Friday, October 27, 2006

Two simple reasons why Jim Webb is unfit for office

I heard exceprts from Tony Mancini's interview with Virginia senatorial candidate James Webb on his morning show on WNIS here in Hampton Roads on Thursday. Mancini has been honest about his support for Webb, but even he is flabbergasted by Webb's answers to two questions:

  1. Webb believes that the constitution is open to whatever interpretation is the flavor of the day. He is against the "absolutist" interpretation of the U.S. constitution and has not qualms about the federal government trampling powers specifically enumerated to the states or the people. His views of the Federal government in education matters is a prime example of this.
  2. He believes that the tax system should be tool of "redistribution of wealth".
Just based solely on these two opinions, James Webb is unfit for office, as he sees his role as part of the government usurping liberty and self-government in the name of Marxism. He would immediately violate his oath of office in terms of upholding the Constitution of the United States.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The corrosive nature of politics

As a rule of thumb, I tend not to watch a lot of MSM reporting on politics and elections. It seems that there are common threads about how base it is, how negative it is, how corrupt, etc. This is not news to me, and historically we're a lot better in a lot of respects than 100 years ago (it is just that this information is more widely disseminated today than then). My own experience in politics would suggest that there are two related phenomenon that makes it a whole lot worse than it needs to be.

First, one needs to look at political parties and the people who make them what they are. In my 20+ years in party politics, I can pretty well split people who are members into two groups: the true believers and (for a lack of a better term) the self-serving. The true believers are always there; they are a minority of any party, but they are the ones who are there in good times and bad, stuffing the envelopes, volunteering, and keeping things going. The true believers of any party are in a political party for a more altruistic purpose. They sincerely believe that what they believe is just, and strive through the political process to have their beliefs become public policy.

The other group, the self-servers, are more cyclical in their actions. They tend to show up when the party is on a uptrend, using the apparatus as a means for personal gains. They see the party as a means of gaining power and the perks that go with it. They have disdain for the true believers, and are willing to compromise principles for the sake of power. In conservative politics, there are ample examples of this: compare the Republicans in congress in 1994 versus now, or the Mike Harris conservatives in 1995 versus 2000. All start off with conservative agendas and then gradually discard them as they "grow" in office and discard their core values for 'competency'. The same analogies can be seen in parties on the left as well. What ultimately happens is that a party drifts too far from its core principles, alienates the true believers, becomes lethargic as a result, and is swept away by electoral fortunes.

One of the ways that a conservative would argue that this could be addressed is to make the stakes less vital. Because of all the money and power involved, politics tends to gravitate towards the lowest common dominator and attracts the vain and power hungry. A coconservative argument would be if government was more limited, the lure of such power would be less, and would shift the nature of politicians from the power-hungry to the more public service oriented. The problem with this solution, that of returning the role of government to a limited role and maximizing the liberty of the citizenry, runs opposite to those of the left, who see government as the talismanic solution to all problems real and perceived.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

A little over two weeks to go

And I'd have to say that my predictions still seem to hold up. I don't think that this will be a repeat of 1994 for several reasons:
  1. The Republicans have known for over a year that this was going to be tough. The Democrats didn't figure this out until there were weeks left in the campaign, and it was too late.
  2. In 1994, there were many more open seats vacated by Democrats in both the house and the senate. Republicans then did not face the obstacle of a Democratic incumbent in those races. There are much fewer open seats contested this time out, which gives the incumbents advantage to Republicans.
  3. Redistricting. One of the big reasons for the Republican takeover in 1994 was that Republicans won the state house of several southern states. When redistricting occurred after the 1990 census, Republican state houses re-drew congressional districts to their advantage. The Democrats would need to win several governorships in prior Republican hands in time for the 2010 census to reverse this trend. Texas is a good example of this, how with Delay's redistricting took a state that had a majority of it's congressional seats held by Democrats to one that is now majority Republican.
  4. Republican GOTV. One of the lessons learned during the 1992 and 1996 presidential elections was that historically speaking, the Republicans had a distinct disadvantage in their GOTV operations versus the Democrats. Starting in 2000 under the direction of now RNC chairman Ken Melhman, the GOP has developed a GOTV operation that is vastly superior to the Democrats, who must now rely on Unions and 527 organizations to do their work. This is the reason why the GOP was able to have strong showings in 2002 and 2004.
  5. Money, with a bit over two weeks to go, the GOP has a huge cash advantage versus the Democrats, who have blown most of their money throughout the campaign (as most challengers need to do). We have just begun to see the final sprint to the finish, where the GOPs cash advantage will allow them to narrow many of these races to the point where they become contests of the respective party's GOTV activities.
These are just the structural differences between 1994 and 2006. I have not delved into the ideological differences, to which I can summarize as such. 1994 was a time of peace and prosperity, with no great issues of the day - a frivolous time where the electorate could take a chance with an opposition party just because the stakes were so low. The worst that happened was a divided government (which, incidentally, wasn't too bad). 2006 is a much more serious time, and alas, one party is not serious about the issues of the day. This type of polarization makes a larger segment of the electorate more risk adverse to electing an opposition party that lacks substance.

Thursday, October 12, 2006


With a month to go, I thought I'd make some picks and see where everybody stands on these:

PA: Santorum v. Casey. Despite the double digit leads in the polls, Bob Casey Jr. hasn't broken that key 50% threshold. That would suggest that there are a lot of undecided voters out there that haven't broken yet. I think I lot of them will swing to Santorum, but it won't be enough. Democratic pickup.
RI: Whitehorse v. Chaffee. A RINO versus a Democrat. If I'm a voter, I want the real thing. Whitehorse picks it up. Democratic Pickup
MI: Stabenow v. Bouchard.
A pathetic incumbent in a state that has a strong anti-incumbancy streak with a governor fighting for her life and the best you can do for a candidate is Mike Bouchard. Libby Dole is an awful Senate Campaign Chair just for the fact that with such favourable conditions for the GOP, they couldn't get a candidate that could win. It's a shame, because any decent GOP candidate would have knocked her out. The gap will narrow, but it will be a wider margin of victory than the governor will have. Democratic Rentention.
MT: Burns v. Tester. I don't think Tester will pull it off. Though Burns is a buffoon who should have retired years ago (I can think of about 35 Senators I can make that statement about as well), Tester is a poor match for the electorate there and hasn't broken 50%. This race will tighten up, and tie goes to the GOP turnout machine. Republican Retention.
NJ: Menendez v. Kean. Despite the polls, the scandals plauging the Dems in NJ, Kean isn't going to pull it off. Too many Dems, and a passive acceptence of corruption means Menendez squeaks by. Democratic Rentention.
MD: Steele V. Cardin. Cardin is having trouble breaking 50% consistently in the polls, which means a lot more money will need to be sunk into keeping this seat. This is a Democratic state, and Steele will keep it somewhat close, and that's all. Democratic Retention.
MN: Kennedy v. Klouchbar.
Klobuchar has solid double digit poll leads, and is consistently over 50% in the polls. Should cruise to retain Dayton's seat for the Dems. Democratic Retention.
WA: McGavick v. Cantwell
. Same story as Minnesota. Democratic Retention.
MO: Talent v. McCaskill
. Although tied, I think Talent will pull it out. Better have the lawyers ready for "irregularities" in St. Louis though, it will be a long night there. Republican Retention.
OH: Dewine v. Brown
. Similarities between Michigan and Ohio abound, but this time everybody in Ohio is ticked with Republicans, and rightfully so (Mr. tax and spend Bob Taft, thank you!). This has been a tossup so far, but I think turnout decides this, and I say DeWine in a squeaker. Republican Retention.
TN: Corker v. Ford
. Though a tossup right now, Ford has trouble breaking 50%, not good. GOP turnout saves Frist's former seat for Corker, though much closer than originally expected months ago. Republican Retnention.
VA: Webb v. Allen
. Allen has run a terrible campaign, but Webb has a run a worse one. Squandered opportunities and bad judgements have really hurt Jim Webb. Allen has a huge money advantage, and will have a comfortable victory in light of all the problems his campaign had. Republican Retention.

Looking at those reaces, I have two pickups for the Dems, and a possible third (pick one of MO or OH). Figure loss of 9, 10 seats in the House for the GOP. Despite the polls, it is really difficult to win in gerrymandered districts that are GOP friendly in most cases.