Weekly Musing 1-12-14
Republicans Really Could Win It All This Year
For the last decade, Larry J. Sabato has been forecasting elections and analyzing the results—correctly predicting 98 percent of Senate, House and governor winners in, 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012. Starting with this column, Sabato, a university professor of politics and director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, joins Politico Magazine as a regular contributor. Twice a month, he’ll be sharing his insights on how the 2014 midterm races are shaping up—and the factors that really matter.
Another midterm election beckons, and over the next 10 months we’ll see headlines about a thousand supposedly critical developments—the “game changers” and the “tipping points.” But we all know there aren’t a thousand powerful drivers of the vote. I’d argue that three factors are paramount: the president, the economy and the election playing field. And, at least preliminarily, those three factors seem to be pointing toward Republican gains in both houses in the 2014 midterms.
I’m Suing Over ObamaCare Exemptions for Congress
The legal basis for our lawsuit (which I will file with a staff member, Brooke Ericson, as the other plaintiff) includes the fact that the OPM ruling forces me, as a member of Congress, to engage in activity that I believe violates the law. It also potentially alienates members of Congress from their constituents, since those constituents are witnessing members of Congress blatantly giving themselves and their staff special treatment.
Republicans have tried to overturn this special treatment with legislation that was passed by the House on Sept. 29, but blocked in the Senate. Amendments have also been offered to Senate bills, but Majority Leader Harry Reid refuses to allow a vote on any of them.
I believe that I have not only legal standing but an obligation to go to court to overturn this unlawful executive overreach, end the injustice, and provide a long overdue check on an executive that recognizes fewer and fewer constitutional restraints.
The Parties Have Already Devised Their Midterm Messages
Republicans are obviously trying to cast the midterm election as a referendum on the Affordable Care Act, hardly a surprise given the broadly negative views that a plurality of Americans hold toward it and its disastrous launch. But besides the obvious strategic risk of putting all their eggs in one basket, there is another problem with the GOP’s approach to 2014. While the public is hardly enthusiastic about Obamacare, the same polls that show unfavorable attitudes toward the law also show an electorate that isn’t looking to repeal it but rather fix it. This theme is absent from Republicans’ talking points. They risk being seen as capable of only throwing rocks rather than improving things, thus contributing to a negative image that led to many of their problems in the 2012 elections.
Democrats want to change the subject to income inequality, hoping to buy time for the Affordable Care Act to work out its problems and for a constituency to grow among those who like and use it. All in all, this isn’t a bad strategy; they definitely should want to shift the focus from the president’s signature legislative accomplishment, now a sore subject. The public, however, is increasingly aware of not just the growing gap between the rich and the poor, but also the one between the well-to-do and those who were once in the middle class but have slipped below it even as they try to cling to what they have. In James Carville’s and Stan Greenberg’s 2012 book, It’s the Middle Class, Stupid, the renowned Democratic strategists made a compelling economic case for how wide the gap has grown and how fearful many working and middle-class Americans are of losing any shot at the American Dream. And they also argue that directing attention to the issue is a winning political strategy.
Conservatism for the People
Virtually every important national campaign has revolved around one central question: How can we best give average people respect, dignity, and an opportunity to make their way in the world, tyrannized neither by government nor by private individuals?
That was the question over which the 2012 election was fought. President Obama and the Democrats advanced one answer; Governor Romney and the Republicans advanced another. Both sides understood that this election would begin to settle whose approach would govern America for years to come.
Republicans, and especially conservatives, would like to dismiss their defeat as an aberration. They proffer many excuses: Governor Romney was a bad candidate who ran a bad campaign; President Obama’s technology-driven ground game made the difference; Hurricane Sandy stopped Romney’s momentum at the worst possible time. None of these explanations is without merit, but all miss the major point of the election results: The president made the campaign into a choice between two clear visions of America, and Americans preferred his vision to the Republicans’.
The Republican denial of this simple truth stands squarely in the way of their pursuit of the presidency. Republican renewal can start only when the party understands that it lost because its vision has slowly drifted away from the concerns of most Americans. By abandoning the American people’s foremost political priority, the GOP places its continued national relevance at risk.
Roger Scruton: What do Conservatives believe? The Brits perspective…
Some time ago I got together with Rodney Leach, Gwythian Prins and a few others to discuss the question what exactly do conservatives believe, and how do their beliefs apply in our present context. After a few attempts at drafting a short statement of principles we put the matter on hold for a while. But then, exasperated by the level of debate within the Conservative Party, and by the empty progressivism constantly forced upon David Cameron by Nick Clegg, I composed a manifesto out of the fragments. Here it is. I present it under my own name since only I take responsibility for it.
But I acknowledge the great help and inspiration of Rodney Leach and Gwythian Prins, and also other friends with whom I have discussed these issues. A shorter version of the manifesto has already appeared in The Spectator, but this fuller text represents the position that I and many others hold, and which I believe to be the heart of the conservative worldview for us, here, now. I still cherish the hope that something like this position will animate the decisions of some future Conservative government.
Is it 1914 all over again? We are in danger of repeating the mistakes that started WWI, says a leading historian
Professor Margaret MacMillan, of the University of Cambridge, argues that the Middle East could be viewed as the modern-day equivalent of this turbulent region. A nuclear arms race that would be likely to start if Iran developed a bomb “would make for a very dangerous world indeed, which could lead to a recreation of the kind of tinderbox that exploded in the Balkans 100 years ago – only this time with mushroom clouds,” she writes in an essay for the Brookings Institution, a leading US think-tank.
“While history does not repeat itself precisely, the Middle East today bears a worrying resemblance to the Balkans then,” she says. “A similar mix of toxic nationalisms threatens to draw in outside powers as the US, Turkey, Russia, and Iran look to protect their interests and clients.”
Professor MacMillan highlights a string of other parallels between today and a century ago. Modern-day Islamist terrorists mirror the revolutionary communists and anarchists who carried out a string of assassinations in the name of a philosophy that sanctioned murder to achieve their vision of a better world. And in 1914, Germany was a rising force that sought to challenge the pre-eminent power of the time, the UK. Today, the growing power of China is perceived as a threat by some in the US.
Why I Chose the Red, White and Blue – Americans Who Doubt the Value of Being a U.S. Citizen Should Know How Impressive It Still Feels to Become One
The U.S. does this language so well. It is an antidote to cynicism. It revealed to me what a frail and incomplete thing it had been to live here as an observer rather than a full participant in civic life. I wish that those Americans who trash their country for its failings or doubt the value of their citizenship could give it up and reapply for it, just to see with fresh eyes what an astonishing gift it still is.
The First Presidential Election and Other Firsts
The first presidential election was 225 years ago today. Although it was not democratic, it was a first in human history.
Most people think presidential elections are held on the first Tuesday in November. Constitutionally speaking, they’re not.
Instead, these days, the law specifies they be held on the first Monday following the second Wednesday in December, when the members of the Electoral College, who were the ones actually elected on the first Tuesday in November, meet in their respective state capitals and cast their votes.
For the first presidential election, the day set for the electors to meet was January 7, 1789—225 years ago today.
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