Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Goldwater Mirage

David Frum has an excellent essay on the "Goldwater Myth." He explains the myth this way:

In 1964, after years of watered down politics, Republicans turned to a true conservative, Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater. Yes, Goldwater lost badly. But in losing, he bequeathed conservatives a national organization – and a new champion, Ronald Reagan. Goldwater’s defeat opened the way to Reagan’s ultimate triumph and the conservative ascendancy of the 1980s and 1990s.

This (the myth continues) is the history we need to repeat. If we can just find the right messenger in 2012, the message that worked for Reagan will work again. And even if we cannot find the right messenger, losing on principle in 2012 will open the way to a more glorious victory in 2016.

Frum thinks this myth, will complicate or block any reform that should take place within American conservatism. In essence, it gives justifies the GOP to nominate someone who might be considered a "true conservative," but that is an all around terrible candidate. Maybe someone like Sarah Palin, who happens to lead the pack for the likely 2012 candidates for the Republican nomination. The end result would be a further damaged GOP and a stronger and seemingly invincible Democratic party.

Frum explains what really happened in 1964:

What happened in 1964 was an unredeemed and unmitigated catastrophe for Republicans and conservatives. The success that followed 16 years later was a matter of happenstance, not of strategy. That’s the real lesson of 1964, and it is the lesson that conservatives need most to take to heart today.

1964 was always bound to be a Democratic year. The difference between Barry Goldwater’s 38.5% candidacy and the 44% or 45% that might have been won by a Nelson Rockefeller or a William Scranton was the effect on down-ballot races.

Republicans lost 36 seats in the House of Representatives in 1964, giving Democrats the biggest majority in the House any party has enjoyed since the end of World War II. Republicans dropped 2 seats in the Senate, yielding a Democratic majority of 68-32, again the most lopsided standing in any election from the war to the present day.

This huge congressional majority - call it the Goldwater majority - liberated President Johnson from any dependence on conservative southern Democrats. In 1964, only 46 Senate Democrats voted for the great Civil Rights Act; 21 opposed. Without Republican support, the Act would not have passed. (And indeed while 68% of Senate Democrats voted for the Act, 81% of Senate Republicans did.)

While dependent on southern Democrats, President Johnson had to develop a careful, pragmatic domestic agenda that balanced zigs to the right (in 1964, Congress passed the first across the board income tax cut since the 1920s) with zags to the left (the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 which created Head Start among other less successful programs).

Then came the Republican debacle of November 1964. Goldwater's overwhelming defeat invited a tsunami of liberal activism. The 89th Congress elected in 1964 enacted both Medicaid and Medicare. It passed a new immigration law, opening the way to a surge of 40 million newcomers, the overwhelming majority of them from poor Third World countries. It dramatically expanded welfare eligibility and other anti-poverty programs that together transformed the urban poor of the 1950s into the urban underclass of the 1970s and 1980s.

So, the disaster that was 1964 led to a liberalism that was unchecked and created policy that were disasters. Frum notes that if Goldwater had not been the Republican nominee in '64, but it was some less "pure" like a Nelson Rockefeller, the GOP would have still loss the White House, but they might have held on their numbers in Congress, which might have result in legislation that was not as wildly liberal.

In closing Frum says that the GOP needs to nominate someone that can appeal to the whole country. I think that is his way of saying, they need someone that can do more than excite the base or represent "happy meal conservatism." The reason, being that they need a strong candidate at the top who can help the Republicans win down ballot:

As the next presidential cycle begins, our priority should be to identify presidential candidates who can run strongly in every region of the country – not because we expect to win every region of the country, but because we want to help elect Republican congressional candidates in every region of the country. Our present strategy is one that is paving the way not merely to another defeat at the presidential level, but to a further shriveling of our congressional party –and an utterly unconstrained Obama second term that will make LBJ’s ascendancy look moderate and humble in comparison.

That is something that the GOP needs to consider as we prepare for 2012. As we can see, Obama is not leading as the moderate that he presented himself to be; he is running to the left. The GOP can either find a candidate that will present an alternative vision of governing, one that can appeal to moderates and independents and call also help candidates in congressional races, or they can look for a conservative "savior" who will lose spectacularly and give Obama and the Democrats a stronger majority that will make what is going on now seem like a picnic.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Future of the GOP is in Utah.

I think the future of the Republican Party lies in the states. It will be the governors leading the way. There is one governor out there that I do think represents the future of the GOP if party leaders are wise enough to listen.

No, I am not talking about Bobby Jindal.

I am talking about Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, who is a conservative that actually lives and works outside the conservative cocoon. From an interview in Politico, here is his take on the stimulus:

It’s easy to criticize the bill and if you don’t like it, you don’t have to take the money. It’s pretty simple.

I guess in hindsight we can all say that there were some fundamental flaws with it. It probably wasn’t large enough and, number two, there probably wasn’t enough stimulus effect. For example, a payroll tax exemption or maybe even a cut in the corporate tax…for small and medium-sized businesses for three years, for example.

We will take the money...I’m not sure it’s the stimulus money that will necessarily allow the economy to recover…It will help to fortify our budgets, frankly, to ensure that there isn’t as much backsliding in the areas of education and healthcare, for example. But economic recovery must be earned. And it will be earned by entrepreneurs and it will be earned by small businesses.

His take on free trade and the "Buy American" rhetoric coming from the Democrats:

That’s shades of Smoot-Hawley, 1931…When America closes its doors, so does everybody else. We are the primary engine of growth in the world and we are the only beacon of free trade left, and open markets.

His views on the current state of the GOP:

...we will be irrelevant as a party until we become the party of solutions and until we become the party of preeminence.

Huntsman has come out in favor of civil unions for same-sex couples and is very pro-environment.

Huntsman hits all the right notes for a vibrant 21-century conservatism: seeing government as a needed part of society but not the end all and be all, believing in entrpenuership and free trade and supporting the environment and the right for all Americans to live in freedom.

Listen to Jindal's speech this morning, what I heard was a conservatism of the past- where government was seen as an impediment. As David Brooks has said, people want the government to do something during these tense times, so the argument between liberals and conservatives has to be how government can help and how much of a role should it have.

Rush can have Jindal, my heart is with Huntsman.

The Buck Stops...Over There

A few years ago, I went to a local car dealer to purchase a car. It was a slightly used Volkswagen Jetta diesel. I loved the car. I ended up purchasing the car on a six-year loan. (Yes, I said six years.) At the time I was working in a call center and part time in a church. I knew in my mind the church job was shaky, but I didn't think about it.

A month later, I lost that church job, thereby making my salary tighter. Then, a year after I got the car, I lost my other job. Through sheer luck, I never did skip a car payment, even though I went through two bouts of unemployment.

In 2007, my partner Daniel and I went looking for a house. Now, Daniel is a financial wiz. His plan was to get a house that one of us could afford if, the other lost their job. Daniel was thinking ahead and making sure that we had a house that was just enough and not going to be a burden on us if fortunes change.

These two lessons serve as a reminder of how we can and have acted in the years leading up to the financial crisis. And yes, while the bulk of the blame has to go to the banks and regulators, the common guy does have to bear some of the blame as well.

Our society is filled with wants and many of crave these things. That's not necessarily a bad thing. But the thing is, we don't always think about the cost of trying to get these things and maintain them. Yes, having that new car or new house is great. But how will we pay for it? Like me getting that Jetta, we don't always think about the consequences.

But there are some who think that the common person doesn't need to be blamed. This is what Matthew Yglesias says:

When someone applies for a mortgage, there are two parties to the transaction. On one side of it is a teacher or a blogger or an electrician or a lawyer or a nurse or a guy who manages a Home Depot. On the side is a guy who, for a living, as a professional, works in the “deciding on what terms to offer people mortgages” business who works, for a living, at a financial services business. Businesses like that got in the habit of making loans with little regard to actual prospects for long-term payment on the theory that since house prices were rising, the borrower could always sell or refinance. That, to repeat, wasn’t the judgment of electricians and store managers; it was the judgment of people who were professional mortgage-offerers. They, in turn, were being lax in part because they were finding it very easy to sell the mortgages off as securities. And it was easy to sell the mortgages as securities irregardless of their quality, because big sophisticated financial services firms devised tactics for slicing and dicing the securities into packages that could be easily resold. Those packages could, in turn, be easily resold because they had high ratings from the bond agencies. These ratings were based on models which held that a nationwide decline in housing prices was impossible. The ratings agencies and the modeling firms were, in turn, regulated by the U.S. government. And in addition to the formal regulatory agencies, there are a variety of public officials—the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, the President, the Secretary of the Treasury—who have a kind of generalized responsibility for oversight of the economy. Beyond the political system, the American media offers extensive coverage of business and real estate.

There really is plenty of blame to go around here. But I just don’t see how more than a tiny fraction of it could possible adhere to our electrician or teacher or secretary who’s decided, basically, that the financial services professionals and government regulators know what they’re doing. Now could she have known better? Sure. She could have been reading Dean Baker and Paul Krugman and others. The idea that this lending was all being undertaken on a false premise that a nationwide housing bust was impossible wasn’t a highly guarded secret. I was, for example, familiar with the chart above and with the analysis suggesting that a bust was, in fact, likely. And I believed that analysis. But at the same time, I write about U.S. public policy debates for a living. If there’s a dissident line of thinking that, despite its general unpopularity, is popular among left-of-center economists—well, that’s the kind of thing I know a lot about. But our nurse? Why would she know?

So, the electrican or the nurse isn't responsible to understand all these things. Now, yes, people have been suckered by mortage services. That's wrong. But I think Meagan McArdle is up to something when she counters that the nurse or electrician might not know a whole lot about economics, but does understand their own situation:

Who knows more about your future income prospects: you, or a bank? Who knows more about your budgeting skills: you, or a bank? Who knows more about your health, personal habits, and home maintenance skills? Who knows better whether you're likely to move two years after buying for a boyfriend or an employer? Are bankers somehow more aware than ordinary Americans that recessions happen, companies fold, people lose their jobs?

Of course, falling house prices make things harder because you can't sell or refinance your way to stability. But unless you just suddenly lost your job--in which case, you probably can't be helped by a workout, because you don't have any income--then it's not reasonable to say that all the information was on the banking side. People knew a lot. They just chose not to think about it. (Emphasis mine)

When I bought that car, I chose not to think about the future. Yes, the loan officer knew a lot more about financing than I did, but I knew that my economic prospects were tenuous; but I chose to ignore them.

A while back, I asked my partner why people got into these odd loans like adjustable rate mortages. His response was that people thought that they would get that job promotion or better paying job and that by the time the loan reset, they would be making money.

You don't need to be a Paul Krugman to understand if something is out of your price range. Just because a bank offers you a large loan, doesn't mean you should take it.

Clearly banks have the lions share of the blame. Clearly, government fell down on the job in regulating banks. Legislation can take care of these problems. But you and I also have a responsibility to be wise with our money, to buy what we can truly afford and not hope to afford, to be able to say 'no' to that car or house.

That's not an easy thing because we as a culture are used to being told we can do anything. But somewhere along the line, we have to learn prudence again.

As my partner's dearly departed mother used to say, you can have anything you want, but you have to be willing to pay the price.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Join Us or Die

When Michael Steele was chosen as the Chair of the Republican National Committee, I was pleased to see someone who had said they wanted to reach out and include moderates at the GOP table.

And then you hear something like this:
This one passed unnoticed last night, but it’s definitely noteworthy — yet another measure of the degree to which the Republican Party has bet all its chips on opposing the stimulus package.

On Fox News, Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele said he was open to withholding RNC funds from the three GOP Senators who backed President Obama’s stimulus package...

Speaking of Senators Arlen Specter, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, Steele said that the Senators were likely to face primaries as a result of their vote for the stimulus bill.

Then Steele was asked by Fox’s Neil Cavuto: “Will you, as RNC head, recommend no RNC funds being provided to help them?”

Steele confirmed that he would “talk to the state parties about.” When pressed on whether he was open to it, Steele said: “Oh, yes, I`m always open to everything, baby, absolutely.”

So, I guess that inclusion of moderates only matters if they vote the right way all the time.

I find this maddening. I didn't agree with the stimulus bill, but I also don't think that the three Senators should be punished simply because they decided to work with the Democrats. As usual, the GOP risks eating their own because of a representative didn't toe the line and giving seats over to the Democrats.

And the GOP "death spiral" continues...

Monday, February 23, 2009

"Onlyforward," Indeed

I was checking out Rebuild the Party, an effort to help reshape the GOP and saw this message from a person whose online name is "Onlyforward." I've highlighted some sections that I think are important:

Many years back I voted for Reagan and Bush 1. This year I spent election day making phone calls to get out the vote for Obama. The Republicans have lost me as a voter until they make major changes to the party, so here's my take

1) Can the negativity. As a PA (Pennsylvania?) voter, I got tons of mail telling me to vote for Barack Obama- he'll lower my taxes, he'll help uninsured people, he'll bring me a moon full of green cheese. I got tons of mail telling me not to vote for Obama because he was a secret Muslim socialist terrorist. I'm not really sure who the other guy in the election was- I never heard anything about him or his policies.

Folks, the divide and conquer, get out the base and fearmonger your way to 50.1% of the vote method is *dead*. It should have died after the vile attacks on Senator McCain's family in the 2000 SC primary, but for some odd reason McCain decided to pal around with the same guys who slandered his adopted daughter. I have two adopted kids who look a lot like Bridget- why would I *ever* vote for a candidate from a party that would do that?

Obama offered something positive. You might not like what he offered, but at least he put it out there. McCain ran on nothing but “Don’t vote for the scary guy”

2) Run on ideas, not personalities.
I hear lots of talk about Palin in 2012, Jindal in 2012, yet nowhere do I hear a discussion of what they believe in. The Republican party used to be a party of ideas. There’s a great heritage of conservative thought from the early days of Buckley and Goldwater. What happened? We’ve let Bush pervert the idea of conservatism to the point where a guy who runs up a huge federal deficit, creates badly designed massive federal programs like the Medicare drug benefit and who follows a highly interventionist foreign policy is considered a conservative. Hunh? If I want an enormous federal government I’ll vote Democratic- at least they have a clue how to run it.

3) Ignore Rush Limbaugh, Hannity and the theocrats when it comes to those ideas. Running on “We hate gays, we hate abortions, we hate sex ed, we hate stem cell research, we hate evolution, we hate educated elitists” ticket sounds great when you look at turning out the ~30% of the electorate that’s firmly in the Dark Ages, but the rest of the world has moved on, including most of the young voters. Yes, I know abortion is the hot button item- but maybe we could spend a bit of that energy coming up with sane policies to reduce teen pregnancy, to encourage adoption and to help young mothers? Hint- the rest of the first world does this, and they have lower abortion rates than we do.

Drop the gay thing entirely. This is a long term massive loser- young voters simply don’t care about this, and in 20-30 years you’re going to look like the folks who argued for Virginia in Loving v. Virginia.

4) Start working slowly and quietly, but *now*. When the democrats put up stuff you don’t like, don’t scream and yell “Socialist!”. Instead, offer a *coherent*, intelligent counterproposal. Work to remove the worst chunks of the legislation, and take credit for killing the ugly pork and overreaches. Do *not* filibuster everything- all this will do is give the Democrats 61 senate seats in 2010.

I’ve got more, but this is too long already, so we can start there.

It's a good start. One hopes Michael Steele is listening.

It's the Message, Not the Medium

Meagan McCain, the daughter of Senator John McCain, has a worthwile article on how the GOP doesn't get the Internet. It's not that Republicans don't use things like Twitter or Facebook. Here is what she has to sat about the website for Rebuild the Party, a group trying to change the GOP:

Although Rebuild the Party is an interesting attempt to reestablish the party's image-and communicating the reasons why one should join-using the Internet, the website is about as provocative as a blue suit, white shirt, and red tie. At the time that I write this, the video on the homepage features various individuals, most of them I would guess between the ages of fifty and sixty, explaining why they consider themselves Republicans. Had I still been an independent, there is nothing about this website or video that would sway me as a twenty-four year old woman to join the GOP. (I was an Independent until I registered as a Republican for Father's Day last May.)

Also in the article, she interviews Rob Kubasko, a GOP online strategist about how the GOP can use some the latest web 2.0 software, but really has no idea what to use it for:

"I've always been an anomaly in this business, for a lot of reasons," he says. "I only became a Republican in December after being a lifelong independent. I think the problem is that we just haven't been able to get many Republicans to obliterate the box they've been working in for years. But we have to understand what drives success. In some ways we continue to put the cart before the horse. Technology does not drive success. Message (especially a well crafted one) drives success."

Take Twitter, for example. "So many Republicans now want to get on Twitter because they know it's 'cool,'" Rob continues. "But few are taking the time to really think about what they should use it for. When that happens, you get far too many 'I'm sitting on the tarmac waiting for my plane to take off' tweets. That's when you just further become part of the joke and not the solution."

What that means is that Republicans need to come up with a good message. And from the looks of it, we have not done that. Politico, reports today that the GOP is dusting off plans from the Clinton era. So, the GOP looking to be the party of 1994, not 2009.

An article in today's Los Angeles Times talks about how the California GOP is trying to find a way to reach out, but the fact is, they are still stuck in the same box. The main theme of their state convention was hating Gov. Arnold Schawrzenegger for daring to raise taxes to fix the state's budget shortfall.

As a lover of web 2.0, I do think the GOP needs to use such tools. However, unless the party is willing to come up with and tolerate new ideas, it doesn't really matter how many "tweets" you post.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Two Moderate GOP Groups Team Up

From the Hill Blog:

The Republican Majority for Choice recently announced plans to form partnerships with the WISH List - Women in the House and Senate - and with other groups who share the ideals of limited government intrusion and a commitment to the core conservative fiscal policy that once made the GOP so strong. Enthusiasm for these efforts from Republicans across the country was overwhelming. Consistent in their support was an understanding that the GOP cannot survive as a regional Party driven mainly by divisive wedge issues.

The last election showed us what happens when the GOP abandons its core agenda of smaller government, fiscal responsibility and individual freedom. In suburbs across the country, voters who the GOP once relied on chose to support Democratic candidates. A recent study by Muhlenberg College’s Institute of Public Opinion conducted in the key swing state of Pennsylvania showed GOP voters were defecting in record numbers. Sixty-seven percent of those who switched in the last election self-describe as in favor reproductive rights. Fifty-three percent said the Party had become too extreme in its positions and one third supported the sentiment they left the party because of the influence of the religious right on the GOP’s social positions. If the GOP does not change and become a true big tent these voters will not be coming back.

Social fundamentalists who criticize RMC for creating partnerships to promote a broader common-sense agenda also seem to think these defections are good. They have failed to connect the dots — moderates in important swing states left the GOP and the GOP lost elections. Demanding 100% adherence to an extreme single issue agenda seems more important to them than the future success of the GOP. It’s this attitude that will further marginalize the Republican Party and relegate us to a permanent minority.

Despite these nay-sayers we remain optimistic that a true big tent GOP is within reach. We know through our own polling that 81% of Republican voters support a GOP Platform that says we can agree to disagree on social issues. New leadership at the Party, the NRCC and NRSC seem to recognize the vital role of moderate Republicans in winning elections. More importantly, they seem to understand that the GOP must focus on core fiscal conservative values and NOT divisive wedge issues to gain back the trust of voters.

H/T: Real Republican Majority Blog

Can We Stop Having Conversations About Race?

Every so often, I have been part of a "discussion" on race. Every time I hear this, I start to shudder, because I know where this is all leading and how it will end. We all get together and there are a few speakers. A black person will talk about how unfair life has been for them and a white person will talk about their white priviledge. The African Americans (and other persons of color) in attendance, are made to feel bad about their lot in life and the things they have to put up with. The whites in attendance have to feel ashamed of being white and in power. There might be a video about the amount of African Americans in poverty of in prison and how that is a result of racism.

At the end of the "talk" we go our separate ways supposedly feeling good about having this time have a frank discussion on race.

But the thing is, we never had a discussion and nothing ever really changed. The discussion has almost alway been "rigged" in that there is one viewpoint that African Americans are supposed to have and one viewpoint that whites are supposed to have. It feels less like an honest conversation and more like a play where we have been handed the lines to speak.

Of course, the reason I am bringing this all up is because of Attorney General Eric Holder's comments this past week about the United States being a "nation of cowards" by not dealing with race. Holder said that the nation "still had not come to grips with its racial past, nor has it been willing to contemplate, in a truly meaningful way, the diverse future it is fated to have."

In some ways, I find this hard to believe. Since the civil right movement, we as a nation have been talking and facing our racial past. When I watched then President-elect Obama speak in Chicago's Grant Park back in November, I saw a multi-cultural audience that reflected America at this moment.

I'm not saying that life is perfect for African Americans. But speaking as an African American, I can say that life for me is a lot better than it was for my father who grew up in the Jim Crow South. Martin Peretz remind us what has changed:

Holder was eight years old half a century ago. The desegregation of schools had barely begun. The "dream" of Martin Luther King, Jr. was still ringing in the people's ears and he had only recently been murdered. Black men and women did not figure in our national politics. Black teenagers did not then reasonably aspire to do well at school -the odds were against them--or hope to graduate, as Holder did, from Columbia University (as Barack Obama also did) and from the Columbia Law School. There were no black generals or managing partners of law firms or presidents of the best institutions of higher learning or CEOs of Fortune 500 companies and not many black people at all in the solid middle class. And almost none in the upper middle class. How many blacks were actually rich or even super-rich? No, America is not racial paradise. But it is more integrated, much more integrated than Great Britain and France which used to disdain our bigoted traditions and habits. No longer, believe me, no longer.

But Holder seems to ignore all of this progress. In some ways, that has become the way many liberals have viewed race: highlighting the shortfalls and ignoring the major progress we have made as a nation. We have a black man in the White House, a house that was built by people that looked like our President who were viewed as nothing more than property. That is something to be proud of.

Yes, there are still problems that persist and racism does still exists, but it is not as pernicious and devastating as it once was. Yes, be vigilant, but for God's sake, be willing to celebrate once in while. As John McWhorter said:

If white people are cowards for not wanting to be called racists, there is a fear as well in people like Holder. It's not pretty to face that black people will excel, like everyone else, under less-than-perfect conditions. This "conversation" would be social history playing out quite perfectly--but history is never that consummately fair. The Civil Rights revolution was close enough to perfect, and Barack Obama's election was even closer. Now, it's time not for a callisthenic "conversation," but for making our way in reality.

History is not perfect. But we have come a long way. Let's be willing to say that.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Choice, Not an Echo

It's not a big shock to anyone that the GOP is in the middle of an identity crisis. After straying from its fiscally conservative roots and losing two national elections in a row, there is a lot of talk about how the GOP should go forward. Some suggest "going back to our roots" which means a method that will please the so-called base. The other is to be willing to be more appealing to a changing America, to tack to the center instead of the far right.

Anyone who has followed me over the years, know that I am lumped in the second group. I do think that the GOP has become to ideologically rigid and has basically told persons of color, moderates and gays to take a hike.

But how does the party change? What does that look like?

There has been a lot of talk that congressional Republicans were wrong to oppose the stimulus package. In the view of many, the GOP was given the tax cuts it wanted, but it walked away, listening Rush Limbaugh instead of the people.

My fellow blogger, Pete Abel, talked about how two Republican governors offer a guide to where the party can go. Mark Sanford, governor of South Carolina, who has criticized the Stimulus comes from a heavily Republican state that is not very urban or diverse, and Charlie Crist, the governor of Flordia who has a diverse state with a robust two party system and state with deep fiscal problems.

He ends with this statement:

I still believe that those who seek GOP reform — specifically, those who seek to reverse the party’s slide into a marginalized, regional, Old-South-centric party — would be well advised to closely study Crist and Schwarzenegger and then initiate a systematic search/recruiting drive for more candidates like them, candidates who can run and win elections among large, diverse, urban populations — candidates who can win such elections because they understand the need to (and how to) moderate/soften/back down from the Old-South, hardline mentality, open their arms, and dance with voters who have a million-plus points of view.

There’s your future. Seize it.

Now, I think Pete has a strong point and I agree with him- to a point.

My problem is that while the GOP does need to moderate away from its hard-right stance, it needs to do so in a way that is not simply aping the Democrats. To quote Barry Goldwater, moderate Republicans need to be a choice, not an echo.

I can understand Crist's as well as Scharzenegger's support for the stimulus on practical matters- both lead large states that are facing major budget issues. But I would be careful in holding up Crist or as I have said earlier, Arlen Specter as an example of what the GOP needs to do. Both made practical judgements, but that does not make for a real policy that will point the way out of the political wilderness. They were both "echoes" for legitimate reasons, but basically accepting a plan that was for the most part a Democratic plan is not going to save the GOP. In this interim period, that might work as we wait for new ideas, but that doesn't make a long term strategy.

Moderate Republicans do believe in reaching across the isle to craft policy, but in reaching across that isle they also need to have ideas and principles to guide them and give them an identity.

I also think some of criticism of the stimulus (which also came from moderate Republicans) was warranted. This bill was passed without care for the growing deficit. Of course, even though that was a true issue, the GOP lost any credibility in making that argument by acting like kids with their parent's credit card for the last eight years.

Conservatives in the GOP are locked into a "no new taxes" position. But moderates can and should pick this issue up and run with it. As Thomas Dewey once said, we can show the Republicans can have a heart and a head when it comes to running the government.

Moderate Republicans need to work on a vision for governing. We need to be a choice not only against the far right in our own party, but against the Democrats as well.

Being an "echo" might make us welcomed among the chattering classes, but it will not provide a future for the GOP.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Thoughts on the Stimulus from a Moderate Republican

Now that the Stimulus Package passed by Congress will be signed into law by President Obama tomorrow, I have a few thoughts I wanted to share from my perspective as a Republican and not just a run-of-the-mill Republican, but a moderate Republican, or so-called "RINO."

My initial thoughts aren't good. I understand and accept the need for a larger role for the government right now. I also think there needs to be something done to jump start the economy. But I don't think the bill passed is what is needed. It's not simply that it's too large, but it seems to be a catch all of every Democratic plan that has not been enacted during the Bush years and even during the "New Democrat" Clinton years.

Any economic stimulus package should do what Travis Johnson has suggested:

  • Bridge the gap for between jobs for unemployed Americans.

  • Keep people in their homes.

  • Help existing businesses survive and provide a stable environment in which new ones can develop.

But that is not what happened here. What passed, seems overly bloated, and that's with the three moderate Republican Senators.

Many of the projects that were funded are important and even necessary (such as Amtrack or high speed rail). But it seems like those are the things that should have been part of an appropriations bill, NOT this bill. In someways, this is a repeat of what the GOP led Congress did in the days and weeks after 9/11, use a national crisis to throw in needless stuff. David Frum has said as much:

After 9/11, President Bush (supported by me, among others) argued that the right way to respond to a terrorist attack from Afghanistan was by overthrowing Saddam Hussein. We offered a complicated explanation for this roundabout response, and for a time the public accepted it. But as the war went wrong, and failed to deliver the promised results, our plan’s credibility collapsed.

Now the Democrats have placed themselves in a similar situation. They are offering an indirect answer to an immediate question. The suspicion arises that they had decided the answer long before the crisis ever materialized—that they are using the crisis as an excuse to do what they had long wished to do anyway, for reasons that they are not stating in full.

But the other thought that has been running in what passes for my mind is how the GOP is to respond to the current era we live in and especially how moderates should respond. As a whole, the GOP is still stuck in the 1980s: offering tax cuts as the solution for what ails us. But when taxes are already low, you need to find a different note. (Of course, in light of the current bill, it looks like the Democrats are stuck in the 1930s, but that's for another post at another time.)

The fact is, with all this debt that the government has run up, as well as the Baby Boomers getting ready to claim their Social Security checks, taxes will go up. Maybe not to what they were in the late 1970s at 70 percent for the top rate, but they will go up. So, the GOP is going to have to find a new plan and a new way to manage the current reality- not live in a time warp. The 1980s were a good time, I was a teen back then, but just like it's silly to try to live like your 15 when you are going on 40, it's silly to pretend that Reagan is still in office.

Part of that answer should come from moderate or Progressive Republicans. But the recent actions of the three moderate Republican Senators, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania are laudable for making a bad bill, well, less bad, it also shows what moderates should not do.

What is troubling about their actions is not that they deigned to cooperate with the Democratic majority. I do think it was good to try to reach out accross the isle. What was troubling is that there was as Ross Douthat said, more of an emphasis on process than there was on policy. Douthat, who isn't fond of GOP moderates, I should add, was correct in saying:

So if the GOP wants, say, $500 billion in tax cuts, the country clearly needs $400 billion in tax cuts - but not a penny more! And if the Democrats want $900 billion in stimulus, then the best possible policy outcome must be ... $800 billion in stimulus! To read this Arlen Specter op-ed, justifying both the stimulus package and the cuts the "gang of moderates" have attempted to impose, is to encounter a mind incapable of thinking about policy in any terms save these: Take what the party in power wants, subtract as much money as you can without infuriating them, vote yes, and declare victory.

Now, being a moderate or progressive Republican myself, I have a lot of respect for Snowe, Collins and Specter. I share many of their views. But Douthat is correct. This form of bipartisanship, this form of moderate Republicanism, was not one that should be aspired to: it reeked of defeatism, instead of pragmatism. It had no vision of it's own; just trying to limit the scope of a Democratic bill.

This is what gives moderates in the GOP a bad name; it makes us look gutless instead of showing vision. Instead of fashioning a conservatism that is forward looking and progressive, moderates look like they are supporting a pale version of Democrats.

This has not always been the case. Moderates in the party tended to have an viewpoint that was all their own and not simply aping the Democrats. Here is what Geoffrey Kabaservice wrote about Thomas Dewey, the Republican governor of New York and GOP Presidential candidate in 1944 and 1948:

Unlike the stalwarts who continued to dominate what little remained of the Republican representation in Congress in the ‘30s and early ‘40s, Dewey believed that the Depression had permanently reshaped the political landscape and that it was insufficient for Republicans simply to denounce the New Deal and hope in vain for the eventual disappearance of the welfare state. As Dewey said in his first gubernatorial address, “There has never been a responsible government which did not have the welfare of its people at heart… anybody who thinks that an attack on the fundamental idea of security and welfare is appealing to people generally is living in the Middle Ages.” As governor, he put forward social programs that included unemployment insurance, sickness and disability benefits, old age pensions, slum clearance, state aid to education (including the creation of the State University of New York), infrastructure projects (particularly highway construction), and pathbreaking anti-discrimination legislation.

Dewey attempted to distinguish his programs from similar Democratic programs by running a government that was acknowledged to be clean, honest, and efficient. His was pay-as-you-go liberalism, as he managed to implement his social programs while cutting taxes, reducing the state debt by over $100 million, and still achieving budget surpluses. He also argued that while Republicans and Democrats might agree on social ends, the parties would differ in their means, with moderate Republicans emphasizing individual freedom and economic incentive over collectivization. However, this relatively sophisticated position inevitably opened Dewey to conservative gripes of “me-tooism” and Democratic claims that he was offering a lesser version of the genuine article.

While some might claim there is a "me-too ism" in Dewey's ideas, they seemed both pragmatic and bold. He was able to provide forward and progressive thinking programs that were within budget and even cut taxes. There is something in Dewey's accomplishments that seem more fearless and ready to move the GOP forward. That is not what you hear in Specter's response.

Moderates have a long and proud history in the GOP and they will rise again. But it has to be with their own ideas and approaches and not simply going along with the Democrats.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Why Being A Gay Republican is not an Oxymoron

Yesterday, I went to a rally. A state Senator was introducing a bill that would allow same sex marriage in the state. Many organizations took part in sponsoring the legislation, including the one that I've been a part of for several years- Log Cabin Republicans, a national organization of gay and lesbian Republicans that are working for the inclusion of gays in the GOP and in the larger society.

Being a gay Republican is not an easy thing. People are constantly asking me how I could be openly gay and a Republican. Travis Johnson, the head of Progressive Republicans asked me to spend a blog post answering that question. So, I will.

I had had some inkling of being gay since I was about 12, but it was when I was in my early 20s that I really started dealing with my sexuality. At the same time, I was also dealing with my political philosophy. I grew up with two staunch Democrats, so I kind of followed their leads. After college, I flirted with socialism. But after a while, I started to believe that goverment didn't always have the best solutions, that the private sector sometimes can do things better than the public sector. I didn't think single-payer government sponsored health care was the best solution to the health care problem in America, though I did think government should have a role. I tended to like people like Jack Kemp, the former congressman and Vice Presidential candidte, who emphasized conservative solutions to helping the poor prospser. More and more, as I was becoming more confortable with my sexuality, I was become more and more comfortable with my budding conservatism.

However, I hesitated initially from joining the GOP because of its social views. But then, I started to get more familiar with Log Cabin Republicans and their fight for equality. It became obvious that I could be a good Republican and be a proud gay man as well.

So, how can I be gay and Republican? Simple: because I am a Republican that is also gay. I believe in many of the GOP principles, such as limited government, low taxes and a strong national defense. I also live as an out gay man who lives with his partner.

Of course, the answer is not that simple. If it was, I wouldn't be writing this. For some on the Left, the whole concept of a gay Republican is one of a sad and self-loathing person. This is what Gene Stone said in the Huffington Post in 2006:

Why would any gay man or woman belong to a party that has stated, over and over, as clearly as can be, without equivocation, that he or she is not welcome?

It's understandable why someone might not choose to be a Democrat. Those brought up in a family or culture where the traditional Republican party values were celebrated, such as smaller government and less taxes, might feel uncomfortable with the Democratic party...

... But why specifically chose a party that loathes you? The answer is hard to fathom. Still, it's hard to avoid the self-hatred issue. Nearly all gay men and women are raised in families where there is little-to-no support for their core identity. So while self-loathing may be an over-used phrase, it's hard for most gays not to at least pass through a stage of wondering how they got that way, and whether it's some form of punishment (particularly for religious gays)--and hating it, and themselves.

There you go: gay Republicans hate themselves. Stone asks why anyone would bother to be a party that doesn't like you? He tells gay Republicans, who he calls "morons", that their efforts to change the GOP is a silly guesture.

Mr. Stone has probably never met a gay Republican, or he is so convinced what a gay Republican is like that he isn't willing to see another viewpoint.

Gay Republicans stay in the GOP because they are Republicans and they will fight for a place at the table. It is our party too, and we will not remain silent. Gay Republicans aren't interested in being liked, we want to be free. It is liberty that is our song. We don't want government telling us who we can or can't marry and we will oppose those who call themselves "conservatives" who try to force goverment to do such a thing.

A common comparison is that of Fanny Lou Hamer and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. That group came to the 1964 Democratic convention demanding to be seated in place of the segregationist delegation from Mississippi. They were not liked by the ruling Democrats in Mississippi because they were a bunch of black folk and white allies who dared to challenge the system. What would have happened had they said that they weren't liked by the powers that be?

If you want to be liked, get a dog. If you want respect, fight for it.

And that is what I do. That is what many gay Republicans do everyday, fight for equality in their party. They work with those straight allies who are still in the party (and they still remain) who see all of us as God's children.

The work to change the GOP is not an easy one, but it is a good fight. What I have learned over time, is that by being a presence, forcing Republican lawmakers to see me and my partner as real human beings, is a powerful statement and it starts to change their minds from being anti-gay to more supportive of who we are. If I wasn't there, then they have no one that can tell them the story, my story.

So that is my story. I believe that one day, the GOP will be a party more open to gays and lesbians. It is my hope. After all, it's my party too.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Introducing Progressive Republicans

Shortly after the November elections, I received a message on Facebook to join a group called Progressive Republicans. I was interested and started to get to know Travis Johnson, the 30-something behind this endeavor. This enterprise is still in its early stages, but Travis has done a lot to get things off the ground. Travis put together list of common principles that sets out the mission of this strange beast called a Progressive Republican. This is what the preamble states:

We are Republicans. Not only in name, but in belief and principle. We are proud to share in the legacy of those who held together the union, ended slavery, and championed civil rights. We gladly continue our party’s old battle against state excess. We uphold its traditional respect for personal liberty, open markets, and strict constitutionalism.

However, as progressive Republicans, we understand our party’s dedication to limited government and individual choice should as a full spectrum commitment, encompassing social as well as economic issues. We champion liberty for markets and men alike.

Travis started a blog with a list of fellow Progressive Republicans who write on various topics. I was asked to take part in this enterprise and I have done so.

The Progressive Republican blog is a good way to peek into a strain of the GOP that has been dormant for far too long. We hope that you will enjoy the blog, feel free to comment and take part in the conversation.

The loss the GOP suffered in November created a narrow opening: a space where people are starting to question past practices and figure out how to be conservatives in a new landscape.

I hope people will take part in this conversation.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Real Work of Bipartisanship

"Bipartisan" has become the word of the day in political life. Actually, I don't think its hold has ever left us. There is something among Americans that we want to see people put aside partisan differences and work together.

Presidential candidates love to talk about how they will come to Washington and create a new environment where people will work together and things will get done.

When George W. Bush became President in 2001, he talked about being a "uniter, not a divider." He said he wanted to bring a new spirit to our political life, citing his time was governor of Texas, where he worked with Democrats to pass meaningful legislation. He came to Washington with a jovial mood and even took to calling people by nicknames. One example of this was his calling the late Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone "Pablo."

But we all know what happened. The President as well the GOP, which then held both houses in Congress, pretty much ran over the Democrats. Bipartisanship got lost pretty fast.

Now, we have a new President who has talked about creating a new kind of politics. So far, though, all is not well among the parties in Washington. President Obama has placed three Republicans in his cabinet, he has met with GOP leaders and even invited some to the White House. What does he get in return? Well, House Republicans voted en masse against the Stimulus Bill. In the Senate, only three Republicans voted the stimulus package, and not without cutting some money from the bill.

Democrats and Obama admirers are quite upset about this. Here President Obama has done so much for Republicans and this is how they treats him.

But the problem here, in my view, is the President Obama is making the same mistake that President Bush made: trying gun for the look and symbolism of bipartisanship, but not really getting at the hard work of bipartianship.

To really be bipartisan means having to find a way to work out a bill in light of the fact that you are dealing with two political parties with very different ideas of how governments should be run. It means that both sides have to learn to give up some cherished ideas and projects to reach a deal. There is a reason they say that making law is like making sausage; it's not pretty.

In a recent opinion piece, Steve Huntley of the Chicago Sun Times notes that Obama was basically trying to do bipartisanship on the cheap. He notes:

Obama has been good on the symbols of reaching across party lines, saying he wanted to hear Republican ideas for stimulus, inviting GOP lawmakers to the White House and traveling to Capitol Hill to meet with the entire Republican House caucus.

But Obama didn't walk the talk. He outsourced the writing of the stimulus bill to the hyper-partisan House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with predictable results. When members of the GOP House caucus complained they were being frozen out of the writing of the bill, he did nothing to persuade Pelosi to include Republican thinking.

The outcome was a bill long on the big-government spending liberals like and short on the kind of investor- and consumer-friendly tax cuts that conservatives want. Rather than serving as a focused strategy of stimulating the economy, the bill unleashed eight years of pent-up Democratic ambitions to expand government. It didn't get a single GOP vote, and 11 fiscally minded Democrats refused to sign on to it.

Now, the GOP are not victims here. And, of course, elections do have consequences. But the thing here is that Obama could have used his chief of staff, Rham Emmanuel to work with congressional Republicans to hammer out a deal. No, it would not be the GOP wish list of tax cuts all the time, but it might have included more conservative ideas that would have brought more Republicans on board.

But instead, Obama let Nancy Pelosi do the heavy lifting. Pelosi has made it known that she isn't interested in working with the GOP and the President should have known that.

Of course, bipartisanship is a two-way street. If the winners have to learn not to be so haughty, then the losers, in this case the Republicans, have to understand that they are not in the driver's seat. That doesn't mean accepting everything that the majority party puts in front of them, but it does mean that they won't get everything they want because of their status.

President Obama, like President Bush before him, has decided to use symbolism as bipartisanship. But such a tactic fools no one and just sours the relationship even more.

Maybe the best, if imperfect example, of bipartisanship has been what the three moderate GOP Senators have done in regards to the Stimulus Bill. Realizing that they aren't the party in charge anymore, they worked with moderate Democrats to work out something that was at least a bit more palatable. In my opinion, the bill is still too bloated, but it is at least not as bad as it was before.

But the thing is, that took hard work. No nice meetings or getting together to watch football. It was probably doing a lot of talking and talking and talking. And it got people cheesed off. Conservative activists see Senators Snowe, Collins and Specter as traitors, liberal activists think they have done "violence" to the bill. But that's politics: in a nation of 300 millions with differing visions of governing you can't please anyone.

I wonder what would have happened if Obama worked with the GOP leaders in the House and Senate to workout a deal. There would have been a lot of yelling, but I think that in the end, there might have been a bill that more Republicans could swallow.

I can only hope that this is not a sign of things to come with the President. I hope that in the future, Obama will be willing to get his hands dirty to work out a deal with the opposition and save the football for another time.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics

The following graph has been getting a lot of play on the web. It was put out by the Office of Speaker Nancy Pelosi:

As you can see, it shows that in comparison to the two most recent recessions, we hae lost a bunch of jobs. The graph has "focused the mind" of some bloggers like Andrew Sullivan:

This graph sure does concentrate the mind and reveals, to my mind, the surrealism of the current GOP. They spent the last eight years spending like FDR in a boom and now they're born again fiscal conservatives?

And Justin Gardner:

One note…I’ve seen some comparing Obama’s selling of the stimulus to Bush’s selling of the Iraq war. While I acknowledge that when Obama talks of dire consequences there is a twinge of Bush in it, I think we can all look to the graph above and see the trouble is real…and that wasn’t the case with Iraq.

But the graph is not telling the whole story. Yes, we have lost a lot of jobs in this recession and when compared to the last two recessions, it looks pretty bad.

However, some information have been left out of this graph. That is, the other two recessions prior to the 1990 recession which were far more severe than the 90-91 recession and the 2000-01 recession.

Justin Fox over at Time
shows the comparisons of the last five recessions. The result is that this recession in on par with the '74-'75 recession and the '81-'82 recession, two very severe recessions.

What do we learn? So far the fall in employment is comparable to that in 1974-1975 and 1981-1982. If the comparison holds, the declines should end within the next four or five months. But we of course have no idea whether the comparison will hold. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

We don't really know how this recession will play itself out. It could make the big recessions in the 70s and 80s, look like nothing. This also doesn't mean that we should not do nothing in light of all this.

That said, the graph tends to use fear to get the public to support the current stimulus plan. Okay, but then show all the info, not just the stuff that will support your argument.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Gone, Baby, Gone?

"To my friends in the Northeast, get ready, baby, it is time to turn it on and work, and work to do what we always do well - and that is win. We are going to win again in the Northeast. We're going to continue to win in the South. We are going to win with a new storm in the Midwest. And we're going to get to the West, we're going to lock it down, and we're going to win there too."
-Michael Steele, Republican National Committee Chair, January 30, 2009.

Many people see the election of Michael Steele as the start of the GOP revivial. I surely hope so. In his acceptance speech, he talked about winning again in the Northeast. Some have hoped this means running candidates that will win in what was once a GOP bastion. One would hope that is what he is talking about. The GOP has basically become a regional party, having stregth only in the South. The hard line focus on social issues have driven people away from the GOP especially in areas like the Northeast. David Frum highlights a recent poll that shows how GOP support has cratered in Pennsylvania. Frum reads from the Mulhenburg College poll:

As recently as May 2006, the Democrats held a 550,000 person lead in party registration in the Keystone State. By November 2008, that lead had grown to 1,200,000.

Yeah, I bolded that 1.2 million number. So, what is causing the GOP to hemorrage in the Keystone State? Well...

Most described themselves as moderate, 37 percent, or liberal, 27 percent -- an obvious contrast to a party overwhelmingly composed of voters who describe themselves as conservative...

...A strong majority of the switchers, 67 percent, also described themselves as in favor of abortion rights...

...Forty-six percent said they were closer to the Democratic Party on taxes, and 38 percent said they were closer to the Democratic Party's position on issues such as gay marriage and abortion and roughly a third agreed with the statement, "The influence of the religious right on the Republican Party's social positions led me to leave the party."

Now those who listen to Rush Limbaugh probably don't give a hoot about those of us who are moderates. Most will say "good riddance." For them, trying to appease "RINOs" would mean become a weak copy of the GOP.

But that doesn't have to be the case. One would have to assume that a lot of these voters supported the elder Bush and even Reagan. These are not wishy-washy people.

If the Republicans want to win back the Northeast, it means running candidates that fit that region of the country. They need to support candidates that might (horrors of horrors) support abortion rights, or gay rights. Social conservatives can run well in the South, but in areas like the Northeast, candidates need to be more moderate.

The question is if Steele can get the RNC to be more flexible and try to win back those moderate voters. I want to be hopeful, but when a majority of Republicans think Sarah Palin is the future of the GOP, one has to wonder.

Time will tell if he ready to represent in the Northeast and elsewhere, because, baby, this is serious.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

...Either Stay Loudly or Leave Loudly

Let me start out by saying that probably no one will read this blog post.

Why do I say that? Because it's about telling my fellow moderate Republicans to stop whining about the state of the party, acting like little kids holding their breath until the party bosses listen to them is something that people don't want to hear.

People would much rather me bitch about how radical the party has become. For some reason, blog posts and op-eds with disenchanted Republicans bemoaning the party get a lot of attention. Writings about how those who are fed up with the way things are and want to change it, get little attention. I've written about this before, with very little effect, so I don't expect any change this time. It is much easier to complain about something, than it is to actually do something.

The focus on my blunt talk today is fellow moderate Sophia Nelson who is basically fed up with the way the GOP treats black folk. I'm with ya there. The GOP has not done much to try to court black voters, and worse still, it has forgotten it's long history of working for civil rights. It was only a generation or two that the GOP got the lion's share of the black vote. This is what Nelson observed at last week's meeting of the Republican National Committee:

What I witnessed last week was far worse than election night 1992, when George H. W. Bush lost the election to Bill Clinton. I’ll never forget that night. I was 24, and I remember standing alone, thinking, “Where are the black and brown people?” Standing there, I hoped that someday in the future, due in part to my efforts, the party of Lincoln would once again become a more diverse and open organization.

I was wrong. Steele is the party chairman, but the party he inherits has not made any progress in terms of its black membership; to witness the level of regression is surreal. What struck me is that I did not see any of the black Republicans with whom I came of age with back in the late '80s and '90s. They were not there to celebrate Steele’s historic win.

A small cadre of black Republicans has worked long and hard since before the Nixon era to keep a committed black presence in the GOP. Most of them have apparently faded away, been driven out or have become Democrats. I know of several examples in each category. All of them were loyal and had much to contribute, but they were not given opportunity to advance within the party. In the end, they got tired.

She goes on to say that Michael Steele and the GOP only have a few years to turn it around for her:

It will be interesting to see if Michael Steele can raise money, win elections and otherwise manage the party, given the demographic challenge he faces within the Republican Party. I hope he succeeds because there is far more at stake than just political wins ands losses. What is at stake is the healthy competition, the checks and balances crucial to the survival of our democratic traditions....

If the GOP does not pull it together by 2012, I will no longer call myself a Republican.

This is where the article caught me up short. It sounds like in many ways, Nelson has already given up. She somehow expects a predominantly white party to all of the sudden pay attention to her.

As Shay over at Booker Rising notes:

I don't get the whining. Isn't it the job of black Republicans - especially those like Ms. Nelson who've worked for Republican politicians - to aggressively promote whatever message and work to achieve whatever change they would like to see? I know she is doing the former, but how is she doing the latter? Work to take control of your party, if you have issues. Too many black Republicans just expect stuff to come easy, without clocking in the time.

It seems to me that if she is sad about the current state of the GOP in relation to African Americans, she might want to get active in the party and fight for change instead of complaining.

It wasn't that long ago, that it was the Democrats that were the party that was hostile to blacks. What changed is that people who cared about diversity were willing to work for change. It was people like Fanny Lou Hamer and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party who basically raised the roof to get a place at the table. Because of their work, the party became more accepting of African Americans.

But Ms. Nelson doesn't want to do the hard work. She expects that the people in charge will (or won't) make the changes needed. The same people like Chip Saltzman (aka "Magic Negro") or Kayton "I didn't know that golf course didn't accept black people" Dawson. Good luck.

If the GOP's message still means something to her, then she should start getting busy. If it doesn't, then don't wait until 2012 to bounce.

The problem with many moderate Republicans is that we have an odd view of how politics work. We think it is a commodity, something that should be tailored to our wishes. It reminds me of the old Burger King commercials, "Have It Your Way."

But that is not how politics or democracy work. I'm sorry, but the democratic system isn't "American Idol." Politics is a physical sport, it requires hard work by YOU. It means working long hours, to make change. And that change can be slow. It can be frustrating. But the fact is, if one wants something to change, they have to work for it. Changing the GOP is not like ordering a hamburger to your liking.

And that is what I get from Ms. Nelson's article; someone that wants to party to change, but isn't interested in investing the time to make change.

Change can come to the GOP. But you got to do more than whine. Either stay loudly or leave loudly.

Remember the Moderates: Thomas Curtis

There has been much news about Michael Steele's ascension to the Chairmanship of the GOP. As the first African American to head the party, there is a hope that the GOP can reach out to African Americans.

Over the last few decades, the GOP has not been known for being forward thinking when it comes to civil rights. But there was a time when the GOP was the party that recieved the lion's share of African American votes and also took the lead in granting civil rights for African Americans.

In a continuing series, Geoffery Kabaservice highlights another moderate Republican, Thomas Curtis from Missouri. Here is a snippet:

What particularly raised anger against him in the Jim Crow state of Missouri, however, was his unswerving advocacy of civil rights for African-Americans. Contrary to much later mythology, civil rights efforts in Congress during the 1950s and early ‘60s were led by Republican moderates like Curtis rather than better known Democratic liberals.

Washington Post reporter Meg Greenfield recalled that when she first arrived in the nation’s capital in the early ‘60s, she gradually discovered that in terms of the political forces at work opposing and defending segregation, “I seemed to have the lineup of players just about completely wrong.” With the Democratic Party heavily dependent on its autocratic Southern chairmen, even the northern liberal Democrats who were most vociferous in their denunciations of Jim Crow were mainly posturing. “At that moment,” Greenfield wrote, “the principal force truly committed to taking immediate action against the kinds of crude racial repression still officially in place seemed to be, of all things, a bunch of Republicans, many of them unknown.” Some were northeasterners with urban constituencies, but “the effort’s most tireless organizers and/or communicants were a few generally conservative midwestern House members, notably Tom Curtis of Missouri.”

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 originated in Curtis’ office in 1962, and it was mainly Republican pressure from Curtis and his fellow Republican Judiciary Committee member William McCulloch of Ohio that forced John F. Kennedy to make his first, hesitant message on civil rights in April 1963. Curtis’ defense of civil rights was rooted partly in the Lincoln tradition of the GOP, but more simply in the belief that civil rights were at the base of the American philosophy of government and Judeo-Christian morality and that their defense was “the most fundamental issue that confronts any government at any time,” as he wrote in 1952.

Read on.

Read the other two installments in the Moderate Republican series.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

A Conservative Take on Health Care Reform

I've told this story a few times, but I will tell it again:

In November of 1996, I fell ill. It started as a flu which became pnuemonia and then a massive infection. The end result was that I was in the hospital for two weeks as they tried to get the infection under control.

At the time, I didn't have health insurance. I was 27 and working for a coffee chain that did provide health care, but when you are working for 6 bucks an hour, paying what seemed to be a large amount for health care seemed out of the question.

What I did have was a plucky nurse practictioner. I was going to a local clinic that worked with low-income communities worked on a sliding fee. The nurse practioner was saw that a I had an astronomical white blood cell count (which means I was fighting the mother of all infections) and decided I needed to be admitted to the hospital. My first thought was how I was going to pay for it. Not to worry, she said, a way would be found.

And a way was found. She was able to get me in contact the Minnesota Department of Human Services and was able to get Medicaid, the federal program for the poor, to pay for a chunk of my hospital stay. I could recover knowing that this was taken care of.

Even though as a Republican, I wince when people start talking about single-payer health care, my illness and how it was paid for taught me two things- that health care is an important issue and that government has to have some role.

The fact is, we need to think about reforming our health care system. Too often though, conservatives have tended to put their heads in the sand on this issue, talking about how we have the best system on earth and about fears of socialized medicine. But ignoring the problem is not an answer. As more and more Americans lose their jobs or see their premiums rise, they are looking for answers and if the GOP doesn't have an answer, they will go to the people who have one-namely the left with its single-payer system.

So, Republicans need to come up with solutions. What are the options?

Jurgen Reinhoudt gives a fairly good rundown of several health care systems in Europe that might give conservatives ideas on how to reform our system. Contrary to popular opinion, not all Euro-health care is single-payer; some use a mixture of private and public incentives to achieve universal health care. It's well worth the read, but I will jump ahead and tell you that the system he favors (as do I) is the Swiss health care system. That system is somewhat similar to what has been done in Massachusetts in that the health care is more consumer-driven than what we have.

We come, then, to the Swiss system. It is a system that deserves the attention of every American interested in market-based health reform. Regina Herzlinger, McPherson Professor of Business Administration at Harvard and the “godmother of consumer-driven healthcare”, wrote in late 2008:

“The country of Switzerland has universal coverage, costs that are 40% lower than ours and that inflate at lower rates, and an excellent health care system in terms of outcomes and resources. The key to their success is that the Swiss system is consumer-driven: consumers buy their own health insurance from more than 90 private health insurance firms. If they cannot afford it, the cantons subsidize it. If they are sick, they pay no more for their health insurance than the well (the Swiss insurers risk-adjust each other). Consumer oversight insures value for the money better than oversight by governments and employers.”

For conservatives, who generally favor market-driven solutions, the Swiss system has achieved a great deal on the demand side, by placing the consumer front and center and getting employers out of the way. Whereas in the U.S., health insurance is commonly tied to employers, and whereas many Americans find it unaffordable to purchase individual health insurance policies (in part due to heavy state regulations), in Switzerland the whole health insurance market revolves around individual insurance policies. Swiss citizens can choose from one of hundreds of reasonably priced, competing insurance plans from dozens of competing health insurers. They may choose a high-deductible plan, a low-deductible plan, or an HMO plan.

In a way, health care is purchased in Switzerland like we purchase auto insurance in the US. People have to buy an isurance plan and if they are not able to afford one, then the state steps in with a subsidy.

Reinhoudt thinks there are drawbacks, namely regulation that requires a basic benefits package and lack of information on doctors and clincs vis a vis performance. While one can frown on regulation (and I do), I think there has to be some regulation in order to help control cost and ensure coverage. I do consider health care to be a business, but in someways it isn't like buying say, auto insurance, but somewhat like a public utility like light and gas. There are publicly traded companies that are providing light and keeping us warm, but they are subject to certain regulations because they are vital to human life. Same goes for health care; it can be a business and it should be, but it is also a common good vital for human life and cant' be totally subjected to the whims of the marketplace.

That said, this was a worthy article and I hope more Republicans read it. We have to come up with a conservative solution to health care or else get ready for single-payer, US-style.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Remember the Moderates: Thomas Dewey

This is the second in a series of articles on New by Geoffrey Kabaservice on this history of moderates in the Republican Party. He focuses on Thomas Dewey, the former Governor of New York and the GOP candidate for President in 1944 and 1948. Here is an excerpt:

Unlike the stalwarts who continued to dominate what little remained of the Republican representation in Congress in the ‘30s and early ‘40s, Dewey believed that the Depression had permanently reshaped the political landscape and that it was insufficient for Republicans simply to denounce the New Deal and hope in vain for the eventual disappearance of the welfare state. As Dewey said in his first gubernatorial address, “There has never been a responsible government which did not have the welfare of its people at heart… anybody who thinks that an attack on the fundamental idea of security and welfare is appealing to people generally is living in the Middle Ages.” As governor, he put forward social programs that included unemployment insurance, sickness and disability benefits, old age pensions, slum clearance, state aid to education (including the creation of the State University of New York), infrastructure projects (particularly highway construction), and pathbreaking anti-discrimination legislation.

Dewey attempted to distinguish his programs from similar Democratic programs by running a government that was acknowledged to be clean, honest, and efficient. His was pay-as-you-go liberalism, as he managed to implement his social programs while cutting taxes, reducing the state debt by over $100 million, and still achieving budget surpluses. He also argued that while Republicans and Democrats might agree on social ends, the parties would differ in their means, with moderate Republicans emphasizing individual freedom and economic incentive over collectivization.

Read more.