A conservatory of Ldotter blogs.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Dumb rationalizations. . .

. . .aren't uncommon in politics, but this one by Barack Obama, in his attempt to explain away Hillary Clinton's commanding lead in Kentucky, is exemplary:
"Sen. Clinton, I think, is much better known, coming from a nearby state of Arkansas. So it's not surprising that she would have an advantage in some of those states in the middle."

Umm. . .Senator Obama? Didn't you know that Illinois -- your home state -- actually shares a border with Kentucky, and that Arkansas doesn't? I do realize that southern Illinois is largely an afterthought to everyone north of Springfield, but it is still technically a part of the state.

Wait. Could it be that Kentucky, like Arkansas, is one of "those places" that you have a hard time relating to because of all the bitter, superstitious bigots?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Seniority has its perks. . .

. . .when it comes to rising through the ranks of Washington politics. And, frankly, that's part of the problem. It seems that incumbency is to political parties as stupidity and gullibility is to Scientology -- the most highly prized attribute among members. Unfortunately, it's almost as easily attained and comes at a very small price. One of the hardest things to do, except in times when one of the parties has sent itself into a tailspin through its own incompetence, perfidy, and moral squalor, is to unseat a sitting member of the House or Senate. The likelihood against it in any given year is roughly 9-to-1.

And, it's that relative safety that allows longtime, and even relatively short-time, members of Congress to take their constituencies for granted. They convince themselves that, as long as they make like the good daddy and bring home the bacon and the occasional hundred-dollar pound of ham, their districts will see them as a valuable, near-indispensable power conduit in Washington. They completely forget that in the end, what people want their representatives to do while they're in D.C. is to represent their interests, and not just procure grants for parks named after some old lady who once saved a seal pup from a clubbing by throwing her body over it and absorbing the blows as they rained down from the hand of a bloodthirsty furrier.

Unfortunately, it's almost impossible to keep politicians from developing a rather brawny sense of self-importance. In fact, anyone who desires to venture into the world of public office-seeking is required to have an ego bigger than a medium soft drink at a fast food joint before they're allowed past the velvet rope of party politics. That's why people like me, with all my foibles and an intact sense of shame, prefer to remain on the outside pleading like Jonas Brothers fans to be listened to for one spare minute, or even less.

As a member of the rank-and-file, and a relatively young one at that, I've seen this happen a lot. That's not to say I keep a scorecard handy and note the behavior of every politician in relation to the expectations of his constituents. "There's Mitch McConnell. We expect him to represent the fiscal sanity and moral rectitude of Kentuckians. But, there he goes, driving his fancy Buick and stealing the identities of the elderly in order to bilk them out of their retirement savings." No, it's actually just an overall sense that you get when you watch from afar and note the complete lack of progress on any front which you consider of importance with regard to the business of government, and then see some dolt with an "R" by his name on one of the TV shoutfests telling you how bad the other guy is.

After a certain period, it finally dawns on you that this guy has spent the last ten years in Washington just so he might stand a chance of appearing on Hannity & Colmes, because he just knows he could send one of them into sputtering paroxysms of apoplexy.
COLMES: "Senator, isn't it true that you're known as the Prince of Pork?"

SEN. HOFFSPENDURGAN: "That's what she said."

After a while, the lighthearted jabs and almost-over-the-line retorts wear thin with the folks back home and they start to suspect that their hometown boy just might be a bit of a grandstander. The next thing you know, the other party sees an opportunity to engage in the most unfair practice imaginable in modern politics; they examine his legislative record and start telling people about it. This is the kind of dirty politics that politicians just won't stand for, and yet, voters don't seem to mind it all that much.

So, it strikes me that, as long as Republicans are for merit pay for teachers and civil servants, maybe we ought to apply the same to the high profile pedagogues and walking civic wonders we call congressmen and senators. Here's my proposal: Let's tie committee chairmanships and seats to not only the number of years a member serves in the House or Senate, but their tendency to vote in line with the Republican caucus. Granted, it might stack the deck against the moderate and liberal Republicans who get elected in hopelessly blue states. But, it seems to me that among all the statisticians and number-crunchers at the RNC, someone could devise a handicap system that would encourage more party-line voting through a punishment/reward system.

As I understand it, the system is currently run by way of the wheel-and-deal mode of reciprocal back-scratching, and that in some sense, that serves as a bit of a handicapping system. But, once a person has attained that sought-after chairmanship, uprooting him from it requires the use of TNT and front-end loader. As a consequence, there's very little incentive to show any party loyalty once you've landed the job.

After having spent several years as Senate majority whip, and now as Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell would do well to implement this sort of thing. He's amassed enough respect within the Republican caucus to implement a change of this sort, though I'm sure the resistance will be considerable. You start messing around with the ways of the Senate and you're liable to be accused of going against tradition (gasp!). I'm not sure there's anyone in the House Republican with enough clout or influence to shake things up in such a manner, but it would be greatly appreciated by the folks back home if someone made an honest gesture to do so.

But, clearly, something needs to be done. If the GOP doesn't make some drastic changes in the way it conducts its Washington business, the elephant will soon be as threatened as the polar bear. And it'll be the voters doing the threatening.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The worst part. . .

. . .of this collective conniption being had by some on the right is the threats of people like Andy McCarthy to leave the Republican Party because John McCain is the nominee. Why don't they quit teasing the rest of us and just go? It's fairly obvious he doesn't like us. We're clearly nothing more than a sty full of swine, unworthy of his pearls.

The Limbaugh Jihad. . .

. . .continues against John McCain and any other Republican who isn't an across-the-board conservative. That, my friends, is part of the problem that Republicans face today. You see, Limbaugh, Ingraham, and so many other conservative commentators who make their living doling out red meat to the most carnivorous among us are often compelled to tear the flesh from the bones of more moderate Republicans in order to keep their audiences well-fed, and to show that they're not mere party hacks. It's the conservative flip-side to Barack Obama's quest for black authenticity.

If you aren't giving Republicans hell when they stray from the pack, then you're no better than Ted Kennedy, the wisdom goes. Well, it's high time that conservatives saw past all the showmanship and finally get real. In order to get anything accomplished, there are times when senators and congressmen have to make some strange bedfellows. Thus it ever was.

That doesn't mean that conservatives ought to shed their integrity for the sake of political expediency. Recruiting Ted Kennedy will do the GOP no more good than would recruiting Ru Paul. But, for heaven's sake, isn't it better to have Richard Riordan in the California delegation than it is to have Barbara Boxer or Diane Feinstein? Yes, they have similar positions on social issues. That's the price of being an elected official in California. But, Riordan at least would cast the occasional vote against raising taxes and might be a bit more reliable a vote against regulatory excess. There is something to be said for that.

Someone whose opinion I have grown to respect considerably over the years recently inveighed against the idea of supporting moderate Republicans in places where they might have a chance of getting elected as opposed to allowing the Democrats to simply snatch up valuable congressional seats by insisting on running candidates who have no chance of getting elected. His logic held that once moderate Democrats get elected, they conveniently forget all about the idea of moderation and start marching in lockstep with the left-liberal leadership, whereas moderate Republicans feel no compunction to cast a single conservative vote once elected.

He is not alone in his way of thinking, and it's a way of thinking that is reinforced by many radio talkers, columnists and commentators every day as they rail against apostate Republicans for casting votes that don't comport with the accepted definition of conservatism. Yet, an honest appraisal of the voting patterns of moderate and even liberal Republicans in the Senate shows that they are, more often than not, more reliably conservative than supposedly moderate and conservative Democrat senators. The ACU ratings of the Senate from 2006 back up my assertion. For instance, Chuck Hagel is almost unanimously considered a liberal Republican. Yet, his ACU rating for '06 is a pretty respectable 75%. Contrast this with Evan Bayh, who is considered the very model of Democrat moderation as a member of the Democratic Leadership Council. His ACU rating for '06 is a very unimpressive 16.

Of course, there are Senate Democrats who tend to vote more conservatively than does Bayh. Kent Conrad's ACU rating is a relatively respectable (in Senate Dem terms) 33%, which puts him roughly in line with Republican Olympia Snowe, who votes conservative at a 36% rate. But, even if Snowe is only conservative about one third of the time, that's still a pretty favorable rating when you compare it to Evan Bayh or Mary Landrieu, at 24%.

The upshot of all of this is that there is no good reason for conservative Republicans to concede legislative seats to Democrats. Quite simply, any seat where you can elect an even slightly more conservative candidate than the Democrats are offering is a seat that Republicans should be fighting for. Our conservative punditry can sit on the sidelines giving raspberries all day long, but when all is said and done, the object is to put a legislative agenda into practice, and if you can gain a five percent advantage toward that end, it ought to be taken until a ten percent advantage presents itself.

Of course, this will cause a lot of people's ears to suddenly be pinned back as an affront to their principles. Indeed, it isn't easy to vote for someone with whom you don't agree half the time, or less. But, in sitting on your vote, you can rest assured that there are plenty of people who are more than happy to vote for someone with whom you agree zero percent of the time. And, while conservatives sit home soaking their principles in cheap scotch, the folks who put in your arch-nemesis will be popping champagne corks and looking forward to sticking it to you on every single vote that passes through the legislative body.

Gays in California. . .

. . .and across America are celebrating today as social conservatives lament the California Supreme Court's decision to strike down the ban on same-sex marriage. The say the very least, these are tough times to be a social conservative. They face dwindling influence in Congress as Democrats look forward to bigger majorities this fall, and the fact that there are no candidates running for the White House who support the Marriage Protection Amendment. Even the Constitution Party, considered a refuge for disenchanted conservatives looking to send a message to the GOP, opposes amending the U.S. Constitution to define marriage. And, finally, there's the fact that, as of December 2007, a majority of Americans favor the recognition of civil unions with legal rights similar to those afforded to traditional married couples.

As all this plays out, the religious right, which still wields considerable influence within the conservative movement, must be asking itself some very serious questions about the tactical and strategic wisdom of placing so much of its lot in elections at the federal level. Clearly, the future of the Marriage Protection Amendment has never been so bleak. So, perhaps the time has come for the Christian Coalition and its affiliated groups to place a much greater emphasis on action at the state level in hopes of having an impact from the ground up.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Republican brand. . .

. . .and its sad decline in the public's esteem is on the minds of an awful lot of conservatives today, and everyone seems to think they have the answer. I'm not sure if I do or not. But, what I do have is conjecture. And that's really what the whole blogging thing is all about, isn't it? Well, at least that's what it's all about for bloggers like me, who don't have access to Lexis-Nexis and researchers and interns and such. I have to rely on a memory that is occasionally sketchy, gut feeling, observation, and Google -- by far the most useful of the tool set.

Sometimes, though, Google is ill-suited to find the information you need to bolster your case -- especially when the case you're trying to make is built by mostly gut feeling and observation. And, that pretty much sums up this one.

I believe that the collapse in public approval for the GOP right now has as much to do with what the Democrats have done as with anything that Republicans have done over the past several years. As the old maxim goes, nothing succeeds like success, and having achieved electoral success, voters are doing what comes naturally and backing the winner. (It would be terribly impolitic of me to use bin Laden's "strong horse" analogy in this context, so I won't.)

But, the manner in which the Democrats managed to achieve their electoral success has a good deal to do with it, as well. They've been very smart over the past couple of election cycles and shown themselves to be adaptable. After a decade of life in the minority, they finally wised up and realized that if they were going to have any hope of regaining the majorities they once enjoyed largely unchallenged, they were going to have to adjust to the new political reality rather than continue to insist on perpetuating the silly notion that the only reason that they were losing at the ballot box was because they were indistinguishable from Republicans. It finally dawned on them that, in the places where they were losing, it was simply because the people there preferred a more conservative approach to government.

Accordingly, they began recruiting candidates who were more appealing to voters who held more conservative positions on certain issues than the Democratic Party as a whole is generally known to hold. In the past, Democrats were subject to much more pressure to adhere to the national party's dictates with regard to social issues or risk being targeted by the withholding of party funds and the financing of primary opponents who more reliably toed the party line. Now, it seems that wisely decided that the best course of action was to achieve a Democrat majority and work toward incremental implementation of the national party's agenda. This will create some friction within the party with regard to cultural and social issues like guns, abortion and gay marriage, but it will also go a long way toward achieving other goals that are equally important to the Democrat rank and file, such as nationalized healthcare, environmental restrictions, and so-called economic and social justice.

By recognizing that their big-picture plans don't stand a chance of coming to fruition as long as Republicans continued to win in areas where views tend to be more emphatically conservative on social issues, they have given themselves a chance to at least achieve whatever goals they have in which they enjoy an electoral advantage over conservatives. In short, they prioritized the goals in such a way that would put success more easily within reach. And, having achieved electoral success, they are free to set the national agenda in such a way that puts the national party in a more favorable light with voters.

The GOP has been absolutely woeful in this regard. As the Democrats have become more focused on achieving specific goals, Republicans have taken on a completely defensive posture. On issue after issue where there is public dissatisfaction, the Democrats have promised government-based solutions while the Republicans have offered nothing more than critiques, and never a counter-offer to the voters. It is simply not enough to try to scare voters away from an idea if you don't have something better to offer as an alternative.

If Republicans hope to regain the public's trust, they're going to have to follow the Democrats' example by finding the issues of greatest concern to the voters and coming up with private sector-based alternatives to the government-based solutions offered by the opposition. Then, they will need to recruit candidates who can advance those alternatives, even if it means supporting some who do not always adhere to every jot and tittle of conservative orthodoxy. That doesn't mean that we must accept an influx of Chafee-style Republicans who seeming have no conservative moorings of which to speak. But, we do have to face the reality that there are many potential candidates out there who can advance a specific set of conservative goals while being unreliable on matters that, while important, may not be the most pressing issues in the minds of voters at any given time.

Many movement conservatives see any sort of heterodoxy as outright betrayal of the entire movement. This is always going to be the case. But, in times when orthodoxy threatens to undermine the entire movement, you have to do what it takes to remain viable in hopes of living to fight another day. That's going to require tailoring the conservative agenda to suit the particular times by rearranging priorities. This carries the risk of alienating some important elements of the movement, to be sure. But a failure to adapt to the times is a recipe for extinction.

Case in point: As I pointed out recently, Republicans, and the conservative movement in general, have failed abysmally to address the concerns of the public with regard to "climate change" or "global warming". Rather than offer alternative means of addressing the concerns that a great majority of voters have, they've simply pooh-poohed the very idea. This will lead to candidates, and the party at large, to be seen as "out of touch" with the voters. Right, wrong, or indifferent, it doesn't pay to have this image in the eyes of voters.

Kathryn Jean Lopez posted a useful item at The Corner this morning, citing Bjorn Lomborg as a go-to guy with regard to climate change hysteria. Many conservatives are already well aware of Mr. Lomborg's work, and he is not someone who can be easily dismissed. It's a shame that the general public isn't more aware of him than it is, and it doesn't speak well of conservatism that this is the case. Be that as it may, it simply isn't enough to trot out climate experts who view they hysteria with a great degree of skepticism. Because, in the voter's mind, the phenomenon of climate change isn't a singular issue, but one that is intertwined with other issues.

Lomborg councils in response to the Gallup poll that showed that an overwhelming majority of voters believe that climate change is real that, even though that may be the case, it isn't one of the top priorities in the public mind.

While this is undoubtedly true, as polls do indicate, it is directly and indirectly associated with other issues that the public view as extremely pressing. Because, as environmentalists have long been making the case, people see climate change as the product of the over-reliance on fossil fuels for energy. Fossil fuels are the source of income for two of the most hated entities in the public mind today; big oil companies who "put profits before people" and middle eastern sheiks whose every move seems designed to undermine the American way of life.

By dismissing out-of-hand the perceived threat of climate change, candidates and their parties leave themselves open to charges that they are doing the bidding of "big oil" and the Arab sheiks who seek our destruction. There's also the perception that our reliance on these fossil fuels and the extent to which we're beholden to its sources leads the nation into unnecessary wars that could be avoided if we adopted a more "green" approach to satisfying our insatiable need for energy. There's the perception that investing in the development of other sources of energy will help us to avoid future investments of precious blood and treasure in the middle east.

Simply offering up the idea of tapping domestic sources of oil doesn't really address that issue in the minds of voters, nor in reality. It is a temporary alleviation of symptoms, at best -- though one that is needed greatly and immediately. Unfortunately, it won't provide that relief immediately, as it takes considerable time to develop oil fields and pipelines. Voters understand this, and they can easily be persuaded that it is a "Band-Aid" approach that doesn't address the core of the issue. They also recognize that following this plan will provide even more profits for "big oil" -- something that they're not keen to do these days, given the prices they're paying at the gas pump.

John McCain has offered an approach that, while not exactly what conservatives see as "business friendly", does offer some sense to voters that he's an independent man who is not afraid to do things that might offend the bad guys for political expediency. Whether we like it or not, the public sees the Bush administration as just the opposite, and it is reminded of it every time they fill their tanks. It may not be fair, but it's the political reality that we live in. And, until someone can change that perception, conservatives are simply going to have to deal with it the best way they can. McCain is offering a plan that establishes himself as an agent who is independent of the hated oil companies and Arab sheiks, while taking a more market-based approach than those of his competitor.

This is just one of the priorities which Republicans are going to have to address very soon if it is to regain the trust of American voters. McCain offers a blueprint that, while not perfect, seems to be the best way to address the anxiety of Americans without giving in to a knee-jerk desire to punish business for being profitable. And, the fact is, there is no way that any proposal is going to implemented whole cloth. It seems that the best course for conservatives in the current climate is to accept the premise of the McCain plan while working in Congress to make it more palatable to industry, while at the same time, educating the public about the facts of climate change and the role that fossil fuels play in our environment relative to all other phenomena that have an impact on it.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Blogging will be light. . .

. . .today, due to some pressing personal matters. Hopefully, I'll be able to post more tomorrow.

Thank you!

The McCain pile-on. . .

. . .has begun in earnest. Every pundit who has been an unmitigated failure in persuading the public that global warming, climate change -- whatever you want to call it -- has taken the opportunity to inform us just how much of an idiot he is for recognizing the political reality (if you want to see it cynically), or being among the 86% of Americans who believe that something needs to be done about the issue.

NRO's editorial on McCain's environment speech yesterday:
It indicates a foolish willingness to sacrifice trillions of dollars on the altar of fashionable, though uniformed, opinion and political expediency.

I wonder if the editors at NRO paused to consider for a moment that these trillions of dollars that they're concerned about are a mere pittance in comparison to the multi-trillions of dollars that Barack Obama's plans will cost, and why they didn't bother to recognize that fact in their editorial. I wonder if they thought about whether or not this was something that they should have been addressing with greater regularity and enthusiasm for the past ten years, while the public was steadily being won over by the environmentalist movement until their positions became the overwhelming consensus.

I don't like the idea of giving in to the greenies any more than anyone else does, but there comes a time when you have to face facts. And, the fact is that, in the world we live in today -- the one for which we're trying to elect a leader -- the greenies aren't just a few scattered assemblages of dirty haired trust fund radicals. They're our children's kindergarten teachers, our secretaries, our restaurant managers and shoe salesmen. They're bank managers and construction workers, soccer moms and strippers, pizza delivery guys and dentists. If you stand on any street corner and ask people, "Is global warming real?" nearly nine out of ten people will tell you that it is, and look at you as if you were an idiot for even asking.

The time has long past for conservative media figures to quit carping at candidates who recognize the political reality and get to work on bringing public perceptions in line with the reality-reality. Wasting time and energy criticizing presidential candidates for doing what they must do to get elected, or actually being in step with the public is, quite frankly, idiotic. It will do nothing to change public perceptions and, instead, will undermine the one opportunity put the brakes on an all-out confiscatory environmentalist agenda that could cripple our economy for generations before the public finally starts to question the accepted wisdom.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Climate change alarmism. . .

. . .is one of those areas where I party company with John McCain. I simply don't believe that it's the pressing matter that it's being depicted as, and I'm pretty skeptical that it's being caused by human activities even if it is occurring. Granted, I'm no scientist, so I'm poorly armed for battle on this front. At the same time, it strikes me that there's sufficient scientific disagreement on the matter to preclude the "game over" calls that are issued by its proponents whenever they're confronted by contradictory opinion.

Mark Levin has posted some links to a letter from several credible scientists to the UN Secretary General that casts doubt on the causes of, and proposed solutions to, the problem. I don't think these doubts should be discarded out of hand as the work of contrarian kooks working at the behest of industry and other special interests. As best I can tell, the signatories are well regarded scientists and should be taken seriously.

That being said, if you look at polling data, the public is very much concerned about the issue of climate change. Although, it seems worth pointing out that, as the economy has become more of an issue, global warming is starting to decline as a priority in the minds of voters. Still, it remains an important issue to an undeniable majority of Americans.

Given the public pressures to act on the issue, I don't see how conservatism can gain anything in the long term by simply refusing to act on an issue that is of considerable importance to a sizable majority of voters. At the very least, people want to know that their leaders are taking their concerns seriously enough that they feel the need to address them. It would be a huge mistake for any candidate to stand before the public and tell them that they're concerns are unfounded. Like it or not, there is a sense among the majority of Americans (and the rest of the world, for that matter) that global warming needs to be addressed. And, until they're convinced otherwise, it would be dangerous for conservatives to behave as though they don't have legitimate concerns.

My best hope is that over the course of the campaign, a legitimate debate take place that will serve to put the issue into perspective. That means there needs to be an organized push-back against the wild alarmism of Al Gore and the environmental movement as a whole. This isn't going to be an easy task, given the fact that nearly every mainstream media institution has decided that the debate is over, and that anyone who dares to question the conclusions of what they deem to be "the consensus" among all "reputable scientists" is akin to a Holocaust denier. For good or ill, this is the atmosphere under which skeptics must operate.

I hope that one of the focuses of The Next Right will be to assemble a forceful, well organized, credible rebuttal to the alarmist rhetoric that has gotten us to the point where we are today. There will also need to be a respected and persuasive person to take charge in taking the case to the public. It will need to be someone who holds too much clout within the scientific community to be dismissed as a crackpot, as well as someone who can effectively present the case to a public which has been subjected to years of a relentless stream of frightening rhetoric about the damage that is supposedly being done to the planet.

Right now, the best that conservatives can hope for, given the circumstances under which we're forced to operate, is to slow down the push for increasingly onerous regulation by offering more modest proposals than the environmental lobby is demanding. While Sen. McCain's proposals may be onerous in the eyes of industry and global warming/climate change skeptics, they're likely to be seen as reasonable, modest measures in the eyes of the majority of voters. And, the simple fact is that conservatives cannot afford, particularly in the political climate we face today, to not offer anything to counter what the Democrats are proposing. And, the GOP cannot afford to be saddled with the image as the Luddite Party that is beholden to the oil industry that has become the object of near universal scorn among the electorate.

We're going to have to face it. Global warming, climate change, the greenhouse effect -- however you want to couch it -- is on the minds of the voters. They believe it's happening, they don't like it, and they're blaming Republicans for being in the pocket of big polluters who don't care about regular people. In order to maintain viability as a party and as a conservative movement, there is little choice but to address the concerns of voters while doing the best we can to avoid harming our economy.

This is going to require a longterm strategy as well as short-term proposals in order to allay the immediate fears of the public. Hooting down those who are pushing the issue will only backfire and create the impression that conservatives are either ignorant, uncaring, or both. That is a recipe for long term disaster from which the nation's economy might not recover for generations.

McCain's proposals seem to be the wisest course for a Republican candidate to take in the current political atmosphere. But, I think it would be even wiser for him to extend an invitation to scientists from across the spectrum of thought on the matter, being sure that advocates and skeptics alike get a chance to express their views and concerns with regard to everything from the degree to which climate change is occurring to the consequences of acting and not acting, and the degree to which humans can and do influence it. He should also recognize the emergence of a recent change in global temperature trends and acknowledge that there are very legitimate reasons to take a go-slow approach to tackling the issue.

Finally, I think he should make it clear that both science and industry have a place at the table when it comes to discussions as to what should be done about it. After all, no single institution is going to suffer more from the results of an abrupt change in climate than another. And, if he maintains the position that even if it turns out we are wrong about climate change, at least we will have left a cleaner planet for future generations, he ought to be open as to how much federal intervention is appropriate to bring it about, and how much cost is tolerable in order to attain the goal.

McCain has established that he is completely open to the idea that something needs to be done to prevent damage to the planet. At the same time, he should show an openness to ways of keeping to a very minimum the amount of government intervention in our free market economy in order to avert a disaster that may not even be happening. After all, when people can't find work because the economy is slow, they really don't give a damn how normal the weather or sea levels are.

Mother Jones is thrown. . .

. . .under the bus by a lot of liberals these days who don't like the simple mountain folk she once fought for. Jim Geraghty has collected some tidbits from around the lefty blogosphere that point to a growing resentment toward West Virginia and Kentucky voters who are expected to soundly reject Barack Obama's candidacy in their upcoming primaries.

As a proud Kentuckian, the notion that Democrats look down their noses at folks like me comes as no surprise at all. It's something I've grown to accept and even revel in over the years, in fact. There's nothing quite so reaffirming of one's status as "salt of the earth" as the sneering disapproval of the effete elite.

Strangely enough, Kentucky is a predominantly Democratic state, with Dems enjoying about a 2-to-1 registration advantage over the GOP. You couldn't tell it by looking at our congressional delegation, but it's true. In fact, the county I call home enjoys about a 9-to-1 Democrat advantage in registration due to the high concentration of union households. And, yet, the district is represented by Republicans in both the U.S. Congress and at the State House (for now).

One reason that Republicans have enjoyed electoral success in the Bluegrass despite this wild disparity in party affiliation is the fact that blue collar, working class people in the state feel completely abandoned and disrespected by national-level Democrats. They register with the party out of a sense of loyalty and tradition. I get my share of grief from family members for being a Republican as a result of that fact. I can't count the times I've heard, "If your granddaddy knew you were a Republican, he'd roll over in his grave."

Right now, I'm itching to get to our family's traditional Memorial Day gathering. Something tells me I won't be getting much grief this time around. No one wants to hear my reply. They know full-well that, if my granddaddy knew how his Democratic Party feels about him and his fellow working class Kentuckians, he'd have switched parties a long time ago.

Of course, this won't stop the Netroots from tarring as a racist every voter who refuses to buy into the Obama hype. Part of their plan is to bring about "social change" by browbeating and intimidating Obama's critics into silence by questioning their motivations. And they truly believe that the only reason a person could possibly not vote for him is because they are racist -- if not overtly so.

And so, the racial McCarthyism of "dog whistle racism" charges will grow. It could possibly succeed in silencing a good number of Obama's critics. But, once they get into the voting booth and think about whether or not they want to live under the thumb of their betters for the next four years, they're not going to think kindly of the candidate who allowed his forces to slander them as ignorant bigots.

This is not the way one goes about transcending race, and the Democrats need to think long and hard about the consequences of using such intellectually thuggish tactics.
"You run one time, you got yourself a set of chains. You run twice you got yourself two sets. You ain't gonna need no third set, 'cause you gonna get your mind right. And I mean RIGHT."

Strother Martin as "Captain", in Cool Hand Luke

The thing about Derb. . .

. . .is that, while at times he can be an irremediable curmudgeon, you can't help feeling an occasional pang of sympathy for the guy. You get the impression that even though he delights in jamming a thumb in the eye of anyone who questions him, he can't figure out why on earth anyone would take it personally.

But, say what you will, the man is an open book. Today, he posted a link to the results of a personality test he took after reading an article about it in the London Times, and while he seemed a little taken aback by them, he conceded that he wasn't exactly shocked. It was somewhat what I expected the results of a John Derbyshire personality test would look like, though I must I wouldn't have expected them to be quite so emphatic, and I never would have expected his scores on vulnerability and emotionality to be anywhere near where they are.

Having seen Derb's results, I decided to take the test myself. And, like Derb, I can't really argue with the results. They seem pretty accurate to me. From what I can tell, the only areas where Derb and I have anything in common is that we are both extremely lacking in self-discipline, and we both seem to be extremely slow-paced people.

In my case, the neuroticism score was a bit higher than I would have thought, but not off-the-charts. I do have acquaintances who might take issue with the score as a pretty low-ball figure, however.

I've always loved taking those kinds of tests, so I thought I'd share it with my reader(s). I can't vouch for the scientific validity of the results, though as I said before, it seems to have me pretty well pegged. Take it yourself and see what you think.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Obama's racial McCarthyism. . .

. . .strategy is laid out pretty plainly in a Newsweek piece by Richard Wolffe and Evan Thomas. Of course, this isn't entirely unexpected. I've written about it in the past myself. And, it's not totally unexpected that mainstream media outlets would be a party to it. After all, the Obama campaign has been successful in cultivating a good deal of sympathetic press.

It's a little surprising to see the degree to which Wolffe and Thomas are complicit in regurgitating the Obama campaign's assertions that the candidate is being unfairly maligned. Never at any point does the article address whether or not Obama's relationships with the various shady characters in his very recent past are legitimate grounds for criticism, other than to grant the assumption that they're not. They simply run right past the question.

What is breathtaking, however, is utterly cynical way in which the article puts forth the implication that any questioning of Obama's judgment with regard to his personal relationships constitutes the phenomenon of "dog whistle racism". It simply lets the Obama campaign take the wheel and drive the reader straight to the destination that best suits it. No stop signs, no detours, not even a flashing caution light.

What is happening here is a despicable attempt to tar Obama critics, and the Republican Party as a whole, as racists before the general election campaign even gets underway. I've been a close observer of politics for years, and I have yet to see anything in my life that matches this ploy in terms of cynicism. Pure preemptive slander.

Mark Salter replied to the article via email, which Newsweek was kind enough to link in the small, italic print at the very end of the piece. Personally, I think he went entirely too easy on the magazine's editors for publishing such a blatantly propagandistic screed without an accompanying rebuttal. It's an outright smear against anyone who questions Obama's messianic image.

It's good to have this all recorded in the pages of Newsweek. When the McCarthyite accusations start flying, conservatives will have this piece to point to as evidence that it was the Obama campaign's plan of attack all along. Unfortunately, a once-respected publication has allowed itself to be co-opted and thrown into the mix with eyes wide open.

So, conservatives should consider this a warning -- you're going to be accused of being a racist simply because of the fact that you oppose Obama. Your reasons are immaterial as is the legitimacy of your questions. It's going to happen. Now is the time to push back. If conservatives don't let it be known forcefully and immediately that they will not be tarred as bigots simply because they prefer not to accept Obama's image on faith, they're going to have to live with the consequences for many elections to come.

Only John McCain. . .

. . .is capable of keeping Republicans in the executive branch, and it's a shame to see so many conservatives continue to carp about his inevitable nomination. There has never been a time in the party's history when it was more poorly positioned to remain in power. The party has never been held so low in the public's esteem. Its standard bearer, President Bush, is currently laboring under approval ratings worse than Richard Nixon's. House and Senate Republicans are lagging far behind their Democratic counterparts in fundraising.

And, yet, in spite of all these factors and the fact that he is, to put it as charitably as I know how, not the darling of his party's base, Sen. John McCain remains highly competitive with both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in head-to-head polling. Given the deep unpoplarity of the Republican brand right now, you have to wonder if some of McCain's popularity is a product of the disdain with which he is held by members of his own party. I can't speak for other Republicans, but I can attest that part of what has driven me into his corner is that he angers some of the right people.

Admittedly, there have been times when I've vehemently disagreed with the senator -- McCain-Feingold and his opposition to the Bush tax cuts spring to mind. But, I can't help feeling a jolt of good cheer at the apoplexy that the mere mention of his name inspires in some of his critics. Mostly, these folks have solid, conservative beliefs with which I tend to agree. But, they're also people who are entrenched in the conservative-Republican power structure whose positions are threatened by his emergence. Regardless of whether or not I agree with their views, I can't escape the feeling that having these people trembling with rage is a good thing, particularly in light of the current state of the conservative movement and the Republican Party over which they've exercised so much control in recent years.

As is universally the case with any institution, long-entrenched power structures tend to be their own undoing. They tend to become fat, lazy, complacent, and given enough time, corrupt. And, that is precisely what has happened to the GOP's leadership during the Bush years. While the Bush administration has remained gloriously free of corruption, particularly in comparison to the administration that directly preceded it, the same can't be said of its legislative counterpart. Both, I think, can be fairly accused of laziness and complacency, however.

The Republican congressional leadership's torpor has been particularly egregious, and it paid a price for it in the 2006 midterm elections. Suddenly, the Democrats were in control and the Republican caucus, after having been in power for the bulk of the twelve years following the "Gingrich Revolution", had no idea how to react. The showed absolutely no sign of a renewed commitment to conservative principles of any kind -- social, fiscal, or national security. Having long ago abandoned those principles, and sensing that there was trouble brewing among the electorate, many Republicans turned to illegal immigration as a gimmick. Much to their chagrin, many voters picked up on the fact that they were using it as a diversion in hopes of keeping people from noticing the royal screwing they'd been receiving at the hands of their purportedly conservative elected officials.

This is the atmosphere that gave rise to John McCain, and whether or not he's the perfect vehicle for the change that must happen if the conservative movement is to survive, there's no doubt that he is the necessary agent to bring about the kind of changes that need to be made if the Republican Party is to have any hope of being a viable vehicle for conservatism in any form. No other candidate in the field of also-rans had the capacity to shake up the conservative establishment to the degree that John McCain has. And, whether one loves or hates him, it can't be denied that the establisment needs a good shaking. After all, the conservative leadership with which we've saddled ourselves has not only failed to hold the line on size, scope and cost of government, but run right past it like a juiced-up greyhound chasing a crackhead in a rabbit suit.

Rank and file conservatives are slowly lining up behind McCain, but there remains a significant number of hold-outs who are still enraged at the way he has run across the establishment conservative grain over the past several years. This won't be easy to repair, and in some cases, it'll be impossible. Once people have gotten used to having their ears tickled by the dulcet tones of politicians full of promises, delivery on those promises becomes secondary to the courtship. And, the failure of a politician to sufficiently engage in the courtship ritual is unforgivable, whereas the failure to deliver on the promises is not. Witness the hero status that Rick Santorum still enjoys among social conservatives despite his very active support of Arlen Specter over Pat Toomey. Then, witness the villification of John McCain and skepticism over his judicial philosophy in spite of his active support of Justices Alito and Roberts.

Conservatives who refuse to support McCain in this election are missing an opportunity that won't present itself again for a good, long time. We have a chance to clear out a lot of deadwood and create a path for a new generation of conservative leaders who truly represent their constituencies without giving in to the time-honored traditions of Washington which dictate that getting and keeping power takes precedence over principle. While McCain may be a maverick in areas that anger some conservatives to no end, the fact is that the Republican Party has been in dire need of mavericks in recent history. When the party line is unnecessarily costing lives in Iraq, someone needs to buck it. When the party line is needlessly bankrupting future generations to pay for entitlement programs, somone needs to buck it. And, when the party line says that corruption is acceptable when its goal is to maintain power for your own side, someone needs to buck it.

If more conservatives had demonstrated a willingness to buck the Republican Party line these last several years, the American public wouldn't be ready to toss them out on their ears right now.

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