Howard Fineman on 2008 As Year of the Third Force

Howard Fineman sees 2008 as possibly being the year of the “Third Force.” With the possibility that the major party candidates will be determined by February, there is plenty of time for buyer’s remorse, and for people to look at any third party candidates who might decide to run in early 2008.

If I were a GOP strategist – or a Democratic one – I would be worried by Arnold’s body language. He and other major independent actors on the political scene – New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Vice President Al Gore, chief among them – comprise a Third Force that could upset two-party politics as we know it in the 2008 presidential race.

Indeed, although there is no formal alliance, Schwarzenegger, Bloomberg and Gore have formed a mutual admiration society that has huge potential implications for 2008. They have come to share similar visions on the urgency of the global warming and health care crises, and a similar impatience with politics as usual.

One problem with many articles on the possibility of a third party candidate is that they predict a desire for another choice, but fail to take into account the different views amont those seeking alternatives. Desiring a third choice does not mean there is agreement what the alternative choice should be. The media looks at third parties from a horse race perspective, ignoring the fact that people choose third parties based upon what they support.

Feinman suggests that Gore might support a third party bid by someone else as opposed to running himself. Besides Gore, Schwarzenegger, and Bloomberg, Feinman suggests others could be involved:

Other key players who could be part of this Third Force include Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, a man without a comfortable home in his own party any more. And Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, an anti-war activist who was on the verge of announcing for the GOP nomination, but changed his mind at the last minute.

If you hear that Lieberman and Hagel are getting together to hash out a common position on Iraq – not an easy thing to achieve, to be sure – then you know something is up.

I don’t see that this group would make for a third party which would excite very many people. Gore’s views on the war are so different from those of Lieberman. While Hagel might differ from Repubicans on the war, he is conservative on other issues. If Gore has any interest, he’d be better off running as a Democrat than running with those whose views differ so much from his. If he is looking to back a third party bid, I would not expect him to back one involving Lieberman or Hagel.

Thomas Friedman on Bush Administrations Suppression of Climate Change Reports

Thomas Friedman weighs in on the documents revealing that “hundreds of instances in which a White House official who was previously an oil industry lobbyist edited government climate reports to play up uncertainty of a human role in global warming or play down evidence of such a role.” Friedman compares the attitudes of the Bush administration to those of Arnold Schwarzenegger:

Let’s see, of all the gin joints. Of all the people the Bush team would let edit its climate reports, we have a guy who first worked for the oil lobby denying climate change, with no science background, then went back to work for Exxon. Does it get any more intellectually corrupt than that? Is there something lower that I’m missing?

I wonder how Mr. Cooney would have edited the recent draft report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, written and reviewed by 1,000 scientists convened by the World Meteorological Society and the U.N. It concluded that global warming is “unequivocal,” that human activity is the main driver, and that “changes in climate are now affecting physical and biological systems on every continent.”

I am not out to promote any party, but reading articles like the Cooney one makes me say: Thank goodness the Democrats are back running the House and Senate — because, given its track record, this administration needs to be watched at all times.

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Rush Limbaugh Terminated

Earlier in the month we saw conservatives denounce Ann Coulter. Will Rush Limbaugh suffer the same fate? Once considered the spokesman for conservativism, he must now feel like he is being pursued by a cyborg from the future. Limbaugh tried to take on Arnold Schwarzenegger, but Arnold struck back on the Today Show.

Rush Limbaugh recently attacked Schwarzenegger on his show, including calling him a “closet liberal.”

“I don’t know what happened to Arnold,” the conservative talker said on his radio show. “He obviously didn’t have the leadership skills to articulate conservative principles and win over the public as Reagan did.”

Schwarzenneger responded by saying, “Limbaugh is irrelevant.” He also said, “I’m not his servant. I am the people’s servant of California.”

Some say that an attack by a prominent Republican means that Limbaugh’s days as a major conservative spokesman are over. Other say his power has always been a myth, or perhaps a fantasy fueled by an OxyContin high.

“For all of his power and all of his fame, Rush Limbaugh, during his ascent in the ’90s, bashing Bill Clinton on a daily basis, hours on the radio every day coast to coast, was not able to un-elect Bill Clinton,” said Michael Harrison of Talkers Magazine, a trade magazine for talk radio.

Republicans Jump Aboard Government Health Care Plans

Arnold Schwarzenegger joins Mitt Romney as a prominent Republican proposing a government health care plan to provide universal coverage. Needless to say, this has created considerable controversy among conservatives. PrestoPundit compares the health care positions of Schwarzenegger to Milton Friedman, and many other conservative bloggers also feel betrayed that someone who sounded like one of them is proposing such a major government program rather than relying on the free market to solve the problem.

There is a major difference between people like Schwarzenegger and Romney compared to conservative writers and bloggers. Governors have to actually solve problems, and cannot hide behind ideology when it fails. While the free market out performs government in most activities, health care is one area where the market has failed. The current system is collapsing and people like Schwarzenegger see no choice but to use the government to attempt to fix the problem.

I am speaking in general here about the need for govenment action without necessarily endorsing all the specifics of Schwarzenegger’s plan. There certainly are also down sides. While they might be right on some objections to the plan, I’m seeing many of the common claims made by people outside of health care which should be dispensed with so that the plan could be considered on its true merits and faults.

Captain’s Quarters raises the usual scares of a government take over, writing “While not a single-payor system on the surface, the new regulation would dictate the terms for insurers in such a way that government will effectively take over most of the decision-making for medical coverage and payouts.” While the scares about “socialized medicine” remain common in the conservative media, I hear far less of this from colleagues now than ten to twenty years ago. While different individual’s experiences may vary, in general restrictions from business have been far more onerous than those from Medicare. I have a number of patients who I would prefer to be in Medicare than the plans they currently have, making “socialized medicine” appear far less threatening.

Schwarzenegger proposes a two percent tax on physicians. A Stich in Haste calls this a “war on physicians.” Captain’s Quarters predicts, “Health care providers will decline, since taxes provide a disincentive to the market; doctors will find other venues in which to practice, and the best will capture the most lucrative economic positions, none of which will now be in California.” The Autopsy takes this further in fearing that “because everyone has health coverage, more people will go to the doctor, and there will be less doctors to see the patients. As a result, appointments will have to be made months in advance and urgent-care visits will be done through emergency room care just to guarantee a speedy appointment.”

The two percent tax will certainly be controversial, but it is far from clear that it will result in less doctors practicing. As The Autopsy even admits, this will increase demand for physician services. In addition to allowing for increased income, having a fully insured population would eliminate the major source of bad debts and even allow me slash my marketing expenses. I suspect that these financial benefits would increase my profits by well over two percent, eliminating any incentive to leave the state if such a plan were proposed here. To further improve the benefits for physicians, and as well as improving access for patients, Schwarzenegger also proposes an increase in payment from California’s version of Medicaid. Without knowing the specifics I cannot say if this will be adequate, but with all the politicians utilizing expansion of Medicaid in various plans I am impressed to see that Schwarzenegger is at least addressing the problem of inadequate reimbursement from Medicaid. (more…)

Schwarzenegger Gets Chance to Terminate the Electoral College

A proposal is being considered in California and other states to end the system in which a President is elected based upon the number of electoral votes won as opposed to the popular vote. This may very well be a worthy goal, but the means raises concerns. The scheme would have a number of states agree to award their electoral votes to the candidate which wins the popular vote nationally, regardless of who wins their state. If enough larger states do this, the electoral college will be thrown to who ever wins the popular vote regardless of whether the entire country approves the change.

There are many valid reasons to support a popularly elected President as opposed to the electoral college. Candidates might compete for votes everywhere rather than a handful of swing states (or perhaps it would be worse if they stuck to the most densely populated areas). It isn’t worth debating this based upon who you desire to win as the results are unpredictable. I recall in 2000 people were discussing the possibility of George Bush winning the popular vote but losing the electoral college since he might win by a larger margin in the southern states than Gore would win in the northern states. Instead the opposite happened. In future elections Republicans might have an advantage due to the higher winning percentage for Republicans in the south, but in the long run this might help the Democrats as Howard Dean’s fifty state strategy would make even more sense if Democrats would benefit by increasing their percentage by five or ten percent regardless of whether they actually won a majority in southern states.

While the goal is admirable, I am disturbed by the means. We are already faced with a problem where a large percentage of the voters do not accept the results of elections, which is a very serious problem if we are to maintain a democracy. While Democrats have been complaining the loudest lately, the Washington Senate election last year showed that Republicans would do the same if they lot by a narrow margin. Justified distrust after the 2000 election leads many Democrats to accept even the weakest arguments for a stolen election in 2004, while Republicans ignore the actual acts of voter suppression which did occur. Each side looks at the convictions for voter fraud from the other party and sees a one-sided conspiracy from the other party. Election reform to be successful must be a bipartisan effort coming from honorable people of each party who support fair election as an end it itself. Instead we have a situation where each party sees the other side’s complaints as an attempt to tamper with the results or deny the other party their victory.

With distrust at such a great level already, we cannot afford to create even more controversy over the results. If this system passes in enough states, the first time it results in a different winner than under the current system this will be yet one more reason people will not accept the results. We must have nation wide and bipartisan agreement as to the rules, and the rules must be in accordance with the Constitution so nobody can question their legitimacy. It would be much safer if any change in how elections are decided was accomplished by a mechanism accepted by all as legitimate, such as a Constitutional amendment.

Other blogs discussing this (left and right): Althouse, Daily Pundit, and Blue Crab Boulevard.

Even Republicans Becoming Liberals

There’s another sign that the era of conservativism is ending and the pendulum is moving back towards liberal values in much of the country. The New York Times reports that many Republican candidates for governor are stressing their liberal beliefs. This is “particularly pervasive this year, as Republicans seek to distance themselves from an unpopular president and to respond to what is widely recognized as polarization fatigue among many voters.” The article provides several examples:

Mr. Schwarzenegger, who six months ago fashioned himself a Republican reformer bent on hobbling entrenched Democratic institutions, is not just tolerating positions generally associated with liberal candidates. Rather, he is using them as the centerpiece of his re-election campaign, marking the first time in a generation that a Republican governor here has clung to the left during a re-election fight.

The strategy is not unique to Mr. Schwarzenegger’s campaign. Across the nation’s 36 races for governor, Republican candidates in states heavy with moderate or Democratic voters are playing up their liberal positions on issues including stem cell research, abortion and the environment, while remaining true to their party’s platform on taxes and streamlining government.

In Massachusetts, Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey, who is seeking to fill the seat that will be vacated by Gov. Mitt Romney, has openly split with Mr. Romney on abortion rights and stem cell research; her views are shared by the Republican candidate for governor in Illinois, Judy Baar Topinka, who also supports civil unions for same-sex couples.

In Maryland, the Republican incumbent, Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., is pushing for increasing state aid for programs for the disabled and imposing tighter restrictions on coal-fired plants; the Republican governor of Hawaii, Linda Lingle, opposes the death penalty. In Connecticut, Gov. M. Jodi Rell also parts ways with the Republican Party on civil unions and financing for stem cell research.

The Economist’s Survey on Global Warming

The Economist has a lengthy survey on global warming. The introduction shows they are more open to examining the science than American conservatives:

This survey will argue that although the science remains uncertain, the chances of serious consequences are high enough to make it worth spending the (not exorbitant) sums needed to try to mitigate climate change. It will suggest that, even though America, the world’s biggest CO2 emitter, turned its back on the Kyoto protocol on global warming, the chances are that it will eventually take steps to control its emissions. And if America does, there is a reasonable prospect that the other big producers of CO2 will do the same.

They look at the science and at the economics of global warming. Some areas could actually benefit from global warming. “Not all the change will be bad. An extra couple of degrees might not do northern Europe any harm. Russia could benefit hugely from a bit of warming: large parts of the country that are currently uninhabitable could become comfortable enough to live in. The 25% of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas reserves that are reckoned to be in the Arctic, much of them in Russia, would become easier to get at.” Despite these benefits, they find that overall gloobal warming is a serious threat which makes economic sense to take action on:

Out of the fog of uncertainty over the economics of climate change, the outline of a few conclusions emerges. Global warming poses a serious risk, and the costs of mitigation are not so large as to be politically unthinkable. Mitigation is better done gradually than swiftly, because the faster it is done, the more it will cost. That said, the economics of the subject are too uncertain for policymakers to lean heavily upon them, so in the end it will be the politicians who decide.

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Republicans Build A Very Tiny Tent

Republicans claim to have a big tent and are critical of Democrats for dumping Joe Lieberman, but if their moderates happen to stray we see how small their tent has really become. The authoritarian right interprets a bill signed by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger as a sign that “the gates of hell are prevailing against the church.” WorldNet Daily reports:

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has tossed out all sexual moral conduct codes at colleges, private and Christian schools, daycare centers and other facilities throughout his state, if the institutions have any students who get state assistance.The governor yesterday signed a bill that would require all businesses and groups receiving state funding — even if it’s a state grant for a student — to condone homosexuality, bisexuality and transsexuality.

Schwarzenegger isn’t the only moderate Republican to be attacked by the right wing today. Right Wing News presented The Conservative Case Against Rudy Giuliani In 2008 yesterday. They object to Giuliani’s views on abortion, providing this example:

“I’ve said that I’ll uphold a woman’s right of choice, that I will fund abortion so that a poor woman is not deprived of a right that others can exercise, and that I would oppose going back to a day in which abortions were illegal.

DONAHUE: Which would be to continue the pregnancy.GIULIANI: Which would be that I would help her with taking care of the baby. But if the ultimate choice of the woman – my daughter or any other woman – would be that in this particular circumstance [if she had] to have an abortion, I’d support that. I’d give my daughter the money for it.”

I do that in spite of my own personal reservations. I have a daughter now; if a close relative or a daughter were pregnant, I would give my personal advice, my religious and moral views …

They criticize him for supporting a ban on assault weapons making me surprised they didn’t take the opportunity to note that here he’s more liberal than Howard Dean. They find fault in him opposing a ban on gay marriage and the Republican’s use of gay marriage as a wedge issue: (more…)