February 21, 2006
The RINO sightings has been released to an anxious public, and can be viewed at AllThingsJennifer.
February 20, 2006
The angry extremes
Arthur Brooks of Syracuse University writes a short piece in the Opinion Journal today on the dangers of political anger. Brooks doesn't provide the source research for the claims he makes in this oped, but I'm not going to argue. The professor is "preaching to the choir" as far as I'm concerned.
To begin with, there is abundant evidence that extreme political opinions lead to the personal demonization of fellow citizens. Consider, for example, how those on the far left and far right respond when asked for a zero-to-100 score of their feelings toward people with whom they disagree politically. Political scientists find that scores below 20 on these so-called feeling thermometers are very unusual--except on the political fringes. Indeed, according to the 2004 National Election Study, one in five "extremely liberal" people gave conservatives a score of zero, a temperature you or I might reserve for Osama bin Laden. The same percentage of "extremely conservative" people gave liberals a zero.
Ironically, these angry folks tend to feel that they are more compassionate than others--while their personal actions tell a different story. Take people on the far left. According to the General Social Surveys in 2002 and 2004, those who say they're "extremely liberal" are 20 percentage points more likely than moderates to say they feel concern for less fortunate people. But this doesn't appear to translate well to a deep concern for any individual: This group is also 20 points less likely than moderates to say they'd "endure all things for the one I love." To some, this might support the stereotype that the far left loves humanity--but only in large groups.
Like extreme liberals, extreme conservatives are more compassionate in theory than in practice: They are slightly more likely than centrists to say they "feel protective of people who are taken advantage of." Unless, it seems, they are the ones taking advantage: It turns out they are substantially less likely than moderates to act honestly in small ways, such as returning change mistakenly given them by a cashier.
These results certainly square with my personal experience. I also agree with Brook's assertion that the number of Americans out on the angry extremes is growing, and that this is bad news for America.
A candidate winning a governorship or the presidency usually mutters a common platitude to the effect that they intend to be the "President of all the people." A few of the more centrist-minded might even mean it. Of course, it is literally true; G.W. Bush is the President for all Americans including Democrats. We know that they are unhappy about that, but the more interesting question is how does Bush, or any such political leader, feel about the people who opposed him in the election.
Does winning the election mean "it's pay-back time!" or is it a call to relax the ideological barriers and try to appreciate and integrate the ideas and desires of all one's constituents. I'm not so naive to believe that the highly partisan candidates of today will magically transform into centrist coalition builders upon election, but I do not think it unreasonable to ask that leaders feel respect for all the people they lead, not just those that donated to the campaign war chest.
There are powerful voices in our political debate who make a point of bragging their depth of hatred for a large chuck of Americans. I hope I am not alone in finding that distressing. Even more distressing is the thought of such people gaining power over the country. In the heat of a campaign it can be difficult to remember that the "other-guys" are fellow Americans, neighbors, whom we supposedly respect and even love. Difficult to do but vital. If the guy I didn't support wins the election, I am disappointed. That's natural, but I can remain calm and constructively involved in the community if I believe that the new leader takes my well-being seriously. But if the new leader openly expresses his hate for me, because of my religion, or race, or because I have tended to vote for people with different priorities and ideas; well then I might get pretty nervous, and be less eager to cooperate.
As bad as things are in the U.S., they seem worse abroad. "Sowing the wind" seems the common practice throughout the Muslim world, and we all dread the harvest. Our old friends in Europe argue over whether it is better to hate the U.S. for doing too much in the middle-east, or for doing too little. Being clever fellows, perhaps they will find the means to hate us for both.
I take refuge, in my less rational moments, in a happy dream about a candidate and a party who are not defined by hatreds and anger, and a country that tires of bile and snarling, turning, perhaps in boredom, to the "refreshingly-new," old idea of American optimism. Some of us can remember how the Reagan campaign in 1980 felt after a decade characterized as 'malaise." Are we too cynical now to be moved by such a corny approach? Have we become sophisticated like the Euro's, expressing the customary pleasantries and believing none of it?
As I said, it's just a day-dream, but it keeps me moving these days...
Technorati Tags: political anger
January 29, 2006
RINO Sightings for Jan 29!
The RINOs have been sighted! (actually, they're not that hard to spot, as they are scrambling to be noticed.) We have a good crop of free-ranging opinion and observation this week, as is traditional for the Sightings. Thanks to all the RINOs who submitted a post. Good stuff all around.
Dan Melson of Searchlight Crusade checks in with thoughts on the Alito nomination. Dan is pulling for a filibuster (cause he thinks it will backfire big time...)
A Typical Joe submits his argument for adding Bible Study in the Public Schools. There's a part1 post as well here. The idea is to teach the Bible as an important piece of literature, which it is. I took a similar class 30+ years ago in a very secular private school and liked it. The religious angle makes this a extra-steamy hot potato issue, so I'm not holding my breath waiting for Bible classes in California schools.
AJ Strata of Stata-Sphere is wondering why some would try to "wage war with warrants and subpoenas." AJ suggests we let the NSA do its job. Funny how as long as the NSA does its job and keeps terrorists from mounting attacks in the US, people can complain about their activity. If they back off, however, and an attack occurs, the same folks will complain about their inactivity. As you might have guessed, this issue only exists to create headlines, (or to try to create headlines.) AJ astutely points out that so far only a hurricane has made it through the security net.
Tom Hanna of Tom Rants is ranting this week on the relative death rates of abortion and terrorism. He wonders, "How Big a Threat is Terrorism?" Its an interesting perspective, at least from the point of view of the society in general. For an adult like me, many decades past any personal risk of abortion, terrorism seems the larger threat.
Legal Redux has prepared a review of the thinking on whether the unborn are "persons" under the 14th amendment. As you might expect, there are differing opinions. Redux if not a fan of either Justice Blackmun's or Justice Douglas' reasoning. These are difficult ideas to think about, for many folks, and the attempt to create a legal framework where there is no clear science or opinion results in some twisted logic. One way the Roe decision has hurt the country is to prevent us from engaging in a painful but very necessary debate on points like this.
While were reading Law Blogs, So Cal Lawyer has found that at least one lawyer is responding to the revelations about the "autobiography" of James Frey. Said lawyer want to be compensated (of course) for time lost reading a biography that isn't. So Cal is shocked, but i can't say I'm surprised. In fact, I'm surprised its only one lawyer who has had this idea.
Ya know, we don't talk enough about Barry Goldwater these days. Reagan has become the icon for the conservatives, but Barry is certainly good for a quote now and then. Barry Campbell at enrevanche has some fine words from the other Barry on the subject of tyranny (with some word about equality as well.)
Despite all the political controversy to talk about, Dean Esmay manages to find a contrarian view on the one issue about which there is no controversy! Dean does not find that commenters are nearly as uncouth as others say. Dean attracts a pretty classy sorta commenter, most days, but that may be a reflection on the quality of his blog, and his well reasoned, centrist positions. Other blogs attract a different sort, alas.
You know Eric Scheie in "in da house" when you see a post headlined, "Toilets and other Windows of opportunity." Believe it or not, the post concerns economic policy! Apparently, Toilets are the current theme at Classical Values, and in this post Eric muses on the impact of government regulation on toilets, where regulation has been good for the manufacturers.
While Googe and China are getting friendly, the US and Germany are feeling less cozy these days. Alex Schoellkopf gets to observe US-German relations from a neutral position in Switzerland, and has some observations on " Why German-American relations are so poor." Apparently its a combination of German guilt over the 20th century and German envy of the French and their well-developed anti-Americanism. The blog is "Pigilito". btw.
Things are not so friendly on the US/Mexican border these days either. Diggers Realm has the dirt on accusations that American troops are impersonating the Mexican army. Oh yea, I'm sure it happens all the time.
I can't believe it took this long to come up with a post on the House leadership race! Restless Mania admires how craftily Roy Blunt has lost the support of the right-wing bloggers. Not a good start for the likely next leader.
Scott Welch, the Environmental Republican, is looking towards the State of the Union address. Actually, its the "wishful thinking" from Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Dick Polman that has caught Scott's attention. Dick figures the Pres need to "restoke enthusiasm among restive conservatives." ("Restoke" (?) huh? Dick could have just said "stoke" but "restoke" sounds cooler, I guess.)
We are all over the conceptual map this week in the "Sightings." Here's a post from "J.D." at Evolution that starts with a rather confusing (and confused) message from a reader, who seems to very amused at his own comment (Lots of LOL's), that seems to say that thermodynamics makes evolution impossible. J.D. does some research and finds that this is not the first time this odd bit of confusion has surfaced.
Mark Coffey, who writes at Decision '08, is posting about a different election this week. He has some questions for the big winners in this week's Palestinian election. Will Hamas still be Hamas, now that they are leaders too?
This week's RINO Sightings closes out with a word from Orac of Respectful Insolence. Orac finds a picture from last week's big dual protest in San Francisco a bit irritating. I'm sure he's not alone. (I've seen some of the S.F. protests in person and the pictures don't do them justice. Very scary)
Thanks again to all the RINO's who contributed. A remarkable range of subject matter this week.
Technorati Tags: RINO
January 25, 2006
RINO Sightings - Coming Soon!
The Raging RINOs are gathering once again, for the weekly "sightings" carnival, and this week it's hosted here at Radical Centrist. If you're a RINO looking to be heard, get your submissions to email@example.com by 6pm Pacific tomorrow (Sunday.)
What with the final "debate" underway on the Alito nomination, and the Republican House leadership up for grabs, there should be plenty to blog about, so get your submissions in!
January 17, 2006
Does the House leadership race matter?
NZ.Bear, of The Truth Laid Bear, has hosted a petition from what they describe as "Center-Right" bloggers to support a program of real reform in the House leadership. Rusty Shackleford of My Pet Jawa fame, has a counterproposal. Rusty feels that the premise behind Bear's petition is "silly and meaningless." If I am understanding him properly, he feels that influence and corruption are just not important, as long as they (the Congress) are doing the right things, "right things" in this case, being the policies that Rusty supports. It's not such a radical idea, I suppose. If I can put words into Rusty's mouth, he is saying, "what do I care if they get some lobbyist to pay for things, as long as they take care of the country's problems." Of course, on The Jawa Report he says it a bit more colorfully...
Give me 435 unethical, whoremongering, immoral, back room elected Congressman committed to limited government. Keep your transparency. I will gladly let my Congressman get away with just about anything in exchange for protecting me from the bad guys of the world and keeping his grubby paws out of my pockets. Let their paws remain in the pockets of whoever is trying to bribe them. Better their's than mine.
That quote is a bit unfair. It's the punchy soundbite of the piece, but Rusty's argument is a bit more "nuanced" than that. He argues that the current scandal grossly exaggerates the level of "corruption" involved, pointing out that these Representatives did not pocket money themselves, they spent it. Of course, they spent it assuring their own vise-like grip on power, so it's not like they used it to feed the starving.
What Rusty wants is a creature that does not exist, or is exceedingly rare. Politico's who are "immoral, back-room-elected" do not care about "limited government" except as a buzz-phrase for the stump speech. In office they care only for their own immoral backsides and the people in that back-room. You want to know why a supposedly conservative Congress can spend like a drunk? It's because they are drunk, drunk on lobby money and such.
Despite the regular calls to "throw the bums out!", there is virtually no overturn of incumbents these days. Voters are eager to see "the bums" turned out, but are equally sure that their guy is not one of the bums. Congresspeople are much nicer in person than their reputation would have you believe, and they work hard (their staffs work insanely hard). Americans generally do not send corrupt people to Congress, but the system that has evolved in Washington is terribly corrupting. People who ought to know better slowly get drawn into actions and behaviors and relationships that shame them. Some wake-up to it and quit. Others slowly change while the old friends at home wonder what happened to their champion.
And even if the Abramoff scandal is not all that real a crisis, perception matters a lot in politics. The other problem with the unethical and immoral is that they are eventually unelectable. Cleaning up the House leadership will not assure that the House will be "committed to winning the war on terror and getting the hell out of [Rusty's] life" (and mine), that's true, but failure to do so will assure that they won't be, 'cause they will be Democrats.
I don't know enough about Shadegg to support him with reasoning beyond the fact that he is new on the scene and an underdog. I suspect he's much more conservative than I, but there is no use wishing for a centrist majority leader, it isn't going to happen. Anything that upsets the overly comfortable applecart of the old leadership pleases me.
December 06, 2005
RINO Sightings up, it's a Karaoke Carnival!
The weekly carnival of the Ragin' RINO's, known as RINO Sightings, is available over at No Credentials. This week's Sightings host, Rose Nunez, has modeled the carnival as a karaoke office party! As always, lots of good stuff...enjoy!
Update: Now that I have posted the link I went back and spent some time enjoying Rose's work. I'm due to host the Sightings at the end of January, and I tell you, I'm getting intimidated! This is a really fine bit of creativity, that sets a tough standard to follow. Kudo's and thanks to Rose!
Technorati Tags: Raging RINOs
November 30, 2005
A moderate Democrat and Moderate Republican meet in the middle
California politics don't always align well the national categories. The "spread" is pretty wide out here. The conservatives in this state are the real thing, the outer tips on the right wing. And the Liberals too, are present in a particularly extreme variety that defies caricature. There are dozens of smaller ideological groups, extreme libertarians, radical environmentalists, and others, all overlapping and interacting. In between these more defined positions are the majority of the voters, not drawn out to the extremes, just trying to make some sense of it all.
Governor Schwarzenegger, who ran as a moderate Republican with conservative support, has appointed, Susan Kennedy, a noted Democrat from his predecessors administration, as his new Chief of Staff.
Kennedy told reporters her views don't different that much from Schwarzenegger's, given that she is a moderate Democrat and he is a moderate Republican.
"There's not a lot of light between us," said Kennedy, who said she voted for all four of the ballot measures
In the yawning gaps between the political poles in California, centrists can find common ground. Even where there are differences in opinion on issues, a moderate Democrat and Republican will find the other to be more accepting, more reasoned, more willing to listen, than the leadership or "core group" of their own party. I'm not surprised that the Governor has made this choice. Especially since he want to win re-election.
Kennedy said that after 25 years in the political trenches for Democratic candidates, she has grown tired of partisan wars.
"This is not a time for California to hunker down behind partisan labels," Kennedy said. "The bottom line is that I believe in this man...and where he wants to take California...to get past the partisan labels and to get things done."
Predictably, the conservative door-keepers reacted angrily.
The appointment drew fierce opposition from the right wing of Schwarzenegger's party Wednesday. The Campaign for Children and Families issued a statement saying that Schwarzenegger's "left turn" had angered "pro-family, conservative voters."
These folks are, no doubt, especially unnerved because Kennedy is gay. Did I mention that she has been active in abortion rights as well. There is real risk in this move, the Governor needs to find a solid base of supporters. Conservatives helped in the recall campaign that got the job for him, but they are not a reliable base for him It remains to be seen if he can solidify the ground in the middle. From the Sacramento Bee.
"This makes Schwarzenegger a man without a country," said GOP strategist Dave Gilliard, who helped run the campaign to recall Davis. "The Democrats will never accept him or embrace him, and now he's breaking with his base. I don't understand it."
If Arnold is "a man without a country" he certainly won't be lonely. Loads of Californians are wandering in the no-mans-land between the warring factions, wondering if we will ever have candidates we can support with enthusiasm. I hear a lot of my neighbors from both parties, expressing frustration with the need to "hold one's nose" before voting in California elections. The professional mouthpieces from either party or from interests/ideology groups like to represent their people as the "core" of the state. I'm not buying it. This has been a very disappointing year for those of us who wish to see this state reformed and back on track, but I'm not ready to surrender the state to endless political warfare. There are plenty of people in the middle. Let's see if the Governor can unify a base among them.
UPDATE: Dan Weintraub seems to agree that this is a smart move.
The early speculation is that hiring Kennedy will hurt Schwarzenegger with Republican voters. I don't buy it. Most voters will never know who is in the governor's inner circle. And virtually all voters will judge Schwarzenegger on his results, not on his choice of advisers. If Kennedy helps Schwarzenegger accomplish the goals he has set for his administration, she will help him get reelected.
Dan notes that conservatives ought not to be surprised, since Schwarzenegger has always been taking advice from "real Kennedys."
November 20, 2005
Centrists...Popular but Un-electable?
A couple of quick links concerning centrism:
Jonah Goldberg makes the following comment over at The Corner, concerning Israeli PM Ariel Sharon:
Ariel Sharon is set to leave the Likud Party and hold fresh elections as the head of a centrist party. This is going to create a huge problem for the Juan Cole types. It's not as much fun denouncing cabals of evil "centrists" in the Pentagon and White House.
I wish that were true (the part about it's "not as much fun".) Sadly, it does seem to be quite fun to denounce the "cabals of evil centrists") as the centrists catch it from both sides. Your political enemies will rally to defend one of their own, but centrists tend to get lukewarm backing from their friends and none at all from the other party, even if they happen to like the guy (or girl.) I'm not sure how to feel about Sharon, but I do know that he will have some challenges making this work.
The other item concerns America's most prominent, maverick centrist, John McCain. Here's Micky Kaus:
On NBC's Chris Matthews Show yesterday, David Brooks said conservatives had warmed to John McCain, and Matthews said he'd heard the same thing. ... Let's see. Conservatives are for McCain. Liberals like McCain. Centrists love McCain. Doesn't that mean McCain might, er, win? Who's going to vote against him? In a general election, it seems like McCain would come close to being elected by acclamation! It will take all the genius of the American political system to make sure he isn't on the ballot. ...
The last sentence is the real winner. "It will take all the genius of the American political system to make sure he isn't on the ballot." Centrists in general, and McCain in particular, have a way of being really popular with everybody, except when they're really unpopular with everybody. Its a hot or cold existence for a guy like McCain. With folks from the political "wings" half the people love 'em and half the people hate 'em. With centrists the formula is different; everyone gets to love you half the time and hate you half the time.
In the primaries and caucus months the hard core supporters carry you forward. Centrist, alas, are great at breadth of support and week on depth of support; liked by all and loved by few. In the general election that could work wonderfully, but one has to get to the general election, and theres the rub. "all the genius of the American political system" will challenge a centrist like McCain or Guliani to get that nomination.
That said, Go John! The Senate would be a complete wasteland but for McCain. These events this week may look like ordinary partisan wrangling, but there is a war on and these are serious times, as folks inside the beltway seem to forget. McCain seems to "get it." I hope and expect that the displays of weakness and displays of courage will be remembered.
November 11, 2005
New Centrist Blog - The Centrist Donkey
Bit late in mentioning this, but better late than never. Max Burns used to write "The New Democrat", but that effort faded away. Max is back, however, with a new blog, "The Centrist Donkey." I've been thinking that we need a few more of the "center-left" fellas to balance out us on the "center-right." I live in a highly liberal town, where I pass for an extreme conservative. Most everyone I know here is a Democrat and many, probably most, are more to the "center" than the real Left. You know, the Left that is so much in evidence just up the road in San Francisco and Berkeley. For some reason they have not been as visible in the blogosphere, so I'm happy to have Max back on the Blogroll.
Drop by and check it out. This week Virginia resident Max is talking about..., what would you guess..., the Tim Kaine victory, perhaps?
November 10, 2005
After the election, the ritual flagellation of the moderates.
In any election, there are winners and there are losers. There is a time-honored response to both results, that the parties practice with enthusiasm. The winners trumpet the mandate they have received for immediate application of their complete ideology. They are sure that they earned votes through the purity of their ideological position despite the embarrassing compromises they were forced to make with the squishy moderates in the final weeks.
The losers, on the other hand, are certain that they lost because of their own attempts to attract moderates. "If we were only more true to our ideology", they moan," the voters would have flocked to us!" Both respond to the election by despairing of their moderating moves and bashing their centrist supporters. Supposedly, it makes the "base" feel better.
In recent years the Democrats have experienced some disappointing election nights, and have responded by blowing off their large centrist membership, the "reasonable, pro-America Democrats" like a dying star throws off its outer layers. For the star and the party, the remnant collapses into a smaller, white hot core. This week the Republicans managed to disappoint themselves at the polls, and are eager to spin the result into a denunciation of moderation. This starts by redefining "moderate" in terms more amenable to their explanation. Here's one:
"Moderation" has always been political-speak for "having it both ways." The average moderate is either not a moderate at all -- can we really peg Lincoln Chaffee and Arlen Specter as anything but men of the left? -- or a man completely devoid of any first principles. There are many things to respect in a man of conviction: but the conviction that conviction is a wrong only merits dismay. Or he is a man skilled in doublethink -- a Rudolph Giuliani, for example, who believes strongly in the protection and security of all Americans excepting those unborn. Political moderation is therefore usually something dishonest, self-contradictory, or vacuous.
I'd be shocked and insulted except I've heard it all before. It changes nothing, and tells us much more about the mindset of the speaker than the politics of political moderation.
California Conservative introduces a similar opinion in his Open Letter to Dennis Hastert and Congressional Republicans:
In politics, being a “moderate” is just another word for a leader without conviction. I expect more from the GOP.
In fact, what I hear him saying is that he expects less of the GOP. He would prefer the party to be a much simpler and smaller place, conceptually, without much thinking among the individuals. A party with one set of ideas, his.
Someone, somewhere, has created a new definition of a "conservative" and attached that to a definition of a "Republican" and pronounced it gospel. Of course, similar rules have been invented for the terms, "liberal" and "Democrat." Even if one is inclined to accept these definitions, they have a way of moving around. One day you are secure in your Republican values, and then something like the Patriot Act comes along and you are an instant apostate. The same Republicans who disagreed so strenuously with the Miers negotiation now insist that any disagreement is intolerable. Ah well, I have to disagree.
I rarely like the compromises that are forced on the party in power, but I accept the realities of compromise. In this case, I happen to approve. Besides disliking the drilling plan on environmental grounds, I really don't like the way Congress sticks an Energy Policy question into a Budget bill. If the country wants to drill in the ANWR, let's bring the issue up, debate it and vote on it. I feel the same way about nominees to the bench. Bring them up, debate and then vote. All these procedural tricks, filibusters and ways of sliding a non-germane issue into a bill are just ways to thwart the will of the people.
But, the subject of this post is whether moderates have any convictions at all. Well, I imagine that some don't, but I'll assert that there are more spineless yes-men (and yes-women) lounging comfortably in the ideologically pure camps on the "wings", then out there in the cross-fire trying to take political positions based on one's conscience. These writers make a strange assumption, that it is easy being a maverick, taking direct fire from your own party as well as the other guys. That is not how I have observed things. It must be lovely, I imagine, to be a solid rubber-stamp conservative or an exquisitely politically-correct liberals. No original thinking required; "ditto-heads" is how some describe themselves. Just read the talking points.
Alas, I've never been able to conform my mind to the ever-shifting political guidelines. But then, since I don't practice an artificial ideological purity, I don't expect it of others, including politicians. Strangely, I may be a more loyal vote for my party than the idealogical hard core. They don't seem to be very tolerant of a lapse in purity. The Anchoress, somewhat out of character it seems to me, has declared that separating the drilling in Alaska from the budget issues is cause for her to abandon the party! (In fairness, there are, perhaps, other issues that have earned her ire as well) The trouble with pandering to the extremes, besides the fact that you can lose much of the center (and hence the election), is that they can be fickle. A number of strongly conservative bloggers are now seriously questioning whether President Bush is really a conservative at all. The extreme left will do the same, finding ways to make enemies out of one's friends.
Ah well, its really very old news. For years I've heard, from the more conservative leaders of the Republican party in California (a bunch very skilled at losing elections) that they hold a moderate Republican to be much worse than a liberal Democrat. Really? A person (or a party) who cannot distinguish between someone who supports them 48 out of 50 times, and the people who fightthem 48 of 50 times, is going to find it hard to retain office. The Republican party talks "big tent" and there are many in the party who believe in it, but they have a tough time holding it together.
(As I write this, a vote on the Budget Bill, which I strongly support, btw, has been postponed. Even with the removal of the ANWR drilling provision, the leaders are a few votes short. Party discipline is never very strong when budgets are being cut, but after the stellar demonstration of party discipline around the Miers nomination, even less so. When the party cannot get its nominees in front of a committee it controls, and cannot pull out a Governorship race in a red state like Virginia, Republicans in blue states will start looking for cover.)