop.

But, to some degree, President Obama’s perspective is that of almost all presidents and candidates. For all the flaws of the founders, they believed, at least in the abstract, that we can’t create a utopia, and should leave men to govern themselves and conduct their own affairs. Modern politicians don't really beleive that.

There is a competing theory, and it has its supporters and its own promise. But, as I intend to write on political philosophy more in the next few weeks, I will leave this topic for now.

Sarah and Mitt and the future of the Republican Party

I’ve been arguing with Republicans lately. They should be feeling their oats, of course, but you have to wonder if they have learned anything from when liberals thought they conquered America forever in 2008.

Did liberals actually think this or am I just going by anecdotal evidence? Let me quote someone who is barely liberal. Take a look at Chuck Todd. I actually don’t know his politics, as he tries to report objectively and seems embarrassed when hosts like Keith Olbermann do their thing, but it seems to me he is more comfortable with left than right. I wouldn’t swear to it though. I do know he knows a lot about politics, more than probably anyone at the network other than perhaps Pat Buchanan, the token conservative. He appears on NBC and mostly on MSNBC, the cable news channel which went from moderate to the FoxNews of the left and then beyond it (they no longer hide their agenda as of a month or so ago). I recognize that liberals believe Fox is worse and conservatives think that MSNBC is, and it is really not worth debating.

Mr. Todd came out with a fairly interesting book soon after the election called How Barack Obama Won. After showing how the president trounced McCain in almost every demographic category other than white evangelicals (and even there Sen. McCain lost ground to President Bush), he wrote:

“The building blocks for a political realignment are clearly in place. The Democratic Party’s advantages in fast-growing states and fast-growing demographics indicate the possibility the party could go on a run that mirrors the Republican success story from 1980 to 2004."

- - -

“[M]aybe the floor of the Democratic Party has risen to a point where the party’s ability to forge a majority is a lot easier right now than it is for the Republican Party.”

- - -

“As the exit poll and the election results suggest, the Republican Party is in danger of becoming a Southern and rural party and nothing more. The party’s slow drain of support in the suburbs and its ideological shift away from its pre-Reagan moderate Midwestern and New England roots have cost the party big-time.”

It seemed to make sense at the time, but could he have been more wrong? But, like I said, I don’t believe he is a died in the wool liberal. I believe he is a moderate who leans left because of his job. However, like most good political writers, he left himself an out -

“Republicans can always hope the Democrats overreach with their political power; it’s something all political parties eventually do when they achieve the status that the Democrats now have, which is control of both houses of Congress and the presidency. But Obama’s campaign team turned governing team doesn’t look like a gang that will shoot itself in the foot often. And for the GOP, rebuilding its party can’t start with hoping the other guys self-destruct; it starts with getting its act together state by state, county by county, demographic group by demographic group.”

He got it right, but he didn’t think it would happen. They did shoot themselves in the foot with stimulus and health care, in particular. And the tea parties did the organizing, state by state . . . .

Now that the election is won and the Republicans have the motivation and momentum, will they make the same mistake? Probably. I’m more cynical of political parties than I am of winning the lottery. The Republican congressional leaders, who are not really tea partiers, are actually playing it cautiously, and aren’t dancing with joy. Future Speaker of the House Boehner got it right in post-election speech when he said that it wasn’t time to celebrate.

When I read conservative pundits, listen to right wing radio, and read the comments of conservatives online, I get the opposite feeling. Many of them believe the won because real Americans saw the light, just as liberals felt just two short years ago. Others don’t believe that but don’t care. They believe as does Rush Limbaugh that there should not be compromise. And he carries a lot of weight (pun not intended).

There were oodles of lessons for liberals and Democrats in this, the most exciting election in my lifetime, but there are lessons for conservatives and Republicans too. Sharron Angle, who had the easiest job among all tea partiers, dethroning the poster boy for big spending, cram it down your throat socialism – Harry Reid. He represented the antithesis of everything the majority of the electorate was against. His favorability ratings were abysmal. Yet he won going away. Why? Because Angle seemed a little bit weird to people, a little bit extreme. Her comments regarding the second amendment scared voters away in enough droves so that he danced through the finish line.

Voters in Delaware felt the same way about Christine O’Donnell. No, I don’t think anyone but the most extreme liberals really cared that she had once dated a witch when a teenager, just as Kentucky voters did not care about Aqua-Buddha. They did care that she talks like a bubblehead, virtually a valley girl, even when she is right. People are serious about who they send to the Senate, more so even than they are about the House. Of course, one thing about her is for certain. She is now a conservative celebrity who should thank Bill Maher for trashing her – he made her famous.

Of course, when I say “people” and “voters” I am really talking about independents. I am an independent. The best I can do to describe myself is a moderate independent who leans libertarian (but doesn’t wear an aluminum foil hat). Of course, many people I know who are very much of the left or the right call themselves moderates and independents. But, as I have often written here, being a moderate is not really about ideology. It is a relative thing. What is conservative and what is liberal changes a bit over time. As often pointed out, JFK might be considered a conservative right now. For some reason I don’t completely understand, conservatives are proud to call themselves liberals, the way many Irish are proud when we stereotype that they drink, but liberals are much more reluctant to call themselves liberals or progressives, even where they hate Sarah Palin and like or love Barack Obama.

On the other hand, politically speaking, also for reasons I don’t understand, liberals are okay with the existence of independents, who they hope will vote with them, but conservatives cannot tolerate independents and some even claim there is no such thing – if you don’t agree with them you are a liberal/progressive/statist.

That’s all generalizations, of course. I call myself a moderate independent because of the rapidity of which liberals call me a conservative (or a Nazi or right wing nut) and conservatives call me a liberal (or a Communist or extreme liberal). I even heard I was an extreme libertarian this week, which isn’t true either. Of course, the truth is, it doesn’t matter what people think I am or what I think they are – debate is debate; but what really matters is who you vote for on each separate election and if you financially support politicians, that matters too.

So, here’s the real question – Sarah Palin or Mitt Romney? Obviously, we will have two years to banter about that, but it looks like those are the most likely choices at this particular point in time.

Tea partiers and many other conservatives want Sarah Palin. Tactically, I think they are wrong. As I put it to someone this morning - getting who you really want doesn’t matter - winning the election matters. They don’t seem to care.

Here’s something they should consider (and, I know, things like polls change). Barack Obama loses in polls to generic Republicans. Yet, he beats every likely Republican contender in a head to head poll. Mitt Romney he barely beats. I think 1 point. But, Sarah Palin he trounces by a large margin. Why?

Same reason Christine O’Donnell and Sharron Angle lost. Independents aren’t impressed by her. I’m not. I don’t want her for president. Of course, I didn’t want President Obama either and we got him. But independents have increased since just 2008. People are finally, finally coming around to my way of thinking that both parties, both ideologies, must be kept from having too much power – even if we agree or disagree more with one side.

But, we all know, of course, that there are tons of people out there who love Sarah Palin, or, if they don’t love her, just like what she stands for. When do you ever hear anyone on the right talk about Mitt Romney? Almost never. She was a king and queen maker in this election, and if she doesn’t run, will likely be again in ’12. Who did Romney endorse? I can’t tell you one person. All the excitement is with her. And, she has the tea partiers on her side and that sure means something.

Iowa is going to love her, but New Hampshire – I’m not so sure. Stay tuned.


I think I’ve been saying something about Israel/Palestine in every political post lately. I won’t repeat myself, but just say that although I support Israel for many reasons, I have lost patience with them and am offended by their continued building in Jerusalem and that they will not get out of the West Bank.
But, I have to admit, it was brilliant of Prime Minister Netanyahu, when the question of whether to suspend building again came up, to tell the Palestinian Authority that if they acknowledged that Israel was a Jewish state, they would stop the building. Naturally, they said no, not that they were wise to do so. Of course, it is no excuse to keep building, but it just shows that the Palestinians are also hopelessly caught up in this ridiculous dance. It helps keep the Israelis off my naughty list.

I’ve already written her my plan to end the more than half century year war, but we’ll pass over it today (pun intended).

See you next week.

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I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .