Tag: Election 2012

The Hormone Vote

It’s the silly season. Over at my own site, I looked at a study that claims that women’s menstrual cycles affect their voting. They’re claiming — I kid you not — that single women support Obama more when they are ovulating because they feel sexier and married women support Romney more because they are trying to surpress their desire to sleep with other men.

I shit you not.

This is going to get stupider and stupider as we close in. My head is developing a permanent palmprint.

Election 2012: V. The Post Party Era

(This is my long-promised fifth and final post spelling out my thoughts on the 2012 Presidential election. I actually penned this during the conventions but it wasn’t right. It was only during the second debate that everything came together. I doubt my decision will surprise anyone, but I dare say my reasoning may set a few cats amongst a few pigeons.)

So do I want Democrats who arrest, detain, bomb, and surveil like Republicans, or Republicans who spend like Democrats? – Ken at Popehat

Here’s the thing: I have long resisted the portrayal of Obama as a radical Islamic atheist crypto-Marxist Kenyan colonialist. This is not because I have a particular affinity for the man or his policies. Or even because I care too much about “the tone”. It’s because there is a far more succinct and accurate description of Barack Obama.

A Republican.

I can hear the howls of outrage, but let me make my case. He’s certainly not a culture conservative or anything like that. And his associates would want nothing to do with conservatives and conservatives nothing to do with his associates (although I’m told that Bill Ayers and David Koch would make a good doubles team). But when I really narrow it down to the policies Barack Obama has enacted, I keep circling back to the inevitable conclusion: were it not for the letter after his name, they could easily be mistaken for those of a Republican.

Think of the big policies we have objected to under Obama. Think of them clearly and think about how the Republicans have legislated over the last decade. Not what the Republicans have said. Not what they have promised us. But the actual nuts and bolts policies they have pursued and enacted — first under Bush, then when they took back Congress in 2010 and now what is promised by Romney. I know people are tired of Bush but the policies of the GOP have not really changed over the last twelve years: from the year 2000 to the present, they are a continuous unbroken surrender to — or embrace of — Big Government. And I can not but come to the conclusion that the differences between Obama and the Republican Party are relatively small:

Let’s go through them, shall we?

The Stimulus: Surely, this piece of Keynesian waste could only have happened under Obama, right? Well, George Bush engaged in two rounds of stimulus as the financial crisis began, including tax rebates to people not paying taxes. When the GOP took the House in 2010, one of the first things they did was cut a deal to extend unemployment benefits and the Bush tax cuts — most of which reduce lower income people’s taxes to zero or less. They also cut payrolls taxes on the employee side as a stimulus measure. Cuts to the Ex-Im Bank, farm subsidies and transportation have found opposition in the GOP because of the supposed economic impact. Mitt Romney has already come out in favor of higher defense spending under the guise of stimulating the economy. Why is that necessarily better than “green energy”?

A Republican stimulus might not have taken the same form as Obama’s (although 1/3 of Obama’s stimulus was tax cuts). But to argue that the Stimulus was something the GOP would not have done seems absurd given the policies pursued by Bush, supported by the GOP Congress and promised by Romney. Had John Mccain or Mitt Romney been President in 2009, I have little doubt we would have gotten something very similar.

The Bailouts and Crony Capitalism: I’ve been over this before, but it’s always worth remembering: TARP was started under Bush, supported by Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney and many Republicans. GM was handed money by Bush and Romney’s alternative was a “controlled bankruptcy” similar to what Obama did. In fact, he made this specific point during the second debate. The big difference might have been more money for investors and less for unions. That’s not nothing, but it’s not a lot either.

The only Republican in the primary who proposed something different was John Huntsman, who said we should break up the big banks through increasing fees. And he got almost as many votes for President as I did. Numerous conservatives hoped Romney would embrace the Huntsman plan to eliminate the need for bailouts. He has not. And needless to say, Barack Obama hasn’t either. More to the point, Obama has allowed the big banks to get bigger than ever.

Obamacare: All of you know that Obamacare, in its initial form, was Romneycare. But Romneycare is not something that fell out of the sky onto Massachusetts. The particulars were hashed out by conservatives in the 90’s as an alternative to Hillarycare. Massachusetts was a test-bed for a plan many conservative thought should eventually be a national policy. And if McCain and especially Romney had been elected in 2008, I have little doubt they would have pushed it on us (although I doubt it would have passed; if Obamacare came from a Republican, the Left would suddenly have realized what a huge payout to big business it was). Paul Ryan’s Medicare proposal is basically Obamacare for seniors — a private insurance market with premium support. That may be an improvement over the current monopsony. But let’s not pretend it’s the free market.

I suspect that if Romney wins the election, the GOP will make a big show of trying to repeal Obamacare. But once that fails (and it will fail, since Democrats are likely to keep the Senate) they will mostly tinker with Obamacare; maybe cut some subsidies or, if we’re lucky, allow major medical to qualify as the baseline insurance. I am extremely dubious that they will change much.

The fact is that these policies have been popular among a certain faction of the Republican Party for a very long time. These policies are popular with Romney and with the people he has surrounded himself with. If it had been called McCaincare, it would have had their support. And once they file the serial numbers off and call it Romneycare II, it will again.

Foreign Policy: As I said in my earlier post, the Romney-Ryan position on Obama’s foreign policy is that they would do the same thing, only more.

Jobs: Barack Obama does not have experience in the private sector and that has, as much as anything, hampered his management of the economy. But neither of the guys on the Romney-Ryan ticket have much private experience either. Ryan, of course, has been in public service his entire life. And Romney’s experience has mostly consisted of buying up businesses, finding legal and financial loopholes to make money, and selling them. His experience with rescuing the Salt Lake City games from the abyss is a positive for his management ability. But Congress is not an Olympic Games. Nor is the corner dry cleaner.

I want to make it clear: there’s nothing wrong with Romney’s work at Bain Capital, really. Private capital helps move our economy and some businesses need overhauls and reform. But my brother, who employs only himself, knows more about the problems facing a small business than Mitt Romney does.

Romney has promised he will create jobs from the top down by overhauling regulation and cutting taxes on businesses. But that’s the same thing, basically, that Obama is promising. And I extremely dubious of either candidate’s ability to deliver. Those tax loopholes and regulations are there for a reason: powerful businesses, include many backers of Obama and Romney, want them there. And neither of these men has shown the ability to stand up to them. Have you hear either man talk about the CPSC?

Maybe this is a slight net in favor of Romney since we can only guess what Romney might do and we have four years of Obama not doing anything to go on. But this particular issue is almost entirely dependent on Congress. If Congress passes the massive regulatory and tax overhaul we do desperately need, I do not see either President vetoing it.

Welfare: Welfare spending has now crossed the $1 trillion threshold. However, it was under the Bush Administration that food stamp requirements were relaxed and Medicaid was expanded. And the Republicans have now controlled the House for two years. The only move they made on anti-poverty spending was to extend unemployment benefits and fight against further reform. Now we are supposed to believe they will reign in anti-poverty spending?

The Budget: Obama’s biggest failure as President, in my view, was running away form Simpson-Bowles. There is simply no excuse for ignoring the recommendations of his own damned debt commission. Had he embraced the outline two years ago, the debt ceiling fight might have resulted in a real solution instead of kicking the can a couple of trillion down the road. This failure alone is good enough reason for anyone to vote against him.

But … Paul Ryan was on the Simpson-Bowles panel and voted against it even after getting concessions on Medicare. And Romney has criticized Obama for abandoning S-B while not offering a substantive alternative. Romney has promised to increase Medicare spending by $716 billion and military spending by $2 trillion. He has promised to increase Pell grants, education spending and federal job training. The only substantive budget cut he’s identifies is PBS (maybe). Obama is, of course, promising the same, only with more money for energy boondoggles and less for military hardware.

Both sides support extending 80% of the Bush tax cuts. Both sides support tax reform with their mouths while proposing more tax credits and complications with their pens. This is not a debate over solutions. This is quibbling over 1% of the problem. The house is on fire and they’re arguing about whether we should use the red fire hose or the blue fire hose.

If our debt is brought under control, it will not be because of Barack Obama or Mitt Romney. It will because of Congressional figures like Tom Coburn who are trying to broker a deal outside of the White House.

Regulation: Obama passed Obamacare and Dodd-Frank. But the Republicans passed Sarbanes-Oxley, one of the most financially destructive pieces of legislation in American history. Has either of these men spoken out against SOX? Moreover, Obama has actually passed fewer and less expensive regulations than Bush did (the link is a year old; I’m dubious that Obama passed more regulations over a GOP Congress; on the flip side, many Dodd-Frank provisions have yet to be enacted). Remember … in the first debate, Romney came out in favor of regulation. And his record in Massachusetts is not that of a deregulator.

Corruption: The Left keeps trying to persuade me to vote for Obama because Romney will welcome lobbyists back into the White House. I find this argument to be both ignorant and hilarious.

Other Issues: Many issues were not discussed at the debates because both sides agree. Both sides support the War on Drugs. Both sides support indefinite detention and the NDAA. Both sides supported SOPA until the population screamed bloody murder. Both sides support free trade when it suits them but wallow in anti-China rhetoric. Neither is a real friend of science. What does it tell when you Elon Musk and an energy drink company have more ambitious space exploration programs than NASA? And neither side wants to address the problems in our criminal justice system.

Let’s look at that last point. One of the most telling parts of the debate the other night was when the candidates were asked about gun control. Both quickly segued to other issues since gun control, as an issue, went out with parachute pants (little noticed point: in the debate, Obama acknowledged that the second amendment is for self-defense). But neither mentioned that crime is down to levels not seen in half a century. Neither mentioned one of the biggest drivers of poverty, job destruction, violence and despair in our cities: the War on Drugs:

A check in the “Have you ever been arrested?” box is a handy way for an employer to winnow down a stack of job applications. Why take the risk? In New York City, half a million people are stopped and questioned by police each year without probable cause. In some communities, nine in ten residents have been stopped. Aggressive stop-and-frisk policies have lead to thousands of arrests of people who have done nothing wrong, or have been tricked by police into committing a misdemeanor.

What are the substantive differences between these two parties? Abortion? Gay marriage? Unions? Let’s be honest: almost everyone in this election is voting against the other guy. What, apart from your distate for his supporters, is driving that?

It’s been quipped that Obama’s first term is really “Bush’s third term” and I think there’s something to that. Obama has been better on foreign policy; worse on domestic. A huge fraction of his blunders have been continuing old policies. But I could very easily imagine the last four years having unfolded in a similar fashion under Bush, McCain or Romney (with the possible exception of the two SCOTUS appointees). So is that the choice we face for the next four years? Bush 4A or Bush 4B?

I have voted Libertarian in the last two elections. I had that luxury since I lived in Texas, which was not a swing state. And, frankly, Pennsylvania isn’t a swing state so I have that luxury again. But I would vote for Gary Johnson even if I were in a swing state; even if mine were the only vote preventing either a Romney presidency or an Obama presidency. I recognize and respect the case to be made that one should vote for the lesser of two evils (although read Mataconis here). I’m just not seeing that either of these is the lesser. Again, see the epigraph that starts this post: do I want Republicans who spend like Democrats or Democrats who bomb like Republicans?

This isn’t a purist decision. I disagree with Johnson on plenty. And it’s not a fit of pique, either. I make the decision affirmatively. I don’t believe that either of these men will be a disaster for this country. Obama will be neutralized by a Republican House. And for all my barbs, I was relieved that Romney won the GOP nomination. I don’t think he is crazy or dangerous and I’ll be fine if he wins the election. And his surge since the first debate has been because millions of Americans have come to the same conclusion.

But neither do I believe that either man is the one to get us out of the hole we’re in. Either way, I think we’re going to get four more years of kicking the can down the road and hoping that the economy magically rescues the system.

Moreover, I think the Presidential race is possibly the least important election this year. Of far greater import:

1) Congress. Helping the GOP retain Congress is a far more critical battle than the White House. While I described Republican policies as a continuous decade-long surrender to Big Government, there have been some hopeful signs in the last two years. Just enough that I want them to keep hold of the House, especially.

I’ll be voting for my Republican congressman (I’m still unsure if I can pinch my nose tightly enough to vote for former Democrat and abortion absolutist Bob Smith for the Senate). One of the neglected stories of the last few weeks is the huge surge in the Democrats’ prospects of keeping the Senate, including a likely victory for Elizabeth Warren. As far as Massachusetts moderates go, it’s much more important to me for Scott Brown to win than for Mitt Romney to.

2) Ballot issues: Washington and Colorado are trying to legalize marijuana. Both initiatives have gotten key endorsements from law enforcement but are facing stiff entrenched opposition. In California, Prop 35, which purports to battle “trafficking” is polling well but shouldn’t be: it is such a badly written piece of legislation that simply renting a room to a prostitute could get someone arrested. Props 30 and 38 propose to raise taxes (yes, again) while Prop 32 would limit the power of unions. Prop 37 would label GM foods. In Maryland, there are two critical ballot initiatives coming up: one on gay marriage and one on Maryland’s obscene gerrymandering. Virginia has a critical question on eminent domain. Give me victories on all of these and I’d take Jill Stein in the White House (Ok, not really).

Probably the most important fight this year is going on in Michigan. The unions are trying to get an amendment passed that would bar Michigan forever from being a right to work state or limiting union bargaining power. This is a bill that may finally kill Michigan’s government. Have you heard a peep about it? This is far more important than the White House fight.

3) Us. One of the encouraging things about the last few years is that the American people are waking up. For all the criticism of the Tea Party, serious solutions to the debt issue would not be on the table at all if it weren’t for them. This was not, contra the Left, an astroturf effort to get Republicans back in office. The Tea Partiers are serious about changing the fiscal trajectory of this country. I’ve talked to many who have told me they will accept spending cuts; they will accept entitlement cuts; some will even accept higher taxes … if it’s part of a real solution. That’s far more thought, wisdom and patriotism than you will get from the entire sneering staff of MSNBC, CNN and PBS combined.

Even more encouraging was the battle over SOPA. This was a bad bill that had bi-partisan support. But the American public woke up. And people of all political persuasions took our government by the heels and shook them while yelling, “Stop it!”. And our politicians listened.

I’m not sold on the benefit of a protest vote. But a protest vote as part of a rising tide of opposition to the dimwit policies of our government? That’s something I can vote for. Maybe Johnson gets 1% this year. That’s enough to raise an eyebrow but not to make either party sweat. But if it can be built on, it’s enough scare some people. Ross Perot may have been crazier than a shithouse rat, but I strongly believe his influence on two elections scared the pants off our political establishment to the point where Bill Clinton was suddenly a budget hawk (although, to be fair, Bill Clinton was pretty easily talked out of his pants).

No matter who wins on November 6, it will be up to us to hold their feet to the fire. Both parties have promised debt reduction and an improved economy. We have to hold them to it not just at the ballot box but in unceasing unending relentless pressure. No spending bill should move through the house without a million phone calls. No Patriot Act renewal should pass without a million letters in opposition. If Congress makes a Grand Bargain on the budget, we have to make sure that neither of these guys dares to veto it. Every time Obama or Romney decides to bomb someone without Congressional authority, there should be pickets outside manned by everyone: liberal, conservative, Democrat, Republican. We all need to manning the trenches. We can’t ignore bad behavior because it’s “our” guy or only jump on bad behavior when it’s “their” guy.

This is not a fight of liberal against conservative. This is not a struggle of Democrat against Republican. The idea that either of our political parties gives a sweaty utility closet fuck about our liberty is absurd. This is a war of government against all of us. A war of the busybodies against those of us who want to be left the hell alone. How we get to freedom, what particular freedoms we emphasize, where we curtail that freedom so that society may function: that is a subject for vigorous debate. But by letting ourselves be duped into supporting Nanny Blue or Nanny Red, we have forgotten to hold the line; we have ceded ground to the idea that government should be able to do whatever the hell it wants … as long as it’s our guys in charge.

(And, I’m going to be frank, the liberals have been worse at this dereliction of citizenship. Obama’s War on Terror excesses have not generated a fraction of the anger among liberals that Bush’s spending did among conservatives. If George Bush had drone-bombed a 16-year-old, they would have been trashing the streets.)

That is why I refuse to vote for either of these guys. It only encourages them. It only persuades them that their infringements on our liberties — be they economic, social or legal — will be tolerated, approved and rewarded. It only persuades them that they can talk liberty on the campaign while they kill it in the legislature.

And it’s why, no matter which guy wins, I will spend the next four years tweeting, blogging, writing and raging against the machine in this little corner of the internet (well, in my spare time. I also need to work, eat, sleep, raise Sal 11000 Beta, go to the bathroom).

If Romney wins, we can’t do what we did with Bush and go happily to sleep. And if Obama wins, we can not sink into despair. The fight never ends. But nor is it ever hopeless. Ever since we recognized that governments were necessary, free people have been fighting to keep the monster under control. And, despite recent setbacks, our record over the last few centuries is very very good.

That monster needs to be held at bay, no matter which face it’s wearing for for the next four years. And if we keep our eyes open and our powder dry, it will be.

Post Debate Thoughts

It’s been two days; work and a nasty cold kept me from rolling out my thoughts on the debate. But I think it’s worth reviewing and discussing.

First, Obama got creamed. I think part of that is that he was caught off guard. Romney tacked sharply to the center, conceding policy ground on almost everything — regulation, Social Security, Medicare, Dodd-Frank. Obama was prepared to attack Primary Romney, the severe conservative. He was not prepared for the return of the moderate Massachusetts governor. And he was certainly not prepared for Romney to be so smooth and … well … presidential. Romney was on form, parrying all attacks, knowledgable about policy details and eschewing ideology. Obama simply was not ready for that, having convinced himself that Romney was an idiot that he would easily steamroll.

And he should have been prepared. Primaries are always played to the fringe; the election to the center. Obama, who shifted gears himself in 2008, should have known this. Romney won election in a heavily Democratic state; he knows how to play to the center. Romney was a consultant and an executive; he knows how to pitch.

Why wasn’t Obama prepared? There are a lot reasons for this but I think Megan McArdle’s breakdown is the best, particularly this point, which I also hashed out with Maggie McNeill on twitter:

The president lives in a bubble, and this president, in particular, has attracted a sort of worship that hasn’t followed any president since Kennedy, or maybe Reagan. (There’s a cult of Reagan now, but I don’t know whether that was true in 1984). You see it in things like the invitations to set up a wedding registry for donations to the Obama campaign, to send a Mother’s Day e-card celebrating the administration’s policy achievements, and of course, that infamous paragraph in the 2008 speech he gave after he locked up the Democratic nomination.

The fact that someone on his team wrote that line, and that no one else stopped him from delivering it, is remarkable. Even more remarkable is that four years later, many of his supporters do not grasp why so many people outside the Obama bubble–I’m tempted to say everyone who is not a die-hard supporter–find it hilariously narcissistic.

That is going to make it hard for the president to get good debate prep. With the time pressure he’s under, he needs to make every second of his debate prep count–which is to say, he needs an opponent who will absolutely pummel him. It seemed clear last night that they’ve been pitching him softballs, which is why he struck out on even completely obvious, predictible questions.

(I’ll speak to the Reagan thing: in Dinesh D’souza’s biography, he noted that Reagan was aware of the regard people had for him and, for that reason, rarely let his advisors know his opinion in advance of internal debates over policy. He feared that, once they knew where he stood, they would cant their arguments to support him.)

We’ve talked about the Cult of Personality before. You can see it the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments in the Left Wing commentariat over the debate performance (and their blaming of the useless Jim Lehrer). On MSNBC, it was like someone had died. Andrew Sullivan was practically in hysterics.

I think Obama has, on occasion, had a vague sense of this. But he hasn’t really made the kind of changes you need to make to keep the bubble from affecting your thinking. He seemed completely unprepared for Romney shifting his positions to the center. He was unable to mount even the most basic defense of his record. He seemed to think that just laying out his case would carry the day. He seemed to think that Romney would be as deferential and the audience as worshipful as … well, everyone around him.

(This Cult of Personality is, ironically, one of the reasons I would not be terribly distressed if Obama won, as long as the Republicans can get both houses. Having one of the most worshipped Presidents in recent history rendered impotent in his own White House would do a lot to crack the Cult of the Presidency and shift power back to Congress, where it belongs.)

Probably Obama’s only wise decision was to avoid attacking Romney on the 47% thing. While it enraged the liberal base, Obama clearly knew that Romney would be ready to parry it. Indeed, Romney today brought out the response line he never got to use. And it was not a bad one. I also suspect that Obama held back on attacking Romney because he knows the media will do it for him.

As for the substance of the debate, Reason has a lot of great analysis of the debate and why it was a nightmare for believers in limited government. Here for example, is a breakdown of the promises to reign in spending. Romney, in particular, was ludicrous, saying he was going to balance the budget while increasing defense and Medicare spending and not touching Social Security or Education. That’s … unpossible. Here is Nick Gillespie, pounding both candidates on education, immigration and Social Security.

In the end, I expect the debate will shift some voters to Romney but I doubt it will shift enough to decide the election. We’ve been enduring this for … well, for four years really. Most of the people who haven’t made up their minds can’t figure out how to operate a television anyway. But for the rest, I suspect Romney scooped them up. So there’s a thin hope that Obama will get tossed to the curb. And that’s better than things were a week ago.

Election 2012: I. Why We Should Vote For Mitt Romney

(This is the first of five posts I will put up over the next two weeks, exploring my thoughts on the Presidential election. Parts 1 and 2 will be reasons to vote for and against Mitt Romney; Parts 3 and 4 will be reasons to vote for and against Barack Obama. Part 5 will wrap up. Keep in mind, this is my thinking as we go through the conventions. It’s likely that things will change between now and Election Day. A few guidelines before we start.

1. I’m not a Republican anymore. I define myself as a conservative-libertarian but I’m not convinced those interests are served by the GOP in its present form. If I thought electing Ralph Nader would be best for this country, I’d endorse him.

2. I’m not going to endorse that idiot Ralph Nader. Just so we’re clear.

3. These posts are about the candidates themselves. “He’s not Obama” is not a reason to vote for Mitt Romney. “He’s not Mitt Romney” is not a reason to vote for Barack Obama. I’m sick of these “the other side can’t win” arguments. This is sort of a stream of consciousness as I think about both men.)

So Mitt Romney is now the official nominee. I will say, going in, he would not be my top choice or even in my top 50. But of the weak field we had this year, he was the best option. And I don’t think he’d be a disaster if elected.

So why should we vote for Mitt Romney? Well, here’s a few reasons off the top of my head:

Repealing Obamacare: There are parts of Obamacare that are not horrible. There are slivers that could form part of a much more sensible healthcare reform. But we don’t get those parts; we get the whole convoluted overwrought thing. And, despite the CBO’s optimism, I’m convinced that the whole thing will make the healthcare system far worse, far more expensive and far more unaccountable. If Obama is re-elected, Obamacare — or some version of it — is here to stay. Electing Mitt is our best chance to get rid of it.

Will Mitt Romney and the GOP repeal Obamcare? That’s the $716 billion question. Given current projections, doing so would inflate the near-term deficit. And, as I previously noted, there are parts of Obamacare that are popular. It will be very easy for the Democrats to demagogue throwing 25-year-olds off their parents’ insurance or restoring the ability of insurance companies to rescind coverage or deny coverage. The fact is that repealing Obamacare will throw millions out of insurance plans. Does the GOP have the stomach for that? Can they overcome an almost certain Democratic filibuster? There’s only one way to find out.

Romney the Chameleon: Mitt is not an ideologue. He may sounds like one this year, but his history reveals a man centered on one idea: getting elected. And the only thing he wants more than to be elected is to be re-elected. To that end, he’ll say what the GOP wants to hear. But, in the end, he’s going to try to find things that work, even if the contradicts GOP canon (we all saw how well Bush fulfilled his promises). As we’ve seen before, he has no problem misrepresenting his policies. He’ll have no problem cutting Medicare while demagoguing Medicare cuts or raises taxes while saying he’s cutting them. Maybe an unprincipled man is just what this country needs.

I’m not being sarcastic here; I’m being totally honest. Political principles can be very dangerous things, especially given the commitment of the GOP to some bad ideas (e.g., cutting taxes to fix the deficit; federal personhood; aggressive foreign policy). Someone who can placate the party base while pursuing doable practical policies can govern effectively. The question is going to be: How will Romney govern against how he has campaigned?

Mitt is at least vaguely familiar with the private sector: Let’s not confuse running Bain Capital with starting a small business. But Mitt has made tough decisions — shuttering unprofitable factories, for instance — that are critical to a functional economy. He at least listens.

I think Mitt also has a slightly better notion of what’s wrong with the economy — that we’re working out from under a huge pile of debt. Now he’s officially opposed the policies that could help, like Quantitative Easement. But if there is a candidate out there who understands that the government needs to quit trying to help and let things recover on their own, it’s Mitt.

Only Nixon Could Go To China: This will be a recurring theme in these posts. The basic idea is that only a Republican can advance liberal ideas and only a Democrat can advance conservative ideas. The catch phrase reflect the reality of Nixon making nice with communist China. Had a liberal President made peace with China, he would have been pilloried for it. But because Nixon was such a staunch anti-communist, his detente was possible.

We have seen this throughout the last twenty years. A Republican would never been able to get NAFTA or Welfare Reform passed or reined in government spending the way Bill Clinton did. A Democrat would have not been able to jack up spending and pass a zillion regulations the way Bush did. A Republican would not have been able to ramp up War on Terror excesses the way Obama has. They would have been pilloried by the opposition. Politicians do move in ways the other party opposes: Obama on gay marriage; Clinton on abortion; Bush on tax cuts. But there are a number of key issues where the opposition is simply too entrenched, the issues too easy to demagogue.

There are a number of issues where this country needs to move “left”: the War on Drugs, medical marijuana, imprisonment and civil liberties. Obama can not move to the left on those issues; indeed, he’s gone hard right on all of them. But Mitt can. If there is any President who might back off of the War on Drugs, it’s going to have to be a “severe” Republican. In fact, Republicans like Chris Christie have been leading the charge on overhauling our drug laws. Hell, Mitt might even be able to make some market-oriented moves on global warming — as Bush did — instead of Obama’s cap-and-trade absurdity.

The Abyss: One impression I’ve gotten over the last few days is that the GOP may be … may be … coming to their senses. Susanna Martinez, Nikki Haley, Paul Ryan, Chris Christie … there’s been a parade of people who are actually interested in governing. The tone has been negative … any campaign against an incumbent will be … but the venom of 2004 and 2008 seems very diminished.

I worry that if Romney fails to win, the GOP will react by thinking they erred in going with a “RINO moderate” and go with some rockhead ideologue like Santorum or Bachmann. It’s nice that these people are principled. But it’s impossible to govern that way when the country is half Democrat and very concentrated on the center right.

The Debt: Romney’s pick of Paul Ryan has put the debt issue front and center. There are some issues with Ryan’s plan: it doesn’t balance the budget for a long time and cuts taxes before we’ve gotten our debt under control. But electing Romney would be a clear sign that we will not put up with trillion dollar deficits.


Anyway, discuss. But keep in mind this is about reasons to vote for Romney, not against Obama. I’ll put up that thread next week. What about Mitt Romney, specifically, excites you? What about Mitt Romney, specifically, makes you think he would be a good President? What about Mitt Romney, specifically, makes you think he can get the economy moving and balance the budget?

RNC Open Thread

Been busy, but I’ll put this up as a discussion point for the Republican National Convention and update it as events warrant. I might even, if I can figure out how, sticky it until the convention is over.

I have not been able to watch much so far. I saw bits of Ann Romney’s speech, which was quite nice. I’ve said before that she is one of the more appealing parts of Team Romney. And I saw Chris Christie’s speech, which was very good, although said little about Romney. Overall, I’m slightly very minimally cautiously optimistic maybe. Not about Election 2012 but about the GOP. They seem to have realized how crazy things have gotten and to be moving toward a more sane governing position. It’s easy to miss when idiots like Donald Trump are still being allowed to roam free. But last night’s lineup of Haley, Ann Romney and Christie point the way to a much more reasonable future for the GOP.

I’m cooking up some big posts about the election. Hope to have the first one up soon. In the meantime, discuss amongst yourselves.

Update: I’ve been harsh on the GOP platform, by Yglesias highlights some good stuff.

What the Democrats Have Wrought

Doug Mataconis reminds us of something important in the Todd Akin Oh Please For the Love of God Won’t You Shut Up scandal. The Democrats heavily supported Akin in the Republican primary, even going so far as to donate $1.5 million to get him the nomination. As Sean Sullivan presciently noted:

There’s a reason why Democrats spent over $1.5 million trying to help Akin win his three-way primary. He was the most conservative candidate in the field — and the most unpredictable one. He shook up his campaign staff late last year. He recently released a head-scratching and jumbled campaign ad. And Democrats have already launched a microsite highlighting his controversial statements that won’t play well with moderates. (“America has got the equivalent of the stage III cancer of socialism because the federal government is tampering in all kinds of stuff it has no business tampering in,” Akin once said.)

Akin’s uncompromising brand of social conservatism, for example, might lead him to say something that may give political moderates — the same moderates who don’t like the economic policies advanced by Obama and Senate Democrats — pause in the Senate race.

You remember back in the 2008 election when a bunch of Republicans said we should support Hillary in the election so she’d lose the general? At the time, I said it was really stupid because it could end up with Hillary being President (that looks less ominous after four years of Obama; but I still don’t think I’d want her to be President). Well, the Democrats ran the playbook in Missouri, running ads that branded Akin as “too conservative” knowing perfectly well the effect this would have on Missouri republicans. Well, they’ve got him now, drooling scientific illiteracy included. And if he’s elected — still a possibility given how unpopular McCaskill has made herself — they can take plenty of the blame on themselves. Can you imagine if they’d gotten their wish in the Presidential race and Santorum or Bachmann were the nominee?

This is why you don’t hope that the opposition nominates a dunderhead. Because dunderheads can still win elections.

The Meltdown Continues

The Left wing anger at Paul Ryan continues to swell. You can amuse yourself with this latest bundle of idiocy from Maureen Dowd.

He’s the cutest package that cruelty ever came in. He has a winning air of sad cheerfulness. He’s affable, clean cut and really cut, with the Irish altar-boy widow’s peak and droopy, winsome blue eyes and unashamed sentimentality.

Who better to rain misery upon the heads of millions of Americans?

Is it just me, or does anyone else think Dowd wrote that column one-handed? I thought so.

You can read her screed for yourself, where she describes Ryan as the cute face of cruelty. I think the best response is to remind ourselves what that people like Modo believe constitutes “kindness”:

  • Creating a welfare system that deprives people of their dignity, their hope and their ambition.
  • Creating a healthcare system where care is rationed and controlled by government; where treatments are approved by political pull.
  • Creating an economy where Washington pulls the strings and all companies have to pay homage to the great Congress in order to survive (see what’s happening to Apple right now.)
  • Standing silent while their enlightened President fires off drones, detains prisoners and starts wars without Congressional approval.
  • Giving less to private charity than conservatives do; donating less blood; volunteering less — even when you account for differences in income and opportunity.
  • Slathering businesses in jungles of read tape and oceans of taxation and then wondering why there are no jobs.
  • Standing by a federal legal code that is so out of control, people can be jailed for things like collecting feathers.
  • The damning thing about Ryan — indeed a huge factor in the RyanRage — is that he cites Ayn Rand as an influence. Actually, they call him a “disciple” of Rand because to the collectivists — besotted as they are with centralized power and unthinking obedience — there is no middle ground between rejecting Rand and being her unquestioning apostle.

    But it is possible to be heavily influenced by someone and disagree with them. You know who influenced my political thinking as much as anyone? Karl Fucking Marx. I had opposed Marxism because it was tyrannical, because it was abusive, because it fought against human nature. But it wasn’t until I read Das Kapital that I realized that Marxism was fundamentally flawed; that it was built on a series of false premises; that’s Marx’s understanding of economics was child-like in its simplicity.

    There’s a lot on which I disagree with Rand: her atheism, her virtue of selfishness, her slagging of altruism; her belief in self-centered uncaring uber-geniuses. Rand’s philosophy is too cold, too certain and too dogmatic for me; I don’t believe human culture or human beings can work that way (as Rand herself could not). In her way, she was as dogmatic as the Marxists she hated. But no one has laid out such a clear and beautiful rejection of collectivism. No one has laid out such a rousing defense of individualism. Everyone should read Ayn Rand not because she was a prophet but because she was a heretic.

    And when we dig down, that’s what is informing the RyanRage: his heresy. Ryan’s budget plan has its flaws: it doesn’t balance the budget for a long time; it cuts taxes; it’s not specific about what tax expenditures it would get rid of. But the selection of Ryan and his prominence in the debate signals that the party is over. The religion of Big Government (a religion that has many adherent in the GOP) has reached its apogee and simply can not grow further. When Obama was elected, they really believed it would be New Deal II: a golden age where we finally grew our government to European proportions. Of course, the idea of a vast liberal superstate controlling all of our healthcare, our retirement, our schooling and our housing was dead thirty years ago. But as long as Democrats were out of power, they could pray to the relics and hope for a miracle.

    But after just two years of Obama, it became obvious that this wasn’t going to happen. And it’s dead for sure now. As I said before, we are no longer debating whether to cut government; we’re debating how to cut it. We’re not debating whether to cut Medicare; but how to. Ryan is a symbol of this. And thus, like all those who knock over pagan idols, he must be condemned for daring to broach the truth.

    The bill for our government’s spending is coming due. It bears repeating — over and over again — that the Right bears as much or more blame for this than the Left (and Ryan voted for a lot of it). But the Right does not have its heart bound up with Big Government; the Left does. And so now they are reducing to screaming at the writing on the wall.

    Romney Culture

    Mitt Romney said this the other day:

    In the speech, Mr. Romney mentioned books that had influenced his thinking about nations — particularly “The Wealth and Poverty of Nations,” by David S. Landes, which, he said, argues that culture is the defining factor in determining the success of a society.

    “Culture makes all the difference,” Mr. Romney said. “And as I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things.”

    He added, “As you come here and you see the G.D.P. per capita, for instance, in Israel, which is about $21,000, and compare that with the G.D.P. per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority, which is more like $10,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality. And that is also between other countries that are near or next to each other. Chile and Ecuador, Mexico and the United States.”

    The remarks, which vastly understated the disparities between the societies, drew a swift rejoinder from Palestinian leaders. In an interview with The Associated Press, Saeb Erekat, a senior aide to President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, called Mr. Romney’s remarks racist.

    Romney is trying to walk back the comments. And the Left is screaming about his racism. But I think people are missing the forest for the trees here.

    First, the Palestinian Authority correctly notes that Israel has had a trade embargo, economic restrictions and occupation. That’s all true and is having an absolutely devastating effect. However, Israel is not the only country that is making life difficult for Palestine. None of the Arab nations are lifting a finger to help Palestine. Jordan and Egypt, specifically, have massively contributed to the problem by closing borders (and in Jordan’s case, shooting people during Black September). Iran, Hussein’s Iraq and Syria have specifically supported radical elements, making the place even more difficult to govern. And we can not sit here and pretend that the Palestinians themselves have not contributed to their own sorrows. Hamas controlled much of Palestine for a while and their supposed reconciliation with the Authority has stalled.

    So, yes, the condition of Palestine is something that was done to them. But the people who did it were, at least in part, their fellow Arabs and, at least in part, themselves.

    Moreover, I don’t think you can really ignore Romney’s general point. Israel has a far greater per capita income ($28-31,000) than Egypt ($6,000), Jordan ($6,000), Syria ($5,000) or Iraq ($4,000 now and about the same before the wars), nations they have not attacked or embargoed. The only nations in that region that come anywhere close to Israel’s success are Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which also happen to sit on massive lakes of oil. Were it not for the oil, they would be in a worse situation, probably no better off that Syria.

    I don’t see how you can possibly look at the region and not conclude, as Mitt Romney has, that Israel’s culture has something to do with the stark difference, not between them and Palestine but between them and everyone. It is the only real democracy in the region, the only country that has a real economy as opposed to an oiligarchy, the only country that has gender equality, the only country that has a semblance of human rights and the only country that has built a real 21st century industrial base.

    And that’s the point. Romney wasn’t running down Palestinian culture as much as he was praising Israeli culture. The comparisons to Chile and the US make that abundantly clear. What he was talking about — and what any sensible person would agree with — is that poverty is the natural state of man. The only way out is accountable government, free markets and a good work ethic. We know at least the first two, in the Middle East, are unique to Israel.

    Wasting Your Vote

    On “Ask a Libertarian Day”, Matt Welch and Nick Gillepsie addressed the issue of whether a vote for Gary Johnson is a wasted vote:

    In 1992 and 1996, I voted Republican and was happy about it. In 2004 and 2008, I voted Libertarian was even happier about that (I lived in Texas, so it didn’t matter anyway). The only vote I’ve ever felt I wasted was in 2000 when I voted for George W. Bush. We don’t need to get into that again.

    2012 is a little different. I’ll be voting in a swing state and there’s every chance the election will be close. So, in this case, voting for Gary Johnson could swing the election. And I’m sure a number of you also live in swing states like Missouri. So this election will be a real decision.

    The question is not whether a protest vote is worth four more years of Obama. The question is whether four year of Romney will be that much better that it’s worth not voting Libertarian.

    Crazy, Insane vs. Insane, Crazy

    One of the themes I always return to is “it’s cute when we do it”, which is shorthand for the way Democrats and their media dogwashers will denounce the Republicans for … well, take your pick: filibusters, indefinite detention, unconstitutional wars, signing statements, executive overreach, etc. … but then go eerily quiet when Obama does the exact same fucking thing. Or even worse, they will somehow contort themselves to believe that Obama’s behavior is better than Bush’s even when it is objectively worse. Witness the Center for American Regress, proclaiming that Obama has ended the War on Drugs. If you have been at this blog for more than a day, you know how ridiculous that statement is.

    The Best Magazine on the Planet has highlighted a doozy of a column today that burrows into this rotten vein. Charles Pierce is arguing, as many are these days, that the Republican Party has gone insane and is now the realm of crazy obstructionist partisans. There’s a grain of truth to that. One of Romney’s foreign policy spokesmen just got run off; the repulsive bigot Bryan Fischer to declare it a huge win because the spokesman was gay. Much of the party seems to want a war with Iran. They want to balance the budget by cutting taxes and increasing spending. And a lot of the time they do seem motivated more by hatred of Obama than anything else. We almost crashed the debt ceiling and lost a potential Grand Bargain because many of them could not accept even a modest tax increase. And don’t even get me started on the anti-abortion laws being passed or gay marriage.


    There’s a much larger part of the GOP that is definitely not insane. All year long, we were told that the Republicans were certain to nominate some lunatic like Rick Santorum or Michele Bachmann. The enthusiasm for these candidates was clinching proof that half the country had completely lost it. And in the end, it wasn’t even close. They nominated Mitt Romney, a man so mainstream his brain is Auto-tuned. And the only reason they took Romney was that he was the least repulsive option. Had Chris Christie or Mitch Daniels or Tim Pawlenty or Paul Ryan or any sane, effective, conservative politicians jumped in the race (or in Pawlenty’s case, stayed in it), the voters would have strapped Mitt to a roof and sent him back to Utah. I’ve heard from several people that the worst thing about a Romney election in 2012 would be having to nominate him again in 2016.

    There are number of Republicans out there making sane, rational, hard decisions. Scott Walker is facing recall in Wisconsin over measures that have saved the state over a billion dollars, mainly by breaking the union monopoly on health insurance. Bobby Jindal is working some miraculous reforms down in Louisiana. Chris Christie is fighting like hell to balance his budget. And numerous conservatives are leading the way on reforming our prisons and getting drug addicts into treatment instead of prison.

    Hell, even some of the crazy people have their lucid moments. Gingrich has supported treating drug addicts instead of jailing them. Rick Santorum made a reasonable case against the HPV mandate. Ron Paul may be up a tree on monetary policy, but he has made far saner, far more sensible statements on the War on Terror, the War on Drugs and fiscal policy than just about anyone.

    Including the Democrats.

    See, that’s the thing these pundits keep missing. Yes, the Republicans are crazy; but the Democrats are too. Pierce starts out his article with a story about Rick Santorum saying Iran will develop nuclear weapons and start a suicidal conflagration. This supposedly proves how paranoid Republicans are. But as Doherty points out, Obama believes the same thing, or at least claims to.

    Republicans might think we can balance our budget with tax rates lower than before World War II; but Democrats think we can balance our budget while spending like we’re still in World War II. Both sides backed the bailouts. Both sides have backed stimulus, albeit in different forms. Both sides have abused the filibuster. The Democrats have now gone three years without a budget in the Senate. Both sides support the Patriot Act, the War on Drugs and the increasing police state. You give me the worst rant from Rush Limbaugh, and I’ll have some dumbassery from Debbie Wasserman-Schultz to match it. Alan West ridiculously said there were 80 Communists in Congress; Steve Cohen compared the Republicans to Nazis. Republicans pretend science is a myth; Democrats pretend economics is a myth.

    Both sides are stupid and useless. I’m willing to have an argument about which one is less stupid and less insane. But I’m not willing to put up with this bullshit about how Democrats and liberals are the source of sweetness and light. If they are the less insane option, it’s only a matter of degree and a small one at that.

    The Republicans’ insanity does make the Democrats sane. The Republicans’ incompetence does not make the Democrats geniuses. In proclaiming, or least inferring, that this is the case, Pierce and every other liberal apologist is just playing the same partisan bullshit game that Sean Hannity does, only with less entertainment value, more condescension and a bad haircut.

    There’s also this, from Pierce:

    As conservatism was developing its powerful infrastructure, the Democratic party was still sucking its thumb over what happened to George McGovern in 1972. While conservative millionaires were pouring money into the construction of the network of institutions on the right, the Democrats were throwing themselves, through the creation of the Democratic Leadership Council, in the general direction of the same money. Nothing arose on the left, or around the Democratic party, that remotely resembled the formidable arsenal of opinion that developed on the right, and of which the Republicans took full advantage, not realizing at the time that all of that success was hollowing out their party’s essential intellect until all that is left today is raw, overwhelming id.

    The Democrats were powerless against this, and they did not seek to be anything else. They became gifted at defense, surrendering bits of what was once fundamental to their party’s identity as a bulwark against losing it all.

    First of all, the Democrats didn’t surrender bits of their identity. Bits of their identity — the welfare state, “fair” trade, gun control — became so discredited that they had to abandon them or become laughingstocks (well, bigger laughingstocks). Second, I’ll agree that the Republican party has become intellectually bankrupt and part of this is their focus on the news cycle and talking heads. But the Democrats’ biggest idea in the last decade was borrowed from Mitt Fucking Romney. Their bank reform was written, as I said months ago, by two guys so wrapped up in the banking industry their shit comes out in coin sleeves. And their rhetoric is little different from where it was twenty years ago: Republicans hate women, Republicans hate minorities, Republicans hate poor people, Republicans hate old people. Every time I hear Nancy Pelosi speak, I feel like it’s 1986 again and pretty girls will pretend I don’t exist.

    Third, this is part of the general whining we’ve heard from the liberal intelligentsia, lately: Republicans have this big political organization and we don’t; Republicans have rich donors and we don’t; Republicans have Fox News and we don’t; Republicans attack us all the time and we don’t fight back (the latter repeated recently by Bruce Bartlett, who continues to mix intelligent commentary with jaw-dropping gaffes). They’ve made shadowy conspiracies around the Koch Brothers and fairly mainstream political organizations that are supposedly holding back the great tide of progressivism.

    The thing is, the Democrats didn’t need to build these things over the last thirty years because they were already there. The editorial page of the New York Times has been indistinguishable from the Democratic Party for thirty years and still is. Democratic talking points have always been treated as gospel and still are. They collect massive amounts of money from celebrities, unions and businesses. And they have several TV channels like MSNBC and CurrentTV that will happily carry their propaganda.

    So spare me the sob story about how they can’t fight the mighty Republicans. This is just another chapter in the “we are so awesome and our ideas so enlightened that the only reason people oppose us is evil propaganda and hatred” playbook liberals have been running since they lost the vote on which cave to keep the mastodon meat in. They simply can’t believe that their ideas are universally acclaimed. And so it must be a shadowy conspiracy. Or Fox News. Or Rush Limbaugh. Or something.

    As I said at the beginning, I do agree that the Republican Party has serious problems. They are still trotting out 1980’s solutions to 2010’s problems. They are still in denial about our fiscal reality. They are still beholden to a lunatic fringe of the Religious Right. I don’t think they are ready for power.

    However, I think the reason for this is a little different than just “Republicans are crazy”. Shikha Dalmia recently argued that conservatives should hope Mitt Romney loses because:

    The GOP is in a state of intellectual flux, illustrated perfectly by the ideological heterodoxy of its presidential field. Various strains representing different interests are fighting for the soul of the GOP: The neocons are duking it out with anti-war Paulistas. Social moderates are trying to wrest some space from pro-life religious conservatives. Deficits and debt worry everyone, but there is no consensus on entitlement reform. The GOP allegedly stands for the free market—but it has yet to figure out whether Bush’s financial bailout was right or wrong.

    Bingo. We are in the midst of a political upheaval, the likes of which we have not seen since the 1860’s or 1930’s. The Tea Party, Occupy, the lunatic fringes — these are signs that the old political alliances are falling apart, the old political wisdom disappearing. People are desperately grasping onto intellectual flotsam — socialized medicine, tax cuts, religious fundamentalism — because we are not used to this. For decades, we’ve been used to a slightly left of center party and slightly right of center party; you chose your team and stuck to them. But those definitions have broken. The GOP is in turmoil because it is trying to find a new identity. The Tories went through a similar crisis after the fall of the Major government.

    Something different is going to be around in maybe four, maybe eight years. I have no idea what it will be. Maybe the big-government liberals and big-government conservatives will form a super party that will dominate us all. But I retain hope that what will emerge is a better order. The socialists are already marginalized, intellectually if not politically. And given how fast public opinion is changing on gays and drugs, I think the social conservatives will soon be marginalized as well.

    I do fear that the surgery will come too late to save the patient. But the absurdity of this year’s election is part of the process of remaking the GOP. And, you know, that’s probably why it seems so crazy to the liberals. After all, they haven’t really changed their opinions since 1968.