Following on my previous post, I’ve realized for some time that the Coffee Party wasn’t going be the kind of sensible Third Way alternative, a la the UnParty, that I’ve been looking for all these years.
I was momentarily beguiled by the word “coffee,” but I eventually woke up and smelled it.
Basically, for some time, it has seemed to be more of a leftie alternative to the Tea sorts.
And now, like Phil Noble’s SC New Democrats, the Coffee Party is totally in the bag for Occupy Wall Street. They seem starstruck or something, like this is what they’ve been waiting for all their lives. You can see this, over and over, in recent Tweets, such as this one:
Talk about your fanboy sensibilities.
This prompted me to reply, I’m disappointed that the Coffee Party seems so entranced by Occupy Wall Street…
To which I received this answer:@coffeepartyusaCoffee Party
No, I’m not. I won’t be in town. But thanks. I mean, I believe y’all are sincere in your effort to include me.
If only y’all would snap out of it, and become a real alternative for those of us who are sick of people marching and countermarching in the streets, and hollering pointlessly at each other in the halls of Congress. Those of us longing for some common, grown-up sense.
My prescription: Listen to the song below. (The Coffee Party fooled me once. I won’t get fooled again.) And have yourself a nice cup of coffee while you listen. Preferably some of that wonderful, corporate Starbucks coffee. See how good it is…
And then vote UnParty.
Another of those fund-raising appeals that never stop coming arrived this morning, ostensibly from Donna Brazile. It starts out,
If President Obama found a cure for the common cold, Republicans would oppose it.
I’ll ignore the laughably transparent attempt to pretend you know me (“Hey, Donna!”), when you obviously don’t if you think I’d give you money, and move on to the first full sentence.
You’re absolutely right. Now, will you agree with me on the following statement, which is just as obviously true?
If President Bush had found a cure for the common cold, Democrats would have opposed it.
You can’t agree, Donna? Oh, well. Perhaps I don’t know you that well, either.
Too bad. Because you had hit on a punchy, terse way of expressing how pointlessly partisan Congress has become, and how destructive it is to the country for anyone to give you money for your cause, or to do the same for your Republican counterparts.
Vote UnParty, y’all.
Speaking of stuff in The Wall Street Journal today, Joe Lieberman had a good piece on the Opinion pages about the importance of the upcoming Tunisian elections.
You should read it all (if you can get past the pay wall), but what grabbed my easily-distracted attention was this:
Third, the U.S. should recognize that the foremost challenges for Tunisia’s new government will be economic, in spurring growth and reducing unemployment. While the U.S. cannot offer billions of dollars of direct aid, given our own economic challenges, there are other actions we can take. These include establishing a robust Millennium Challenge Corporation compact with Tunisia and expanding the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to operate there. Congress should also pass legislation, which I co-sponsored with Sens. John Kerry and John McCain, to establish a Tunisian-American Enterprise Fund aimed at helping small and medium-sized businesses, and modeled after similar efforts in Central Europe following the fall of communism.
For the longest time, it was Lieberman, McCain and Lindsey Graham doing everything together, including road trips. Then, there was a sort of transitional trio when Lieberman, Graham and Kerry worked together on trying to push an actual, coherent, comprehensive energy policy for the country (one that looked pretty good from an Energy Party perspective).
Then, Graham took all kinds of horrific grief from the most hateful ideological extremists in his own party from having had any dealings with a Democrat, and pulled out of the deal — tragically, thereby collapsing it.
Now, it’s Lieberman, McCain and Kerry? Is Kerry the new, replacement member of the Three Amigos? Is he Ringo to Graham’s Pete Best?
I’m puzzling, hopefully, over what this means:
The no. 3 Republican in the Senate will step down from his leadership position early next year, despite having no plans to retire from Congress.
Lamar Alexander informed his fellow GOP colleagues of his rather surprising decision on Tuesday morning in a letter obtained byPolitico, saying that the move was the best decision for him and the Senate.
“Stepping down from leadership will liberate me to spend more time working for results on the issues I care most about,” the 71-year-old former Tennessee governor wrote. “I want to do more to make the Senate a more effective institution so that it can deal better with serious issues. There are different ways to provide leadership within the Senate. After nine years here, this is how I believe I can now make my greatest contribution. For these same reasons I do not plan to seek a leadership position in the next Congress.”…
I’ve respected Lamar Alexander since I covered him in his first successful run for governor in 1978, spending a good bit of time with him on the road (OK, so I was on the road with him 24/7 for one week before switching over to cover his opponent, but it was enough time to form a positive impression).
Lamar was never a guy you get particularly excited about. He was… bland. One of the most striking things about him was how much his speaking voice sounded like Pat Boone’s. (Once, I heard a PSA on the radio by Boone, and I thought it was the governor until he identified himself at the end — or was it the other way around?) His much-publicized walk across Tennessee in the trademark red-and-black shirt was SO contrived, such an earnest bid to be interesting, that I would joke about it, while at the same time appreciating his seriousness. He was what Tennessee needed after the rollicking corruption of Ray Blanton (who had defeated him four years earlier, on the very first election night of my newspaper career, when I was a copy boy at The Commercial Appeal). I would joke that Lamar’s main appeal to the voters was to subliminally project, “I won’t steal the silverware from the governor’s mansion.” But after Blanton, that was progress.
Turned out that there was a lot more progress to come with Alexander. He was different from any Republican governor I have seen since. He started out appointing Democrats to his Cabinet (his chief political adviser was someone who had worked for Democrats), and he reached out to the Democratic majority in the legislature to get his agenda passed, including significant movement toward merit pay for teachers. From day one, he was about raising the incomes of the average Tennessean, and he was for working with whomever it took to get that done. He worked particularly productively with the iconic speaker of the House (and later governor) Ned Ray McWherter.
He has served his state, and now his country, with pragmatic dedication and moderate sensibilities. So I’m sorry to see him leave leadership.
And puzzled. What does he mean he can be more effective outside that role? There’s a hint in the original Politico story:
Alexander says the decision was rooted in his desire to foster consensus in the gridlocked Senate, a role he felt constrained playing while spearheading the partisan Senate GOP messaging machine.
That sounds very cool — and even, despite this being Lamar Alexander, exciting. In an UnParty sense. I’d love to hear an elaboration on that. It would be nice to have back about 15 minutes of that time I spent riding around with him in cars and planes back in the day. I think I’d have more interesting questions now…
At Rotary today, Kathryn Fenner gave me the above bracelet, a souvenir from her visit to the Land of the Midnight Sun. She said it represented “the Norwegian UnParty.”
Naturally curious, I went to the website, and at first found absolutely nothing to argue with. On account of it being in, you know, Norwegian. But then I asked my browser to translate the site — which it did, into a sort of stilted version of English.
And you know what? I found a lot to like. Not that I agreed with everything, of course. Nor would I agree with everything that came out of a hypothetical UnParty convention. But it was not bad. The UnParty isn’t strictly a “Center Party,” which is how this translates, but a lot of the basic ideas are at least compatible. I don’t think any Senterpartiet member would get thrown out of an UnParty meeting (if only because we’re, like, way tolerant of differences, unlike some parties I could name). Here’s a sample, from the A’s:
The Center will continue the current abortion laws. A fertilized egg is the seed of a new life. The community has a duty, through legislation and otherwise, to give the unborn child and the woman suitable protection. We will oppose the use and research on embryos, fetal tissues and aborted fetuses in humans.
The Center will increase adoption support for 1G (70.256 million). Furthermore, we want to simplify the adoption process through, among other things, simpler regulations, and shorter processing times…
The Center aims to reduce alcohol consumption in the population. Besides a systematic public health with an emphasis on promoting healthy drinking habits, the controlled access and high taxes as the most active full measures to limit alcohol use and reduce alcohol related harm. Prevention among young people and raising the average age at onset of alcohol is of great value, so that alcohol use decreases. Minimum age for purchase is an important preventive measure.
Environment and climate change means we must invest heavily in developing new technologies and alternative energy sources. The Center’s goal for Norway to produce 23 TWh of renewable electricity by 2020. New energy in the form of district heating and goals for energy efficiency must be additional to this. The total hydropower resources to be used better. There should be more wind power on land and at sea, it will be extracted more heat and electricity from biomass, and energy production from the sea in the form of wave and sea heat should be increased….
The Center will have an immigration and integration policies that put human life in focus and where the individual has clear rights and obligations. All who live in the country should have their rights and opportunities addressed regardless of the original national origin. Any individual applying for asylum and stay in Norway must have confidence that the legal rights protected and that have met their rights as individuals. Everyone should have equal opportunities and equal access to language training, education and work backgrounds and resources. New citizens must, on their own terms, contribute a great effort to be included in community life through learning the language, and through participation in key community venues such as work, organizations and education. Good integration policy is best for the community. The Center will have an immigration and integration policies that allow local knowledge and local involvement is bearing so that the integration is real…
I also sort of liked what they said was their basic ideology, as far as I can like any ideology:
The ideology of the Centre builds on the ideas of responsibility, fellowship and a long-term and sustainable management of nature and the environment. A vibrant democracy and decentralization of ownership, power, capital and population are basic elements of the Centre’s policy.
You know, I need to get some of my UnParty ward heelers and lackeys to get organized and put together a proper manifesto for us. All we have so far is our basic “fundamental, nonnegotiable tenets:”
- First, unwavering opposition to fundamental, nonnegotiable tenets. Within our party would be many ideas, and in each situation we would sift through them to find the smartest possible approach to the challenge at hand. Another day, a completely different approach might be best.
- Respect for any good idea, even if it comes from Democrats or Republicans.
- Contempt for any stupid idea, even if it comes from our own party leaders.
- Utter freedom to vote however one’s conscience dictates, without condemnation or ostracism from fellow party members.
Perhaps I should elaborate. Or perhaps it’s perfect the way it is. I don’t know.
Ran across the above awesome video of a classic moment, and thought I’d share it with you. That was sort of Leon’s big moment in the limelight. I had the album, and that was my favorite part of it — even more so than Harrison and Clapton both playing lead on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
Then, when I was getting into that, YouTube brought my attention to the item below, and others like it — which blew my mind to another place entirely.
I had heard about him being on Shindig, but I not seen video. Leon Russell’s moment had not yet arrived in 1964, but he was ready for it. Even though he hadn’t settled on The Look.
Normally, I never see the Sunday morning political talk shows. I have other activities I deem more important at that time of the week: sleeping, making coffee, eating breakfast, and getting ready to go to Mass.
But I got up a little early this morning, and had a few minutes, and was burning with curiosity about this “deal” that was supposedly nearing on the debt insanity in Washington.
First thing I saw was Mitch McConnell. I heard him say some standard partisan “Thank God for us Republicans” rhetoric about how far we’d come since April, when the White House simply wanted the debt ceiling raised with no spending cuts.
So he patted himself on the back for that for a moment — apparently in a bid to pull the Tea crazies along, tell them that even if they don’t get the moon the way they want, they’ve gotten a lot, etc.
Then he briefly described the direction in which negotiators were working. The only part that jumped out at me was, “no job-killing tax increases.”
A moment for translation. We of the UnParty just go ahead and say “tax cuts” or “tax increases,” because they hold no deep-seated emotional baggage for us. They are just options, tools, things you might do or not do. To Democrats and Republicans, these things have profound religious significance, and they have ritual words they have to say along with them. For instance, to Democrats there are no such things as mere “tax cuts;” there are only “tax cuts for the rich,” or, if they are inclined to used what they consider to be curse words, “Bush tax cuts.” For Republicans, there are no secular, matter-of-fact references to be made to the expedient of raising taxes. They must say something like “job-killing tax increases.” You must forgive them. They have to do the verbal equivalent of making a face and spitting on the ground on such occasions. They would explode if they didn’t get it out.
Anyway, modifiers aside, I was just hoping he was lying, or misunderstood. Because if that is really what is being discussed, it’s rather disgusting from an UnParty perspective.
Here’s the thing, folks: No sensible person wants to do either — cut spending drastically, or raise taxes — at a moment when the economy seems to be sliding backwards. But we do need to tame the deficit at some point, and there is a gun at our heads to make us do something about it now: Raising the debt ceiling won’t be enough to preserve the nation’s (and South Carolina’s) credit rating. The ratings agencies have to see progress on the deficit. So we need a nice, neutral, everybody-gives-something deal to do that.
But it’s not much of a deal if the Republicans — who hold the House, and therefore bear some responsibility toward the nation rather than the Tea Party — aren’t bringing anything to the table.
I saw a silly movie the other night, “Couples Retreat.” There’s a seen in it in which a guy drops his trousers. Vince Vaughn, not looking, says something like, “Is his junk out?” When the people around him confirm the fact, he adds, “NOW it’s a party!”
I’ve been trying not to watch this stuff myself, in spite of the morbid fascination. But when somebody tells me that both spending cuts and tax increases are hanging out there, I’m going to say, “NOW it’s a deal!”
After a bunch of y’all piled on with me as I criticized The New York Times for that Haley piece, I felt a little bad for the Gray Lady. Especially since I know they do have good writing in the paper still. Or at least in the magazine. I enjoyed this passage from a piece by Andrew Ferguson of The Weekly Standard:
Gingrich’s inattention to detail is one reason his speakership was so chaotic, as readers of a certain age will recall, and the primary reason he was shunned by his own party after four years with the gavel. “Lessons Learned the Hard Way,” released months before his defenestration, is a more conventional memoir than anything else Gingrich has written, and it was supposed to serve as a mea culpa for his mistakes as Speaker, as well as a bid to regain the loyalty of members who had grown tired of his boyish exuberance. It didn’t work.
Admitting mistakes comes easily to no public man — as memoirs from figures like Bill Clinton and Donald Rumsfeld demonstrate — but in “Lessons Learned,” Gingrich gave it the old West Georgia College try. This didn’t work, either. There’s lots of mea in “Lessons Learned,” but the culpa is all on the other side.
Early in the book, he offers an account of the drafting of the Interstate Transportation Bill of 1997. Most readers, he admits, might think such a story uninteresting. “But in this case most readers would be wrong.” In fact, in this case most readers would be right. The point of the story, though, is that Gingrich handled the transportation bill pretty damn well. Indeed, he handled nearly all his duties pretty well — except for when he worked too hard or cared too deeply or thought too much or trusted too many of the wrong people.
I only shared that for the play on mea and culpa. Good stroke, that.
I also appreciated the next paragraph:
Democrats, for instance. One lesson Gingrich claimed to learn the hard way was, as a chapter title has it, “Don’t Underestimate the Liberals.” As speaker, Gingrich discovered that Republicans are too good for their own — um, good. “The difference between the well-thought-out, unending and no-holds-barred hostility of the left,” he wrote, “and the acquiescent, friendship-seeking nature of many of my Republican colleagues never ceases to amaze me.” Democrats flatter themselves with the mirror image of this fantasy, of course, pretending to be envious of the robotic efficiency of Republicans and the freedom of action allowed them by their utter lack of conscience or shame. Self-awareness is not listed in the catalog of traits required for faithful partisanship. About the true nature of their enemies, however, if about nothing else, professional Republicans and Democrats are both exactly right.
I like it when partisans are described just as they are.
First, take a look at the awesome image that combine Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan into one face, and the one that does the same with Kennedy and Nixon. Cool. There was another that did the same with Obama and Bush, but I can’t seem to locate it as a still image online — oh, there it is.
I got excited when I saw those, and thought the piece, headlined “Death of the Duopoly,” would be a sort of UnParty manifesto. But no. When I want an Unparty Manifesto, I have to write it myself.
Unfortunately, this was one of those pieces that saw the WSJ’s sort of libertarianism as the natural successor to the two parties, going on about how the American people, in their supposed wisdom, are turned against the drug war, and toward paying people to abandon public schools. Ho-hum, the usual. Nothing paradigm-breaking at all.
But the pictures were cool. And while the author of this piece may be confused as to the implications, these data were at least confusing:
Perhaps the most important long-term trend in U.S. politics is the four-decade leak in market share by the country’s two dominant parties. In 1970, the Harris Poll asked Americans, “Regardless of how you may vote, what do you usually consider yourself—a Republican, a Democrat, an independent or some other party?”
Fully 49% of respondents chose Democrat, and 31% called themselves Republicans. Those figures are now 35% for Democrats and 28% for Republicans. While the numbers have fluctuated over the years, the only real growth market in politics is voters who decline affiliation, with independents increasing from 20% of respondents to 28%.
These findings are consistent with other surveys. In January, Gallup reported that the Democrats were near their lowest point in 22 years (31%), while the GOP remained stuck below the one-third mark at 29%. The affiliation with the highest marks? Independent, at 38% and growing. In a survey released in May, the Pew Research Center found that the percentage of independents rose from 29% in 2000 to 37% in 2011…
Yes, there are now more of us than there are of either Democrats or Republicans (at least, according to Gallup and apparently Pew). Maybe when we grow to exceed all the partisans combined, we’ll get somewhere. But at least we’re on our way.
Just got this little email update from the WashPost:
Politics News Alert: White House calls Rep. Weiner’s actions a ‘distraction’
June 13, 2011 11:32:22 AM
The White House says President Obama believes Rep. Anthony Weiner’s actions have been “inappropriate” and a “distraction.”
But spokesman Jay Carney wouldn’t say whether the president thinks the New York Democrat should resign — something other Democratic leaders have called for.
I’ve been bemoaning for years the degradation of the presidency to the point where we expect the president to take a position on EVERYTHING that happens, whether it bears on his job responsibilities or not. I think the moment where it first hit me how bad it got was when I was watching a guy on a cable news station standing outside the White House with a microphone on the night of the Columbine shootings. This guy kept coming back on to assure us that the president would soon have a statement. And I’m like WTF? In what sense is a shooting at a high school in Colorado the responsibility of the president of the United States? Why on Earth would I expect him to say anything about it, or care what he said? I wrote a column about this at the time.
By comparison, though, Bill Clinton making sure to vibrate to the correct emotions over Columbine was the height of relevant leadership, compared to the White House being expected to have a position on some wanker who sends dirty pictures to women. We’ve really sunk low now.
If you have trouble seeing this, try for just a moment to look at the world the way I do, instead of the way the Beltway media does. To me, being the “leader of his party” is NOT a role I expect or want my president to play. To me, playing that role is actually inimical to the one that he is paid to perform.
So please, Mr. President: Don’t have an opinion on this. Ignore it. It’s beneath you personally, and certainly beneath the dignity of your office. Stick with the “inappropriate” and “distraction” thing, if you must say anything. Those characterizations are at least accurate.
Cleaning out my IN box today, I ran across this from four days ago:
Senators Say They Will return to Columbia on Tuesday
COLUMBIA – South Carolina Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler today released a list of Senators who have requested it be made public that they will return to Columbia on Tuesday June 7th ready to conduct business per Governor Haley’s Executive Order.?
“We have enjoyed many successes with the Governor Haley this year. Now that the Governor has called the General Assembly back, it’s important we finish the job on these critical government restructuring reforms.”
Senator Harvey Peeler
Senator Lee Bright
Senator Kevin Bryant
Senator Ronnie Cromer
Senator John Courson
Senator Tom Davis
Senator Mike Rose
Senator Greg Gregory
Senator Greg Ryberg
Senator David Thomas
**Senator Shane Martin supports the effort to return to Columbia on Tuesday, but will be unable to attend due to scheduling conflicts.
*Some Senators were unable to be reached this afternoon.
Interesting, huh? Especially in light of what happened. Here’s something that’s even more interesting, given my jaded view of political parties…
That release was sent out by Wesley Donehue, in his capacity working for the Senate Republicans. He also, under the same auspices, sent out the releases from Glenn McConnell challenging the governor for violating the separation of powers. Now that’s cool. Wesley’s doing his job. But the point I want everyone to note is this:
Being a Republican, or a Democrat, means next to nothing. They are false associations, mere granfalloons. When a theoretically coherent organization such as the Senate Republicans are putting out statements taking such different positions on an issue, it makes this fact clear. (You will occasionally see reportage that notes that the Republican governor is at odds with the Republican legislative leadership, in a tone that suggests there is something ironic about it. There is not. Nor is it strange or ironic for GOP senators to take different paths.)
This is not a bad thing; it’s a good thing. Senators SHOULD be thinking for themselves, and taking their own positions individually, rather than marching in lockstep. I just wanted everyone to notice it.
Oh, one last point — someone with the caucus may argue that being willing to come back as the governor requested is not entirely inconsistent with being opposed to the way the governor went about trying to make it happen. That’s true. The world is NOT black/white, either/or, liberal/conservative, the way parties would have you believe. Reality, and responsible governance, are far more complex than that.
And no, this isn’t just because the Republicans who would oppose him seem engaged in a contest to see who can be the biggest whack job. It’s more about Obama himself.
Well, now… and I’m even more happy about this… he’s looking more and more like he wants the nod of the UnParty.
I saw this most clearly reading a piece in the NYT’s Week In Review from Sunday, “Obama, Searching for a Vision.”
Well, first off, I don’t think Obama’s searching for a vision. I think he’s got one, and it looks clearer, and better, every day. Perhaps he is, as the piece suggests, “being pressed as never before to define what American liberalism means for the 21st century.” At least, pressed by some.
But what I think he’s doing is something much higher and better — defining pragmatism for the 21st century. This is what I’ve always liked about him, but as he comes to embody it more fully, as the right hates him more passionately and the left whines louder about how disappointing he is, I see him more favorably than ever.
Perhaps this can be explained most simply by the fact that he keeps doing stuff I agree with. Take this passage from the piece:
Mr. Obama has always cast himself as a pragmatist and he seems to be feeling his way in the post-midterm election environment. In some areas, he has retreated. The decision announced last week to try the accused Sept. 11 plotters in a military commission at the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, represented a 180-degree reversal under pressure from congressional Republicans and some Democrats. His embrace of a free-trade pact with Colombia continued a new emphasis on trade for a Democrat who once vowed to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, or Nafta.
The war in Libya represents one of the most complicated issues for Mr. Obama as he sets out his own form of modern liberalism. The hero of the anti-war movement in 2008 effectively is adopting Mr. Clinton’s humanitarian interventions in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s as a model, while trying to distinguish his actions from Mr. Bush’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Most of that I knew about, and have applauded. But somehow I missed that he had shaken off the completely irrational, amoral opposition of Big Labor to the Colombia Free Trade pact. Way to go, Mr. President!
Most political commentators, trapped in the extremely limiting notion that the politicians they write and speak about must either be of the left or right, can’t make him out. But he keeps making perfect sense to me. Perhaps I should send a memo out to the MSM letting them know that there’s a third way they can think of a politician (actual, there’s an infinite number of ways, but let’s not blow their little minds; one step at a time). There’s left (as “left” is popularly and imperfectly described) and right (as “right” is popularly and imperfectly described), and then there’s Brad Warthen. As in, “The candidate’s recent statements have been Warthenesque,” or “That was a distinctly Braddish move he made last week.”
It would open up whole new vistas for our national political conversation. Certainly a broader landscape than what we’re used to, with its limited expectations.
I LIKE a guy who at least tries to give us health care reform. I thought he didn’t go nearly far enough on that, but now that I see Republicans’ internal organs have turned inside-out in apoplexy at what little he’s done, I suppose he lowered his sights out of compassion for what REAL reform would have done to them.
I like a guy who realizes that closing Guantánamo (as both he AND McCain wanted to do, and generally for sound reasons) and trying all those guys in civil courts was impractical, and moves on.
And folks, please — he was never the “anti-war” candidate. Come on. He considered Iraq to be the “wrong war” — a respectable position to take — and that the “right war” was Afghanistan. Yeah, I have a beef with his timeline stuff, but at least he’s left a hole in that wide enough to drive a Humvee through. He’s been pragmatic about it. And yeah, maybe he got out-toughed by the French, but that’s a GOOD thing. Let France feel like the knight in shining armor for once. Maybe it will be less surly in the future.
But seriously, the guy just looks better all the time — from an UnParty perspective.
I say that because her ruling kept me, and the other sensible folk who refuse to surrender their ability to think to a party, from being disenfranchised by the SC Republican Party:
A federal judge tossed out a lawsuit by Republicans Wednesday who wanted South Carolina to begin requiring voters to register with a party before voting in a primary.
If Republicans don’t want outsiders to help choose their nominees, they have other options, like picking candidates at a party convention or filling out petitions to get them on the ballot, U.S. District Judge Michelle Childs ruled.
The decision reverberates nationally.
South Carolina’s first-in-the-South Republican presidential primary, which has been won by the party’s eventual nominee in each election since 1980, is open to any registered voter in the state, forcing candidates to moderate their message to a wider audience. The Democratic contest is also open.
“It’s a great day for independents. It’s a great day for all voters in South Carolina,” said lawyer Harry Kresky, who argued the case for IndependentVoting.org. “The primary confirms a great deal of legitimacy on a candidate.”
IndependentVoting.org. joined with the state, Tea Party members and black lawmakers in fighting the lawsuit…
Not that all is right with the world. We’re still forced to choose one primary or the other. There is no way I, who live in the most Republican county in South Carolina, where the GOP primary IS the election for most offices, should have been disenfranchised — prevented from having ANY say in local or legislative races — because I chose a Democratic ballot to vote for Vincent Sheheen last June.
But moving to the Louisiana system, as wonderful as that would be, is another battle for another day. For now, I’ll take satisfaction from the fact that the judge prevented the SC Republican Party from further eroding my right to vote for whomever I like.
Whenever I get carried away on a comment response, I turn it into a post to make the most of the effort. And since I really haven’t been all that provocative the last few days, I thought I would share, more visibly, my Modest Proposal on the problem of gun violence in America.
On a previous post, Tom Fillinger complained thusly:
I find it disturbing that most of the time on this site – – anyone who disagrees with the majority perspective found on this site is an “ideologue”.
Good decisons are based on differing opinions (Peter Drucker).
So I responded as follows…
What “majority perspective,” Tom? Whatever it is, I don’t seem to share it, based on the arguments I have here with my friends on the left and on the right…
I wouldn’t go so far as to quote Ibsen’s Dr. Stockman and say, “A minority may be right; a majority is always wrong.” I really embraced that when I was 17, because the Raskolnikovian arrogance of the statement appealed to my young ego.
Still, all these years later, while I have greater respect than I did for a majority’s view (40 years will do that for you), I very often don’t share it. And even when I do agree broadly, I argue about the nuances. That’s because the finer points tend to get sanded away on the way to making an idea acceptable to a broad audience — lowest common denominator and all that.
I forget — what were we talking about? Oh yeah: Guns…
See, there’s one of those things where I can’t agree with the majority, if the majority is either the nuttier gun lovers (the ones who think more and more people should pack heat all the time) or the peaceful folk who seem to faint at the smell of gun oil.
Guns are dangerous as hell, by their nature (gun advocates say many things that make sense, but they are at their silliest when they try to deny the inherent danger imposed by the devices, a danger that all sensible weapons training is designed to minimize) — they are wonderfully engineered to combine maximum deadliness with minimum effort. (As Elvis Costello put it, “It only took my little fingers to blow you away.”) In this sense, the AK-47 is the most perfect gun (actually, a rifle) in history. For minimal effort (almost no maintenance, little upper-body strength, making it ideal for child soldiers in Africa) it puts out maximum firepower. Anyway, these qualities of modern firearms cause me to wish them to be in the possession of as few people as possible.
It’s like — back in the early 80s, I had this great, extended conversation with Al Gore, who at the time was styling himself an expert on arms control, and he borrowed my legal pad to sketch out the problem with MIRVs. The problem? They produce exponentially greater chance that a warhead — actually, many warheads — will hit targets. This increases global insecurity far more than if you have single-warhead vehicles.
Well, we exceeded critical mass on guns long ago, and I don’t think we can put that toothpaste back in the tube (hold on, maybe I can come up with one more metaphor to throw into the mix… mmmm… how about mousetraps and ping-pong balls?), which is why you don’t see me getting behind gun control efforts very much. They seem sort of futile.
The best gun-control efforts I’ve ever heard of is those where the cops buy up guns and destroy them. Because that’s the problem — too many guns exist. But those efforts are like trying to empty the ocean with a leaky bucket.
See, it’s not about law-abiding citizens having guns vs. criminals having guns. The problem is that there are too many guns. It doesn’t matter who initially buys a gun. As long as it exists, it is subject to being stolen (it’s a favorite item for burglars). The only way to keep guns out of the hands of criminals is for there to be many, many fewer guns — say, about 1% (just a wild guess, but I doubt I’m far off) of the number than exist now. Then, you’d have a true economic scarcity. The price on the street would go way up, but that would be because they were harder to obtain, and that would be a good thing.
But I see no way to get there. The political — and, yes, constitutional — barriers are way too steep. You can nibble at the problem, but how do you solve it? I have no idea.
Well, actually, I have one idea, which is not entirely original (although you don’t hear it much): Ban the sale and manufacture of ammunition. I don’t see anything in the Constitution about THAT. Then, of course, we may see the incidents of pistol-whippings go up, but shootings would eventually become a thing of the past. Anyway, a baseball bat is a better bludgeon than a gun. Ammunition is the problem. Take away ammo, and a pistol is a very awkward hammer. And since it’s a consumable, gun owners (law-abiding and criminal) would eventually run out.
Criminals — indeed, anyone who uses guns violently (and most people are shot by friends, family and acquaintances, not by the proverbial dangerous stranger, and of course the presence of guns in domestic disputes make the difference between battery and homicide) — tend to be impulsive. They’re not going to manufacture their own ammo, the way many serious sportsmen do. So this would quickly reduce, and eventually eliminate, most violent crime involving guns.
Of course, the political barrier to this idea would be just as great as the one with guns. The gun-lovers would go, “Hey! Wait a minute…” and then get really ticked at what they would perceive as an end run — we know this because, of course, I’m not the first to bring it up. But as for the Constitutional question — well, I’d love to see it tried in court, if only as an intellectual exercise.
Anyway, do you consider my position on that to be “majority?”
Back on a thread yesterday, reader CW offered this:
Did you read Dana Beach’s recent [column] in the Post and Courier? He was lamenting Kathleen Parker’s label of Bob Inglis as a centrist. He saw Inglis more as someone who makes decisions based on his own judgment and that compromising shouldn’t be a virtue above all else. Good editorial and I’d like to hear your thoughts on it.
Well, now I have read it, and here are my thoughts…
There’s merit in what Dana says, but there are weaknesses as well.
He’s right that Kathleen’s use of language is inadequate, on a number of levels. For one thing, Bob Inglis’ problem is not moderation. He’s a very conservative guy who just doesn’t happen to hew to anyone else’s orthodoxy. Which means national commentators have trouble talking about him coherently, because they think in the binary terms of left-right. Kathleen at least is capable of breaking out of that.
And I understand what Kathleen is saying. “Moderate” has become shorthand (which Dana may call lazy if he likes) for people who refuse to play the absolutist right-left game in Washington. As imperfect as the term is, I’m just glad that anyone who writes from inside the Beltway (and yes, she lives in Camden, but she writes for Washington) even HAS a term for people who go their own way.
What Inglis is is INDEPENDENT.
As am I. I hold many views that are not moderate (one of the most vicious canards in our collective political consciousness is that independents are people who can’t make up their minds; on the contrary, we are people who DO make up our minds rather than buying prefab values off the shelf), but on the whole I’m not insulted when someone calls me that, because it means they know I’m not a ranting ideologue. And I take exception to Dana’s assertion that “The history of “moderation” in American politics is signified by moral cowardice and political irrelevance.” On the contrary, those of us who refuse to go along with either of the dominant ideological strains show considerable courage by charting an independent course. Frankly, I view most adherents of strong ideological leaning as sheep.
And his evocation of Chamberlain is entirely unfair, and lazy. History is replete with moderates who stood courageously against the ravages of absolutism or of “progress.” St. Thomas More, a most moderate man, comes to mind. So does Dwight Eisenhower. So does John Adams, a man with a distaste for ideology who did far more for the American cause than did his firebrand cousin Samuel. Abraham Lincoln was not some ideological extremist; his goal was to hold the Union together. And I’ve always regarded Goldwater’s famous dictum with some distaste: “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.” Really? Let me introduce you to the Tea Party. “Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” How do you figure? A belief in the moderate concept of rule of law is essential to justice; otherwise we are in a Hobbesian state.
So to my mind, the piece has good points and bad points.
By the way, here’s what I wrote on this topic back in my original UnParty column:
What a relief when “David” spoke for me by writing, “I am always intrigued by this argument that moderates aren’t passionate about anything…. I take every issue on its own merits and when I make up my mind, I am as passionate and diehard about that position as any conservative or liberal could ever be.”
Exactly. Why is it so hard for partisans and ideologues to understand that we might hold our own values and positions even more passionately than they hold theirs, for the simple fact that they are ours. We didn’t do what they did, which was to buy an entire set of attitudes off the rack, preselected and packaged by someone else, and chosen based on nothing deeper than brand name.
Is there anything wishy-washy about the stands taken by such “moderates” as John McCain and our own Lindsey Graham? Was Joe Lieberman being a fence-sitter when he helped push through the Iraq Liberation Act, which way back in 1998 made the overthrow of Saddam Hussein the official policy of this country?
These are the people who take the independent risks that make things happen, from campaign finance reform to banning torture. Without them as pivots, giving ideas credibility by virtue of their own independence, we’d be forever in a state of stalemate, unable to settle any difficult issue.
And those of us who support their like are the ones who decide elections — not the partisans, who can be taken for granted.
Oh, and by the way: Should Bob Inglis decide to stage a comeback, I’d be glad to see him try to do it on the UnParty ticket.
I asked this on Twitter this morning, and meant to bring it up on the blog ere now:
But as it happened, it engendered a thread of comments on Facebook, which I share…Phillip Bush well, if you take the religious component out of it, I’d say the Democratic party comes closest in the US, and various Social Democratic parties in Europe.8 hours ago · LikeBrad Warthen Why not the Christian Democrats? To me, religious faith is far more likely to lead to communitarianism than without it.8 hours ago · LikePhillip Bush Yes, you’re right, that’s closer still. Also paradox of US politics: GOP touts religious/cultural “values,” but central ethos to me is more anti-spiritual than US liberalism, which seeks to balance community and individual, and acknowledges values beyond just $.8 hours ago · LikeStanley Dubinsky Because communitarians, having community and (hence) lots of friends, are busy building their community and have no time for the pointless activities that are the hallmark of party politics. Libertarians, on the other hand, are very lonely (being out hiking on the Appalachian Trail or traveling alone to Brazil, and all that). They have few friends, and the few friends they do have are narcissistic to the point of being poor company. Desperate for something that has at least the appearance of social interaction, they form a political party. Through this, they can convince themselves that they have friends … or at least imaginary ones.7 hours ago · LikeDoug Ross Libertarian: I’ll do itDemocrat: YOU should do it because it will make ME feel betterRepublican: We won’t do anything unless there’s something in it for usCommunitarian: I hope someone else does itThere’s no Communitarian Party because there are no Communitarian principles. As soon as the community picks a side on one topic, they lose everyone on the other side. You can’t be a pro-choice Communitarian or an anti-war communitarian, can you?9 minutes ago · LikeBrad Warthen No, you can’t be a “pro-choice” communitarian, since that’s one of the most libertarian positions you’re likely to find. I suppose you COULD be an anti-war communitarian, in that you could believe war is not healthy for communities and other living things. Of course, Tony Blair’s support for the Iraq invasion, and my own, arose from communitarian attitudes…3 minutes ago · Like
I’ve been reading for what — a year or thereabouts? — about this huge Republican victory that’s coming tomorrow, in terms of the GOP taking over Congress.
And now, it’s everywhere I turn, as though most news outlets have just discovered that, duh, the party that doesn’t hold the White House always has big gains in the midterm election.
And the more I read it, the more of a feeling of dread I feel. It’s a very familiar feeling. When have I felt it before?…
… Oh, yeah — four years ago, when the Democrats took over the House…
I just wish everyone would stop pretending that it matters which of these two extremely destructive forces has control of our government.
Prediction: A year from now, the approval rating of Congress will still be below freezing.
Next election, I really need to consider running for something on the UnParty ticket. The UnParty’s time is coming, as more and more people realize how futile this back-and-forth is.
Last week, I posted a fun bit of video from Vincent Sheheen’s Rotary appearance. Here’s one from the Q&A party of Nikki Haley’s speaking engagement before the same group this week. At least, it was fun for me.
Note that while Rotarian Julian Walker’s question doesn’t actually say “UnParty,” there’s no question that he is referring to it in spirit. Also, he says that I “once said in an editorial that he doesn’t particularly care for political parties.” Well, I’ve said it a whole lot more than once. But I’m glad the message got across.
Enjoy Julian’s question, and be edified by Nikki’s answer. She does a good job of segueing to one of her favorite bits, talking about what a transparency heroine she is (until, of course, she is asked to be transparent).
There’s an interesting bit at the end of her answer in which she boasts about how she faced down legislative leaders and bullied them into doing what she wanted.
It sounds great when she says it, especially if you are one who believes (as her most loyal supporters do), that everybody in the Legislature except Nikki is a Neanderthal crook who has to be coerced into doing the right thing. That is, of course, an essential element in her narrative.
But think about this — and this is not relevant to whether you should vote for Nikki (in fact, it could definitely be used as a selling point in her favor); I just think it’s an interesting sociological sidenote: How would that sound coming from a bull-necked, gruff-sounding man telling the same story in a thick country accent? It would sound like the tale of a bullying blowhard.
But from Nikki, it sounds like Joan of Arc. Women can sound wonderful saying things that make you want to hurl hearing them from a man. This ability to be personally appealing saying things that would sound bad coming from others is what has gotten her this far. This is the magic that won the primary for her. Which is why now is a great time to set what a great tale she tells of herself as a heroine, and how all the wonderful things she says compare alongside what we know about her record as a lawmaker and as a businesswoman, in terms of what she’s actually achieved.
Back on a previous post, Bud writes:
… (S)omehow Brad manages time and time again to confuse the idiot GOP with political parties in general. It really is pretty disgusting to have the Dems, who are at least attempting to address the nation’s problems in a meaninful way, with the imbecils who continue to distort, lie and weasel their way to power.
And what do they use this power for? For the good of the American people? Hell no. The bastards are merely trying to rule in order to feather their own nests. The GOP is about wealth creation for the super rich. And it’s worked. The poor and middle class have gotten nowhere for 30 years while the elitists in the GOP fool and fear their way into making the gullible believe there is a boogeyman behind every rock. And, inexplicably, they fool some poor school bus driver into thinking it’s in his best interests to give a billionare’s son his parent’s fortune TAX FREE! Unbeleivable.
But until the press gets it and starts calling the GOP out for the liars and scoundrels that they are we will continue to read about GOP idiocy in the name of political party partisanship. It’s NOT political party partisanship, it’s GOP fear mongering.
Bud, um… I’m pretty sure, without actually setting out the mathematical proof, that the set “political parties in general” DOES include the Republican Party. I’m not confused on this point. In fact, pretty much anyone who compiled a credible list of “Political Parties in the U.S.” would almost certainly list the GOP among the first two. I’m very confident in this assessment.
That’s why it’s such a problem that the GOP seems to have lost its frickin’ mind since Nov. 2008. Sensible Republicans are sort of walking around in shock as the screaming meemies take over.
Any other election, and Sarah Palin would have been relegated to the ranks of “unpersons” on the day after the last election, her name never, ever to been mentioned by any Republican who ever wanted another Republican to speak to him again. Instead, she is THE most mentioned Republican nationally, and it is widely accepted — among Republicans, and others — that her endorsement can make or break candidates running in races that have nothing to do with her. Yes, I’m speaking of the woman who as governor of Alaska repeatedly embarrassed the GOP ticket by how little she had learned from the experiences in her life about world affairs, and who since then has only added to her resume by… well, resigning as governor of Alaska. This is now the party’s queenmaker.
Any other election, and every Republican who ran against Nikki Haley for governor would have meekly lined up behind her on the day after the primary in a show of solidarity, all acting as though she was the one they really wanted to unite behind in the fall all along. This election, the GOP gubernatorial field is nowhere to be seen, with the exception of Henry “Good Soldier” McMaster, who’s doing his best to back her in spite of the vacant, confused look on his face. (He just doesn’t know what hit him, and is sufficiently dazed that he thinks this election is like other elections, and is acting accordingly.)
You may notice that the two examples I just cited describe OPPOSITE phenomena: One describes how the GOP is gravitating TOWARD its loonier, least credible fringes, while the other indicates how they’re moving AWAY from candidates they don’t trust, candidates who are trying to ride the Tea Party’s unfocused resentments right past the GOP into office.
Well, that’s just how crazy things are in the GOP these days. They’re about to win big nationally in November, and yet they don’t know whether they’re coming or going. That is to say, the sensible Republicans, the traditional core of the party, doesn’t know what’s happening. The Jim DeMints of the party know exactly where they’re trying to take the nation, and they keep confidently explaining it to us, but unfortunately what they say makes little sense.
Now you, Bud, may take solace in thinking that there’s a place for sensible people to run to amid the madness — the Democratic Party. I know no such solace, because I know better.
POINT: According to a recent Newsweek poll, “Some people have alleged that Barack Obama sympathizes with the goals of Islamic fundamentalists who want to impose Islamic law around the world. From what you know about Obama, what is your opinion of these allegations?”……52% of Republicans polled think that statement is either “certainly true” or “probably true.”
COUNTERPOINT: According to a Rasmussen poll taken in May 2007, …”Democrats in America are evenly divided on the question of whether George W. Bush knew about the 9/11 terrorist attacks in advance. Thirty-five percent (35%) of Democrats believe he did know, 39% say he did not know, and 26% are not sure.”
In other words, BOTH parties are rapidly rushing toward their crazier extremes. People who identify themselves as “Democrats” or “Republicans” have surrendered their abilities to think to their respective sides to such an extent that they no longer stop to ask, “Does this make sense?” If someone who identifies himself as one of THEIRS says it, there must be something to it. And if someone on the other side denies it, well then it MUST be true.
And the members of BOTH factions are being pulled, with increasing acceleration, toward those loony poles as though they were in the grips of the gravitational fields of black holes at opposite ends of the universe. (Yes, I know the universe doesn’t have “ends,” but THEY obviously think it does. Besides, it’s a metaphor. Sheesh.)
The only hope for the country lies, of course, with the UnParty. But we already knew that, didn’t we?
I enjoyed listening to Lindsey Graham’s opening remarks at the Elena Kagan nomination hearings.
Folks, this is how an honest, good-faith member of the opposition – charter member of the Gang of 14 – approaches something of this importance.
And if you don’t feel like watching the video, here’s a transcript:Senate Judiciary Committee Hearings on Elena KaganOpening Statement from U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina)June 28, 2010Thank you, Mr. Chairman.Congratulations. I think it will be a good couple of days. I hope you somewhat enjoy it, and I think you will.Like everyone else, I would like to acknowledge the passing of Senator Byrd. He was a worthy ally and a very good opponent when it came to the Senate. My association with Senator Byrd — during the Gang of 14, I learned a lot about the Constitution from him.And as all of our colleagues remember, just a few years ago, we had a real — real conflict in the Senate about filibustering judicial nominees. And it was Senator Byrd and a few other senators who came up with the “extraordinary circumstances” test that would say that filibusters should only be used in extraordinary circumstances because elections have consequences. And Senator Byrd was one of the chief authors of the language defining what an “extraordinary circumstance” was.I just want to acknowledge his passing is going to be loss to the Senate. And the thing that we all need to remember about Senator Byrd is that all of us are choosing to judge him by his complete career. And history will judge him by his complete career, not one moment in time, and that’s probably a good example for all of us to follow when it comes to each other and to nominees.Now, you are the best example I can think of why hearings should be probative and meaningful. You come with no judicial record, but you’re not the first person to come before the committee without having been a judge. But it does, I think, require us and you to provide us a little insight as to what kind of judge you would be. You have very little private practice, one year as solicitor general, and a lot of my colleagues on this side have talked about some of the positions you’ve taken that I think are a bit disturbing.But I’d like to acknowledge some of the things you have done as Solicitor General that I thought were very good. You opposed applying habeas rights to Bagram detainees. You supported the idea that a terror suspect could be charged with material support of terrorism under the statute and that was consistent with the law of wars history.So there are things you have done as solicitor general that I think will merit praise and I will certainly, from my point of view, give you a chance to discuss those.As dean of Harvard Law School, did you two things. You hired some conservatives, which is a good thing, and you opposed military recruitment, which I thought was inappropriate, but we will have a discussion about what all that really does mean. It’s a good example of what you bring to this hearing — a little of this and a little of that.Now what do we know? We know you are very smart. You have a strong academic background. You got bipartisan support. The letter from Miguel Estrada is a humbling letter and I’m sure it will be mentioned throughout the hearings, but it says a lot about him. It says a lot about you that he would write that letter.Ken Starr and Ted Olson have suggested to the committee that you are a qualified nominee. There’s no to doubt in my mind that you are a liberal person. That applies to most of the people on the other side, and I respect them and I respect you. I’m a conservative person. And you would expect a conservative president to nominate a conservative person who did not work in the Clinton Administration.So the fact that you’ve embraced liberal causes and you have grown up in a liberal household is something we need to talk about, but that’s just America. It’s OK to be liberal. It’s OK to be conservative. But when it comes time to be a judge, you’ve got to make sure you understand the limits that that position places on any agenda, liberal or conservative.Your judicial hero is an interesting guy. You’re going to have a lot of explaining to do to me about why you picked Judge Barak as your hero because when I read his writings, it’s a bit disturbing about his view of what a judge is supposed to do for society as a whole, but I’m sure you’ll have good answers and I look forward to that discussion.On the war on terror, you could, in my view, if confirmed, provide the court with some real-world experience about what this country’s facing; about how the law needs to be drafted and crafted in such a way as to recognize the difference between fighting crime and fighting war. So you, in my view, have a potential teaching opportunity, even though you have never been a judge, because you have represented this country as Solicitor General at a time of war.The one thing I can say without (sic) certainty is I don’t expect your nomination to change the balance of power. After this hearing’s over, I hope American — the American people will understand that elections do matter. What did I expect from President Obama? Just about what I’m getting. And there are a lot of people who are surprised. Well, you shouldn’t have been, if you were listening.So I look forward to trying to better understand how you will be able to take political activism, association with liberal causes, and park it when it becomes time to be a judge. That, to me, is your challenge. I think most people would consider you qualified because you’ve done a lot in your life worthy of praise.But it will be incumbent upon you to convince me and others, particularly your fellow citizens, that whatever activities you’ve engaged in politically and whatever advice you’ve given to President Clinton or Justice Marshall, that you understand that you will be your own person, that you will be standing in different shoes, where it will be your decision to make, not trying to channel what they thought. And if at the end of the day, you think more like Justice Marshall than Justice Rehnquist, so be it.The question is: Can you make sure that you’re not channeling your political agenda, your political leanings when it comes time to render decisions?At the end of the day, I think the qualification test will be met. Whether or not activism can be parked is up to you. And I look at this confirmation process as a way to recognize that elections have consequences and the Senate has an independent obligation on behalf of the people of this country to put you under scrutiny, firm and fair, respectful and sometimes contentious.Good luck. Be as candid as possible. And it’s OK to disagree with us up here. Thank you.