Republican Identity Crisis

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I had thought that if nothing came up I was going to comment on this article for my next installment.

http://www.salon.com/2014/06/01/help_us_thomas_piketty_the_1s_sick_and_twisted_new_scheme/

When I saw this many of the thoughts coincided so I figured to write about both.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/06/09/gop-s-biggest-2016-problem-clinton-s-numbers-among-white-voters.html

I believe the Republican party is an identity crisis. I believe it is a problem of message rather than principles but in a way it’s simply a lack of principles.  First let me address Hillary and the 2016 election.  I’ll probably sprinkle it with comments about the other article and come back to anything I missed at the end.

First what is the possibility that Hillary’s predominance at this point is a gigantic bait and switch effort by the Dems to get Jeb Bush to be the republican front runner?  Don’t get me wrong I actually think I like a lot of what I see in Bush, I just don’t know that it would be best for our country to have three presidents in a row (of those of the same party) from the same family.  The only way I see him as a viable candidate is if his opponent is Hillary, i.e. from another dynasty.  Another Bush-Clinton matchup in this election would just highlight many of the issues I see in politics today.

Hilary is not Obama, she’s probably also not Bill.   That’s good for her in a way as both have/will end their terms on less than great approval numbers.  On the other hand both won two presidential races and anything that is similar to them that she can she will grab.  That may be difficult as I see them as opposite sides of the bad in the schizophrenia of the Democratic party.  Bill seemed lazy and effectively corrupt.  Just there for the prestige not to actually do anything for the country.  Obama just seems inept and, to me anyway, off the deep end with class warfare.  I think he truly believes in what he’s doing I just don’t agree with most of it and he doesn’t seem to be able to do a lot of it, at least effectively.

The way for Republicans to fight this, and her if that is the case, is to solve it’s identity crisis.

The Republican party today, in it’s most beneficial light anyway, is supposed to stand for conservatism.  What does this mean and how does/should it effect the different planks of the Republican ‘platform’.

First, conservative in what manner?  Conservative as adverse to change or as adverse to excess?  I would argue that change has happened whether we like it or not.  Is ‘changing back’ conservative to change?  Incidentally describing conservative to adverse to this and that should illustrate why we are seen as the party of ‘no’

Even within the adverse to excess are at least two camps.   Excess in personal life? Excess in government? Perhaps even excess in business?

If the core message is in the adversity to excess in government, as I think it should be, then that means compromising or explaining other tendencies.  Pushing for less and less government in terms of business regulation may end up contributing to the excesses of businesses.  Articulating that this is acceptable if not desirable  and why is critical.  A ‘rising tide raises all boats’ argument will fall on deaf ears in a time of stagnating wages, underemployment, and CEO millions.  However emphasizing that this spurs standard of living by the production of inexpensive items and the possibility individual achievement in this climate are more palatable and appropriate messages.  The tendency toward legislating morality has to be tempered by a desire for smaller government.  Couching those debates correctly is also key.  Pointing out that certain issues make those fall together can also help.  Birth control/abortion is a good example of this.  The availability of both, regardless of your position, is established law at this point.  Simply fighting them comes across as more government not less.  On the other hand fighting government laws, regulation, and spending that promote birth control and abortion services can be termed smaller government.

Getting back to the salon article, I think the speaker is very astute in his assessments.  If he didn’t come across as such an arrogant little %*$^& I might have a little more respect for him.

I think his most telling observation is this.

So if you’re a fork-lift operator or even a florist, you know your kid is unlikely to ever become a CEO, but you also know there’s no way in a million years they’ll ever become drama critic for the New Yorker or an international human rights lawyer.

This is the essence of Republican/conservative appeal to the working class.  Through smaller government the ranks of the rich are accessible to all. Liberal/Democratic thought only leads to the pacification of the working class while maintaining the class distinctions.

His thoughts on leisure are interesting.  I know that in my job, production increases have done little to limit the work I do, just increase the work I produce.  That is good for my clients who get to pay less for product but not great for me.  Actually to be honest I have been able to cut back but it is due to accepting tradeoffs.  Many others in my industry work just as hard and long as ever while not making significantly more when equalized for inflation.

Specifically his comments on why this issue has not gained traction interest me.  I have no doubt that much of our production increase has been offset by paper pushing.  The question comes with if there is anything there that conservatives could grab onto as issues.  Clearly increased regulations would be against our principles but perhaps massaging existing regulations could.

 

 

Why RIVO

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Our current political system is in a mess if not completely broken.  Our two primary parties are too alike in actions while too far apart on ideology to effectively govern.  The end result is deadlock, political apathy by the public and voting either against the worse of two evils or for the lesser.

For me that has come down to, at least since Edwards first senate campaign,  always voting Republican.  This comes from a combination of the above two reasons and pragmatism.

I grew up idolizing North Carolina Democrats and national Republicans.  I felt that local Democrats were conservative enough for me but that nationally Republicans were needed.  This ended up with support of Hunt and Edmondson for governor and Reagan for president.  Congress was somewhat split.  Our local democrats espoused Republican thoughts in Washington and some of our local Republicans were off the deep end.  For instance, I supported Helms but primarily due to his influence and the thought that someone needed to push that direction, hopefully never to fully get there.

My early voting career came at a time of transition.  I’m not sure if it was due to party changes, northern influx or what but local Democrats seemed to be moving left and Republicans perhaps heading a little right.   The end result for me was a few votes that either didn’t matter in the long run or I regretted.   The first was Perot.  Clinton still didn’t carry NC so I didn’t hurt in that sense but I think there may have been some states where that was not the case.  That also ‘taught’ me that even the best third party candidates are not really viable.  The second was John Edwards.  He came across as an old time southern Democrat.  Conservative and independent enough to buck the party and do what a North Carolinian would do.  Instead he got to Washington and toed the line just like anyone else.  That ‘taught’ me that even conservative Democrats contribute to the Democratic agenda and have to be opposed.

Republicans haven’t been much better.  They alternate between divisive battles where they refuse to budge an inch on grandstanding issues and rolling over completely on more technical (less glamorous) conservative issues.  Bush II allowed a Democratic congress to grow government and spend all it wanted in return for tax breaks.  Congressional Republicans sign on to pork laden bills as long as their district gets it’s ‘fair share’.

Political compromise seems to have devolved into giving the opposition anything they want on some issues in order to get everything you want on others.  This may be good in a marriage relationship but it makes for pitiful government.  Find a middle ground that perhaps neither side likes but both can deal with and get something done.

I have decided, perhaps shortsightedly, to support Republicans.  I ‘m even going to primarily support ‘mainstream’ Republicans, at least at higher levels.  This is where the pragmatism comes in.  I may not like what they do but I like it a lot more than what I see as the alternative.  Maybe by supporting more libertarian and ‘Tea Party’ republicans locally the party will gradually change into something I can more fully support.  A good example is our recent Republican senatorial primary.  Thom Tillis rubs me the wrong way.  I looked hard at some of the other candidates to vote for.  They all had various problems.  One seemed likely to be off the deep end.  None had any significant political experience so even if elected they would probably not have much of an impact in Washington.  They would be much better House candidates or state legislators. The final straw was my intense, almost to Edwards level, dislike of Hagen’s career.  Just like him (except a little less of a shock) she has gone to Washington and toed the national Democratic line to the point of being a cheerleader for it back here rather than seeming to approach Washington with North Carolina thoughts.  If I had a good feeling about any other the other candidates I might have taken a chance but without it I had to rely on the assumption that Tillis’s connections would at least get him the win.

I think that covers basic statements of belief.  If I keep this up I’m sure I’ll expound on a lot of these over time.

Why Semi-Conservative

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As I said I consider myself conservative but I do differ from some of the ‘mainstream’ conservative ideals.  I will try and outline some of the things on which I probably differ in ideology.

First, ever since my economics classes in high school and college I have been convinced that Keynes was on to something correct.  Government, in it’s current configuration at least, is going to be a substantial part of the economy.  Keynes descriptions of how that impact should be tailored depending on the current economic situation are something I buy into.  I’d rather the government was small enough not to have an impact and I don’t think it’s one of the primary responsibilities but if it can help nudge the economy in the right direction I’m fine with it.

I’m pretty liberal on immigration.  I do still want to insist that it is legal immigration.  If there are jobs available that only immigrants are willing to do for the money (assuming a level playing field with taxes etc.) then let all of them in that can fill them.  On the other hand I am very hard line on illegal immigration.  I have to show ID and prove who I am, which implies citizenship, every time I turn around.  There is no reason that proof of status shouldn’t be involved in daily life for the immigrant either.  If they need help fine but anytime someone cannot reasonably produce proof of legal status they should be escorted across the nearest border.

As far as government ideals I am from the libertarian, small government side of conservatism, not social conservatism.  I would just as soon government not be involved in our daily lives.  It is only after the assumption of an intrusive government do I want to bend it to a socially conservative point of view.  I’ll probably expound on that in later posts.

Representative democracy in a federal republic

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My first statement of beliefs should probably start with my impression of the point of our political system.

In general the United States is set up as a representative democracy.  This means that representatives are chosen in some way, hopefully democratically, and then they democratically decide how to run things. When I choose a representative to elect I generally hope that he will vote the same way I would  vote if I had the same information and duty he (fn1) had. First I assume he has more information than I have,  That is part of why we choose representatives, if we all had time to be fully informed we could make the decisions in a true democracy (if that were logistically possible).  Second I have given him the duty of running whatever level of government he is in.  This means if he is a city councilman his duty is to run the city the best way possible, not to do exactly what benefits me the most.  The end result of both of these is that sometimes he is going to make decisions that either leave me scratching my head or being angered.  The final part of his job is to convince me that he made the decision I would have made in his shoes.  This could be by informing me of what I didn’t know or convincing me that it was best for the city even if not best for me.  Enough failures on this last part of the job and I may vote against him next time.

The whole government structure should be like that.  City council’s duty is to run the city best, State Legislature the State, US congress, the country.  Their duty is not to do what is absolute best for the region that selected them.

 

(fn1) When referring to any entity that is not expressly feminine I will use the masculine.  This is not meant to be sexist, it is the proper use of our language and any romance (Latin based) language.