Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns



Michael Knox Beran writes that Obama has already begun the process of transforming our nation's institutions in a way that will be very difficult to reverse and that he is in a (potentially) strong position to block conservatives from undoing his work or (what would be even better) substituting their own reforms.  For all the talk of Obama being arrogant or obtuse (and his explanations for the widespread opposition to his policies are as self-serving as they are probably sincere), he is also a principled, determined, ambitious, and strategy-minded politician who holds some pretty good cards.  He isn't like Bill Clinton.  Clinton was willing to work with conservatives in order to maximize his approval ratings.  Obama is willing to trade a lower (but not too low of course) approval rating in return from passing (check) and then defending policies that transform the political economy of the country. 

Categories > Politics


Did They Kill It with the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch?

Time for the Monty Python troupe to come out of retirement; either that, or Jimmy Carter, nookular engineer, should get his canoe paddle out of the attic.  From the Associated Press: "Radioactive Rabbit Trapped, Killed":  

A radioactive rabbit was trapped on the Hanford nuclear reservation, and Washington state health workers have been searching for contaminated rabbit droppings.

The rabbit was trapped in the past week and was highly contaminated with radioactive cesium. It was killed and disposed of as radioactive waste.

There's a movie in this somewhere: Attack of the 50-Foot Glow-in-the-Dark Killer Rabbit.

Categories > Technology



This is E.J. Dionne's understanding and weak justification for Pelosi staying on as the leader of the Dems in the House.  I could be missing something, or, this foolish act on her part (and Reid staying on, and Obama's post-election press conference) is proof that the three liberals (Pelosi, Reid, Obama) have as much self-understanding as I did when I thought about becoming a medical doctor (the day before my organic chemistry class started). This perfect number (3) really is a gift to the GOP.  Aren't you glad Reid didn't lose his seat?
Categories > Politics


Latinos And The GOP

It looks like Democrats won the Latino vote for Congress by about 2 to 1.  Ruy Teixeira argues that this is in line with the slightly more than 2 to 1 margins that Democrats won among Latinos in the 2006 and 2008 congressional elections.  It is also in line with Obama's 2 to 1 victory over McCain in the 2008 presidential election.  The Democratic margin among Latinos is more disturbing this year than in 2006 and 2008.  In 2006 you had undivided Republican control of the elected branches combined with a Democratic wave connected to public discontent over the Iraq War (and to a lesser degree gas prices.)  In 2008 you had an incredibly unpopular incumbent Republican President, rising unemployment, a financial crisis that the Republican presidential candidate was obviously clueless about, and an excellent Democratic presidential candidate.  This year, the labor market was worse than in 2008, the Democrats were holding undivided power in Washington, Obama wasn't on the ballot, and yet Republicans only made the slightest gains among Latinos.

It is at least possible that a broad majority of Latinos are consolidating around a shared identity as Democrats and that, for most Latinos, the Democrats are becoming the "us" party and Republicans the "them" party.  Obama has tried really hard to appeal to Latinos with an almost constant focus on amnesty, even at the cost of alienating some anti-amnesty whites (betting, probably correctly, that amnesty is a low salience issue for most persuadable whites unless amnesty is just about to be passed.) This consolidating of the Latino vote was what Harry Reid's despicable comment about how he didn't know how anyone  of Hispanic heritage could be a Republican was about.  It seems to have worked out well enough for Reid, but on the other hand, Reid's son was beaten by a Latino Republican in the race for governor - though Sandoval only seems to have done slightly better than Angle among Latinos. 

I don't think that the election of Latino Republicans to prominent offices, or even putting Marco Rubio on the 2012 (or 2016) presidential ticket is going to do much to help Republican bring their share of the Latino vote close to 50%.  I think that Henry Olsen's insights on the working-class (and I would add much of the middle-class) might be the beginning of wisdom here.  Adapting Olsen's insights to the particular situation of working and middle-class Latinos (each an internally diverse category) will be a huge challenge.  It is a good start to think about Olsen's categories of "pride in their lives", "fear of being disrespected", and "hope for the future" and think about how conservative messaging could be better.  It would also be nice to have some policies that offered tangible benefits.     

Categories > Politics


What's Really Wrong With California?

Ben Boychuk writes an excellent post today over at Infinite Monkeys to explain the phenomenon that is California.  In brief:  if John Kasich saw his poll numbers tighten up because he came late to the tea party, the California GOP apparently did not bother to read the invitation.

A couple of comments on Ben's key observations about the specifics of the recent contest:  Meg Whitman's obscene spending on the race absolutely hurt her with voters who might otherwise have been inclined to support her (if only so as not to have to support Brown).  And Ben is right, the ad juxtaposing Whitman and Schwarzenegger with IDENTICAL quotes was BRILLIANT political theater.  I found myself nodding my head and smiling despite myself--in a kind of reverential awe of the sort I sometimes felt when confronted with one of Bill Clinton's masterful deceptions.

And what to say about Carly Fiorina who did not seem to be able to decide what, exactly, she is or would be as California's Senator?  She proudly touted her pro-life convictions in some ads, but announced in the closing weeks of the campaign that her voting record might look a lot like Dianne Feinstein's?  Maybe even more curious, she ran another ad where faces would appear on the screen explaining that they were "Democrats," "Republicans," and "Independents" (and let's not forget about the people who don't know what the heck is going on in politics) all saying that they could endorse Carly Fiorina because the time had come where our problems are so large that we need to "get beyond partisan politics."   Whatever that means.

Now, against Barbara Boxer, one would not be out of line in endorsing my dog.  But saying one "could endorse" him doesn't tell you much about my dog's likely voting record or how he would perform as a Senator.  Obviously, I'm not saying that Fiorina is like a dog . . . but that ad certainly was a dog.  How she could have imagined that an ad with overly somber and low energy people saying they could endorse her because, what the heck, things could hardly get worse (!) could be confidence building, I'll never know.  It reminded me of Michael Dukakis' campaign when he proudly touted the fact that he was "competent."  It's not inspiring and above all, it's meaningless.  It's stuff that may fly in a board room when scribbled across the top of some guy's resume . . . but it's not the stuff that makes a great campaign.

If we're going to recruit rock stars from the business world, let's next time make sure we get some who can talk.    
Categories > Elections


You Heard It Here First, Last Week

Peter and others thought I was being more than a bit fanciful last week with the notion that Gov. Jerry Brown might well decide to challenge Obama in 2012.  But the idea seems to be catching on.  This, from Boston Phoenix columnist Steven Stark:

Who could play that role initially? Some are touting former Indiana senator and governor Evan Bayh, but he's untested and not particularly articulate. A far better bet is newly elected California governor Jerry Brown -- a kind of Eugene McCarthy-esque figure -- who once bragged that he was going to move left and right at the same time. He is, of course, a serial presidential candidate, having run three times previously (1976, 1980, 1992). Though he failed each time, he twice ran impressively, finishing third in '76 after entering late in the process, winning (or having friendly delegates do so) in Maryland, California, Nevada, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. In 1992, on a financial shoestring, he finished second -- winning Maine, Connecticut, Colorado, Nevada, Vermont, and Alaska, while losing California to Bill Clinton, 48-41 percent.

For Brown, the next nine months are critical, as he'll attempt to use his visibility as governor of the nation's most populous state to become a kind of Democratic Chris Christie, standing up to special interests and proposing bold new fiscal policies. If he does, he could be a formidable 2012 challenger, as he's shown a propensity in the past for running on populist themes (term limits, campaign-finance reform), while taking positions that could attract labor support (he was anti-NAFTA) and even backing from conservatives (he has supported a flat tax). As a Catholic, he does have some appeal to the working-class "Hillary Democrats" -- a part of the reason why he's done well in New England in the past.

Could he beat Obama? It's obviously a long shot. But the hope among some is that his entry into the race would so weaken Obama that Clinton might consider getting in, as Robert Kennedy once did, able to tap into a family-built organization in a matter of days. Some even harbor hopes that, under pressure from his own party, Obama might walk away from the job after one term. Stranger things have happened.

Categories > Politics


Is Obama a Keynesian?

Some of the super-smart attendees at Jon Stewart's Rally for Sanity offer their opinions on the subject.
Categories > Economy

Refine & Enlarge

Obama as incompetent complainer

President Obama's press conference the day after the great loss was revealing, and also unimpressive.  This president--the most liberal ever elected--did not defend his policies, but rather made excuses and talked about how he should have been a better marketer.  He certainly did not admit that the shellacking he took had anything to do with the fact the the American disagreed with his principles and policies!  At one point he said that maybe the health care legislation could be "tweaked", but he didn't want to "relitigate arguments" (what a silly courtroom term to use in this context!) over its central elements.  So much for his ability to compromise.  At one point he implied that he should have better explained to the American people that the economic crisis forced him to expand the size of government, but he really wasn't doing it on principle.  Please, that's embarassing.  Everyone remembers Rahm Emmanuel's comment that the economic crisis allowed progressives a great opportunity "to do things you could not do before,"  but they assumed the argument had been out there for almost a century!   Obama was just the man--with his massive intellect and cool demeanor and great rhetorical skills--to take advantage of this crisis and persuade the people to lurch left. He pushed the policies through, but didn't persuade.  And there is the crux, the people did not like the enormous expansion of government that followed; they were not persuaded. That's the short of it, and he still doesn't get it.  Good for Boehner and his Republicans.
Categories > Refine & Enlarge


Quick Takes

Sorry I haven't been around much but family medical issues and such...  The Republicans didn't do quite as well as expected (including by me) in the Senate.  Here are some thoughts:

Nevada - The line coming from the Weekly Standard and National Review is that Nevada shows that candidates matter.  That is true, but what does it mean?  One of Sharron Angle's problems was that she had a way explaining conservative positions in a way that put them in a bad light, and she made at least one statement that was either obnoxious or a threat of sedition depending on how charitably you want to interpret it.  I think an even bigger problem than her more famous quotes is that she is a rightworld provincial. She seemed very uncomfortable talking to any audience that she wasn't sure was friendly.  If you can find the videos, check out her appearance on FOX and Friends and then her thirty minute interview with one of the Nevada television stations.  She exuded anxiety in front of skeptical or indifferent audiences.  That is probably not uncommon among the general population (I don't think that I would have done better) but such on-the-surface social anxiety is an unfortunate quality in a Senate candidate in a tough race who depends on winning over swing voters.  Her combination of social anxiety and inability to translate her worldview to people who don't share her political assumptions is symbolized by her talk to a group of Latino students.  She pathetically tried to form a rapport by showing that she is so unbigoted that she thought some of them looked like Asians and that one time somebody thought she was Asian.

Pennsylvania - This was as close to an even fight as you were going to get.  Pat Toomey is an excellent candidate.  Every principled conservative who is aspiring to office in a mixed constituency should read this profile explaining how Toomey crafted a persona and message designed to win over blue collar urban and suburban white persuadables.  He isn't perfect, and his coalition might need updating, but conservatives can't hope for much better than Toomey.  Joe Sestak is a principled, articulate, tough and very likeable liberal.  The state leans Democratic but the national environment favored the Republicans.  The closeness of Toomey's win is disturbing.  Toomey's appeal is geared toward Reagan Democrats.  Those Democrats (plus Republicans of course) were enough to win for most of the last thirty years.  The Republican coalition is going to have to expand to win over some post-Obama Democrats.  Be that as it may, a lot of Republicans have a lot to learn from Toomey.

Colorado - See Nevada.  Buck wasn't too extreme exactly.  He was no less conservative than Rubio or Toomey (well maybe Toomey a little on abortion.)  The problem was he couldn't effectively deal with having his ideas cross-examined.  This isn't the same thing as being inarticulate.  I suspect Buck is very articulate in expressing the depths of his beliefs to  people who share his views.  The problem is in explaining those views to those not already on your side and then explaining away the misrepresentations of the opposition.  Conservative candidates need to master pithy responses to the most effective liberal jabs and seem comfortable in doing so.  Some of being able to do that is talent, but a lot of it is preparation.  One of the reasons Reagan was so persuasive was that he pitched his message to appeal to (but not only to) FDR-loving Democrats and then practiced and practiced and practiced.  I get the feeling that Buck and Angle have spent too much time in a conservative bubble and had little practice in winning over nonconservatives in elections where the relationship between ideology and policy was important.   

Categories > Politics

Refine & Enlarge

The Narrative War

As usual, George Will nails it in today's column: "It is amazing the ingenuity Democrats invest in concocting explanations of voter behavior that erase what voters always care about, and this year more than ever - ideas. This election was a nationwide recoil against Barack Obama's idea of unlimited government."

Dear Preacher Will, We Hear You.  Sincerely, The Choir.

At the same time, as NLT readers nod approvingly at Will's analysis, we must contend with the counter-narrative, which Will decimates by implication but which inevitably will gain traction in the coming days.  All the usual suspects--White House, DNC, MSNBC, etc.--will be hard at work pushing their own interpretation of Tuesday's results.  The election was about the economy, they'll say.  It was about jobs.  It was--as Peter Schramm noted in reference to Tim Kaine--about a collective lament that "change has not happened fast enough."  History never actually repeats itself, or so I tell my students, but this last line conjures memories of Bill Clinton's '94 mid-term post-mortem: the voters have spoken, he said at the time, and their message is clear: "Move faster!" 

None of this is surprising, of course.  To the progressive mind, the obvious convenience of interpretations that dismiss electoral misfortune as the product of politically-radioactive conditions--unemployment, slow growth, etc--is that those interpretations help shelter progressive ideas from the fallout of a historic political thrashing.  Still, the Left's near-monopoly over the dissemination of information and opinion guarantees it an enormous advantage in the battle to define the meaning of Election 2010.  Furthermore, the economy is bad, and no doubt it was an issue for many voters.  

Republicans, in short, now face the rhetorical challenge of periodically (I prefer daily, but I'll take what I can get) highlighting their chasmic differences with progressive ideologues while also working to ameliorate lousy economic conditions.  In my view, Republican leaders will meet this challenge in part through unwavering and unapologetic commitment to a narrative that treats as self-evident the symbiotic relationship between a robust economy and a limited, constitutional government.  In the end, though, as Will reminds us with characteristic elegance, one cannot escape the conclusion--no matter how the opposition chooses to rationize it--that Tuesday's results reveal something deeper, something we've recognized all along as more thoughtful and more visceral: a "recoil" against progressive-style government the likes of which we've not seen in more than a generation.         


Categories > Refine & Enlarge


Best News of the Night

Okay, enough of the sober reflections for a moment.  Let's permit a little bit of a happy dance here.  Sean Trende at Real Clear Politics explains--in all its glorious detail--the extensive reach of yesterday's Republican gains:

The National Conference of State Legislatures estimates that Democrats had the worst night in state legislative seats since 1928. With races outstanding in New York, Washington and Oregon, Republicans have flipped at least 14 chambers, and have unified control of 25 state legislatures. They have picked up over five hundred state legislative seats, including over 100 in New Hampshire alone.

The obvious take-aways from this are that the GOP just expanded its bench by a mile and that the coming re-districting in the several states is going to make political life uncomfortable for existing and would-be Democrat politicians in the coming decade. It also points to a much needed and sorely over-due injection of youth, life and vitality into the Republican party.

But, getting back on message, it should be remembered that the thing about youthful and energized movements (think 2008) is that they are easily disappointed, too easily inspired by emotion, and can turn on a dime.  (Just think:  whatever your age today, weren't you more [misguidedly] triumphant the day after the '94 midterms than you are today?  Age and experience have a way of tempering expectations and setting the jaw.)  What is needed to sustain the kind of energy that has been generated is intellectual firepower and a rhetoric designed to inspire attention to it.  These new Republican representatives are going to have to get excited about the ideas and do the homework necessary to continue to persuade majorities.  Given that these are busy men (and women) with much practical work to do, they're going to need some tutors.   I happen to know a few.  
Categories > Elections


The End of the Beginning

Matt Spalding has some sensible and insightful observations on why last night's victory for the GOP might most accurately be compared to 1938's midterms.  He thinks it signals the end of the expansion of the Progressive agenda rather than a simple end to it.  I agree.  Time to dig up those history books and original documents, read, reflect, and figure a way to do it better this time.
Categories > Elections


California "A Different Kind of State"

John J. Pitney Jr. gives us some important facts to remember about California when considering why the GOP electoral wave did not sweep through the once Golden State.  It seems there's a pretty high beach wall here with an electorate comprised of a 13 point party identification gap favoring Democrats while, in the rest of the country, it's about an even split.  Moreover, he reminds us that Californians approve of the job that Obama has been doing by a 10 point margin while the rest of the country disapproves by a 9 point margin!  None of this is to say that California should be dismissed or written off . . . but it may suggest that it is something like a hot house flower in a greenhouse of strange makings.  I wonder if it will serve some purpose like the token and stubborn full-throated campus Marxist in the wake of the end of the Cold War?  Exhibit A in the case for what NOT to do? 

But for those of us who live here, this bit of otherwise sobering advice from Pitney, may be all the hope we have. 
Categories > Elections

Refine & Enlarge

Sobering Victory

John Podhoretz agrees with Boehner that "This is not a time for celebration."  Boehner hit the right note exactly.  This lack of enthusiasm (note lack of balloons at the gathering where he spoke last night) after a great victory forces reflection on the body politic.  Good.  He knows that the hard part starts this morning.  The other side can continue to say silly things (DNC chair Tim Kaine: "Voters sent a message that change has not happened fast enough"), but we must take this opportunity to make ourselves as serious as possible.  We must earn the authority the people have given us.  Boehner's talk and disposition last night were nearly perfect.  I hope he keeps it up.  He seems to know that now is when the real politics starts.

Michael Barone has some good, what he calls random, thoughts on the elections.  He also has a few cautionary notes.

Categories > Refine & Enlarge



The only surprise last night was that there were no surprises (as I had expected), with the exception of Harry Reid, whom I expected to lose.  But I always wondered about the polls in Nevada; because of the transience of the population and the unknowability of who is still there after the housing and employment meltdown, it was always going to be hard to predict who would be around the vote on election day.  But as I said on the Podcast the other day, Harry Reid and the nominally Democratic Senate is going to be a liability for Obama.

Overall, Republicans slightly underperformed what the Gallup and other "generic" numbers might have forecast, which suggests that curve on the generic ballot preference number is logarithmic, or something.  Even allowing for weak candidates in Nevada and Delaware, the GOP should have won the tight races in Colorado (uncertain at this moment it appears) and Washington (looks like Rossi loses narrowly again).  The left coast really does appear to be a hopeless region now.
Categories > Elections


Return to Normalcy?

ABC News notes: "The Republicans' victory in the House will mark only the third time in 50 years that control of the chamber has changed hands."

A telling comment. It is, of course, also the third time the House has changed hands in 16 years.  Other than the long period between the Second World War and 1994, it was much more common for control of the House to change.  Other than the post-War era, our media was also more diverse and splintered than it was during the age of three networks and one or two national newspapers.  It looks like we're heading back that way.  (We also used to have major financial panics every twenty years or so).

That a reporter for ABC used the 50 year comparison says alot about how so many of us see things.  Most voters, pundits, and politicians spent many years in the solid-state, post-war world of politics that we forget that it was the anamoly in U.S. history.  Historically, our politics has often been marked by considerable flux. Perhaps we're just moving back to normal.

Categories > History

Political Parties

Partying Like It's 1773?

Question: If today's elections go as well for the tea party candidates as polls indicate, how should their supporters celebrate?  Should they drink tea?  Or, since the tea party was about dumping tea in the harbor and avoiding the tea tax, should they drink coffee?

Categories > Political Parties


Races to Follow

Below are the races I will be following closely tonight. This is not every close race; nor is it every race that is likely to switch seats. Instead, I tried to find those races where voters are more clearly giving their verdict on the past two years of Democratic control in Congress and the White House. I've also included the ones that Obama has visited in the past couple weeks as well as a few other interesting ones. (Note: An * next to a name notes an incumbent.)

 State RaceComments
7:00 PMINHouse 2Donnelly (D)* vs. Walorski (R)Donnelly won by 37% in '08
7:00 PMINHouse 9Hill (D)* vs. Young (R)Hill won by 20% in '08
7:00 PMKYHouse 6Chandler (D)* vs. Barr (R)Chandler won by 30% in '08
7:00 PMSCHouse 5Spratt (D)* vs. Mulvaney (R) Spratt is a 14 term incumbent and won by 25% in '08
7:00 PMVAHouse 5Perriello (D)* vs. Hurt (R) Liberal in Conservative district; Only Obama visit for a House candidate on 10/29
7:00 PMVAHouse 9Boucher (D)* vs. Griffith (R)Boucher is a 13 term incumbent and ran unopposed in '08
7:00 PMVAHouse 11Connolly (D)* vs. Fimian (R) 
7:30 PMOHHouse 1Driehaus (D)* vs. Chabot (R) 
7:30 PMOHHouse 6Wilson (D)* vs. Johnson (R)Strickland's former seat; Wilson won by 29% in '08
7:30 PMOHHouse 15Kilroy (D)* vs. Stivers (R) 
7:30 PMOHHouse 16Boccieri (D)* vs. Renacci (R)Boccieri voted against health care then for it. The Ashbrook Center is in his district.
7:30 PMOHHouse 18Space (D)* vs. Gibbs (R)Space won by 20% in '08
7:30 PMOHGovernorStrickland (D)* vs. Kasich (R) Obama Visits 10/17 and 10/31
7:30 PMWVSenateManchin (D) vs. Raese (R) Open Seat (D)
7:30 PMWVHouse 1McKinley (R) vs. Oliverio (D)Open Seat (D); Mollohan (D) ran unopposed in '08
8:00 PMCTGovernorFoley (R) vs. Malloy (D)Open Seat (R)
8:00 PMCTSenateBlumenthal (D) vs. McMahon (R)Open Seat (D)
8:00 PMDEHouse ALCarney (D) vs. Urquhart (R)Open Seat (R)
8:00 PMILSenateGiannoulias (D) vs. Kirk (R) Open Seat (D); Obama Visit 10/30; Obama's former seat
8:00 PMILHouse 10Dold (R) vs. Seals (D)Open Seat (R); Kirk's former seat
8:00 PMILGovernorQuinn (D)* vs. Brady (R) 
8:00 PMFLHouse 2Boyd (D)* vs. Southerland (R)Boyd won by 25% in '08 and ran unopposed in '06
8:00 PMFLHouse 8Grayson (D)* vs. Webster (R) 
8:00 PMFLHouse 22Klein (D)* vs. West (R) 
8:00 PMFLHouse 24Kosmas (D)* vs. Adams (R) 
8:00 PMFLHouse 25Rivera (R) vs. Garcia (D)Open Seat (R)
8:00 PMFLGovernorScott (R) vs. Sink (D)Open Seat (R)
8:00 PMOKIssue 756Health Care Choice 
8:00 PMMAHouse 4Frank (D)* vs. Bielat (R)Unlikely GOP win but fun to watch
8:00 PMMAHouse 10Keating (D) vs. Perry (R)Open Seat (D); Delahunt (D) ran unopposed in '08
8:00 PMMAGovernorPatrick (D)* vs. Baker (R) vs. Cahill (I) 
8:00 PMNHHouse 2Kuster (D) vs. Bass (R)Open Seat (D)
8:00 PMPASenateSestak (D) vs. Toomey (R) Open Seat (D); Obama Visit 10/30
8:30 PMARSenateLincoln (D)* vs. Boozman (R)  
9:00 PMCOSenateBennet (D)* vs. Buck (R)  
9:00 PMCOHouse 4Markey (D)* vs. Gardner (R)  
9:00 PMCOHouse 7Perlmutter (D)* vs. Frazier (R)Perlmutter won by 28% in '08
9:00 PMCOIssue 63Health Care Choice 
9:00 PMLAHouse 2Cao (R)* vs. Richmond (D)One of the few Republican losses expected in '10; Longtime Rep Bill Jefferson (D) went to prison in '09
9:00 PMMNHouse 8Oberstar (D)* vs. Cravaack (R)Oberstar is a 14 term incumbent and won by 36% in '08
9:00 PMNYHouse 13McMahon (D)* vs. Grimm (R) 
9:00 PMNYHouse 19Hall (D)* vs. Hayworth (R) 
9:00 PMNYHouse 20Murphy (D)* vs. Gibson (R) 
9:00 PMNYHouse 24Arcuri (D)* vs. Hanna (R) 
9:00 PMWISenateFeingold (D)* vs. Johnson (R) Feingold is a 18 year incumbent
10:00 PMAZHouse 3Hulburd (D) vs. Quayle (R)Open Seat (R); typically a Republican district
10:00 PMAZProp 106Health Care Choice 
10:00 PMNVSenateReid (D)* vs. Angle (R) Obama visit 10/22
10:00 PMNVHouse 3Titus (D)* vs. Heck (R) 
11:00 PMWASenateMurray (D)* vs. Rossi (R) Obama Visit 10/21
11:00 PMWAHouse 8Reichert (R)* vs. DelBene (D)Obama won District by 14
11:00 PMCASenateBoxer (D)* vs. Fiorina (R) Obama Visit 10/22
11:00 PMCAHouse 3Lungren (R)* vs. Bera (D) 
11:00 PMORGovernorDudley (R) vs. Kitzhaber (D)*Obama visit on 10/20
12:00 PMHIHouse 1Djou (R)* vs. Hanabusa (D)Typically a democratic seat; Djou is the one of the few Republican losses expected in '10
1:00 AMAKSenateMiller (R) vs. McAdams (D) vs. Murloswki (I)
Categories > Elections


Is Obama a Keynesian?

I don't think Jon Stewart fans distinguished themselves here.
Categories > Economy

The Perfect Bumper Sticker for Tomorrow

Can be found here.  Doesn't that sum up the day in a perfect way?

On a side note, take notice of the Chester Arthur quote on the same page.  Ought to be true . . . but maybe it isn't quite . . .


A Non-Political Thought for the Day

I thought it might be useful to post something on a non-election topic.

Should all science textbooks come with a disclaimer that says: "Some or all of the material in this book may and probably will be found to be mistaken, in whole or in part sometime in the near or distant future"?

Categories > Progressivism


Home Run and Home Work

This is a wonderful article by Henry Olsen.  I really hope for multiple lengthy responses that work out its many implications.  Olsen's insights on working-class politics are useful for understanding how conservatives should structure their appeals on entitlement and health care reform as well as suggesting some possibilities about how conservatives should approach nonwhite working-class and middle-class voters. 
Categories > Politics


Decision Points

Drudge Report has a leak of George W. Bush's forthcoming memoir.


The president reveals he gave the order to shoot down planes on September 11 -- and at first thought the plane in PA had been shot down.

Categories > Presidency


Hard Lessons for Dems in Politics and Political Economy

Concerning the economy, the consistent narrative coming from the Obama administration has been that increasing government control involvement in that economy is not only necessary to suspend or turn back a recession, but that it is the long-hoped-for and desired fulfillment of the American promise.  "Spreading the wealth around" and the idea of justice responsible for the occasional careless and revealing speech of Obama and his surrogates has been the back-story and the underlying motivation of their approach to this recession.  In their minds, it ought to be true that we can spend our way to prosperity because (again, in their minds) such spending is the just and noble thing to do.  Even when the the tax revenues rewards generated from this kind of virtue might prove to be less impressive than the rewards of leaving well enough alone (as Charlie Gibson [!] argued to Obama might be the case with capital gains tax increases), Obama firmly insisted that this kind of "virtue" could be its own reward.

So it should come as no surprise that Obama's economists appear to have the assignment of justifying economic policies not actually designed to improve an economy.  Michael Barone takes note of this today by pointing to yet another arrogant assumption of the Democrats, rooted in yet another misunderstanding of human nature and the facts.  They thought voters would flock to them because in previous business-cycle driven recessions many voters were grateful for government spending--such as unemployment insurance or public works projects that gave them a direct benefit.  But, more important, the timing of the end of these recessions--though resulting from a natural turn in the business cycle--plausibly could be argued to be related to the benefits so many voters enjoyed.  The dubious case for cause and effect did not need an elaborate public defense because the recessions ended and people then had better work to do than armchair political economy.

It's not working out that way this time for the Democrats.  High unemployment lingers--even if the recession is "technically" ending--and people therefore have had a lot of time to think.  It's increasingly clear that this recession is not a simple "business-cycle" recession, Barone argues, but a recession resulting from a financial crisis.  Voters know that aside from the pain of losing jobs, most of their own pain came from spending money that they did not have.  It's obvious to them--in ways that it is not obvious to Obama's elite team of economists--that the federal government's problems are just a large scale reflection of their own.  We do not have a situation here where we just need to be patient and allow the expansion of the economy to catch up with the spending we're doing.  Just like in our own lives, we need to scale back the spending!  Some debt can propel ambition and stimulate healthy growth, but too much weakens a body . . . and a body politic too. 
Contra Barone and those who say that Keynesian ideas are everywhere dying, I think it is still unclear whether the electorate has finally come to reject the narrative that government spending can turn around an economy.  We have much reason to be optimistic that persuasion on this point is now more possible than ever, but interest has a way of attaching itself to thinking when it comes to politics, and I think that when this kind of spending is not so obviously insane (e.g., someday when we have yet another ordinary business-cycle recession and after we finally work through this financial crisis), voters will be more susceptible to the wiles of a Democrat who can tell them that taking from rich is not only their right but also something good for the rich and poor alike because it improves the economy.

Be that as it may, I do think that something even more powerful is happening.  There is more hope this go around to expect that Americans will become much more suspicious of American politicians like Obama who let the mask of their concern for the economy slip and expose an underlying and consuming ideology of justice that is fundamentally at odds with the American idea of justice in equal opportunity.   The nature of this recession and his failure to understand it certainly hurt him and it laid the groundwork for his defeat tomorrow (and make no mistake, it is HIS defeat).  But mistakes caused by ignorance do not make people angry and the Americans excited about voting tomorrow are nothing if not angry and fired up.   They want to punish the Democrats.  Punish them for their failures, yes . . . but more than that they want to punish them for their stubborn and ideological arrogance.  These Dems thought they understood American justice better than the people did and they told us that we ought to be grateful for their superior wisdom in passing legislation that was manifestly unpopular and counter-productive.  It will be an expensive mistake for them tomorrow . . . but the effects of that mistake will last long into the future for the Democrats. 
Categories > Politics

Refine & Enlarge

The People's Gift

This Scott Rasmussen column and this more elegant Ross Douthat column are related to a point that is worth pondering by us, and worth acting on (after the ponder) by the Republicans. It is not silly to assert that the electoral victories that are coming tomorrow are not simple pro-Republican (although they are certainly anti-Democrat).  This is worth noting because the GOP will now have to think and act as if they need to earn Tuesday's votes.  And they will do this by both taking actions (on health care, taxes, deficit, etc) that prove their serious purposes and by talking as the people talk; as Rasmussen says, the people want politicians in Washington "who understand that the American people want to govern themselves."  Furthermore, the GOP certainly can't scoff at the people (the folks in the Tea Parties, for example) by saying they are overly fond of their God and their guns.  They had better talk as if they were of the people, instead of being their haughty rulers, else they will be ruled by the people soon enough.  That this is both right and in the interest of the GOP is self-evident; if the GOP doesn't get this right, there will be a third party within a year, and this time it will get more than twenty percent of the vote (thinking of Perot in '92). 

Anyway, it seems to me that Douthat's point--that the country's leftward momentum has reversed itself; that nearly 20 years of liberal gains have been erased in the last 20 months--is  also important.  The Dems' great mistake was to try to expand the size and scope and reach of the federal government during an economic downturn; this tactical mistake (as Douthat calls it) has gone way beyond a strategic mistake, and if the GOP can take advantage of it, it will have teleological consequences opening up the question of self-government itself.  The people came to realize that the Republic was in danger, that the idea of self-government was about to perish from the earth.  They are voting to stop this.

Douthat doesn't think the GOP will be prepared to wield power.  I don't think this is the most important point.  I think they are prepared to wield power, but they do not yet understand how this gift from the people has opened up an opportunity the like of which has not been seen in my lifetime.  The GOP has to understand this, and also know that it is good that the Spirit of '76 has been raised, and it is up to the GOP to establish a rhetoric appropriate to this end.  I don't mean a narrow partisan rhetoric, I mean a rhetoric that is worthy of the American cause, a rhetoric that is not only acceptable to those in the Tea Party, but also pulls in those who have not yet fully thought things through (i.e., a rhetoric that can shape a majority that will have the authority to wield power).  When the Republic is in a crisis there is a need for the kind of political evangelism that will reveal once again how the salvation of man's earthly hopes is bound up in the American Republic.  This rhetoric will have to prove that self-government is possible, it will prove that (in George Washington's words) the idea of civil and religious liberty yet lives, in short, that Americans are good enough to govern themselves.
Categories > Refine & Enlarge


New Podcast with Hayward

I just completed a podcast with Steve Hayward this morning. It's relatively short (a bit over 15 minutes) and serves as a good summary of what's going on and what is likely to happen tomorrow. Steve also shares his thoughts on possible consequences of the election including his assertion that Jerry Brown may challenge President Obama in the Democratic primaries of 2012.
Categories > Elections


Sometimes the Voters Speak Emphatically

And sometimes they speak equivocally.  When deciding which is which, nothing is more useful than guidance from straight-shooter analysts, the kind who don't let their own political preferences determine their judgment.

E.J. Dionne, "No Final Victories," November 1, 2010: "Much of the post-election analysis will focus on ideology, on whether Obama moved 'too far left' and embraced too much 'big government.' All this will overlook how moderate Obama's program actually is. It will also pretend that an anxiety rooted in legitimate worry about the country's long-term economic future is the result of doctrine rather than experience... The classic middle-ground voter who will swing this election -- moderate, independent, suburban -- has always been suspicious of dogmatic promises that certain big ideas would give birth to a utopian age."

E.J. Dionne, "A New Era for America," November 5, 2008: "Barack Obama's sweeping electoral victory cannot be dismissed merely as a popular reaction to an economic crisis or as a verdict on an unpopular president ... In choosing Obama and a strongly Democratic Congress, the country put a definitive end to a conservative era ... Since the Nixon era, conservatives have claimed to speak for the 'silent majority.' Obama represents the future majority... [T]he [economic] crisis affords [Obama] an opportunity granted few presidents to reshape the country's assumptions, change the terms of debate and transform our politics."
Categories > Elections


The Tidal Wave

Politico interviews some Dems on tomorrow's vote: "While few will say so on the record for fear of alienating party officials or depressing turnout, every one of nearly a dozen Democratic House consultants and political strategists surveyed expect a GOP majority to be elected Tuesday -- the consensus was that Democrats would lose somewhere between 50 and 60 seats."

Also: "While there was optimistic talk within party circles early this month that the electoral environment was improving for the party, the operatives said those conversations don't take place anymore."

The latest Gallup Poll confirms their mood: "The final USA Today/Gallup measure of Americans' voting intentions for Congress shows Republicans continuing to hold a substantial lead over Democrats among likely voters, a lead large enough to suggest that regardless of turnout, the Republicans will win more than the 40 seats needed to give them the majority in the U.S. House." And: "The results are from Gallup's Oct. 28-31 survey of 1,539 likely voters. It finds 52% to 55% of likely voters preferring the Republican candidate and 40% to 42% for the Democratic candidate on the national generic ballot -- depending on turnout assumptions. Gallup's analysis of several indicators of voter turnout from the weekend poll suggests turnout will be slightly higher than in recent years, at 45%. This would give the Republicans a 55% to 40% lead on the generic ballot, with 5% undecided."

And, just to turn the screw a bit more, Nate Silver of the New York Times gives Five Reasons the Republicans could do even better.
Categories > Elections


World Statistics Day--Woo-Hoo!

Did you know that October 20 was World Statistics Day?  I missed it too.  Shouldn't it be a national holiday or something?  

The Energy Information Administration has a fun online 20-question quiz.  I got 15 out of 20 correct, and might have got all 20 if I had stopped to think harder about them.  Give it a whirl.
Categories > Economy


Is Obama another Woodrow Wilson?

John Steele Gordon has a short blog in Commentary comparing President Obama and Woodrow Wilson. He focuses mostly on political and biographical similarities, which turn out to be pretty remarkable in many ways. Take a look.

What he doesn't talk much about are the philosophical similarities, on which many contributors and friends of this blog have already done great work. To mention just three: their particular understanding of Christianity, their progressive political ideas, and their commitment to democratic deliberation organized around a leader who turns the people into a "public" by giving them new goals and aspirations. I think we can't understand either president - or what Obama will do in the next two years - without understanding these basic parts of their political outlook.
Categories > Politics


Quote of the Day

From John Philip Reid's Constitutional History of the American Revolution: "It is not a favorable comment on our times that twentieth-century scholars have removed themselves so far from eighteenth-century constitutionalism they are peeved by the idea of property as a civil right."
Categories > History