Thursday, February 17, 2011
Back in April I picked up a copy of No Apology: The Case for American Greatness, a new book by Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts and a current frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. Flipping it over so that I could read the description on the back of the jacket, I found that the publishers had printed the following excerpt from the text:
It is time for America to pursue the difficult course ahead, to confront the looming problems, to strengthen the foundations of our prosperity, and to secure the sources of our liberty and safety. The sacrifice and hard work will not sap our national energy; they will restore it. I'm one of those who believe that America is destined to remain as it has been since the birth of the republic - the brightest hope of the world. And for that belief, I do not apologize.
Listen, I am not naive. I understand that the writing of politicians - regardless of party, ideological faction, gender, race, creed, or country - tends to suck. As a rule of thumb, one can expect the literature churned out by humanity's would-be leaders to be shackled by slavish adherence to social convention, asphyxiated in anemic and turgid prose, and hopelessly contaminated with platitudes and lesser cliches (after all, anything more stimulating might scare off potential voters). I understand this and, to the greatest extent that I can, have made my peace with it.
That doesn't mean I won't ridicule the hell out of it.
What kind of person does Romney think would actually be inspired by this rhetoric? More disturbingly, to what set of opinions do supporters of the erstwhile governor believe he is acting as a foil? Does anyone really believe that Romney is rebutting the back of some other hypothetical book jacket?
It is time for America to retreat from the difficult course ahead, to ignore the looming problems, to weaken the foundations of our prosperity, and to needlessly imperil our liberty and safety. National energy be damned, we should settle into a culture of self-absorption and laziness. I'm one of those who believe America is doomed to never recapture its early glory - and am convinced that the rest of the world will mock us, and possibly post sticky notes on our backs when we aren't looking. But you shouldn't listen to me anyway, because I don't really have confidence in my own convictions.
Mitt Romney is the kind of man who proves that we need the likes of Mark Twain, H. L. Mencken, and Jon Stewart to mock our public servants. There can be little doubt that if our national brain subsisted on nothing but the flaccid words of politicians, it would shrivel up and die.
“Aren’t I pretty, Matt?”
In response to this, I found this comment on my message board from a "Gary Walter":
Yours "thoughts" do not change my view at all. I will support Huckabee for President.
Here is a reposting of those "thoughts" for you to enjoy. The sections involving why I believe Huckabee will be nominated have been omitted due to their contextual irrelevance here. A superior verson of them can be found in the aforementioned link, although those who want to read the original article in its entirety can find it here (http://riskinghemlock.blogspot.com/2010/12/republican-presidential-candidate-in.html).
My question to you... do you think these facts are important?
While polls vary as to whether Barack Obama can defeat him, there is no question as to the fact that Barack Obama must defeat him.
There are plenty of reasons why this is the case. We can start with Wayne DuMond, an Arkansas man who was sentenced to thirty-nine years in prison (reduced from an initial life plus twenty years) after he brutally raped a seventeen-year-old girl. Because the evidence that he had committed this crime was irrefutable, normally his case wouldn’t have attracted any special attention.
However, there was a catch – unbeknownst to DuMond, the girl he’d raped was the third cousin of Bill Clinton.
Normally this wouldn’t have made any difference. However, several right-wing extremists decided to spread rumors that DuMond was innocent, a claim that – despite its absolute and obvious falsehood – was fervently embraced by those who hated Clinton as president.
Foremost among them was Mike Huckabee, who not only commuted DuMond’s sentence less than ten weeks after becoming governor, but even skirted federal law by tampering with the parole board (which had twice voted to deny DuMond parole) so that it would decide in his favor.
Less than a year after DuMond was released, he raped another woman. This time, he also murdered her.
This may be the most abhorrent thing Huckabee has done, but it certainly isn’t the only one. He also has a history of sexism (1998 – he signs a full-page advertisement in USA Today saying that women should “submit graciously” to their husbands), racism (1993 – he speaks before a white supremacist group known as the Council of Conservative Citizens), and bigotry against Mormons (2008 – he claims that Mormons believe Jesus and Satan are brothers). The group for which he has reserved his worst bile are homosexuals, whose sexual orientation he has compared with incest, who he has claimed are committing moral sins comparable with lying and stealing, and who he partially blamed for the spate of school shootings in the ‘90s in his book Kids Who Kill. He has even argued that allowing gay marriage would threaten the survival of civilization.
Finally, there is the threat that Huckabee poses to one of America’s most basic and important liberties – religious freedom, as protected by the separation of church and state.
From a speech delivered in his 2008 presidential campaign:
I believe it’s a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God. And that’s what we need to do — to amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards…
As a Jew, I know from personal experience the danger that exists when people hold such opinions. I can still remember being the child who was victimized by anti-Semitism – who had quarters thrown at his head and swastikas drawn on his textbooks, who was told by his friends that Jews worshipped the devil and were responsible for the death of Christ. I even remember being dragged into a lake by a group of my peers, although the part where they held my head under water and chanted “Drown the Jew” has, mercifully, been blotted from my memory.
Hence I know how to respond to Huckabee’s support of theocracy:
Religious institutions that use government power in support of themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths, or of no faith, undermine all our civil rights.
That line isn’t mine, by the way. It was written by Thomas Jefferson.
Now that we know what the Sage of Monticello would think of Mike Huckabee, only one question remains – what do you think of him? To anyone who has considered supporting him for president, have these facts changed your opinion?
This isn’t my challenge to you. This is America’s challenge to you.
When you bear in mind that presidential nominations are determined not by how the candidates fare in national polls of their party's voters, but rather by how they perform in the earlier primaries, you come to some interesting conclusions as to the situation facing Republicans in 2012:
- The first primary (technically a caucus, although that makes little difference insofar as the vital task of establishing perceived political momentum is concerned) will be held in Iowa on January 16th. Early polls have consistently shown Mike Huckabee with a solid lead there, and there is little reason to think he won't be able to keep it over the next year, given that (a) he won that state in 2008 and (b) he is considered to be the most electable of the candidates who appeal to that ideological section of the GOP (which dominates the Iowa Republican party), making it unlikely that potential alternatives like Palin or Gingrich will be able to cut into his support. Should he win, it will automatically give him much-needed national attention and establish his status as one of his party's chief contenders for the nomination. Meanwhile, Romney will probably place a reasonably successful second (which is perfectly fine for him, since he isn't expected to win that state anyway) and thus continue to be in a position of strength, while Palin, Gingrich, and the other far right candidates will find themselves in considerable trouble, as the desire of their movement to unite around one candidate (and ideally the strongest one) will cause much of their support to leak over to Huckabee.
- The second primary will be held in New Hampshire on January 24th. Early polls here have shown Romney winning by an overwhelming margin, with all of the other candidates posting returns so small as to be politically inconsequential. Once again, the chances are strong that Romney will able to keep this lead, given both the Granite State GOP's comparatively moderate character and Romney's own geographic proximity to its borders. This victory will prove extremely significant for Romney, as it will (a) establish him as a viable political contender on par with Huckabee for the GOP nomination and (b) solidify his status as the candidate for Republican moderates. Huckabee is unlikely to be hurt by his poor showing in New Hampshire for much the same reason that Romney won't be hurt by Iowa (i.e., he isn't expected to do well there), although it is likely that this state will deal a death blow to the chances of every other prominent Republican contender. Even if candidates like Palin and Gingrich don't drop out after this state, it is unlikely that they will be major factors in the primary process after this point.
- This is where things get tricky. Once the nomination contest has effectively narrowed down to a battle between Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney, supporters of the other candidates will begin flocking to one of the two camps en masse, something that has to be taken into account when looking at polls for the remaining states. My suspicion is that Huckabee will try to win the remaining primary voters by appealing to them as a champion of the Christian Right, as someone who has actively courted the Tea Party (unlike Romney, which I will get to in a moment), and as a more reliable conservative than Romney, whose support of an Obamacare-esque health care reform program in Massachusetts, flip-flopping on abortion, coldness toward the Tea Party, and Mormon faith will all be liabilities among much of his party's right-wing base (the last variable will be less explicitly stated, of course). Romney, on the other hand, will try to present himself to these voters as being both sufficiently conservative to deserve a Republican nomination (primarily by citing his fiscal record as Governor of Massachusetts) and yet better equipped to win the general election than Huckabee. This latter claim will be backed up by Romney's biography (which, given his career as an extremely successful business fixer-upper, will be very appealing in an election that focuses on economic issues), his superior standing in match-offs against Obama in polls, and his overall image as a moderate whose distance from the party's controversial groups (mainly the Tea Party and the Christian Right) will make him more palatable to swing voters in the general election.
How will Republican voters decide? Some may cite a recent poll which found that 68% of Republicans feel it is more important that they choose a candidate who can beat Obama, compared to only 29% who place a priority on having one who "agrees (with them) on every issue." While that seems to bode well for Romney, it's important to note that the people surveyed were only asked this question on an abstract level, which makes the likelihood of them choosing pragmatism much greater than it would be if they had concrete examples of ideological incompatibility in front of them (viz., Romney's record on health care reform or abortion rights).
More telling is the fact that the primary voters who didn't initially support either Huckabee or Romney - i.e., the ones who Romney and Huckabee will have to actively court - didn't lean toward candidates like Tim Pawlenty or Mitch Daniels before their options were whittled down, which would suggest moderate inclinations on their part; instead they leaned toward candidates like Palin and Gingrich, thus suggesting a radical bent in their leanings. This is significant because it means that their ideological sympathies are much more closely aligned with Huckabee than Romney, suggesting that their votes (which, when combined, are considerable enough to put him over the top in most of the remaining primary states) would be most likely to go to him.
At the same time, Republicans are well versed enough in history to know the dangers of nominating an unelectable radical, be it with Barry Goldwater in the presidential election of 1964 or with a flurry of Tea Party candidates in the 2010 midterms who lost states that had otherwise been in the bag (viz., Christine O' Donnell, Sharron Angle, Joe Miller). The question will thus ultimately boil down to this: Will the doubts that the remaining GOP primary voters have about Huckabee's be strong enough to prompt them to support a candidate for whom they are at best lukewarm and at worst downright suspicious?
There are numerous variables that will come into play as that question is resolved. My suspicion is that, although Huckabee doesn't fare as well as Romney in polls against Obama, his comparative standing isn't so poor that it will become the decisive factor. This, combined with Romney's aforementioned weaknesses among grassroots conservatives, will probably move the key bulk of Palin and Gingrich supporters to Huckabee, delivering him the next two primary states (South Carolina on January 28th and Florida on January 31st) as well as a critical mass of the Super Tuesday states on February 7th. While Romney may win enough Super Tuesday states to stay in the game for a little longer, I doubt it will do more than put his campaign on life support. Republicans have a long history of closing ranks around the perceived winner once he has built enough momentum (the last time they didn't do this, not coincidentally, was with Goldwater in 1964), and I suspect Huckabee would be a similar beneficiary of this.
In the end, I thus foresee an election in which Barack Obama and Joe Biden (who, despite rumors that he will be dropped from the ticket, is likely to be retained in the name of political expedience) run against Mike Huckabee and Jon Huntsman, a former Governor of Utah and Ambassador to China who will be chosen by Huckabee because (a) his resume can balance out Huckabee's inexperience in foreign policy, (b) his image as a moderate and bi-partisan record (thanks to working for Obama) can help win over moderate swing voters wary of Huckabee's extremism, and (c) and his Mormonism can help Huckabee win back voters from that faith who rightfully resent Huckabee for his bigoted comments about their religion.
In this contest, I see Obama-Biden resoundingly defeating Huckabee-Huntsman. For more on that, see the article preceding this one:
I know that few things make right-wingers happier than embracing their delusion about liberals loving Big Government (understanding our actual ideology would be too taxing - pun intended), but this... this is friggin' ridiculous.
This prompted a lengthy debate between myself and a conservative friend of mine named Kevin. Initially it focused solely on the details of Michele Bachmann's statement; soon, however, Kevin made this comment:
Your argument about the Right's "delusion" is delusional. To say that liberals don't support greater government involvement in daily life and services is to deny the basic tenets of liberal philosophy. Your argument here is founded on one case of hyperpartisanship and overreaction.
What follows, unedited and unaltered, is my response to that assertion, which due to its length and importance I felt warranted an entirely separate blog article. For the conservation that preceded it, see: http://riskinghemlock.blogspot.com/2011/02/debate-on-taxes-and-breastfeeding.html
Let's dissect each facet of your last statement:
- Social Policy: The conservative movement is constantly warring with the liberal movement because, whereas the former wants to use the power of the state to impose its personal moral convictions (i.e., the convictions of the Christian Right) on the rest of society, the latter takes a laissez-faire approach and believes that the government should stay out of people's personal lives (see gay rights, abortion rights, peripheral issues like being allowed to not say the Pledge of Allegiance or burn the flag, etc.)
- Foreign Policy: Once again, liberals are the ones who support scaling down the size of the military-industrial complex and limiting our intervention in foreign conflicts (when they don't, it is invariably because they have allied with a dominant right-wing faction, not because they are adhering to a liberal platform), while conservatives favor increasing the size of government in both of these areas.
- Economic Policy: When conservatives complain about "Big Government", it is this realm to which they are usually referring. That said, although they like to distort liberal economic ideas by depicting them as a paean to state power and a yearning for increased centralization, the reality is that the goal of mainstream American liberals is to protect what they believe to be the economic rights of all American citizens (for a list of these rights, see: http://www.fdrheritage.org
Conservatives differ from liberals here because either (a) they don't see any problem with the economically strong exploiting the weak, viewing it as natural or even morally right, or (b) they feel that allowing the free market to go about its business unfettered is far more likely to resolve these issues. While I won't delve into why I think both of these opinions are wrong, suffice to say that it is asinine to assert that disagreeing with them, and thus believing the government can and should work to fight economic injustice, means that "liberals love Big Government" (to paraphrase the expression with which you just agreed). It simply means that we believe the government needs to exert its power to correct problems and evils that would otherwise be left unaddressed. Claiming that "Big Government" is our motive is a distortion of the liberal position, just like arguing that right-wingers who supported Bush's policies did so because they wanted to create a military state (as some wrongfully purported) is a distortion of the conservative position. Those arguments involve believing that an ideological group wants to use the power of a certain institution to solve certain problems not because they care about those problems, but merely because their ideology causes them to crave increasing the power of the institution in question. At best, this is a misinformed oversimplification; at worst, it is a deliberate straw man argument (also known as a lie).
Kevin never responded to this post.
I know that few things make right-wingers happier than embracing their delusion about liberals loving Big Government (understanding our actual ideology would be too taxing - pun intended), but this... this is friggin' ridiculous.
The following transcript captures the debate which followed. It has not been edited or altered in any way:
Well, she does have a partial point. When it comes to personal choices in child rearing, (with the lone exception being education) I don't think the government should make any easier or any harder to choose a certain path.
(2) Even if the IRS was motivated by a desire to promote certain lifestyles, how would this be any different from policies like offering tax breaks to married individuals or couples who have just had children, both of which seem to encourage Americans to live in traditional nuclear families by rewarding those who do (and, implicitly, punishing those who don't)?
(3) Even though Michelle Obama is encouraging new mothers to breastfeed, is that any different from campaigns waged by other prominent political figures (including First Ladies) to promote what they perceive to be healthier lifestyles, from Obama's anti-obesity campaign to Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" effort?
(4) Based on your logic, you should also agree that it is wrong for so many obstacles to exist for homosexual couples who want to raise children.
2) Because it's offering discounts on physical products related to the lifestyle choices, not the choice itself. See point number 1.
3) It's not any different in that respect, and in this arena, Bachmann is definitely overreacting.
4) Perhaps. As I've said before, the government doesn't have much legal recourse there... Of course, in my opinion, it's wrong for homosexual couples to be raising children anyway...
(1) I wouldn't oppose tax credits for cribs and diapers. These things are necessities, not luxuries, and since people who are less economically advantaged have just as much right to them as those who are better off, I fail to see the problem with lending them a helping hand.
(2) The basis of your agreement with Bachmann wasn't that the government was offering unfair discounts on products, but that you "don't think the government should make (it) any easier or harder to choose a certain (child rearing) path." If this is your position, I fail to see how it makes any difference whether the government achieves that goal by offering discounts on products or rewarding certain lifestyle choices. The distinction you've identified is a red herring.
(4) While you are entitled to your opinions on whether homosexuals should raise children (even though I must say I am personally repulsed by the prejudice in your views), the reality is that that is one scenario in which the government IS imposing personal lifestyle choices on people. Although you acknowledge this point (albeit with a distinct lack of enthusiasm), Bachmann and similar right-wingers have no problem with policies that discriminate against would-be gay parents. It seems that they are very selective in how they apply their "small government" philosophy.
Incidentally, you didn't address the main point I raised, i.e., that Bachmann and her supporters assume the IRS is doing this to promote a larger lifestyle agenda, as opposed to actually having a substantial factual case for believing that that is so. This traces back to a much larger problem; the right-wing is so zealous in embracing their delusion about liberals supporting "Big Government" that they jettison common sense.
2) Of course it was. The basis of my agreement was that the government shouldn't be offering unfair discounts on products like that BECAUSE the government should not determine child-rearing paths.
3) You're right that Bachmann is ignoring any possible arguments for IRS actions being other than promoting lifestyle agendas. However, your argument about the Right's "delusion" is delusional. To say that liberals don't support greater government involvement in daily life and services is to deny the basic tenets of liberal philosophy. Your argument here is founded on one case of hyperpartisanship and overreaction.
(1b) Even if that did apply in this case, I don't see how it could be argued to lead to a "nanny state." At worse, it would simply mean that the government is wasting money, which sounds a lot more like fiscal irresponsibility than the existence of a "nanny state."
Once again, the key issue is NOT whether you like or dislike certain policies, but rather whether a logically sound link can be established between those policies and an allegation you wish to make about them. For example, even though I oppose school vouchers, I'm not going to say that they're "fascistic", since I can't draw a causal link between the policy itself and the disparaging term which I wish to associate with it. Bachmann clearly doesn't like the tax credit on breastfeeding aides, which is her right, but she then claims that this could entail the first step toward the creation of a nanny state, even though she has not provided any reasonable proof to back up that assertion.
(2) When I asked how the IRS's tax policies favoring married couples and nuclear families (which Bachmann doesn't decry) are any different from the IRS tax breaks on breastfeeding aides (which she does decry), you said the key difference was that the latter involved discounts on products while the former only rewards lifestyles. Since the whole basis of your defense of Bachmann is that you "don't think the government should make (it) any easier or any harder to choose a certain path (for child rearing)", my response to that argument was to say that "if this is your position, I fail to see how it makes any difference whether the government achieves that goal by offering discounts on products or rewarding certain lifestyle choices." Your latest comment did not address that point.
(3a) Thank you for making that concession (in the first sentence).
I responded to the last three sentences of Kevin's post in a much longer and separate rebuttal. Since it detaches from the subject of this conversation and begins an entirely new one, I have created a second article entirely dedicated to it (http://riskinghemlock.blogspot.com/2011/02/debate-on-big-government.html).
Here is the remainder of the breastfeeding debate:
In this case, I'd have to say that Michele Bachmann is off her rocker. Study after study has shown that breastfeeding is beneficial to children. Giving a small tax incentive to do so is a good policy.
!~*~FOR GOD'S SAKE THE LAST COMMENT WAS SARCASM~*~!