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."
The Featured Video in the left column: is a sampling of some of my past television interviews.
----- Ponderings -----
Welcome to Politi-Geek: A website devoted to Politics and everything related to Politics
This Day in American Political History May 24, 2001 –-- Republican Senator James Jeffords announces that he is leaving the Republican Party to become an Independent who will caucus with the Democrats. His switch is important because it gives the Democrats a one-vote majority in the Senate.
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."
Discussing the Issues
To participate in any of the "on-going conversations," just hit the menu tab near the top of the screen labelled "On-Going Conversations" or just hit the following link. On-Going Conversations
To Post an Article
If you would like to post an article within the "Articles by Contributing Authors" section (See "Political Blogs" Menu Tab near top of screen ), all you have to do is email me the article and I will post it, usually within 24 hours. email@example.com