Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

The Presidential Selection Process

Gedorge F. Will contemplates the very imperfect presidential selection process by relying on James W. Ceasar’s good article in the current Claremont Review of Books. Worth contemplating,seriously.    

Obama and Lincoln

Amid all the Obama-Lincoln talk, it is worth taking another look at Charles Kesler’s discussion of the comparison in his essay, "The Audacity of Barack Obama" in the latest issue of the Claremont Review of Books.

Neither Newt nor Sarah

...should even be seriously considered for 2012. They both represent failed policies of the past.

Newt, as Pete pointed out in the thread, has character and temperament "issues." And under his watch Republicans in Congress managed to turn the impeachment of the president into a farce that actually ended up helping the Democrats. But most of all, he’s yesterday’s news. He has no appeal to the young voters that, as Julie has often said, the Republicans really need now. Old soldiers may never die, but old voters do. Of course Newt’s smart, and both Bush and McCain should have listened to him more.

Lilla’s article mainly shows that Lilla is a shameless intellectual herd animal. But it does remind us that the caricature of Palin pushed by the MSM and fashionable intellectuals and such has resonated with too much of the public for her to be back in 2012. She would be well served by getting herself in the Senate, where she’ll acquire the needed gravitas and public policy expertise to run in 2016. 2012 is probably for suckers anyway.

If we had to pick the 2012 candidate right now, it’d be, for me, between Jindal and Romney. Romney is especially plausible if our econmic woes become chronic and seemingly unfixable. Needless to say, I hope lots of new possibilities emerge.

The big, immediate problem facing Republicans is recruiting decent candidates for 2010--to do what they often failed to do in 2006 and 2008. It ain’t going to be easy, given the popularity of the new president and how discredited the Republican "brand" has become.

Obama’s Seance with Lincoln

In response to a question about consulting ex-Presidents (the Nancy Reagan seance jibe) and his reading, the
prez-elect says
: "I have reread some of Lincoln’s writings, who’s always an extraordinary inspiration." H/T

Some serious readers find Machiavelli in Shakespeare, others, at least equally serious, find a Catholic. What does Obama see in Lincoln? Recall Machiavelli’s letter, in which he describes his conversations with great men of the past, the background for The Prince.

Turnout one percentage point higher

Powerline points to this study showing that turnout was not the real story of the election:

"Despite lofty predictions by some academics, pundits, and practitioners that voter turnout would reach levels not seen since the turn of the last century, the percentage of eligible citizens casting ballots in the 2008 presidential election stayed at virtually the same relatively high level as it reached in the polarized election of 2004.

...[B]ased, in part, on nearly final but unofficial vote tabulations as compiled by the Associated Press as of 7 p.m. Wednesday, November 5, the percentage of Americans who cast ballots for president in this year’s presidential election will reach between 126.5 million and 128.5 million when all votes have been counted by early next month.

If this prediction proves accurate, turnout would be at either exactly the same level as in 2004 or, at most, one percentage point higher (or between 60.7 percent and 61.7 percent)."

Yes, Newt

Now lookit, Peter, I know the arguments against Newt, but on the other hand, people need to get their story straight. Mark Lilla argues today in the Wall Street Journal that Palin represents a retrograde anti-intellectualism among conservatives. I disagree, but to the extent that conservative populism is problematic (the argument is not baseless), what could be more opposite than Newt?

Moreover, I recall that when the Republican Congress in the 1990s sported three Ph.Ds in leadership positions (Newt, Dick Armey, and Phil Gramm in the Senate), it never got the GOP any credit with the same media folks and observers who now decry the GOP’s "anti-intellectualism."

Now, maybe Palin can study up the next couple years and emerge on the stage somewhere by quoting the famous Monty Python line, "She turned me into a Newt!" (Okay, maybe not. . .)

Return of the Newt?

Gingrich in 2012, according to one veteran observer, may be our best hope. I myself don’t think that’s change we can believe in, but you might think differently. I think any reasonable study would show that Clinton’s wiping the floor with Gingrich in 1995 started a long Republican decline that was only interrupted by the 9/11-induced upsurge in 2002.

John Ripley, Hero

Last weekend, Col. John Ripley, USMC passed away. He was a remarkable man, and I paid tribute to him today at National Review Online.

During the North Vietnamese Easter Offensive of spring, 1972, John, an advisor to the South Vietnamese Marines, performed a feat of extraordinary heroism that made him a legend in the Marine Corps. I’m sure that when Peter’s son was going through Marine Boot Camp, he heard about "Ripley at the Bridge."

As part of the offensive, a North Vietnamese division of 20,000 soldiers and 200 tanks was pushing south from the Demilitarized Zone intent on capturing the provincial capital of Quang Tri. To do so, the communists had to cross the Cua Viet River and the best place to do so was via a bridge at Dong Ha.

Repeatedly exposing himslef to enemy fire, John emplaced 500 pounds of explosives under the bridge, often swinging hand over hand under the bridge with heavy loads of explosives slung over his shoulders. The bridge went down, and the NVA offensive was slowed.

In recognition of his incredible feat, John received the Navy Cross. There’s certainly nothing wrong with a Navy Cross, but many believe it should have been a Medal of Honor.

The Marine Corps celebrates its 233 birthday on Monday, 10 November. In Newport, we will hold our birthday ball on Saturday, 8 November. That evening, I’ll be drinking a toast to John Ripley. Semper Fi.

Progress or Return (you guessed it)

As I continue to mull over the good, the bad, and the ugly in Obama’s victory speech, I realled Leo Strauss’s excellent reflections upon what he called "Progress or Return." A sophisticated argument that this blog will certainly not do justice to: nevertheless, given Obama’s constant reference to "defining moments," "our time," and most of all "CHANGE," here’s what Strauss said on the subject of progress:

When the prophets call their people to account, they do not limit themselves to accusing them of this or that particular crime or sin. They recognize the root of all particular crimes in the fact that the people have forsaken their God. They accuse their people of rebellion. Originally, in the past, they were faithful or loyal; now they are in a state of rebellion. In the future they will return, and God will restore them to their original place. The primary, the original or initial, is loyalty; unfaithfulness, infidelity, is secondary. The very notion of unfaithfulness or infidelity presupposes that fidelity or loyalty is primary. The perfect character of the origin is a condition of sin—of the thought of sin. Man who understands himself in this way longs for the perfection of the origin, or of the classic past. He suffers from the present; he hopes for the future.

Progressive man, on the other hand, looks back to a most imperfect beginning. The beginning is barbarism, stupidity, rudeness, extreme scarcity. Progressive man does not feel that he has lost something of great, not to say infinite, importance; he has lost only his chains. He does not suffer from the recollection of the past. Looking back to the past, he is proud of his achievements; he is certain of the superiority of the present to the past. He is not satisfied with the present; he looks to future progress. But he does not merely hope or pray for a better future; he thinks that he can bring it about by his own effort. Seeking perfection in a future which is in no sense the beginning or the restoration of the beginning, he lives unqualifiedly toward the future. The life which understands itself as a life of loyalty or faithfulness appears to him as backward, as being under the spell of old prejudices. What the others call rebellion, he calls revolution or liberation. To the polarity faithfulness—rebellion, he opposes the polarity prejudice—freedom.

Not Even a Convincing Photoshop Job

An obviously faked photo of Kim Jong Il. The first thing you think is that the Norks are just incompetent at digital imaging, but then maybe the botch job is on purpose?? Is someone trying to tell us that maybe he really is an ex-Kim, or very close to it?

Life’s a Campaign?

Senator Obama’s political experience is in community organizing and campaigning. And his other main experience is teaching law. He once said that his experiece running his campaign is his executive experience. Will he run the White House as a perpetual camaign?. Perhaps he means to appear professorial while leaving the dirty work to others. He is quite a politician.

Clinton Plus Putin

According to our most brilliant columnist, Obama has the brains of Bill and the self-discipline of Vlad. And that points to great leadership on the model of Reagan. Contrary to his rhetorical lullabies, Obama (and "Rahmbo") probably isn’t going be as nice as the Gipper when it comes to getting things done. It’s a scary thing to think that when Barack looks into Putin’s eyes, he may well see himself. The upside might possibly be that Putin himself might be a little afraid.

Refounding as Fourth Republic?

Michael Lind thinks this: "The election of Barack Obama to the presidency may signal more than the end of an era of Republican presidential dominance and conservative ideology. It may mark the beginning of a Fourth Republic of the United States....As I see it, to date there have been three American republics, each lasting 72 years (give or take a few years). The First Republic of the United States, assembled following the American Revolution, lasted from 1788 to 1860. The Second Republic, assembled following the Civil War and Reconstruction (that is, the Second American Revolution) lasted from 1860 to 1932. And the Third American Republic, assembled during the New Deal and the civil rights eras (the Third American Revolution), lasted from 1932 until 2004." He explains the "2004" in the article and the he whole of it is worth filing for later contemplation and use.

Chris Matthews Comes Out

I actually don’t find these remarks from Chris Matthews any more offensive than they are revealing. Really, Chris? It’s your job to do everything within your power to make the Obama presidency a success? I never would have guessed it! Just as long we’re clear about your being a tool, I have no problem at all with your being one. I am in favor of all of the tools coming out of the shed.

The Obama Straddle

In his victory speech, Senator Obama made two claims: That a story like his can only happen in America, and that America needs fundamental change. It will be interesting to see how he reconciles those two things as his Presidency progresses. (Related thoughts here.)

As the Government Churns

Reflecting upon the past few elections, I wonder if we’re seeing a return to 19th Century politics, in the sense that we have two parties that are fairly competative and who can both win both the Presidency and the Congress. The Democrats held the House from roughly 1933 to 1994, with a two-year break or two early on. They held the Senate, for the most part, from 1933 to 1980. That changed in 1994. The Republicans then held both houses (with a brief break in the Senate from 2001-2003) from 1995-2007. Now the Democrats hold both houses and the President, something they have not done since 1994.

Might it be that the long era of Democratic dominance was an historical anamaly? Might we be seeing a return to a more traditional two-party politics?

Florida and Ohio

I spent today looking at results and exit polls with my students, and I have some thoughts and questions.

First, in Ohio, Obama seems to have done no better than Kerry (both received 2.7 million votes, give or take), while McCain did significantly worse than Bush (approximately 300,000 votes less this time around). With the gold-plated Obama GOTV effort, how could this be? Does this represent the current Democratic ceiling in Ohio? Does Bush’s 2004 result represent the current Republican ceiling, with McCain’s 2008 result as the floor? If so, Republicans in the Buckeye state ought to take heart. There’s hope that, if all things are equal, the state can return to the GOP column. To be sure, it would require a competent campaign and competent governance. And it require that "nature" reasserts itself against "change," that is, that Pres. Obama can’t deliver on his implicit promises.

Florida is interesting for a different reason. A good chunk of the result there can, it seems, be chalked up to two "facts" (if anything from an exit poll can be called a "fact"). African-Americans were a slightly higher proportion of Florida’s electorate this time (1% larger), and, of course, went overwhelmingly for Obama. (In 2004, GWB won 13% of that vote, which, if memory serves, was 17% of the electorate.) Florida Latinos--especially younger ones--also fell for Obama. Changes in those two groups are pretty much enough to flip the state. I think. Does anyone out there know better?

One last point. Right now, Obama is (barely) outperforming Bush 2004 (64 to 62 million). His numbers will go a bit higher (65 to 67 million may be about right). He will have improved on the 2004 Democratic result by 10-15%. This pales in comparison to Bush’s move from 50 million in 2000 to 62 million in 2004. I’m less impressed than I was prepared to be by the Obama campaign...especially since they spent almost ten times as much as Bush in 2004 or McCain in 2008. I’m only half-joking when I say that the "inefficiency" of the Obama campaign (the cost per vote) is not a harbinger of good things from the Obama Administration.

Speaking of Lincoln . . .

Christie’s announces that it will auction off a handwritten copy of this speech and expects it will bring in more than $3 million.

The speech is an interesting one to see emerge at this time. Delivered on November 10, 1864 from the White House as Lincoln was serenaded by supporters upon winning re-election in the midst of the Civil War, it speaks to the importance of national elections and the significance of our ability to abide by them--even in the midst of terrible crises. Note, especially, his closing:

While I am deeply sensible to the high compliment of a re-election; and duly grateful, as I trust, to Almighty God for having directed my countrymen to a right conclusion, as I think, for their own good, it adds nothing to my satisfaction that any other man may be disappointed or pained by the result.

May I ask those who have not differed with me, to join with me, in this same spirit towards those who have?

A Brit’s Take on Obama’s "Change" Mantra

Simon Heffer’s editorial on what lies ahead for president-elect Obama, America, and therewith the world seems sensible enough. He asks, "Now we need to find out what ’change’ means." Do tell. Some snippets:

There has, though, been an act of faith by the US electorate on a gigantic scale, as it thrusts this unproven and untested man into the teeth of these challenges.

we may well be about to see the greatest era of radicalism in American politics since Roosevelt. If America really is no longer an instinctively conservative nation, Mr Obama can proceed with tax increases, the extension of public services such as healthcare, the introduction of environmental legislation, the legitimisation of many millions of illegal immigrants, and the provision of federal funds to pay for abortions. It is not beyond possibility that Mr Obama could even find himself taken prisoner by his own party, as Nancy Pelosi, as Speaker of the House, leads it through a radical programme that takes the new president at his word about "change".

Should Mr Obama proceed with healthcare reforms, the costs of those would be laid on employers. What all this would do to stimulate enterprise and recovery is far from clear.

Iran, Afghanistan and Russia, and irritating difficulties on Mr Obama’s own doorstep in Central and South America are sure to test him. Mr Obama has so far displayed a mixture of immaturity and naivety on such questions.

"Change" will therefore mean either something really big and IMHO devastating to Americans inthe not so long run, or something really mundane--to wit, the change any election produces when times are tough. Obama is clearly a Progressive politician who employs patriotic rhetoric as the spoonful of sugar to help a Democratic Congress and now President get the medicine to go down. When the details coem to light, I trust the American people to push back.

A Tale of Two Speeches

In the last two days, much has been made over the contents of (or was the cadence of?) this speech. It is a speech that bears study and it is only fair to say that there is much to be admired in it--even as one can be skeptical of the political sentiment and intentions behind it. That said, the speech was an attempt either at reconciliation or at consolidation (grown-ups know there’s rarely a difference and that "bi-partisanship" is a sweet delusion) and the next four years will test whether this attempt will succeed and his legacy as its architect will endure. If it fails, it will not be for lack of effort, lack of thought, lack of purpose and, certainly not, for lack of raw political power. It may suffer from a lack of capital--of both the tangible and the political sort--but we will have to wait and see how that plays out.

Turning to the speech itself, one notes that it is always a good thing to hear the words of Lincoln invoked in American public life. But the goodness of Lincoln’s words cannot be ripped from the context in which they were delivered if one wants to understand them in their fullness. Perhaps unwittingly, Obama’s speech invoked Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural wherein Lincoln pleaded that, ""We are not enemies, but friends ... though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection." Yet, as we know, little more than a month after Lincoln delivered this beautiful plea to a nation torn apart by partisan and sectional differences, the rebels fired on Ft. Sumter and began the bloodiest and most perilous conflict in our cumulative national history.

Of course, Obama readily (and, I trust, happily) acknowledges that the America of the 1850s and 60s was a far more divided and troubled country than the America we now inhabit. (The civility and graciousness exhibited between him and John McCain on Tuesday evening is only one of many testaments to that.) But scarcely a paragraph below Obama’s invocation of Lincoln, he offers this understanding of the "true genius of America":

For that is the true genius of America--that America can change. Our union can be perfected. And what we have already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.
In Lincoln’s first inaugural, Lincoln did talk of what made and what would continue to make us "a more perfect Union." In Lincoln’s understanding, our Union was perpetual and this meant that our fidelity to the Constitution and to the laws consistent with it, must always be paramount. Lincoln knew that this kind of fidelity would limit his power and he knew that it would mean he could not insist on "change"--however well-intentioned or however more consistent with America’s fundamental principles it might be--if said change could not be accomplished within the limits imposed by this Constitution as the solemn and sovereign will of the people. Fidelity to the Constitution would be a testament to our civility, our graciousness, our moderation and our greatness as a people.

Fidelity to the Constitution is, moreover, a testament to our humility; an acknowledgment that while we always can be "more perfect" than we actually are; we are unlikely, ever, to reach a point (or even look to a point in theory) where we can say with certitude that we are "perfected." Fidelity to our Constitution and laws is the primary requirement in our perpetual--as opposed to linear--movement toward a "more perfect Union" in that it imposes a kind of humility on citizens and, most especially, on their elected representatives. In this humility we recognize our limits and this is why we have a limited government. These limits are born of our natural equality--not just as men, but as mere men. No man has been born booted and spurred and ready to ride the mass of mankind (or history) as he will.

As Barack Obama begins his tenure as the 44th President of the United States, no small measure of his greatness will be the extent to which demonstrates humility as he approaches that great document to which he will take an oath to protect and defend.

Random Observations

1. Let me echo the Voegeli comment below: The Republican party has suffered from an IQ and competence gap since Clinton’s humiliating defeat of Gingrich in 1995. Although there are a lot of reasons McCain lost, a big one is that he gave us no confidence that he wouldn’t perpetuate the Republican "culture of incompetence." Let me repeat we’re not talking about high conservative principle--or whether Russell Kirk or Strauss or Reagan or Gerson should be our guide--but ordinary getting the bleeping job done. That "culture of incompetence" showed itself in so many ways in McCain’s "seat of the pants" disorganized and random (especially in terms of message) campaign. I like McCain as a person, but God knows he didn’t convince enough people that he could be a capable chief executive.

2. I’m very immnune to Obama’s seductive charms and so have a lot trouble sitting through TV right now. But I gotta say I really admire the choice of Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff. It was a very partisan choice; that guy is admired for his ruthless effectiveness for Democrats and their issues but not particularly liked. More than anyone else he was responsible for the Democratic 2006 landslide, which set the stage for everything that happened this year. The appointment is a clear sign tht Obama wants to get things done fast, and even that he wants to use this really tough and smart guy to make sure they get done his-as opposed to, say, Barney Frank’s--way. I don’t know what that means in terms of actual policy agenda. Republicans will be mostly stuck with sitting back and watching.

3. I still think McCain might have won the election without the meltdown and the bailout. In retrospect, it’s clear that his genuine maverick move would have been to oppose the bailout. He didn’t do that, of course, because, in his mind, it would have been dishonorably irreponsible and demagogic. But in order to do it, he would have to have demonstrated his maverick mastery of economic issues. So it wouldn’t have worked anyway. The stats supported whoever it was who posted that the election in the battleground states was lost in the suburbs--the land of foreclosures and rapid deterioration of 401 (k) and home values.

Obama’s First Two Conservative Victories

In the spirit of counter-intuitive thinking (and to give liberals indigestion), it is worth pointing out that Obama scored two victories for conservatism in his election contest. First, given that the California exit polls showed that minorities supported the ban in gay marriage (Prop. 8)--by a 70-30 margin among black voters--it seems plausible to say that Prop. 8 passed on Obama’s coattails. Assume a normal turnout of minority voters and perhaps Prop. 8 is defeated. Heh.

Second, Obama’s campaign killed the public financing scheme for presidential elections. I doubt it is coming back. Obama certainly will want to exploit his incumbent status in 2012 to raise a billion dollars for re-election, and no Republican is going to handcuff herself the way McCain did. Good riddance, too, though one must note an important irony here: one of the motivations for public financing after Watergate was that it leveled the playing field for Democrats, whose presidential candidates in 1968 and 1972 had been badly outspent by Nixon. Now the shoe is on the other party’s (club) foot.

It Could Have Been Worse. Maybe It Should Have Been Worse.

Election Day 2008 was a defeat for conservatism, but not the massacre that seemed in the offing two weeks ago. Considering everything that was working against the Republicans this year, for Sen. Obama to receive 52.4% of the popular vote to John McCain’s 46.3% is not underwhelming, but certainly a liberal victory no better than merely whelming. If Pres. Obama and the congressional Democrats find the right mixture of audacity and caution, they may succeed over the next four, and possibly eight, years in moving the country significantly closer to embracing the European social democratic ideal of governments that hector capitalists while accommodating terrorists. But this will be a process, not an event. The 2008 election revealed that America is more liberal than it has been since 1992, maybe even more than it has been since 1964. The election also showed, however, that the American and Swedish electorates remain readily distinguishable.

Come January, Democrats will control the House, Senate and presidency, something that has been true for only six of the past 40 years. This will be bad for the country but good, or at any rate necessary, for conservatism. It’s hard to rebuild the plane’s engines and instrument panels while you’re flying it. Conservatives need to consider fundamental changes in what they aspire to accomplish, and how they explain their aspirations, which will require a searching internal debate that is impossible to undertake while governing a nation. While they figure out destinations for the new tracks they want to lay, conservatives will, once more, be standing athwart history crying Stop.

The perception that the Democrats’ victory was quite a few boulders short of a landslide will lead some conservatives to believe that nothing more basic than better luck, better candidates and better circumstances is necessary for happy days to be here again. That would be a mistake. Compassionate conservatism, unveiled by George W. Bush when he was a presidential candidate nine years ago, didn’t turn out to be a very good answer, but it was an attempt to answer a good, and still pressing question: What is to be done when conservative conservatism is no longer a sufficient basis on which to campaign or govern successfully? It has been 13 years since Newt Gingrich lost the government shutdown battle to Bill Clinton. That’s a long time to be without a Plan B after it has become excruciatingly clear that Plan A cannot be made to work.

The Republic Stands

David Forte opines on the election.  

Next Steps?

President Reagan’s Farewell Address might be a good place to start. A sample:

Finally, there is a great tradition of warnings in presidential farewells, and I’ve got one that’s been on my mind for some time. But oddly enough it starts with one of the things I’m proudest of in the past eight years: the resurgence of national pride that I called the new patriotism. This national feeling is good, but it won’t count for much, and it won’t last unless it’s grounded in thoughtfulness and knowledge.

An informed patriotism is what we want. And are we doing a good enough job teaching our children what America is and what she represents in the long history of the world? Those of us who are over thirty-five or so years of age grew up in a different America. We were taught, very directly, what it means to be an American. And we absorbed, almost in the air, a love of country and an appreciation of its institutions. If you didn’t get these things from your family, you got them from the neighborhood, from the father down the street who fought in Korea of the family who lost someone at Anzio. Or you could get a sense of patriotism from school. And if all else failed, you could get a sense of patriotism from the popular culture. The movies celebrated democratic values and implicitly reinforced the idea that America was special. TV was like that, too, through the midsixties.

But now, we’re about to enter the nineties, and some things have changed. Younger parents aren’t sure that an unambivalent appreciation of America is the right thing to teach modern children. And as for those who create the popular culture, well-grounded patriotism is no longer the style. Our spirit is back, but we haven’t reinstitutionalized it. We’ve got to do a better job of getting across that America is freedom - freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of enterprise. And freedom is special and rate. It’s fragile; it needs protection.

The Liberal Mind At Work

From Michael Kinsley: "People who want divided government are afraid of politics." To Kinsley, it seems, politics is fundamentally about the exercise of power, a point of view which demonstrates, once again, the difference between the Progressive/ liberal mind and that of the founders. They understood that politics is fundamentally an argument about justice. We have a system of checks and balances precisely because we believe in having that argument over, and over, and over again. In that sense, divided government is an embrace of politics, not a rejection of it. The kicker is that in America today the argument is, to a great degree, between these two understandings of politics.

What To Do With Your McCain-Palin Sign

Here’s what’s up in my front yard this morning:

Fearful Symmetry--Or Not?

No one has commented yet on the symbolic importance of Obama holding his victory celebration last night in Grant Park in Chicago, which was, 40 years ago at the riots of the 1968 convention, the location where the Democratic Party might be said to have been shattered almost irretrievably. Now, 40 years later, Obama returns to scene in triumph, with a renewed Democratic Party spearheading a resurgent liberalism.

Of course, Lyndon Johnson thought his path was clear following 1964. He never foresaw that his chief difficulty would come from the left of his own party. I keep wondering what will happen to Obama’s standing on the left if he doesn’t get our troops out of Iraq quickly, or if he has to order a strong military effort somewhere that won’t go down well with the left.

A Couple of Lessons

Senator Obama’s victor seems to show that the America in 2008 is not the America of 1968. We have come a long way. Racism is all but dead. That means we should be free to judge people by the content of their character, or their talents, and not the color of their skin. In other words, it means the government no longer has to force us to count by race in our businesses and in our schools. To bring the country together, and to help us to move forward, President Obama should end affirmative action. (Update: Related thoughts here from John McWhorter.)

The likely victory of Prop 8 in California and of similar proposals elsewhere seems to prove that the underlying American consensus is in favor of traditional marriage. No one seriously maintains that the right of men to marry men is an ancient right. Its discovery by the Courts can only be justified by claiming that we have progressed to a point where it is necessary. The numbers seem to indicate that the American consensus is not there. The supporters of a living constitution can’t honestly claim that gay marriage reflects the new American consensus. Hence there is no legitimate reason even for Progressives to claim that gay marriage is a right.

Most Americans want a tax cut. (Update two: Mickey Kaus parses Obama.)

Most Americans are worried that they could be overwhelmed by their health care bills, but don’t particuarly want to change their own health care program.

Another thought or two on comparing 2004 and 2008

Look at the results in Florida and Ohio, two key McCain losses. I’m genuinely impressed by Obama’s result in Florida: he improved on Kerry’s result by around 500,000 votes, while McCain underperformed Bush 2004 by 100,000 or so.

In Ohio, with 96% of the precincts reporting, Obama underperforms Kerry by 200,000, while McCain falls 500,000 short of Bush’s 2004 total. If those numbers stand, there would seem to be room for future GOP success in Ohio and an apparent upper limit on what Democrats can expect.

And then there’s the Electoral College, which (characteristically) overstates the result because it focuses on states rather than individuals. I have defended (and will continue to defend) the E.C. Will my students now begin to listen, as their guy profited more from his E.C. mandate than from the popular vote totals?

Not a Landlside

Obama only got 52% with all his advantages. I have to admit that confirms the hypothesis that McCain would have won absent the economic meltdown and bailout, which is not something I would have said prior to reviewing the result this morning. And the Senate results are better than we deserve--It looks like Coleman hung on, Kennedy almost won in LA, Oregon is up in the air, McConnell won with some room to spare, and the CONVICTED CRIMINAL won in Alaska! Chambliss may still have a runoff in GA, contrary to the initial computer projections.

Good Morning

I have secluded myself today to finish grading freshmen papers on why Xenophon thinks human beings are so hard to rule, or not.

The TV is on as I plod on, and CNN just interviewed a black soldier in Iraq who said this to about the outcome of election: "Now I believe that everyone is created equal."

Prop. 8 Observation

Looks like Prop 8 has passed. One thing to note in the state map of county-by-county votes on Prop. 8 is that it passed in Los Angeles County, where Obama swamped McCain with nearly 70 percent of the vote. This can only mean that the Hispanic vote came out in favor of Prop. 8.

Run your mouse up to San Francisco on the map, where 23 percent voted in favor of Prop. 8. I would have thought you’d have a hard time finding 23 people, let alone 23 percent, in favor of Prop. 8 in Baghdad-by-the-Bay.

UPDATE: Byron York has looked at the CA exit polls, and it turns out that the margin of victory apparently came from black voters (by a 70-30 margin), most of whom resent or disagree with the comparison of gay marriage to the civil rights movement. White voters actually rejected Prop. 8 by a narrow margin, and Hispanics supported it narrowly.

The results

Here’s CNN’s main presidential results page, together with its 2004 counterpart. I note in passing that, at the moment, Obama isn’t doing all that much better than Bush 2004. How many more votes remain to be counted? There had been estimates of more than 130 million voters. If so, then there are up to another 10 million votes out there. (I’m not sure I believe that there are that many.) I’m prepared to be impressed by the Obama campaign’s ground game, but the numbers don’t yet support that. (Recall that from 2000 to 2004, Bush went from 50 million to 62 million votes. Obama will not show that kind of improvement over Kerry. At best, he’s likely to have garnered 6 or 7 million more.)

Here’s CNN’s presidential exit poll, together, once again, with its 2004 counterpart. Note that 18-29 year olds are only 1% more of the electorate this time (18% - 17%), but that Obama did more than 10% better than Kerry in that group. If I’m doing my arithmetic correctly. that amounts to an almost 3 point improvement from Kerry to Obama, enough (in other words) to make Obama the winner.

In 2004, Bush won Protestants 59-40 and Catholics 52-47, evangelicals 78-21, and weekly church attenders 61-39. McCain won Protestants 54-45, but lost Catholics 45-54 (a result that can be accounted for by the non-white Catholic vote, as white Catholics supported him 52-47). He won weekly attenders 55-43 and evangelicals 74-24. That’s roughly a 5 point shift across the board in key Republican constituencies. How to explain it is another question: just a bad Republican year, more outreach from Obama, or both? (I’d have to say that effective outreach in a bad Republican year should probably have produced more of a shift, though Obama’s position on abortion (and his party’s) still remains a liability.)

I’ll likely have more later, but I encourage you, gentle (and not so gentle) readers, to do some comparing yourselves.

Is it OK . . .

. . . to be kinda happy that Alaska appears to have elected a convicted felon?

Plus, Al Franken looks to be losing . . .

. . . in Minnesota. Well . . . it’s something!

UPDATE: At 10:37 Pacific Time, Coleman is still up but the race is too close to call.

Prop 8 looks like it will pass . . .

. . . in California. At this point it’s about 54% in favor of it. A small bit of good news, perhaps.

UPDATE: At 10:38 Pacific Time, Prop 8 still ahead . . . but tightening.

Obama’s Speech

It reminded me of Jefferson’s First Inaugural--on the surface conciliatory, in fact a threat to his opposition: We will read you out of America if you resist me.

What I like best about Obama’s election: the sight of his two daughters growing up in the White House. And aren’t daughters the best means of forcing a father to be more conservative?

On mother Obama, Michelle: I read her senior thesis --it was not the worst Princeton thesis I’ve read. That said, the thesis spekas of "a distinctive Black culture very different from White culture" (p. 54) and "Blacks and other Third World students" (p. 58), among other expressions. What saves it from racial demagoguery is social science tediousness. Let no one in the maturity of one’s life be judged by a college paper. But let us keep such expressions in mind, as we observe the First Lady.

America’s Future: Barack Obama Versus Clarence Thomas

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is the most serious voice of conservative thinking and practice in the national government. Two black Americans will debate the future of America over the next few years. And this will be a debate over the meaning of our founding document, the Declaration of Independence, which the two understand in profoundly different ways.

Will Obama, who called out Thomas in his presentation at Saddleback Church, try to knock out the most serious opposition to his coming hegemony?

McCain’s concession speech

is good, and just, and gracious. He is still speaking and, so far, well said, John McCain. Congratulations to Barack Obama and to the country that can keep the revolutions of 1776 and 1800 always in its mind’s eye. Some election, some country. Let this remind us, and the broader world, why we have a right to proper pride.

What a Relief!

The election is not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. The popular vote may well be something like what Peter and Rove said. Most of the states that should have been close really were. The Obama ground game didn’t seem to inflate his numbers much, although enough to carry VA, OH, and FL. The biggest reason reason VA and FL were lost is all sorts of Republican stupidity. GA was a completely unexpected blowout, even with a fairly low tournout on the actual election day. And Chambliss won without a runoff. My county gave McCain exactly the same 70% to McCain as it did to Bush in 2004. I now tend to agree with who say that without the economic meltdown and bailout this would have been a very close election.

A first thought or two

I’ll start looking a little more closely at numbers and exit polls tomorrow, but a few things stand out right away.

There seem to be two kinds of relatively affluent suburban voters. "Professionals," together with what was once called "the New Class" (people who talk for a living), are increasingly voting Democratic. Case in point: the Northern Virginia suburbs (going into Prince William and Loudon Coounties), which went for Obama. The more traditional relatively affluent suburbanites are in sales, marketing, and management--in business, in other words. They’re probably still relatively reliable Republican voters, but their proportion of the suburban electorate is declining. Case in point: the county immediately north of Indianapolis, which (as Michael Barone pointed out) gave McCain a substantially smaller margin than it gave Bush four years ago.

Is there a strategy for reestablishing the Republican advantage in the suburbs? Can such a strategy be reconciled with efforts to reach out to lower middle class exurban voters ("The Party of Sam’s Club"), let alone maintain a relationship with socially conservative evangelicals and Catholics?

Talking about tax cuts isn’t going to do least not until the Democrats raise taxes in a way that’s genuinely painful to a wide swath of the electorate. But perhaps talking about the safety and security of the family, and upholding the authority of parents, could appeal (in slightly different ways) to all these constituencies.

With a little tweaking, Sarah Palin might actually be able to pull off a kind of crossover appeal. She’d have to emphasize more her connections with a family of teachers and less her moose hunting.

But enough for now....

It’s over, Virginia

With Ohio and Virginia called by CNN and Fox for Obama, it is in fact all over. Obama’s narrow victory in Virginia is the only surprise; I thought he would win Virginia by a wider margin. If McCain holds on to North Carolina, Missouri, and Montana, then I think it will end, as Rove predicted, with Obama at 372 electoral votes. And, it looks as though Obama will get about 52% of the vote, to McCain’s 47%, as I predicted.

And now Florida?

Michael Barone guesses--how many times is he mistaken?--that Florida will go into the Obama column, even though Fox hasn’t yet called it.

Many of the states are relatively close, but this isn’t horseshoes.

It’s (More or Less) Official

Obama takes Ohio. He’s Prez-Elect.


Okay, so Observation #1 is: Memo to GOP National Committee: Nominating crotchety Arizona Senators doesn’t work very well.

The far lady has sung...or at least she’s doing her vocal exercises

Fox just called Ohio for Obama.

Now, it’s just a matter of watching to see how many more House and Senate seats the Democrats can pick up.

Probably not a late night for me.

First thoughts early in the evening...starting a thread

It could be much worse than it’s looking right now. Mitch McConnell and Saxby Chambliss look like they’re going to hold on, and Wicker in Mississippi looks pretty good too. If those results stand, there is always the prospect of a filibuster, and a bit of leverage to test the talk about bipartisanship.

McCain seems to have been closing the gap, but Obama seems to have been able to run out the clock on him, having built up a substantial lead (in the polls and, as is likely, in early voting). The E.C. result will probably be more pronounced than the popular vote. (Will that make folks fall back in love with the Electoral College? I doubt it.) Right now, McCain is actually ahead in the popular vote, but that won’t last, as cities are typically counted later and as the west coast returns come in.


Elizabeth Dole is getting crushed in North Carolina. Good riddance! She’s a mediocrity, who succeeded only on the name of her (slightly) more worthy husband. (Bob Dole is the only GOP presidential nominee for whom I did not cast my vote. I voted Libertarian instead.) Clear out the deadwood, and get someone ready in the bullpen for six years from now.

A Blowout?

What makes a blowout? Some history:

1932: 472-59

1936: 523-8

1964: 486-52

1972: 520-17

1980: 489-49

1984: 525-13

1988: 426-111

1996: 379-159

Looking for the Exits

So the exit poll crosstabs have been dribbling out on the networks for the last hour and a half (it is 6:45 pm eastern time right now), and there is an art form to decoding these before the polls close. The networks won’t tell you who’s going to win where, but they’ll tell you how certain issues and voting groups are unfolding, such that--wink, wink, nudge, nudge--if you are a political junkie you can decode them to tell what is going to happen.

That said, the early exit polls point to an Obama victory as expected, but with some weirdness and post-election openings for Republicans. It looks to be closer than the last polls thought (don’t count out the Mac just yet!), and on some issues it seems many voters are going with Obama the Image rather than the substance. 43% say the government tries to do too much. That looks to me like a solid base on which to build, and is likely higher than the number of people who would have said that in 1964 had there been exit polls back then. And there are other odd results of the exit polls I’ve seen so far that testify to the cognitive dissonance (and hence volatility) of the American electorate.

Now, I’m going to crack open a bottle of Palin Syrah to watch the real returns roll in.

Straw to Grasp?

It is starting to rain fairly hard here in northern Virginia at 4:15 pm. Will it depress late turnout by voters Obama needs in large proportion to carry the state?

Wow . . .

In California, Proposition 8 is on the ballot to reverse the reversing of Proposition 22 by the California Supreme Court. If that left you confused, don’t worry. You’re not alone. In essence, Prop. 8 is trying to re-establish the status-quo ante of state sanctioned marriage existing only between a man and a woman in California. Right now it is polling about even or slightly down--which is not good news.

But this ad against Prop. 8 and captured by Hedgehog Blog is really something else. It shows two Mormon missionaries storm troopers raiding a lesbian couple’s home, stealing their wedding rings, performing an illegal search of the premises and tearing up their marriage certificate. I count it as just another example of the growing hubris on that side of the political aisle. Feeling ever more confident of the victory of their guy and the victory of their issues--especially in California--their mask is slipping and their true bigotry is shining through like a beacon. They are now talking in public the way they once would only talk to each other. Catholics have denounced the ad--and well they should as any person with any sense knows that the Catholic Church will be next on the political chopping block. (As if this is an unfamiliar spot for us anyway!)

What remains a mystery to me (though not really) is how an ad like this could be made and aired by people who consider themselves well-meaning and serious when the truth of what happened out here is exactly the reverse of what the ad implies. The truth is that if there was any metaphorical storming of homes, it was the judges of California’s Supreme Court who stormed the homes of all Californians when they told them that they must accept state sanctioned opinions about homosexual marriage--even if those opinions are contrary to their own consciences and even though there is no record of popular sentiment in support of it.

H/T: Hugh Hewitt

A query not related to the election

I have been discussing C.S. Lewis’s The Abolition of Man with my students. The context is a "Great Books"-oriented core class in which other authors are Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Hobbes, and Locke.

On one level, they seem to "get" Lewis’s argument concerning the conquest of nature, but they explain it to themselves in "ecological" terms. They seem to profess to respect nature when it comes to cutting down trees or drilling for oil.

Why can’t they extend this line of reasoning to themselves and the question of, say, abortion?

The Battleground Polls

...have the election pretty close. And if you click on the link, you’ll see that these guys have been pretty close to exactly right in recent elections. So go to RCP and be edified that the very last studies aren’t so terrible.

I have no cute voting story. I walked right into my precinct at about 845am, chatted with the nice ladies, voted electronically, and left by 9am. No wait for me. My precinct--basically working-class white--will go heavily for McCain, as far as I know. So what’s convenient for me may not be such great news overall. But of course I’m not sure.

Of Presidents and American Idols

Last night I had a terrifying and unusually lucid dream. I was cornered in a train car that was speeding out of control and was headed toward a bridge that had been blown up. I was trying to tell the people who were gathered around and barking at me that the train had to stop and someone had to pull the emergency brake--but they screamed that they would not listen to me because I had called in the wrong vote . . . for American Idol. Because I had done this horrible thing, they said, they were now going to make sure that the winner of American Idol became our next president. "But the bridge . . .!" I shouted. Then I woke up . . . only to read Andrew Breitbart’s column today in which he argues that we are headed toward an American Idol presidency and in which he practically begs Republicans to eschew the model of their Democrat brethren, keep their heads in the coming years, and remember--first and foremost--that the bridge is broken. We need to figure a way to get those guys to pull the brake.

Oh, yeah. He also engages in some political heresy and I am happy to endorse it. He notes that even with all the tumult of the Bush years, he still likes the guy and thinks that, basically, he did a decent job. Did he have failed policies? You bet. Was he, on some level, fundamentally naive about the nastiness in Washington and his ability to prevail there with a "new tone?" Absolutely. Did he approach the situation in Iraq with an overly optimistic understanding of human nature and animating principle in "every human heart" to be free? Certainly. Did he underestimate the power of evil? I think so. But all of these failures were encouraged and drawn out by an opposition party working in concert with (if not in agreement with--and I wouldn’t go that far) the forces around the world that wish to see the power and majesty of the American republic diminished. They were encouraged by people who either do not understand the nature of the threat or who, in any case, are not persuaded that we deserve to prevail. In short, Bush had to fight enemies at home and abroad. He never could do the former effectively, I think, because he did not understand--or, quite possibly--he did not want to understand them. Instead he focused on the bridge ahead that was out and spent his presidency looking for the brake. Maybe, in retrospect, we’ll all come to see that this was the best that could be expected given the circumstances. The surge abroad seems to be working. We still need an intellectual one here at home. It is very hard to blame Bush for not being able to marshal those forces . . . particularly when so many of them were marshaled against him. I wish him peace of mind and of soul as he exits the stage and I thank him for his efforts to keep our country safe during these troubled last eight years.

Voting this morning

I arrived relatively early and waited for about an hour at my precinct, the longest I’ve ever had to wait to vote. The retirees who staff the precinct were very well organized and had things running oh so smoothly. Kudos to them. My wife went right after I got home, and it took her less than 30 minutes. I assume that she didn’t cancel my vote, so to speak.

On my way into work, I’m going to stop off at my local Starbucks, to take the free cup of coffee they’re offering to voters. Perhaps some people were encouraged to vote by this offer. My motivation is simply to do my part of cutting into the profit margins of a company whose owners and most of whose employees likely support the wrong guy today.


I interrupt the expected election anguish to register dismay about something else: My fourth-grader is learning Powerpoint in her public school. Another sign of the ruin of public education. Don’t they know that power corrupts, and Powerpoint corrupts absolutely? I’ve practically given up using Powerpoint, even for data-intensive presentations. (I tried to join Powerpointers Anonymous to kick the habit, but the 12-step program was a Powerpoint presentation, so. . .)

Meanwhile, I found out yesterday that my first book, Churchill on Leadership, is now available in Croatian. Maybe I should move there after today??


Stock market futures are up sharply before the opening this morning. Does it tell us anything about the election? Probably not, but I thought yesterday’s flat-as-a-board market was a sign Wall Street was waiting the result before moving again.

A Long Day

Those two villages in Vermont that always vote Republican at midnight were swept by Obama. The final polls show Obama by 8-10%.

Closing Argument on Obama’s Radicalism

Stanley Kurtz sums up well the primary case against Obama:

Obama is clever and pragmatic, it’s true. But his pragmatism is deployed on behalf of radical goals. Obama’s heart is, and will remain, with the Far Left. Yet he will surely be cautious about grasping for more, at any given moment, than the political traffic will bear. That should not be mistaken for genuine moderation. It will merely be the beginning stages of a habitually incremental radicalism. In his heart and soul, Barack Obama was and remains a radical-stealthy, organizationally sophisticated, and — when necessary — tactically ruthless. The real Obama — the man beyond the feel-good symbol — is no mystery. He’s there for anyone willing to look. Sad to say, few are.

I would add that Obama seeks a return to the revolutionary meaning of the Declaration of Independence. This is not--especially not--Harry Jaffa’s Lincoln’s Declaration or some sentimental historical document. Obama’s revolutionary Declaration is an imperative of audacious hope; this lies behind Reverend Wright’s thunderous sermons, this inspires terrorist Bill Ayers, this moves minorities in Chicago; this fuels Barack Obama’s soul. His Audacity of Hope is a brilliant example of how to argue as a radical while appearing to be a moderate. Charles Kesler has opened this window on Obama’s soul.

Any post-mortems on the election, whatever its result, must indict leading Republican politicians for failure to have read and understood Obama’s books. It is a sign of the intellectual corruption that infects Republican politics.

As in all watershed elections, the interpretation of the Declaration of Independence will play the central role, as it did in 1800, 1860, 1932, and (to a lesser extent) 1980. The true Republican Party reform begins by its rearticulating the meaning of the Declaration of Independence for the 21st century. That interpretation must not lack in audacity or hope, not to speak of defenses of the rule of law and natural rights.

Almost a Prediction

I just looked at the polls for a last time. Most of the battleground states are within the margin of error. In fact, most of them are just about a tie. with McCain, if anything, making very slight gains here at the end That final state that could conceivably put McCain over the top isn’t there, as far as I can see. McCain could also easily lose every battleground state, and in a surge year, we have to tell the truth, all the close results tend to go one way. But the polls themselves suggest some kind of split, with PA reasonably close but no cigar for McCain and the tireless Palin, who did excellent work in the Virtuous State. I still tend to think the early voting will give Obama GA, although nobody can be sure. A huge turnout tomorrow could prove my guess wrong.

In any genuinely scientific prediction, we have to take into account Obama’s big advantages in organization and enthusiasm, the close to doubling of the African-American turnout, the semi-collapse of Republican support among Hispanics, and McCain’s failure to close (or conduct) the camapaign with a coherent message. So I have to say that Peter’s and Karl Rove’s predictions are pretty optimistic. Most states will be blowouts, which means the Republicans will have a lot of work to do just to regain a serious presence in a dozen or more states.

In the House, it appears the Democrats will pick up 30 seats or more. This election is a continuation of the disaster of 2006; most of the losses can be accounted for by one Republican error after another. In the Senate, things are just as bad, but our standards have gotten so low if the Democrats finish under 60 seats we think we’ve done well. My guess is that the Chambliss victory in the runoff will keep the Democrats at 59. If Coleman holds on, 58. The bad outcomes here aren’t the result of a "crisis in conservatism," but campaign cluelessness, incompetence, and corruption. The only way the Republicans could have lost the Alaska Senate race, for example, is to have a convicted felon for its nominee. And I don’t have time to begin to list all the obvious ways--beginning with early voting and campaign finance--that the Republicans have failed to adapt to a changing political environment. Pete has written well in the threads about how lost the Republicans are this time without the Bush/Rove personal organization doing what should be the party’s work.

The Future of Conservatism

Over at The Corner they are arguing the future of conservatism (for more, go here and keep scrolling and follow the links to others). In the mean time, Instapundit notes: "if the federal government were properly limited to its constitutional powers, there would be much less to fear, and elections would be less stressful for all concerned." And he notes that .Big Government "does wonders for politicians, bureaucrats, and the well-connected." Big government just might have something to do with the feeling that the government is against the average citizen

Karl Rove’s prediction

This Karl Rove prediction shouldn’t surprise anyone. Obama comes in with 338 electoral votes to John McCain’s 200. See his map, but in his words:

"The final Rove & Co. electoral map of the 2008 election cycle points to a 338-200 Barack Obama electoral vote victory over John McCain tomorrow, the largest electoral margin since 1996. All remaining toss-up states have been allocated to the candidate leading in them, with Florida (27 EV) going to Obama, and Indiana (11 EV), Missouri (11 EV), North Carolina (15 EV), and North Dakota (3 EV) going to McCain. The two candidates are in a dead heat in Missouri and North Carolina, but they go to McCain because the most recent polls conducted over this past weekend show him narrowly ahead. Florida, too, could end up in McCain’s column since he’s benefited from recent movement in the state."

I think this is sensible and I don’t think McCain will get more than 47% of the popular vote, hence it is likely that Obama will get above 51%.

Election Day logic

That was the title of an email that a colleague sent out to the faculty loop. Here’s the text:

A conversation in the hallway:

Student: I can’t come to class; I have to go and vote.

Prof: Who’re you voting for?

Student: Don’t hate me, but McCain.

Prof: Why would you do such a thing?

Student: Because I like McCain.

Prof: Why?

Student: Because I really don’t like Obama.

Uh huh.

My wife saw the email before I did and immediately called him out about it in public. I did so in private (not having thought to do so before all my colleagues).

So far, the only responses have been those applauding my wife (even from folks who give no evidence of any willingness to vote the same way as the student).

Let’s hope that my colleague finally learns a lesson he should have learned a long time ago.

Some thoughts about Election Day and the aftermath

Let me deal with the least likely (but not, I stress, impossible) outcome first: John McCain wins, defying the polls and the odds. I can’t imagine a plausible scenario under which Obama supporters would readily regard such a result as legitimate. A margin large enough under other circumstances to confer legitimacy and perhaps even a mandate would be explained in terms of reprehensible voter racism. (Having consistently lied to the pollsters, we’re actually unworthy of Obama and probably don’t deserve the right to vote.) A narrow margin--or, heaven forfend, a mere Electoral College victory--would produce some combination of charges of Republican vote fraud and a constitutional crisis. One would hope that cooler heads would prevail, but the last two mornings after don’t offer much hope that a McCain victory would be greeted with equanimity on the Left.

I don’t think that those last two days (or in 2000, weeks) after provide much of a clue to the conservative and Republican response. Republicans and conservatives (they’re not the same) with whom I’ve spoken are dispirited, but they’re not threatening to move to Canada. (More likely, of course, is that the U.S. would become "Canada," with Barack Obama as our very own Pierre Trudeau, convincing us of our moral and intellectual superiority--we voted for him, after all--even as we diminished in economic and political stature vis-a-vis the rest of the world.)

Some might check out in other ways, disengaging from politics and/or (as my dad has threatened to do) voting (gasp!) Libertarian in future elections.

But I would have us remember a few things. First, while John McCain’s defeat would certainly reflect the tarnished character of the Republican brand, it would not be a repudiation of any particular "brand" or wing of Republicanism (McCain isn’t that consistent), nor would it be a repudiation of conservatism. Though surely more "conservative" than Obama, McCain isn’t "really" a conservative. The character of Republicanism will (and ought to be) up for grabs after the election, and the playing field ought to be pretty level, having been flattened by the Nukebama. This is a conversation in which conservatives and their Republican friends ought eagerly to participate. But if they check out, so to speak, they can’t.

Second, an Obama Administration, combined with large Democratic majorities in Congress, is surely going to produce lots of stuff (a technical term, I realize) to which conservatives of all stripes (and their Republican friends) can object. We should not indulge in Obama hatred (look what Clinton hatred got us), but we should join the argument on the level of ideas. If we can do so seriously, but not bitterly, with clarity rather than anger and dyspepsia, it will be good for us and for the country. We might actually find our ground again.

Third, we have lots to learn from and about the Obama campaign. I’ve already suggested that Obama’s fund-raising successes have forever destroyed the public financing regime (an unintendedly "conservative" consequence of his campaign). There are some lessons there. But certainly there’s also a story there. How did he--well, they--do it? How did he raise over $500 million in increments of no more than $2,300? How much of it came on the internet via relatively untraceable giftcards? Did the Obama campaign exercise the kind of diligence about the identities of its donors that’s consistent with reasonable expectations regarding transparency in a private funding regime? Will it give an investigative reporter or research team access to its donor lists so that they can examine a sample of giftcard donors to see whether they in fact exist or in fact gave what they’re said to have given? Or will that take a subpoena from a prosecutor? (I assume that no Congressional committee will examine the collapse of the McCain-Feingold regime in a way that might embarrass the Obama Administration.)

And then there’s the Obama campaign’s ground game, which looks like it’s going to be even better than Karl Rove’s 2004 effort. Republicans will have to figure out how to run a campaign in which 30% or more of the voters go to the polls early.

There’s a lot to think about and a lot to discuss. But not if you’re just crying in your beer with Joe Sixpack.

Obama vs. Jobs

Here’s a pithy article, based on an interview with a real plumber, that McCain should have read. It’s about the many features of O’s policies that will cost Americans jobs.

It’s the House Prices, Stupid

Interesting factoid from Greg Mankiw. Tracks with Michael Barone’s analysis of the 1992 election, where declining home values were especially telling in suburban counties that Clinton flipped from GOP strongholds.

Why Progressivism Failed

Because social science is not an exact science. Hence the dream of taking politics out of government and replacing it with dissinterested expertise is misguided.

Upset Scenarios

Here are two people who think McCain is going to win.

Hat tip: The Corner.

An Omen of a New Era?

Sad pop culture news: Fox is cancelling "King of the Hill." We’ll miss you, Hank Hill, especially your valuable aphorism: "If Ronald Reagan dyed his hair--and I’m not saying he did--it was just to show his toughness to the Communists."

Grin When You Fight

Churchill liked to say that. Today Bill Kristol taunts liberals with the prospect of a slim McCain victory, showing that we can be jaunty and cheerful even in the face of prospective defeat. I have no doubt that if McCain upsets Obama tomorrow, the sound of liberal heads exploding will be deafening.

Senate Guesses

One important aspect of understanding this election (assuming Obama wins) is whether the Democrats run the table in the Senate races and get to a filibuster-proof 60. If it’s a genuine 1980-change/wave election, they probably will. Not entirely a bad thing--they will be fully in charge, and can’t blame Republican obstructionism for their inability to govern. And then they will overreach.

I’m guessing they won’t. I predict Chambliss will hold on in Georgia, Wicker in Mississippi, Coleman in Minnesota, and McConnell in Kentucky. I’m afraid Gordon Smith in Oregon and John Sununu in New Hampshire will lose. The Democrats will also gain open seats in New Mexico, Colorado, and Virginia. This will leave them short of 60.

Marxism intellectually respectable again

Eric Hobsbawm, the Marxist historian (he is over 90 years old, but lucid) is interviewed by the BBC, and this is notable: "It is certainly greatest crisis of capitalism since the 1930s. As Marx and Schumpeter foresaw, globalization not only destroys heritage, but is incredibly unstable. It operates through a series of crises.
There’ll be a much greater role for the state, one way or another. We’ve already got the state as lender of last resort, we might well return to idea of the state as employer of last resort, which is what it was under FDR. It’ll be something which orients, and even directs the private economy." Also see this article in BBC, "Marx popular amid credit crunch". And then Ambrose Evans-Pritchard’s note on all of it.

Moving to the Center Already?

Obama supposedly is against reviving the "fairness doctrine" (better known as the "Hush Rush Rule"). He’d better tell that to Pelosi and Thin Reid. Meanwhile, one observer says blacks and liberals better be prepared to be disappointed:

African Americans -- and a lot of other people -- better hunker down for some disappointment. Their hero is already getting fitted for the economic and political straitjacket he’ll wear for the next four years. The Middle East wars will rage on and that shiny piggy bank known as the U.S. Treasury will be busted. As black folks always say, when they let us take over, you know things are pretty dire.

I’m not making any predictions. McCain has to flip Pennsylvania--period. Obama was crushed in PA in the primary, but the general is a different matter. His recently revealed comment about "bankrupting the coal industry" might help, except the coal belt of PA is out west, where McCain is already strong. Philadelphia probably doesn’t care, but should, given the continuing slow decline of the Pennsylvania economy.

You Never Know

The polls are all pretty close and have Obama up about 8. The battleground state polls have room for hope. Those of you who know me know I said in August that the most natural result would be Obama by 8. This just ain’t a Republican year. Obama has campaign well, his weaknesses and secrets haven’t been effectively exploited, and the economic crisis forced McCain to do battle on his weakest front. Then there’s early voting and Obama’s amazing ground game. Still, I’m not kidding about a ghost of chance remaining.

Multiple Obamas

In hasty response to Richard’s post below, I posit at least four Obamas: one, the gifted writer of Dreams from My Father, the intellectual that attracts youth, media, and those disillusioned by the lack of ideas in our politicians; two, the cunning and bold politician who defeated the Clintons; three, a marvelous rhetorician; and, four, I would add, the activist who absorbed lessons from the streets of New York and Chicago and the brutality of Third World politics. He is comfortable as a writer, a moving orator, a cunning pol, or a street thug. An Obama Administration would exploit all four resources. His purpose would be to revolutionize American politics in a way that would overshadow Reagan and FDR. Obama is certainly not going to be like any of those guys on our currency.


The Political Charater of Obama

Given the likelihood that Senator Obama will be the next President, it is worth thinking about what he will be like as President. (I might be wrong, but my guess is that the Republicans who still think McCain can win are like my Democratic friends who were wired into the 2004 campaign, and thought Kerry would win. In both cases, the key is turnout.)

Politically, we know that Senator Obama knows how to play hardball. In his first race he sued to get everyone else off the balott. And in 2004, his minions pushed to have the divorce proceedings of his opponent revealed to the public. A few years ago, he did not assist a bipartisan efforts to defeat a Chicago machine apparachik in a race for the Cook County Board President. Perhaps Obama judged that the machine candidate would win anyway, and, therefore, there was no reason to oppose the machine. Or perhaps he is comfortable working with the machine (perhaps because he wished to move it to serve his own ends). When a campaign aid told the Canadian government not to take Senator Obama's anti-Nafta remarks too seriously. Was that his real policy? Or was that aid fired for mis-stating Obama's real position? This year, he cleverly hit the smaller states hard in the primaries, and was therefore able to defeat Hillary Clinton. He pledged to take public financing for the general election when it was his interest to do so. And he switched to private financing when it was his interest to do so. He keeps saying that Senator McCain is replacing $12,000 worth of health benefits with $5,000 of tax breaks. (It is not his fault that Senator McCain did not respond by asking "does anyone think I would design a plan that would leave workers $7,000 in the hole? That $5,000 is to pay taxed on precisely that $12,000 Senator Obama keeps talking about. And he says he wants to change the tone of Washington . . .) By talking about it that way, Senator Obama avoids talking about the philosophical issues that divide him from Senator McCain on health care. In 2004 he said that he preferred a single payer health care system for the U.S. Is that still his thinking? Does he wish to move us in that direction? Assuming his proposed plan will be renegotiated with Congress, in what direction would he like to see it move?

The Obama campaign kicked the reporters for papers that endoresed Senator McCain off the campaign's plane, and the campaign has refused to give another interview ever again to a TV station that asked Senator Biden tough questions in an interview. The campaign and its friends has sued or threatened to sue its critics. Senator Obama has not held a press conference in ages, or even given reporters significant access. When Jack Tapper caught up with Obama on an airport tarmac just today, and asked the Senator how he would spend the $700 billion in funds now allocated to backstop the financial system, Obama refused to respond, saying it was not the time or place. When Tapper suggested that he hold a press conference. Obama said he would do so on Wednesday. Senator Obama has sat back and allowed his campaign to make it relatively easy to contribute illegally. (As I understand it, the default settings of credit card receiving software check the credit card number against the name and address. If that's the case, the people raising money for Senator Obama, unlike those doing so for Senator McCain, turned that part of the software off.) In all these cases, Obama is being an effective politician. He is doing everything he can within the law to further his own cause. Moreover, he is good at working the system. He is, in other words, a clever lawyer and will probably be an effective bureaucrat. He is a good politician who knows how to get the nasty parts of the business done, even as he seems to be above the fray.

But how will Obama legislate? And how will he deal with questions that can't be handled in that manner? Does he have real backbone? Has he ever dealt with a situation where the tools of organization, litigation, protest, and legislation don't provide the answer? How will he act when that case comes up? Senator Obama recently declared that "Power concedes nothing without a fight." When our system of freewheeling debate and checks and balances opposes him, will he see it as part of the constitutional system he is sworn to "preserve, protect, and defende" or as a power to be opposed? Is that rhetoric that a master politician is using to fire up his base, or a declaration of principles? (In short, what rules of the game will a President Obama observe? Does anyone know for sure?)

Regarding legislation, is his comment about using the tax system to make coal power impossible a sign? It would be a good way to kill the industry without seeming to. Is that what he really wants to do, or was that what he said to please the audience of a liberals? In foreign policy, recall this bit from the debates, discussing sitting down with Ahmadinejad without preconditions: "So we sit down with Iran and they say they'll wipe Israel off the face of the map and we say 'No you won't'?" How would a President Obama respond to such a situation? McCain gave a fair summary of what Obama seemed to be saying. Presumably there is more to Obama's position, but what is it? We don't know. And, given Obama's professed hope to bring us all together, will he regard those who oppose his plans with the good will he has often displayed in his manner? Or will he try to shut them up as his campaign has tried to do? (An extension of his litigation against his political opponants in the past?) (Does he agree with his friend Cass Sunstein that the government must regulate speech and the press in order to re-unify our culture in the age of talk radio and the internet.) All these questions remain unanswered as we go to the polls.

Categories > Politics

Good News Today

The Mason-Dixon poll has McCain up two in Ohio. And McCain’s performance on SNL was excellent. He played himself a lot better than Obama could ever play himself. (Imagine Barack being ironically self-deprecating while staying in character.) The idea of buying time of QVC--because that’s all he could afford--allowed for a lot of gentle, pointed shots at Obama, and Tina Fey was sort of subdued and almost ashamed in his presence. Her moment as the rogue Sarah was funny, though. So was the set of three "Joe dolls"--Joe the Plumber, Joe Six-Pack, and Joe Biden.

If you think you’re not psyched up enough to bother voting on the real election day, let the Sowell man speak to you.

UPDATE: There are now seven national polls up today, and McCain is down 6.4. If that is all the information we had, we’d have to say he still has a very outside chance of winning. Like Lucas in the thread, I can’t help but think in terms of Obama’s superior ground game, but it’s a McCain election-day surge is not inonceivable.

Early Voting and Republican Decadence

Anyone who looks at the stats from the early voting in Georgia can doubt that Obama will likely carry the state. About half of those who’ll actually vote voted early. The turnout is disproportionally African American. Overall, black turnout will about double this year. The Obama people employed about 4800 captains statewide to get people to the polls. And it’s been touching to see people patiently waiting for hours to make sure their voice is heard. Part of this is the real pride and hope that come with finally having one of your own competing so well for the highest office. But admirable human emotion has to be mobilized with "community organization." Obama’s organization has got the job done. The best poll I’ve seen has Obama up 10 or more among early voters.

MEANWHILE, the Republicans haven’t taken early voting seriously and even SAVED a lot of their money for the last few days of the campaign. So NOW McCain is outspending OBAMA, but now is surely too late. It should be an elementary principle of political science to encourage early voting, because, by providing multiple days and opportunites for voting, it takes a lot of the CHANCE out of it. You’re bound to lose some voters for all sorts of reasons when you focus on a single twelve-hour period.

REPUBLICANS should not take any solace in what’s most obviously different about this election--the first African-American nominee of a major party. The habits developed this time will likely persist to some extent. And, as pete has told us time and again, the Republicans aren’t going to be able to win with no effective appeal to black and Hispanic voters at all.