Links 2/9/12

I should do roundups like this more often of the stuff I do on Twitter.
Jose Reyes’ hair sells for $10,200 in charity auction. The hair will play SS for the Mets.
-I largely agree with Victoria and with John McCain about Syria; the US has much stronger case for taking sides in Syria than it did in Libya.
Looking back at the sad death of Ron Luciano.
-The one thing that’s really booming in this economy – despite the best efforts of liberal activists and the Obama Administration to the contrary – is domestic oil and gas production. Frack, baby, frack!
-Science fail: an Oklahoma state Senator is apparently unaware that baby-making requires both a sperm & an egg.
Yeah, sure, and being against Nazis is just what Elie Wiesel does to feel young & virile again. It is true that older people overestimate recurrence of the troubles of their youth. Ascribing this to “testosterone” is juvenile.
-Yet another “better Romney argument than Romney is making” column, this one with good ideas from Jim Pethokoukis. Call it a Prospectus for America.
Dan Abrams debunks some of the myths around Citizens United.
Then: “core symbol of right-wing radicalism” Now: Democratic mainstream. We always knew a lot of the anti-war stuff was just partisanship. Of course, unlike Greenwald, I regard this as a good thing for the country.
Elvis Andrus focused on getting better. This seems like a unique goal to have.
It’s not even remotely inconsistent for Mitt Romney to profit from something while saying it should not be compulsory.
John Edwards’ 2008 presidential campaign is still spending money, even though it’s in debt to taxpayers.
The media’s blind spot on religious liberty.
Vin Scully on not retiring.
-I’d forgotten that, for idiosyncratic reasons, Reagan actually won the popular vote in the GOP primaries in 1968.
The Wilpons try to get the Supreme Court interested in reversing a decision in the Madoff litigation.

Detroit Is Still Burning

The marvelous Matt Labash has a lengthy profile of Detroit that’s both hilarious and heartbreaking. (H/T) On a macro level, conservatives tend to laugh at Detroit as being the Zimbabwe of American cities, a place where all of the worst pathologies of political, economic and cultural liberalism have been allowed to run wild for decades with predictably ghastly results, yet the city’s incompetent and kleptocratic political class is perpetually insulated from accountability by an impenetrable wall of race-mongering. The Reagan Revolution, the reformist governorship of John Engler, the Gingrich/Clinton welfare reforms, the economic booms of 1983-89, 1995-99, and 2003-06…all of these helped put temporary brakes on the downward spiral at times but none did anything to alter the fundamental dynamics that have kept the city stuck in a permanent reverse gear. Detroit’s residents, like Chicago’s, truly have the government they want and deserve.
And yet, as is often true of the truly wrecked places of the world, on an individual level the human tragedies of the place are still worthy of our pity even as they overwhelm even the most optimistic among us (Detroit is almost certainly too far gone to be revived by a Rudy Giuliani or Bobby Jindal type, not that any is on the horizon). Labash combines horrifying statistics with heart-rending anecdotes to bring home precisely how bad things have gotten, and to pay tribute to the Detroiters who still battle the blaze. It’s a must-read.

King Arthur’s Daughter

I am torn on the issue of Caroline Kennedy being appointed to the U.S. Senate to fill out Hillary Clinton’s term. On the one hand, as a New Yorker, I’m appalled. On the other hand, as a Republican, this is the best thing that could possibly happen short of Gov. Paterson deciding he likes the ring of “Senator Spitzer.”
Kennedy is one of scores of wealthy Democrats in this state who have never held public office or accomplished really all that much in the public or private sector; all she has is her family name. That the Democrats are even considering her tells me that they’ve basically fallen into one of two dangerous delusions:
(1) That it’s the 1930s again and all you need is a D next to your name to win;
(2) That Obama’s victory proves that glamor and celebrity are more important than experience, accomplishments or a substantive platform.
I don’t think much of David Paterson, but I’d have thought he has more backbone and independence than to let Kennedy’s base (the media and the Obama camp) bully him into choosing such a poor candidate rather than the other available options, all of whom have more political experience and, frankly, all of whom would pay more (public) political dividends to Paterson, himself an accidental Governor who has yet to receive a mandate from the public.
Now, it is far too late in the game for either party to object on principle to political dynasties, given the scores of political families in this country (few states are without at least one major one). Nor is it wholly a bad thing – we accept politics as a family business for the same reason why we accept Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey jr., Jakob Dylan, Ben Stiller, Kate Hudson…every business is a family business, and the children of the pros do often learn things early. But of course, legacy politics has also given us more than its share of brain-dead empty suits like Bob Casey and Linc Chaffee who could never, ever have gotten elected to public office on their own. And this is still a democracy; even if we’re willing to vote for second or third generation politicos, they still need to prove that they can run the gauntlet of seeking public approval first (George W. Bush, for example, cut his teeth working for his dad’s campaigns but had no public office until he was elected to one by the people of Texas). The idea of just handing office to a 51-year-old who has never, so far as I can tell, accomplished anything in the practice of law or in politics simply because of her famous name is repugnant.
On the other hand, the GOP actually has a pretty strong candidate in Pete King, and Kennedy is about the worst possible matchup to a pugnacious Long Island Irishman with a blue-collar edge. She has no separate and distinct geographic or ethnic base, other than perhaps her gender, and it’s sad that modern feminism’s political icons seem to be women who only got jobs because of who their husbands or fathers are. She can’t match King’s long record in office and his many years sparring on the political talkers, nor his common touch. Kennedy would start out with pole position against King purely on party identification, but from there that’s all she has – her nomination would be the ultimate example of what we have seen a lot of the last month, the hubris of Democrats who think they can never lose what they only just won.

So Much For New York’s Famously Low Taxes

Via Shannon Bell: David Paterson is planning to join the roll of tax hiking Democratic governors with $4 billion in new tax hikes, including consumption taxes and, less objectionably, raising fees for government services, but, to Paterson’s credit, not hiking income tax rates. On the spending side, Paterson is proposing some tough cuts – to Medicaid and education – but also expanding other areas of state spending like welfare and health insurance:

The most significant move was a proposed increase to welfare grants for the first time in 18 years, though more money would not be made available until the beginning of 2010. The administration plans to seek a 30 percent increase over three years, with the eventual cost of the increase exceeding $100 million a year.
The basic welfare grant would eventually rise to $387 a month from $291 for a family of three, or $3,492 per year, where it has remained since 1990.
That the administration was pushing the measure foretold how little money was available this year; the increased welfare grants will have little impact on the budget for the coming fiscal year, which ends in March 2010.
The administration also said it would expand a state-financed health insurance program, Family Health Plus, to cover 19- and 20-year-olds who no longer live with their parents. Enrolling in such programs would also be made easier by, among other things, ending requirements for face-to-face interviews.

As the NY Times notes, Paterson will likely come under pressure from Democrats, especially in the Assembly, to add income tax hikes on the same New York taxpayers also being targeted by Democrats at the national and city levels, and to drop the spending cuts.

Obamises Watch – The Economy

Flip – October 7, 2008:

Brokaw: Sen. Obama, time for a discussion. I’m going to begin with you. Are you saying to Mr. Clark (ph) and to the other members of the American television audience that the American economy is going to get much worse before it gets better and they ought to be prepared for that?
Obama: No, I am confident about the American economy.

Score – November 4, 2008:

In Next Year, Economy Will…
Total Obama McCain Other/No Answer
Get Better (47%) 61% 38% 1%
Get Worse (23%) 43% 54% 3%

Flop – December 6, 2008:

MR. BROKAW: On this program about a year ago, you said that being a president is 90 percent circumstances and about 10 percent agenda. The circumstances now are, as you say, very unpopular in terms of the decisions that have to be made. Which are the most unpopular ones that the country’s going to have to deal with?
PRES.-ELECT OBAMA: Well, fortunately, as tough as times are right now–and things are going to get worse before they get better–there is a convergence between circumstances and agenda.

If you had “32 days” in how long that one would last past Election Day: time to cash in. Funny thing about this “new politics”: it seems so…familiar.

Life Matters

Ross Douthat looks at why the pro-life cause is doing well among younger voters, and specifically why it’s doing much better than opposition to same-sex marriage, which started in a much stronger position and still commands a majority even in liberal states like California.
Of course, if you ask social conservatives which battle they’d rather win, it’s no contest; both issues are important to the future functioning of society, but only one of the two is an issue of life and death. If the same-sex marriage fight has sometimes burned brighter in recent years it’s only because the battle lines have been more fluid and the assault from the left more intense.

An Offer You Can’t Refuse

My RedState colleague Jeff Emanuel looks at the health insurance industry’s effort to get Congress to make it mandatory to buy their product. Matthew Continetti notes that the corporatist involvement of the industry is a key difference from the landscape that confronted HillaryCare in 1994 (it’s much more like the conditions that gave us Bush’s Medicare Part D plan in 2003).

New York Senate Shuffle

So, assuming Hillary Clinton is, in fact, leaving the Senate to become Secretary of State (and assuming, see here, here and here, that she can Constitutionally take the job), that sets off the next round of political merry-go-round for New York: who will be appointed by Governor David Paterson to replace her?
Recall the setting. Hillary was re-elected in 2006, defeating Yonkers Mayor John Spencer; her term would be up in 2012, but Gov. Paterson gets to nominate a replacement, who would then face the voters in a special election in 2010. Gov. Paterson was elected Lieutenant Governor in 2006 and took over as Governor earlier this year after Eliot Spitzer resigned in disgrace. Meanwhile, Chuck Schumer is up for re-election in 2010, meaning that all three major statewide offices will be on the ballot in 2010, two of the three filled with incumbents who would be facing the voters for the first time, an unusually fluid situation.

Continue reading New York Senate Shuffle

This Week In Weed

Apparently, marijuana-selling cafes near schools are too much even for the Dutch, and indeed there is broader concern that the cafes are, predictably, bad news:

The Dutch coffee shop policy has come under fresh criticism after the Dutch cities of Bergen op Zoom and Roosendaal, located near the Belgian border, said they will close all their shops within two years to combat drug tourism and crime.

Is this the last hurrah for the land of the Hemp Festival? Perhaps not, as apparently the inevitable result of the continuation of the legal-pot policy is on the way: the government becoming the nation’s monopoly dope dealer:

HOLLAND is pioneering cannabis plantations to supply the drug to coffee shops in a bid to cut out criminal gangs.
Dozens of Dutch mayors voted for the scheme at a “weed summit” to discuss how to enforce their relaxed drug laws.
Cannabis can be legally sold at licensed shops and people can carry up to five grams without prosecution. But cultivation and dealing is outlawed, which has created an illicit two billion Euro …annual trade. The plantations would supply cannabis legally.

Marijuana policy is a slippery thing to get hold of; there’s a libertarian case to be made for letting people waste their lives getting high on a drug whose ill effects are more similar to those of booze and cigarettes than to those of crack or meth or heroin, and of course there’s the fact that enforcement against such a widely-used and easily-grown substance tends by nature to be arbitrary, invasive, cost-ineffective and shot through with hypocrisy. But legalization, as the Dutch have had time to experience, nonetheless presents its own perils. Personally, I tend to think the issue ought to be left to the most local governments possible, and the Dutch experiment reminds us that a local-control regime can lead even the most libertine communities gradually to wake up and smell the potheads.

Anti-U.S. Protest In Iraq

Peaceful protest. Which says it all, really, about how Iraq has changed since the days of Saddam; the fact that this is Sadr’s people doing what people in democracies do also tells us how far we’ve come in the last 2-3 years.
Next you know, they’ll be taking the subway. Or sending aid to California. Or this:

More here and here (at pp. 4-6). Unfortunately, instead of giving America credit for what our troops (and our allies) have sacrificed to make this all possible, we will now hear four years of this:

Continue reading Anti-U.S. Protest In Iraq

Media Shocked To Discover How Farming Works

In a perfect emblem of (1) how insular the media really is and (2) the national spotlight that will continue to focus on the Governor of Alaska wherever she goes, Sarah Palin did one of those typical silly ceremonies politicians across the country get asked to take part in, and went and pardoned a turkey in advance of Thanksgiving. But while the President has a turkey brought to him, Gov. Palin went to the turkey, handing down the pardon from a barnyard in Wasilla, then giving a news conference to reporters.
Why did this end up in the national news, including a sneering report on MSNBC? Well, the turkey farm went on with its usual business this time of year of slaughtering turkeys for Thanksgiving tables, and cameras caught a farm employee doing just that in the background while Gov. Palin talked to reporters:

The NY Daily News pronounced this a “shocking video” (you can catch the longer video of the whole pardon ceremony from the NY Post, although the Post’s video – via the Anchorage Daily News – has to keep panning away from Gov. Palin to follow the guy slaughtering turkeys).
Folks, this is how farming works: you raise animals, then you kill them and eat them. Here in New York City, we don’t get much exposure to the business end of that process, but people across the country who have farmed or hunted know that it’s part of life, and has been as long as human beings have been eating animals. It’s not a bad thing to have some people in public life who aren’t shocked by where our food comes from.

Freezer Burn

Quin Hillyer tells the inspirational story of Joseph Cao, a Vietnamese immigrant who rose up from his youth in re-education camps after the fall of Saigon and lived to survive the decimation of his community in Hurricane Katrina and the flooding of his house in Hurricane Gustav, and is now the Republican challenger to William Jefferson. Cao has an uphill battle; we’ll see if the voters in that District are willing to give honest government a chance or if they’ll stick with the old loyalty to Jefferson.

Keep Counting Until You Win

If you want an illustration of why Republicans are so mistrustful of Democratic efforts to recount and recount and keep counting until they can overturn the Election Day results (and then immediately stop counting) – as Al Gore tried unsuccessfully to do, and as Christine Gregoire succeeded in doing in the Washington Governor’s race four years ago, look no further than Minnesota and Al Franken’s effort to pick off the 59th Democratic Senate seat by invalidating Norm Coleman’s Election Day victory.
I haven’t covered all the twists and turns of this lawyer-intensive effort, but a few to give you the flavor. Franken has been pressing to have all “undervotes” by Obama voters counted as votes for Franken on the theory that they are Democrats who undoubtedly meant to vote for Franken. The Orwellian name “undervote” aside, these are ballots where there’s no vote marked for the race Franken was running in. It was silly to suggest, in 2000, that it was impossible for voters who voted Democrat in other races to have decided they really didn’t want to vote either for Bush or for Gore – certainly plenty of voters found both candidates unsatisfactory, and if some of them accidentally forgot to vote, it was possible they meant to vote for Nader (or Buchanan – hey, if people could vote for both Bush in 2004 and Obama in 2008, they can surely vote for any number of odd combinations). But it’s positively ludicrous to make this argument in this race. First of all, we heard all year about Obama’s “historic” appeal and whatnot…now we are supposed to believe that it’s impossible that anybody would vote for Obama and not be equally enamored of Al Franken? Second, even losing the state by 11 points, John McCain won 44% of the vote in Minnesota (1.275 million votes) – more than Franken or Norm Coleman, who each got 42% (1.211 million votes). Obviously, a fair number of people on both sides of other races were not as enthused about the two Senate candidates. One reason was that there was a serious third party challenger in the race – Dean Barkley, who got 15% of the vote. A truly accidental undervote could just as easily have been a Barkley voter. This is why it makes sense to count only actual votes as votes.
Then take a look at an example of a Coleman vote that Franken’s people say is unclear.
Now, after all that recounting, resulting in improbably large but not sufficient gains for Franken, what’s his response? “the Franken campaign said the race starts over today tied ‘zero-zero, with 2.9 million to go.'” In other words, no count matters except a count that gives the race to Franken. Repeat as often as necessary to create an excuse to have the count resolved not by Minnesota voters but by the Democratic majority of the U.S. Senate.
On a humorous note, Erick notes that “Franken said that he was ‘cautiously optimistic’ that he would prevail in the recount,” and contrasts that with this quote from one of Franken’s books:

Cautiously optimistic? That’s not good. That’s an optimist’s way of saying, “We’re screwed.” I’ve instructed my wife that if a doctor ever tells her that he’s “cautiously optimistic” about my test results, she is to pull the plug immediately.

Pull away, Al.

The Kiddie Porn Party?

Honestly, I read things like this post at Ace, and it makes me wonder how Republicans ever manage to win elections. Ace notes two stories about aides to Democratic Senators getting arrested for possession of child porn. My reaction to reading the story about the aide to Barbara Boxer this morning was to think that this was something we Republicans could run with. But really, I couldn’t get my head around making this a partisan issue with a straight face. And Ace, who is certainly not above bare-knuckles partisanship, can’t really either:

Personally I don’t think it’s a trend, or indicative of Democratic sexual habits, either. Some people are wired wrong, and it really doesn’t matter what philosophy such people embrace — if they get off on child porn, they’re going to get off on child porn.
But I do happen to know for a fact that had these been Republicans, the media would be greatly interested in the “trend.”

And therein lies our problem. Most of your major conservative bloggers and pundits are going to point to this sort of thing as a media bias story rather than going for the jugular by accusing the Democrats of all being a bunch of perverts. Because that’s exactly how the Left side of the blogosphere plays this sort of game – think of the Mark Foley or Ted Haggard stories in 2006, in Haggard’s case a guy most conservative bloggers had to go Google because we’d never heard of him. All you heard was how these particular screwups were emblematic of something larger. People lingered over this stuff, writing about the stories again and again and again. Foley got replaced in Congress with Tim Mahoney, who turned out to have a horribly messy sex scandal of his own involving payoffs to his mistress. We didn’t get 24/7 media saturation with Mahoney the way we did with Foley, not even the media looking into what the Democratic House leadership knew and when they knew it. Partly that’s because the national media doesn’t want to go there, but maybe, in some sense, because our hearts weren’t really in making it so. And until that changes, we’re still going to have a serious online activism deficit on the Right.

The Budget By The Numbers

Time for some hard numbers to follow on this post discussing “fiscal conservatism” and provide some historical perspective on the GOP’s successes and failures in controlling taxes and spending. Here’s the budget presented as a percentage of GDP since 1947, along with the partisan control of the three elected branches. The fiscal year numbers generaly refer to the year after the budget was passed, as discussed below the fold – thus, for example, Reagan was elected in 1980, took office in 1981, and his first budget was Fiscal Year 1982. Given the ongoing nature of appropriations, 2008 and 2009 are still estimated numbers. I left off the estimates for beyond that, since those will be Obama’s budgets and nobody knows yet for certain what his budgets or the economy will look like, and anyone who makes any sort of fiscal projections that far ahead has no clue what they are doing. In addition to revenues, spending and the deficit I added in the national debt and expenditures on interest to give some perspective on the impact over time on the budget of deficit spending.
I continue to believe that the number that matters most is spending as a percentage of GDP, which peaked over 20% twice under all-Democrat governance (the first time, on the eve of the GOP wave of the 1952 elections), started booming regularly above 20% after the Democrats got their post-Watergate majorities in Congress (Fiscal Year 1975, actually the budget the year of Watergate before those elections when the White House was prostrate, saw spending spike from 18.7% to 21.3% in a single year) and peaked at 23.5% in the second year of the Reagan defense buildup (and while the economy was still in recession), when the GOP held the White House and the Senate, and bottomed out in 2000, Clinton’s second term, when the GOP held both houses of Congress and the economy was riding the dot-com boom. Spending under Bush – driven partly but not wholly by wars and entitlements – crept back up to pre-Gingrich levels, and looks to set new post-1994 highs since Pelosi and Reid took over. One of the lessons of which is the influence of Congress, and specifically the House, on the budget. We’re creeping back towards 21% for the first time since the last time we had unified Democratic governance.
As to taxes, fiscal years 1998-2000 under Clinton were the all-time high watermark for the nation’s tax burden, peaking at 20.9% of GDP and setting the stage for Bush to run on a tax cut platform. Taxes under Bush bottomed out in the first year of the full Bush tax cuts at 16.4%, the lowest share of GDP since 1951, but have been rising since then with economic growth through FY 2007 (unlike spending, taxes are directly linked to the economy, but the distribution of economic activity still impacts tax receipts). Obviously that will abate with the economy’s decline this year.
The deficit, of course, is the number you’re familiar with; it peaked the same year as federal spending (FY 1983), dropped by two thirds from FY 2004 to FY 2007, but is rising rapidly again since the GOP Congress left town. The national debt has never really recovered from its sustained growth from FY 1982-FY1996, but lower interest rates have made the costs of that debt much more tractable (which also means that if rates ever return to late-1970s levels, the federal taxpayer is doomed).
Where do we go from here? On spending, the item most directly under political control, I’ll be very surprised if we’re not above 22% by Obama’s second budget (and that’s assuming that the checks he plans to cut to non-taxpayers are not counted as “spending”). Tax revenues will probably drop in the next year or two, as the chaos in the financial and housing markets have slashed the tax base, and that’s before we get to the impact of rising marginal and investment tax rates.
Anyway, the bottom line here is pretty much what you’d expect: Republicans have had better luck cutting taxes than spending; a GOP Congress and specifically a GOP House is more important to fiscal discipline even than a GOP President (this would be even more dramatic if we looked at the size of the GOP caucus in the House); and unified Democratic governance is a recipe for growth of the federal government across the board.

Continue reading The Budget By The Numbers

“Fiscal Conservatives” Unclear On The Concept

The Washington Post, looking at the GOP rout in the Northeast, sells the hoary old myth that there is a large and coherent “fiscally conservative and socially liberal” faction that got ignored by the national party:

What happened, say some current and former Republican leaders, is that the national party moved away from the issues of fiscal conservatism, small government and lower taxes. As the base of the party shifted to the South and West, social conservatives and evangelicals moved to the forefront, and issues such as abortion, school prayer and gay marriage took primacy on the national party’s agenda — in the process turning off more moderate voters in this part of the country.
“I’m a Northeasterner. I grew up in New York City,” said Christopher Healy, chairman of the Connecticut Republican Party. “The evangelical members of the party have their issues, and their issues are important to them.” But here, he said, “the Northeastern brand of Republican philosophy . . . is based on smaller government and less taxes. We’re not interested in what’s going on in the bedroom.”
Former senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island was the epitome of the moderate-to-liberal northeastern Republican — strongly pro-choice on abortion, a supporter of gay marriage and stem cell research, an opponent of the war in Iraq. As a fiscal conservative, Chafee opposed President Bush’s tax cuts.

I’ll leave aside for now the social-issue side of this argument (hey, when did Congress vote on school prayer?), the short answer to which is that smaller government and more federalism is the best way to reassure Northeastern voters that they can support social conservatives nationally without disturbing their own states’ social policies at home, and focus on the problem with the use of the term “fiscal conservative”: it has no fixed meaning.

Continue reading “Fiscal Conservatives” Unclear On The Concept

BUSINESS: Liar’s Poker Folds

I’ve been waiting for Michael Lewis to write the definitive account of the credit crisis. This is an excellent start.
Here’s a few of his vignettes on the housing market madness at the foundation of the crisis, although he has much more on how it worked its way through the financial system:

Continue reading BUSINESS: Liar’s Poker Folds

Holliday On The Road To Fremont

Now, we’re starting to get some real activity in the baseball offseason. The big news is a projected, non-finalized blockbuster deal sending Matt Holliday to the A’s for a package that reportedly includes Greg Smith, Huston Street and Carlos Gonzalez. I’ll try to look at the on-the-field angle once we have a final report of the players involved, but this is an interesting deal from the perspective of analyzing the A’s franchise, since it represents the A’s doing the big-market thing and packaging young players for an established star, represented by Scott Boras, who is going to command a huge salary on the free agent market after the 2009 season (much like when they acquired Johnny Damon, who promptly had a lousy year and then left). It remains to be seen whether Lew Wolff is planning to pull the trigger on a big contract for Holliday now that the A’s are heading for a new stadium and a new city.
On that subject, Fremont Mayor Bob Wasserman ran for re-election as a supporter of finally bringing the A’s to Fremont by 2012 (his opponent was against the plan), and Wasserman’s victory is widely seen as a victory for the new stadium. Wolff sees it that way, and is still hopeful that the park can be ready by 2011:

Despite challenges to building a new baseball stadium, Oakland A’s owner Lew Wolff said “we can get it done” in Fremont.
Wolff said Monday at a luncheon of the Associated Press Sports Editors that, “We’re getting close to receiving the first drafts of the environmental impact reports,” according to “We’ve run into lots of things, which every developer does in California.”
Some Fremont resident concern about traffic and public transportation access to the project, for example, has dogged the project.
Still, Wolff cited last week’s election results in Fremont as a development that broke in his favor. Voters in the city re-elected incumbent Mayor Bob Wasserman, a strong supporter of a plan by the Oakland Athletics to build a $500 million stadium surrounded by 3,150 residential units and enough retail and restaurant space to fill almost nine football fields.

The bad news:

Wolff would change the team’s name to the Athletics at Fremont, and the classic brick ballpark, scheduled for completion in 2012, would be named Cisco Field after the computer networking company.

Ugh. I suppose “at” conveys their transience better than “of” … given the franchise’s history, they may as well just call them the Traveling Athletics and be done with it.

How To Tell The “Culture Wars” Are Not Over

Peter Beinart had an article in the Washington Post the Sunday before Election Day arguing that the culture wars are over; according to Beinart, Sarah Palin was failing to connect with voters because

Palin’s brand is culture war, and in America today culture war no longer sells….Although she seems like a fresh face, Sarah Palin actually represents the end of an era. She may be the last culture warrior on a national ticket for a very long time.

Beinart is wrong – completely wrong. We can tell that the “culture wars” are not over because Democrats and liberals are still fighting them. We know culture warriors won’t disappear from national politics because one of them just won the presidential election. And if Beinart means that conservatives are losing the culture wars, that’s far from a certain bet, and one the Democrats would be ill-advised to take.

Continue reading How To Tell The “Culture Wars” Are Not Over

Score Another One For The Palin Critics

Apparently, according to Newsweek, Gov. Palin refused to appear onstage with a New Hampshire Senator and a New Hampshire Senate candidate because they are pro-choice.

Except that the Senator in question, John Sununu, is pro-life.

And except that the other candidate wasn’t running for the Senate (Newsweek may have missed this, but Sununu was up for re-election, so there were not two Republicans running for the job this year).

And except that she did do public appearances with both men.
And except that she did make public appearances with other pro-choicers.
But you know, other than getting basically every possible fact wrong, Newsweek’s doing OK there.


Not Letting Up

For conservatives and Republicans tempted to follow Fred Barnes and lay low a while, just notice what sites like the Huffington Post are up to these days: the #1 topic over at HuffPo right now, by the frequency of tags used, is “Sarah Palin”:
The Left will not let up its assault on Gov. Palin for any “honeymoon” period. We on the Right will indeed need both patience and perspective, as Barnes suggests, and elected Republicans will surely need to find some common ground with the new Administration. But we’re all adults here; let us not pretend that calls for “unity” are intended to be mutual.

Daley Thoughts

If you’ve read my Integrity Gap series on Barack Obama, or lengthier treatments like David Freddoso’s book, you will be familiar with what was probably the most scandalously under-reported story of 2008, which is President-Elect Obama’s deep and longstanding ties to machine politics in Illinois, most notably to the Daley machine in Chicago. You’ll also recognize two other key themes: Obama’s ties to politically well-connected housing interests ranging from slumlords like Tony Rezko to Beltway powerhouses like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to ACORN, and Obama’s practice of providing official favors to his benefactors.
Last week we saw the first sign of these dynamics playing out in Obama’s first staff hire, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, a Chicago pol and former “senior adviser and chief fundraiser” for Mayor Daley who made hundreds of thousands of dollars sitting on Freddie Mac’s board during a time when the board was criticized by the SEC for failing to stop the company’s accounting irregularities and shady campaign donations. * *
Now, the second act: Obama reportedly wants Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a/k/a “Public Official A” in the Rezko indictment, to appoint as his replacement in the U.S. Senate Valerie Jarrett, the co-head of Obama’s transition team. Jarrett, of course, is a former Daley aide and Chicago housing developer who gave Michelle Obama her first big job working for Mayor Daley.
Let’s recall Jarrett’s involvement in Grove Parc Plaza, one of the conspicuous failures (at least from the perspective of the tenants, rather than the developers) among the housing projects built by Obama’s friends:

Continue reading Daley Thoughts

Joe Biden Was Right

…for the first time in decades, in fact, on foreign policy: within the first day after the election, Russia and Iran both rattled their sabers to start testing President-Elect Obama. And an Obama foreign policy adviser reacted immediately by backing down in the face of the Russian statement. (It will be good to have Obama start getting his advisers confirmed so we don’t have to keep sifting through his hundreds of foreign policy and economic “advisers” trying to figure out which ones speak for him).
Welcome to the big leagues, Mr. Obama. The rest of us have been given no choice but to depend on you.

No Class

The President-Elect wasted no time kicking Republicans when they’re down with his petty, graceless crack today (for which he had to apologize) at the expense of 87-year-old Nancy Reagan, last seen leaving the hospital a few weeks back with a broken pelvis:

Obama was asked at his press conference today if he’d spoken to all the “living” presidents.
“I have spoken to all of them who are living,” he responded. “I didn’t want to get into a Nancy Reagan thing about doing any seances.”

As Ben Smith notes, Obama’s left-wing talking points on this one weren’t even accurate. But hey, I guess sneering at the Reagans is “in” again.

Crichton On The Rags

Patterico goes to the archives with a quote from the late and very much lamented Michael Crichton on why we believe the newspapers even though we know better:

Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward-reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.
In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.

One of my recurring themes on the media is that the preference for liberal politics – big government, social liberalism, political correctness, disdain of conservatives and the religious – is really only the tip of the iceberg of what is wrong with the mainstream media. The state of sportswriting, business and legal journalism, pretty much anything that gets covered in the papers and on TV is subject not only to political bias but also to a whole host of other individual and institutional biases and prejudices and axes to grind, laziness, sloppiness, failures of substantive knowledge and logical reasoning…the blogosphere has no shortage of flaws of its own, but the fact that so many bloggers have had careers doing things (the law, the military, business, medicine, etc.) means in general that you get a class of people who have substantive knowledge and exposure to more rigorous disciplines than the typical journalist. Crichton, with his medical background, brought that same advantage to his craft as a novelist, and we were richer for his work (I read a whole bunch of his books; my favorites were The Great Train Robbery and Disclosure).

The Honeymooner

It’s rather poignant to watch the media love-fest over Obama’s ‘honymoon’ period – the fawning over Michelle’s pricey fashions, the breathless announcements of how wonderful everything will be as hope soars on clouds of euphoria – and wonder how the Bush presidency would have started if we’d been given a beginning like this, rather than the corrosive and unrelenting assault that consumed his presidency from Election Day 2000 onward. I don’t think there’s a better metaphor than the NY Daily News running front-page headlines about the Obamas bringing a dog to the White House while Bush’s dog Barney bites a Reuters reporter. Victor Davis Hanson: “When I hear a partisan insider like Paul Begala urging at the 11th hour that we now rally around lame-duck Bush in his last few days, I detect a sense of apprehension that no Democrats would wish conservatives to treat Obama as they did Bush for eight years.” H/T. Indeed, they expect that we won’t; they count on it. Ace, unsurprisingly, is having none of the pleas for unilateral unity:

Sorry, folks. No frakkin’ sale. We remember “Jesusland.” And stuff like this. And if you have a few hours, scroll through Malkin’s “Bush Derangement Syndrome” archive. We remember everything – being called racist warmongers, Christianist nutbags, racists, and all the rest of the vitriol you folks threw at us in your “AAAHHH CHIMPY MCBUSHITLER HALLIBURTON IS THE EVILEST” stage of political development.
You spent the last eight years engaged in a disgusting orgy of divisive political hatred and now you want to play nice and pretend we’re all united now? I for one am not going to treat President Obama the way you treated President Bush. That doesn’t mean, though, I’m going to just forgive and forget the fact that you’ve polluted the political landscape with your bile and patchouli-stanking spittle.

I’ve already said my own bit on how the Right should respond. We certainly should not have any illusions that a good deed today will ever be repaid. And we can all enjoy a laugh at the whiplash on the other side. Goldberg: “Alas, that [dissent is patriotic] standard only works for liberals. When conservatives dissent it’s called being ‘divisive.'” Lileks: “I’m off to the Mall to sell razor blades so people can scrape off their ‘Question Authority’ bumper stickers.”

Where His Bread Is Buttered

Rahm Emanuel, Barack Obama’s first and most important staff hire as Chief of Staff: on the wrong side of the credit crisis, but the right side for his own pocketbook. Shocking, I know. The good news about making his first pick a hyper-partisan Chicago pol with a scandalous financial past is that it does away with the whole “new politics” pretense right from the outset. Even the NYT notes that “Democrats are second-guessing one of his first and most important post-election decisions: Why is he asking Representative Rahm Emanuel – “Rahmbo,” one of the capital’s most in-your-face partisan actors – to be his chief of staff?” Obama will be coming for the GOP with the long knives, and Republicans will need to go into that with our eyes open. Washington never changes, after all; only the names change, and so far those aren’t changing much either.
Then there’s Rahm’s plan for compulsory national service. And they said Republicans were the ones plotting to bring back the draft.
On the upside, Emanuel supported the Iraq War:

On Iraq, Emanuel has steered clear of the withdraw-now crowd, preferring to criticize Bush for military failures since the 2003 invasion. “The war never had to turn out this way,” he told me at one of his campaign stops. In January 2005, when asked by Meet the Press’s Tim Russert whether he would have voted to authorize the war-“knowing that there are no weapons of mass destruction”-Emanuel answered yes. (He didn’t take office until after the vote.) “I still believe that getting rid of Saddam Hussein was the right thing to do, okay?” he added.

If that signals Obama sobering up on Iraq now that he actually has to govern, all to the good. The nation needs the Democrats to govern responsibly. It’s not like the anti-war faction has anywhere else to go, after all.

Emanuel In Or Not In As Chief of Staff

The first major personnel announcement of the new Obama Administration is out, and the word is that Congressman Rahm Emanuel has been offered the post of Obama’s chief of staff. The announcement didn’t exactly go off smoothly, as this NBC report shows:

From NBC’s Andrea Mitchell A senior Obama advisor confirms to NBC News that Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel has accepted the job of Chief of Staff for the Obama White House.

*** UPDATE *** In an email to NBC News, Emanuel spokeswoman Sarah Feinberg denies the reporting that Emanuel has accepted the chief of staff job.

If you’re reading tea leaves for what kind of Administration Obama will run, Emanuel does not exactly embody “new politics” and a “post-partisan” future. He’s a Chicago Democrat who worked as a “senior adviser and chief fundraiser” (his words) for Mayor Daley and later worked in the Clinton White House, and he’s known as a hardball-playing scorched-earth arch-partisan in the Tom DeLay mold. He’s been widely seen as a possible future successor to Nancy Pelosi.
Will Emanuel take the job? If his spokesperson is publicly denying that he’s taken it, that’s basically a public slapdown to Obama’s people for jumping the gun in leaking his name, and it’s certainly a sign of initial dysfunction in the naming of what is probably the single most important staff position for a new president who will be facing a sharp learning curve as a new executive.
UPDATE: Allahpundit has more background (with links) on Emanuel.
SECOND UPDATE: After the initial fumbling, Politico reports that Emanuel accepts the job.

BASEBALL/ President Obama and the National Pastime

Lester Munson at ESPN has a long and interesting look at what Obama’s election means for baseball and the world of sports in general, including his likely strong support for the 2016 Olympics in Chicago:

Japanese Olympic officials already have expressed their concern that Obama could turn the tide in favor of Chicago when the IOC votes in October.
“Mr. Obama is popular and good at speeches, so things could get tough for Japan,” said Tomiaki Fukuda, a senior Japanese Olympic Committee board member.
If Sen. John McCain had won the election, the U.S. bid to play host to the 2016 Olympics might have been negatively affected. Many IOC members remember McCain’s scathing investigation of the bribery scandal involving IOC members who helped award the 2002 Winter Olympics to Salt Lake City. Two members of the Salt Lake City bid committee were indicted, and McCain’s investigation led to major changes in the IOC and the U.S. Olympic Committee. Many IOC members remain bitter over McCain’s aggressive efforts for reform.
An Olympics in his home city of Chicago in the late summer of 2016 would be a grand finale for an Obama presidency that would be about to wind down if he were re-elected to a second term.

(OK, I didn’t have to include that paragraph about McCain, give me more than a day on that reflex…the irony is that the bribery investigation led to Mitt Romney taking over the Salt Lake City Games, which led to Romney’s political rise – talk about your chains of unforeseen consequences).

The 2012 GOP Field (First Call)

As promised, here’s my initial thoughts on what the Republican field will look like in four years. Obviously, there are many variables along the way, ranging from how beatable Obama looks to the 2010 midterms; I’m just forecasting with the known knowns we have today. As usual there will probably be 10 or so candidates, but from where we sit today there look to be four slots from which to put together a credible primary campaign:
(1) The Populist Candidate: With its Washington leadership beheaded, the GOP is likely to become more of a populist and culturally conservative party in the next four years. Mike Huckabee showed this year the power and the limitations of a pure populist campaign, far exceeding expectations with nearly no resources or name recognition (although Huck was out of step with the populists on one of the major causes of grassroots frustration with DC, immigration). Against the backdrop of a tax-spend-regulate Obama Administration, a crucial challenge will be squaring populism with the GOP’s need to appeal to economic and fiscal conservatives to expand out of the Huck-size niche. Realistically, the populist candidate is likely to end up as the most moderate serious candidate in the field.
As things stand today, Sarah Palin is the obvious populist candidate and, for now, the very-very-early frontrunner for the 2012 nomination, given her now-massive name recognition (the woman’s every TV appearance is a ratings bonanza), amazing talents as a retail politician, appeal to the base, and the GOP tendency towards nominating the next in line. Granted, only two candidates in the part century (Bob Dole and Franklin D. Roosevelt) have won a major party nomination after being the VP nominee for a losing ticket (not counting Mondale, who’d already been VP), those two waited 12 and 20 years before doing so, respectively, and recent history has been unkind to those who tried (Edwards 2008, Lieberman 2004 – see also Quayle 2000).
I’ll expand another day on the challenges facing Gov. Palin – the short answer is that inexperience is the easiest thing in the world to fix, but she’ll have to face tougher budgetary times in Alaska in light of falling oil revenues, she’ll have to withstand what is likely to be an ongoing national campaign by the Democrats to take her down or hobble her re-election efforts to cut off the likeliest threat to Obama, and she’ll have to develop and sell her own, independent agenda and demonstrate a greater breadth and depth of knowledge on national politics than are required from the running mate slot. Upside in the primaries: the socially conservative, moose-hunting hockey mom could potentially be well-suited to the early GOP primary/caucus electorates in Iowa, New Hampshire and Michigan.
(2) The Establishment Candidate: The GOP by tradition tends to fall in behind whoever is the candidate of the establishment – of country clubs and boardrooms and Beltway insiders. Part of being a Republican, of course, is having the maturity to understand that being the establishment candidate is not a bad thing. But an angry grassroots is going to take some serious persuading to pick another establishment figure.
The best establishment candidate should be Jeb Bush, for a variety of reasons, but four years won’t be enough – if any length of time is – to rebuild the Bush brand within the GOP, let alone the general electorate. That leaves Mitt Romney as the logical next step; Mitt is currently out of office and thus less equipped to get more experience, but he’ll have the money and energy to spend four years staking himself out as a consistent conservative voice and putting the distance of time between 2012 and the flip-flop charges of 2008. South Dakota Senator John Thune is also sometimes mentioned, but after 1964, 1996 and now 2008, the GOP has hopefully learned its lesson about nominating legislators for President, especially sitting Senators. Newly re-elected Indiana Governor and former Bush budget director Mitch Daniels (see here and here) will have his name come up but more likely as a VP nominee.
(3) The Full-Spectrum Conservative: The Fred Thompson role from 2008 but one that will pack a lot more potential appeal in 2012. Bobby Jindal is the best of the lot, but while he’s already got an impressive resume, Jindal’s so young (he’s 37, which makes him the age Romney was in 1985), so he can afford to wait out several more election cycles; he’s up for re-election in 2011, which makes running in 2012 very problematic; and he really and genuinely wants to stay in Louisiana long enough to make real changes in his beloved home state’s legendarily corrupt and dysfunctional political culture. The other main contender for this slot is South Carolina’s Governor Mark Sanford, now in his second term as Governor after 3 in Congress. SC is the most favorable turf for a candidate of this type among the early primary states, so with Sanford running as a favorite son he could basically block out any other challengers, and if he doesn’t run for re-election in 2010 (offhand I don’t know whether he’s term-limited), he’d have a logistical advantage over Palin, who will presumably still be in office as governor of a geographically remote state.
(4) The National Security Candidate: After four years of Obama, there’s also likely to be strong sentiment for adult leadership on national security. Traditionally, the GOP has tended to prioritize this issue (in 2008, both McCain and Giuliani ran primarily as national security candidates). But especially with Senators in disfavor, the supply of candidates with more national security credentials than a typical Governor is short – most of the Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld types in the party will be past their prime by 2012, and I continue to doubt that Condi Rice could be a viable candidate for a multitude of reasons. The name you’re likely to hear is CENTCOM commander General David Petraeus, but Gen. Petraeus – who I assume will remain on active duty for another year or two, at least, and who President Obama dare not fire – has no political experience and no known domestic-policy profile (we don’t even know if he’s a Republican). My guess is that if we nominate a governor in 2012, Gen. Petraeus will be much in demand as a running mate. After that, I’m not sure who will even try to fill this slot in the primaries.
Sorry, but that’s the list; the no-more-McCains sentiment among the base will make it impossible for someone like Tim Pawlenty to mount a credible campaign as a moderate, nobody will bother trying to re-create the crippling damage inflicted on Rudy Giuliani from running with a record as a social liberal, and no Ron Paul type candidate (especially Ron Paul) is ever going to make a serious dent. It’s those four slots or bust.
And I, for one, am definitely not committing yet to who I’ll support as between Palin or a Sanford or Jindal run or maybe somebody else (obviously I’m not a Mitt fan). There’s two long years ahead of us before that choice begins to arise.

Obama Administration Survival Guide

The nation awakens today to a grim day (although less grim than it might have been, as the late Senate races come in and the prognosis for a decent-sized GOP resistance looks much better). But America has endured worse. Here’s 12 ways I recommend that conservatives and Republicans prepare to face the next four years under President Obama (yeah, get used to that one):

(1) Oppose Obama, Not America: The absolute wrong way to react to life in the minority is … well, what we saw from too many people on the Left the past 8 years: calling everyone from the President on down to individual soldiers and Marines war criminals, parroting the propaganda of our enemies, exposing classified national security secrets on the front pages of the newspapers, and generally doing whatever possible to stymie the national defense and convince the nation and the world that America is the bad guy. We’re better than that. When Obama fails to act to defend America and its interests and allies, or violates the basic common-sense principles of national security and foreign policy, we will of course be unsparing in our criticism. But we should not emulate the Left; indeed, the day may even come when Obama needs defending from the Left for doing what needs to be done, and we certainly want to encourage him to take actions that provoke that reaction.

(2) No Chicken-Hawking: This is a corollary of #1: given his shaky draft history, Bill Clinton at times appeared afraid of criticism over deploying the military on grounds that he didn’t serve. We should never make Obama feel that he should blanch at defending the nation simply because he never wore the uniform (fortunately, on that score, Obama’s defining personality trait is hubris). We’ve had civilian leadership before, we’ll have it again.

(3) Don’t Question The Verdict: Was there voter fraud in yesterday’s election? Were there other shenanigans both legal and illegal? I’m sure there were, and others who follow those stories will no doubt be expanding on them in the weeks to come. Chronicling specific instances of misconduct is an important service – to expose the miscreants and their connections to the Obama campaign, to punish and deter and provide a basis for someday preventing a recurrence (although don’t expect the Obama era to see anything but massive resistance to taking even the most tepid steps against voter fraud). And likewise, of course, there is still plenty more to be examined in Obama’s fundraising, to say nothing of the untruths he told to get elected and the really shameful behavior of the media.
But fundamentally, he got more votes where it mattered and he won the race. Supporters of Gore and Kerry who refused to accept those realities in 2000 and 2004 ended up doing a lot of lasting damage to public confidence in our electoral system. The step of challenging the results of an election is a grave one not to be taken without serious evidence. Let’s not repeat their mistakes with conspiracy theories.

(4) Don’t Blame The Voters: Yes, it’s tempting to go off into the place where Democrats were fuming about “Jesusland” four years ago. And yes, Obama got a lot of votes for bad reasons or from vacuous people. Hey, there are a lot of stupid people in the world, and in America, and a fair number of them vote – they vote when we win, they vote when we lose. Winston Churchill was a great believer in democracy as the least-worst system of government, but he’s also the guy who once said that the best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.

For all that, it’s counterproductive to lose faith in the collective wisdom of the American voting public over the long term. Even when the public makes a mistake, it usually has a reason – and while electing Obama will be clearly shown over time to have been a mistake, the GOP also has some serious introspection to do about how we let things come to the point of giving the public a reason to do what it did. And we need to retain faith that rebuilding our party around the principles that have succeeded in the past, and adapting those principles for the world of the next decade, will win them back.

(5) Don’t Get Mad, Get Even: Yes, it’s a cliche, but unfocused rage goes bad places. There’s a lot of work to do to prepare the ground for the GOP to come back as it did in 1994, 1980, and 1966-68. The Left drew first blood on the Bush second term only a few weeks after the election, with the Bernard Kerik nomination. We’ll have a target-rich environment to work with as the kind of urban machine politics the Democrats have made famous comes to the White House, and we’ll have fun doing it.

(6) We Play For 2010, Not 2012: I’ll be writing up shortly my early thoughts about the GOP presidential field in 2012, and plenty of others will too. Do it, get it out of your system, come to the aid of the people who will make up future presidential fields, but whatever you do, don’t get into primary-season, my-gal/guy-or-the-highway mode again until we are through the 2010 elections. There will be a need in the party’s future for Palin and Jindal and Sanford and Huck and Mitt and all the rest; we’re all in this together.

(7) Prioritize: More on this later, but Obama and the Congressional Democrats are going to have a long list of issues they want to press, and we can’t stop all of them. The GOP needs to divide issues into four buckets:

a. Things we are prepared to go to the mat to stop

b. Things we want to force the Democrats to commit themselves to so we can take the dispute to the voters

c. Things, however modest, we actually think we can accomplish even with the Democrats in power

d. Things we want to propose as positive agenda items even knowing they’ll go nowhere, to lay out our own roadmap for the future.

(8) Watch Your Budget: We’re all going to have to prepare for tougher economic times, plus the burden of Obama’s tax hikes. Don’t overextend your own finances.

(9) Grow A Thick Hide and Get Your Taxes in Order: Joe Wurtzelbacher won’t be the last Obama critic to feel the weight of government intrusion for standing up to Obama. David Freddoso and Stanley Kurtz won’t be the last conservative journalists to have their investigations stonewalled and campaigns organized to drive them off the radio. And get used to being called a racist, as everyone who gets in Obama’s way is, sooner or later. Understand now that you will need to stomach all that and more, and you won’t get rattled.

(10) Buy More Life Insurance: Well, at least if, like me, you live or work in a city that’s a top terrorist target, and have roots too deep to leave. Our risk tolerance will have to go up.

(11) Pray: Well, this one speaks for itself. Pray especially for the unborn.

(12) Get On Living: Life is short and there’s more to it than politics. We’ll need committed activists, and as a whole our movement will need to be relentless – but thinking about politics too much is unhealthy, especially when you have a long wait ahead for any progress. For my part, starting tomorrow I’ll be back to doing more baseball blogging. Take a break whenever you need one, spend more time with your family. And teach your kids that every minute of life is worth it even when the world seems to have gone mad. Many generations before us have done so in tougher times than these.

Karl Rove Has Been Vindicated

One of the most unambiguous conclusions from Obama’s victory? Karl Rove was right.
For the past 8 years, we’ve had a debate over the best political strategy for approaching a national election. There were, in essence, two contending theories.
Karl Rove’s theory – one he perhaps never explicitly articulated, but which was evident in the approach to multiple elections, votes in Congress, and even international coalitions run by his boss, George W. Bush – was, essentially, that you win with your base. You start with the base, you expand it as much as possible by increasing turnout, and then you work outward until you get past 50% – but you don’t compromise more than necessary to get to that goal.
Standing in opposition to the Rove theory was what one might call the Beltway Pundit theory, since that’s who were the chief proponents of the theory. The Beltway Pundit theory was, in essence, that America has a great untapped middle, a center that resists ideology and partisanship and would respond to a candidate who could present himself as having a base in the middle of the electorate.
Tonight, we had a classic test of those theories. Barack Obama is nothing if not the pure incarnation on the left of the Rovian theory. He ran in the Democratic primaries as the candidate of the ‘Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.’ His record was pure left-wing all the way. He seems to have brought out a large number of new base voters, in particular African-Americans responding to his racial appeals and voting straight-ticket D. As I’ll discuss in a subsequent post, the process of getting to 50.1% for a figure of the left is more complex and involves more concerted efforts at concealment and dissimulation, but the basic elements of the Rovian strategy are all there.
John McCain, by contrast, was the Platonic ideal Beltway Pundit-style candidate, and his defeat by Obama ensures that his like will not win a national nomination any time soon, in either party. McCain spent many years establishing himself as a pragmatic moderate, dissenting ad nauseum and without a consistent unifying principle from GOP orthodoxy; McCain had veered to the center simply whenever he felt that the Republican position was too far. McCain held enough positions that were in synch with the conservative base to make him minimally acceptable, but nobody ever regarded him as a candidate to excite the conservative base.
Now, it’s true enough that the partisan environment was terribly challenging for Republicans in 2008. That’s why so many of us on the Republican side were willing to go with McCain in the first place. But here’s the thing: if you believed the Beltway Pundit theory, that shouldn’t matter. If a significant and reliable bloc of voters consistently preferred the moderate, centrist candidate over the more ideological and partisan candidate, in the same way that conservatives prefer the more conservative candidate and liberals prefer the more liberal candidate, you would have a base from which a candidate like McCain could consistently prevail against a candidate like Obama, and partisan identification would be trumped by moderation and proven bipartisanship.
But there is no such base. Centrist, moderate, independent, voters are generally “swing” voters, always have been and always will be. Among those who are at least modestly well-informed, they are a heterogenous lot – some libertarian, some socially conservative but economically populist, some fiscally conservative and socially liberal, some isolationist and anti-immigrant, etc. It’s not possible to make of them a “base” – the only way to approach the center is to lock down the real base at one end or the other of the political spectrum, and then reach out to voters in the middle, understanding the real tradeoff that what appeals to one “swing” voter may be anathema to others.
Of course, the dismal approval ratings of the Bush Administration at the end of its days testify to the serious arguments over whether Rove and his boss chose the wrong mix of reaches out to the center as they built their “compassionate conservative” coalition; that’s a separate debate. It is likewise a fair debate over the ways in which future conservative candidates can and should make compromises to get the GOP back to that 50.1%. But what’s not open for debate, after tonight, is the sheer futility of trying to build a coalition from the center out. Because the center won’t stand still for any candidate.

Welcome Back, Carter

Well, we have our answer now: at this writing, it’s pretty clear that Barack Obama has won the Presidency, bringing back the Carter Administration with a vengeance. Needless to say, I’ll have a number of postmortem posts on this, but don’t expect them all in one gulp, as there’s a number of angles to approach here over the next several days and weeks.

Optimistic To The End

I’m not making an electoral college prediction, other than to reiterate yet again that whoever wins Pennsylvania, wins the election. If pressed, my popular vote prediction would be Obama 52, McCain 48, but of course I remain hopeful things will go differently.
This, which I’ve seen linked in a few places, makes the argument for why Obama is toast, based in part on looking at where the candidates have been traveling. It may be right; I can’t know (they gotta go somewhere). All I can say is, the people on the Right writing these things are going to look like either fools or geniuses in a few hours. (Although I think the comparison of the Kerry and Obama media strategies is spot-on either way, and I’m not endorsing his assault on Nate Silver – Nate has his obvious biases, but he’s a data guy, and like Gerry Daly in 2004, he’s working with the data, right or wrong. I’ve already had to eat crow once this year when I challenged the PECOTA system’s projection that the Rays would win 88 games).

Palin Power

Unsurprising poll result of the year: Sarah Palin is more popular with Republican voters than John McCain. 71% of GOP voters say Palin was the right choice for VP, compared to 65% supporting McCain as the best choice for the Presidential nominee, 74% of Democrats who say Obama was the right choice, and 76% of Democrats who say Biden was the right choice. (It’s perhaps unsurprising given the nature of primary battles that both parties’ presidential candidates face more lingering doubters in the ranks).

“People who love their country can change it!”

Just in case you were wondering whether the Obama campaign’s “change” slogan means changing the government or changing America…here’s an actual SMS message received by one of my RedState colleagues today from the Obama campaign:

People who love their country can change it! Make sure everyone you know votes for Barack today.

Contrast John McCain:

My country has never had to prove anything to me, my friends…I’ve always had faith in it and I’ve been humbled and honored to serve it.

America remains, in Reagan’s words, a country with a government, not the other way around. Let’s hope it stays that way.