Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Life Imitates Art and Visa Versa

A few bloggers and other media folk have noticed that this presidential campaign seems to strangley follow the last two seasons of NBC's The West Wing, where a fictional presidential campaign took place. According to Slate, the similarities of the character Matt Santos, an idealistic Latino congressman from Texas and Senator Barak Obama is not by accident. Check out this video from Slate to learn more.

I feel the need to go to a store and buy those last two seasons.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Brain- Dead Republicans

It's been nearly seven months since the bridge collapse here in Minnesota. Right or wrong, it has become a symbol of our crumbling transportation infastructure.

For several years, transportation has been a burning issue. We were slow to light rail transit, and our freeways, built when the Twin Cities was a much smaller metro area, are full. Governor Tim Pawlenty (a potential VP candidate for John McCain), has taken a strong "no new taxes" pledge to the delight of hard core conservatives. Of course, a government has to do things like maintain roads, so Mr. Pawlenty has decided to use bonding bills to pay for some improvements, which is basically putting things on a credit card to pay someday. The Democrats, with the help of a few Republicans, crafted a bill that would raise the gas tax by five cents (something that hasn't been done in twenty years) , add to the sales tax in the metro area to pay for transit and raise license fees for new cars. The bill was vetoed by the Governor, but was overidden by the House.

The result for the dissident Republicans was that they were punished, losing leading leadership positions and quite possibily facing intra-party challenges.

I share this because it is part of the problem with the Republican party these days: it can't tolerate independence. The party of the man that once said, "The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally — not a 20 percent traitor," seems more interested in making sure everyone toes the line to what they think is party orthodoxy.

Of course, it is important to have some sense of ideological cohesion. Ideology gives some framework to a political party. But ideology should be loose fitting lest it be a straight jacket.

And the analogy of a straight jacket makes some sense: those who seek purity tend to stop thinking. You don't have to use your brain if all you do is adhere to party tenets all the time.

This is why John McCain is still not loved by the hard core conservatives: he's willing to think for himself. He is definitely conservative, but in a democracy where one works with others who don't share the same views, he works with Democrats to get legislation passed. Things get done, but he angers the hard core because he isn't upholding the party line.

To me, such thinking is proof of a party in decline, a party turned in on itself. Punishing heretics might make one feel good, but after a while people start falling away. That's what has been happening to the GOP for years. People get tired of being called "RINOs" and traitors and walk away. I know a fair number of people who have left the GOP because of such narrow thinking.

Frankly, it's way past time for a Republican Reformation. There need to be new ideas to fit the times. But it might take losing this year and in 2010 and in 2012 for the GOP to see it needs to become the party of ideas again.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Myers-Briggs: The Presidential Edition

Emily Yoffee has an article up about the personalities of Hillary Clinton, Barak Obama and John McCain. If you've ever done Myers-Briggs, you will understand it.

For the record my personality type is INTJ.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Will Obama Really Appeal to Centrists?

Barak Obama fascinates me.

He can give speeches like no one else in a long time. As I've said before, he reminds me a of many a black preacher I heard growing up. He's a black man that seems to appeal beyond African Americans to persons from various walks of life and states that have low concentrations of African Americans.

But he also troubles me.

Not in some sinister way, but in the way Centrist, including a few Republicans are falling in love with him. He seems to be picking up independents in the same way that John McCain is. In fact, the Illinois Senator is looked at in the same way as the Senator from Arizona, someone that can attract people from the other party. However, as far as I can tell, and I repeat, as I far as I know, while Mr. Obama's cross party appeal is big on style and short on substance, while Mr. McCain is the opposite.

Obama has one of the more liberal records in the Senate. In some case, that's not a big deal. McCain is far more conservative than people assume. What is different is that McCain has reached out to the other side at the risk of offending the GOP base. He was part of the "Gang of 14." He reached out to Sen. Ted Kennedy, liberal icon/archenemy to craft an immigration deal that brought the wrath of many on the hard right. Many in the base don't like him because time and time again he has gone his own way.

Froma Harrop explains:

He had the fiscal discipline to vote against the Bush tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, and the decency to complain that they unfairly favored the rich. He's OK on the environment, concerned over global warming and against oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He supported tighter fuel-economy standards and opposes torture. John McCain is not an embarrassment.

Then there is Obama. David Brooks offers his record:

Does The Changemaker have the guts to take on the special interests in his own party — the trial lawyers, the teachers’ unions, the AARP?

The Gang of 14 created bipartisan unity on judges, but Obama sat it out. Kennedy and McCain created a bipartisan deal on immigration. Obama opted out of the parts that displeased the unions. Sixty-eight senators supported a bipartisan deal on FISA. Obama voted no. And if he were president now, how would the High Deacon of Unity heal the breach that split the House last week?

Now, McCain could back away from his maverick persona as he has done on some occasions and that could spell trouble come November. But the thing is, McCain at least has a record of making his party's base mad for not always being the loyal solider. Obama hasn't done that.

In recent blog entry, my fellow blogger, Jeremy Dibbell wrote about seeing Obama in Boston. He really like the candidate and he explains what it was like to see the Senator:

Was it worth it? You bet. It's not every day that one has the opportunity to hear (and spottily see) the governor, two senators, a presidential candidate and 10,000 friends, all ready for a new kind of politics, a new way of doing things, and a new vision for America.

Maybe Jeremy sees something I don't, but it's hard to see how Obama will do things differently. Don't get me wrong; even though I am a Republican, I would like to believe Obama could bring about a politics of unity instead of one of division. But I do wonder if Obama is the centrist hope. His actions don't seem to live up to his words.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

McCain's Decent Conservatism

As I was coming home tonight, I listened to some of John McCain's victory speech after winning today's Potomac Primaries. I found the speech interesting, because it seems to offer a window into John McCain's philosophy and character. I could be totally wrong, but he seems to offer a more decent and civil conservatism that is far different from the stuff we are used to hearing.

He does go after the Democrats, but he seems to express what is wrong with their ideas instead of saying that they are evil. He expresses a desire for small government, stating that government isn't the answer to every problem, but without all the anti-government rhetoric. He is willing to listen to those who disagree with him.

There is no talk about "family values" or other hot button issues.

This is a face of the GOP that I think many people would like to see; a party that is dedicated to small and efficient government, one that is strong on defense and willing to work with the opposition for the common good. This is a message that can reach across party lines and attract independents.

McCain is far from perfect. His more tempered brand of conservatism might be too little too late after eight years of a disastrous Republican presidency. But at least for tonight, I saw a Republican and conservative that I could be proud of.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

McCain, the American Sarkozy?

John Fund of the Wall Street Journal, offers up a very good reason why John McCain could win in November and it's because he is appealing to independents and Democrats. That might seem strange, since Obama-fever, but Fund explains:

How could that be? The answer is that the same maverick streak and occasional departures from conservative orthodoxy that make conservatives queasy have the opposite effect on independents and even some Democrats. Mr. McCain's favorable numbers with independents exceed those of Barack Obama, who has emphasized his desire to work across party lines.

The self professed establishment of the GOP, the Limbaughs, Coulters and Hannitys think that to win it is important to be as right wing as one can be. They don't seem so concerned of the fact that they only represent a small faction of electorate.

Fund notes that only McCain can make inroads into the so-called "Blue States" and also hold the "Red States."

Fund then makes the case that McCain is the American version of Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President. His predecessor, Jacques Chircac was very unpopular and the Socialist candidate was offering change. Here is what Fund says:

In some ways Mr. McCain resembles Nicolas Sarkozy, the French conservative who won last year's presidential election even though the retiring president, Jacques Chirac, was unpopular and a member of his own party. "Like Sarko, who was of Chirac's party but not of Chirac, America's swing voters have intuited over the years that there is little love lost between McCain and George Bush," says the blog Race42008.

Mr. Sarkozy was able to convince a majority of French voters that he represented real change that would improve conditions, while his socialist rival, Segolene Royal, represented risky change that could make matters worse. That is precisely the challenge Mr. McCain faces this year against Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.

I tend agree with the viewpoint. Of course, anything can happen, but McCain has a better shot at the White House because he appeals to people beyond the Republican base.

In short, it comes down to doing the math.

If Romney won the nomination, you would have probably have an energized base, but that's it. Independents would not vote for him and neither would Democrats. The GOP is too weak at this point to rely only on the hard right. McCain still has an allure with independents and Democrats and could swing them over to the GOP.

Why do people like Rush Limbuagh not see this?

Maybe because they are too busy listening to the sound of their own voice.

Or flunked math.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Romney:To Thine Ownself Be True

Howard Fineman has an excellent piece on the folly that was Mitt Romney's campaign.

The thing is, if he had ran as the fiscal conservative , social moderate that he did in the past, he might have been a contender. I certainly would have considered him.

But his willingness to throw gays under the bus in order to get the GOP nomination made him untouchable for me and probably for many other moderates who might have liked his managerial experience.

But he gave up trying to woo moderates and independents and instead decided to run for President of the Republican party instead of the United States.

Last December, I visited the Sloan Museum in my hometown of Flint, Michigan. There was an exhibit on the struggle to get a fair housing ordinance passed, a law that would outlaw racist practices that kept blacks from living in predominantly white areas. Demonstations took place on the lawn of city hall. In one photo, then Michigan Governor George Romney, Mitt's dad, was chatting with the Mayor of Flint. He was in favor of the fair housing ordinance and spoke in support.

Goerge Romney had courage. He was a popular governor and reminds us of a time when Republicans stood for fairness.

I have to think that somewhere out there George Romney has to be disspointed at his son's lack of courage.