November 23, 2005

The Republican Straw Poll moves to Hewitt.Com

The regular straw poll of Republican favorites for the 2008 presidential election has moved to Hugh Hewitt's blog, now that Pat Ruffini has retired his site. Let's see if McCain's good performance last week helps him, let's see if Bill Frist can be any less popular.

Condi Rice has traditionally been the favorite of the "fantasy candidates." Here; remarkable wok in the past weeks ought to keep here there.

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Posted by Jay on November 23, 2005 at 05:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 01, 2005

A finger on the pulse...for 2008

Patrick Ruffini must have been a boy scout, he's making sure he's well prepared for the 2008 Presidential race by posting his 2008 Presidential Wire plenty early. This version is a beta, but seems to be working fine, providing a rundown of stories and posts about the various hopefuls. He also is compiling lists on who's hot and who's cooling.

Obviously there will be plenty of politics between now and then, so the results don't mean much yet, but as Patrick mentions, the time to develop and refine the tools is now.

Posted by Jay on June 1, 2005 at 09:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 17, 2005

Election Reform - cutting both ways?

At the moment, most of the interest in the election reform is coming from the Democrats. Feeling bruised after the experience of Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004, they're calling for reforms to make sure that "every voter gets counted".of course, reforms to assure the fairness and accuracy of elections will cut both ways. We must give equal attention to making sure that only legitimate votes are counted or the effort is not really "reform" at all. Republicans are certainly energized over irregularities in the gubernatorial election in Washington, and, according to this post from Dirty Harry, are also interested in the results from Wisconsin.

This is an excellent time to press for significant reforms and introduction of new voting technologies nationwide, something that should have happened four years ago. At the moment, both parties are convinced that this will help them, so we might be able to get real action. If U.S. elections are made dependable and consistent across the states, we can see how much removing fraud and error changes the results. I don't doubt that there will be surprises for both parties.

Posted by Jay on January 17, 2005 at 02:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 13, 2004

Rudi in the news (for the wrong reasons)

No sooner do I post on the popularity of Rudi Guliani as a potential candidate, when this happens. I'm sad to see Bernie Kerik withdraw, but at least he had the class to get out before the firestorm hit. If this is the worst problem to hit Rudi he will be fortunate. One of the things that can strengthen the early favorites is that all these potentially damaging incidents and revelations can be handled early. George Bush's youthful indiscretions were old news by the time the campaign swung into full action. In any case, if the country is going to embrace Guliani as a leader it will have to deal with his rough ' tough New York political history and style.

Posted by Jay on December 13, 2004 at 08:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 11, 2004

Some early enthusiasm for Rudi

Hugh Hewitt did a little unscientific polling in a recent meeting of the conservative Republican women, and found, somewhat to his surprise, that Rudi Giuliani is their early favorite for the 2008 nomination. Other reports and rumors confirmed that despite some of Rudi's "suspect" positions on the issues (that is to say his "moderate" positions) the conservative elements of the party are taking him seriously.

Among the many praises that gushed forth: decisive, experienced, loyal to "W"--an interesting positive, that--funny and, crucially, tough enough to take on the Clintons. There were many praises for Senator Frist, and some for John McCain, but Giuliani has their hearts--already.

I'm a big fan of Giuliani and am glad that he's in such a strong position. It is awfully early, of course, and there's a lot of time yet for him to make a misstep or for other candidates to surge to the front. Then again, I distinctly remember just days after Bob Dole lost the 1996 election to Bill Clinton, hearing that the then governor of Texas was an early favorite for the nomination in 2000. Sometimes the "early word" is the best word. The important next step for Rudi is to find something to do in the next couple years that will keep him not only in the public spotlight but looking like an "achiever". His fine performance after the terrorist attacks on New York will be fondly remembered but it will be seven years in the past come 2008. He'll need something more me tea then inspirational speeches and television punditry to remind the public of his better qualities.

He can also use this time to strengthen his ties with the conservative wing of the party. First of all, as an experienced mayor, he certainly has earned the label "pragmatist" and has plenty of experience working with varying viewpoints. Secondly, while I obviously cannot speak for Giuliani, my concept of "centrism" includes the idea that all viewpoints need to be heard (at least all those with a meaningful level of support). He should have no trouble reassuring conservatives that he will do nothing to "cut them out" or otherwise prevent them from bringing their issues to the table.

Posted by Jay on December 11, 2004 at 12:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 08, 2004

There now, that wasn't so hard, was it?

John Perry Barlow decides to "work on being sane", good advice for the whole country at the moment. Perhaps we can get a new "meme infection" going here. A radical idea to calm down, enjoy the autumn and the end of political advertising, and pray for good fortune in Iraq. Even Democrats can be hopeful for a quick resolution of the conflict there. If its all over quickly it the Republicans won't be able to carry the good-will all the way into the 2008 election.

Carrying around this sort of anger and pain is not healthy either (I'm not being patronizing, I mean it. Glenn Reynolds commented this evening on how poorly Maureen Down looked on Meet the Press. I haven't seen Dowd, but I know that my very left leaning neighbors are very down and glum). For the health of the country and our fellow Americans let's all call a ceasefire for a bit, hey? I do hope that Bush ignores the noise from the exuberant Right to push Sen. Spector out of the Chairmanship of Judiciary. They would be most foolish to make things ugly so soon after their big win. I suspect that Bush has other ideas on where he wants to spend his newly acquired political capital.

Returning to Barlow, he ends his piece on a powerful note:

This will be a tricky four years. In addition to a sense of humor, which should have plenty of dark meat to feast on, we will need cunning, courage, clarity, and, as I say, forgiveness. We will need understanding, perspective, and something that also seems in ready supply at the moment, humility. And, since victory is to the patient, we will need patience. But I've been engaged in this stand-off between the 50's and 60's all my adult life. Finally, I see how much we need each other. I hope we all come to see that and give one another a break.

The call for humility is both astute and unprecedented. Both the overly satisfied smiles from the Right and the extravagant wretchedness of the Left are signs of hubris. Its really not as big a deal as all that, folks. Things have been much worse before and could be much worse sometime in the future, so this is a good time to sober up and remember how we can be effective (and happier) when we are reasonably at peace with one another.

As Barlow says...

May all our Gods forgive us and may we forgive one another.


Posted by Jay on November 8, 2004 at 10:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (36) | TrackBack

November 06, 2004

Beware the "Moral Values" trap.

Much chatter and speculation in the press, the airwaves and the blogosphere over one of the big surprise of the election, the reported importance of "Moral Values" to the vote. There are several potential traps in this analysis that I'd like to comment on before we all forget how this debate started.

This insight is derived from the exit polls. That's right, those same polls that predicted a Kerry blowout. So right away we need to be careful about these findings; we were a bit hasty with these polls once already. In fairness to the pollsters, those polls are not really designed to predict the winner. Rather they're intended to produce diagnostic information about who voted and why the vote came out as it did. So this result probably can be trusted in a rough, "plus or minus a bunch", grain of salt, sort'a way. But let's remember what really happened out on the street where these polls were collected. A stranger carrying a clipboard approached people who had just voted and asked them which entries in a list best described their "most important issue". Or perhaps they were asked which item "best describes your reasons for voting as you did" or some such question. First of all, as professional marketers and the more talented campaign advisors know, people have a very hard time verbalizing their motivations. This is true when they are thinking to themselves, or speaking to a loved one, let alone some nosey stranger on the street. Secondly, the preferred item on the list, "moral values" is wildly undefined. In the church I attend we could debate the meaning of this term for weeks. What did those polled mean when they selected this item from the list? It's not nearly as clear as political pundits might think.

There is a trap here. It is easy to conclude that when people say they are concerned about "moral values" they are talking about the same moral values that concern you. It happened to the Republicans a decade and a half ago when they found the term "family values" resonating well in focus groups. Of course focus groups liked it! The phrase can mean anything to anyone; what's not to like? When used as a political weapon, however, or even more as a mandate for policy, that vagueness becomes a problem. When the politics gets down to specific policy, public acceptance might not be there as you expect.

We need to be careful with this equally general term. A lot of voter concerns can fit under the "moral values" umbrella. That's likely the reason it was cited as the top issue by voters. I probably would have selected it myself, but not because gay marriage or abortion are driving my vote. I'm primarily concerned about other "moral values" questions. We really don't know what Americans mean when they say they are concerned about "moral values" in an election. The good news is that we don't need to. As President Bush mentioned in his press conference today, we treasure our American freedom to worship and believe in our own way. We should expect that Americans will disagree about the specifics of moral questions. Our society preserves the right to disagree on these questions (within the obvious limitations) and that freedom is most valued by those that treasure their moral values. We might try taking the voters at their literal word. Let's not assume that the term "moral values" is a code-word for some specific political issue or even a specific moral question. I don't believe in this "code-word" idea. Could it be that voters are really concerned less with one or two specific moral values, but with the whole concept of moral values? To put it more clearly, is this less a conflict between my moral values versus your moral values, than it is a conflict between those who hold to a particular code of moral values and those who reject the whole idea?

This is a large part of what drives the widening schism between the "faith" vote and the secularized vote. The church-going "faith" bloc is increasingly depicted in writings and media by . There are many different faiths and denominations active in the U.S., and those who practice a faith are well aware of it. There are active debates on morality issues within all churches. This is not threatening to people of faith. Rather, a secular society that is increasingly hostile to faith and moral codes of any sort is what is scary.

In The Spectator magazine recently, Simon Heffer wrote about the "insidious new taboos" that were replacing older, traditional taboos. Heffer points out that as one set of taboos, or moral codes, is removed another one replaces it.

"The removal of so many of the taboos that operated up to the immediate post-war period has not led to a society unencumbered by such baggage; the old taboos have simply been replaced by new, and often fiercer, ones."

There is a sort of "momentum" at work here, where a society relaxing one restriction will overshoot the middle position and settle into an equally restrictive but opposite position.

That the taboo system survives is because of the effective and immediate replacement of one taboo by another. Once it was no longer taboo to countenance homosexual activity, it became taboo to find it objectionable.

A similar phenomena has occurred regarding moral values systems. For several decades, evolution and relaxation of the general moral values of the society has accelerated beyond just a "relaxation" or even "collapse" of the morals system. For a significant and very visible (and vocal) segment of modern society, the idea of a consistent and coherent moral values system is anathema. The concept of moral relativism (which could be a reasonable response to overly narrow moral absolutism) has been wildly overextended to discredit moral codes and judgments altogether. A pluralistic America has always mingled religious and cultural groups using differing codes of morality. From Irish Catholics to Dutch Quakers to Chinese Buddhists, the details of behavioral codes varied (subtly by our standards; they noticed the differences more than we would) but all groups had their morality. Of course, there were plenty of people who were immoral, failing to live within the moral code, but they knew that they were "bad". They recognized the moral values system of the age and acted counter to it. The new, modern approach rejects the idea of a code, replacing immorality with amorality, followed by "anti-morality. What was once a shocking sin can today be admired "self-expression", and expression of a traditional taboo is attacked as bigotry.

To people attempting to raise families in some sort of moral environment, much of our modern America feels threatening. In the new, reactionary anti-morality, attempts to filter what permeates your home and community are attacked as immoral censorship or judgmental closed-mindedness. It's important to remember that the sort of moral values system that we are losing is much more than just limits on sexuality. The more simple and mundane values like honesty, respect, and self-reliance are so far gone that they have almost disappeared from popular culture. In this antagonistic environment, people of faith, and those who are not church-goers but still retain a desire for a moral framework in their lives will strike back at the more visible assaults. This year, it was gay marriage. A few years ago it was popular song lyrics. In isolation these can seem like trivial problems, but they should be seen in the context of a general struggle to hold back a flood.

I'm not convinced that the red-state populations are as anti-gay as some have said. They seem to be willing top allow gay couples to live together in peace and declare a binding civil union that brings many of the same governmental treatment as a marriage. They are not ready, at the moment, to declare that a gay union is the complete equivalent of a heterosexual marriage. There will likely be some other institution developed to recognize a same-sex commitment, and these may well be embraced in "red-state" areas. That gay people want to settle down and adopt many of the traditional values is perhaps something to be encouraged.

In the meantime there will be other flare-up issues related to other threatened values. The most difficult divide to bridge in the coming years is likely to be this values-gap, more that liberal versus conservative or Red-state vs. Blue. These camps not only don't have a dialog underway, they tend not to have a common language

Posted by Jay on November 6, 2004 at 05:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 03, 2004

More post-election perspective

Varifrank has some words of wisdom for Kerry voters, especially the first timers.

Democracy is not about getting your way, it's about being asked. Everyone who voted yesterday won in this election. I don't think I met anyone yesterday who could vote who didnt go to the polls. That's probably the first time in my life that has ever happened.

...and some advice for the Democrats:


It's not that Bush couldn't be beat, its that he couldnt be beat by this guy. Senators make bad candidates. Howard Dean would have done a better job, He at least believed the stuff that he said.

Here's how you win elections in America.

1. Shop at Wal-Mart. Get to know the people who shop there.
2. Follow Nascar racing. Learn to like it.
3. Buy and drive a pickup.
4. Visit Home Depot on Saturday morning. Buy Lumber. Make something.
5. Have Children.
6. Raise them yourself.
7. Find a Church that you like, visit frequently.
8. Buy an American Flag, Attach it to your house.
9. Learn to operate a gun. Consider buying one.
10. Start your own Business. Hire someone. Make a Profit.

And most important, in a time of war, never ever go against the family.

What's funny is that this same list could have been found on one of the "progressive" blog sites as a satire. The suggestions are so horrible that they would seem funny to many Democrats. Just imagine..."WalMart"...a pickup? They would list these ten things as signs of the "depths this country has fallen to".

(For what its worth, despite being one of those squishy centrists from a blue state, I hit on nine of the ten (I've never owned a pickup, but I have owned a minivan and my mother in law drives an F-350, does that count?))

Posted by Jay on November 3, 2004 at 06:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

"Getting over it"

Michele at A Small Victory has warns that she "has a lot to say" and its all worth reading. She's seeing and actually receiving some of the venomous anger that is leaking around the statesmanlike calls for unity and healing. As she points out, a campaign that was largely built on hate and belittling of the opposing candidate and his supporters cannot result in much else. Perhaps the only worse that watching this display of bile is the thought of these folks getting a victory. To validate that campaign strategy with a win would have, in my opinion, cursed our political environment for years to come.

"I woke up to a very different world in which people I assumed were rational Democrats are spitting poison nails. I received some nasty emails and comments (since deleted) that were alarming in their venom and hatred. People I never had a harsh word with were suddenly knocking down my virtual door to leaving the equivalent of letter bombs. This did not frighten me so much as make me sad. I can say with all honesty that, had Kerry won this election, I would have done no such thing. But, that's just me."

No Michele, it's not just you. There are plenty of people who have an understanding of "right and wrong" that goes beyond the concept of justice. They believe that are is right behavior and wrong behavior, no matter how strongly you feel about an issue. That you would not send hate mail to Kerry supporters, or anyone, is not because you don't care deeply about the election, its just something you would not do. I would not do something like that either, and, I believe, neither would most Democrats. The loonier elements of "the left" are a minority, I'm convinced, but they were tolerated and encouraged in this campaign. That fatal irresponsibility I lay at the feet of Kerry and his managers. To be "the president for all the people" you need to demonstrate that you will protect the basic rights of all the people, even if that means restraining some of your supporters.

"What did you all believe in this year? Hate? Anger? You ran your own campaign, one filled to the brim with bile and acidic spittle and you wonder why you feel so black today? You were pinning your hopes on the wish that the rest of America harbored the same intense hatred as you and would vote with their clenched fists. Now that you are left without the hoped for victory party as an outlet for your rage, you have to direct it somewhere else. If not at the candidate, then at his voters, right?"

I'd like to see John Kerry and the more responsible Democrats really work to remove this stain from the party. They need to meet with their embittered supporters and tell them that there are decent people in those "red states". People who are not Nazis, are not cavemen, are not racists, who want to do good in the world and differ from blue-staters only in their opinion of the best way to accomplish it. If they even want to be competitive in those states they have to do some attitude repairs.

Michelle also has some thoughts about the next steps for the Republicans.

"It means the same things for us moderate Republicans. Maybe in this time we can produce a candidate who doesn't alienate the social liberal in us, yet speaks to our concerns about defense, security and the war on terror. I am not completely enamored with the Republican Party. There's a lot of work to be done within the ranks. I'd like to see a full stop of the move towards the religious right.

Perhaps there is the perfect candidate out there for both of us, someone just making his or her way up the political chain right now. With any luck, there will be a day when a president is elected who is liked by both sides of the fence, who is respected by everyone."

I was chatting at a party some years ago with the then chairman of the California Republican Party who told me that the only thing he hates more than a Democrat was a moderate Republican. (He knew my political stance and was jerking my chain a bit, but this was not all kidding.) There is an ugly stain of self-righteous disdain, and anger on the right as well. It has not been as prominent in this election as Bush bashing, but it's there and it costs the party votes. Fratricidal arguments over ideological purity have been the death of the Republicans in California, and could have the same effect in an overconfident party after this win. Gloating is not only rude, it's not justified. An incumbent at a time of war should have rolled to easy reelection, especially against a flawed candidate like Kerry. This could well have gone the other way, but for some GOTV heroics in rural counties and the reluctant loyalty of those moderates the neo-cons like to knock. Bush has called for restraint from gloating and will need to continue to restrain the wild enthusiasms of his fanatics to stay on top of the polls and solidify his party.

(Oh, and Michelle, the candidate you are looking for is running California, speaks with a strong accent and is constitutionally barred from the presidency.)

Posted by Jay on November 3, 2004 at 02:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The second Bush term, a move to centrism?

That's the speculation in this Michael Hirsh article in Newsweek. He reasons that Bush (and the U.S.) is about as extended internationally as he can be, and will need to take a move conciliatory and multi-lateral tack on other fronts. He will want to win back some of the respect and goodwill that the U.S. has spent in the Iraq expedition, if only to shore up his place in history. I think this is an accurate assessment, at least over the longer term. In the next couple of months I expect Bush will spend whatever capital he has gained with his victory on crushing the insurgency in Iraq. There is a tough fight in front of us, or more accurately, in front of the Marines, and it is best to get that over with quickly. The best-case scenario would be a tough, potentially painful but conclusive fight in Fallujah and other insurgent strongholds, a nervous but arguably successful election in Iraq, and four years to continue rebuilding that country and rebuilding our foreign policy. Delay and a "nuanced" approach in Iraq buys us nothing at this point, so we might as well swallow the medicine quickly and get on with the recovery. Expect things to get hot in very soon.

I'll be very pleasantly surprised if Bush moves at all towards the center on domestic issues. He has a stronger majority in Congress but not a dominant one, and has to be concerned about the mid-term election in two years. He also needs to consider what his party runs on if the war in Iraq fades from the front page, as we all hope it will. I would expect some movement on Social Security and health care, and perhaps a little conciliation on some of the more divisive social issues, notably stem cell research. The White House might relax its opposition to some environmental issues that are broadly supported, like air and water quality, will hold the line an other conservation efforts. I would hope that we might see some constructive involvement on climate change concerns but I'm not expecting it. Unless we have some disastrously warm summers or other obvious climatic disasters there is little reason for them to move on this issue.

I'll be very curious to see what changes are made in the cabinet and key White House staff in coming months. Bush has built a very strong and loyal base for the Republicans with the social conservatives, but was able to hold onto the fiscal conservatives and Republican centrists this time largely because of the weakness of the opposition candidate. His father ran against a skilled centrist and lost those swing voters. If Bush "43" is aiming to strengthen his party and help it hold onto power, he would do well to bring some centrists into prominent positions, even better if they are black, female, or strong in the "blue states" (Rudi, are you out there?).

It was an interesting election, and will be an interesting four years.

Posted by Jay on November 3, 2004 at 01:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack