Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Gary Johnson 2012?

I remember hearing about former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson about a decade ago and I found him refreshing. He was an iconoclastic Republican that could appeal to folks who would never pull the lever for a Republican. There are several libertarians and heterodox conservatives who are talking up Johnson as a potential 2012 Presidential candidate.

I was initially wary of such a campaign, especially because of his ties to libertarian superstar Ron Paul. But the more I learn about him, the more I think he might be a good dark horse candidate for the GOP in two years.

Why? Because while I don't like some of things Ron Paul stands for, he is willing to "make his own kind of music," something that is becoming increasingly hard to do in the modern Republican Party. I think Johnson could blaze his own trail even more so and also present a more mainstream face to libertarianism. A Johnson candidacy might also bring new people into the GOP, something - for good or for ill - that did happen after Paul's 2008 campaign. He would be a candidate that would be serious about curbing and controlling public spending and maybe create a smaller but active federal government. He would also present a more socially liberal Republicanism, one that is pro-gay. In short, a Johnson campaign could be as transformative to the GOP as Reagan was back in the late 70s and early 80s.

Now, I could be reading too much into this. But I tend to think that a Johnson run may be the best thing that happens to the GOP.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Texas GOP Non-Story

Earlier this week, news came out about some anti-gay planks in the Texas GOP platform. I know that it was all over Facebook and several gay news publications. It was another sign of how bad things are getting in the GOP.

There was just one problem: it wasn't a new story.

As the Dallas Voice writes, these planks have been in the Texas GOP Platform for years and groups like Log Cabin Republicans have worked to get rid of them.

This story has been all over the blogosphere this weekend, after the Texas GOP released its 2010 platform, which was finalized during its state convention two weeks ago in Dallas. Among other things, the platform calls for again making sodomy a crime and for making it a felony to issue a same-sex marriage license. The anti-gay language in the platform has prompted headlines on some blogs comparing Texas to the African nation of Uganda, which sought to impose the death penalty for homosexuality.
But the story is hardly new. This anti-gay language has been in the Texas Republican Party platform for years, and it was unchanged during this year’s convention. We’ve reported extensively on Log Cabin Republicans’ efforts to get the anti-gay language removed, and two years ago, The Dallas Morning News even picked up the story.

In another post, John Wright of the Dallas Voice includes a statement from Rob Schlein, President of the Dallas Chapter of Log Cabin Republicans:

We just noticed that Rob Schlein, president of Log Cabin Republicans of Dallas, has posted a response to the story about the GOP platform on his Facebook page. Schlein’s group has fought, to no avail, to have the anti-gay language removed from the platform in recent years. Here’s what he said:
“This is an article that’s gaining a lot of traction on the internet. I have had a lot of requests asking about it. Although much is not really ‘new’ because it existed in prior platforms, it is being used again as a tool to damage Republican politicians. To my R friends: we need to reform this next time as Democrat activists are using it against us! To my D friends, these planks were put in place by a tiny minority of grassroots activists (among the religious right) and does NOT represent the overall views of the rank and file politician or voter who identifies themselves as Republican. Many politicians claim either to not having read the platform, or will bluntly say they disagree with these planks.”

So, why did something that had been part of the platform for years become a story all over again? Wright blames the herd-like mentality of the media and the blogosphere, but I think there is something else going on: laziness.

This is what we expect from Republicans. We expect Republicans to be hostile to gays, so we just assume that some story about planks in the Texas GOP platform just have to be page one news, even when it happened long ago.

But I think in our laziness, we miss out on the other stories that are going on: we miss out on groups like Log Cabin Republicans that are working to change the platform and have been doing that for years. We miss the Republican Liberty Caucus issuing a statement calling on the state GOP to deal with the anti-gay planks. Heck we miss out on the fact that there are pro-gay Republicans.

Instead, we focus on an old story because, Republicans are all anti-gay bigots.

I'm not saying that we minimize the anti-gay bigotry that does occur in the GOP. But bloggers and reporters alike need to be more intellectually curious and understand that the Republican party is far more complex than they tend to assume.

That, and they need to do some damn fact-checking.

On Dave Weigel

For some reason, the whole dustup over now former Washington Post blogger Dave Weigel's rants on contemporpary conservatism to a liberal email list has been intriguing. I've been of various minds on this issue. First off, I have to agree with Ross Douthat that it seems rather unconscionable for someone to share what were considered private emails to the public. Just because it's on the Internet doesn't mean it's always available for everyone to see.

That said, there is another aspect of this whole issue that has bothered me. It can be summed up in something Andrew Sullivan said regarding Weigel's departure:
A sad day for journalism. Ben Smith claims Dave is a liberal. Not from where I sit. He's a sane libertarian, which means he understood just how completely nuts the conservative movement and Republican party now are.

Weigel more often than not, focused on the more crazier parts of the conservative movement and the Republican party. Of course, they are the more "interesting" parts of the today's GOP, but Weigel seemed to be guilty of something many journalists have done: focus exclusively on a small segment of the party.

Jim Geraghty at National Review says this about Weigel:

From where I sit, he spends too much time writing about fringe figures and trends that are largely irrelevant to national politics (Orly Taitz, Birthers, etc.), but perhaps that’s his genuine fascination and/or what his employers wanted. Righties suspected Dave wanted to spotlight the freakiest and least appealing self-proclaimed “conservatives”; I suspect that at least part of Dave’s mentality was simply, “You have got to hear what this lunatic is saying.”

But Weigel is not alone in this. Many pundits, including Sullivan, tend to focus almost exclusively on the crazies, and ignore anyone that presents a sane view- unless said politician or pundit is being pilloried by the far right.

Back in late May, Mike at the Big Stick wrote about how the wider society wanted to view conservatives. He wrote:

I’ve sparred with my friend Ames over at Submitted to a Candid World for a long time about the tone of voices from both sides. He usually prefers to link to articles at RedState or Fox News clips rather than any kind of reasoned or intelligent conservatives. This is of course by design because Ames is, if nothing else, a loyal soldier for the DNC. He is smart enough to know that if he persuades people that RedState and Glen Beck are the norm for the Right and the sum of all intelligent thought it advances the liberal cause i.e. election wins. He also knows that links to RedState generate the most traffic.
Whenever I’ve pointed out his affinity for bottom-of-the-barrel conservatives his counter-argument is that until the more intelligent conservatives have the audience of Fox News, they are irrelevant. Of course this is a catch-22 scenario because they can only get that kind of audience if smart people listen to them and recommend them to others. The problem is that there’s too much risk involved in that approach. While eventually liberals like Ames might be convinced to entertain well-reasoned conservative positions, the danger is that they might just be persuaded.

Of course, conservativism and the GOP have its share of crazies and they have seemingly grown over the last few years. Contrary to what Sully thinks the Republicans have had to deal with craziness for a long time. But I think that as long as writers like Weigel only focus on the Sarah Palins of the world and miss out on the reform minded folks like Republicans for Environmental Protection, the road to reform within the GOP and wider conservative movement will be damaged.

The Republican Party and conservatism are much more than the Tea Party.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Will Sarah Palin Play in Peoria?

If you listen to some in the media, Sarah Palin has become a kingmaker in the GOP. And she has become a kingmaker, in the GOP. Outside the GOP? Well, that's another story.

I tend to think that the true test of Palin's power will come in November. If I were a betting man, I would say that we will see that Palin is not all that and a bag of chips in the real world.

Greg Sargent sums it up in his post that says it all: Sarah Palin is Toxic.

Commentators keep telling us how influential Sarah Palin's endorsements are, and even if the whole "mama grizzly" meme is clearly overstated, there's no quibbling with the fact that Palin has pull among GOP primary voters.
But the more interesting point to be made about Palin is how toxic she's become among the broader electorate. In fact, buried in the internals of the new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll is an amusing number: A majority see a Palin endorsement as a clear negative.
The poll asked people how they'd respond if a Congressional candidate had various hypothetical attributes. Asked how they'd feel if a candidate were "endorsed by Sarah Palin," the response was....
Enthusiastic about this attribute 8
Comfortable with this attribute 17
Have some reservations about this attribute 15
Very uncomfortable with this attribute 37
So a majority, 52%, reacted negatively. And an astonishing 37 percent would be "very uncomfortable" about a Palin endorsement, more than four times the eight percent who would be "enthusiastic" about it.

I can pretty much tell you that getting an endorsement from Sarah Palin doesn't necessarily want to make vote for said candidate.

I know that Sargent is a liberal blogger, but facts are facts. Palin is not admired outside of Republicanland. Come November, I think Republicans will find out that the former Alaskan governor has not been a help to us at all.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Coming Republican Minority

With all the talk about how Obama is not doing well and that the Democrats are expected to lose seats in November, it's not surprising that there are a lot of Republicans thinking that everything is coming up roses for them. All the talk of a decades-long Democratic majority has dried up and the GOP seems energized by the growing Tea Party movement. The recent wins by Nikki Haley and Tim Scott also show a party that at least seems more acceptable to women and minorities.

But while I believe that the Democrats will lose seats in Congress in the fall, and while I believe it is a good thing to see a woman of Indian-origin and an African American man win in South Carolina, I fear that things are not all well for the party that I have call home. There are serious demographic issues that the Grand Old Party has not dealt with, and if they refuse to do any time soon, they will be in a world of hurt.

Tom Schaller over at Five Thirty Eight reviews a report by Ruy Teixeria about the future of the GOP. Now Teixria is a committed Democrat, but that doesn't discount what he has to say. Schaller did a good job of summarizing the paper and basically says that demographic changes will favor the Democrats and that for the Republican party to survive, it will have to move towards the center. Teixeria's perscription includes:

*Move to the center on social issues. The culture wars may have worked for a while, but shifting demographics make them a loser for the party today and going forward. A more moderate approach would help with Millennials, where the party must close a yawning gap, and with white college graduates, who still lean Republican but just barely. The party also needs to make a breakthrough with Hispanics, and that won’t happen unless it shifts its image toward social tolerance, especially on immigration.

*Pay attention to whites with some college education and to young white working-class voters in general. The GOP’s hold on the white working class is not secure, and if that slips, the party doesn’t have much to build on to form a successful new coalition. That probably also means offering these voters something more than culture war nostrums and antitax jeremiads.

*Another demographic target should be white college graduates, especially those with a four-year degree only. The party has to stop the bleeding in America’s large metropolitan areas, especially in dynamic, growing suburbs. Keeping and extending GOP support among this demographic is key to taking back the suburbs. White college graduates increasingly see the party as too extreme and out of touch.

*In the long run the GOP has to have serious solutions of its own that go beyond cutting taxes. These solutions should use government to address problems but in ways that reflect conservative values and principles. Antigovernment populism is something the party is clearly comfortable with— witness its evolving line of attack on the Obama administration. But it’s likely not enough to just denounce the other side and what they have done or propose to do in populist terms.

In short, the “party of no” has a limited shelf life. That strategy might help the party make significant gains in 2010, but it will not be enough to restore it to a majority status.

Schaller notes that the GOP is not making any of these changes at this time. Of course not.

Republicans are still in denial of what happened in 2006 and 2008. They still tend to think they loss in 2008 because John McCain was too moderate. They also see polls saying that many people favor the draconian immigration law in Arizona and think that being anti-immigrant is the way to go. Because Obama and the Democrats made the mistake of trying to be the second coming of FDR, the Republicans see a chance to regain power without having to change.

The problem is the GOP is not looking long-term. Let's say that a moderate and crafty Democrat becomes the leading candidate in say, 2016. Instead of offering big, expensive New Deal-type programs, he (or she) offers smaller-scale programs such as health care or climate change. If this candidate is able to provide a mix of fiscal conservatism with a social liberalism, AND if this person is able to get the Democratic Congressional Committees to do the same, then you can expect a long term Democratic majority with a liberalism ready for the 21st century.

The strategy for the Republicans has been either by design or by default, to appeal to white, Christians. And while the young Millenials that voted for Obama in droves might not vote in such numbers in 2010 and 2012, as they get older they will vote more and they will vote for the party that believe in inclusion. I can tell you that a party that excludes immigrants is party that won't get the vote of many 20-somethings now and long into the future.

In all this gloom, I think there is are some seeds of hope. The hope is that as America becomes more "brown" and more accepting of gays and lesbians, I think there will be a revival of the GOP's more moderate wing. I just think that if the GOP is subjected to diminishing returns in following their old strategy, there will be those calling and organizing around reform. Think I'm crazy? That's exactly what happened with the Conservative Party in the UK. After dealing with loss after loss, they were forced to change.

It will happen here to the Republicans. It's a question of when and not if.

Immigration and the Rule of Law

While I have supported immigration reform and have long argued that the GOP's anti-immigrant stance will hurt them electorally in the long run, I have always believed that those in this country without going through the proper channels have to respect the rule of law and try to become citizens. I am not for trying to round up all illegal aliens and send them back to their countries of origin. But I do think we have immigration laws for a reason, and even as broken as they are, they need to be respected. This was the reason I supported the immgration policy supported by President Bush that created a path to citizenship, but also made those in the country illegally have to pay a fine. The proposed law both welcomed new immigrants and also upheld the law.

My belief in upholding the rule of law comes from another belief: that to be an American is not simply about paying taxes to the government, but it is about learning about the history (good and bad) of this nation, and learning the ways and customs of the United States. (I'm probably doing a bad job of explaining this, but think of it as orientation class.)

So reading Tim Lee's takedown of those who talk about respecting the law is a bit troubling to me. (Lee talks more on the "rule of law" argument at his own blog.) I do think the case of Eric Balderas is a sad one, and I don't think he should be blamed for something his parents did. It's why I think we need to have immigration reform to allow for someone like Eric to become a citizen without having to leave the only home he knows.

That said, I think Lee tends to paint with too broad a brush those who want the rule of law upheld. He notes:

Balderas's real crime is neither sneaking across the border 15 years ago nor failing to fill out the right paperwork. Rather, his crime is belonging to a nationality that American policy makers have decided is over-represented in this country. And there's a significant constituency for this policy among American voters, some of whom simply believe that there are too many foreigners here. But this viewpoint has little to do with the rule of law. The rule of law doesn't demand that we punish children for the crimes of their parents, or that we punish people for crimes they committed decades ago. And if you demand stricter enforcement of the existing laws while vociferously opposing all proposals to expand the legal channels for coming to this country, then I hope you'll forgive me if I conclude that you don't actually care about people like Eric Balderas.

Now, I get what Lee is trying to say. If you are talking about rule of law, but in the same breath calling any proposal to make reform immigration "amnesty" then yes, one has to question if what bothers them is the color of their skin and maybe their accent. But Lee doesn't make that clear until the last paragraph and seems to portray anyone that does think the rule of law matters as some kind of narrow-minded redneck. I am pro-immigrant and cases like Eric's remind us why we need reform. And we need reform to reform our laws. But we have laws for a reason. As Travis Johnson noted, we have immigration laws to help protect us as a nation from outside threats.

Immigrants who came to the states came here illegally and in violation of the law. That's not a good thing. The answer to this is to reform the law and also find ways to help the immigrants come out of the shadows, own up to their violations (by paying a fine) and them find ways to legally intergrate them into American society.

As President Ford once said, we are a nation of laws and not men. The law should not be an instrument of exclusion as some on the right want it to be, but neither should it be ignored.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Can The Tea Party Play in Peoria?

David Frum comes up with a good analysis of what will probably happen to Republicans come fall. With all the talk about the Tea Party and how it is transforming the GOP, and how they will take back Congress from the Democrats in November, there has been little talk about how "seaworthy" these Tea Party candidates will be when they come face to face with Democrats.

As Frum notes, in states like Illinois, Ohio and New Hampshire, mainstream Republicans are the standardbearers who will probably win their races for the US Senate. In contrast, the Tea Party candidates such as Nevada's Sharon Angle and Kentucky's Rand Paul might have captured the imagination of activists, but so far are not catching fire with the general electorate. Here's a sample:

...Republicans (in New Hampshire, Ohio and Illinois)nominated a range of mainstream candidates. In Illinois they have Mark Kirk – a socially moderate, fiscally conservative member of Congress, who represents the suburbs north of Chicago.

In Ohio, the Republican candidate is Rob Portman, a former US Trade Representative and White House budget chief. Kelly Ayotte is likely to win the Republican primary in New Hampshire. Currently the state's attorney general, she is a mainstream conservative: for lower taxes, against abortion. This is exactly the kind of candidate Republicans ought to nominate, and all three look set to win. Result: two holds and one net gain in the Senate.

But this good news for the mainstream GOP is balanced by the grim tally for Tea Party candidates. Consider another set of races. In Kentucky and Nevada, Tea Party activists won nominations for two of their own: Rand Paul and Sharron Angle. Both have aligned themselves with an array of wild positions. Mrs Angle wants to abolish social security and Medicare and has spoken favourably of armed insurrection against the federal government.

Mr Paul has declared his dislike of laws forbidding businesses to discriminate on grounds of race. He fears that global elites are plotting to abolish the dollar and substitute a new North American currency, "the Amero".

The Tea Party has been a sensation, but only within the GOP. When these candidates come in contact with the real world and with worldy Democratic candidates, we might see that the power of the Tea Party is that of a paper tiger.

Elections have to be won by getting the votes in the center, and when you have people running for office believing in some crackpot theories, you've pretty much lost the middle.

I think come November, we shall see if the Tea Party has any staying power.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Libertarianism for the Rest of Us

Whenever I take one of those political quizes one finds on the Internet, more often than not, I end up in the Libertarian quadrant. I'm not waaay up in the corner, but I am solidly in Libertarianland.

That said, I've always felt a little uncomfortable around most libertarians because at times they seem rather odd. They tend to believe that there is no need for the state at all and seem to believe in some utopia that I don't think could ever exist. Folks like Ron Paul turn me off with his oddball economic theories and his daliances with racist groups.

So, it was a delight to read this article by libertarian scholar Brink Lindsey who makes a case for a more pragmatic libertarianism; one that acknowledges that the real world exists, and try to figure out ways to reform the state and make it more managable rather than hoping it will disappear.

Lindsey lays out in this 2003 article that there are in actuality, two libertarianisms:

The radical libertarian vision starts with an abstract ideal: a polity in which government's sole function is to protect individual rights to life, liberty, and property. A "true" libertarian, in this view, is someone who upholds this ideal as the summum bonum. True libertarians may get their hands dirty in the real world and advocate incremental reforms, and they may even be coy about their long-term hopes, but when pressed they must declare their allegiance to the ideal. Any deviation from the ideal, any support for any extension of government's proper role beyond rights protection, is seen as impure and compromised. Such deviations represent concessions to statism; they "open the door" to relentless and limitless expansion of Leviathan.

Pragmatic libertarianism, on the other hand, starts with the status quo in all its wretched messiness. Reformists share with their radical confreres a moral commitment to the sanctity of individual rights, and a deep appreciation of the fertility of competition and the limits of centralized control. But reformists apply their principles in a very different way: not as blueprints for an ideal society, but as guides to incremental reform. As to the precise outlines of an ideal society they are agnostic or even indifferent. For them the goal is expanding the real-world frontiers of liberty, not spinning utopias.

Pragmatists do not measure a person's libertarianism on the basis of doctrinal arcana, by whether he supports fully privatized roads, for example, or the elimination of compulsory vaccinations even during epidemics, or the repeal of laws against blackmail. That anyone would actually hold such positions, or, worse, use them as litmus tests, strikes the pragmatic libertarian as crankish and bizarre. No, reformist libertarians determine their allies on the basis of the major issues of the day. Does a person support reforming the tax code to shift its focus away from social engineering and toward raising revenue in the least burdensome way possible? Does he support the phasing out of pay-as-you-go public pensions? Does he support measures that would subject the public school monopoly to vigorous competition? Does he support a move away from drug prohibitionism? These are issues that matter, and all those who are willing to join in these causes are welcomed as fellow reformers, not scrutinized for hidden heresies.

If this were the libertarianism that was promoted, if there was a libertarianism interested in not only making government smaller, but smarter, then I would be totally on board.

I tend to believe that a pragmatic libertarianism could be, should be the agenda for a revitalized Republican party. My problem with the Tea Party version of libertarianism is that it tends to be too utopian and not really interested in governing and coming up with solutions. A pragmatic libertarianism would be willing to offer solutions and ways in shrinking government and making it more efficient. Of course, that isn't as sexy as shouting about small government when one has no intention of doing so.

I wish that Mr. Lindsey would give up the hope in a new relationship with liberals and steer the conversation to using the GOP as a vehicle to promote a better libertarianism. I'd sign up for that.

Friday, June 18, 2010

This Execution Will Be Tweeted

Yes, it was in bad taste, but really, should we be surprised? Those of us that have talked about all the glories of social media should not be shocked that a politician used one of these famed devices to tell the world that someone had been executed by the state.

To me, this is the downside of social media: nothing is left private- everything, and I mean everything is out in the open.

I say this as someone that's been using some form of social media for nearly a decade. People have been known to put of some incredibly inappropriate stuff on places such as Facebook.

So yes, what Attorney General Mark Shurtleff did was in bad taste. But am I surprised? In an age when we expect politicians to keep us informed all the time, no- I'm not surprised at all.

h/t: James Joyner

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Big Me

As I've been listening all the anger directed at BP and the federal government because of the Gulf Oil Spill, I can't help but feel a tad bit annoyed.

I'm not as annoyed by the oil giant, or even the feds. Yes, BP was responsible, so I'm not leaving them off the hook. As for the feds, well last I checked the president doesn't have special powers to blow back the oil, or catch BP executives with his lasso of truth ala Wonder Woman. The federal government can only do so much.

No, what I'm upset about is that someone else is getting away scott free during this tragedy.

It's us.

As Americans we love to add the word, "big" to something we don't like: such as, Big Oil or Big Government. Well, I think it's time to add another one: Big Me.

Americans like their freedom and like to drive big cars. We want to drive big trucks and throaty cars and we want to do this all on the cheapest gas possible.

As we see the oil spill out into the Gulf of Mexico, I think we need to be reminded that this environmental disaster is as much our problem as it is the problem of BP. As much as might want to hurl BP execs into the deep to stop the spill, we might want to look at ourselves as well: the oil companies were only doing our bidding.

It is our thirst for oil that has prodded oil companies like BP to go out into the deep, hard place to extract oil to make sure our big cars have enough gas to get us going. It is our thirst that makes us beholden to regime that have what we want but don't like us very much: the Venezeulas, the Russias and the Irans.

Back in 2008, when gas reached well over $4 a gallon, Americans complained about the "high cost of gas" and politicians accused the oil companies of gouging the American public. We had a right to cheap gas, dammit.

For a while, Americans started buying more fuel efficient cars and even riding more mass transit. But when oil went back down the economy picked up again we went back to our old ways.

In the days following the spill, there have been calls for banning offshore oil drilling and more emphasis on alternative fuels. While some bans might be needed and alternatives to oil are needed, they won't solve the main problem at this time. Also "drill, baby, drill" is also not an efficient solution to dealing with Big Me. None of these can make a difference, because we are not focused on consumption and conservation of oil. We use a lot of oil because of it's relatively cheap. The problem of Big Me is a problem of not wanting make sacrifices to not only better the environment, but to enhance our national security and leave a better world for our children.

Which is why Americans have to learn to consume less fuel. That won't come from Washington offering edicts to automakers to make their fleets more efficient. Consumers will just ignore all those fuel-sipping cars in favor of the gas-guzzlers.

What has to be done is to make the cost of fuel more expensive, and that can only be done by raising the gas tax.

Republicans are supposed to abhor any and all taxes, but I am in favor of a gas tax because it will lay out to Americans the cost of oil and the cost of our choices.

The reason Europeans tend to drive smaller cars is not because they are more rabid environmentalists; it's because their governments have imposed taxes on gas making it more expensive and nudging Europeans in making choices that favor conservation over consumption. People aren't banned from buying a big car, but they will pay more in fuel costs for their choice: as someone once said, you are free to do anything, but you should be willing to pay the price.

We haven't raised the federal gas tax since 1993. No sane politician wants to raise taxes, but raising the gas tax will not only help us to consume less but it will allow us to fix our aging infastructure and save us money in car repairs.

Big Oil and Big Government have their hand in this tragedy, but we need to focus just as much on Big Me to find ways to help us use less oil and to atone for our own role in this mess.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

How Hungry Are Republicans?

Peter Bienart criticizes Republicans for picking candidates in last night's primaries that will face uphill battles come November:
For the Republican Party, Tuesday's primaries contain good news and bad news. The good news: Republicans are angry—angry at Barack Obama, angry at the national debt, even angry at some of the leaders of their own party. Anger is a good motivator, and in midterm elections, where turnout is small, a little motivation goes a long way. The bad news: Republicans are not hungry. They're not willing to submerge their anger for the sake of winning elections. They either don't think they need to compromise their ideological purity to beat Democrats this fall or they don't care. In either case, they may be blowing their shot at a midterm landslide.

I believe Bienart is right of course. As much celebrating there has been about the wins of folks like Sharon Angle and Carly Fiorina, and as much talk as there has been about how Sarah Palin is the new kingmaker in the GOP, the real test will come in the fall when these candidates will face Democratic opponents who have a trick or two up their sleeve and may very well eat these newbies for lunch.

But there remains a question. Bienart talks about "Republicans" blowing it. But who are these Republicans? In many cases, the GOP establishment has put up candidates that tend to be appealing to independents and moderates only to have them slapped down by groups like the Tea Party. Dave Weigel explains this in a conversation he had with Democratic Senator Bob Menendez:
I asked where Democrats could take this argument, exactly, if Angle and Paul simply closed off access to the national media. "Well, we're happy to engage them because they're out of the mainstream," he said. "Nevada is not an isolated incident. In Florida the establishment candidate was forced out of the party, in Kentucky the Republicans nominate a candidate who questions the Civil Rights Act. They forced out the moderate candidate in Connecticut. Even where they get the candidate they supposedly want in California, in Carly Fiorina, she's had to run far to the right to win over the party. Republicans are in the very unique position of having to support the candidates they didn't want. There's a reason the party wanted Sue Lowden and Trey Grayson to win -- they wanted candidates who could appeal to independents."

I think what these wins are showing is a Republican establishment that is weak, unable to place a check on the more passionate groups within the GOP coalition. Contrast this with the Democrats whose establishment was able to beat back a challenge from the Left to Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln.

Which also leads me to wonder if the loss of more centrist Republicans over the years has led to a weakened GOP leadership. Centrists within the party tended to respect the establishment, since in many ways they had a hand in the establishment during the mid-20th century.

This is a long way of saying I don't think the Republican Senatorial and Congressional Committees want to support weak candidates, but they don't really have the power to stop special interest groups from taking over the process.

I tend to believe this will be the case until one (or both) of two things happen: either the GOP gets a chairman with a strong vision for the party who can exercise party discipline, or the interests groups are discredited by an astounding loss.

I think we shall find out come November.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Epistemic Closure on the Left

About a month ago, there was a discussion across many blogs about epistemic closure taking place among the political right. In short, the argument goes that with the advent of media outlets like Fox News, conservatives have closed in among themselves, not willing to look outside their cocoon.

Now, I think this is all true. I think that a large part of conservatism has lost its curiosity to wander outside the box and learn from others.

So, does that mean that there is a more open atmosphere among the political left?

Not necessarily.

Michael Kruse, who blogs on political as well as religious issues, decided to look at a recent post by Jim Wallis on libertarianism. Wallis who leads the Sojourners community in Washington, basically said that what he calls "Tea Party Libertarianism" is not very Christian.

The thing that bothers Kruse is that Wallis decides to deem libertarianism not Christian under the guise of "dialogue." His last few paragraphs are instructive:

What is the surest sign you have encountered someone living in an echo chamber? When they say, "My side is so reasonable and civil, but see how mean and hateful the other side is."

The fact is that hyperbolic rhetoric is part and parcel of American politics. It ebbs and flows in intensity but there never was some golden age of nonpartisan government from which we have fallen. So I expect hyperbolic rhetoric from all sides. What I do take exception to is people engaging in hyperbolic partisan rhetoric while purporting to speak with a moral Christian authority. I don't care if you name is Jim Dobson or Jim Wallis.

While I think that "epistemic closure" does indeed happen amongst conservatives. It's not healthy. That said, it also has happened within the Left. I've seen people talk about the "incivility" among the Right and then go and be uncivil to conservatives.

I think the problem that is taking place within American politics today is that there is little room from self-examination. We don't spend enough time testing our convictions, making sure we are not deluding ourselves. We don't spend time trying to understand those we may not agree with.

It's time to get out of our echo chambers and out into the light.

Monday, June 07, 2010

GOProud's Shame

GOProud, a group of gay Republicans that split off from Log Cabin Republicans, has endorsed Carly Fiorina for GOP nomination in California. In a recent press release they went against another candidate, former Representative Tom Campbell, for being too "liberal."

Today, GOProud, the only national organization representing gay conservatives and their allies, endorsed Carly Fiorina for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in California. "Carly Fiorina is the candidate conservatives can trust," said Jimmy LaSalvia, Executive Director of GOProud. "Unlike liberal Tom Campbell, Fiorina has signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge; supports a strong, confident foreign policy; and will defend our 2nd Amendment rights."

"The more Republican primary voters have learned about Tom Campbell, the more it has become clear that his nomination would be a disaster for the GOP," said LaSalvia. "Like the campaign of liberal Dede Scozzafava, nominating Tom Campbell would divide the Republican Party at a time when we need to be united to turn back Barbara Boxer and her Democratic colleagues' radical left wing agenda on Capitol Hill."
-a June 2 press release

Now there are a few things odd with this. Tom Campbell supports same-sex marriage and wrote an article back in 2008 where he showed his support and urged people to vote against Prop 8 the consitutional amendment that banned same-sex marriage in California. Because of this, the National Organization for Marriage, an anti-gay marriage group has gone after him and in this blog post they boast of their taking Campbell down:

Three polls in the past week show pro-gay marriage RINO Republican Tom Campbell's support has plummeted. His money has dried up and his campaign is in freefall.

What a difference a week makes!

Just a few weeks ago, pro-gay marriage Tom Campbell was leading Carly Fiorina and Chuck DeVore—some polls said by as much as ten points or more. Now, he’s suddenly twenty points behind Carly Fiorina in the race that will determine which Republican has a chance to unseat California’s Democrat Sen. Barbara Boxer.

Tom Campbell’s collapse in public opinion is no accident.
NOM's “Two Peas in a Pod” television ad established that Campbell and Boxer are well, two peas in the same liberal pod. His poll numbers slipped. But television in Califorinia is hugely expensive (especially once Meg Whitman started buying up all the air time), so we followed up with a frugal and effective second punch: phone calls to 600,000 likely primary voters, telling them that Tom Campbell is a pro-gay marriage RINO. We think NOM's effort had such a big impact in part because it coincided with efforts of prolife groups to make sure voters know Campbell's record on other social conservative issues like abortion.

And what is Carly Fiorina's position on same sex marriage? She's against it and even claims to have supported Prop 8.

So, here you have a group of gay Republicans and an anti-gay group both supporting a candidate that does not support same sex marriage.

(For the record, Log Cabin Republicans has endorsed Campbell.)

Gay Republicans constantly have to battle the image that they are unhappy folks that hate themselves and vote for anti-gay politicians. The thing is, GOProud's endorsement of a candidate that isn't doing anything for the gay community and has in fact gone against is mind-boggling. It reinforces the gay Republican sterotype.

I frankly don't get GOProud's stance.

* Full disclosure: I've been involved with Log Cabin Republicans for 8 years.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Tom Campbell's Viral Campaign

Tom Campbell's campaign to be the California GOP candidate to challenge Barbara Boxer this fall for Senate has run or tough times.  He is being outspent by his main challenger Carly Fiorina, who has backing from social conservatives who don't like Campbell's socially liberal record.

Campbell is now low on funds and has pulled his television ads.  Now, he has chosen to go viral, using the internet and phone to get his message out.

This is his latest:

I've supported Campbell and even given some money to his campaign, since he tends to reflect my own views. I want to believe his last ditch effort as well as independents who vote in the June 8 primary will make him the winner, but I fear Fiorina is going to win. Fiorina might be able to buy her way to winning to the primary, but as the LA Times shows, only Campbell is able to beat Boxer this year.

Another example of the GOP picking the pure candidate over who could actually win.

Update: It looks like I wasn't the only person giving him money. Campbell is now saying he is back on the air:

I want to start by expressing my heartfelt thanks. In the last 72 hours you’ve rallied to the side of this campaign like never before. Thanks to that support, we’re taking the good news that I am the only candidate who beats Barbara Boxer to California’s airwaves!

Having read so many of your notes of support, I can sense that something big is happening beneath the surface. Conservative Republicans are starting to tell us that they’re switching because I’m the only one who can beat Boxer. Independents are pledging to vote for the first time in a Republican primary. And many Democrats say they look forward to voting for me in November, though they can’t say the same of my fellow candidates.

In the closing days of this campaign, it’s becoming clearer that I am the only candidate who can unite principled, Constitutionalist Republicans, Independents, and frustrated Democrats in a coalition to oust Senator Barbara Boxer.

Maybe the race isn't over yet.

Spotlight on Tom Campbell

A gay magazine in Los Angeles interviews Tom Campbell, who is running in a three-way race to be the Republican who will face California Senator Barbara Boxer this November. Campbell is a wonderful oddity in the GOP these days: someone who is pro-gay. Here's a sample:
Tom Campbell does not look or act like the Republican politicians LGBT people are used to seeing on cable news. He’s more Clark Kent with a sense of humor. But underneath that collegial demeanor is the steel spine of a strongly principled moderate/conservative Republican with a laser focus on federalism, less government and more individual freedom...

Interestingly to LGBTs, Campbell is leading among the usually anti-gay Republicans, despite his long-held views as a pro-choice, pro-gay rights, pro-marriage equality social moderate. That’s because the different wings of the GOP are finding common ground in response to the bad economy, Campbell told Frontiers during a 45-minute interview before a Log Cabin Republican-sponsored gathering.
Read the whole thing.

h/t: Independent Gay Forum

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Moderate Republicans are Dead. Long Live Moderate Republicans.

At the same time that we hear of their demise, both Mother Jones and the head of the Ripon Society talk about the quiet comeback of moderates within the GOP.

I'll write more about this later.