And Now a Susanna Martinez Nontroversy

Boy, the Democrats are scared that they’re going to lose power. We’ve been monitoring their progress toward insanity for some time — the Koch Brothers obsession, the hysterics over Supreme Court decisions, the attempts to portray even the most moderate Republicans as crazed maniacs.

Well, we’re now into the personal attacks. You may remember about a year ago, Mother Jones — now the unofficial muckraker of the Democratic Party — ran a bizarre piece on Mitch McConnell. Progress Kentucky illegally recorded a conversation between McConnell and his staff discussing a potential campaign against Ashley Judd and MJ was shocked, shocked! that Judd’s mental health issues came up. I wrote about it here. (Strangely, or maybe not so strangely, no one has been prosecuted for the illegal recording).

Well now they are going after one of the GOP’s rising lights: Susana Martinez. Calling her the “next Sarah Palin”, they describe her as “petty, vindictive and weak on policy”. Their evidence for this? Some old recordings of private conversations and some e-mails. Seriously. And even those were frequently taken out of context

In the first conversation, a 29-second excerpt about education, Mother Jones reported that in a talk with staff, Martinez “implied teachers earned too much.” Mother Jones described the conversation this way:

In private, Martinez implied teachers earned too much: “During the campaign, we can’t say it, I guess, because it’s education, but … they already don’t work, you know, two and a half months out of the year.”

To its credit, Mother Jones included the actual 29 seconds of audio alongside the article. In that snippet, Martinez said just a bit more than was included in the article:

During the campaign, we can’t say it, I guess, because it’s education, but I really keep going back to that, you know, keeping the teachers from feeling the pain when they already don’t work, you know, two and a half months out of the year, three months out of the year, but earn salaries at the same rate as people who do work 12 months a year.

Looking at Martinez’s full statement — or at least the 29 seconds that were included on the Mother Jones website — it appears her point was not that teachers earned too much but that there was a fairness issue in not differentiating between teachers, who do not work all year, and other workers who do.

The rest of these searing revelations are equally mundane. Apparently, asking your staff questions about issues you are not familiar with means you don’t have a handle on the issues. Apparently, if your staff say something nasty in private e-mails about your political opponents, that says … something. Apparently, something like this exchange is unusual in politics:

Listening to recordings of Martinez talking with her aides is like watching an episode of HBO’s Veep, with over-the-top backroom banter full of pique, self-regard, and vindictiveness. As Martinez and her campaign staff rewatched a recent televised debate, Martinez referred to Denish, her opponent, as “that little bitch.” After Denish noted that the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce had given her an award, McCleskey snapped, “That’s why we’re not meeting with those fuckers.”

(Context warning: Martinez called Denish a “bitch” because she thought Denish was lying about her record, not because Martinez is “juvenile”.)

As Popehat noted last night:

Bingo! Politics is a dirty business. It is intense, all-consuming and fought with bare fists. It often becomes personal. Should we be surprised that the occasional profanity is uttered? Are we going to pretend that Obama, both Clintons, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and every politician that ever lived doesn’t have these kind of conversations?

I recently watch “Mitt”, a documentary on Romney’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns. It’s a decent watch. I didn’t make much of it because I already saw Romney as a good and decent person. But while Mitt’s family doesn’t use any profanity, they show the same kind of frustration with the media, with their opponents and with politics itself. At one point, the Romneys were criticized for the “decadence” of installing an elevator in one of their homes. Romney’s son is furious because the press don’t mention the elevator was installed to help his mother, who has multiple sclerosis.

If the Romneys — a deeply religious and tight-knit family — can have politics get under their skin that much, you can just imagine what it does to anyone else? In fact, we don’t have to. There are enough reports of vindictive, petty, nasty behavior from our existing politicians to fill ten shelves of books.

This is a non-story. This is a complete nothing burger. It’s a desperate attempt to smear one of the most popular governors in America. If this the worst they can dig up on Susana Martinez, the Republican party should absolutely be grooming her for national office.

Bain to the Rescue

Oh, joy. To steal a line from Lewis Grizzard, and with apologies to my consultant friends, we’re bringing in God’s plague on mankind when locusts are out of season: consultants.

After a week of unrelentingly negative news coverage and consumer dissatisfaction with the web site, the White House believes it has turned an important corner by identifying a date when the web site will be fixed.

Jeffrey Zients, whom President Obama named this week as his top consultant on the web site triage project, announced Friday the system would be fully functional by the end of November.

Senior officials said Obama was briefed by Zients on this target date and given approval to release it publicly, a sign of Obama’s high-degree of confidence in Zients’ ability to deliver. In private deliberations, Obama had made it clear to senior White House officials he wanted no discussion of target dates for the web site until he could be certain that date could be met.

The irony here? Zeits once worked for Bain & Company. Yeah.

You know what Obama should do? As long we’re raiding Bain, let’s just bring in Mitt Romney to fix the exchanges. He saved the SLC Olympics and Romneycare “works” (at least much better than Obamacare does). So why not bring him in? I’m serious about this.

I am extremely dubious that the exchanges will be working by late November. The reason is not just because this is Obama; it’s because the problems are too many. Fixing one section will inevitably reveal problems in others. Fixing those will reveal problems in sections already “repaired”. I’m sure, at some stage, the exchanges will become partially operational and the media will claim Obamacare works. But pay attention to the numbers. If Obama doesn’t release them or only releases the number enrolled in Medicaid, you’ll know the system isn’t close to working.

The Election Post Mortem

You can always count on Americans to do the right thing—after they’ve tried everything else – Winston Churchill

I think our Constitutional Republic is the least worst form of government. That sounds like damning with faint praise but it’s not. It’s a triumph. We can argue and disagree and governments can change hands (or not) without a drop of blood being spilt. No matter what the result, that is preferable to the previous hundred thousand years of human history. No matter how bad you think Obama or Romney are (or would be), there is no country and no time I would rather be in than American in the 21st century. We stagger and take wrong turns — see the Churchill quote. But the arc of American history, while tangled, is still toward progress.

Whatever the results last night, we Americans will soldier on and do our best, as we always have. I think it was one of the Reason commentators last night who said it’s ironic that we vote in the real bastions of civil society: schools, churches, community centers, etc. We are the strength of this country, not the men in expensive suits thinking they can change the world.

So what did I think of the results?

Ballot Initiatives:

On the whole, I was pleased with how things went on the ballot initiative front. Virginia passed reform for one of the worst imminent domain regimes in the country. Gay marriage won in Maine, Washington, Maryland and Minnesota, consistent with a rapidly shifting public opinion on the issue. Marijuana was legalized in Colorado and Washington and for medicine in Massachusetts, which should give us some amazing legal battles. And issue 2, which would have given unions perpetual power, was defeated in Michigan.

The big blight was California, which continues its slow decline. They passed issue 30, which will “temporarily” raise taxes. They defeated issue 32, which would have limited union payroll deductions. They defeated issue 34, which would have ended the multi-hundred-million dollar death penalty regime that has resulted in zero executions recently. They passed issue 35, which could lead to heavy sentences on anyone connected with prostitution and they passed issue 39. The redistricting issue 40 passed and issue 36 passed, which will only impose three strikes on felonies. But overall, this was a horrifying slate of voting for California.

The House:

This was probably the single most important fight of the election and the Republicans won. This means they will control the purse strings for at least the next two years. They can force a deal on the deficit, although I suspect they will have to cave a little bit on taxes (I’ll have more on this later).

Allen West and Joe Walsh went down in flames while Michelle Bachmann barely held on. Alan Grayson is apparently back in. So the clown college contingent is unchanged. But I can’t tell you what a relief the Republican victory in the House is. If it were a choice between Romney and a Democrat House vs. Obama and a Republican House …

The Senate

I’ll have more on this below when I talk about Romney. But I want you to think of these names: Sharon Angle, Christine O’Donnell, Richard Murdouck, Todd Akin. Right now, the split in the Senate is 52 Democrats, 45 Republicans and 2 independents, both of whom are likely to side with the Democrats. Let’s posit a Berg win in North Dakota. That’s 54-46. Had it not been for those four looney tunes blowing extremely winnable seats, the Senate would be tied. Hell, without their bullshit, we might have seen Thompson pull out Wisconsin or Allen pull out Virginia and Republicans would have the Senate.

Just to be clear: I like that the Tea Party is challenging the establishment. I do not like that they have put up four far religious right lunatics in winnable races. The problem is not that they put up conservatives. The problem is not even that they put pro-life religious right people. Sane pro-life conservative christians have won their races. It’s that they put up people who were so far out on the wing that even Republicans didn’t want to touch them. A Republican senate would have been very nice things to have for the next two years, particularly when it come to SCOTUS.

That said, we at least have enough senators to filibuster. Although I think the filibuster abuse needs to stop, I’m not against it’s occasional use to stop bad laws.

I’m disappointed that Scott Brown lost but I really think he should come back in two years to try to take out John Kerry. Kerry’s an institution but I don’t think he’s invulnerable, especially after two more years of Obama. And wouldn’t you just love to see another Kerry concession speech? Come on, I know you would.

The President

Ah, the big one. I know we’re going to have a long discussion about this. But here are my initial thoughts.

I do not think Mitt Romney was that bad a candidate. I think he’s a good man and a capable manager and he ran a solid campaign. That really came across in his short but gracious concession speech last night. And the surge in the polls he enjoyed was a reflection of America realizing that. I think his flip-flopping hurt him. We’re used to politicians tacking to the base in the primaries and the center in the election; but Romney completely reversed on many issues. That did not go unnoticed by the electorate. I spoke to at least one person last night who voted for Romney because she wanted something different but admitted she didn’t knew what she’d get with him.

Romney’s being criticized for not attacking Obama enough, but I find that absurd. He spent three debates raking Obama over the coals. In the closing days, they ran ads in Pennsylvania that were all about the President and barely mentioned Romney. If you want to get tactical, the problem was not that he didn’t attack Obama enough. The problem was that he didn’t give people enough to vote for except vague promises to balance the budget in about 10 years, maybe.

I’m reminded an awful lot of the 2004 campaign. The Democrats thought it was enough to just run against Bush and his unpopularity would carry the day. But Kerry never gave us an idea of what he wanted to do.

But I think the problem is far deeper than that. We seem to be missing the writing on the wall, which is that 2008 was not an anomaly. The Republicans have now lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections. Why? Well, check out the Presidential cross-tabs. Check out which groups Obama and Romney won:

Obama: women, everyone under 40, blacks, latinos, asians, liberals, moderates, catholics, jews, muslims, non-religious.

Romney: men, everyone over 40, whites, conservatives, protestants (especially evangelicals).

There’s some overlap in those, of course, but the message is clear: Republicans are rapidly becoming a party of old white protestant men, the one demographic that is not growing. What’s particularly alarming is the plunge in certain demographic groups. Republicans used to get 80% of the Muslim vote; now they get less than 5%, almost certainly because of anti-Islam rhetoric from the party fringe. Bush 43, to his enormous credit, made great efforts to court the Latino vote and regularly polled in the mid-40′s. Romney got 27%, almost certainly because of anti-immigrant rhetoric. The drop in Latino support alone is basically Obama’s margin of victory. Young people have been driven away by anti-gay rhetoric. I’ve said that I think the near-record 18-point gender gap is more a product of different philosophies than the “War on Women”. But the remarks of people like Akin certainly didn’t help.

Just to be clear: none of that is Romney’s fault. He dropped culture issues as fast as he could. He tried very hard to be inclusive. I think it very likely he would have governed as a social moderate. But the simple fact is that Republican brand has become toxic in many segments of our society. And this isn’t about pandering. These people are Americans; their voice matters.

There’s going to be a lot of soul-searching over the next four years and certainly cries to avoid “moderates” and “RINOs” in the future. But the way I see it is that the Republican Party needs to focus itself like a laser on fiscal and economic issues. Mitch Daniels had the right idea: declare a truce on culture issues. Try to maintain the existing framework of abortion law (parental notification, no public funding, etc.) while not extending it. Move to a neutral position on gay issues while protecting religious freedom. Come out in favor of serious immigration reform with the difference from the Democrats being rigorous enforcement. Purge the Todd Akins and Michele Bachmanns of the party to find people more like Marco Rubio or Paul Ryan: conservatives who are religious and proud of their faith but not crazy; men who embrace immigration but reject law-breaking.

Ed Morrissey:

We do not need to change our values, but we do need to find ways to communicate them in an engaging and welcoming manner. We need to think creatively about big issues, philosophy, and how we can relate conservative values to the needs of a wider range of voters. Conservatism cannot become constrictionism, or the realignment will continue, and it will become ever more difficult to win national elections.

This will require a new set of national leaders for the Republican Party and conservatism. We need men and women who can think creatively, produce a positive agenda that isn’t defined by an oppositional nature, and who can eloquently communicate that agenda and the values that drive it. That should be our focus over the next two years before we start thinking about who to nominate as the party’s presidential nominee — and if done properly, that process will naturally produce the right leader for conservatism. And if that is done properly, too, perhaps we’ll be in position for another realignment four years from now.

As I said during the convention, I see hope on the horizon. Nicky Haley, Bobby Jindal, Chris Christie, Paul Ryan, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Susanna Martinez, Scott Walker — these are serious conservatives who are more interested in governing and leading than in demonizing the opposition. These people are making serious changes on the state level, rescuing entire regions from fiscal apocalypse and putting together broad coalitions. These are the men and women who can rebuild the GOP into the center right party it is supposed to be: one focused on fiscal responsibility; one that believes in a hand not a handout; one that respects and sustains faith while not pushing it.

And this works. Scott Walker won his recall and the Republicans took back the Wisconsin legislature last night. Christie may have a tough fight next year, especially if the very popular Cory Booker runs; but he remains popular. Other Republicans are finding equal support and success with this approach.

(And, in fact, I would say Mitt Romney was a part of that renewal. He did earnestly try for a broader appeal. Had he not, this would not have been as close as it was.)

The GOP has now spent six years wallowing in the darkness, trying to find its voice. Its only unification was a hatred of Democrats and of Obama in particular, interrupted by the occasional circular firing squad and ritual suicide.

We literally can not afford that anymore. I’m cooking up a post on what I expect for the next four years, but the short story is that, while I don’t expect apocalypse, I don’t expect things to improve much either. I think we might be able to limp through to 2016, but not much beyond that. Beyond that, we really do need change we can believe in. And that requires a much healthier GOP.

Random Post Scripta: Anyone notice that, apart from a few idiots, Romney’s Mormonism never came up? I am extremely grateful for that.

Gary Johnson is polling at 1% right now. The media will ignore this obviously. But I’m not sure the politicians will, especially if Johnson can build on that in 2016 (preferably at Clinton’s expense, not Daniels’).

In the end, we spent billions of dollars to flip two states over to the GOP. This was a status quo election. What was the message from the electorate? I have to think it was a lack of confidence in either party. It was mostly a “come on now, grow up” message.

I find the talk that this was a fundamental shift in America to be hilarious, especially the talk that this is fundamental shift to the Democrats or to dependency. There was very small shift last night — and it was to the right. NYT’s cover page has an awesome graphic showing how the country moved redder this time. But I think the insanity of the GOP fringe tempered that rightward shift just enough to keep Obama in office.

I’ll post more analysis as I come by them. I linked to Morrissey’s essay above, which is worth your time. Here’s Ken at Popehat and Bernstein at Volokh and you should read everything Doug Mataconis is posting at Outside the Beltway..

I didn’t say much about Obama because there’s nothing much to say. He held serve. He had a formidable ground game, just like he did in 20122008. But I have to think he’s looking at a narrow re-election (he’s the first incumbent to lose popular vote be re-elected while losing popular vote share since Roosevelt in ’40 and ’44), zero coat-tails, a Republican House and a slight rightward shift nationally. If he wants any sort of legacy other than a massive pile of debt, he’s going to have to work with the Republicans. There’s simply no other way.

The Endorsements We Don’t Need

Thankfully, our long national nightmare is about to end. (And, two days later, another will likely begin). I won’t make predictions. I’ll just repeat what I said in the comments: if the polls are right, Obama will win. If they’re wrong, Romney will. Polls are interesting, but they are not reality. We know the shape of the wave function. But it won’t collaps until tomorrow.

I’ve made my choice clear and I think it’s pretty clear who everyone on the blog is going to vote for. But the thing that always amuses me when we get to the endgame are the endorsements.

First, you get the newspapers. Why should anyone care who they endorse? Some have endorsed Romney; most have endorsed Obama. But these endorsements are often less-informed than your typical voter. Check out the NYT’s endorsement: no mention of crony capitalism; no mention of how financial criminals got off scott free; no mention of drones or kill lists; no mention of the ramping up of the war on drugs (in fact many in the media have falsely claimed Obama has backed off of the war on drugs). It reads, as almost everything from the NYT Op-Ed page does, like it was cribbed from a Democratic Party press release. Anyone who votes based on NYT’s endorsement should have their head examined.

Then you get the celebrity endorsements. The only time this gets interesting is when you have something like the Stacey Dash situation, where a black actress had invective — including racial invective — thrown at her for having the temerity to endorse Romney. But I would submit that if you are basing your vote on whom Sam Jackson endorses or whom Lindsey Lohan endorse, you really should have your franchise taken away and given to some 11-year-old-girl who can be bothered to pay attention.

The third category are not really endorsements, per se, but the preferences of foreign countries. I am not going to say these are completely useless. Staying on friendly terms with countries is, after all, the President’s job. And I don’t subscribe to the theory that foreign countries want an American leader who is weak; they need our aircraft carriers in their seas more than we do. You’ll notice when some country gets whacked, they don’t call France for help. However, these preferences are going to have precisely zero influence on the electorate. If anyone ever told me they were going to vote Romney but decided on Obama because 81% of India supported him, I’d call the guys with straight jackets.

In the end, we can talk about soccer moms and swing voters and who has endorsed what. But it’s going to come down to one question:

Which of these guys is going the fuck the economy the least?

We just have to hope that our fellow citizens’ choice turns out to be the correct one. And whatever the verdict tomorrow, our job as citizens has just begun.

Open Mic Night: The Contrarian on Preserving the Freedom Based Society

The Contrarian has written an essay that he would like to share with the RTFLC readership. I’ve agreed to loan him my soapbox.

The views expressed below do not necessarily reflect my own and I reserve the right to argue for or against them in the comments. Please address any feedback to The Contrarian.

Take it away, TC:

Black and Against Obama By James Quentin Clark

I’m a twenty-something Black guy and I’m voting for Mitt Romney. I understand that this is unusual, so I’d like to fully explain my reasons why. Trust me; read on and you’ll have something interesting to think about.

The first dumb assumption that people make and occasionally explicitly state is as follows: You are Black. Obama is Black. Why would you not support him?

This is racist reasoning and it holds back the Black community in this country. It is the exact opposite of what Dr. King advocated in his “I Have a Dream Speech”, wherein he advocated a society where people are judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. To support Obama unthinkingly after simply observing his skin tone is to apply caveman irrationality to a choice affecting the future of a modern technological society.

Other groups get this sort of presumption, but none as bad as Blacks. Women and other minorities are often taken for granted by democrats as natural enemies of republicans. Democratic spokespeople like Eva Longoria feel they can openly ridicule women and non-Whites who vote republican as a result. Still, if you are a woman, Hispanic, or Asian and vote for Romney, it’s only a subset of your community that sees you as a sell-out or traitor.

The virulent backlash against actress Stacy Dash after her endorsement of Romney points to just how ingrained is the notion that being Black requires supporting democrats. I could go on a long tangent here on the roots of this type of thinking and irrational anti-concepts like “Oreos”, but I shall refrain. Suffice to say White people are lucky to not have to deal with it. It is understood that White people are diverse in their thinking; some are liberal, some are conservative, some are socialist, some are capitalist, etc. We don’t get to presume political viewpoint based on pale skin.

So what is my deal then? For one, I’m not a republican. I have voted for democrats, republicans, and third parties in the past. I am an independent voter.

I am also not a religious conservative. Though I am pretty old-fashioned in my personal life, I have no problem with gay marriage or abortion (though I don’t like the legal reasoning applied in Roe v. Wade). In fact I agree with Obama on a number of social and civil liberties issues, like closing Guantanamo Bay, humane immigration reform, and marijuana legalization. It is unfortunate that reality has not matched his 2008 campaign rhetoric on all of these issues.

I am not a libertarian ideologue either. Obama’s economic policies, properly implemented, can reduce unemployment, and a large welfare state is a workable model as demonstrated by several European countries. What’s more, Obamacare can achieve its stated goal of insuring more people, covering people with pre-existing conditions, and leveling the insurance market playing field.

In short, I believe that Obama could be right about everything (though most likely he is not). All of his policies could achieve their desired effects, and everything he predicts could come true. I still would not support him.

I am what you might call a “values voter”, though not in the sense that most people understand. It isn’t that Romney shares my particular set of superstitions; rather it is that my core values lead me to certain views about society, and my vote is based on which candidate is more aligned with those views.

I believe this is the only rational way to vote given how mendacious and artificial our electoral system has become. Noam Chomsky once said that the way to control what people think is to narrow the range of discussion on important issues to a tiny spectrum, but then to allow for passionate argument within that range to create the illusion of meaningful debate. The democrat and republican parties in collusion with the media have successfully accomplished this, effectively crowding out dissenting voices from third parties and agitators like Ron Paul and Dennis Kuccinich.

Our political system was not spawned on us from some vacuum. It is a consequence of our culture and education system. This means that, even if we were to elect philosopher kings to all higher offices, they would not get very far as they would find that their constituents demand much of the graft, bureaucracy, and corruption we claim to oppose. Government is as big as it is because we demand it, and as corrupt as it is because we tolerate it. Thus the real hard goal, which could take a few generations to accomplish, is to educate our populace – to reform the culture from the ground up. I am proud to say that both my livelihood and my hobbies contribute to this hard work. Only by improving our culture will we get the right people to even attempt running for office in the first place. Until then, two years and five billion dollars worth of campaigning at its best yields us Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

And what sort of choice is that anyway? In too many important ways, the two parties are two sides of the same coin. Yet this does not, as many cynics believe, imply that elections don’t matter. We need to care about the guy in the Oval Office because that individual sets the tone of our political culture and influences the legislative agenda.The efforts of grass roots reformers – the people doing the hard work of trying to educate and fix the culture – can be amplified or diminished based on this legislative tone and the decisions of the Supreme Court.

Thus I base my vote on one question: which candidate will do less harm to the work I am doing now to create the sort of society in which I wish to live? The alternative that most people choose is to base their vote on specific issues.

People who vote based on issues tend to fall into one of two groups; Fixers, and Ideologues. Fixers take a non-ideological approach toward figuring out their vote. They may be registered to one party or another, but they are not married to them. Undecided and independent voters come from this group. They approach the task of voting as though it were a puzzle to solve. One candidate is the right answer and the others are wrong. If they select wrong and the wrong guy is elected, they think, the country will deteriorate.

Ideologues, by contrast, are often very partisan and rarely “undecided”. They subscribe to an ideology, like liberalism, conservatism, socialism, or capitalism. This gives them the right answer to begin with unlike the fixers, and so rather than try to figure out the right policies to match with a candidate, they try to match a candidate to their ideology, the ideology of course dictating the right policies. For ideologues, elections are about working to establish their ideology.

The Fixer approach is impractical because candidates are not merely the sum of their campaign promises. At best, once elected, a president is able to accomplish a fraction of their agenda, and only after months of compromises, repackages, and backroom dealing. This is why “single issue voters” are so foolish. You have no way of knowing whether or not the candidate will accomplish something tangible, compromise in some unforgiveable way, or flat out change his position, as Obama did on gay marriage.

Furthermore, Fixers are misguided because elections are not puzzles. There is no right or wrong answer out of context. The question is not “who is the right answer?” but rather “what sort of society suits me?”

Ideologues are even more misguided for the simple fact that modern presidents are militantly anti-ideological. Consider all the Commanders in Chief since World War II. Not one is a consistent proponent of contemporary liberalism, conservatism, libertarianism, or any other “ism”, save possibly pragmatism. The partisan, a lower form of ideologue who substitutes a political party for an ideology, forgets the liberal Barack Obama’s record on Guantanamo Bay and marijuana, the conservative George Bush’s record on spending, all of Clinton’s compromises, Reagan’s love of interventionism, Nixon’s magic eight ball domestic policy, and so on and so forth.

This is not to say that presidents do not advance ideologies. The problem is that the manner in which they may advance an ideology is completely unpredictable. For one, a president’s ability to willfully advance an ideology is largely a function of their congress. What’s more, modern presidents necessarily have to present themselves as non-ideological centrists in order to get elected. Pursuing an openly ideological agenda can cost a president a second term and his party’s control of congress. The president’s actions may also end up redefining their party’s ideologies in undesirable ways, as many religious liberals and non-interventionist small government conservatives well know.

So how do we vote based on the larger question of society? For me, the question of “what sort of society suits me?” is best framed as a dichotomy between freedom and security.

When I say security in this context, I mean both physical security from foreign and domestic threats, as well as material security in terms of public welfare, healthcare, and other tangible goods. Much as politicians wish to argue the contrary, we cannot have a perfect balance of both freedom and security. A flawlessly administered government can have a lot of both, however in practice we have to live with tradeoffs. If we want the freedom to own guns we have to live with less security from gun violence. If we want the freedom to make our own healthcare decisions then we have to live with less security of being insured and covered for all emergencies. Of the two, freedom is more demanding, requiring an educated populace and personal accountability as an ingrained cultural norm. Security grants “freedom from want” and less inequality, but has the tradeoff of requiring individuals to tolerate authorities making decisions on their behalf.

The ideologue claims that only one side of the dichotomy is “right”, (anarchy, communism, socialism, libertarianism, etc.) or that some particular mixture is “right”, (liberalism, conservatism, etc.) but this still ignores the question of values – the “ought” regarding an appropriate society. This is a basic problem with subscribing to an ideology. No ideology has a perfect reference to reality. If we study history objectively, we can conclude that some ideologies more accurately describe reality than others. In practice however, ideologues tend to subordinate reality to their dogma, endlessly rationalizing and contorting their minds to make the facts fit.

The capitalist ideologue is wrong to say that socialism cannot work; it works fine in places like Norway, so long as you are willing to take all of the tradeoffs – the loss of freedoms and high taxation – that go with such a system. Finland’s socialized education system works splendidly for that society and could work in the United States too, so long as our students, teachers, and parents buy into their culture and tolerate fewer freedoms, such as the freedom to have private schools. Cuba famously has near 100% adult literacy. It also outlaws homeschooling. Similarly the socialist or liberal ideologue is wrong to say that capitalism is fundamentally broken; places like Hong Kong and Singapore show that private enterprise serves the people just fine. In other words, so long as the people accept the system and all of its tradeoffs, it can work swimmingly.

When I think about voting or any work with political implications for my homeland, I think in terms of the larger question of the society I want to see for myself and my children. My values, derived from my education, observation, experience, and reflection, heavily center on freedom. I do not want society to take responsibility for my income, my welfare, my relative wealth compared to others, my health insurance, my retirement, or my education. Individual responsibility for these values is the basic state of all humans, and it requires an act of faith beyond my capabilities to trust the artifices of man’s society to remove this responsibility. I intend to raise my children to have the same sense of personal accountability. My wish is to live in a society where this belief is taken for granted – where the idea that it is appropriate to depend on government redistribution and central planning is seen as immoral.

My preference is of course subjective, however there is also a practical reason for opposing a security-based society. Such a political system demands vast bureaucracies at local, state, and federal levels, staffed by hundreds of thousands of government employees. It requires that those bureaucracies be properly administrated and efficiently run. Even if 100% of those government workers are supremely competent and dedicated, the system requires proper political leadership; if the wrong politicians are in office, those bureaucracies can be underfunded, ineptly restructured, improperly regulated, given unrealistic mandates, or all together scrapped in some wave of “reform.”

In other words, the security society only works if you elect the right politicians. If you aren’t careful a George W. Bush might come around with a bad idea like “No Child Left Behind”, and create new problems for large public systems like education. To make things consistently work, you need to keep electing Barack Obamas, each of whom will support the public systems reliably, maintain predictable standards and funding, and, if necessary, cut the red tape and push aside the bureaucracy in times of emergency. The security-society is ruled by men, not law.

What’s more, large centrally-managed government systems are extremely slow to adapt and difficult to reform. Unconsciously they come to make justifying their own existence a greater priority than accomplishing their stated objective. This is why when we think of the word “public” to describe schools, unions, and other institutions, we don’t generally associate innovation or accountability with the term.

In the security society, reforming or improving government-managed systems is slow and painful. Individuals only get the opportunity to directly influence the management of those systems every two years (elections). The rest of the time, the best they can do is write letters or protest. This is because the services are managed with tax dollars, which are collected coercively.

Say you oppose the pedagogical and hiring practices of your state’s education system. You could literally spend decades protesting, voting down budgets, and writing letters, with zero meaningful change. All the while the system happily takes your tax dollars (whether you have kids or not) forcing you to work to support that which you oppose.

With private systems you can immediately and at any time vote for reform and effect change by simply not using the service. Unhappy with how a bank is managing your retirement funds? Switch banks. Unhappy with a private school or insurer? Take your business elsewhere. This is of course impossible with Social Security, where the taxpayers have to hope that the right politicians are elected and that those politicians make responsible decisions with the expropriated funds.

This is the essence of my practical objection to a security-based society. By having the public sector and politically managed systems drive the economy, these societies are, ironically, less secure in a number of ways. This is not to say that the freedom-based society is without flaws. Dealing primarily with private sector service providers demands a great deal of time spent comparing and researching to find the appropriate one for your needs. We take no issue with this for things like food and clothing, where the market has provided abundance at all price ranges. What I wish for is a society that consistently seeks the same level of freedom to choose for most other activities.

This is why I am voting for Mitt Romney. Not because he will magically bring this about, but rather because he will do less violence to my efforts to move society in that direction. Barack Obama, by contrast, consciously or unconsciously, seeks to quickly push us in the direction of the security society. If your values lead you to support the security society, then Obama is clearly the man for you.

Unfortunately the vast majority of the electorate subscribes to the ideologue approach to voting. What’s worse is that a large percentage of these voters are partisans. Partisans are worse than ideologues because they do not even really care about ideas and policies but instead just support a party. Partisans are easily identified by their hypocrisy. Republicans who defend Bush’s growth of government but criticize Obama for the same thing are a good example. Sadly, a large percentage of Blacks are also partisans.

The fact that the electorate is primarily made up of partisans and ideologues explains why candidates need not even bother campaigning in the majority of states. A more responsible media could do a lot to elevate much of the population from partisan to ideologue status. A better education system could help more ideologues develop the critical thinking skills to identify where their ideology does not accurately describe reality.

But we are a long way off from seeing a strong education system or responsible media. As a result, I am left to choose between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Polls suggest that Obama will likely win re-election. If this comes to pass, it may push back the dream of a freedom-based society another generation. This will depend on a number of factors. My intention either way is to continue working toward that dream. I have lived abroad in the past, and because of concerns I have about my son’s education, I will have to consider living abroad again if Obama’s policies become intolerable. Nevertheless I am not ready to give up on what America can be.

That is my reason for voting for Mitt Romney.