The Books Above: In March of 2013 I finished writing my second book "Make Every Vote Equal: What a Novel Idea." The book supports the National Popular Vote movement, whose focus is to modify how state Electors vote in the Electoral College so that the winner of the popular vote is also the winner in the Electoral College. My first book was published last year: "The Political Bible of Little Known Facts in American Politics." In April of 2013 I published a Second Edition of the book, which now includes a facts section on the 2012 elections. All of my publications can be found on Amazon.com
The Featured Video in the left column: is a sampling of some of my past television interviews.
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This Day in American Political History December 6, 1973 – Gerald Ford is sworn in as Vice President of the United States.
The Establishment is Not Quite as Established as One Might Think
There is no greater term of derision in American politics than to be called an "establishmentarian." No one wants to be portrayed as a tribune of the status quo, especially at a time when politicians are held in such low esteem. There is no shortage of candidates who characterize themselves as populist insurgents with a phalanx of grassroots supporters challenging the political machinery, and sometimes an insurgent rises to great political heights and becomes the face of the establishment. Barack Obama is the quintessential example of this phenomenon.
In 2008, the preponderant frontrunner for the Democratic Presidential nomination was U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY). She had redoubtable early institutional support. Traditional Democratic benefactors contributed early to her campaign.
In sharp contrast to Hillary, Obama ran as an agent of change, actually using his lack of national political experience to his advantage. Obama asserted: "There are those who tout their experience working the system in Washington. But the problem is the system in Washington isn't working for us, and it hasn't been for a very long time." Obama consolidated a coalition of young professionals, disenchanted Independent voters and African-Americans, defeating Clinton and the Democratic establishment.
Turnabout is fair play in American politics, and ironically Obama is now the poster child for the Washington establishment. He now stands with the bipartisan Congressional leadership on a litany of issues, from the launching of predator drone strikes, to the defense of the NSA domestic surveillance program, to defending a $633 Billion defense budget. His opposition comes from progressive Democrats on the left and Libertarians on the right who are now challenging the bipartisan establishment.
Obama's 2008 General Election opponent, U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), finds himself in a similar predicament. In 2000, McCain challenged Texas Governor Bush for the GOP Presidential nomination. Similar to the case of Hillary Clinton's backing by the Democratic establishment in 2008, Bush had the support of the Republican establishment and held an early commanding lead for the nomination. McCain ran as the insurgent. He put a scare into the GOP establishment by running on reforming the political process. Surprisingly, he scored a searing 18-point upset in the New Hampshire Primary with the support of Independents and some crossover Democrats.
The establishment eventually recovered and Bush won in the establishment firewall state of South Carolina. McCain's insurgent army was never able to repeat the magic of New Hampshire and Bush garnered the nomination. Today, McCain is seen as the embodiment of the GOP establishment. He is often the prime defender of established Republican orthodoxy against Libertarian insurgents intent on reorienting the GOP as a party against intervention in the economy and in foreign affairs. McCain was a supporter of the $700 billion bailout of the U.S. financial industry, and is the foremost advocate in the U.S. Senate for a continued robust U.S. military presence in the Middle East.
The quintessence of the paradigm of a rebel becoming the face card of the establishment is Gerald R. Ford. Today, many Americans think of Ford as the quintessential establishment Republican. He served 25 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, becoming House Minority Leader before becoming Vice President and President. Ironically, Ford got to where he was by being an insurrectionist, challenging the GOP establishment.
Ford began his GOP career as chairman of the Kent County GOP. In that role, Ford challenged the supreme reign of the corrupt system within the Michigan GOP led by patronage dispenser and GOP benefactor Frank "Boss" McKay. In 1948, Ford won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives by challenging 9-year incumbent Bartel J. Jonkman in the Republican Primary. Jonkman had been a product of the McKay machine.
In the House, Ford became active in the "young turks," a coterie of Republican rebels who became disenthralled with the GOP establishment in the House. Ford thought the GOP establishment had become too complacent in its role as the minority party, and felt that the party could regain its majority status by recruiting GOP candidates to challenge conservative Democrats in the South. He came to feel that the leadership was too willing to work with Conservative Democrats in the House, rather than working to defeat them. In 1963, Ford successfully challenged incumbent U.S. Representative Charles Hoeven for the Chairmanship of the House GOP Caucus. Two years later, Ford shocked the GOP establishment by defeating House Minority Leader Charles Halleck (R-IN) in his bid for re-election. Accordingly, Ford reinvented the GOP Establishment by supplanting it.
Alternatively, some products of the political establishment went rogue. Eugene McCarthy entered the U.S. Senate in 1959 as a rank-and-file establishment Democrat. In 1964, he was on Lyndon B. Johnson's shortlist for Vice Presidential nominees. However, McCarthy broke with the Democratic establishment over the volatile issue of Vietnam and challenged Johnson in his re-election bid in 1968, declaring: "No nation had a right to destroy a nation." McCarthy mustered an astounding 41.9% of the vote in the New Hampshire Democratic Primary, helping to force Johnson from the race. McCarthy eventually lost the nomination at the Convention to Vice President Hubert Humphrey. McCarthy continued on the rogue trajectory, eventually waging a quixotic Independent Presidential campaign in 1976, advocating nuclear disarmament and a shortened workweek.
Ramsey Clark took a much more radical departure from the Democratic establishment. Clark was the son of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Tom C. Clark (1949-1967.) Clark followed in his father's footsteps, earning a law degree from the prestigious University of Chicago and becoming a partner in an esteemed law firm. He became U.S. Attorney General under the Johnson administration in 1967 at a time when the administration was combating domestic unrest caused chiefly by the Vietnam War.
Once the Johnson administration left office, Clark became a vociferous opponent of U.S. foreign policy. He traveled to North Vietnam in 1972, excoriating the U.S. for its bombing of Hanoi. He later became a vocal critic of the Gulf War and the attendant U.S. Sponsored Sanctions on Iraq, labeling them "the clearest form of genocide." Clark also branded the so-called Global War on Terror "A war on Islam" and provided counsel to dislodged Iraqi President Saddam Hussein at his 2006 execution hearing.
Political candidates revel in styling themselves as the populist insurgent. They try to brand a scarlet "E" for establishment on the forehead of their opponents. While an establishment candidate benefits from institutional support and an existing army of benefactors, they usually downplay this significant asset, trying to present themselves as independent-minded. However, once insurgents are elected, they become the face card of the establishment. As the late humorist Art Buchwald opined: "If you attack the establishment long enough, and hard enough, they will make you a member of it."
A New Bipartisanship
It has become conventional thinking that bipartisanship is moribund in American politics. Recent elections of Tea Party Republicans have cemented this mindset. Ironically, the increasing partisan polarity may actually have the unintended result of effectuating a new bipartisanship. Politics is not a continuum but a circle. We are now witnessing a new era of bipartisanship which pits the center-left and center-right establishment against a coalition of forces on the Progressive left and on the Libertarian right.
Progressives tend to favor government spending on domestic programs rather than on overseas expeditions. While they support government intervention in the economy, they are wary of the U.S. asserting its power internationally. In contrast, Libertarian-Republicans want to curtail government actions both at home and abroad. They fear a leviathan state.
This new political dynamic has been in the works since at least the end of the Cold War. Conservatives viewed the fight against Communism as an existential threat to the Republic. With the dissolution of the Soviet empire, neoconservative Republicans pushed for a continued interventionist role in the world. Neoconservative thinkers William Kristol and Robert A. Kagan called for the U.S. to be a "benevolent hegemony." Other conservatives advised the party to return to the non-interventionist proclivities that dominated the party prior to the Gulf War. During the 1990's, the Clinton administration relied on center-right Republicans to support its interventions in the Balkans, the expansion of NATO, and the bailout of the Mexican economy after the peso crises. Meanwhile, some former Cold War conservatives, like Republican presidential candidate Pat Buchanan, found themselves simpatico with traditional anti-war Liberals like U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) in denouncing foreign interventionism.
During the 1990s, the Clinton administration and the Republican Congressional leadership supported the continuation of economic sanctions leveled on Iraq. A bipartisan coalition of Libertarian Republicans and Progressive Democrats opposed the sanctions regime. U.S. Representatives John Conyers (D-MI) and Tom Campbell (R-CA) authored a bipartisan letter to the Clinton administration which read, in part: "Reports from UNICEF (the United Nation's Children's Fund) and other United Nations agencies operating in Iraq estimate that over one million civilians, mostly children, have died from malnutrition and disease as a result of the embargo ... Morally, it is wrong to hold the Iraqi people responsible for the actions of a brutal and reckless government."
In 2002, George W. Bush won the authorization to use force in Iraq. The leadership of both parties supported this measure. U.S. Senators Hillary Clinton D-NY), Joe Biden, (D-DE) and John Kerry (D-MA) locked arms with John McCain (R-AZ), Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Bill Frist (R-TN) in approving the authorization. Meanwhile, U.S. House Libertarian-Republicans Ron Paul (R-TX), John Duncan (R-TN), and John Hostettler (R-IN) joined liberal Democrats John Conyers (D-MI), Barbara Lee (R-CA), and Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) in voting against the authorization.
In 2008, Mr. Bush signed a $700 Billion bailout of the nation's financial industry. He did this with the support of both the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees (Barack Obama and John McCain), as well as the establishments of both political parties. The opposition came from a ragtag coalition of Progressive Democrats and Libertarian Republicans in Congress who called themselves "the skeptics caucus." The progressives lampooned the concentrated power of the big banks, while Libertarian Republicans opposed government intervention in the free market.
The best illustration of this new bipartisanship is the unique alliance between former U.S. Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT). On paper, they are the political odd couple. Paul is a Libertarian-Republican. He advocates abolishing the federal income tax. He earned the moniker "Dr. No" for his consistent opposition to government spending. Sanders is a self-avowed Democratic-Socialist who champions a single-payer health care system. The two developed a close working relationship as they found themselves on the same side of a litany of issues. They both vociferously oppose the War on Drugs, favor defunding the Iraq War, and advocate truncating military expenditures. The center-left and center-right establishment opposed this political odd couple on each of these issues.
President Barack Obama has been a focal point in this new bipartisan alignment. Ironically, on a multiplicity of issues, Mr. Obama and the Republican leadership have been in agreement, while the Libertarian right and the progressive left have joined forces in opposition. Obama campaigned for president in 2008 on the premise that the Bush administration had taken its eye off the ball in Afghanistan to execute the war in Iraq. Obama pledged to send three additional brigades into Afghanistan. As president, Mr. Obama ordered 30,000 more troops into Afghanistan. This move was met with hackles from traditional anti-war liberals. U.S. Representative Jim McDermott (D-WA), one of the House's most liberal members, warned that the continuation of the war was "bleeding our ability to provide for our own people and construct economic recovery and security at home." One of the body's most conservative members, Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), criticized the war from the right, telling Politico, "I am opposed to nation building, and I quite frankly don't see or understand what victory looks like."
Similarly, the Obama administration has escalated the use of predator drones to kill suspected terrorists. Obama garners the support of the leadership of both parties in this endeavor. Yet Progressive Democrats are indignant at the civilian casualties the drone strikes actuate and the enmity they effectuate against the United States in the Muslim World. Libertarian Republicans fear the prospect of future drone attacks against Americans. A "who's who" of the liberal Progressive Caucus signed a letter which exclaimed: "The executive branch's claim of authority to deprive citizens of life, and to do so without explaining the legal bases for doing so, sets a dangerous precedent and is a model of behavior that the United States would not want other nations to emulate." It was U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), a tribune for the Libertarian-Republican bloodline, who filibustered the nomination of John O' Brennan for CIA Director, remonstrating the administration's use of drones. Paul feared the possibility that the drones could be used in the U.S. He was joined by two of his most conservative Republican colleagues, Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (UT). Paul's actions were chastised by center-right U.S Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) who defended Obama. Graham asserted: "People are astonished that President Obama is doing many of the same things that President Bush did. I'm not astonished. I congratulate him for having the good judgment to understand we're at war."
This brings us to Obama and his steadfast defense of the National Security Agency surveillance program. The program, which began under George W. Bush, has the support of much of the leadership within both parties. Again, the Libertarian Republicans and Progressive Democrats have joined forces to oppose the program. Libertarian-Republican Justin Amash (R-MI) and Progressive Democrat John Conyers (D-MI) are leading the opposition to the program and have offered an amendment to greatly retrench the scope of government surveillance activities.
This is the new paradigm in American politics: Libertarian-Republicans and progressive Democrats holding positions against the center-right Republicans and center-left Democrats. Contrary to popular belief, Bipartisanship is not moribund; it is just evincing itself in a new fashion. Ironically, the political circle has now been joined at both ends.
A presidential campaign is a tedious and protracted process where strategies are developed, employed, and usually changed, and where operational tactics are formulated and brainstormed for every possible situation the campaign finds itself in. However, sometimes a president assumes office by mere serendipity. One odd or unusual event can lead to a chain of events, leading to an unexpected presidency.
A good example of this is the 1880 presidential election. One of the Republican candidates vying for the presidential nomination was U.S. Treasury Secretary John Sherman. The nomination at the time was decided at each party's National conventions. U.S. Representative James Garfield (R-OH) was a member of the Ohio delegation to the Republican National Convention. His role was to deliver an address on behalf of the Ohio delegation nominating Sherman, a native son of Ohio. Garfield was not a candidate for president. In fact, he had just been elected by the Ohio State Legislature to the U.S. Senate (At that time, the legislatures, not citizens, elected their U.S. Senators). Earlier that year, Garfield and Sherman had agreed to a deal whereby Garfield would support Sherman's presidential bid if Sherman endorsed Garfield for the U.S. Senate. The Republican Convention was deadlocked between Sherman, former President Ulysses S. Grant, and James G. Blaine. Garfield, unlike the person he was nominating (Sherman was nicknamed the Ohio Icicle), electrified the crowd and a chorus of "We Want Garfield" ensued. Stunned by the chant, Garfield insisted that his name not be placed for nomination. However, by the second day, with no end in sight to the stalemate, Blaine and Sherman both agreed to support the rising star, James Garfield. The nation was astounded by this set of unlikely events as was Garfield himself. Garfield mustered the nomination on the 36th ballot.
Garfield was a supporter of Civil Service Reform. In fact, there was a schism in the GOP over this issue. The leading supporter of the current system was the omnipowerful U.S. Senator Roscoe Conkling (R-NY). To unify the party, Garfield offered the Vice Presidency to U.S. Representative Levi Morton (R-NY), who strongly desired becoming president. However, Conkling persuaded Morton, his protégée, that Garfield was destined to lose the election, and that Morton would share the blame for the loss and would never win the Republican presidential nomination. Morton reluctantly heeded that advice and declined the offer. Garfield's second choice was Chester A. Arthur, also a supporter of Conkling. As with Morton, Conkling beseeched Arthur not to accept the nomination. Arthur refused Conkling's request and was nominated as Vice president. The ticket scraped out a victory and Garfield assumed the Presidency. Garfield was subsequently assassinated in just his first year in office. Arthur, not Morton, assumed the Presidency.
Four years later, James G. Blaine, now the GOP presidential nominee, made a strategic blunder by not dissociating himself from a supporter. This faux pas likely cost Blaine the election. A few days before the 1884 presidential election, Republican presidential nominee James G. Blaine made a campaign appearance in New York, where Presbyterian Minister Samuel Burchard, a Blaine supporter, excoriated the Democrats as the Party of "Rum, Romanticism, and Rebellion." Blaine sat silent during this tirade, making no effort to disassociate himself from these volatile remarks. Unfortunately for the unsuspecting Blaine, many Irish voters took umbrage by the use of the word "rum," believing that the Minister was perpetuating a stereotype that Irish-Americans, who were mostly Democrats, were alcoholics. This galvanized the Irish vote against Blaine in the swing state of New York, where Democrat Grover Cleveland eked out a razor-thin victory, defeating Blaine by just 1,047 votes. New York proved to be the state that made the electoral difference in this razor-close presidential election.
Under the category of "be careful what you wish for," comes a story of a political boss who made history by elevating a foe to the nation's highest office. Vice President Garret Hobart had died in office of heart disease, and the Republican Party needed a new vice presidential running mate for President William McKinley in 1900. New York Republican Party boss and U.S. Senator Thomas C. Platt, a rival of New York Governor Theodore Roosevelt, successfully urged the Republican Party to select Roosevelt as the running mate to President William McKinley in 1900. Platt did this to get Roosevelt out of the Governorship because Roosevelt was challenging the Platt political machine in New York. Platt thought with Roosevelt gone that Lieutenant Governor Benjamin Barker Odell Jr. would become the Governor and would be more compliant to Platt's political machine. The thinking was that Roosevelt would be rendered inconsequential in that the Vice Presidency has little power. As circumstances would have it, President McKinley was assassinated in 1901, during the first year of his second term in office, and Roosevelt became president. Upon hearing the news, a shocked Platt exclaimed: "Oh God, now that dammed cowboy is president of the United States." To add insult to injury, Governor Odell, similar to Theodore Roosevelt, became a crusader for reform, shunning the Thomas C. Platt political machine.
The name Irvine Lenroot is not exactly a household word, but had the Republican Party high command and the GOP presidential nominee had their way, he may have become president. U.S. Senator Warren G. Harding garnered the Republican presidential nomination in 1920. Harding came from the conservative bloodline of the GOP. The Republican Party establishment wanted to balance the ticket with Lenroot, a U.S. Representative from Wisconsin and a tribune of the party's liberal bloodline. However, conservative delegates to the Republican National Convention rebelled against the high command and nominated Massachusetts Governor Calvin Coolidge. Coolidge was a rising star in conservative circles for his role in standing up to organized labor during the Boston Police Strike. Ironically, Harding died in 1923, allowing Coolidge to ascend to the Presidency, winning a term in his own right a year later. Irvine Lenroot faded back into obscurity. The capstone of his career was not the Presidency, but a judgeship on the United States Court of Customs and Appeals.
Enveloped in the Watergate scandal, President Richard M. Nixon resigned his office in 1974 and was succeeded by Gerald R. Ford, the only man to succeed to the Presidency without ever being elected vice president or president. But, if Nixon had his way, Ford would not have succeeded him as president. When Vice President Spiro Agnew was forced to resign his office nolo contender (no contest) to charges of failure to report income, President Richard M. Nixon's first choice to succeed Agnew was Treasury Secretary John Connally. However, Democratic Congressional leaders told Nixon that they would not confirm Connally. They viewed Connally as a turncoat for his recent departure from the Democratic Party. Nixon resigned his office just eight months later. Ford, not Connally, assumed the Presidency.
This brings us to the meteoric rise of our current president. In 2004, State Senator Barack Obama became the Democratic nominee for an open seat in the U.S. Senate. The party's presidential nominee, John Kerry, was impressed with the coalition of upscale independents and African-Americans that Barack Obama had stitched together to win U.S. Senate nomination. Kerry also like Obama's oratorical prowess and took a gamble when he asked Obama to deliver the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention. Obama delivered an electrifying address and became a national figure overnight. Democratic Party activists immediately floated his name as a future president. Once elected to the U.S. Senate, Obama became a rock star with the party faithful as he campaigned for Congressional Democrats running for re-election in 2006. Obama saw his opportunity and announced his presidential candidacy in 2007. He was elected president in 2008, just four years into his only term in the U.S. Senate.
Becoming president isn't always the result of years of strategic maneuvering and winning over a widespread section of constituencies and benefactors. As odd it may seem, sometimes becoming president can simply be the result of being in the right place at the right time.
If Hillary Were a Republican She Would Have a Better Chance at Winning Her Party's Presidential Nomination
If Hillary Clinton chooses to seek the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, she will be in the catbird seat, at least on paper. Hillary presently holds a commanding lead over all other prospective Democratic presidential candidates. Although it might appear likely that she will be coroneted by the Democratic Party and that her nomination will be a mere proforma exercise, this may be an illusion.
The problem Hillary has is that she is running as a Democrat. Although it is almost standard operating procedure for the Republican Party to nominate the early frontrunner (usually the one who came in second place in the prior nomination sweepstakes), the Democrats are more likely to nominate an insurgent candidate who catches fire in his or her maiden political race.
On the GOP side, George W. Bush is the only president since Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952 to win the nation's highest office in his first attempt. In Bush's case, he garnered high name recognition as the son of a former president. In addition, the preponderance of the GOP establishment supported him.
With few exceptions, the GOP nomination process is remarkable consistent. A candidate runs, finishes in second place, and then musters his party's nomination the next time it is open.
In 1976, President Gerald R. Ford won the Republican presidential nomination. Former California Governor Ronald Reagan came in second. In 1980, Ronald Reagan won the nomination with former CIA Director George H.W. Bush finishing in second place. In 1988, George H.W. Bush garnered the party's nomination with U.S. Senate Minority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-KS) coming in second. In 1996, Robert J. Dole mustered the party's nomination. Breaking the pattern, former Republican presidential advisor Patrick J. Buchanan finished in second place in 1996 and did not win the nomination in 2000.
The nomination instead went to Texas Governor George W. Bush, with U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) coming in second place. The pattern continued in 2000, with John McCain winning the GOP nomination in 2008. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney came in second to McCain then won the GOP nomination in 2012.
Unfortunately for Hillary, Democrats do not fall in line in this relatively predictable manner. The early front runner is far from assured of the Democratic Party's nomination, and candidates who finished second in the prior election are not assured of the nomination the next time around.
In 1972, the early frontrunner for the Democratic Party nomination was U.S. Senator Edmond Muskie (D-ME). Muskie had afforded himself well in 1968 as the Democratic Vice Presidential nominee. Polls as late as August of 1971 showed Muskie defeating Republican President Richard M. Nixon. Yet the campaign of U.S. Senator George McGovern (D-SD) struck a resonant chord with the vociferous activist wing of the Democratic Party. They were adamant in their opposition to U.S. involvement in Vietnam and McGovern was bold in stating without reservation that as President he would "announce a definite early date for the withdrawal of every American soldier." Muskie had been a supporter of U.S. involvement in Vietnam and his subsequent opposition was too late for these activists. McGovern, an early opponent of the war, ran under the slogan "Right from the start" and secured his party's nomination. Muskie was never again a presidential candidate.
Four years later, the Democratic Party once again turned to an insurgent. The early frontrunner for the 1976 Democratic Party nomination was U.S. Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson. He had the support of many party regulars and wealthy benefactors. Jackson enjoyed great name recognition among Democratic voters. However, Jackson, a career politician, was running in the wake of Watergate. The Democratic Party wanted a voice from outside the beltway. By running as a Washington outsider, former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter was able to capitalize on this discontent with the political establishment. In 1974, Harris Interactive released a poll of potential Democratic Presidential candidates in 1976. Thirty-five potential Democratic candidates were identified in the poll. Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter's name did not even show up on the list. Carter went on to win the 1976 Democratic presidential nomination and was elected president.
After the Democratic Party nominated the establishment candidate, former Vice President Walter Mondale in 1984, the party twice nominated first-time candidates with little national name recognition: Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis in 1988 and Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton and 1992. In fact, Bill Clinton scored just 3 percent in a Gallup poll taken in July of 1991.
Of course no one knows more about the potential for an insurgent to rise from the ashes than Hillary herself. She was the preponderant frontrunner for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination throughout 2006 and 2007. The Democratic establishment came out in droves to endorse her candidacy. Yet she had one underlying vulnerability, her 2002 vote for the authorization of the use of force in Iraq. While Hillary castigated George W. Bush for his handling of the war and opposed the president's plan to send 20,000 more troops to Iraq, she never disavowed her 2002 vote. A young charismatic U.S. senator representing Illinois named Barack Obama (D-IL) exploited this vulnerability, appealing to the activist bloodline of the Democratic Party on that issue. Obama was an opponent of the war and excoriated Hillary for giving Bush "the open-ended authority to wage war that he uses to this day." Hillary could not recover from that vote and Obama defeated her for the Democratic nomination.
Ironically, Hillary's main point of vulnerability, should she run in 2016, could be the former U.S. Secretary of State's association with the Obama administration. She is now associated with the policies of the administration. There is a developing fissure in the Democratic Party between the center-left Democratic establishment (who would likely be Hillary's base of support), and the activist wing of the party.
As in 2008, Hillary will likely garner the support of party regulars, yet may have a problem propitiating support from activists who have become disenchanted with the administration for policies supported by Hillary. These include the troop surge and the protracted U.S. presence in Afghanistan, use of drone warfare, debilitating sanctions leveled on Iran, and support for the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program.
In addition, many on the left are dismayed at the administration for its pragmatic approach in the legislative arena, including abandoning the public option to get the requisite votes needed to pass Health Care Reform and accepting an extension of the Bush era tax cuts. In addition, the administration continues to support the drug war, widely unpopular with activist Democrats.
Adding to the uncertainty of the prospect Hillary pocketing the nomination is the fact that there could be an opening for a charismatic candidate new to the national political stage. This candidate might advocate a non-interventionist foreign policy, a respect for civil liberties, and a more progressive domestic agenda. Like Obama in 2008, this candidate would style himself or herself as a new voice, with a new progressive agenda which takes into account the contemporary concerns of the activist Democrats. Running against Hillary for the 2016 Democratic Presidential nomination is not an enviable position, but she is not immutable and has vulnerabilities to be exploited. The Democrats, unlike the Republicans, do not simply nominate the candidate whose turn it is. If Hillary decides to run, she will not have a cakewalk. She will have to work assiduously to garner the Democratic nomination.
Democratic and Republican Ideologies Undergo Dramatic Role Reversal
The Democratic and Republican Parties have undergone a long transition from their founding ideological principles. The Democrats started out as the conservative party but are now the liberal party, and the Republicans were once the liberal party but are now the conservative party.
The Democratic Party we know today evolved from the conservative Democratic-Republican Party of the 1790's. The first contested Presidential election was in 1796. The Democratic-Republican Party nominated the conservative Thomas Jefferson as their first presidential nominee. Party members were anti-federalists who favored state sovereignty, free markets, a decentralized federal government, and an originalist interpretation of the U.S. Constitution and the attendant Bill of Rights. The Democratic-Republican Party also supported the institution of slavery.
Democratic President Martin Van Buren presided over the panic of 1837, and during that time he was steadfastly opposed to using the government as a means of employing workers on public works projects. In fact, during this economic depression Van Buren literally sold the federal government's tool supply so that the government could not use the tools for public works projects. This ideological mindset is diametrically opposite of the economic stimulus proposals that contemporary Democrats now support and advocate for, especially during periods of economic morass.
Similarly, the Republican Party has also experienced significant ideological alterations. Founded in 1856, it was the liberal counterweight to the conservative Democratic Party, opposing the expansion of slavery, supporting more money for public education, and advocating a more liberal immigration policy.
The original liberal bent of the Republican Party is especially evidenced by the 1888 Presidential election where Republican Benjamin Harrison was elected President by advocating a liberal platform. He favored expanding the money supply, expanding the protective tariff, and allocating munificent funding for social services. Harrison lost his re-election bid in 1892 to Democrat Grover Cleveland, who advocated a conservative platform, including maintaining the gold standard, reducing the protective tariff, and supporting a lassie faire approach to government intervention in the economy.
Then in 1896 as the country was mired in another depression, there was a move afoot in the Democratic Party to abandon the conservative orthodoxy of Van Buren and Cleveland, and to undertake a radically different ideological approach. To the chagrin of the Democratic high command, the party took a leap of faith when it nominated the 36-year-old firebrand populist William Jennings Bryan. Nicknamed "The Great Commoner," Bryan advocated a liberal platform. He opposed the gold standard, advocated an interventionist role for the government in the economy, and supported an expansion of the money supply. He was the first liberal to win the Democratic Party Presidential nomination. This represented a radical departure from the conservative roots of the Democratic Party.
In response to the nomination of Bryan by the Democrats, the Republican Party countered by straying away from its liberal beginnings and nominating the moderate-conservative Ohio Governor William McKinley, who, like Harrison, was a proponent of a strong protective tariff, but who, unlike Harrison, favored the Gold Standard. This incensed many old-line progressive Republicans. Some even defected to the Democratic Party to support Bryan. McKinley won handily and was re-elected in a rematch with Bryan in 1900.
The paradigm of the Democrats being the center-right party and the Republicans being the center-left party remained for much of the nineteenth century. However, this all changed when the Democrats nominated William Jennings Bryan, ushering in a transitional era where both parties had a significant liberal and a significant conservative bloodline.
Nomination battles within both parties were usually battles between conservative and progressive wings of each party. In 1912, the Progressive former President Theodore Roosevelt challenged the more conservative incumbent President William Howard Taft for the Republican Party nomination. Though Taft won just one primary, Massachusetts, he garnered the Party's nomination by winning enough delegates at the Republican National Convention in Chicago. Roosevelt, who won nine Republican primaries, bolted the party and formed the Progressive Party, a.k.a. the Bull Moose Party, and won 86 electoral votes in the General Election. Taft won just eight Electoral Votes. The Democratic nominee, New Jersey Governor Woodrow Wilson, mustered 435 Electoral votes and won the Presidential Election in a landslide victory.
Similarly, in 1924 there was opposition from the progressive wing of the GOP when conservative Calvin Coolidge pocketed the Republican Presidential nomination. Coolidge, who assumed the Presidency on the death of Warren G. Harding in 1923, was challenged for the Republican nomination by U.S. Senator Hiram Johnson (R-CA). Johnson defeated Coolidge in the South Dakota primary, but failed to garner much electoral traction. With the Democrats also nominating a conservative, John W. Davis, disgruntled Progressives in both major parties deserted their nominees and supported the newly formed Progressive Party, which nominated Republican Robert M. La Follette Sr. for President and Democrat Burton Wheeler for Vice President. The ticket won a formidable 16.6% of the popular vote. Twelve liberal Republican U.S. House members supported the La Follette Candidacy and were expelled from the Republican caucus by conservative U.S. House Speaker Nicholas Longworth (R-OH).
Liberals and conservatives had an uneasy cohabitation in both parties. In the South, opposition to Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society emanated from what came to be known as "the conservative coalition," consisting of conservative (mostly Southern) Democrats and Western Republicans.
In their 1976 bid for their respective party's nomination, Republican Ronald Reagan and Democrat George C. Wallace fought for the same conservative voters. After Wallace lost the Democratic Primary in Florida and his chances at securing his party's nomination were dim, the Reagan campaign ran an advertisement urging Wallace supporters to cross over and vote for Reagan in the Republican Primary. A voter appearing in the advertisement intones: "I've been a Democrat my whole life, a conservative Democrat. As much as I hate to admit it, Wallace can't be nominated, Ronald Reagan can."
Since that time, there has been a gradual ideological homogeneity within both parties. Conservative Democrats and Liberal Republican were either defeated for re-election, retired from office, or became Republicans.
Over the last decade we have witnessed the near end of progressive Republicans. This is evidenced by the defeat of U.S. Representatives Connie Morella of Maryland and Christopher Shays of Connecticut, and by the egressing from the GOP of former U.S. Senators James Jeffords of Vermont and Lincoln Chaffee of Rhode Island, both liberal Republicans.
The final nail in the coffin for conservative Democrats occurred in 2010 when the three most conservative Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives (Bobby Bright (AL), Walt Minnick (ID), and Gene Taylor (MS)) lost their re-election bids. All three representatives voted against President Barack Obama's Stimulus Plan, the Cap-and-Trade legislation, and the Health Care Reform package.
With the stock of liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats nearly depleted, the Republican Party is now the conservative party and the Democratic Party is now the liberal party. This is an ideological reversal. The U.S. now mirrors many parliamentary systems in that the ideological outliers are de-minimis. Outliers who get elected are also usually the most electorally vulnerable in that they invariably represent states and Congressional districts inhospitable to their party's ideology. The Republican Party, once the liberal party is now the conservative Party. The Democratic Party, once the conservative party is now the liberal Party. The ideological role reversal is now complete
Barack Obama: A Socialist He Is Definitely Not
Critics of Barack Obama often label him as a socialist, a term of derision in American politics. Socialism is viewed by many Americans as an extreme brand of liberalism. Accordingly, as a political tactic, Republicans try to tether Democrats to this label, just as Democrats try their best, equally unfairly, to tether Republicans to the most extreme forms of conservatism.
In the case of Barack Obama, not only is he not a socialist, but in many ways he is the antithesis of a socialist. In fact, self-avowed socialists are less than enchanted with Barack Obama and often protest his policies.
Contrary to popular belief, few economic systems are truly capitalist or socialist. Most are mixed economies with elements of both private enterprise and public ownership. Socialism is a system wherein the population of a nation controls the means of production, not private individuals. There are many socialist elements in the U.S. including public beaches, public transportation, and public parks. Concomitantly, there are numerous capitalist elements, as evidenced by the millions of active businesses operating in the U.S.
An example of a leader who came to office and swung the ideological pendulum toward Socialism was French President Francois Mitterrand who assumed office in 1981. He called his domestic legislative program "the rupture with capitalism." The altarpiece of the Mitterrand agenda was the nationalization of 38 French banks.
Barack Obama has done nothing to move the ideological pendulum in the direction of socialism. In fact, he has been a tribune of private industry, often saving private businesses from bankruptcy. By contrast, Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, by establishing Social Security in 1933, and Lyndon B. Johnson, by making Medicare the law of the land in 1965, swung the ideological pendulum in the direction of Socialism.
In his first year in office, Barack Obama authorized $80 billion from the Troubled Relief Assets Funds to loan to General Motors and Chrysler to keep them out of bankruptcy. The result is that two Fortune 500 companies benefited directly from Obama's actions. A socialist would have submitted legislation to the U.S. Congress, proposing to nationalize the nation's automobile industry, putting its ownership into public hands.
One could argue that the bailout was "crony capitalism" in that the two automobile companies, endowed with highly compensated lobbyists, received the loan while many other companies went bankrupt. Shoring up private companies is not socialism. In fact, it is the antithesis of socialism.
One year later, Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordability Act, a.k.a. Obamacare. The act requires every American to have health insurance. This act does not nationalize the healthcare industry, but instead provides government subsidies to private insurance companies. In effect, the nation's health care industry received about 31 million new customers courtesy of Uncle Sam. Furthermore, the legislation does not eliminate the partial anti-trust exemption that the industry benefits from. In effect, it allows healthcare organizations to operate similar to monopolies in the area of consolidation.
A socialist would have introduced legislation to nationalize the American healthcare industry, effectively eliminating the nation's private health insurance market. Americans would lose the option of purchasing health insurance on the private market, and Medicare would be extended to every American. All Americans would have full dental and medical insurance provided to them by the federal government.
Ironically, Obama's plan is very similar to the one offered by Republican President Richard M. Nixon in 1974. Nixon's plan, like Obama's plan, was a comprehensive Health Insurance Reform Program which would mandate that all Americans have health insurance, with the federal government subsidizing those who could not afford it. Nixon said in his 1974 State of the Union Address: "The time is at hand to bring comprehensive, high quality health care within the reach of every American." Ironically again, the Democratically controlled U.S. Congress did not move on Nixon's plan, arguing that it would be a boon to the insurance industry.
If Obama were truly a Socialist, one would think that actual Socialists would be singing his praises. In fact, the opposite is true. Brian Patrick Moore was the presidential nominee of the Socialist Party USA in 2008. He proudly wears the Socialist label and gets offended when he hears Obama being called a socialist. For Moore, Obama is "an insult to socialism." Moore is one of Obama's most vociferous critics. Moore calls Obama "a corporate lackey owned by interest groups" and says that Obama "supports programs that benefit the status quo and protects the powerful capitalist system."
It is quite evident that private corporations have benefited from the Obama presidency. Alternatively, under a socialist system, these corporations would be nationalized. In reality, Obama's policies are the antithesis of socialism. If one is insistent on labeling Barack Obama, perhaps former U.S. Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) comes the closest in terms of accuracy. He declares that Obama is not a socialist but a "corporatist." Paul maintains that Obama takes "care of corporations and corporations take over and run the country." That may be rhetorical hyperbole, but the larger point is that rather than working to nationalize the American economy, Obama has ministered to the needs of private corporations, providing them with support and capital.
Not only is Barack Obama not a socialist, he is, in many respects, the antithesis of the ideology of socialism.
RINOS AND DINOS: ALTHOUGH FAITHFUL TO THEIR PARTIES’ ORIGINAL POLITICAL IDEOLOGY, THEY GET NO RESPECT
The terms RINO (Republican in Name Only) and DINO (Democrat in Name Only) are used pejoratively by adherents of contemporary partisan orthodoxy to describe ideological outliers. Partisans often question why moderate and liberal Republicans and moderate and conservative Democrats identify with their respective parties. It is quite ironic that these political positions have come to be ideological outliers. Based on the founding of both parties, the original ideological outliers were Conservative Republicans and Liberal Democrats.
The Democratic Party we know today evolved from the Democratic-Republican Party of the 1790’s. The first contested Presidential election was in 1796. The Democratic-Republican Party nominated the conservative Thomas Jefferson as their first presidential nominee. Party members were anti-federalists who favored state sovereignty, free markets, a decentralized federal government, and an originalist interpretation of the U.S. Constitution and the attendant Bill of Rights. The Democratic-Republican Party also supported the institution of slavery. Although difficult to fathom today, what we now know as the Democratic Party was the nation’s major conservative party throughout the nineteenth century.
Democrat Martin Van Buren presided over the panic of 1837, and during that time he was steadfastly opposed to using the government as a means of employing workers on public works projects. In fact, during this economic depression Van Buren literally sold the federal government’s tool supply so that the government could not use the tools for public works projects. This ideological mindset is diametrically opposite to the economic stimulus that contemporary Democrats now support and advocate for, especially during periods of economic morass.
The Republican Party has also been through significant ideological alterations. The GOP was founded in opposition to the expansion of slavery, supported railroad construction, supported more money for public education, a more liberal immigration policy, and agreed with the sale of unoccupied land to Homesteaders. At the time, the Republican Party was seen as the progressive alternative to the conservative Democratic Party of Presidents Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan. For much of the latter-half of the nineteenth century the GOP continued to be the liberal party.
This is especially evidenced by the 1888 Presidential election where Republican Benjamin Harrison was elected President by advocating a liberal platform. He favored expanding the money supply, expanding the protective tariff, and munificent funding for social services. Harrison lost his re-election bid in 1892 to Democrat Grover Cleveland, who advocated a conservative platform, including maintaining the gold standard, reducing the protective tariff, and supporting a lassie faire approach to government intervention in the economy.
In 1896, the country was mired in another depression, and there was a move afoot in the Democratic Party to abandon conservative orthodoxy of Van Buren and Cleveland, and to undertake a new ideological approach. To the chagrin of the Democratic high-command, the party took a leap of faith when it nominated the 36-year-old firebrand populist William Jennings Bryan. Nicknamed “The Great Commoner,” Bryan advocated a liberal platform. He opposed the gold standard, advocated an interventionist role for the government in the economy, and supported an expansion of the money supply. He was the first liberal to win the Democratic Party Presidential nomination since the party began. This represented a radical departure from the conservative roots of the Democratic Party.
The nomination of the Liberal Bryan inflamed the conservative establishment of the Democratic Party. In fact, Democrat President Cleveland refused to support Bryan, choosing instead to support the quixotic Third Party Candidate, John M. Palmer of the Pro-Gold Standard National Democratic Party.
In response, the Republican Party countered by straying away from its liberal beginnings and nominating the moderate-conservative Ohio Governor William McKinley, who, like Harrison, was a proponent of a strong protective tariff, but who, unlike Harrison, favored the Gold Standard. This incensed many old-line progressive Republicans. Some even defected to the Democratic Party to support Bryan. McKinley won handily and was re-elected in a rematch with Bryan in 1900.
The paradigm of the Democrats being the center-right party and the Republicans being the center-left party remained for much of the nineteenth century. The Bryan nomination ushered in a period of ideological bifurcation within the two major parties, resulting in an era where both parties had a liberal and a conservative bloodline.
Liberals and conservatives had a long cohabitation in both parties. In the South, for much of the twentieth century, the Republican Party was near dormant. Winning the Democratic nomination in the South was tantamount to winning the election. Yet most Democrats who were elected to office in the South were conservatives. Much of the opposition to the New Deal and the Great Society of Lyndon B. Johnson derived from what came to be known as “the conservative coalition” consisting of conservative (mostly southern) Democrats and Western Republicans.
Two of the most conservative members of the U.S. Senate were Democrats James Eastland and John Stennis of Mississippi. In 1972, Democratic Alabama Governor George Wallace, who railed against “pointy headed intellectuals,” welfare, and big Government, won six Democratic Presidential primaries including Florida where he won all 67 of the sunshine state’s counties before being shot at a political rally.
Liberal Republicans were once a respected part of the Republican establishment. For example, New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller increased welfare spending and raised taxes to pay for it. He was the party establishment’s favorite for the GOP Presidential nomination in 1964. However, he lost to conservative insurgent Barry Goldwater. As recently as 1976, Ronald Reagan announced that if he garnered the Presidential nomination, he would select U.S. Senator Richard Schweiker (R-PA), a moderate, as his running mate. Schweiker scored a 90% positive rating from Americans For Democratic Action. Reagan lost that race to the moderate Gerald R. Ford. On the state level, Massachusetts elected liberal Republican Governors Christian Herter, John A. Volpe, and Frank Sergeant, and elected liberal Republicans Leveret Saltonstall and Edwin Brook to the U.S. Senate.
Today, there is a perceived ideological homogeneity regarding the two major parties. Democrats must be liberals and Republican must be conservatives. But this is a recent phenomenon. The few remaining Conservative Democrats and Liberal Republicans are ostracized. And giving the demeaning monikers of “RINO’s” and “DINOs.” This is not based on history but on a contemporaneous view of the two parties. The founders of both parties would not recognize the modern incarnations of their two parties. In both cases the opposite ideology now commandeers the political platform of their party. RINO’s and DINO’s have evolved into the ideological outliers, fully supplanting the Conservative Democrats and the Liberal Republicans of the past two centuries.
The Miracle of Political Resurrections
Easter is upon us, a time when Christians celebrate their belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. In the political sphere, there are also resurrections. Politicians sometimes peak early in their career and then fall into the political abyss. Some then miraculously rise again.
In 1824, at age 29, Democrat James K. Polk was elected to the United States House of Representatives. In 1835 he was elected Speaker of the House. In 1839 Polk was elected governor of his native Tennessee. However, with the proliferation of the Whig Party in the state, Polk lost his bid for re-election in 1841. In 1843 Polk sought the governorship once again but lost. Having been summarily rejected twice by voters in his own state, it appeared that Polk was a middle-aged politician with a great career behind him.
Undeterred by these past defeats, Polk attended the Democratic National Convention in 1844 hoping that his party would remember his many contributions as Speaker of the House and award him with the vice presidential nomination. As luck would have it, the Convention became deadlocked, and on the eighth ballot the Convention chose Polk as a compromise candidate. Miraculously, Polk went on to win the general election. Oddly, the man who could not maintain the governorship of his home state of Tennessee rose from defeat to win the presidency.
Richard M. Nixon was once a rising star in California politics. In 1946, the 33-year-old former Navy Lieutenant Commander defeated a 10-year House incumbent Jerry Voorhees. As a freshman House member, Nixon rose to national prominence for his role as a member of the House Un-American Activities Committee as the committee investigated whether Alger Hiss, a State Department official, was a Communist. In 1948, Nixon won both the Democratic and Republican Parties' nomination for re-election. Ironically, he was running against himself.
In 1950, Nixon was elected to the U.S. Senate, and just two years later he was elected vice president. Nixon served eight years as vice president. In 1960, Nixon won the Republican Party nomination, but failed to secure the presidency in a close election that some still believe he won. Two years later, Nixon made the politically dicey decision to run for governor of California against the popular incumbent Pat Brown. Nixon lost the race by over 300,000 votes. This loss caused many political observers to conclude that Nixon's political carrier was behind him. The defeated Nixon told the members of the press: "You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore."
However, reports of Nixon's political demise were premature. Nixon spent much of 1964 and 1966 barnstorming the nation, collecting chits by campaigning for Republican candidates. By 1968, Nixon had re-secured his political standing and won the GOP nomination. Nixon went on to win the presidency, capping an implausible political comeback that many characterized as nothing short of a miraculous political resurrection.
In 1974, a young state legislator named Michael Dukakis defeated Republican Governor Frank Sargent of Massachusetts. Dukakis ran a brilliant campaign by running to the right of liberal Republican Sargent.
However, Governor Dukakis tried to balance the state's budget through "root-canal" economics. He cut social services, alienating his party's liberal base. He then broke his promise not to raise taxes, disenchanting moderates who had voted for him thinking he was more conservative than the Republican Frank Sargent. These actions led to Dukakis losing his own party's nomination for re-election. Massachusetts Democrats selected conservative Democrat Ed King as their nominee instead of Dukakis.
Dukakis did not go quietly into the night. While in exile, he taught at the Kennedy School of Government. Dukakis came back to defeat King in 1982 by exploiting King's conservative record by highlighting the praise King had received from the Reagan administration. Dukakis then went on to defeat a formidable Republican opponent (former Boston City Councilor John W. Sears) in the General Election. Dukakis was re-elected in 1986 with 69 percent of the vote, and quite miraculously just two years later rose to become the Democratic Party's presidential nominee.
In 1978, a 32-year-old political dynamo named Bill Clinton was elected Governor of Arkansas. Clinton was a political wonderkid, a superlative retail politician with seemingly boundless oratorical prowess. However, Governor Clinton lost political support when he signed into law an unpopular increase in license plate fees. In addition, President Jimmy Carter, a close ally of Clinton, had federalized Fort Chaffee in Arkansas, sending Cuban refugees there for processing. As a result, the "boy governor" became the youngest "ex-governor" in American history.
Like Dukakis, Clinton did not exit the political stage. Instead, he learned from his defeat and rose again. Clinton barnstormed the state, asking voters why they rejected him. Clinton won his old job back by taking the unusual step of appearing in a television advertisement in which he apologized for raising the license plate fees. He said: "You can't learn without listening." Miraculously, the voters accepted Clinton's apology, and he went on to be re-elected governor three more times, and was elected president in 1992.
This brings us to the current president. Barack Obama was elected to the State Senate in 1996. Obama then managed to forge a close relationship with the powerful State Senator Emil Jones Jr. His political star was now on the rise. He became a prominent voice on issues involving campaign finance reform, social justice, and welfare reform. In 2000, Obama gambled his political fortune by challenging U.S. Representative Bobby Rush in his bid for re-election. However, Obama's message of bipartisanship and unity did not resonate in the heavily Democratic South Chicago-based Congressional district. Rush succeeded in casting Obama as a resident of the elite Hyde Park section of the district, and as such, out of touch with the needs of the district. Rush mocked Obama's "Eastern elite degrees." The result was an electoral shellacking. Rush trounced Obama by 31 percentage points.
Obama remained in the State Senate, until 2004. His political resurrection began in 2004 when he ran for the U.S. Senate and won. Somewhat miraculously Obama then won the Democratic nomination for president and subsequently won the presidency, completing a phenomenal political resurrection.
In the world of politics, resurrections and miracles apparently never cease.
The Counterproductive Effect of Leveling Sanctions on Iran
During the 2012 presidential campaign, Barack Obama boasted that the U.S.-sponsored economic sanctions against Iran were "crippling the economy." He also stated, "their economy is in shambles." Ironically, Mitt Romney shares this view about the efficacy of sanctions. This is why the subject of sanctions was a virtual non-issue during the recent presidential campaign.
There appears to be an inherent bipartisan belief in the U.S. that sanctions should be employed to destabilize the Iranian regime, forcing the Iranians to acquiesce to the demands of the U.S and its allies, and cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in its investigation of its alleged nuclear program. There is a corresponding bipartisan belief on the part of U.S. government officials that Iranian citizens will become so inflamed by the effects of the sanctions that they will rise up and topple their government.
The regime in power rarely feels the effects of sanctions. Instead, it is the average citizen who bears the burden of sanctions. Ironically, the Iranian regime uses the sanctions as a scapegoat, blaming the United States Government for their country's economic woes.
U.S.-supported sanctions are a major factor contributing to the hyperinflation plaguing Iran. In fact, the Iranian currency, called the rial, is becoming increasingly worthless. It has dropped 80 percent in just the past year. This is not an abstraction. It has real-world implications for the Iranian people.
This debasing of their currency is making it hard for Iranians to procure medicine from overseas. The Associated Press recently reported that the price of an imported wheelchair has increased ten-fold in just a one year period. The price for a cancer patient to receive chemotherapy has nearly tripled, and filters for kidney dialysis are up by 325 percent.
The failure of economic sanctions is clearly illustrated by the tragic failure of the U.S.-sponsored sanctions leveled on Iraq between the Gulf War of 1991 and the Iraq War of 2003. The intent of the sanctions was to enfeeble the regime and its leader, President Saddam Hussein. However, throughout the 12-year period when sanctions were in effect, Hussein enjoyed life to the fullest in his extravagant palaces and aboard his 269-foot yacht. Sadly, the only major ill effect caused by the sanctions was a precipitous drop in the standard of living for the Iraqi people.
The U.S.-sponsored sanctions dramatically debilitated Iraq's economy. UNICEF, for example, contends that the sanctions led to the deaths of over a million Iraqis, including more than a half million children due to malnutrition, lack of medical supplies and diseases caused by the lack of clean water. In 1998, Denis Halliday, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Baghdad, resigned in protest, complaining: "I don't want to administer a program that satisfies the definition of genocide." Former House Democratic Minority Whip David Bonior (D-MI) called the sanctions on Iraq: "infanticide masquerading as policy."
Osama bin Laden opportunistically used the suffering of the Iraqi people in his FATWA to justify the indiscriminate killing of Americans: "What is the evidence against the people of Iraq to warrant their blockade and being killed in a way that is unprecedented in history?"
Both Hussein and bin Laden used the effects of the sanctions to advance their own political agendas. Hussein used them as a foil to stay in power, blaming the sanctions for the country's economic predicament. Bin Laden used the sanctions as a recruiting magnet for al Qaeda.
We face the same risk today in Iran as we faced in Iraq. The Iranian regime has a convenient scapegoat. They can point to the effects of the sanctions as the reason for their nation's economic morass. The sanctions also play into the master narrative of al Qaeda and their coefficients that the U.S. is at war with Muslims.
In spite of the sanctions, the Iranian people are not intrinsically hostile toward the American people, but to the foreign policy of the U.S. government. In fact, after the September 11th hijackings, many Iranians participated in vigils in support of the victims.
U.S. intervention in Iran's affairs reached their high-watermark in 1953 when the U.S. and Great Brittan sponsored a coup d'état to oust Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq because he nationalized the oil fields. The coup restored Mohammad Rezā Shāh Pahlavi, the "Shah of Iran," to supremacy. Unfortunately, under the Shah's iron-fisted rule, secret police tortured and killed political opponents, causing many Iranians to become hostile toward their own government.
During the Iran-Iraq War, the Reagan administration delisted Saddam Hussein as a state sponsor of terror so that the U.S. could send military and economic aid to Iraq. In taking this position, the U.S. turned a blind eye toward the chemical weapons Iraq was using against the Iranians.
Amazingly, the Iranian people do not hold a collective grudge against the American people for its government's support of Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War. Why, then, alienate the Iranian citizenry by inflating their economy and making it difficult for the Iranian people to subsist?
The direct effect of sanctions on populations often flies under the radar screen, perhaps because it is less graphic than the immediate deaths caused by war. The result, however, is the same. This is why President Woodrow Wilson branded sanctions: "The Silent, Deadly remedy."
By using economic sanctions to attempt to deter Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapon, the U.S. might actually be playing into the hands of both Iran and al Qaeda. By exacting collective punishment on the people of Iran, we fortify the argument made by the demagogues in the Islamic World that the U.S. is at war with Islam.
The Odd Position of Vice President
President Barack Obama was recently elected to a second term, joining the elite club of two-term Presidents, which includes the likes of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan. In sharp contrast to this, Joe Biden joined a club of two-term Vice Presidents that weren’t quite as prestigious. This club includes the likes of Daniel Tomkins, Thomas Riley Marshall, John Nance Gardner, and Spiro Agnew.
The Vice Presidency is a very peculiar office. John Adams, the nation’s first Vice President, called the office “the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived of his imagination conceived.” The only official duties of the Vice President is to assume the Office of the President in the event the President becomes incapacitated or dies, and to serve as President of the U.S. Senate. In that capacity, the Vice President can preside over the U.S. Senate. However, the Vice President rarely presides over the Senate, delegating that duty to the Senate President Pro Tempore. He does however attend sessions wherein his vote would break a tie.
Over the past two centuries, the nation has had some very colorful Vice Presidents. One such Vice President was Daniel D. Tomkins (1817-1825). Tomkins suffered from alcoholism which was thought to be the result of a decade-long struggle to get the U.S. Congress to reimburse him for money he used from his personal account to fund his state’s militia. At the time that Tompkins made the loan, he was Governor of New York. Tompkins would often preside drunk over the U.S. Senate. Then there was Richard M. Johnson (1837-1841). Faced with financial turmoil, Johnson took a leave of absence from the Vice Presidency to open a tavern and spa.
In 2008 Barack Obama chose Joe Biden as his running mate to appeal to middle-class and blue-collar voters. Biden is the product of a middle-class upbringing and his orations often strike a resonant chord with middle and working class voters. Biden was also selected for his foreign policy prowess, having chaired the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
As Vice President, Biden has been a loyal foot-soldier for Obama. He has been an ideological compatriot, fully supporting the administration’s agenda.
While it is considered commonplace today for the President and Vice President to have a harmonious relationship, and see eye-to-eye on most major issues, this was not always the case. Charles Fairbanks for example was nominated as Vice President in 1904 to complement Theodore Roosevelt. Fairbanks was an old guard conservative while Roosevelt hailed from the progressive bloodline of the Republican Party. Fairbanks opposed much of Roosevelt’s domestic agenda, which was known as “The Square Deal.” When Fairbanks sought the Republican Presidential nomination to succeed Roosevelt in 1908, Roosevelt gave his coveted endorsement to his Secretary of War, William Howard Taft, who eventual won the Republican nomination.
President Calvin Coolidge and Vice President Charles G. Dawes also had an antagonistic relationship. It began in 1925 when both Coolidge and Dawes were inaugurated. At that time in history both the President and Vice President gave Inauguration Addresses on the same day. Dawes’ Inauguration Address took the form of a fiery and controversial lecture about the fecklessness of the U.S. Senate rules. The press gave Dawes’ Inaugural diatribe almost as much coverage as Coolidge’s Inaugural Address. Dawes added to the tension by sending the President a letter stating that he would not be attending Cabinet meetings.
Vice President John Nance Gardner (1933-1941), who served with President Franklin D. Roosevelt, was a business-oriented Democrat from rural Texas. Gardner came to think that Roosevelt had veered too far to the left ideologically. He even called his domestic programs “foolishness.” Vice President Gardner sought the Democratic Presidential nomination in 1940, only to be resoundingly defeated by Roosevelt, and in turn, Roosevelt selected a new Vice Presidential running mate, U.S. Agricultural Secretary Henry A. Wallace.
Newly re-elected Vice President Joe Biden has hinted that he is likely to seek the Democratic Party nomination for the Presidency in 2016. However, unlike recent Vice Presidents George H.W. Bush and Al Gore, Biden is not the favorite of rank-and-file Democrats, nor is he the favorite of the party’s high command to succeed Obama. While it is true that most Democrats view Biden favorably, polls show U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to be the overwhelming frontrunner, despite the fact that Biden has formidable favorability numbers (over 70%).
It is of particular interest to note that there is a striking similitude between Joe Biden and Alben Barkley, the Vice President under Harry S. Truman. Like Biden, Barkley was a long-time U.S. Senator and loyal polemicist for the Democratic Party’s ideology. Barkley, like Biden, came from a humble background, and Like Biden, was known for his oratorical prowess. Barkley had represented Kentucky in the U.S. Senate for 22 years, rising to the position of Senate Majority Leader. Like Biden, Democrats viewed Barkley favorably. In fact, he delivered the keynote address at the Party’s national convention on three separate occasions. In 1952, at age 75, Barkley sought his Party’s nomination to succeed President Truman, but was unable to translate his loyal service to the Democratic Party into frontrunner status. Barkley ran a redoubtable campaign, securing endorsements from prominent members of the Democratic establishment, but suffered an immutable blow when prominent labor leaders claimed that he was too old to be President. Barkley was not able to salvage his candidacy and came in fourth place at the Democratic Convention.
Biden will likely barnstorm the nation campaigning for Democratic candidates in the 2014 mid-term elections, collecting chits and showing the Democratic Party that he has the vigor and stamina to be their nominee. He will not be alone, as a cavalcade of prospective Democratic Presidential candidates will likely join him on the hustings.
VOTING: In a Time When Politicians are Held in Such Low Esteem, A Case can Still be Made for Voting
Robo calls, negative attack advertisements, and political propaganda are enough to make us all sick of the election process. Many Americans have come to the conclusion that all candidates for public office are crooks, liars, and opportunists. As the old saying goes: “Why vote, it only encourages them.” Yet the best way to express your frustration with the process is to actually participate in the process and vote.
Unfortunately, at the Presidential level, at least 35 states are not “battleground states”, meaning that, barring a cataclysm, we can predict with near certainty who will win these states’ electoral votes. Voters in Idaho, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island for example may interpret this to mean their vote does not matter. However, this is a false supposition. Your vote can matter in two ways. First, while the popular vote is irrelevant to the actual winner of the Presidential election (the winner of the electoral vote is declared the President), it can determine how much of a mandate the winner has. That mandate can determine the extent to which the U.S. Congress will be pressured into passing the President’s agenda. In 1965, Lyndon Johnson, on the heals of a 60.6% electoral landslide, was able to get Congress to pass 84 of his 87 proposals into law, including the Voting Rights Act, Medicare, and a significant reform of the immigration system.
Many Americans have become disaffected with both major party candidates and decry having to vote for “the lesser of two evils.” There are actually other choices that should be considered. The high commands of the two major political parties use the hypnotic technique of repeating the line that “a vote for a third party candidate is a wasted vote.” In reality however, a vote for a third party candidate sends a message. It highlights a discontent with the choices of the two major parties, and if enough disaffected voters shed this Wasted Vote Mentality, there could be a potential electoral revolution. We saw this in Minnesota in 1998 when Jesse “The Body” Ventura shocked the system by defeating the two major party candidates to be elected Governor of Minnesota.
Besides the Presidential race, there are “down ballot” races, which also have real consequence. Your vote for congressional candidates will determine if the new President will assume office with a friendly legislative majority, or if the nation will have a divided government.
State legislative races may seem trivial, but they too can have a huge impact on the future of your state. For example, at the end of 2010, Louisiana State Representative-elect Noble Ellington announced that he was leaving the Democratic Party to become a Republican. His defection handed the Louisiana House of Representatives to the Republican Party for the first time since Reconstruction, making it easier for the state’s Republican Governor, Bobby Jindal, to enact his legislative agenda.
With politicians registering astronomically low job approval ratings, we must remind ourselves that we are the ones who put them into office, and we can in fact vote them out. Elected officials are just that: WE elect them. They are not inserted into our political system by extraterrestrials, nor do they take power by coup d’état. Rather, they are a reflection of the citizenry. The only way to supplant a politician we do not like is to vote them out of office. As former U.S. Secretary of State Daniel Webster prudently asserted: the American Government is “ . . . the people’s government, made for the people, made by the people, and answerable to the people.”
Unlike many other countries, if we do not like the trajectory our government is taking, WE have the power to change it, all by the simple process of voting.
Libertarian Presidential Nominee Gary Johnson is Trapped in the Wasted Vote Conundrum
In past years, the Libertarian Party has nominated Presidential candidates with little political experience. This year the situation is different. The Libertarian nominee, Gary Johnson, is a former businessman who turned a one-man handyman operation into a business with over 1,000 employees. A Republican, Johnson served two terms as Governor of New Mexico, a state where Democrats hold a considerable plurality in voter registration. He left state with a $1 Billion surplus. He even climbed Mount Everest.
Johnson’s credentials would be formidable had he been the nominee of a major party. Yet, his campaign is rarely taken seriously. When he is able to secure media interviews, the first question is often not about his policy prescriptions, but who he thinks he will take away votes from.
This is a shame. Johnson, with his formable resume, offers an alternative vision to Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. He is the only candidate who advocates a non-interventionist foreign policy. He favors a 43% truncation of the military budget. Johnson favors an immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan, and is the only candidate who opposes the war and drugs, and pledges to balance the federal budget his first year in office.
Johnson’s problem is that Americans are increasingly told that he can’t win and that a vote for Johnson is a wasted vote. To maintain hegemony, the bipartisan political industrial complex will keep repeating the fiction that a third party candidate cannot win. By employing the “Wasted Vote Syndrome” strategy, the two major parties are telling voters to eschew their conscience and vote for the candidate they find least objectionable. They are, in effect, telling voters that they should look at the roster of candidates and immediately eliminate the one who they tell us cannot win. Johnson has earned ballot status in all fifty states. Accordingly, just like Obama and Romney, if Johnson garners enough votes, he can win.
At a time when many Americans are disillusioned with the current crop of Presidential candidates, and disenchanted with the entire political system, there is another voice with an alternative vision. Johnson represents that alternative. However, Johnson has a daunting task of making the case that voters should mark their ballot for him despite the long odds that he will be competitive in the election. Unfortunately, Johnson is trapped in the “wasted vote conundrum.”
Challenging the Myth that Only Big Cities will Benefit from the National Popular Vote Initiative
Opponents of the National Popular Vote Initiative (NPVI) (a interstate compact, where states agree to award their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote) fear that it will result in Presidential candidates allocating their time and resources to densely populated urban areas, while ignoring voters across the rest of the nation. This fear is unfounded. The nation’s large urban areas comprise only a smidgen of the total electorate. In fact, the nation’s top 25 cities comprise only 12% of the electorate. The nation’s five largest populated cities constitute just 6% of the electorate. Accordingly, to win the national popular vote, a candidate must appeal to the large majority of Americans who do not live in these urban centers.
We see the ineffectiveness of this argument at the state level. In 2010, Texas Governor Rick Perry was re-elected by 13 percentage points, despite being overwhelmingly defeated in the state’s two largest cities, Houston and Dallas. In fact, these two cities are two of the highest populated U.S. cities. George Pataki served three terms as Governor of New York, despite being wiped out in the nation’s largest city, New York. Finally, California has elected four Governors in the last 46y ears who did not come close to carrying the state’s largest city, Los Angeles.
In state elections, smaller populated areas of the state are not ignored. For example, on the last day of campaigning in the hotly contested 2010 Massachusetts Governors race, incumbent Deval Patrick and his Republican challenger Charlie Baker barnstormed both urban and rural areas. Patrick appeared in Boston and Marlborough, a city with a population of under 40,000. Baker made stops in the state’s largest urban centers, Boston and Worcester, as well as Wakefield, and his hometown of Swampscott, both with a population of less than 25,000. Clearly their campaign consultants have done the electoral calculations and realized that elections are not settled in urban areas alone.
In each of the aforementioned elections, candidates cultivated support across their state’s geopolitical landscape. Small towns, rural areas, and exurban enclaves all received electoral attention. There is a cap on votes a candidate can muster from urban areas. To be victorious, he/she must appeal to voters throughout the state. Under a national popular vote, we would see the same scenario. It would be politically foolhardy, if not politically suicidal for any candidate to focus solely on urban areas.
Does Your Vote Count? Maybe Not!
Under the current winner-take-all electoral scheme, millions of votes across the nation are not being counted in the official national tally. In the 2008 Presidential election, Republican nominee John McCain received more than five million votes in the state of California. Despite this achievement, all 55 electors in California cast their vote for Democrat Barack Obama. This inequity occurred solely because California uses the winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes, meaning that despite how close the popular vote may be, the winning candidate takes home “all” the electoral votes of that particular state. Similarly, more than 3.5 million Texans marked ballots for Barack Obama, yet because John McCain won the state, those 3.5 million votes were disregarded. Again, because Texas also uses the winner-take-all system of electoral voting, the winning candidate, John McCain, was able to take home “all” of Texas’ 33 electoral votes. This all-to-common outcome disenfranchises voters from “safe states” (non-battlefield states) and discourages them from going to the polls. They know that their votes are not likely to even be figured in the final national tally.
In addition, non-major party candidates who appeal mainly to just one region of the country can take full advantage of the winner-take-all system. Their vote totals are magnified in the Electoral College. In 1948, Strom Thurmond, the nominee of the States Rights Democratic Party, captured just 2.4% of the national vote, yet he received 39 electoral votes from four southern states. This scenario repeated itself in 1968 when American Independence Party nominee George Wallace, who won just 13.5% of the national vote, won 46 electoral votes because he managed to win five southern states.
Alternatively, those who vote for centrist Independent candidates who appeal to a more widespread cross-section of constituencies and garner votes from all regions of the nation, have seen their votes completely nullified by the Electoral College. In 1980, Independent Presidential candidate John B. Anderson garnered 6.6% of the national vote, yet the over 5.7 million people who voted for him were not counted in the final tally because he failed to win a single state.
This scenario was experienced on a larger scale in 1992, when Independent Presidential candidate H. Ross Perot mustered a very respectable 18.9% of the vote. Despite the fact that nearly one in five American voters cast their vote for Perot, Perot received “0” votes in the Electoral College. In this situation, the votes of nearly twenty million Americans were totally disregarded at the conclusion of the electoral process.
Under the National Popular Vote Initiative, the vote of the diary farmer from Cambridge, Wisconsin would be equal to the vote of the College Professor from Cambridge, Massachusetts. The vote of the steel worker from East Chicago, Indiana would be no more important than the vote of the locomotive engineer from Chicago, Illinois. The vote of the Fire Fighter from Columbus, Mississippi would be commensurate with the vote of the Systems Analyst from Columbus, Ohio. Strom Thurmond in 1948, 2.4%
Mitt Romney: The Republican’s Jimmy Carter
The conservative base is panicking at the prospect that former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney might garner the GOP Presidential nomination. They view Romney’s conversion to conservatism as insincere. In the past, Romney questioned the Republican Contract With America, supported Abortion rights, said he would be better on Gay rights than Ted Kennedy, supported a regional initiative to mitigate greenhouse gases, supported gun control, and signed a law mandating Massachusetts residents to have health insurance.
There is a similitude with Democratic Jimmy Carter in 1976. Like Romney, Carter was a former Governor of a state (Georgia) less ideologically kindred with the National Party. Like Romney, Carter used much of his second two years in office barnstorming the nation campaigning for Democrats, and building a national profile.
As Carter scored victories in the primaries, liberal U.S. Senator Frank Church (D-ID) and newly elected California Governor Jerry Brown threw their hats into the ring. Both won five states, but their late entries were not able to stop the Carter juggernaut.
Carter opposed federal funding for abortion. He favored fiscal austerity over Great Society liberalism. In 1972, Carter backed Vietnam War supporter U.S. Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson over liberal stalwart and eventual Democratic nominee U.S. Senator George McGovern (D-SD).
Carter went on the muster the Democratic nomination, and win the Presidency. However, liberals were lukewarm toward Carter throughout his presidency and many supported his primary opponents, U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy and Jerry Brown, when Carter sought re-election in 1980.
The liberals and Carter never reconciled. The question now is: Will Romney ever establish a rapprochement with the conservatives?
What Rick Santorum Fails to See (or Acknowledge) in Ron Paul’s Critique of U.S. Foreign Policy
I have heard some news commentators suggest that U.S. Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) justified the 9/11 hijacking in the September 12 CNN/Tea Party Debate. Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) demagogued the issue by arguing that Paul is “parroting on his campaign website what Osama bin Laden said on 9/11.” With nothing to substantiate his allegation, Santorum suggested that the U.S. was attacked on 9/11 because: “We have a civilization that is antithetical to the Jihadists.”
To suggest that Paul is a tribune for Osama bin Laden and his coefficients is absurd at best, and malicious at worst. Paul suggests nothing that justifies the attacks. The article Santorum sights explicitly says: “This action demanded retribution and retaliation.”
Paul has been impavid in pointing out that the U.S. was attacked on 9/11 because of its interventionist foreign policy. Unfortunately, some jump to the fallacy that this is tantamount to justifying the attacks. Paul is simply pointing to facts. Osama bin Laden used U.S. foreign policy as a recruiting magnet for al-quada and as casus belli for ordering the attacks.
The blowback U.S. foreign policy can cause is not a novel concept. In 1953, the U.S. and the British sponsored a coup against Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq after he nationalized oil fields. The coup restored Mohammad Rezā Shāh Pahlavi, the "Shah of Iran," to supremacy. Under the Shah’s iron-fisted rule, secret police tortured and killed political opponents. Fed-up with his oppressive rule, the supporters of fundamentalist Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini took power in 1979. Still inflamed at the U.S. for its role in the coup, Iranian students took 52 American diplomats hostage and held them for 444 days. Khomeini’s successor, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, continues to excoriate the U.S. for its role in the coup, and the country celebrates "Death To America Day" on February 6 to mark the day the U.S. embassy was seized.
Michael Scheuer, the chief of the Osama bin Laden tracking unit at the Counterterrorist Center from 1996-1999, maintains that: “bin Laden has been precise in telling America the reasons he is waging war on us. None of the reasons have anything to do with our freedom, liberty, and democracy, but have everything to do with U.S. policies and actions in the Muslim world.”
In justifying the attacks, bin Laden bemoaned the presence of the U.S. troops on Saudi Arabian soil during and after the Gulf War. To bin Laden and many Muslims, the presence of secular troops defiled Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam. Profit Muhammad warned, “Two Religions may not dwell together in Arabia.” During the Gulf War, 550,000 mostly Christian U.S. Troops were stationed in Saudi Arabia, which is home to the Two Muslim Holy places, Mecca and Medina. After the Gulf War, 5,000 U.S. troops remained garrisoned in the nation enforcing a no-fly zone and defending the Saudi Kingdom.
Furthermore, bin Laden exploited the enmity that many Muslims felt toward the debilitating effects of U.N. sanctions on Iraq's economy. Former U.S. House Minority Whip David Bonier (D-MI) branded these U.N. sanctions "infanticide masquerading as policy.” UNICEF contends that the sanctions led to the deaths of over a million Iraqis, including over half a million children due to malnutrition, lack of medical supplies, and diseases caused by a lack of clean water and chlorine. Dennis Halliday, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Baghdad, resigned in protest, saying: “I don’t want to administer a program that satisfies the definition of genocide.”
Moreover, bin Laden cites U.S. financial support for the Israeli government ($3 Billion annually) even though the Israelis to occupy West Bank and Gaza Strip, violating UN Security Council Resolutions 446 and 465 which call for Israel to withdraw from settlements on occupied Arab lands.
Finally, bin Laden manipulated animosity that many Arabs feel toward U.S. support of what they view as apostate and despotic regimes in the Arab world, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan.
Paul did not invent these grievances. He is simply repeating statements bin-Laden used to recruit new members and to galvanize existing ones. By no means is he saying the attacks were justified. He is saying that we must be honest with ourselves in recognizing the deleterious effects of an activist-interventionist foreign policy. Bin Laden promulgates in his fatwa (Declaration of War) "For God's sake, what are the documents that incriminate the Palestinian people that warrant massacres against them, which have been going on for more than five decades at the hands of the Crusaders and the Jews. What is the evidence against the people of Iraq to warrant their blockade and being killed in a way that is unprecedented in history?" This is bin Laden's propaganda.
Again, Ron Paul is in no manner justifying the 9/11 hijackings. He is merely explaining the motivations behind the attacks. There is a direct causal relationship between the U.S. intervening abroad and the resulting blowback. The U.S. sponsored 1953 Iranian coup d’etat epitomizes this causal relationship.
Jon Huntsman Jr
Jon Huntsman Jr: I wonder if Jon Huntsman Jr. has a “Plan B” should he fail to accomplish the political miracle of garnering the GOP Presidential nomination. Might he run for President as an Independent? His message of unity and competence, coupled with his experience in both Democratic and Republican Presidential administrations, is not exactly hospitable to a GOP primary audience, unless of course he relies almost exclusively on moderate Republicans, crossover voters, and Independents. Is Huntsman using this Republican Presidential Primary to garner name recognition to help him re-formulate himself for a run as an Independent Candidate, and then argue that his defeat was at the hands of right-wing extremists? John Anderson took this road in the 1980 Presidential Election.
The Left’s Misconception of Obama
Some on the left have become disenchanted with President Barack Obama for his interventionist foreign policy, and willingness to use military force. I can understand their anger, but not their surprise. Many on the anti-war left, who supported his 2008 Presidential campaign erroneously believed he shared their aversion to military action abroad. They saw him through a jade prism, and did little research as to his past record and his campaign rhetoric. As a Presidential aspirant, Mr. Obama ran for President to the right of George W. Bush on Afghanistan. In fact, he pledged to send three more brigades into the country. In addition, Obama pledged to expand the size of the military, at a time when even some conservatives were calling for truncating military expenditures. The only hint Obama gave of being a dove was a speech in 2002, when then State Senator Obama said he did “not oppose all wars, only dumb wars,” referring to the Iraq War. This was far from a quasi-pacifist position. It was probably more conservative than his predominately Democratic State Senate District in the South Side of Chicago.
While Obama opposed our entry into Iraq, as a U.S. Senator, he voted to fund it. In addition, he was a steadfast advocate of NATO expansion, meaning that if a NATO counterpart like Poland, Iceland, or The Czech Republic were invaded by a non-NATO member, then he would use U.S. military might to defend them.
Obama did not run as a dove, but the intellectual wing of the Democratic Party came to a mendacious conclusion that he was an electable Dennis Kucinich. Obama was translucent on this; his supporters effectuated a romantic mental picture in their minds of a different person than the one they were supporting.
Mitt Romney’s Health Care Conundrum
Today, Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney defended the Health Insurance Reform legislation he signed in 2006 as Governor of Massachusetts. The legislation has been derisively labelled as “Romneycare" by many conservatives. The statute requires residents to have health insurance, and if they don't purchase it, they are subject to a fine. Interestingly, in 2008, this was a virtual non-issue, perhaps because Barack Obama had yet to sign the national legislation which included individual mandates. The idea of individual mandates was originally a Republican idea proposed by Richard M. Nixon in his 1974 State of the Union Address, and later proposed by U.S. Senate Minority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-KS). Conservatives argued that forcing citizens to purchase Health Insurance promoted personal responsibility.
Interestingly, when Nixon proposed a federal mandate, liberal Democrats, including U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), opposed it, arguing that the proposal was a boon to the insurance companies. Kennedy argued for a Medicare-for-all, Canadian-style, single-payer type system. The ideological debate transmogrified when the Conservative movement became more Libertarian-oriented, allowing Americans to chose weather to purchase Heath Insurance. Now support for an individual mandate is considered the center-left position. One can only speculate whether Romney, at the time laying the political spadework for a Presidential campaign, would have signed the legislation if he had known that Republican orthodoxy would materially change on this issue.
Is There Categorical Proof of My Existence?
Here is a question I have been pondering a lot lately. Is there any way to prove that the world beyond me does indeed exist? Let me first preface this by saying that I am taking it on faith that there are indeed people reading this. They are not just figments of my imagination and there is a life beyond me. I am not a solipsist who maintains that they are the only person in existence, and that the world was designed only for that person. Still, I have no way to prove it. I would be curious if anyone has confronted this existential issue. I think that Seventeenth Century French Philosopher Rene Descartes had the best possible argument for his own existence, asserting: "I think therefore I am." But I have never heard a compelling intellectual case that everyone else exists, or that there is a physical world that continues when I walk away. Taking it on faith that there is in fact a physical world, and that the people reading this article are actual beings, I am curious if there is any way to prove that there really is a world beyond me.
RINOS And DINOS: Losing Relevancy
It is time to retire the terms “RINO” and “DINO.” Both have become derogatory abbreviations: RINO meaning Republican-in-Name-Only and “DINO” standing for Democrat-in-Name-Only. The two terms refer to ideological outliers who deviate from their respective party’s contemporary orthodoxy. The founders of both political parties would not recognize the modern incantations. The Democratic Party grew out of the Democratic-Republican Party of Thomas Jefferson, which favored a strict constructionist interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, opposed a central banking system, and favored decentralized power. The Democratic Party was the counterpart of the Federalist Party, which favored the more energetic government synomomous today with the Democratic Party.
In contrast, the ideological architects of the GOP never envisioned the Republican Party to be conservative. In fact, the Republican Party was founded in 1854 as a liberal alternative to the conservative Democratic Party of Presidents Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan. While most know the GOP was founded in opposition to the expansion to slavery, the Party's platform also included support for railroad construction, Public Education, and a more liberal immigration policy.
For much of the latter-half of the Nineteenth Century, the GOP was viewed as the liberal party. In 1888, Republican nominee Benjamin Harrison won the Presidency by advocating an expanded money supply, a protective tariff, and more funding for social services. This was in sharp contrast to the Conservative Policies of Democratic President Grover Cleveland. Cleveland’s platform would be anathema to today’s conservatives. Even as recently as 1940, the party’s Presidential nominee, Wendell Willkee, said: “The opposition have attempted to picture me as an opponent of liberalism. But I was a liberal before many of them heard the word.”
Perhaps it makes more sense in today’s world to apply the label RINO to conservative Republicans and the label DINO to liberal Democrats.
Would Iraq have been Part of the Democratic Revolution?
I wonder what would have happened in Iraq had the U.S. lifted the economic sanctions instead of invading the country? Would the Iraqis have taken to the streets and revolted like their fellow freedom-seekers in Tunesia and in Egypt, and ousted or forced President Saddam Hussein's despotic regime from power? His government was similar to the two aformentioned, in that it was a secular autocratic regime which oppressed its own people and subjugated the Islamists. Maybe there would have been an internecine revolution instead of what actually happened, which caused 100,000 dead Iraqis, resulted in half a million widows and orphans, 4 million refugees, and 4,400 dead American military personnel and 35,000 Americans wounded.
The Narrowing Political Appeal of Sarah Palin
My overall assessment of Sarah Palin is that she was a reasonably successful Governor of Alaska who challenged the Republican establishment by defeating an incumbent Republican Governor in the 2006 GOP primaries. As Governor, she forged an alliance with reform-minded Democrats and Republicans on ethics reform, and cut capital projects. She was far from the ideologue she became when she entered the national stage. Instead, Palin was an anti-establishmentarian maverick with Transpartisan appeal. She garnered a stratospheric 93% job-approval rating. I have never seen a poll rating for any other politician that high.
John McCain was running for President as a Republican at a time when there was an enormous tailwind against the Republican Party. The Iraq War, which McCain had been an enthusiastic exponent of, was unpopular, and George W. Bush and his sub-30% job approval ratings were an almost insurmountable incubus on John McCain. He needed to do something drastic, so instead of choosing a safe, establishment, predictable pick, like Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, McCain threw a Hail Mary pass and selected Sarah Palin.
However, Palin was well out of her league on the national stage. Rather than projecting the image of a non-ideological pragmatist, she became a doctrinaire conservative, appealing to the conservative base that was lukewarm toward John McCain and his recreance toward contemporary Conservative orthodoxy on a litany of issues from drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to Campaign Finance Reform to the Bush Tax cuts.
Palin became a doctrinaire conservative and never looked back. Today she speaks only to the conservative base, with little deviation. She challenges the intellectual establishment in a way reminiscent of 1968 Presidential candidate George C. Wallace, mocking “pointy-headed intellectuals who couldn’t park their bicycle straight.”
Today, the right apostatizes her. To her supporters, there is no God but Sarah Palin. She challenges the favorite whipping boy on the right, the “Lame-stream Media” and claims that her ideological brethren represent “The real America.” Her comments accusing the media of “blood libel” will stir up her devoted followers, while further alienating her from the American mainstream.
I fail to envisage a scenario where, if she were to muster the Republican Presidential nomination, Palin would win more than negligible support from voters outside of her conservative comfort zone.
The Left Needs a Reality Check
The liberal intelligencia are voicing disenchantment with Barack Obama. They are arguing that he is betraying progressivism; most recently by his signing a budget with includes an extension of the Bush-era tax cuts for upper income earners. Liberals have also voiced disenchantment by the President’s troop surge strategy in Afghanistan, and his signing of Health Insurance Reform Legislation that does not include a public option.
Liberals were deluding themselves if they thought they were electing the incarnation of Franklin D. Roosevelt or Lyndon B. Johnson. Since Obama was launched on the national political stage at the Democratic National Convention in Boston in 2004, he has branded himself not as a liberal firebrand, but as a moderate conciliator. He was elected not only by consolidating the liberal base, but also by appealing to Independent voters. Obama garnered 52% of the Independent vote in 2008. That was seven points better than John Kerry did in 2004.
To win re-election, Obama will need once again to win a formidable chunk of the Independent vote. He is not likely to face a serious primary challenge, and in the general election, liberals will likely hold their noses and vote for him. However, I cannot see how he can win by being a tribune of only liberal voters.
Obama's Political Pragmatism
The White House is already touting the recently signed budget deal with the Republican Congressional leadership as a political victory. I think this could be to Obama and the Republican establishment what the Balanced Budget deal of 1997 was to Bill Clinton and the Congressional Republicans. Both touted it as a victory and took respective credit for it, while the activist movement wing of their parties excoriated it. For the Democrats, House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, at the time a potential candidate for President in 2000, opposed it, while prospective Republican Presidential candidate Steve Forbes attacked it from the political right as being "pathetic."
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