Rovemort Stops Progress


Jason Alexander plays Rovemort, showing the plot to bury progress.

American Right Finds Natural Allies in Russian KGB

After years of defending George Bush regardless of how much harm he has done to the country, we thought the right might have gotten as low as they could. It appears we were wrong. It was bad enough that they got in bed with George Bush. Now they are willingly jumping into bed with the former KGB on the subject of freedom of expression and criticizing government leaders.

The Wall Street Journal carries an op-ed from a former KGB agent which discusses how the KGB tried to discredit former American presidents. The message is that criticizing the president is unpatriotic and helps the enemies. This is part of the mind set which contributed to both the tyranny seen under the USSR, and to its ultimate demise.

This is exactly the type of message that we’d expect to hear from the KGB. What is shocking is that so many right wing blogs are echoing this message, just as they echo the talking points of the right wing extremists who control the Republican Party.The freedom to criticize our leaders is a fundamental principle upon which this nation was founded. While liberals fight to defend out civil liberties, apparently the right wing sees the KGB as a better model for the type of country they are fighting for.

John Edwards, Phony

The editorial page editor for The State (South Carolina) writes that John Edwards is a big phony both on the editorial page and his blog. He provides three examples. They aren’t the three worst things about John Edwards, but they do go along with everything I’ve disliked about his type of slick politician.

Edwards’ campaign has been struggling so hopefully we avoid having him on yet another national ticket, but at this point in the race there is plenty of time for things to change. Edwards is a masterful politician who puts on a great act, arguing his case to the voters on the stump just as he argues before a jury. He almost has the Bill Clinton act down, but he is not as smooth and, unlike Bill Clinton, has no qualifications to justify placing him on a national ticket. As Bob Shrum has written, Edwards is a “Clinton who hadn’t read the books.”

Edwards’ smile and campaign style might win some votes, but we should take the advice of a Republican here. “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.”

John Edwards represents the reasons why people distrust and even dislike politicians, independent of ideology.

The Problem With The Center

At first glance this op-ed by Martin O’Malley and Harold Ford might appear to be the Democratic response to the challenge I laid down in my previous post. I discussed the trend for affluent suburbs to vote Democratic, but questioned whether Democrats can keep those votes. Reading this op-ed, I come away with the feeling that O’Malley and Ford recognize that there is an opportunity for Democrats but don’t really understand what to do. The good point is that they realize that new people are voting Democratic, but there is no guarantee of continued support from independents and former Republicans after Bush is gone:

George W. Bush is handing us Democrats our Hoover moment. Independents, swing voters and even some Republicans who haven’t voted our way in more than a decade are willing to hear us out. With an ambitious common-sense agenda, the progressive center has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to win back the White House, expand its margins in Congress and build a political and governing majority that could last a generation.

A majority comes hard for Democrats. In the past 150 years, only three Democrats, one of whom was Franklin Roosevelt, have won the White House with a majority of the popular vote.

What’s more, political success built on the other party’s failure is fleeting. Jimmy Carter won a majority in the wake of Watergate, but his own shortcomings on national security and the economy took him from majority victor to landslide loser in four years. Repudiating the other side’s approach is only half the battle. Since neither side has a monopoly on truth, the hard part is knowing when to look beyond traditional orthodoxies to do what works.

Like FDR, we can build a lasting majority only by earning it — with ideas that demonstrate to the American people that if they entrust us with national leadership, we can deal effectively with the challenges our country faces and the challenges they face in their everyday lives.

The problem with the op-ed is that it doesn’t provide any meaningful recommendations. As Steve Benen wrote, “I have no idea what Ford and O’Malley hope to accomplish with this op-ed. It’s vague and filled with generalities, and it urges Dem candidates to keep doing what they’re doing. If there’s a point to their piece, it’s hiding well.”

The problem is that the DLC types see moving towards the center as the answer, but trying to split the differences between liberal and conservative positions does not necessarily give the right answer. As noted in the previous post, suburbanites voting Democratic oppose the war, oppose the Republican Party’s social conservativism, and support fiscal conservativism. I’ve also discussed similar trends among new Democratic voters in past posts on “Starbucks Republicans” and “South Park Republicans.”

The centrism of the DLC will not give these new voters good reason to support the Democrats. The DLC’s biggest error was in backing the Iraq war. Opposition to the war has now become the mainstream position. While the centrist Democrats urge moderation and compromise on social issues, doing this makes the Democrats less attractive to those who stopped voting Republican because of their backing of the policies of the religious right.

Thomas Frank got it backwards in What’s The Matter With Kansas? Frank argued that Democratic moderation on economic issues gave people less reason to vote for the Democrats for personal economic reasons, allowing them to vote Republican based on social issues. There may have been some truth to this in Kansas, but even in Kansas we are seeing moderates leaving the Republican Party to vote Democratic over issues such as teaching creationism in the schools.

In much of the rest of the country, economic versus social issues are viewed differently than in Thomas Franks’s Kansas. As the previous post discusses, many affluent suburbanites don’t see the Bush tax cuts as good enough reason to vote Republican due to opposition to Republican views on the war and social issues. Democratic moderation on economic policy makes this possible. We would not be voting Democratic if Democrats continued to support the high marginal rates present in the past. However, if the Democrats compromise on opposing the war or compromise on social issues in the hopes of receiving more votes in the center, there is no longer any reason to vote Democratic. If the Democrats don’t offer a clear difference from Republicans on the issues that matter, we might as well grab the Republican tax cuts.

For Democrats to develop a lasting majority, the secret is not simply going after the center. The trick is understanding what issues matter. There is a growing desire for a party which opposes the war, is socially liberal, and is centrist on economic matters. Democrats currently have the support of such voters which presents great opportunities for the future, but there is no guarantee they will keep them.

Rich Suburbs Voting for Democrats

RealClearPolitics has noticed what I’ve been writing about for quite a while. Alffluent suburbanites are beginning to vote Democratic. A lot of us are thinking “to hell with the Bush tax cuts if it means screwing up the country.” Positions on Iraq and social issues are replacing economics as the issues dividing the parties.

RealClearPolitics discusses the increase in support for Democrats in the suburbs:

The political shift toward Democrats has been noted in wealthy suburbs from Seattle to Philadelphia. In 2006, an amazing 63 percent of voters making from $150,000 to $200,000 chose Democratic candidates. Even those making over $200,000 favored Democrats, albeit by a small margin…

The big political question is whether affluent America is under full sail out of the Republican harbor or just drifting due to displeasure with the Bush administration. The leading complaints seem to be the war in Iraq and deficit spending…

It’s astonishing how many rich people dismiss the importance of the Bush tax cuts. They prefer to speak of the national interest, which to them means balanced budgets, a sophisticated foreign policy and concern for the environment. They also feel culturally estranged from social conservatives on such matters as abortion and stem cell research.

The Bush administration ends in January 2009. Will its departure slow Republican losses in posh suburbs? In Greenwich right now, things aren’t looking up for the GOP.

The other question is whether the Democrats can hold on to these voters. While an anti-war, socially liberal, fiscally responsible Democratic Party can continue to grow, a return to “tax and spend” policies and an anti-business atmosphere will remind suburbanites of why they have voted Republican. A candidate like John Edwards who engages in class warfare can probably win the election in 2008, but should he win he is likely to face a Republican Congress in 2011, and might be the last Democratic President we’ll see for a long time.

Al Gore Discusses Misinformation Campaign on Climate Change

Following the recent cover story in Newsweek regarding global warming deniers, Al Gore has addressed the topic again today:

Research aimed at disputing the scientific consensus on global warming is part of a huge public misinformation campaign funded by some of the world’s largest carbon polluters, former Vice President Al Gore said Tuesday.

“There has been an organized campaign, financed to the tune of about $10 million a year from some of the largest carbon polluters, to create the impression that there is disagreement in the scientific community,” Gore said at a forum in Singapore. “In actuality, there is very little disagreement.”

Gore likened the campaign to the millions of dollars spent by U.S. tobacco companies years ago on creating the appearance of scientific debate on smoking’s harmful effects.

“This is one of the strongest of scientific consensus views in the history of science,” Gore said. “We live in a world where what used to be called propaganda now has a major role to play in shaping public opinion.”

The misinformation campaign from the energy industry fits in well with other misinformation campaigns from the right wing. The anti-science right is easily deceived into ignoring the scientific consensus as conservatives have become adept at ignoring facts which contradict their beliefs. It is no coincidence that there is such a tremendous overlap between the people who believe the claims of the global warming deniers and those who believe in iintelligent design, that there was WMD in Iraq at the onset of the war, or that Saddam was involved in the 9/11 attacks.

Post Claims Times to Stop Charging for Content

The New York Post reports that The New York Times plans to stop charging for access to material such as their columnists. So far there’s no confirmation from the Times.

The New York Times is poised to stop charging readers for online access to its Op-Ed columnists and other content, The Post has learned.

After much internal debate, Times executives – including publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. – made the decision to end the subscription-only TimesSelect service but have yet to make an official announcement, according to a source briefed on the matter.

The timing of when TimesSelect will shut down hinges on resolving software issues associated with making the switch to a free service, the source said.

Times spokeswoman Catherine Mathis would only say in an e-mailed statement, “We continue to evaluate the best approach for

Now I hope that 1) Rupert Murdoch removes the subscription fees to the web version of The Wall Street Journal, and 2) that he leaves enough of the WSJ intack for it to remain worth reading.

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Nominate Ron Paul To Change the Debate

John Derbyshire considers whether the Republicans should nominate Ron Paul because it is not likely that any Republican can win, but they could change the discussion of political issues with Paul as their nominee. He quotes extensively from email he received from a Paul supporter recommending this, comparing the effects of a Paul candidacy with Barry Goldwater in 1964:

There have been at least two times in the history of our Republic when the losing candidate for president has had a greater effect on subsequent history of his party and country than the winner. Such was the case in 1928 when the Democratic party had the guts to nominate Al Smith; and again in 1964 when the Republican party nominated Barry Goldwater. Both changed the face of American politics for generations after.

“In regard to Ron Paul, I suggest that his candidacy, like the hopeless candidacies of Smith and Goldwater, would do more to focus the debate about the importance of our founding principles—about who we as a people are, and what our real interests are—than any other Republican or Democrat running.

There is no doubt that having Ron Paul as the nominee would dramatically change the debate. The problem with this strategy is that it wouldn’t change the debate in the direction those running the Republican Party want. The email notes:

Let’s consider the stifling bureaucracy that you so clearly describe in your article. Not one of the other candidates can do a thing about it once elected, without a real campaign discussion of it. Indeed, despite all the rhetoric, under Reagan, Bush I and Bush II, the size of government, its intrusion into our lives, the entangling web of federal programs and the budget deficit all grew immensely.

Despite the rhetoric, the Republicans have become a party of big government. They do not want to change this along the lines that Ron Paul advocates. Nor do they want an isolationist foreign policy to replace neoconservative imperialism.

Ron Paul is no Barry Goldwater. Barry Goldwater was too outspoken, and had the added problem of running in a year where LBJ had a tremendous advantage over any Republican. However Goldwater’s ideas were representative of a major portion of the Republican Party. All it took was a more articulate proponent of conservativism such as Ronald Reagan for them to be successful. In contrast, the Republicans have already driven out those with other ideas such as libertarians. Unlike the case with Goldwater, they do not want to move in a direction toward the ideas of Ron Paul.

Even though they realize they are at a disadvantage, I doubt most Republicans have totally given up on the hope of retaining the White House, or the thought that the Democrats might yet find a way to give up victory. The author of the quoted email is right that nominating Ron Paul would provide for a much more meaningful debate, but unfortunately it would not be the debate that most Republicans really want. If Ron Paul somehow does win, it will be due to an insurgency dominated by those out of the current Republican mainstream, not as a matter of strategy from the current Republican leadership.

Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You

In a two party system different people will vote for one or the other party for different reasons. Many people have supported the Democratic Party for years because of what they thought the government could do for them. In recent years an increasing number of people have voted Democratic in protest over what the government is doing to them. Yesterday at Huffington Post Dave Johnson quoted Chris Dodd as to what he believed it took to get support. The post was discussing impeachment, but my interest in this post isn’t specifically impeachment but the role of government on all issues.

One subject we talked extensively about was impeachment. He said something that will shape my views and helped me understand how a politician at his level has to think about serving the public. I’ll characterize it here. He said that when he considers how he should be spending his time a key question that he has to ask is how is the average person understanding this. The average person might not be paying very much attention to the news, might not consider him or herself to be “on the” left or right. That person is trying to get by and deal with life’s problems, like paying the mortgage, getting health care, etc. So when THAT person looks at what the Congress and Senate are doing, the question is, “How does this help ME?”

And if the Democrats spend time on impeachment they are open to the Republican lie and spin machine telling the public they are not serving THEM.
So Dodd says that unless the average person understands what HE OR SHE GETS out of Congress spending time on impeachment instead of all the other important things, he doesn’t think we should aim for that.

This sounds like a the stereotypical Democratic special interest politics. On the surface it appears logical. Offer people enough from government and they’ll vote for you. John Edwards is basing his entire campaign on this premise.

If this really worked, why have the Republicans been the majority party for so many years? The Republicans have won by understanding something that too many Democrats to not. Republicans have tapped into a common belief that the scariest words in the English language are, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.”

Chris Dodd underestimates the average American. The average person is not simply looking for what they can get out of the government. The Republicans won with Ronald Reagan making a promise, even if he didn’t deliver, to get the government off people’s back. The Democrats lost control of the government when they went too far under Bill and Hillary Clinton in offering universal health care with an overly complex system which most found far worse than the status quo.

Obviously this view of government does not apply to all Republicans. The reality of the Republican Party is far different than their rhetoric as they use government to provide benefits for their allies. However Republican corporate welfare benefits a much smaller number of people than those who vote have voted Republican.

This also isn’t to say that the government should never be there to help. There are few left who disagree that the government is needed to assist in extraordinary situations such as Katrina. Some problems, such as achieving affordable health care coverage and energy independence, require government action. This does not mean that all decisions by the voters come down to “what’s in it for me?”

The Democrats need to apply another principle that the Republicans understand far better–getting people to vote based upon their values. While readers here would find their values rather depraved, preventing a woman from receiving Plan B, keeping people from benefiting from stem cell research, and keeping two people from the same sex from marrying is seen by many as a reason to vote Republican. The people who vote this way do not benefit personally, but they vote Republican because they enforce their values system.

Democrats need to trust that people will also vote based upon liberal values. There are people who will vote for a candidate who will really get government off people’s back, and keep them out of personal decisions of religion and morality. Fighting for separation of church and state, preservation of civil liberties, and reducing the power of the Executive Branch doesn’t benefit us in the way Chris Dodd discussed, but these are values worth fighting for, and worth voting for, if only Democratic candidates would really stand up for these values.

Even impeachment might remain on the table if Democrats the values upon which this nation was founded as worth fighting for. While there are many arguments pro and con, impeachment can be seen as a method demonstrating the values we hold with regards to defending the Constitution and fighting excessive centralization of power in a corrupt Executive Branch which has done so much harm to the country since 2001.

Most likely the Democrats will take control after the 2008 elections. Hopefully they will understand the values which caused many people to abandon the Republicans and vote Democratic. Just as importantly, they must understand the values which caused a majority to vote Republican for many years. They must avoid returning to special interest politics and thinking that throwing around taxpayer’s money is what voters necessarily want. Many voters ask neither “what your country can do for you” or what they can do for their country. It is time to really get government off people’s backs whenever possible, while avoiding the Republican mistake of not allowing the government to act when really necessary.