Premature Declaration of Victory By The Net-Roots

Susan Gardner and Markos Moulitas take far too much credit for the 2006 Democratic victories in a Washington Post op-ed today. Just as 2004 was no mandate for George Bush’s policies, 2006 did not signify majority support for all the views held by the liberal blogosphere. As much as liberal bloggers might like to believe this, holding such delusions could lead to another lengthy period of Republican government.

Voters rejected the Republicans after years of failures. Some voted for the Democrats because they were the only choice available. A majority agreed with the Democrats on many issues, but not necessarily all. It must be kept in mind that there were reasons that people voted Republican, even before 9/11, and they may do so again if they don’t find the Democrats to be an improvement.

While the net-roots certainly helped, it is also quite likely that by 2006 the Republicans would have been rejected even if Daily Kos never existed. For Gardner and Kos to take credit for Lamont’s primary victory is particularly bizarre considering the general election outcome. While I was not happy for the result, this was hardly a victory for the net-roots, although incumbency and Republican support were probably more important than ideology in the general election.

Gardner and Kos take on an easy target in Harold Ford and the DLC. As Ford has been vocal recently with his recommendations it is understandable that Kos would respond to him. It would be a dangerous falacy to assume from this that the only possible Democratic positions are liberal versus the DLC’s version of centrist.

As I’ve recently discussed, the DLC is not representative of the views of independent and more moderate voters. While voters do not support progressive Democrats on all issues, looking for a mythical centrist position is not the answer. One reason people voted Democratic was dissatisfaction with the war, and the DLC’s “centrist” views are now far to the right of mainstream America.

Many voters also rejected the Republcians because the social issues they used to turn out the conservative vote in 2004 backfired against them. Many people objected to the increased intrusion in what should be individual decisions. This includes end of life decisions such as in the Terri Schiavo case, abortion rights, stem cell research, and Republican intolerance of homosexuality. These are also not areas where we can look for a center. Just as with Iraq, holding the DLC positions would leave the Democrats as no better choice than the Republicans are.

It is on economics that many Democrats fail to understand why their party has lost so many elections. Most Americans see not two but one America, where they can strive to succeed. While there is no doubt that there is inequality, those who strive for success concentrate on what they can achieve rather than live in jealousy of others. There is a reasonable middle ground between the corporate welfare policies of the Republicans and the economic views of the far left.

The lack of mainstream support for populist economic positions can be seen in polls which break down people who intend to vote in Democratic caucuses and primaries by whether they identify themselves as Democrats versus Independents. The winners in such polls are Bill Richardson, who campaigns as being more business-friendly, and Barack Obama, who works to transcend the usual left versus right differences. In contrast, John Edwards does poorly among these independents. The affluent suburbs are starting to vote Democratic, but this is over Iraq and social issues, not economic issues.

In recent years the Democrats have moderated on economic issues. With tax rates for the upper middle class no longer as high in the past, and with Democrats being the party which last balanced the budget, many who are moderate on economic issues felt safe in voting Democratic based upon Iraq and social issues. This will quickly change if they perceive the Democrats as moving to the left on economic issues.

If there is a new center to American politics, it is not found by trying to find a place in the middle on all issues, and it is certainly not found in the policies of the DLC. The real center is an area of common agreement between many Democrats, independents, “Starbucks Republicans,” and “South Park Republicans” in opposing the war, holding liberal social positions, but being more moderate on economic issues.

Romney Wins, Huckabee Second in Iowa Straw Poll

The results on the Iowa straw poll are in:

  1. Romney 31.5%
  2. Huckabee 18.1%
  3. Brownback 15%
  4. Tancredo 13.7%
  5. Ron Paul 9%

I think that Mike Huckabee is the only one who can really be happy tonight. Perhaps his campaign will attract more attention with this second place showing, especially as many Republicans are dissatisfied by the top tier candidates. Considering all the money Romney spent and the absence of the other top candidates, 31.5% is not much of an endorsement for him.

Maybe this will put an end to the delusions that Ron Paul has a chance at winning the nomination. Paul supporters have argued that all the internet buzz regarding Paul and greater intensity of support would lead Paul to do far better than indicated by the polls. While they are right that he could perform somewhat better than his position in the polls, this event shows that their efforts are not enough to win in the Republican Party.

I doubt that Ron Paul himself is that surprised or disappointed, although his campaign did predict a finish in the top three. I assume he got into this to spread a message as opposed to having any expectations of victory. There is no reason for his supporters to give up. If they agree with Paul there is still reason to spread his message, but they should do so with the understanding that this really is about spreading a message and not winning an election.

Personal Responsibility and Cheesburgers

If you had a severe allergy to cheese and ordered a hamburger from a restaurant which commonly serves them with cheese wouldn’t the obvious thing to do be to look at the hamburger before eating it? Would you really trust the employees of a fast food restaurant regardless of whether they said there was cheese present?

The Charlston Daily Mail reports on a case where someone with an allergy to cheese ordered two Quarterpounders, stipulating that they be without cheese:

Jeromy did his part to make it known he didn’t want cheese on the hamburgers because he is allergic, Houston said.

He told a worker through the ordering speaker and then two workers face-to-face at the pay and pick-up windows that he couldn’t eat cheese, Houston said.

“By my count, he took at least five independent steps to make sure that thing had no cheese on it,” Houston said. “And it did and almost cost him his life.”

After getting the food, the three drove to Clarksburg and started to eat the food in a darkened room where they were going to watch a movie, Houston said.

Jeromy took one bite and started having the reaction, Houston said. One of the three immediately called the McDonald’s to let restaurant employees know they had messed up the order, but had to cut the call short when Jeromy started having a bad reaction, Houston said.

McDonalds offered to pay his medical expenses. Jeromy and those who allegedly risked their lives to get him to the hospital are suing for $10 million. McDonalds might share some blame, but I cannot help but wonder why he didn’t simply look at the hamburger first. It might be different if we were talking about a difficult to find ingredient, but it would be obvious if cheese was present. I’ve experienced numerous errors in take out orders, and would certainly pay extremely close attention if it was literally a matter of life and death.

It sounds rather suspicious that the hamburgers were immediately taken into a dark room. Q&O and Sister Toldjah suspect a scam. I’d be curious as to what types of reactions he had in the past. Reactions milk products are not usually life threatening, but if he had any clue that he risked a life threatening reaction it is more questionable if he would have risked this. Anaphylaxis just isn’t very fun.

It certainly is possible that it is a scam. I was peripherally involved in a scam of this nature years ago. I had a diabetic patient who was going to the Emergency Room with severely uncontrolled diabetes on a frequent basis. There was no rational explanation for why her sugar was getting this far out of control other than for intentionally causing this to occur. Incidentally, the patient was unemployed and received one hundred percent medical coverage through Medicare and Medicaid and therefore had no financial losses from these hospitalizations.

I received the answer to this puzzle after she had her records released to an attorney and I discussed the matter with the attorney. The attorney informed me that before the first incident the patient had purchased what was labeled a sugar free soft drink but it actually contained sugar. She claims that this resulted in a case of diabetic ketoacidosis.

The patient sought out the attorney to sue for damages. The patient had even saved a small amount of the drink to prove it contained sugar, and had the receipt. This all sounded too suspicious of a person trying to fabricate a case, and the attorney initially had little interest. The attorney tried to get rid of her by saying that there would only be a case if she had repeated or more long standing damage.

The patient took that as guidance of how to develop a case. If she needed long standing damage, she made sure that she was repeatedly admitted in diabetic ketoacidosis.

As I advised the attorney, this made absolutely no sense. It is perhaps possible, but very doubtful, that drinking a single bottle of pop with sugar could have triggered a case of ketoacidosis if her sugar was already elevated. Even if we accepted this, there was no possible way that this episode could have had any bearing on subsequent events.

I happened to run into the attorney months later when she was representing another patient. I don’t recall the exact amount, but I found that the soft drink manufacturer did settle for an amount which made this scam worth the patient’s efforts. It turned out to be a successful scam.

The fact that one person pulled a scam proves nothing about the person in this case. If his account is truthful I could see granting him something beyond his medical expenses–perhaps a small monetary award accompanied by a lecture to show some personal responsibility in such situations.

Dodging the Draft

General Lute seemed to disappear after being confirmed as the “Iraq war czar” but in his first interview since being confirmed he may have made himself unpopular among both Democrats and Republicans. Republicans have avoided use of the draft, most likely due to the political ramifications as well as what it would remind voters of their own personal histories. Lute isn’t ruling the draft out:

“I think it makes sense to certainly consider it,” Army Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute said in an interview with National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.”

“And I can tell you, this has always been an option on the table. But ultimately, this is a policy matter between meeting the demands for the nation’s security by one means or another,” said Lute, who is sometimes referred to as the “Iraq war czar.” It was his first interview since he was confirmed by the Senate in June.

I doubt that the Republicans would be so politically foolish, but there is always the danger that this was an intentional trial balloon. Bush says he does not plan on restoring the draft, but he also claimed he planned to use the authority granted to him under the Iraq War Resolution to seek a diplomatic solution when the Downing Street Memos later proved he was lying.

Most Democrats oppose the draft but there was a misguided effort by Charles Rangel to introduce the draft to prove a point. The idea was that if threatened by a draft,  Republicans who back the war without seeing any danger to their own families would change their minds. Some conservatives tried to spin this as evidence that Democrats support the draft but the draft was opposed by virtually all Democrats, including the House leadership,  and this measure was ultimately defeated by a vote of 402 to 2.

While this was far more a stunt than a serious political argument, there are a handful on the left who actually take Rangel’s arguments seriously. This might represent a litmus test of the philosophy behind the wide variety of individuals lumped into the left in our simplistic division of the political spectrum. I oppose the draft for essentially the same reason that I oppose slavery. Perhaps exceptions may need to be made for the draft in situations such as World War II, but it is not reasonable to argue that both the Iraq war is wrong and that we should compromise principles in order to provide enough troops.

There is the possibility that a draft would increase opposition to the war, assuming that children of Republicans couldn’t find ways out as in the past. It is doubtful that a draft would prevent unjust wars in the future any more than it has in the past. The increased availability of soldiers could also make the neoconservative dreams more feasible. Regardless of the political effects of restoring the draft, children should not be used as pawns in such a political calculation which could easily backfire.