Tag: Mitt Romney

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 healthcare.gov 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.

Split Decision

There has been a lot of discussion recently about a potential split between the popular vote and the electoral college this year. Obama is leading in the polls in several critical swing states while Romney has been holding a lead in the national polls (caveat: Nate Silver points out that the math doesn’t work out. If the state polls are accurate, Obama should have a national lead (and indeed, the RCP average is now tied or has Obama with a very slightly 0.1% lead). One set of polls is likely off. Come Tuesday, we’ll find out which ones).

I’d kind of like to see a split this year since it would weaken the President and create the glorious spectacle of every pundit arguing the precise reverse of what he said in 2000. While it does now appear unlikely, it remains possible. And given that we’ve had two such splits in our history, a third will likely happen at some point.

(There is a very tiny chance of an electoral tie as well, which would throw things to Congress, assuming we don’t have any faithless electors. That would, given the composition, result in a Romney-Biden administration; almost like the worst of both worlds.)

I’ve made it clear that I oppose switching to a national popular vote, but we’ve never really had a discussion. So I want to throw this open before Tuesday’s vote. Should we abolish the electoral college? Should we go to a popular vote?

One of the things that make me hesitate is this: to the best of my knowledge, we have never had a national vote. On anything. All three high offices — the House, Senate and the President — are elected at the state level. Amendements are passed by Congress and state legislatures. In fact, reading the Constitution, you can’t help but be struck by how the Founders went to great lengths to avoid anything approaching a plebiscite.

This wasn’t just because a national election would have been difficult in such a large nation in the 18th century. And it wasn’t just federalism speaking, either. They cleared regarded direct democracy as dangerous (as do I). The beauty of a Constitutional Republic is that the people do not always get what they want. Elections do not give us what we want; elections create accountability.

Because we have never had a national vote, creating one is a lot more complicated that just adding the tallies from the states. Different states have different voting laws and that will create some power disparities. States with stricter voting requirement will lose votes relative to more liberal ones. States that don’t worry too much about counting every single Presidential vote because of the huge margin (e.g., Utah) will have to be more strict. And how do you reconcile the widely varying laws on early voting, absentee voting and electronic voting? What happens if online voting becomes a thing?

No, we’re not just talking about having a popular vote. We are talking, in the end, about federalizing the vote. We are talking about creating uniform voting standards, uniform early voting and absentee policies and, most likely, a national voter registry and ID card. In fact, I can not see that national vote would possible be compliant with Bush v. Gore unless it created uniform standards.

Maybe that’s preferable to the 50-state patchwork we have now. But if so, make the case. Why should we abolish the electoral college? Why should we nationalize the vote?

Poll Fatigue

All of the Serious Conservative Blogs have been killing me with annoyed boredom over their obsession with polls. Not since high school have I given fewer fucks about the use for math. The only thing I can tell from pollsters like Rasmussen is that Romney is either going to win in a glorious landslide or suffer a heartbreaking but very close defeat.

For my part, I think Romney will win comfortably (for whatever that’s worth; look for a post on this over the weekend). But I get that from my own sense of the country’s direction and the behavior of the two campaigns. Is Obama really defending his record? Is he laying out a coherent 2nd Term plan beyond “I’m Not Romney and Not Me From the Past Four Years Either”?

Also, I look at the most meaningful quantifiable measurement: Money! One campaign is bringing it in and spending it in states that the other won comfortably last time. The other one is taking out loans and pulling ground operations out of certain states that it won in 2008.

Polls are great for filling a slow news day, but what exactly do we get out of it that we can’t see for ourselves? When I read the comments sections on some stories about polls, I want to laugh at the people who say, “Hey, I counted X Romney signs in my neighborhood and only X Obama signs here!” Not because they’re ignorant, but because I’ve also found that to be a reliable indicator of how a state will probably vote. In 2004, I travelled the country a lot on business. I noticed the signs and accurately predicted the way each state would go except Pennsylvania. In the end, my method was more effective in identifying the winner than Zogby. It doesn’t require the hard science and money that Zogby spent either.

There’s a lot of noise out there this week and will be until Election Day. Leave the polls out of this. What do YOU see coming? I don’t care if it’s a gut feeling. Who’s going to win?

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.

Candidate For a Day

It’s been a couple of days since the second debate. It seems to me that the compelling theme was the lack of vision from either candidate. Mitt Romney seemed pretty clear he thought he could do a better job than that Obama guy but wasn’t really clear on what he’d do differently other than cut taxes. And Barack Obama seemed pretty clear he thought he could do a better job than that Obama guy, whoever he is, but was not clear on what he’d do differently either.

But rather than dive back into arguments over various trivia — what Candy Crowley said, whether “acts of terror” and “terrorist acts” mean the same thing, binders full of women — I thought I’d indulge in a bit of a writer’s conceit: detailing how I wish the questions had been answered. Feel free to take one of the question and throw out your own answer. I’m sure you’ll do a better job than either of the candidates did.

Question: Mr. President, Governor Romney, as a 20-year-old college student, all I hear from professors, neighbors and others is that when I graduate, I will have little chance to get employment. Can — what can you say to reassure me, but more importantly my parents, that I will be able to sufficiently support myself after I graduate?

(Aside: “more importantly, my parents?” Are you sure you’re 20 and not 12?)

They can’t assure you of anything. Our economy has picked up a bit — job creation is low but steady, housing starts are rebounding, exports are way up. But we are working our way out from a huge pile of bad debt. And there are other storms on the horizon — the Euro Zone, China’s bubble economy and so on. No one can assure you of a job; certainly not government.

That being said, overhauling the tax and regulatory system would, over the long haul, produce more consistent job growth. Allowing more high-skill immigrants into this country would create start-ups and expand businesses. Free trade would lower prices and open up markets for our goods. But, I repeat, there is no such thing as a silver bullet that will guarantee jobs to anyone. There is no secret box of good jobs in either candidate’s closet.

Question: Your energy secretary, Steven Chu, has now been on record three times stating it’s not policy of his department to help lower gas prices. Do you agree with Secretary Chu that this is not the job of the Energy Department?:


Look, we can set gas prices low. And you’ll have shortages like we did in the 1970’s. Oil is a world market and, unless the world is in a recession, gasoline prices are only going to go up. There is little that I or any other President can do about it.

On the broader concept of energy, the government needs to streamline regulation and taxes to make innovation easier. Congress needs to shift funds from specific technology like Tesla luxury cars to broader basic innovation. And we need to keep fossil fuels flowing while we are still dependent on them. Long term, that will address our energy needs and also make progress on Global Warming.

Question: Governor Romney, you have stated that if you’re elected president, you would plan to reduce the tax rates for all the tax brackets and that you would work with the Congress to eliminate some deductions in order to make up for the loss in revenue. Concerning the — these various deductions — the mortgage deduction, the charitable deductions, the child tax credit and also the — education credits, which are important to me because I have children in college. What would be your position on those things, which are important for the middle class?

The government should not be using the tax code for social engineering. This has directly contributed to bubbles in real estate and education. You should also realize that many of these deductions are actually subsidies for the wealthy: for many middle-class people, they do not add up to much more than the standard deduction. [Note: Romney is now saying he will cap deductions at some level; it’s not clear what. That’s … better, I guess. But it will not come anywhere close to covering the revenue from his proposed rate cuts.]

That having been said, would you give up your favorite tax deduction for a lower overall rate and be able to keep your money in the first place rather than have it grudgingly remitted back on April 15? I think most Americans would.

Question: In what new ways do you intend to rectify the inequalities in the workplace, specifically regarding females making only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn?

Governments’ actions in this domain have frequently made things worse. We can ban discrimination in government workplaces and refuse to do business with those who discriminate. But the only women who have really benefitted federal efforts for equal pay in the private sector are those who happen to be lawyers.

You say “72 percent” but that figure is actually misleading since it does not account for women taking time off work for family or taking more flexible jobs. Nor does it account for the social factor that men are more likely to demand higher pay. I note this not to quibble but to illustrate that the issue is a little more subtle and complex than the Democratic Party likes to pretend. In general, government is not good at dealing with issues that are subtle and complex.

Over time, social pressure will do more than government mandates. Name and shame businesses that discriminate and refuse to do business with them. Refuse to work for them. Demand higher pay. In the end, you will get it. Because you are much more capable of solving difficult problems than blundering government. And I do not see that it empowers women for their government to treat them like weaklings who are incapable of rectifying pay inequality with paternal government on their side.

Question: Governor Romney, I am an undecided voter because I’m disappointed with the lack of progress I’ve seen in the last four years. However, I do attribute much of America’s economic and international problems to the failings and missteps of the Bush administration. Since both you and President Bush are Republicans, I fear a return to the policies of those years should you win this election. What is the biggest difference between you and George W. Bush, and how do you differentiate yourself from George W. Bush?

The next President should basically do the opposite of everything George W. Bush (and Barack Obama) have done. They cut taxes and raised spending, ignoring PAYGO. They empowered government, engaged in dumb foreign adventures, regulated like mad, fought the War on Drugs zealously and ran roughshod over your civil liberties. All of that needs to stop.

Question: Mr. President, I voted for you in 2008. What have you done or accomplished to earn my vote in 2012? I’m not that optimistic as I was in 2012. Most things I need for everyday living are very expensive.

Your optimism should never be linked to a politician. They are not gods. The best Presidents — men like Coolidge and Eisenhower and Reagan — mainly stayed out of the way, enforced the law and kept the peace. That created the conditions for prosperity and for the only real optimism anyone should have — a belief in themselves and their fellow Americans.

You actually should be more optimistic than you were in 2008. In 2008, we were bleeding almost a million jobs a month and on the verge of a financial meltdown. Whether the policies of Obama prevented that or not is a matter for historians. The fact is that much of the private debt has been unravelled, a few more free trade agreements are in place and taxes are low. The stage is set for a recovery … if we can get the government out of the way.

Question: President — Romney, what do you plan on doing with immigrants without their green cards that are currently living here as productive members of society?:

[Aside: nice euphemism there.]

Our immigration system has been broken for decades and no one has stepped forward to fix it. We all know what needs to be done: make it easier for people to come her legally to work and more difficult for them to work here illegally. Over time, that will shift productive members of society to legal status.

Question: This question actually comes from a brain trust of my friends at Global Telecom Supply in Mineola yesterday. We were sitting around talking about Libya, and we were reading and became aware of reports that the State Department refused extra security for our embassy in Benghazi, Libya, prior to the attacks that killed four Americans. Who was it that denied enhanced security and why?

[Note: Neither Obama nor Romney answered his actual question about security.]

An independent investigation needs to determine how the security was made so lax and hold everyone accountable. Security arrangements at all embassies and consulates need to be reviewed immediately. Over the last few decades, we have typically had an attack on one of our embassies and consulates every year. Protecting our assets — especially in a nation as dangerous as Libya — has to be a top priority. Ending our foreign engagements so that we have more troops and more money to make sure we protect our critical assets abroad would help.

Question: President Obama, during the Democratic National Convention in 2008, you stated you wanted to keep AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. What has your administration done or plan to do to limit the availability of assault weapons?:

Crime is down; way down, to levels not seen since the 1960’s. The problem is a violent society, not access to weapons. You could have bazookas in a peaceful society without problems; you could ban all weapons from a violent society and have chaos.

The biggest thing government could do to decrease violence is to end our destructive War on Drugs. All this does is empower gangs, give life-damaging criminal records to non-violent people and burn up money.

The outsourcing of American jobs overseas has taken a toll on our economy. What plans do you have to put back and keep jobs here in the United States?:

The biggest change we need is an end to the double taxation on overseas earnings. We are the only country that punishes companies for earning money in foreign countries. That must stop.

But this is one of the few thing Barack Obama got right: some of those jobs are not coming back. We live in a global market and that’s a good thing. Were it not for the global market, our economic collapse would have been far worse than it was. The unfortunate side effect of that is that jobs that used to be life-long occupations are no longer; that we live in a society where ten years at the same job is a lot.

We can do some things to ease the pain of this. But in the end, the only real alternative is a static moribund economy.

Question: Hi, Governor. I think this is a tough question. Each of you: What do you believe is the biggest misperception that the American people have about you as a man and a candidate? Using specific examples, can you take this opportunity to debunk that misperception and set us straight?

It’s not a tough question, son. It’s a bullshit question. The biggest misperception of any Presidential candidate is that he will either doom or save the nation. I repeat what I said above: politicians are not gods. All they can do is obey the Constitution and pursue policies that create the opportunity for American greatness. Anyone who claims he will save the world should not get your vote.

No suprises: after debate, circling the wagons.

I watched last night’s debate and can honestly say I was not surprised by anything that went down. In fact, I wish I had just switched over to the Detroit vs. NY game and watched that instead, because there was more of a chance for something unexpected – like the Yankees winning a game for a change –than in this debate. Tigers in four, baby!

As I expected, this farce, rigged from the get go, was two democrats against Romney. And it was done blatantly and without even a modicum of fear that it would be blatant and obvious. Team Blue is losing, and the fifth column is circling the wagons in desperation. This is their empty suit, and they will be damned if after 5 years of carrying this inept man’s water they will let him go down in flames and be remembered as the second coming of Jimmy Carter. Anyway, that faux moderator cut Romney off whenever he was sticking it to Team Blue, and let Obama not just tell whatever lies he wanted, but actually chimed in to add her own. I know the left feels they can lie through their teeth and get the media to back it up for them, but these lies are simply too easy to debunk. Jabba’s comment that Obama had been blaming terrorism from the very start wasn’t just a blatant and easily disproved lie, it basically sums the last 4 years in a nutshell: the narrative is more important than facts or truth.

I also expected the people asking questions to be plants and the questions to be bullshit that would help the democrats look good, and that was exactly the case. That whole I am not sold on Obama but, and this is a huge but, “I Blame BOOOSH!” and all republicans are evil, question? Holy f-ing cow! Bush is not only NOT running for president anymore, but let me remind everyone that Obama wasn’t forced to be president 4 years ago, but with a hefty dose of bullshit and obfuscation of his lack of qualifications to run even a lemonade stand by the LSM, ran for that job. I am not even going to bother going into the details about what really precipitated the economic crisis and collapse anymore, because pointing out the facts of how policies and government practices intended to use housing as yet another vehicle for social engineering were, as usual, doomed to eventually fail, and fail miserably, to these leftards is like trying to teach calculus to a slug. Forget pointing out that their solutions were to enact more onerous legislation to force more of the same, with the crazy notion that this is what will finally make this misguided and stupid social engineering practice to result in an even bigger failure and calamity down the road. Pearls to the swine. I simply want to know when the hell we can finally say that the guy that ran for the job, more than 4 years ago to boot and with 2 years of unfettered and unchallenged control of the levers of government because of total Team Blue dominance, now can be held responsible for the pain his team’s policies are causing. I know: that will never happen.

Anyway, the questions were rigged to favor the left. All jokes. Even the two questions that should have put Obama in traction – the one about the high gas price and the Bengazi lies one – where blatant jokes. Obama did a massive dance to avoid spelling out the blatant truth his energy policy and record of the last 4 years. More of the same about Benghazi fiasco and the campaign of lies that followed that debacle. And when cornered by Romney, on both issues, the moderator abandoned any pretense of objectivity to help Obama avoid answering either question with anything approaching the truth or facts. Did anyone else get whiplash when Obama claimed that gas, now above $4 a gallon, is so high because the economy is doing so much better than when he took over 4 years ago, and gas was under $2. Seriously? Did anyone at that point just think this man was either a sociopathic compulsive liar on mentally deranged and completely disconnected from reality?

We have an economy that is proceeding like a steam locomotive towards a bridge that is out, artificially propped up through tricks by government that in the long run will cause us massive pain, and bullshit stories by the LSM they hope will fool enough people into buying their lies that things are getting better when they are not, and they dare make the ludicrous claim that gas is over $4 per gallon because the economy is hot? Yeah, tell that to the people that are unemployed, have dropped of the rolls because there simply are no jobs, the fact that we constantly get job numbers, that are practically every time revised to show things are much worse than the DNC’s LSM lackeys would like to pretend – unexpectedly – or are seeing their life’s savings and investments dwindle as our government continues to devalue our currency and deficit spend, to buy votes from people that vote for a living of all things, us into oblivion. The frightening thing is that DESPITE a world wide economic slump we are stuck with $4 a gallon gas because of this administration’s energy policies.

I am also pained that Romney didn’t bring up Solyndra and the many other such “investments in future energy” – that’s code for government wealth redistribution of tax payer money to leftist corporate fat cats that know to then funnel big chunks of that cash to democrat politicians – that Obama was bullshitting about, and how well any and all of that played out for the American tax payer. Then again, I am sure Candy would have cut him right off if he had dared to try.

I expected Obama to come out and do more of what Biden did: tell lies, big lies, and some serious whoppers, and that’s also what we got. Shit, I felt like the man, after 4 years of causing us pain, was acting like he was running for the presidency for the first time! Did anyone else get that feeling too? WTF? You are now, when you no longer have to bother running for the presidency if you get a second nod, finally going to do the things you should have done the last 4 years? Seriously? Those special words he muttered to Putin when he thought he could get away with saying what he really wants to do come to mind. To paraphrase: “Once I am reelected and don’t have to worry about running for a second term, I can do whatever the fuck I want to these idiots, and they can’t do squat about it”.

Yeah, he was aggressive, but Romney did an awesome job of keeping both Obama and Candy – he was debating both of them – in check, all things considered. I give politicians a lot of leeway considering how fine of a line they must walk to keep from pissing off some entitled group or another, but when we get to the point that a sitting president lies the way this guy does and gets help from the LSM to do it, I am afraid our republic is doomed.

Finally I am going to point out that after Obama’s last performance, anything would have been characterized by the LSM as a win. If he had performed a song & dance routine and completely avoided anything serious, I expected them to hand him a win. They have to. They are desperate and he is going down in flames. My guess is that most people other than the blatantly insane and desperate leftists, think Obama did better than his last no-show, but that this performance, and man was it a freaking act, was not a win for him. The LSM can pretend otherwise all they want.

I think that Romney did real well all things considered. This thing was rigged against him from the start. The left was desperate. Could he have scored bigger points? I think so. He was too lackadaisical about the Benghazi fiasco, but that might have simply been a calculated measure where he lets the real fact checkers, not the DNC shills in the LSM, point out Obama and his sidekick Candy both lied through their teeth. He did hammer the failed and costly energy policy of this administration well, but I think he missed an opportunity to point out that Team Blue’s pie-in-the-sky bullshit about alternative energy cost the tax payers billions, and primarily served to funnel money to rich leftists that then paid the democrat politicians back, in the form of campaign contributions, and paid their employees and tax payers with bankruptcy and layoffs. We need those kinds of investments like we need a 9mm slug in the skull. I also bet that many Americans heard about Fast & Furious, for the first time, from Romney last night. I expect the LSM to again spin this in order to make it go away as quick as possible. Nixon was thrown out of office for less, and nobody died because of what Nixon did.

My prediction is that the left will feel energized for a day or two, see no bounce for Obama in the heavily democrat favored rigged polls, and then despair. The next debate will be an even bigger freak show from the left. The fact is that Obama doesn’t want to run on his record of the last 4 years. He simply can’t because it has been a disaster. The lies are getting too blatant and too easy to debunk. He might be connecting with and even energizing the base, but they will soon see he is not reaching the moderates, and then I expect the class warfare and racism rhetoric to escalate to insane levels, turning even more people off. Voter fraud is about the only thing left for these Chicago crooks.

UPDATE: One of the bullshit lies going around is how great this economic recovery by Obama that he told us is responsible for that $4 a gallon gas, so this graph is, to show and compare a real recovery with what we have today, is called for.