Archive for November 2008
You’ve got to read P.J. O’Rourke’s essay in the Weekly Standard, “We Blew It”. The whole conservative and Republican establishments are trying to figure out what went wrong and what to do next; this is one of the best attempts at the former.
“It took a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives 40 years–from 1954 to 1994–to get that corrupt and arrogant. And we managed it in just 12”
“Conservatives should never say to voters, “We can lower your taxes.” Conservatives should say to voters, “You can raise spending. You, the electorate, can, if you choose, have an infinite number of elaborate and expensive government programs. But we, the government, will have to pay for those programs. We have three ways to pay.
“We can inflate the currency, destroying your ability to plan for the future, wrecking the nation’s culture of thrift and common sense, and giving free rein to scallywags to borrow money for worthless scams and pay it back 10 cents on the dollar.
“We can raise taxes. If the taxes are levied across the board, money will be taken from everyone’s pocket, the economy will stagnate, and the poorest and least advantaged will be harmed the most. If the taxes are levied only on the wealthy, money will be taken from wealthy people’s pockets, hampering their capacity to make loans and investments, the economy will stagnate, and the poorest and the least advantaged will be harmed the most.
“And we can borrow, building up a massive national debt. This will cause all of the above things to happen plus it will fund Red Chinese nuclear submarines that will be popping up in San Francisco Bay to get some decent Szechwan take-out.”
Yes, this would make for longer and less pithy stump speeches. But we’d be showing ourselves to be men and women of principle. It might cost us, short-term. We might get knocked down for not whoring after bioenergy votes in the Iowa caucuses. But at least we wouldn’t land on our scruples. And we could get up again with dignity intact, dust ourselves off, and take another punch at the liberal bully-boys who want to snatch the citizenry’s freedom and tuck that freedom, like a trophy feather, into the hatbands of their greasy political bowlers.”
Election night reminded me once more what a crazy, wonderful country I live in. Barack Obama gave an incredible, uplifting victory speech to match his great accomplishment. John McCain’s concession speech was literally jaw-dropping. His eloquence, graciousness, and humility were inspiring; a few more performances that good and he may not have had to concede! For him, on the very night of the election, to refer to his opponent as “my president”, after an ugly campaign this year and such divisive elections in 2000 and 2004, blew my mind.
It made me think of just how unusual our political system is. Our presidents and presidential candidates have, again and again, given up the most powerful office in the world without coups, civil wars, violence. This is not how human beings naturally work. That we do so is an awesome achievement of our constitutional system, culture, and continued vigilance. John McCain did one better, giving up not only without violence, but without hard feelings.
In a democratic society, though, we cannot depend only on having great leaders; they will not emerge except from a great people. Ordinary Americans, using the latest greatest American technology, give the best showing of supporting democracy and being kind-hearted.
I give you 52 to 48/48 to 52, with love!
As I filled out my absentee ballot, I found myself deeply ambivalent- both about the local races I know nothing about, and the Presidential race I’ve been reading about for months and could talk about for hours. I wonder whether all these things I know about the candidates reflect what they know about themselves and their real plans; and further how future events will intervene to make the candidates act in ways they themselves don’t anticipate.
But the problem is bigger than uncertainty about the future; it is more a fundamental inability to judge people. I lack the experience, knowledge, and confidence to say that one person is better than another unless the evidence is overwhelming. College taught me how to evaluate position papers and speeches, but some time working HR, or working anywhere, would have taught me to evaluate people with more confidence (if not knowledge).
So why do I say that college taught me how to vote, if it left me unable to choose candidates? Easy, there’s more than names on a ballot! There are questions, direct questions about single issues. That’s exactly the kind of thing college is good for; these questions could blend into an exam in political science, philosophy, or economics. Except they’re easy; it is pretty straightforward to see which groups are hurt or helped economically, and how a single proposition fits with your political philosophy.
The ironic part of all this single-issue preparation is that while I feel I’ve learned well how to vote as a senator, I’m left clueless about how to vote for a senator.