Saturday, May 29, 2010

Noonan and Wingnuts, Continued

Erik has responded to my prior post. A few explainations:

I wasn't bothered as much by Erik's criticism of Noonan as much as his tone and his calling her a "wingnut." Maybe Erik has a different definition, but I tend to reserve that for more "crazy" folks like Mark Levin who make a living being obnoxious. Noonan might have been over the top, but I don't think that qualifies calling her a wingnut or saying that she is unhinged, as Andrew Sullivan did. I know Erik probably thinks differently and I can't change that opinion. But of course, I'm entitled to mine as well, and maybe we are going to have agree to disagree.

As for trying to be the "nice police" well, that wasn't my intent. Civility doesn't mean we never say harsh things at other people. I do agree with him that there are times when we need to be forceful- it's just that I didn't find this was case to go nuclear.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Has Peggy Noonan Gone Wingnut?

If I can sum up some of the best conservative columnists out there, it would have to be David Brooks, David Frum, Ross Douthat, Kathleen Parker and Peggy Noonan. All of them are great observers of the political scene and rarely go down the angry path that Rush Limbaugh has blazed. I especially like Peggy Noonan because she can be critical of both parties and yet does it with a sense of grace, which you feel even if you don't agree with her.

Now, I don't always agree with her. In fact, I don't always agree with any of the above writers all the time. Some of their columns can bother me. But at least I hope I don't call them a "wingnut" because they wrote something bad about President Obama.

However, that is exactly what blogger E.D. Kain does in a post today where he rips Noonan for her column which chides the President's handling of Gulf oil spill. Here is a sample:

Peggy Noonan was one of the more (ostensibly) reasonable voices on the right during the run-up to the 2008 presidential elections. All that has changed. Noonan’s latest column on Obama’s dire predicament not only conveniently ignores the president’s continued popularity, but also wildly exaggerates the impact the three ‘crises’ he has faced in his short term as president. The oil spill looms largest, but Noonan also includes Obama’s healthcare reform bill and his opposition to the Arizona immigration law as evidence of his impossible position come 2012.

This is crazy.

The healthcare bill will work in Obama’s favor in the next election, and the immigration issue – while still probably an important one – will not focus on Obama’s reaction to the controversial Arizona law. The oil spill is the only potentially damaging thing, and even that is unlikely to really hurt Obama who is much more likely to respond to the disaster in the next two years with strong environmental regulatory reforms.

Now again, I disagree with Noonan over the immigration law in Arizona. But she does make some sense on how the public might percieve the health care bill and the President's handling of the oil spill. Now, I would agree that there is little the President can do, but Americans tend to buy into the cult of the presidency and believe that the President is superhuman and can solve any problem in a snap.

Of course, E.D. might be correct and come 2012 Obama will be re-elected. Truth is, we don't know yet.

E.D. also notes that the President is "popular." Okay, but polls are also giving the President poor marks in his handling of the crisis. Is that fair? Probably not. Again, I blame the cult of the presidency. But let's not pretend that the public is still gaga over Obama.

What Noonan wrote was critical of the President, but it was hardly Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck territory. She has written several pieces that were critical of Obama. Does that make her a wingnut? No, it makes her a conservative. If E.D. were paying attention he would notice that Noonan also writes columns that are critical of conservatives as well.

In some way, the whole argument about whether or not this is Obama's Katrina is really about Bush and Katrina. Conservatives who felt burned by all the scorn heaped on them in the aftermath of Katrina want to use this as a way to get back at the Left which showed Bush no mercy. Liberals want to relive Katrina to remind us of how bad the conservatives were and how Obama is not Bush.

As for how the oil spill will play out, well, we will have to see. It could be a black eye for the President, but it might not. Unlike a lot of other conservatives, and like Noonan, I am not rooting for him to fail. But the public is fickle and they can get pretty mad about a President that seen not doing anything while the seas turn black and gooey. I don't think it's fair, but it comes with the job of being president.

As for E.D., this post is part of a trend. When I started reading him, he seemed like a thoughtful hetrodox conservative that was interested in reform. Over time, he has grown more understandably frustrated with conservatives and has seemed to trend more and more leftward and become more angry in his postings. I frankly don't care if he becomes a liberal, but I wish he still showed more of the thoughftful and civil approach of his past writings. The blogosphere is already full of hyperbolic writers on both sides of the isle, we really don't need another one.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Up the Long Ladder

Newly installed Prime Minister David Cameron tapped openly gay Conservative MPs Nick Herbert as the Minister of State for Justice and Home Secretary for Police and Alan Duncan as the Minister of State in the International Development Department.

Duncan and Herbert, were among the first out gay election candidates who currently hold civil partnerships with their longtime partners, they are now some of of the highest-profile and most senior openly gay ministers in any government. Duncan and Herbert join Guido Westerwelle, Germany’s Vice Chancellor, as one of the highest ranking openly gay elected officials.

During the campaign, Herbert took a leading role in recruiting support among the gay and lesbian community in the United Kingdom for the Conservative Party. He underlined a number of advanced positions which his government would support, including combatting hate crimes, a matter he now overseas as Minister of Police, employment non-discrimination and even expanding the current right for same-sex couples to have civil partnerships to full marriage equality.

-from Blog Cabin, the blog of Log Cabin Republicans

Conservatism in the UK seems to be undergoing a transformation. In the run-up to the elections held earlier this month, Conservative Party leader David Cameron lead a party that was more moderate and inclusive than in the past. Dissident conservatives here in the US looked with awe and a bit of sadness. Bloggers such as Andrew Sullivan and E.D. Kain seem to act as if conservatism in America is past the point of no return. It is a movement that is not serious about governing, trapped in an information cocoon, and filled with hatred for gays and anyone not white.

Which of course, can accurately describe some parts of American conservatism and the Republican Party.

But is it too late for reform? And if it isn't, how should it take place?

There are times that I think otherwise, but I don't think it is too late for conservatism to reform. The questions for me is not if conservatism will reform, but who will reform it.

I think the answer to the question is that conservatism will reform when there are enough people who want it to reform. I'm not talking soley about the politicians, but the rank and file, the everyday folk who get sick and tired of being sick and tired.

The thing is, most of the rank and file tend to walk away and give up the fight. Tired of the bigoted and small minded people who tend to be the voice of the American Right, many just give up and leave the Republican Party and conservatism. Why that is? That's the subject of a future post.

American conservatives, both those interested in reform and the Tea Party types, tend to believe in a "Great Man Theory" of history. They believe that somewhere, a great man with charisma will come and make grand change. Republicans tend to think that way with Ronald Reagan forgetting that there was a movement filled with policy wonks and writers who were making changes that helped propel Reagan to the White House.

But history not as simple. Great changes in history came not only from great men, but from civic organizations that were working long before the great man came on the scene. Case in point is civil rights. Organizations like the NAACP were working on striking down Jim Crow long before Martin Luther King joined the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

David Cameron did not just come down from heaven with an idea to create a more moderate Conservative Party. No, it came from reform-minded associations like the Tory Reform Group, that worked long and hard for a kinder, gentler Conservative Party.

I believe that for the GOP to survive in the long run, it has to become more "moderate," to be a more inclusive party and willing to find ways to run a smaller and activist government. But none of this will happen overnight. It will happen when regular people decide to get involved in reform-minded groups and fight for change.

One of the reasons I decided to become a Republican was because of groups like Republicans for Environmental Protection. They have long staked out a lonely voice, but the keep at it, working for a more "green" Republican Party.

So, yes I believe conservatism in America can be saved. But will only change when those who complain the most, get to work.

Man or Superman?

Mike is very angry at the White House response to the oil spill in the Gulf:

With this oil spill I’ve seen an unforgivable lack of government response. They’ve put all the responsibility on BP to fix this mess. I say my anger is directed at the White House because this is not in state-controlled waters. I also think the US navy and Coast Guard should have been deployed to help weeks ago. We have around 240 active ships in the US navy which doesn’t include hundreds of smaller support vessels. There are over 300,000 active personnel. I don’t care if they are out there with buckets, they should be trying to help. It’s insanity not to use the resources we have.

This situation is going to get a lot worse before it gets better and I hope the White House realizes they need to step up. Otherwise, the people of the gulf coast have once again been abandoned on their time of need.

While Mike wants to call the Navy to combat the oil spill, Yuval Levin thinks people have an unreasonable expectation of government:

I think it’s actually right to say that the BP oil spill is something like Obama’s Katrina, but not in the sense in which most critics seem to mean it.

It’s like Katrina in that many people's attitudes regarding the response to it reveal completely unreasonable expectations of government. The fact is, accidents (not to mention storms) happen. We can work to prepare for them, we can have various preventive rules and measures in place. We can build the capacity for response and recovery in advance. But these things happen, and sometimes they happen on a scale that is just too great to be easily addressed. It is totally unreasonable to expect the government to be able to easily address them—and the kind of government that would be capable of that is not the kind of government that we should want.

Both Presidents Bush and Obama are taking heat for not moving heaven and earth to solve their problems. But the thing is, I think the problems presented, a hurricane hitting a major city and a massive oil leak are not things that can be easily solved. As Americans, we want to believe that there is some technology or process or law that will easily solve whatever problem we are facing. Americans are not accustomed to the limits of..well, anything.

Government can and should respond to disasters. However, that doesn't mean that they are superheroes that can just solve a problem in a snap. Some scenarios are so huge, that government can only do what it can.

It's hard to see all this oil spilling into the Gulf and feel helpless. But that's what is going on right now.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Did Libertarianism Cause Jim Crow?

Rand Paul's comments on libertarians and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 has given some people a chance to blame libertarianism for the Jim Crow segregation which took place throughout the South in the early 20th century.

Conservative Bruce Barlett is one of those that has been quick to blame the ideology for the oppression of African Americans from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Act:

The libertarian philosophy of Rand Paul and the Supreme Court of the 1880s and 1890s gave us almost 100 years of segregation, white supremacy, lynchings, chain gangs, the KKK, and discrimination of African Americans for no other reason except their skin color. The gains made by the former slaves in the years after the Civil War were completely reversed once the Supreme Court effectively prevented the federal government from protecting them. Thus we have a perfect test of the libertarian philosophy and an indisputable conclusion: it didn't work. Freedom did not lead to a decline in racism; it only got worse.

Now, on the surface, I can see some of my liberal friends nod in agreement. But the fact is, the years of Jim Crow were not the result of libertarianism, but state-sponsored racism. In short, Jim Crow came from the government, in this case, the state government. State after state created laws that seprated the races and gave African American children a sub-standard education. Bartlett is correct that the federal goverment expanded rights to include African Americans. It's an example of why many on the right are wary of government: it is powerful enough to both expand and retract rights. Case point: the internment of 100,000 Japanese Americans during World War II, something that was done by the federal government.

David Bernstein offers a pretty good explaination of the post-Civil War era and how it was anything but libertarian in regards to civil rights. He goes after Bartlett with these words:

...for Bartlett to attack libertarianism with the premise that American law was libertarian with regard to how blacks were treated in the Jim Crow South, when in fact they suffered from overt government discrimination, blatantly discriminatory Jim Crow laws, private violence acquiesced to by the government (and sometimes with the participation of the government), and a denial of voting rights based on race, is just risible.

The fact of the matter is, racism has been deeply woven into all sectors of American society. No institution, no ideology was left unscathed. (Conor Friedersdorf has an excellent post -using material from Barlett, no less, about how some heroes of the left thought about minorities way back when.)Government, especially the federal government, has done a fair share to help African Americans and other minorities in America, but it has also done a lot of harm to those communities as well. That is one of the reasons racial discrimination persisted. The fact that government, state and federal, is no longer able to participate or give its blessing to racism has paved the way for African Americans to have greater participation in American society. It's why we now have an African American president. Now that's libertarian.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Tom Horner and Moderate Republicans

I've been thinking lately about Tom Horner and Moderate Republicans.

For those who don't live in Minnesota, Tom Horner is a former Republican who is running for governor under the centrist Independence Party banner. He's been a lifelong Republican, who believes that the party no longer represents his brand of a more center-right Republicanism, so he has gone to the IP to seeks it's endorsement.

I have mixed feelings about all this. On the one hand, I tend to share Horner's center-right views and find the GOP candidate for governor, Tom Emmer an extremist who will take Minnesota in the wrong direction.

On the other hand, save for it's star candidate Jesse Ventura, the IP has never had a strong slate of candidates or even a very strong governing ideology, with candidates all over the political spectrum. The 2006 governor's race had the IP candidate finishing a distant third at about 6 percent. And even if Horner were to win, he would have to face a legislature that is made up of Republicans and Democrats that will resent having this outsider as governor.

Which leads me to ask this question: why didn't Horner just run as Republican? Yes, with the current makeup of the state GOP he would not have won at the state party convention, but he could have challenged Emmer in the state primary which takes place in August. He could have made this a true fight, a battle for the soul of the GOP. Would it have been a losing battle? Who knows. But it would have been a honest battle, where Horner would have stood his ground and presented a kinder and gentler Republicanism and defend it against Emmer and his ilk.

In someways, Horner is already doing that. On his Facebook page, he is going after Emmer and the GOP. But it seems less than an honest fight, doing it from the confines of a minor party.

This brings up a bigger question: why is there no drive to reform the GOP or stand up and fight within the GOP? The ideologues in the party don't have a problem with standing and fighting, but moderates tend not fight. We tend to whine and moan, all amounting to very little.

On Friday, David Brooks wrote about the problem "Ben" a fictional voter who is a centrist looking for some hope. But when he looks to Washington and to so-called "centrists" he is found with few choices:

Once there was a group in the political center that would have understood Ben’s outrage. Moderates like Abraham Lincoln believed in the free labor ideology. Their entire governing system was built around encouraging labor and rewarding labor.

But these days, the political center is a feckless shell. It has no governing philosophy. Its paragons seem from the outside opportunistic, like Arlen Specter, or caught in some wishy-washy middle, like Blanche Lincoln. The right and left have organized, but the center hasn’t bothered to. The right and left have media outlets and think tanks, but the centrists are content to complain about polarization and go home. By their genteel passivity, moderates have ceded power to the extremes.

I think Brooks is spot-on. The center in America is weak. What was the center in the GOP is very weak, not willing to stay in the fight for the long haul and come up with policies and plans tailored to today.

My own cynical take is that moderates within the GOP are not willing to pay the cost in order to swing the party back towards the center-right. We might say "It's My Party, Too" but do we really mean it? Are we really ready to fight for our values and our place in the party? Or do we expect to be catered to, to have all the hard work of politics done for us? Are we a Republican only when it suits our purposes, or are we willing to say that we are Republicans because of the wonderous past we had standing up civil rights, political reform and individual liberty?

I wish Mr. Horner well and hope he does in well in November, even though I think history suggests he will not win. But I feel that he missed a chance to take part in a honest fight about what Republicans stand for.

Friday, May 21, 2010

You Aren't Alone, Ann

From the Orlando Sentinel:

Much has been said about the plight of the moderate Republican — a seemingly dying breed of conservative.

The truth of the matter, though, is that I don’t believe moderate Republicans are a dying breed. I believe they still constitute a large chunk of the party. It’s just that they are often drowned out by the louder and more extreme factions of conservatives that make headlines and fill the AM airwaves.

In fact, I hear from moderates all the time — longtime GOP donors, former legislators, retirees, civil servants and more — often lamenting their shrinking role in the party. But not as often do I see them speak up … the way the louder segments do.

Read on to find hear the story of one moderate Republican who did speak up.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Good 'Ole Days Weren't Always Good

I wrote this last month at Republicans United during the whole "Confederate History Month" issue. In light of the Rand Paul issue, I thought I'd bring it out again.

Let me start with a story.

My Dad, who turned 80 last November, told me story. He moved to Michigan from his native Louisiana back in the 1950s to work in the auto plants. From time to time, he would go back to the South to visit his mother. When he made the trek his sister in Michigan would make a basket full of fried chicken for Dad to eat on the trip. His mother would do the same thing when he left Louisiana and went back to Michigan.

The reason the women in Dad's life did this was because back in the 1950s, he would not be able to stop at a restaurant to get food. Why? Because Dad was and is a black man, and back in those days, blacks didn't automatically get served in a restaurant.

Dad also had to learn to pull over when he was tired and sleep in his car, or until a cop told him to move on. Why? Same reason. A black man in the 1950s wasn't just going to find a hotel room any old place.

One of the common refrains from conservatives and libertarians these days is that we are "losing are freedoms." The argument is that there was some small government utopia where Americans were truly free. Speakers will talk about how the founding fathers set up a small government society based on freedoms and now we have lost all of that.

David Boaz, vice president of the libertarian Cato Institute, argues that there never was a "golden age of liberty" in America. For starters, at the founding of our nation- that time that conservatives and libertarians like to see as the Golden Age- not everyone was enjoying this "freedom." As Boaz reminds his fellow small government travelers, if you were black, you weren't free:
Did "early Americans consider themselves free"? White Americans probably did. But what about black Americans, and especially the 90 percent of black Americans who were slaves? Slaves made up about 19 percent of the American population from 1790 to 1810, dropping to 14 percent by 1860. (In that period the number of slaves grew from 700,000 to about 4 million, but the rest of the population was growing even more rapidly.) Did Mr. Hornberger really forget that 4 million Americans were held in bondage when he waxed eloquent about how free America was until the late 19th century? I know he isn't indifferent to the crime of slavery. But too many of us who extol the Founders and deplore the growth of the American state forget that that state held millions of people in chains. (I note that I'm not concerned here with self-proclaimed libertarians who join neo-Confederate organizations or claim that southerners established a new country and fought a devastating war for some reason other than the slavery on which their social and economic system rested; I just want to address libertarians who hate slavery but seem to overlook its magnitude in their historical analysis.)

Boaz then links to a post from Brink Lindsey that reminds people that we live in a more libertarian age than just a few decades ago:

Nevertheless, the fact is that American society today is considerably more libertarian than it was a generation or two ago. Compare conditions now to how they were at the outset of the 1960s. Official governmental discrimination against blacks no longer exists. Censorship has beaten a wholesale retreat. The rights of the accused enjoy much better protection. Abortion, birth control, interracial marriage, and gay sex are legal. Divorce laws have been liberalized and rape laws strengthened. Pervasive price and entry controls in the transportation, energy, communications, and financial sectors are gone. Top income tax rates have been slashed. The pretensions of macroeconomic fine-tuning have been abandoned. Barriers to international trade are much lower. Unionization of the private sector work force has collapsed. Of course there are obvious counterexamples, but on the whole it seems clear that cultural expression, personal lifestyle choices, entrepreneurship, and the play of market forces all now enjoy much wider freedom of maneuver.

In the same week that we saw Virginia Governor Bob McDonnel make a colossal mistake in making April Confederate History Month, I think this essay sums up a problem on the American Right. It's not that all conservatives and libertarians are racists who want to see African Americans in chains, but the problem is that many conservatives and libertarians rarely notice the plight of African Americans. It's not active hate, but for the most part it's benign neglect.

For all their faults, liberals at least try to understand and recognize African Americans in our society. I think at times it can start slipping into victimhood, but that's for another blog post.

Maybe part of the problem is that conservatives don't want to go down the "politically correct" road that liberals have sometimes taken, so they end up not doing anything lest they become PC nuts. I think that most black folk just want to be treated as people. We don't want any special treatment, we just want to be seen and heard. That means hearing our stories and our history which is part of American history.

My Dad, who went to segregated schools in the South, and took the crappiest job in the auto plants because he was a black man, was not free. As time marched forward and the Civil Rights movement came to focus, things changed. By the time I came around and started joining him in trips South to see my relatives, we could stay in motels and eat in restaurants.

There are still many problems, but I think that life for African Americans is a lot better now than at the time of the Revolution. We can vote. We can marry. We aren't treated as furniture.

Are we in a libertarian paradise? No, but then as Boaz notes, there never was a paradise and their never will be.

Boaz ends his essay reminding those of us on the Right that the issue here how government uses power:

We often focus on the size of government, as measured in percentage of GDP taxed and spent by the government, which is an important and measurable concept. But our real concern is power. What kind of power does the government wield over the people? Powerful state institutions tend to be large, but that doesn't mean that a larger state is necessarily exercising more power. Imagine a small town that adds two officers to its police force. Now it has more police officers, and that costs more money; the government is "larger." But if the officers now do a better job of arresting violent criminals and protecting the lives and property of the people—and refrain from arresting or hassling non-criminals—then the government has not expanded its power. Indeed, better eight officers protecting lives and property than six officers enforcing drug laws and blue laws. We should focus on what is actually important—the exercise of arbitrary power over others. And in that regard slavery and conscription, among other things that marred parts of our American past, loom very large.

I would argue that in the past, government was used to keep blacks down. Slavery laws and later Jim Crow laws were used to treat us like second class citizens. People worked to free African Americans from a governmental tryanny. If that's not libertarian, I don't know what is.

I'm reminded of a song by Billy Joel that white conservatives and libertarians must remember: the good ol' days weren't always good.

h/t: Burke's Corner

Rand Paul, Civil Rights and the Limits of Libertarianism

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US Senate Candidate Rand Paul is getting into a lot of trouble with his comments on civil rights during an interview yesterday on NPR. Above, is an interview with MSNBC host Rachel Maddow on the Civil Rights, where Paul tries to explain himself. The gist of it is that he thinks governments should not discriminate, but he doesn't want laws that tell private businesses that they can't discriminate.

Now, I need to say straight up, that I don't think that this is proof positive that Paul is a racist. I also don't think that the late Barry Goldwater is a racist. That said, I also think they are both very wrong.

Libertarians tend to be very wary of having the government get involved in telling private businesses what they can and can't do. I can understand that. But I also think that there are times when it might make sense for the government to tell a private entity that they can't do something that impinges on the liberty of another person. For example, people have to eat, or get a job or live in home. If someone says to a person of another race that they can't eat at this restaurant, or have this job or live in this neighborhood, then that person is being denied their freedom to live as they see fit. The whole problem with racism is that it limited the liberty of a whole people simply because of the color of their skin. The problem with Mr. Paul's answer is that at some level, it isn't very libertarian. Libertarianism is about, well, liberty, and if someone is totally free to live here and there and have this job or that one while someone else is not, that isn't liberty to me.

Mr. Paul may have done himself harm. He will be percieved, wrongly in my view, to be a racist. I don't think he is, but he is rather clueless when it comes to the issue of race. Sometimes, the government does have to step in ensure liberty and justice for all.

UPDATE: Ann Althouse has some really good comments on this issue.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Last of the Independents

Glen Bolger of Public Opinion Strategies muses that the days of bipartisanship are going to be as rare as unicorns. He writes on last night's wins and losses:

Not every incumbent is endangered for renomination. However, those who face anger from the grassroots, coupled with a challenger candidate with the resources to get their message out, have challenges.

This post is not to bemoan the choice of BOTH parties’ primary electorate to choose confrontation over compromise. It’s simply analyzing the results from a different angle. It’s not just anti-incumbency coursing through the veins of the primary electorates, but it is supercharged by a distrust of the other side. Like unicorns and rainbows, bipartisanship is going to be rarely spotted over the next few years.

Bipartisanship has taken a beating over the last few years, especially from bloggers who seem to think that elected officals should only follow their own narrow agendas. One of the reasons that Bob Bennett was axed in Utah was for taking part in what I would call "mundane bipartisanship" in voting for liberal judicial nominees when Bill Clinton was president. Of course, when the president of one part is in power, they tend to have the perogative in nominating whoever they want to be a Supreme Court justice. Yes, the opposing side can oppose, but in the end their isn't much the other side can do in stopping the president, lest they find that the nominee is sacrificing chickens or something. A senator in an opposing party could get a way with voting for a nominee without being considered a traitor.

Call me an old romantic, but being in a democracy means working with people who you might not agree with. It means coming together and finding what will work for both parties.

But it seems that these days, we tend to see government as a winner-take-all game. If one side wins, it has to be seen as a total victory, where the losing side can only surrender.

Something tells me that the next five to ten years will not be an exciting time in governance, but a lot of fighting and bickering where nothing gets done.

The Liberaltarian Future

Mark Thompson opines that the future of libertarians should be with the political left and not the right:

If libertarianism has a future with either of the two main political coalitions in this country, it is with the Left, not the Right.

As Mark admits, a liberal-libertarian fusion, or "liberaltarianism" is his "hobby horse." In fact, it has been a pre-occupation with many libertarians during the Bush years, as they became fed-up with the Republican Party's new found love of authority.

But the thing is, I think libertarians would be just as unhappy with the left as they were with the right. The problem is that both sides like big government to solve their issues.

I tend to think that maybe instead of wishing and hoping for the Democrats to notice them, libertarians might consider moving into the party that bears their name: the Libertiarian Party, and create a liberal-libertarian coalition there. The problem with the Libertarian Party as it exists now is that it is not practical at all. It seeks some kind of libertarian utopia that very few Americans want.

But what if liberaltarians came in and proposed a new agenda: one that was business friendly, socially liberal with a smaller role for the state and an enhanced federalism, sort of like the Free Democrats in Germany. I think then you could have a winning coalition that might just pass the other parties by.

Just a thought...

"Snarlin' Arlen" is Done

There was a time that I really respected Arlen Specter. As the Commish notes, he was regarded as a principled independent centrist in the GOP.

But over the last year, I lost respect for Specter. His move to the Democrats was not out of conscience; it was because he was being challenged from the right and knew he was going to lose. Once he joined the Dems, he became the perfect Democrat, therby losing his independence. He thought moving over the Democratic column would be a safe harbor from any challengers, only to be beaten by an insurgent from his left who called him out on his cynical move.

I don't share the belief that some Republicans have of Specter as a traitor. Most conservatives never liked Specter, so the charge is somewhat baseless. That said, I do fault him for his rank opportunism. Democrats in Pennsylvania have rejected him for the same reason.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Muslims in Bikinis

Via Andrew Sullivan, Andrew Sewer of the liberal magazine American Prospect nails what the all the hubbub on the Right over Rima Fakih winning Miss USA is all about:
I'm not really a fan of beauty contests, but the tone and substance of the fever swamp's reaction to an Arab-American winning a beauty contest is at least useful for pointing out how some people's political opinions aren't based so much in questions of policy as anti-Muslim animosity. The level of anger is just so plainly disproportionate to the matter at hand as to be self-implicating. These people aren't worried about terrorism -- they're offended by the idea of Muslims being integrated into the most mundane and banal aspects of American society.

Agreed. You can dress it up in concerns about terrorism, but in the end, this is all ugly bigotry against anyone that's Muslim. Shame.

Miss USA is Crowned; Conservatives Go Crazy

As someone from Michigan, I am glad Rima Fakih won Miss USA last night. And I don't care that she is Arab American. Again, coming from southeastern Michigan, I know that it's home to a lot of Arab Americans and it doesn't bother me...I think it adds to the character of my home state.

But it seems that there are some conservatives that don't feel that way. It seems that giving Ms. Fakih the honor of Miss USA was basically honoring terrorism. Rick Moran has the rundown of how some conservative commentators have gone off the deep-end in their condemnation of Fakih. Moran highlights one particular crazy, Debbie Schlussel, who goes off on a hate-filled rampage- throwing out accusations that can't be substantiated:
Rima Fakih, Miss Michigan USA, who will compete in Sunday Night’s pageant broadcast on NBC, is a Dearbornistan Shi’ite Muslim who is a supporter of Hezbollah and used the pageant name at a forum promoting Islamic subjugation of women. She was born in the Hezbollah stronghold of Srifa in South Lebanon, which Israel was forced to attack in the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war because it was a site of Hezbollah weaponry. Her devout Muslim family comes from the Hezbollah-controlled South Lebanon. Intelligence sources confirm that at least three of Fakih’s relatives are currently top officials in Hezbollah and that at least eight Fakih family members were Hezbollah terrorists killed by the Israelis in past Israel-Lebanese wars and interventions. Some of her family members were originally in Harakat Amal [the Shi'ite Amal militia], which is now essentially a part of Hezbollah. There’s a reason that even Al-Manar TV–Hezbollah’s official TV network–is high on Fakih in the Miss USA pageant.

Last year’s Miss USA pageant was controversial because airheaded Miss California bimbo Carrie Prejean rode both sides of the fence in responding to pageant judge and gay activist Perez Hilton’s (a/k/a Mario Armando Lavandeira, Jr.) question about gay marriage. But will judges in this year’s pageant have the guts to ask Miss Michigan USA a far more important question: if she will condemn Hezbollah, the Islamic terrorist group which murdered over 300 US Marines and civilians in the 1983 bombings of the barracks and U.S. Embassy in Beirut? Will they ask her to condemn the group that tortured and trampled to death Navy Diver Robert Dean Stethem after hijacking TWA flight 847 and tortured to death Col. Rich Higgins and CIA attache William Buckley? The group working with Al-Qaeda to provide explosives to blow up our troops in Iraq and to blow up innocent civilians in several other Qaeda/Hezbollah joint ventures? Don’t count on it. And they have to ask her to specifically condemn Hezbollah. The usual nebulous “Islamic terrorists” condemnation doesn’t count because they don’t think any of their groups, like Hezbollah, are terrorists, but “legitimate resistance.” And don’t wait for them to ask her if she recognizes Israel’s right to exist.
First off, I how does she know that Fakhi's relatives are involved in Hezbollah? What "intelligence sources" does some blogger have? How is she responsible for the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beriut, something that took place three years before she was born?

I don't know about you, but where I come from (which happens to be the same state that Ms. Fakih and Ms. Schlussel come from) someone who judges someone based on their heritage is called a bigot.

There is too much of this crap taking place within conservatism. A legitimate concern over terrorism has been used to hide bigotry and hatred aimed towards Arabs and Muslims. I am thankful that people like Moran are calling people out on this and showing them for what they are: small, hateful beings.

And that's sad, because Rima Fakih's win is a testament to what makes America great. In other parts of the world, Ms. Fakih would not be able to wear a skimpy bathing suit and prance about a stage. Here is a woman who is Muslim, and able to be like any other woman. There was no religion or government that was stopping her. THAT is what is wonderful about our country. Melissa Couthier says it best:
She’s in America. She’s doing what beautiful American girls do. She’s acting Western.

In an Islamic country, she’d likely be hung, beheaded, tortured or “honor” killed for shaming her uptight, sexually repressed, backward, stone age husband or father.

So while I get that people are upset about this, I suggest taking the big picture here. We have a young Muslim woman, without a burqa, who won Miss USA.

Let the Islamofascists put that in their pipe and smoke it.
And by the way, did anyone notice that she's hot? If a gay man can say that, you know she has to be beautiful.

The Center and the "Elites"

According to Ross Douthat and Jonathan Chait, I don't exist. At least when it comes to politics.

I tend to be one of those people that probably cause Douthat and Chait to roll their eyes: I tend to be fiscally conservative and socially liberal. Douthat has written on various occasions that basically those types are persons are should just join the Democrats and be done with it.

It can be frustrating for people like me, because while I'm definitely put off by the social conservatism of the Republicans, I am also uncomfortable with the economic policies of the Democrats. In some ways, I am one of those persons that longs for a viable third party.

Former Clinton advisor Mark Penn opines that if the economy doesn't get better soon, we might see a third party arise. Now I've heard that before and nothing ever does really happen, but what did ring true in Penn's piece is the feeling that there is number of people out there that feel without a political home.

Rubbish, says Chait. Most of the so-called independents are really well-heeled Republicans and Democrats:
...pollsters and public opinion experts -- a group that apparently excludes Penn -- understand that independent self-identification largely reflects a desire not to be seen as a closed-minded, automatic vote. It does not, however, reflect actual voting independence. Most self-identified independents are at least as partisan in their voting behavior as self-identified Democrats or Republicans. It's largely a class phenomenon, with wealthier and more educated voters being more likely to call themselves independent, but not more likely to go astray in the voting both. The rise of independent self-identification has little to do with voters moving toward the center or the parties moving toward the extremes. Plenty of those self-identified Democrats in the 1950s voted for Ike.

I don't know about that. There are a lot of people that I know that call themselves "independent" and yet are more partisan than they care to admit. But there are also a lot of people who do truly feel homeless. They vote for one party more than the other because they might agree with that party over the other one, but they are truly not affiliated with either major party. Others are people whose votes go all over the map. I tend to see these homeless people in my daily life, on the blogs and among friends.

Chait and Douthat both have stressed that the "socially liberal/fiscally conservative" group is just made up of upscale snobs, while both parties ignore another group: "big-goverment social conservatives." I'm always a little skeptical of such a group. Maybe it does exist. It could be made up people from the working class that don't tend to haunt the blogs.

That said, I have never seen them interviewed, or create Tea Party-like groups demanding that we ban gay marriage and enact universal healthcare.

I do not understand the aversion to people like me.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Not Jumping Ship

I've been quite surprised to see the reaction to my thoughts about leaving the GOP the other day. Let me just cut to the chase: while I respect the decision Travis made in deciding to leave the GOP, I've decided that it's not time to jump the Republican ship.

The reason why? Well, because there really isn't anywhere else to go.

I didn't become a Republican on a lark. I did a lot of thinking and a lot of reading and came to the conclusion that I was philosophically a Republican. If one is on the center-right here in America, then you don't have many choices. I could call myself an Independent as is the trend these days, but the fact is, a lot of people who call themselves Independent are not really. They tend to lean one way or the other, but just have refused to be labeled.

But there is another reason to stay. It's the "green shoots" of hope that show that while the Tea Party crazies might be the ones talking now, that will not always be the case. It's the fact that there are Republicans who do care about the plight of our planet. It's a former First Lady who comes out in favor of same-sex marriage. It's a raft of candidates that are good moderate conservatives.

The fact is, there are still some good people in the party. The problem is that too often people like Travis and myself tend to only look at the loud voices that present themselves as the face of the GOP. But they really aren't the face of the Republican Party, or they are only a face of the GOP not the face. A blogger responding to a post by the Moderate Republican on the creation of a third party had this to say about political parties in America:

What people need to realize is that the party is merely a conduit. It is a means by which we seek to achieve an end. If you get an algebra question wrong on a test, is the problem with the question or with the methodology by which you sought to find the answer?

To sum it up, garbage in..garbage out. Third parties can indeed prove beneficial but merely jumping to the independence party or otherwise in hopes of something different presupposes that the independence party is filled with anything different than the other two predominant parties.

Tis why I say, if you're not involved at the BPOU/Precinct level then you will continue to get the government you deserve.

The writer hit the nail on the head. Political parties in America are only conduits. That means that if a Tea Partier wants to use the party to make suit their purposes, I can do the same thing. I am as much the face of the Republican Party than they are.

So, I'm not jumping ship. I will stay and make myself a Republican.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Is It Time for a New Center-Right Party?

For many years, I've been part of an effort to make the Republican Party more inclusive in various ways. I believe it is important to have a good and strong center-right party in order to counter the Democrats.

That said, I am not as certain that the GOP can reform itself anymore. From the recent ouster of Utah Republican Senator Bob Bennett, to the ultra-crazy Maine GOP Platform, to John McCain whoring himself to the far right in order to win a Republican primary for the Senate, I am starting to come to a place that many of my friends have come to long ago: that the Republican Party might be too far gone to save.

Which is why I am beginning to think that it's time to look into creating a new center right party in America. But before I say what I do want, I want to make clear what I don't want:
  • A "centrist" party that tries to reach both Republicans and Deomcrats. In Minnesota, we have a viable third party called the Independence Party. It's claim to fame is that Governor Jesse Ventura has been their only sucessful candidate. That said, it is not a strong third party partly because it tries to be a party without ideology. It is trying to capture that middle ground in American politics, which is laudable. However, their disdain for the rigid ideologies of the two major parties have produced a party that doesn't know what it stands for. It tends to capture both former Republicans and Democrats and the result is a mismash of the two ideologies.
  • Independent Candidates. While it is the dream of some to see more candidates running without any party affiliation, I tend to think this option is not the best. The record of winning independent campaigns is not very good and independent candidates lack the "people power" that political parties can provide. Also, they have little staying power- once the successful independent candidate leaves 0ffice, traditional party politics comes back.
No, I think there is a need for a credible center-right alternative to the Republicans. One that isn't wrapped up in the Tea Party/Sarah Palin/ Religious Right/Ron Paul nuttiness.

It's time for a center right party that is truly fiscally conservative, truly believes in limited goverment and is truly socially liberal. A party that is interested in reaching the Center as much as it is in reaching the Right. One patterned more after One Nation Conservatism is the UK.

So here's a message to Bob Bennett, John McCain and other Republicans: maybe instead of trying to make a purse out of a sow's ear, maybe it's time to start anew and create a new center-right coalition.

Crossposted at Republicans United

Monday, May 03, 2010

The Consequences of Arizona

My mother has an accent.

Born and raised in Puerto Rico, my mother learned English in school, but the accent stayed with her, even when she moved off the island to Michigan in 1963.

It remains with her to this day. What's so funny about it is that as her son, I never realized my mother ever had an accent until I was well into my 20s. Other people would remark about her accent, but I never noticed it- it was normal to me.

I grew up in a household where English and Spanish was spoken. Several of my mother's relatives moved to Michigan after she did, including 2 uncles and mi abuela, my grandmother. I learned Spanish by hearing my relatives speak to one another.

I'm very proud of my Puerto Rican heritage in addition to my African American heritage. I also consider myself lucky to have been raised in a bilingual household, where I heard two languages being freely spoken.

When I think about the current mess concerning the new immigration law in Arizona, I have to wonder how comfortable my Spanish-speaking relatives would feel down there. Something tells me they would not feel welcome.

In the aftermath of this law, many conservatives have defended it saying that something had to be done. While I agree that something does need to be done to deal with immigration and border security, the law in Arizona was the wrong way to do it. The law is discriminatory towards Latinos and regardless of whether that was intentional or not, it will have the affect of driving Latinos away from the Republican Party.

Why you say? Well, because the law as is written, could allow the police to stop anyone who might look like an illegal immigrant. Since most illegal immigrants in Arizona tend to be Mexican and speak Spanish, I have the feeling that there will be a lot of stops made because someone was "DWH" or "Driving While Hispanic."

Some say the answer to this law is that legal residents should just carry their papers. So, someone who might be born here and raised here, has to keep proof of citizenship on their person at all times because their name happens to be something like "Sanchez" while the guy named "Johnson" can just move along with no id at all? How in the world is that fair?

What has bothered me is how many Republicans have not bothered to even think how this would affect Hispanic Americans and their views of the GOP. It doesn't matter if the intent was to curb illegal immigration, it looks like conservatives have it out for any who has a "funny" last name or talks with an accent.

The passage of this bill has damaged the perception of the GOP in the minds of millions of Hispanic Americans. This law has basically told the fastest growing minority in America that they are not to be trusted. They will respond by not voting Republican.

As someone who is part Hispanic, this law offends me. I am ashamed today to call myself a conservative.