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Electoral Musings

November 3, 2010

I was resisting writing something about this, because I have nothing truly original to add. Does the world really need another wannabe blogger explaining the electoral motivations of millions of people? And then I saw one of the liberal Catholic bloggers on the American Catholic had highlighted a quote I had made some time back about the Republican party. Almost exactly two years ago, I wrote that the Republican party was “a rump party of the south and the plains, mired in an anachronistic culture that has little resonance with the modern world and with the younger generation”. I had forgotten that, so I thank Donald for jogging my memory! Still, I wonder how long he had saved this quote, planning to rub my nose in it when the moment arrived?

And so the moment had arrived. Or has it? As I said, I have no unifying theory of the election of 2010, but all polls showed that the Republican party remains less popular either the Congressional Democrats or President Obama. And yet there was a dramatic nationwide shift in their direction, one that cannot simply be downplayed. We saw a major reaction against a ruling party that controlled the executive and the entire legislature, during the largest recession since the Great Depression.

As I noted recently (referencing Martin Wolf of the Financial Times), the policies of the administration undoubtedly prevented a catastrophic financial and economic collapse, and set us on the road to recovery. The policy measures included the TARP, financial guarantees and “stress tests” on banking institutions, the fiscal stimulus, and the Fed’s actions. But you don’t get out of the biggest hole in a generation so easily. Unemployment is at record levels. Demand remains low, so there is no investment or job creation.

But it is precisely these extraordinary policies that provoked an electoral backlash. People forget how close we came to a second Great Depression at the end of 2008. People forget how far we have come, even if growth has not translated into jobs. People forget that the skyrocketing deficit is almost solely due to the recession (mainly collapsing revenues, some increase in unemployment and healthcare spending). People forget that it was the Republicans that pushed the country toward fiscal jeopardy before the crisis, launching huge tax cuts, a huge war, and a huge medicare expansion – none of which were paid for, and each of which cost more than either gross costs of the Affordable Care Act or the stimulus (and both of the latter are paid for – the former by cost savings that exceed the subsidy costs, and the measures that underpin the latter are expiring). People forget that government spending can stimulate the economy more than tax cuts. People forget that nearly half of the stimulus was tax cuts. People forget that the TARP, no matter how unsavoury, halted the financial meltdown and is actually set to make money for taxpayers. People forget that the Democrats launched an ambitious re-regulation of Wall Street, at a time when Republicans are pushing the tired old low-regulation mantra. People forget that the Democrats are actually trying to trim the growth of Medicare costs, while the so-called small government party called for a robust defense of the government-run single payer program. People forget that the last Congress had a lot more accomplishments than any Congress in a generation.

People forget all of this, when unemployment is so high, when people are living day-to-day, and when economic prospects remain gloomy. This is to be expected. The election was a thorough rejection of the ruling party, and the perceived arrogance of that party. The Democrats deserve a lot of the blame. They could have spoken in the moral language of FDR, but that kind of language is not used today. The Congressional leaders are wholly uninspiring, and Obama has lost his voice. And the base could have actually taken its responsibility seriously and actually voted, instead of staying at home and not bothering. Democrats lost because the people who support them stayed at home. Whites voted, minorities did not. The old voted, the young did not. Nobody forced them.

But some things were beyond their control, including a wilful campaign of lies and misinformation spread by very wealthy vested interests through the well-oiled organs of the right, especially Fox News. Some of it was the politics of selfishness, with elderly voters refusing the pay for the healthcare of others, but insisting that their own medicare and social security remain untouched.

And some of it was the lack of choice. The restricted and binary nature of the US political system means that the only way to voice disapproval was to embrace the very people who so thoroughly messed up in the first place. And yes, when I wrote those words two years ago, I did not expect this. But in the long-term, I believe I am right. I stand by those words. We must think beyond short-term electoral cycles. The older, whiter, tea party cohorts have a few fights left in them. But the younger generations have no identification with the Republican party. The minorities that will grow in numbers in the years to come have no identification with a Republican party that demonizes them for electoral reasons. They stayed at home this time, but this will not always be the case.

Of course, the Republican party could transform itself into something very different. Anything is possible. But I see little signs. I see the opposite. The tea party represents the last dying gasp of a worn-out movement. The tea party probably cost the GOP the Senate, but will the Republicans have the courage to stand up to people like Palin, Beck, and Limbaugh? I see little sign of it. I see little signs of any intellectual rejuvenation at all. I see more of the same. And that’s why I worry about the economy, the country, the world.

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50 Comments
  1. November 3, 2010 7:21 pm

    I have not forgotten that the federal budget deficit during the fiscal year ending on 30 September 2007 amounted to 1.4% of domestic product; I have not forgotten that the rate of economic contraction experienced in the 2d quarter of 2009, when scarcely a dollar of ‘stimulus’ had been expended, amounted to 0.7% per annum; I have not forgotten that the bloody TARP program was a bipartisan initiative proposed by Henry Paulson (R) (for better or for worse); I have not forgotten that the expansion in the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet occured in September and October and November of 2008; I have not forgotten that the Treasury and Congress in 2008-09 refused to consider debt-for-equity swaps to recapitalize the banks or the bloody mortgage maws; I have not forgotten Dr. Charles Calomiris offering that the political class had foregone well established protocols for handling banking crises in favor of mad improvising; and I have not forgotten Barney Frank’s 2,000 page Gucci gulch mess in lieu of reform of the financial architecture.

    C’mon fella. When Speaker Pelosi’s father was bounced out of office as Mayor of Baltimore in 1959, he said, “If you can stand to win, you can stand to lose”. Have a glass of bourbon and forget it.

  2. November 3, 2010 8:09 pm

    I suppose the nice thing, is that both your ideological faith and the realism of folks like Don and I are constantly validated by circumstances. We watch the political pendulum swing one way and then the other, and see this as fitting with our conservative “no final winners” view of history and American politics in which ideas are important but the is o great dialectic driving things in one direction. And meanwhile you can watch the same events and see in every Democratic victory a step towards the coming Progress, and in eveerh defeat nothing but a temporary setback.

    Though if it’s any comfort, Don hasn’t been saving that quote for two years just to get you — I’d sent out a query to a number of people for articles from 2008 predicting the end of the GOP and a third party remembered that one. What Don does deserve credit for is using it in a subantive post — I had just wanted something for amusement, just as in 2008 I was amused by the startlinng similarity of such commentary to predictions of the death of the GOP in 1992.

  3. November 3, 2010 10:05 pm

    Darwin, Donald indeed do a substantive post. He took something I had written and argued against it, using reason (flawed, I believe, but that’s beside the point). This stands in stark contrast to the likes of Mark Shea, who just engages in smug name calling.

    You know, there is something to the cyclical theory of shifts back and forth. But there are also longer term secular shifts. The Reagan revolution was one of them, reflecting changing social norms pertaining to individualism and the common good. I believe there is another taking place now, based on demographics, but the long term trend this year was swamped by the very large cyclical shift.

  4. phosphorious permalink
    November 3, 2010 10:15 pm

    I’ve taken a “wait and see” attitude towards this conservative “comeback.”

    There was a time when Bush’s victory in 2004 was actually considered to be a triumph for conservatism, and for America.

    Nothing in this election has persuaded me that the GOP has learned from their mistakes. It’s the same party as it was under Bush.

  5. Vermont Crank permalink
    November 4, 2010 7:42 am

    The election this year was a political tsunami (see Mr Barone in the Washington Examiner)but it is too early to tell what the results will be in terms of political programs, policy, etc..

    That aside, is it too early to begin thinking about the next election? Nope. And here is the question that must be answered by The Democrats:

    Can the 2012 Presidential Election be won by the Democrat Party simply maintaining their Black-Latino-Homosexual-Single Mom-Welfare Recipient-Transgendered-Marxist-Missing Limb Coalition or will they have to attract the votes of Heterosexual Christian Patriotic White Males?

  6. Kurt permalink
    November 4, 2010 7:55 am

    … see this as fitting with our conservative “no final winners” view of history and American politics …

    That’s a conservative view? We need to dialogue more.

    My familiarity with the phrase “no final victories” comes from Larry O’Brian, one time DNC Chairman, Postmaster General, devout Catholic and all around nice guy.

    At least in my circles, he popularized the phrase and he used it as the title of his autobiography.

  7. Austin Ruse permalink
    November 4, 2010 8:33 am

    From political smart guy and faithful Catholic George Marlin at TheCatholicThing:

    “Election Day exit polls reveal that 60 percent of Americans believe the government is going in the wrong direction; 47 percent say the government is a disaster; 48 percent call for the repeal of Obamacare; and 41 percent find the Tea Party’s limited-government philosophy very attractive.”

    The whole column is about the Catholic vote which was very hopeful:

    http://www.thecatholicthing.org/columns/2010/catholics-and-the-mid-terms.html

  8. November 4, 2010 9:01 am

    Austin, none of those positions are even remotely ascoiated with Catholic social teaching. Their theological roots like in American Protestantism and Enlightenment-era liberalism.

    As for those who oppose the Affordable Care Act, a significant chunk do so because they feel it did not go far enough in its reforms.

  9. Vermont Crank permalink
    November 4, 2010 9:36 am

    http://www.thedemocraticstrategist.org/strategist/2010/03/the_elusive_white_male_voter.php

    Democrats have lost the votes of real men and their constant catering to the homosexuals and the other fractious subgroup of oddballs who constitute their coalition (baby-killers,the corrupt Unions, The so-called Educational establishment, The Open Borders Traitors and the other various liberal collectivists of all stripes)will result in their achieving a, well-deserved, permanent minority status.

    And as the results of the election are analysed and digested, King Obama, is getting out of Dodge and taking with him 3000 individuals to the Far East on a road trip of historic proportions; two hundred million dollars a day; 34 war ships, etc etc

    He personifies just how far out-of-touch with Joe and Jill America the extreme left is.

    The ideological left, well represented at this site, will never abandon their dreams of the putative inevitability of liberalism and I find that Liberal Triumphalism quaint, especially coming from those who repudiate Catholic Triumphalism.

  10. phosphorious permalink
    November 4, 2010 10:16 am

    How is this election a “tsunmai” or “bloodbath” or any of the overwrought labels it is being given.

    The GOP took back one half of Congress. In 2006, they were swept out, en masse, of both houses of Congress.

    What am I missing?

  11. Kurt permalink
    November 4, 2010 10:57 am

    The whole column is about the Catholic vote which was very hopeful…

    It is hopeful. Its author, a political conservative, notes approvingly of Catholics swinging from a ten point advantage to Obama in 2008 to an eight point Republican advantage this year because of economic/size of government issues.

    It is a positive development that conservative Catholic commentators are speaking as good political hacks and ward heelers (honorable vocations in my mind). You put out a case for selected issues (economic in this case) and try to pry the swing element your way. This is simply good political work.

    I am delighted that there has not been even the vapor of a suggestion that the Catholics who switched from D to R need to seek sacramental absolution for their “sin” in 2008 or that conservative Catholics can only take comfort when a voting switch was because of “non-negotiable issues.”

    While I am not generally pleased with the election results, I am very pleased that we now see conservative Catholics treating Catholic voters as mature adults with the liberty to make their own discernment on voting on a multi-issue basis without claims from other Catholics that they are sinners or should be barred from the sacraments.

    This is a HUGE step forward and I commend by conservative friends for their developing tolerance and civility

  12. phosphorious permalink
    November 4, 2010 11:23 am

    Yes, yes. . . liberalism is over, conservatism has won.

    Except that John Boehner, the current Speaker of the House and therefore highest ranking republican in the nation, voted FOR Medicare Part D.

    You see he was FOR “socialized medicine” before he was against it.

    Good work “conservatives.”

  13. phosphorious permalink
    November 4, 2010 11:44 am

    Democrats have lost the votes of real men. . .

    The link you provide is labeled “the elusive white male voter.”

    Oh, those poor white men. Will they ever catch a break?

  14. Kurt permalink
    November 4, 2010 12:09 pm

    phosphorious,

    Please don’t lie about John Boehner. Medicare Part D was a massive expansion of Medicare covering prescription drugs. It included no statutory prohibition of coverage for RU 486, the so-called abortion pill. Are you claiming he voted for this on the silly assumption that the Hyde Amendment would continue to be adopted? No pro-life person would do that. You can’t be pro-life and support a health care expansion that does not include statutory language making Hyde permanent law.

  15. phosphorious permalink
    November 4, 2010 12:27 pm

    Kurt,

    But you have overlooked the magic formula that lets conservatives sleep at night:

    “It’s okay if you’re a republican!”

    Obama’s mistake was to socilaize medicine while at the same time not being a “real man.”

  16. Austin Ruse permalink
    November 4, 2010 12:49 pm

    …”none of those positions are even remotely ascoiated with Catholic social teaching.”

    …according to you Minion, according to you. I dont believe my Bishop (Loverde of Arlington) has taught that support for the economic agenda of the right is against Catholic teaching and neither has the Pope. So, this is according to you.

  17. Kurt permalink
    November 4, 2010 1:03 pm

    phosphorious,

    You are right. I forog the pro-life movement has one set of rules and standards for Republican policy initatives and another for Democratic. How silly of me.

    Also, I take it among patriotic white male heterosexuals, “patriotic” is code for not being a member of a labor union.

  18. Austin Ruse permalink
    November 4, 2010 2:56 pm

    Kurt,

    You forget at your own blogging peril!

  19. November 4, 2010 3:01 pm

    That’s a conservative view? We need to dialogue more.

    My familiarity with the phrase “no final victories” comes from Larry O’Brian, one time DNC Chairman, Postmaster General, devout Catholic and all around nice guy.

    At least in my circles, he popularized the phrase and he used it as the title of his autobiography.

    He may have used or popularized the phrase in your circles, but given that it’s a pretty generic and easily arrived at phrase, I think it’s safe to assume that a number of people can use it without reference to him. (I’d never heard of this fellow or his book before — which I guess shows that we move in different circles. My main familiarity with Big Labor was sitting down with my dad to see who the California public employees union had told him to vote for so we could do the opposite. Ah, good times…)

    The point which I was reaching at with those words is that human societies remain to a great extent the same over time, as a result of the fact that human nature remains the same. Even when one public vice is tamped down, another frequently springs up to take its place in some different way.

    This is a pretty fundamental underpinning to the conservatism of Burke and to the Roman-influenced republicanism (small R) of the Founders of the Federalist camp. It stands opposed to the fundamentally progressive/utopian sets of beliefs that underpin many statist and collectivist ideologies. (And it is, noteably, the failure to understand this which routinely gets MM off track when he’s trying to understand the connection between American conservatism and conservatism more broadly understood.)

  20. November 4, 2010 3:02 pm

    Medicare Part D was a massive expansion of Medicare covering prescription drugs. It included no statutory prohibition of coverage for RU 486, the so-called abortion pill. Are you claiming he voted for this on the silly assumption that the Hyde Amendment would continue to be adopted?

    Heavens to betsy! Those rascally seniors may be out getting abortions right this minute. Someone stop them!

  21. phosphorious permalink
    November 4, 2010 4:05 pm

    Heavens to betsy! Those rascally seniors may be out getting abortions right this minute. Someone stop them!

    I wonder if you realize that you have admitted more than you perhaps intended here..

    The GOP ran, this time out, on fiscal conservatism. Obamacare was socialistic, an evil plot to destroy America, and that has nothing to do with abortion. Except that the GOP passed its own “socialized medicine” under Bush, to no criticism at all.

    And now here you are, as much as admitting that “fiscal conservatism” is a red herring, and that abortion is the only reason to vote for or against any piece of legislation whatsoever.

    Odd that.

  22. November 4, 2010 4:20 pm

    Actually, as Darwin should know, Medicare does not just cover seniors, and Medicare Advantage passed with no pro-life protections, and massive support from the National Right to Life Commitee (which to this day is attacking cuts to it).

    It should come as no suprise that, unlike the Affordable Care Act, the taxpayer-funded Medicare Advantage progam has been offering abortions: http://vox-nova.com/2010/07/15/an-real-life-example-of-abortion-funding/

  23. Kurt permalink
    November 4, 2010 4:22 pm

    Heavens to betsy! Those rascally seniors may be out getting abortions right this minute. Someone stop them!

    Medicare also covers 5 million disabled workers and at times, their dependents. Is the conservative line that our Catholic faith permits us to accept annual renewal of the Hyde Amendment for an expansion of a health care program to 5 million persons but not 20 million? What does our faith say if it is 10 million? 7 Million?

    Austin,

    You need to read the writings of the modern Popes more closely if you think they have never found anything against Catholic teaching in the economic agenda of the Right.

  24. November 4, 2010 4:25 pm

    Darwin, you are following the flawed logic I am tired of correcting. The US was not born of Burke and Roman-influenced Republicanism; it was born out of the maelstrom of the English-Scottish Enlightement, which is closer to the European Enlighenment than you guys care to admit (you friend Paul Zummo makes the bizarre claim that Hobbes was the godfather of the French Revolution, rather than the political developments in the Anglo-Saxon world). This all goes back to the individualism of the nominalist revolution.

    For sure, every modern nation is influenced by Enlightenment-era liberalism. What makes the US different is that it remains wedded to a pure 18th century version that has long evolved into something better in Europe, especially influenced by the advent of Catholic social teaching that did not really exist at the time.

  25. November 4, 2010 5:23 pm

    Personally, I strongly opposed Medicare Part D, just like most of the rest of the conservative wing of the Republican party. However, if you want to know why the USCCB and the National Right to Life didn’t oppose it, the reason is probably that because it is primarily perceived to be a program for seniors, and seniors are not known for getting pregnant. Nor do I recall you worrying your head about the issue, MM, until you decided that you needed to oppose the bishops and e pro-life movement in regard to ObamaCare. (Of course, one reason the affordable care act hasn’t paid for any abortions yet is at it’s not paying for much of anything yet — most of it doesn’t go into effect for several more years.)

    On conservatism — what can I say, MM, I just find primary source material such as the Federalist Papers much more convincing that your rants as to what the actual influences on the Founders were. Rome was definitely front of mind for them, much more so than Hobbes. And the reflections they had on the nature of society were startlingly similar to those of Burke. And to repeat yet again what I myself tire of asking: Why do you fight so tenaciously to discredit the conoservatism of conservatives when you yourself have no interest in it and are instead wedded to mid-century European progressivism and statism? Why should anyone take you seriously on the nature of conservatism when you aren’t remotely conservative?

  26. Austin Ruse permalink
    November 4, 2010 8:29 pm

    Minion,

    Europeans do not practice either the faith or charity. They are hardly a model for Americans who retain the faith and the practice of charity. Something has gone terribly wrong in Europe that has not gone wrong in teh US. Whatever the roots of America that you so despise, the US is still a nation of practicing Christians.

  27. Austin Ruse permalink
    November 4, 2010 8:39 pm

    Look at these beacons of Catholic social teaching. Their countries are going broke on extravagant social spending and when their governments need to reign in spending, what do they do? They shut down their countries. The riot. Is this really what we should emulate as Catholics?

  28. November 4, 2010 10:08 pm

    I didn’t think your were so naive, Darwin. The Roman influence was romanticism, pure and simple. Their philosophy was grounded firmly in the Anglo-Scottish Enlightenment.

    As for why I keep saying this, it is because it believe it is true. And yes, I am quite wedded to the great mid-century achievements of Christian-Social Democrats because it was this period more than any other than followed Catholic social teaching closely. Two of the three founders of the Euorpean Union haves ongoing causes for canonization, and the third was also a devout Catholic. In the US, the brains behind the New Deal was a Catholic priest.

    And I believe that thisnis more conservative that the American liberalism that masquerades as conservative,

  29. November 4, 2010 10:13 pm

    Not true, Austin. With the exception of some small countries, fiscal deficits in Europe are actually lower than the US, partly because the Germans and their allies are extreme fiscal hawks. Their social spending is less extravagant, and far more virtuous, than American military spending.

    But yes, there are vested interests and protected insiders, and in France they like to demonstrate a lot. I think there is nothing wrong with raising the retirement age from 60 to 62, but demonstrating against this is far less offensive than the tea party protest against healthcare reform, which were at least as violent and aggressive.

  30. grega permalink
    November 4, 2010 11:03 pm

    Vermont crank you reveal more than you should – that is the danger of regurgitating right wing mumbo jumbo “simply maintaining their Black-Latino-Homosexual-Single Mom-Welfare Recipient-Transgendered-Marxist-Missing Limb Coalition”- you mock the “Missing Limb Coalition” ? I guess you are eluding to Veterans like Max Cleland and Bob Kerrey who fought for you and me – in case you missed it these type of guys are real men not the pletora of conservative chicken hawks and paper tigers who have never done anything for this nation personally other than talk a great talk .

  31. Austin Ruse permalink
    November 5, 2010 7:02 am

    Minion,

    I am not aware of even one building the Tea Partiers burned down. Or even one car, let alone the city or cities they shut down and torched. They were “at least as violent and aggressive?” You really don’t mean that, do you?

    About defense spending. Americans, for the third time in one century, saved Europeans from themselves. Europe was able to grow rich precisely because of the amazing generosity of the American taxpayer who was willing to repeatedly defend Europeans. yet another aspect of Americans understanding the helping of neighbor.
    Any way to slice it, my friend, Americans understand Catholic social teaching far better than Europeans.

  32. phosphorious permalink
    November 5, 2010 8:44 am

    Personally, I strongly opposed Medicare Part D, just like most of the rest of the conservative wing of the Republican party. . .

    If by “opposed” you mean “reelected Bush and the GOP congress by an historically wide margin, and gloated about a permanent republican hegemony” then yes, the ‘conservative wing’ of the GOP opposed Medicare part D.

  33. Thales permalink
    November 5, 2010 9:52 am

    Morning’s Minion,

    Though I sometimes disagree with you, I truly try to give your economic and political arguments a fair hearing. I truly do.

    But it doesn’t help when you say something silly like the tea party protest was at least as violent and aggressive as the French riots.

  34. November 5, 2010 11:35 am

    MM,

    Folks like Madison read Cicero and Polybius and took them quite seriously. There is a real influence, and frankly, our modern political debate would be much elevated if people took the time to read Cicero and Polybius at length as well. They’re quite good reads, I recommend them. (And not, it wasn’t just romanticism, it was the benefits of the classical education.)

    I will certainly give you that there was good work done for about fifteen years after the second world war by European social democrats — making the best of a bad lot in rebuilding a culture and a continent which had destroyed itself twice in fifty years through cataclysmic wars brought on by statism and ethnic nationalism. Unfortunately, though arguably through little fault of their own, they were dealing with a Christian culture which was already dying and the economic systems they had to put in place to replace a decimated society quickly laid the groundwork for the hyper-individualism of modern liberal progressivism.

    So while they heroically made the best of a bad lot, it’s rather hard to see it as a golden age. And it’s the connection between their thought and moderal progressivism is pretty tenuous — arguably rather more tenuous than that between modern American conservatism and the Federalist republicanism of the founders. At least most modern American conservatives have heard of folks like Madison.

    Still, if you can convince yourself that wholehearted support of the modern Democratic Party is somehow in keeping with Catholicism and mid-century Social Democracy, the least you can do is grant the rather stronger case that modern American conservatives draw from Burke, the Federalists, Cicero and Polybius.

    Phospho,

    Given that the only objection that most Democrats had to Medicare Part D was that it didn’t go farther, it’s hard to see what else you expect the conservative wing of the GOP. If you read organs like National Review from when Part D was under consideration, they pretty uniformly negative.

    You should be able to sympathize — I would imagine that your disappointment that Obama hasn’t stuck to his guns more (public option, stronger financial regulation, abolishing torture, etc) isn’t going to cause you to abandon him in 2012 for the GOP. Why would you expect conservatives to have opposed the more conservative of the two candidates in 2004 just because they wished he was more conservative?

  35. November 5, 2010 11:39 am

    Part of your confusion, MM, might stem from an apparent misapprehension that the Scottish Enlightenment was something which came out of nowhere and had no influences from the past. Roman Stoic philosophy was something taken very seriously by the Scottish Enlightenment, and all of those authors had a strongly Classical education. The reason why the Founders turned so readily to Roman political philosophy when considering the creation of their own republic is because all of them had read so much Roman history, political oratory and philosophy in school.

  36. phosphorious permalink
    November 5, 2010 3:57 pm

    Given that the only objection that most Democrats had to Medicare Part D was that it didn’t go farther, it’s hard to see what else you expect the conservative wing of the GOP. If you read organs like National Review from when Part D was under consideration, they pretty uniformly negative.

    You should be able to sympathize — I would imagine that your disappointment that Obama hasn’t stuck to his guns more (public option, stronger financial regulation, abolishing torture, etc) isn’t going to cause you to abandon him in 2012 for the GOP. Why would you expect conservatives to have opposed the more conservative of the two candidates in 2004 just because they wished he was more conservative?

    There are several problems here.

    1) why didn’t conservatives simply refuse to vote in 2004 the way they did in 2008. MANY conservatives made a big show of staying home in 2008, because McCain was not up to snuff, and by doing so they allowed a baby-killing racist who hates America to become president. Why was this not an option in 2004, if conservatives genuinely disapproved of Bush?

    2) You speak as if support for Bush in 2004 was less than full-throated and enthusiastic. Medicare D simply never came up. Criticism of Bush from the right was simply not allowed. Conservatives claim that liberals “worship” Obama, but I can’t think of a single liberal blogger or pundit who was been shy about criticizing him. The situation was very different for Bush, and conservatives forget that (or try to pretend it wasn’t) at their peril.

    3) Liberals were not, or not just, opposed to Medicare D because it didn’t go far enough; it was also unfunded and poorly planned. Say what you like about Obamacare, it was created with at least one eye on cost, and was not pure give-away.

    4) The fact that Medicare D did not cost Bush an election, or even any support, is historical fact. Democrats have yet to register their disappointment with Obama, because the electoral opportunity has not arisen. You can’t blame us yet, in other words, any more than you could have impeached Obama before he was elected, the way some conservatives wanted. The standard “pox on both your houses” nonsense so popular on the right these days has caused you to see wrongdoing where it hasn’t happened yet. I will gladly eat these words if Obama wins re-election without having made progress in a liberal direction. But that has to actually happen before I apologize for it.

  37. November 5, 2010 6:01 pm

    No, Darwin, I’m well aware of the classical influence, especially the humanist tradition (and moreso the Italian rather than the Northern European version). You can link it all up if you like (nominalism, humanism, Protestantism, modernism, liberalism) but you can’t just pull the classical references in isolation of the broader trends.

    Your mistake is to assume that the US is somehow unique. It isn’t. It was an early form of liberal democracy, but not a unique form of it – except in its attachments to the particular values of those who founded it couple of centuries back.

    But personally, I prefer Byzantine and Confucian models of governance over Roman republicanism!!

  38. November 5, 2010 6:06 pm

    Darwin: “the economic systems they had to put in place to replace a decimated society quickly laid the groundwork for the hyper-individualism of modern liberal progressivism”

    Here, I absolutely disagree. The social markets reforms championed largely by Catholics (and as I said, the 3 founders of the EU were devout Catholics, and two have active causes for canonization) focused more on the common good than on the individual and had a strong communitarian element. It is laissez-faire liberalism, the dominant theology of the American right (and a minor theology in Europe) that tends towards hyper-individualism. To take the extreme case, pretty much every European (from right to left, north to south) thinks that the American position on guns is appalling, and this position comes directly out of a Hobbesian liberalism.

    None of this is to deny that there are many problems in Europe. It is just that these problems are frequently misunderstood by American commentators on the right.

  39. Austin Ruse permalink
    November 5, 2010 6:21 pm

    Minion,

    the European Institutions are among the least democratic in the entire world. The average European doesnt even vote in their sham Parliamentary elections. The European Institutions are very far from the vision of their founders.

    We hardly have hyper individualism in the US. The average American cares more for his common man, as evidenced by charitable giving and personal time spent, than the average European…by far.

    You are a statist, Minion. If the state does not do it, then it does not count for you. This is not our way in teh United States.

  40. Austin Ruse permalink
    November 5, 2010 6:27 pm

    About guns and defense and all that exceptionalism business, let me offer this anecdote. It explains the hypocritical attitude of many around the globe and also explains the central role of Americans.

    When the Australians signed the Landmines Treaty, an American diplomat asked his Australian counterpart, “If you are ever invaded by China, may we use landmines in your defense.” The Aussie said, “You may use anything you wish.”

    Americans are the indispensable people forever destined to be derided and needed at the same time. When there is a tragedy or an military threat anywhere in the world, the first call is to Americans.

  41. Kurt permalink
    November 5, 2010 8:13 pm

    if you want to know why the USCCB and the National Right to Life didn’t oppose it, the reason is probably that because it is primarily perceived to be a program for seniors

    I’m sorry for the tardy response to this. My jaw dropped to the floor in reading it and I have just recovered.

    In my organization, not only I but even a junior law clerk would be given the pink slip for something like this. I am truly flabbergasted. Both of these organizations have policy analysts, legislative counsel, and professional lobbyists.

    I am trying to imagine any of these people at the professional competency one would expect based on the salary they receive going in to the corner office and saying:

    “Gee, Boss, I didn’t know Medicare covered disabled people. I just perceived it as something for old folks. Sorry that one slipped through. Well, shucks, I’ll know better next time. By the way, you gonna give us the Friday after Thanksgiving off?”

    If this is the level of professionalism and competency of the staff at USCCB and NRLC, then no one should any faith in their other policy analysis.

  42. November 5, 2010 10:19 pm

    Austin,

    What European institutions? The parliamentbis directly elected, in most countries by proportional representation, which is far more democratic than the US/UK first past the post system. Granted, the ECB president is appointed. The European Council is made of of national ministers, and this has real authority. The European Commission has far less power than people assume, and I believe it should have more (not everything is suitable for direct democracy).

    The problem with the European institutions is the persistence of the nation static and the insistence on putting national interests first. Subsidiarity is embedded in the treaty, but sometimes subsidiarity calls for decisions at the supranational level. And even if it does not, there needs to be a greater sense of European solidarity.

  43. Austin Ruse permalink
    November 6, 2010 6:52 am

    The institutions of the European Union….almost totally nondemocratic.

  44. Austin Ruse permalink
    November 6, 2010 7:14 am

    And by teh way, teh national parliaments are not much better. Candidates are chosen by the party and there is little or no way for an outsider even to be considered. Moreover, the proportional representation in the Parliaments means minority rights are not even considered. The majority always gets its way. In the US Congress, even the minority party can block things from happening, most especially in the Senate.

  45. Kurt permalink
    November 6, 2010 1:21 pm

    Austin,

    Almost makes one regret we wrote Germany, Italy, Austria and Japan’s constitutions for them. :)

    Screwed that up just like the USCCB and NRLC staff overlooked the fact the Medicare covers the disabled.

    As my Republican friends tell me about their housekeeping woes, “One just CAHNT find good help these days.”

  46. David Nickol permalink
    November 6, 2010 2:53 pm

    Kurt,

    A question for you. You have said that there is no longer a danger that taxpayer dollars will pay for abortions at Community Health Centers, since the Hyde Amendment has be reauthorized, and appropriates for CHCs are now covered. Is this a matter of absolute fact, or is it your own personal interpretation. I ask because I have presented it as fact elsewhere, but I can find absolutely nothing in Google searches to say that the reauthorization of the Hyde Amendment has rendered abortion at CHCs no longer an issue. Since this was the subject of such bitter arguments, one would think that if the argument had become moot, some notice would have been taken of it. But as I say, I am unable to find anything at all on the subject.

    Thanks.

  47. David Nickol permalink
    November 6, 2010 2:55 pm

    P.S. I know there were many arguments on the issue besides the Hyde Amendment (such as the fact that CHCs don’t perform abortions), but I am just interested in the Hyde Amendment aspects.

  48. Austin Ruse permalink
    November 6, 2010 3:43 pm

    Actually, we have very good help these days. At our house anyway…

  49. Austin Ruse permalink
    November 6, 2010 3:46 pm

    On a lighter note…

    Any of you boys care for the bossa nova? Or the jazz harmonica player Toots Thielmans?

    …now let’s find common ground!

  50. Kurt permalink
    November 7, 2010 8:55 am

    David,

    HR 3081, Sec. 101 and Sec. 105 (P.L. 111-242).

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