beyond november

Unless something radically changes in the next several months, we will be looking at the election of Madame President. The organization Hillary Clinton has is way too strong for Trump to overcome with disciplined messaging and a few good debates – even if he could manage to accomplish those two goals. Whether Hillary manages to overcome her health challenges, or whether she is forced to withdraw, the Democrats will have the clear advantage on November 8th.

Many factors will have contributed to this result, but the primary factor will be the corrupt and dishonest Republican Party and their feckless “leadership”.

This massive failure has been in the works for years. It started accelerating in 2008 with the nomination of McCain, and continued with the nomination of Mitt Romney. Both men had admirable qualities and were on some level men of personal character. But their primary weaknesses were areas they shared with the Democrat nominee Barack Obama, so they couldn’t attack him on important issues that mattered to people. In addition to that, many people were swept up in the historic value of electing the first African-American president. That’s a tough challenge to overcome for a Republican nominee, even for a candidate that could paint in bold colors and articulate the “perceived” clear differences between the Republican Party and the Democrat Party – which they did not have in 2008 and 2012.

Even with that handicap, many Republicans, including myself, voted for the lesser of two evils because we couldn’t possibly vote for that scary socialist Marxist Obama guy. Anybody but Obama. Sound familiar? That’s because the Republican Party has been stuck on the same spinning hamster wheel of failure and refuses to learn from its mistakes. Why should they change? Why should they suddenly start paying attention to the people they claim to represent? After all, the average Republican doesn’t realize how stark the departure is from what we thought it represented as a party. We just keep voting for the Republicans because they are always way better than the Democrats. But are they really that much different? 2016 has proven that they are not.

This is the big picture – the Republicans are not who we thought they were, and it should matter to people who are still hanging with this political party after seeing what it has become.

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a little more unserious

One of my favorite movies is Dave. It is a movie where an average citizen (Dave) impersonates the President of the United States for a living, and is thrown into the real job due to some really shady political operatives.  (Quick aside – Kevin Kline is awesome in that role!) There’s a scene in that movie  in which Dave enlists his accountant friend Murray to cut the federal budget so that the homeless shelter wouldn’t have to close.  Murray looks at the budget and says something to the effect of if private citizens handled their books like this, they would be in jail. Yeah.  One of the items in that budget was an advertising campaign to bolster confidence in the American auto industry.   Dave asks the Congresscritter (I forget the name of the guy) to explain this.  He explains that this was designed to boost Americans’ confidence in a previous auto purchase.  So an ad campaign to make American feel better about cars they have already bought.  Mmhmm.

What I’m getting at here is there are many unnecessary expenditures in our budget even before we get to domestic spending.   If America is broke — and if we are not there yet, we are close — then why are we spending so much money on foreign aid?   Why are we validating the UN by providing a significant portion of its financing to its collection of Third-World despots, dictators, and countries who would seriously consider wiping US off the map along with Israel?  As for Iraq and Afghanistan, don’t pretend that an already-planned troop reduction should count toward a spending cut since this will happen regardless of which plan ends up passing in Congress.  So let’s not insist that all these things (some more important than others) are off the table when we have to make so many cuts to domestic spending to balance this budget.

And yes, it’s true – neither side is serious about making the cuts we need to make to get our fiscal house in order.  But at least the House Republicans are providing some level of opposition to the bipartisan failure that is the Boehner plan.  From the way Speaker Boehner explained his plan on every single talk radio station, it’s clear to me that proposed spending cuts don’t have any weight to them, and that’s the kind of cuts in this plan.  Also, those spending cuts are spread out over 10 years, which means that they won’t offset the rise in the debt ceiling that would happen in this agreement.    I’m not advocating irresponsibility.  Still, I find it difficult to trust Congress and the president when they insist that certain doom will befall America if we don’t raise the debt ceiling.  There will be no incentive to make those necessary cuts when the government knows that they have a limitless checkbook.    For these, and many other reasons,  I would encourage Congress and especially the Republicans to keep trying.  We aren’t there yet.

For more, read Reason’s excellent article here.

motives

Finally there appears to be some agreement that we must reduce spending. Unfortunately, the mindset of those who wish to do this is all wrong. I guess I shouldn’t care about the motives of the Democrats and Republicans here, as long as they do what we all want them to do. But it does matter, because even if we manage to get our fiscal house in order (and that’s no small task), if we do not quit wasting money on unnecessary things, we will quickly get back to the same problem we are in right now. When getting out of debt, one must change the behavior that led to the fiscal crisis they were in. I know this first hand. Why is this concept so difficult for the White House and Congress to grasp?

Read the following quote from President Obama and you tell me whether he understands this concept:

If youre a progressive that cares about investments in Head Start and student loan programs and medical research and infrastructure, Mr. Obama said, were not going to be able to make progress on those areas if we havent gotten our fiscal house in order.”

So we have to put the fiscal house in order to spend MORE money on social programs. Got it. I would argue that putting our fiscal house in order requires a re-evaluation of our current spending priorities and maybe eliminating some programs. That’s not what the President wants to do.

careful what you wish for

This is an uncomfortable position conservatives find themselves in as a result of last night’s election results – between electability and the raw passion of the tea party candidates. Not every conservative should be considered electable. For every Nikki Haley – who has shown incredible message discipline and restraint in the face of scurrilous accusations against her – there are several candidates who lack that ability when facing even the smallest challenges. I’ve said this previously, but I think it is important to remember that activists don’t always make the best candidates. They play very different roles in a political party. That’s the thing to remember with some of these winning tea party approved candidates – the transition from one role to the other is sometimes difficult. These populist heroes won’t say the PC thing most of the time and this will get them into trouble with the media. This is what we love about these guys and gals, but it’s an easy way for a nascent campaign to sink before it even leaves the harbor.

I love rebels too, and appreciate the sacrifices those potential candidates have to make to run for office. For that reason, there must be a process of vetting, interviews, and other training to properly prepare them for the challenges they will face. Of course there will always be candidates who are more than a little risky, such as Sharron Angle and Rand Paul, but ultimately the voters in this country win when the average person starts caring enough to take the challenge personally and run for political office. Political parties, and specifically the Republican Party, need to do a better job in nurturing and developing young and unproven talent in their ranks so that they can have a strong farm system for the future and so that we don’t have the same guys running for President every four years.

elena kagan – it could be worse

How does it add anything to a SCOTUS nominee’s qualifications when it is noted that a nominee’s life story is inspirational, a real American rags-to-riches success story, and so forth and so on?  While the life experiences of Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor are certainly a made-for-TV movie waiting to happen, they have nothing to do with being a Supreme Court justice.  If anything, those life experiences tend to suggest a certain subjective POV that leans toward one specific ideological perspective – and it’s not one conservatives can support.  But that’s hardly a surprise.

It’s difficult to believe that President Obama doesn’t know exactly what he’s getting in Elena Kagan. What we know about her so far is enough to suggest to me two things – one, she leans progressive; and two, she doesn’t have any judicial experience.  The latter doesn’t technically disqualify her from serving as a Supreme Court justice, as others have accurately pointed out.  However, this gives greater importance to her writings and speeches, and her actions as a law professor.   Those evaluating her fitness for this job will have to look at everything she has said and done in the past, and try to accurately predict which way she will go as a Supreme Court justice.  This evaluation will be completed before Elena Kagan gets her first question in the Senate confirmation hearings.

Many Democrats have already started lining up behind the President’s pick, while Republicans are promising to ask hard questions that are unlikely to be answered.  That’s the way this kabuki theater works.  Actually ask hard questions of SCOTUS nominees from the opposing party that you will never get a straight answer to, and in the end the nominee gets through, unless he/she is fatally flawed like Harriet Miers.

Honestly, I’m ok with this.  Many pundits find their latest column idea by disparaging the way nominees are told to handle their confirmation hearings.  Since both sides have already made up their minds about the nominee before the hearings ever take place, the questions will always be a formality.  When was the last time we learned something useful from SCOTUS confirmation hearings?  Bork.  Right.  If straight-up answers keep qualified candidates from making it to the high court, then I’m all for the non-sequiturs.  Besides, it’s not likely that anything said in the hearings would turn a Democrat against Elena Kagan, and since the Republicans could very well be so open-minded their brains fall out, they could decide that there’s no point in opposing a nominee when her confirmation is more than likely.

the state of the middle ground

America was not designed to be run by elitists – nor was it designed for pure mob rule.  What we need to find here is some middle ground – a government that will be responsive to the needs of the people without being subject to the whims of daily polling and public opinion that is too often swayed by a slanted press corps.  That’s not where we are in the state of American politics.   What we have is a bloated federal bureaucracy that is incapable of being the kind of government we need, and the American people are beginning to wake up to that truth — that’s the idea behind the growing tea party movement in this country.   It could be reasonably argued that both parties (yes, even the Republican Party) share the blame for the massive spending,  but the sins of one party should not serve as an excuse for the other party to continue the bad behavior.  That’s where I believe the average citizen, and the tea party protests serve the purpose of drawing the line here, to say, “Enough of this.  It’s way past time for Congress to start being more responsible with taxpayer money.”  Nothing at all wrong with that.

The average citizen may not be the most eloquent, and in some cases,  may know just enough to question the direction of government policy without getting a front row seat to the halls of power.  Engagement in the political process by all citizens should be encouraged, but at the same time, we also have a responsibility to be able to argue intelligently on the issues of the day. While I believe that everyone should have a voice, I think it’s in the best interest of opponents of the policy positions of President Obama and the Democrats to know what they are talking about.  The media will continue to do what it does best — shredding the reputation of good and decent people who care about their country to burnish their merit badges and keep their invites to the hot cocktail parties.  It’s up to us not to give them any additional ammo by bringing our A game, doing our research, and being armed with the facts when discussing policy.

dirty tricks

This is wrong, unethical – and somewhat boneheaded.  But enough about what I think about the Dems’  new (old) trick to pass the health care bill.

Let’s read what the Washington Post had to say about it (bold text my addition).

Pelosi (D-Calif.) would rely on a procedural sleight of hand: The House would vote on a more popular package of fixes to the Senate bill; under the House rule for that vote, passage would signify that lawmakers “deem” the health-care bill to be passed.

The tactic — known as a “self-executing rule” or a “deem and pass” — has been commonly used, although never to pass legislation as momentous as the $875 billion health-care bill. It is one of three options that Pelosi said she is considering for a late-week House vote, but she added that she prefers it because it would politically protect lawmakers who are reluctant to publicly support the measure.

On something as big as an overhaul of the American health care system, the American people deserve better than backroom deals and “deem and pass” rules.   If the Democrats honestly believe that what they are doing is providing the best bill to fix the problems we have with coverage and cost, then they should be required to sign their names to it — or at least give the bill as it currently is constructed an up or down vote in the House.  If they don’t, then why put their fellow Democrats at risk of being voted out of office in 2010 by making them sign on to this bill?   It’s an unnecessary risk, but one I’m willing to watch them take heading toward the next election.

too much awesome

(h/t Hot Air)

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, ladies and gentlemen (on the  must-pass health care bill):

You’ve heard about the controversies within the bill, the process about the bill, one or the other. But I don’t know if you have heard that it is legislation for the future, not just about health care for America, but about a healthier America, where preventive care is not something that you have to pay a deductible for or out of pocket. Prevention, prevention, prevention—it’s about diet, not diabetes. It’s going to be very, very exciting.

But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.

The Democrats need to pass this bill so that you can find out what is in it, because obviously all these Republicans haven’t been telling you the truth. Got it. Just one problem with this though — if this is such a great bill and we are just too stupid to realize all the benefits of the health care bill, that’s the Democrats’ fault. The job of selling this belongs to the majority party, and to President Obama. It’s their failure to do that that could ultimately save us from this health care bill or anything like it.

fratricide

While we can all agree Rahm Emanuel is not the most warm and cuddly guy in politics, this Eric Massa sounds like a real jerk, and it doesn’t surprise me that these two hate each other’s guts.   It seems that the Democrats just can’t help themselves when it comes to the fratricide now in progress among the Democrats in Congress, those “retiring” from Congress, and the White House.  Conservatives and Republicans do very much enjoy watching this.  However, shredding Rahm Emanuel is very inside baseball stuff for the common people.   All those people want to know is: who will stand up and fight the Democrats’ health care plan?  We don’t like it.  President Obama and the Democrats are clearly headed in the opposite direction from what we want.

What has been proposed is not reform.   The House plan is nothing new and doesn’t make any positive radical changes to reduce cost AND increase coverage — because IT CAN’T DO BOTH.  Reduced cost will most likely mean rationing.  This is common sense.   Increasing coverage, mandating coverage, fining employers and individuals for not having insurance  — explain how health care will be cheaper under this strategy.  It will not.  I would be wasting my time waiting for the Democrats to include anything Republicans can support in the legislation, because they don’t have any intention to accomodate the minority party.  That’s just as well, because I don’t want any Republicans to have their names tied to this political anvil.

heading toward the cliff

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is willing to sacrifice the political futures of her fellow House Democrats in order to get the health care bill passed.  That’s generous of her, and the Republicans will absolutely accept that result.  I just wonder how many left-leaning true believers are left in the Democratic Congress.  The answer to that question will determine the future of this health care bill.   Sure, there are a few like Nancy Pelosi who would sacrifice the rest of their political life to get this country-changing reform passed.  But I’m willing to bet that at the core, most Washington politicos value self-preservation over ideology.  They have seen the writing on the wall with the recent Republican victories and are considering future votes more carefully than they would otherwise.

Most Democrats will choose their jobs over following the Speaker over the political cliff.  That’s my prediction.

Even though our side seems to be winning the argument on health care reform, there’s still no reason to be overconfident.   There is still work to be done, and when the current legislation goes down in flames, we need to be ready to take advantage of that failure with our own vision and solutions.