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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what I saw in the Nevada debate

Here’s the overview of what I saw in this debate:

  • 9-9-9 needs a better explanation / sales pitch to answer objections
  • All the second tier / third tier candidates brought some interesting ideas to the table and I appreciated their contribution because that’s not something we would get without these important voices.
  • It’s not clear to me that Mitt Romney or Rick Perry would implement the kind of radical reforms we need to get our government’s fiscal house in order.
  • Those who said (mainly Ron Paul) that everything should be on the table when it comes to spending are correct. Even foreign aid. There tends to be a knee-jerk reaction against cutting military spending. We need to define what this means. Are we talking about not giving the active military the tools they needs to effectively do their jobs? If so, I’m opposed to doing that. If however, the question is reevaluating our spending priorities on things like the UN and passive military deployments in countries that are not currently at war, why shouldn’t this kind of spending be on the table? We can’t afford this kind of thing anymore. Let’s look at cutting some of this. There is also waste in military spending, authorizing money for tech we don’t really need. So yes, put all of this on the table.
  • Rick Perry has the edge on Romney on health care, mostly because he doesn’t have the albatross of something like Romneycare in his state. The criticism by Romney about the uninsured in Texas is unfair because as Perry points out, this number includes illegals as well.
  • Why is no one else talking about Dodd-Frank? This is an important issue that someone other than Michelle Bachmann should be discussing at length because these regulations hurt the economy and the average person having to deal with the consequences of this legislation.

I have doubts about Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan. Herman Cain admits that his national sales tax will apply in addition to the state and local taxes. That means that this will be a new tax for those who don’t currently have a tax. This will be a hard sell to the average American voter, who won’t take the time to understand the whole hidden tax thing but will instead see a clear increase in their sales tax which would make a concrete impact on what they spend on essentials like food and gas for the car. There aren’t any exceptions to the tax as far as I can tell, so each person would be hit with the same level of taxation no matter how much their income is. At least with the fair tax there are allowances for this double taxation with the pre-bates. 9-9-9 needs more tweaking IMO.

On Mitt Romney – the verbal fisticuffs between him and Rick Perry was ugly to watch. I understand that something like this was inevitable because of Perry’s previous debate performances but it still made both of them look petty and definitely not presidential. Now I think that the CNN analysts were wrong in suggesting that Reagan’s 11th commandment prohibits legitimate criticism of one’s fellow Republican candidates, but that’s not what that exchange was. I don’t know the real story with Mitt’s lawn care service, but what struck me was his comment to the effect that once he realized that the lawn care people were employing illegals, he decided to stop using them BECAUSE he was running for President and it wouldn’t look right. Not because it was wrong. He made this decision based on his fear of public opinion and because he didn’t want it to damage his political ambitions. That’s what he said. I’m not adding anything. That pretty much summarizes the chameleon nature of Mitt’s entire political career. I’ll get back to that in a future post.

Let’s be perfectly clear about this – neither Rick Perry nor Mitt Romney has much credibility on illegal immigration so for them to pick that issue to fight about seems rather foolish. I would call that a draw although it would make sense to assume that Perry knows a little more about what should be done on the border – even though he hasn’t done much about it – since Texas is a border state. If one wishes to pick a winner, then it would have to be determined how much the states control when it comes to enforcement of federal immigration law, and I don’t know the answer to that question.

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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.

about last night

Random:

Much credit should be given to RNC Chairman Michael Steele for shutting up and not saying anything stupid during this election cycle that could have doomed the Republicans to certain failure. Well done.

Marco Rubio is a star and future president material. Loved his speech. More on that later.

Congratulations to our next governor Nikki Haley and our new Representative Mick Mulvaney. His win was huge for our district, since it meant the defeat of Nancy Pelosi’s budget chairman John Spratt. This was a long time coming, and we finally found the right guy to get the job done. YAY!!!!!

So, who were those 28% voting for Alvin Greene, anyway?

It would be hard to say that there were many surprises about the election results last night, with Republicans taking control of the House of Representatives and Dems barely retaining control of the Senate. I do think that in some cases, there were missed opportunities for the Republicans — primarily Nevada, Delaware, and Alaska. Of course, we won’t know for several weeks whether Joe Miller or Lisa Murkowski wins in Alaska, but my opinion is still the same about this race. The losses of these Tea Party candidates is not a repudiation of the ideology that the Tea Party candidates represent. These results are based on the weaknesses of these candidates. I’m an ideologue at heart. I’m both fiscally and socially conservative in my belief system, and I want my candidates to share my beliefs. With that said, I still recognize the need to field candidates with political skill in addition to having a sound foundation on the issues we find important. We CAN have both, and the Republicans need to try harder to find this kind of candidate. It’s unrealistic to think that every candidate we put up can have the star power of a Marco Rubio or Jim DeMint, but it’s also unrealistic to believe that the Republican Party can throw up just any candidate and defeat entrenched incumbent Democrats like Harry Reid.

There are lessons to be learned here, and here’s a strategy I would humbly suggest to my Republican friends going forward to future elections.
Both establishment Republicans and Tea Party members have a few takeaways from last night’s results. What establishment Republicans need to understand is that ideology matters, and to some voters it matters enough to toss overboard the sure-thing candidate to send a message to the powers that be in Washington controlling the purse strings of our party. What Tea Party members need to understand is that the priority of the national Republican Party is getting candidates elected, and that sometimes you can’t get everything you want in a candidate who has a better chance to win than the Tea Party choice. What we know, based on what we have seen, is that strong Republican candidates win, and those who try to play both sides have a tougher road to election / re-election. Would it have been better if Mike Castle was the Republican nominee in Delaware instead of Christine O’Donnell? No, but Delaware voters really needed a better primary choice than those two candidates, especially when the attempt is to flip a solid Democrat Senate seat.

This is the difficulty for the national Republican Party because they can’t just randomly kick to the curb any RINOs that may appear in their sights, since electability still matters to them (and it should). So the responsibility here belongs to the Tea Party to provide quality challengers to the establishment Republicans. The responsibility of the national party is to stay out of the way in the primaries and let the voters decide who the candidates should be. Once that’s decided, then both sides must help the candidates prepare for interviews and debates to give them the best chance to win their race.

In some cases, nothing can be done to fix a flawed candidate. We win some. We lose some. The media takes every advantage it can find to hammer our candidates. That’s politics. It doesn’t benefit the Republican Party to engage in the petty infighting we have seen between the national Republican Party — and those like Newt Gingrich and Karl Rove who wish to speak for the establishment Republicans — and the candidates who have been selected by the voters to represent the Republicans in the primary. Sometimes the voters have bad choices. This is definitely true in the 2010 midterm elections. We have to play the cards we are dealt, and work toward a better result next election. Peggy Noonan suggested on Morning Joe that the best candidates should have career experience before they enter politics for the first time. We can’t just pluck any well-meaning person out of their home to take on Harry Reid or an establishment Republican like Lisa Murkowski. No offense intended to Joe Miller and Sharron Angle, but we could have found stronger candidates for Nevada and Alaska. If Sarah Palin was really serious about defeating her nemesis, she should have run for that Senate seat herself rather than endorsing Joe Miller.

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.

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.

brown wins

Congratulations to Senator-elect Brown.  Nice win in one of the bluest of blue states in the nation.  Who would have thought that Massachusetts of all states would possibly save us from ObamaCare?  Amazing.

With that said,  this is another case of a generally unappealing Democratic candidate, who demonstrated how out of touch she was with the people she was seeking to represent, and lost as a result of that.  This election does suggest a growing distrust of the Democrats and the Washington agenda.  That’s an encouraging sign going into the next election.  But can Republicans take advantage of this opportunity?

flawed concept

Reason’s Jacob Sullum says there should be no fundamental right to health care.

A right to health care thus requires the government to infringe on people’s liberty rights by commandeering their talents, labor, and earnings. And since new subsidies will only exacerbate the disconnect between payment and consumption that drives health care inflation, such interference is bound to increase as the government struggles to control ever-escalating spending. Rising costs will also encourage the government to repeatedly redefine the right to health care, deciding exactly which treatments it includes.

Enforcing this right demands an involuntary contribution from all taxpayers.   Once it is decided by our Congress that health care coverage is mandated for all of us and primarily funded by tax dollars,  then we are in danger of losing more than the ability to buy private health care coverage.  I used to think that the relationship between liberty and the health care debate was tenuous at best,  but it’s becoming clear to me how wrong I was about that.   Expanding the reach of government into health care beyond its current bureaucratic regulations and restrictions is something we need to consider carefully before going forward with such plans.   While I’m proposing all these radical things, how ’bout one more – if we are going to copy another country’s health care system, we might want to copy one that actually does what President Obama promised with expanding choices and competition for the health care consumer, and take steps to make health care more affordable for every American.   That’s not what the Senate and House are doing with their proposed health care legislation.  We need to start over from scratch and try again if we want a health care bill that is truly worthy of the claim of  “health care reform”. 

Read Sullum’s entire argument here.