Weekly Musing 6-15-14
Happy Father’s Day!
Thanks to all for all they do. It’s an awesome responsibility some don’t take serious enough. I lost my dad some years ago, but the photo above speaks louder than words. I only hope I could be but a small percentage of what my father was to me and other young men over his life.
Give your dad a hug, it’s OK!
Obama (Hillary), the Nobel Peace Laureates International Successes…a friend of mine shared this and I thought it was worth passing along:
– Al Qaida has taken over Libya, much of Syria and now much of Iraq.
– Obama is repeating his mistakes in Iraq in Afghanistan.
– Benghazi-gate continues to generate news, most recently that U.S. intel knew the terrorists were using State Department cell phones during the attack.
– The White House swapped five senior Taliban prisoners for a deserter.
– The VA scandal continues to grow.
– Putin’s seizure of Crimea and de facto takeover of eastern Ukraine.
…all of which demonstrate the utter ignorance, arrogance, incompetence and venality of Obama and his administration.
36 Elections That Really Matter This Year
By the looks of the press coverage so far, you’d think the U.S. Senate was the center of the 2014 universe. Of course, we’re all interested in which party wins control of the upper chamber of Congress. But does it matter that much? The 34 states electing senators are simply determining how much more gridlocked Washington will become during the last two years of President Obama’s term.
For a refreshing change of pace, let’s take a look at some contests that actually make a big difference in the lives of many Americans: the 36 elections for governor. It’s not that political polarization isn’t affecting the states, too. There is plenty of gridlock in some states—take a look at the budget and Medicaid deadlock in Virginia, for example. But the more common situation is one-party rule. In 36 states, the same party controls the entire statehouse—the governorship and both houses of the legislature (discounting Nebraska, which has a unique, nonpartisan and unicameral legislature). Most observers would agree that Washington’s toxic level of nastiness and inability to compromise has not yet fully poisoned most state capitols.
I’ve long thought that governor is the best job in American politics. The presidency has been called a “splendid misery,” but the governorship in most places is just splendid. Ask some governors-turned-senators to compare their former and current offices sometime; you’ll see what I mean: Sen. Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat and former governor, wants to be “excited to go to work again,” and apparently is considering leaving his current job for his old one. Sen. Mark Warner, the Virginia Democrat and former governor, contemplated the same thing last year before deciding to run for reelection this year.
11 political lessons from Eric Cantor’s loss
Eric Cantor’s shocking defeat at the hands of David Brat is that rarest of things in American politics: a genuine earthquake. And like with real earthquakes, the damage will be much greater because so few were prepared. A few provisional thoughts:
Democrats’ stranglehold on the electoral college
While demographic changes are moving a number of traditionally Republican states closer to Democrats, there’s little evidence that many states are heading in the opposite direction. You could make the case that Wisconsin is moving closer to Republicans’ grasp (it was the 10th closest state in 2012), and Minnesota — the 11th closest state — might be shifting ever-so-slightly in Republicans’ direction as well. The problem is that big states like New York, California, Michigan and Pennsylvania show no signs of becoming more friendly toward Republicans; in the case of New York and California, they are becoming far less friendly to the GOP. With those major electoral vote targets off the table — or close to it — the math becomes increasingly difficult for Republicans.
Here’s the lone comfort at the moment for Republicans: The electoral college tends to move like a pendulum. In 1980, Ronald Reagan won 489 electoral votes and followed that up four years later with 525 electoral votes. In 1988, George H.W. Bush took 426 electoral votes. The Republican lock on the electoral college seemed permanent. But then it wasn’t anymore. It’s not clear — at least to me — how Republicans will pick the Democratic lock on the electoral college but history suggests they will, eventually, find a way.
Don’t Under-Estimate The Power Of Right-Wing Populism
That’s my underlying take on what just happened in American politics. We live in a potentially powerfully populist moment. The economy is failing to help middle- and working-class people make headway, while the wealthiest are living higher on the hog than since the days of robber barons. Wall Street’s masters of the universe nearly wiped out the US and global economy – and there has been scarcely any accountability for their recklessness and greed and hubris. Big business favors mass, cheap immigration – which adds marginally to the woes of the working poor. All of this is grist to someone like Elizabeth Warren, but also to someone like Dave Brat or Ted Cruz.
But the main difference between a Warren and a Brat is that Warren is never going to be able to rally the Southern or Midwestern white working poor to her professorial, Massachusetts profile. A dorky populist like Brat? Much more imaginable. A gifted demagogue like Ted Cruz? I think many liberals would be surprised. And the ace card for the populist right, rather than the populist left, is immigration. If you can weld together a loathing and resentment of elites with a loathing and resentment of foreigners “invading” the country and “taking our jobs,” then you have a potent combination.
‘I’ve Had Enough’: When Democrats Quit on Obama
“Dem Party is F****d,” wrote a Democratic consultant with strong ties to the White House and Capitol Hill during the botched rollout of the Affordable Care Act website.
A Democratic House member whose endorsement in 2008 helped lift the Obama candidacy told me in January, “He’s bored and tired of being president, and our party is paying the price.”
“Talented guy but no leader,” said a Democratic lobbyist and former member of Congress in March. “If he could govern half as well as he campaigns, he’d be a good-to-great president.”
Questioning why the Veterans Affairs Department hadn’t been overhauled months ago as promised by Obama, a senior White House official conceded privately to me, “We don’t do the small stuff well. And the small stuff is the important stuff.”
The level of disquiet among Democrats reminds me of President George W. Bush’s second term, when my best sources were frustrated Republicans. (Interviewing Republicans today is like interviewing Democrats in 2006: predictably partisan, rarely insightful.)
Few frustrated Democrats are willing to complain openly. I grant them anonymity, which creates a problem: Readers, for good reason, don’t trust anonymous quotes
A Practical Plan for Recalibrating Conservatism
Yet as Edmund Burke observed in “Reflections on the Revolution in France,” a complete statesman must possess not merely “a disposition to preserve” but also “an ability to improve.” Never has that counsel been more appropriate. The American people have developed expectations—by now deeply rooted and widely shared—that the federal government must provide a social safety net and regulate the economy.
That conservatives will generally seek a more modest social safety net and more restrained regulation than progressives does not relieve conservatives of the responsibility to devise measures to ensure a social safety net as well as economic regulations that are, consistent with conservatism’s principles, effective and affordable. Indeed, since conservatives are bucking the temper of the times, it will be necessary for them, especially if they wish to win national elections, to craft policies with greater care and to support them with more compelling evidence and arguments.
The authors of the new e-book, “Room to Grow: Conservative Reforms for a Limited Government and a Thriving Middle Class,” have risen to the occasion. Published by the YG Network (YG stands for young guns), their short volume comprises a collection of essays by prominent conservative thinkers responding in particular to “the worries and anxieties” of middle-class Americans—those who work for a living and regard themselves as neither rich nor poor but who can imagine themselves as becoming either—by articulating a “concrete conservative governing agenda.”
FiveThirtyEight Senate Forecast: Toss-Up or Tilt GOP?
The Senate playing field remains fairly broad. There are 10 races where we give each party at least a 20 percent chance of winning,1 so there is a fairly wide range of possible outcomes. But all but two of those highly competitive races (the two exceptions are Georgia and Kentucky) are in states that are currently held by Democrats. Furthermore, there are three states — South Dakota, West Virginia, and Montana2 — where Democratic incumbents are retiring, and where Republicans have better than an 80 percent chance of making a pickup, in our view.
So it’s almost certain that Republicans are going to gain seats. The question is whether they’ll net the six pickups necessary to win control of the Senate. If the Republicans win only five seats, the Senate would be split 50-50 but Democrats would continue to control it because of the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Joseph Biden.
Our March forecast projected a Republicans gain of 5.8 seats. You’ll no doubt notice the decimal place; how can a party win a fraction of a Senate seat? It can’t, but our forecasts are probabilistic; a gain of 5.8 seats is the total you get by summing the probabilities from each individual race. Because 5.8 seats is closer to six (a Republican takeover) than five (not quite), we characterized the GOP as a slight favorite to win the Senate.
Dave Brat and the Triumph of Rightwing Populism
American populism is rooted in middle class resentment of those who are seen as enjoying the benefits of the goods and services the middle class produces without having earned them through work. Its ideology is what historians call “producerism.” It first appears in the Jacksonian Workingmen’s Parties and then in the Populists of the late nineteenth century. But it takes a leftwing and a rightwing form.
Facing an ailing economy, leftwing populists from Huey Long to Paul Wellstone primarily blame Wall Street, big business and the politicians whom they fund. Rightwing populists from George Wallace to Pat Buchanan also blame Wall Street, but put equal if not greater blame on the poor, the unemployed, the immigrant, and the minorities, who, like the coupon-clipper on Wall Street, are seen as economic parasites.
The Tea Party is a heterogeneous movement, but many of its members, and many of the local candidates it champions, are rightwing populists. And that was certainly true of Brat. The Randolph-Macon College economics professor attacked Cantor for supporting what he called “amnesty” for illegal immigrants, but he also took aim at Wall Street and big business.
Remembering Communism’s Toll
There were millions of victims of communism, and humans suffered in dozens of nations on almost every continent. Still, when I think of the evils of communism, I think first of a particular place and time: Hungary, 1956.
… We must not forget the victims and the crimes of communism. We must continue to tell the truth about Tiananmen Square and the Gulag and the Isle of Pines and the killing fields of Cambodia and the boat people of Vietnam.
Let us resolve that never again will we allow so evil a tyranny as communism to terrorize and subjugate the peoples and nations of the world.
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