Tag: Presidential Election

Where I Am Right Now, February Version

So we had two more debates over the weekend. I won’t go blow-by-blow through them. Trump continued to be obnoxious. Bush punched back. Rubio and Cruz sparred, occasionally in Spanish. Kasich tried to set himself up as the adult in the room (not always successfully). Instead of going through that, I thought I’d lay out what my current impression is of the candidates and the order in which I would vote for them. I’ve put all the candidates in the list except for Ben Carson. The reason I’ve left Carson out is because I’m not sure what I make of him and I don’t think he’ll be in this much longer. The others should last at least through Super Tuesday.

So here’s my current preference for presidential candidates. Keep in mind that these rankings are fluid and could change significantly as the race progresses.


The Field Closes

The first Republican presidential debate is set for Thursday. I will probably not be able to watch or will watch on a delay (my wife is working late that night, so I have the Betas). But the most significant thing is that Fox has narrowed the 17 — I shit you not — 17 candidates down to 10 so that they will all fit on stage. Those 10 are Donald Trump (currently leading the field), Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Chris Christie and John Kasich.

That means that seven candidates are out. And I have to say that it’s like those seven are finished. Not because they aren’t in the debate but because they are currently polling so low, it’s unlikely they can bring themselves back into the picture barring an amazing debate performance, which they won’t get a chance at. Those seven are Carly Fiorina, Jim Gilmore, Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, George Pataki, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum.

And that’s a pity. Trump isn’t going away any time soon, but his negatives are sky high (which you would expect, given that his campaign has zero policy proposals. In mock polling, he loses to Bernie Sanders by twenty points. In taking over the stage, he’s bumping Perry — who is likely doomed from his 2012 gaffe but actually strikes me as a reasonable candidate. He’s also bumping Santorum, who is intensely disliked in some quarters but is one of the few candidates to grasp the pinch many middle class people are feeling. The rest are mainly vanity candidates although Fiorina has some charisma.

Looking at the ten remaining, I’m not terribly high on anyone in the current field. I’ve warmed up to Rubio lately but I think this race is going to quickly narrow to Walker vs. Bush. And if Trumpism spooks enough of the GOP establishment, they will go to Bush, barring some catastrophic gaffe.

So, right now, I’m thinking we’re seeing a 2016 showdown of Bush v. Clinton. Didn’t we already do this?

The Fear of Walker

It is currently March of 2015. The next presidential election is safely 20 months away. For the moment, Hillary Clinton is the presumed front-runner for the Democrats. She hasn’t declared yet because she knows the allegations of corruption and incompetence will come pretty quickly. Her hope is that she can ride her current popularity through the inevitable shitstorm. The shorter that ride is, the more likely it is to end at 1600 Pennsylvania.

(A big shoe dropped this week when it was revealed the Clinton was using her personal e-mail to conduct State Department business in violation of State Department rules. More will come.)

The Republican field is still in flux but Scott Walker is emerging as a potential candidate. Walker has a good chance since he’s conservative enough to rally the base but has also won three elections in a blue state.

So how do you react to this if you’re a Democrat?

You panic.

A couple of weeks ago, Rudolph Giuliani made a silly statement about Barack Obama. Walker refused to comment on it. This was not evasion; this is Walker’s style. He prefers to avoid political bullshit and concentrate on policy. During the debates for his last election, his opponent tried to goad him into some kind of outburst and Walker refused, sticking to the boring trivia of, you know, running the state.

Nevertheless, the media exploded when he refused to condemn Giuliani’s remarks. Similar accountability is never applied to Democrats. Hillary Clinton will not be asked to denounce everything said by Al Sharpton or Robert Reich or Bernie Sanders. But apparently if Walker refuses to denounce a fellow Republican for an unofficial remark, it’s the end of the world.

Then, of course, you have the union thing. The WaPo ran a piece on Walker’s union-busting, conveniently forgetting that the legal changes were entirely about public employee unions. (Since the article was written, the Wisconsin legislature has passed a “right to work” law. I’ve written about that before.)

Thus far, a couple of warning shots. Nothing major. But this weekend, it got really stupid. First Jezebel, then the Daily Beast, then every left wing blog on the planet ran an article claiming that Scott Walker had stopped Wisconsin universities from reporting sex crimes. That report turned out to be total crap:

The post, published Friday, cited a report from Jezebel that wrongly interpreted a section of the state budget to mean that all assault reporting requirements were to get cut altogether.

In fact, the University of Wisconsin system requested the deletion of the requirements to get rid of redundancy, as it already provides similar information to the federal government, UW System spokesman Alex Hummel told The Associated Press on Friday.

The fail here — apparently involving a reporter who wrote a recent ill-informed hit piece on Glenn Greenwald’s Intercept — is amazing. They ignored that sex crime reporting is a federal requirement and can not be overridden by a state. They didn’t bother to call Scott Walker’s office or the University of Wisconsin to confirm it. They didn’t apply any degree of skepticism. They went right to some bizarre idea that this was macho posturing by a Republican candidate.

The thing is, there is substance to go after with Walker. He’s set to sign a right-to-work law after saying it wasn’t a priority. He has changed his position on immigration. He just cut $300 million from the State university system. And after balancing Wisconsin’s budget, he enacted an ill-advised tax cut that could plunge the state right back into debt. Maybe you like those policy decisions; maybe you hate them. But criticizing him for those policies would at least be substantive.

I have no idea why they are going after him for this garbage except that … they have to demonize Scott Walker. Not just for practical reasons, but for emotional ones. To the Democrats, any Republican president seems demonic. And nothing is more demonic than a Republican candidate who could win.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

The Meltdown Continues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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