Thursday, November 06, 2008

Election Post-mortem

I have to say that I underestimated the polls (at least Rasmussen), and I over estimated the American public’s ability to recognize socialism as an attack on personal wealth, but most importantly an attack on Christianity. That is a post for another day. Rasmussen has a nice feature where you can see state-by-state how their polls did. It seems the Republican out performed by a small amount most of the time, but a few key places like Nevada he under performed and that cost him. Just to justify my distrust of polls Rasmussen did not fare as well in their Senate polls. They out right missed Oregon and Alaska. Having followed the site I can tell you as well that they are being a little deceptive about Minnesota. Their FINAL poll may have looked that way, but they had Franken on top for most of the year. They also had the special election in Mississippi as a seat in jeopardy until their final poll too. I doubt opinion turned that much.

I have to say that I am not half as depressed as most of the Republicans I know or even the conservatives I know. I did not vote for McCain, and he probably still thinks I am an agent of intolerance. The question has been raised earlier about the fate of Conservatism in this country. Some think it dead. I do not. After all Obama promised tax cuts, which he will not deliver, but he still ran as cutting the budget, cutting spending, and cutting taxes. He also ran on less foreign intervention, which is fundamentally conservative. The question is really whether or not the Republican Party stays conservative. I stated earlier during the primaries that it was a battle for the soul of the Republican Party. I defined the Reagan coalition as Paleo-Conservatism, Libertarianism, Theo-Conservatives and Neo-Conservatives. With President Bush the Neo-Cons were in the driver seat, the Theo-Cons sat in the passenger seat and the Paleo-Cons were in the back seat and the Libertarians had been kicked to the curb. McCain represented more of the same with less influence for the Theo-Cons. Other candidates represented other arrangements and the Neo-Cons won the day in the primaries. Well, when McCain feared the Paleo-Cons would get out of the car themselves and leave McCain short on votes he picked Sarah Palin who appealed to Paleo-Cons and Theo-Cons. However, it made many Neo-Cons abandon the car leaving McCain without a driver. There was a late mass exodus of especially those Neo-Cons who wanted to remain in power and with popularity in the press. Frum, Powell, and McClellan come to mind as well as some columnists who are women (reinforcing my belief that the biggest obstacle to a woman in the White House is women). This leads to the struggle now of which group will take over the party.

My bet is the Neo-Cons will take the party by blaming Palin for the loss. But, this will not kill true Conservatism (Paleo) in America. Conservatives always get used and kicked to the curb because their nature is one that thinks political power is bad. Less government = good. The side effect of this is that political parties whose goal is control of government end up getting rid of the conservatives. Do not forget that the Conservatives were on the outs with President Jefferson depsite electing him. They were on the outs with President Jackson despite electing him. They were on the outs with the Whig Congress when President Tyler was in office. They were on the outs with the Democratic Party in 1860 (you could define them either as the state’s rights group or the Constitutional Unionists of Bell). They were on the outs in the Democratic Party during their high years of the great depression despite being the reason the Dems always had a majority, and eventually they left the party. Their exodus gave the Republicans the White House with the Nixon Southern Stragtegy and the Reagan years, and finally the majority by 1994, but they were forsaken in 2000 and they have since been removed and made fun of by the party leaders. The point is that Conservatives never go away. Not only do they never go away they also always seem to play a fundamental part in the governing of America. Whether it be the Revolution of 1800 or the Jacksonian Revolution or the Reagan Revolution it is always led by conservatives.

As for President-elect Obama, I will pray for him. My duties to the government don’t really change just because the top man does. Obama is going to be a liberal, but then is our current President, so there is not that big a change. There is a big debate about how Obama will govern, which highlights the pathetic nature of the media that they ask that fundamentally important question AFTER the election. Will he be the socialist that he truly is or will he play pragmatism so that he can get re-elected? I think he will end up in on the left. You do not win by the margins he won by to sit on your hands. But, I think he will take it slowly at first. I think he will back out of his promise to sign the Freedom of Choice Act that would override state laws about abortion. I do think he will try to push the things he thinks will not cause serious division. Expect Cap and Trade to be put into effect and other climate change initiatives. The one thing we can count on because Obama has always done it, are moves to silence dissent and consolidate power. Thus, I think two things he will tackle early are the Card Check Law, which will increase Democratic fund raising power, and the Fairness Doctrine, which will hurt all of America by making us slaves to the worthless media and might actually kill radio. Expect both of those to come through quickly. The Fairness Doctrine makes me angry because it is simply repugnant to the idea of democracy, liberty, and America as a whole. However, I expect it to pass without much trouble.

There is no doubt that there is much work to be done, but I think it can be done. However, I think the work needs to be done primarily in the churches. Things have to be taken seriously and taught again. A whole generation of people has grown up and they do not understand the fundamental importance of some issues. They see abortion and homosexuality as political issues rather than moral issues. A generation has grown up thinking that socialism is a good idea, and thinks it can actually fit into a Christian worldview if they even care about trying. A generation has grown up and does not see the problem with feeling entitled to things and truly believes personal responsibility is a bad thing. For all the talk and debate about how so many people do not believe the plain teaching of creation in Genesis 1 or the teachings about the role of women in places like Ephesians 5 or the doctrine of Predestination, which is so clearly laid out in Romans 9, the verses that may be the most ignored in the whole bible today by “evangelicals” are the ones found in Proverbs about how to live. We as the church need to fix this problem and the rest will work itself out. Although in writing this list it makes me think that maybe we need to take back education as well and start to take it seriously again.

If this happens, then the politics will work itself out.

6 Comments:

Andrew said...

Lee,

You knew I would weigh in first:) Fundamentally, I think conservatism was completely absent from this election. Yes, both talked about tax cuts. However, it was clearly demonstrated that the people are all for raising taxes on the rich, as long as they are not affected. This is not a conservative idea. It is Socialism 101. Pro life issues were only discussed on the periphery. Overturning Roe v. Wade was not on the agenda. They just discussed things like partial birth abortion. Debating ways to skin the cat does not get to the issue when one thinks the cat ought not to be skinned in the first place. Constitutionalism was completely and utterly ignored. No one cares whether or not the promises of either candidate were actually legal. No one cares what is legal. All people care about is how the policy will affect them. This, the loss of the rule of law, is the primary ingredient for totalitarian government. Take even gay marriage. While it is true that opposition to marriage is still evident, acceptance of the lifestyle with attendant rights and priviledges is no longer part of the public debate. It is taken for granted. As far as the churches, I think we overestimate our influence in this decade. Our churches are shrinking. The evangelical movement is effectively dead, and there is no prominent movement present to fill in the void. Of course, we will continue to fight, but our ranks are dwindling.

Conservatism is not dead. I don't think it will ever die. But, it has no power, and I think this trend will continue. In politics, power is what matters. We may form a third party, but I do not think it will be successful. Republicans may move right, but they will not remain there. The "stuff" required to support conservatism is simply gone from the American psyche. The "Don't tread on me" attitude is dead and buried. Americans want a keeper, and now they have one. They may indeed end up disliking this keeper, but, if so, they will just trade him in for a new model. Once statism has invaded the culture, there is no turning back.

Peace to you,

Andy+

Jay said...

Thanks for all of these thoughts. A lot to discuss.

First, the polls. I think the people at fivethirtyeight.com deserve some credit for the accuracy of their regression model. For the popular vote, they were a only tenth of a point too low on Obama and a tenth too hihg on McCain. That's pretty amazing. They predicted 57 Senate Dems, and got 56---missing badly in Alaska, but that was a strange case. (Of course, the Minnesota recount and Georgia runoff could still change things.) All-in-all, an amazingly accurate prediction site.

Socialism. Before we get into labeling anyone a socialist, or deciding whether "socialism" is consistent with a Christian worldview, I need a better idea what we mean when we use that term. Here's what Webster's says on-line:

1: any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods
2 a: a system of society or group living in which there is no private property b: a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state
(I omitted 3, the technical Marxist definition.)

If Obama has ever said anything to support government ownership of the means of production, or elimination of private property, I haven't seen it. Maybe you have a broader definition of socialism. If so, let's discuss it. I have no particular attachment to the dictionary definition.

More specific points re: Obama. Is his tax plan an "attack on personal wealth"? I think that's a little strong. Am I going to pay more taxes? Yes. Will most people? Not if he does what he says he'd do. And unlike you, I see no reason he won't deliver on "middle-class" tax cuts, because the net effect on revenue is quite small. The "wealthy" already pay most taxes; cutting taxes for people making less than $200K doesn't cost you much, and it stands you in good stead with the vast majority of voters.

Not sure whether Obama will sign FOCA or not. But this election cycle has given me a new thought on the abortion issue. It's time for the pro-life movement to stop worrying about Roe v. Wade. It's a waste of energy. Instead, we need to look at what I think should have been the real goal all along: reducing the number of abortions in this world as much as possible. That's a goal that many more people, including Obama, embrace. If all of the time, energy and resources that are now spent on trying to make abortion illegal were turned instead toward actually helping women choose life, I think it would do more to stop abortion than if the Supreme Court reversed Roe tomorrow (especially given that many states, including the largest ones, would keep abortion legal even without Roe). Doesn't that make imminent sense, morally and practically?

Cap and Trade is likely to happen. I'm no expert, but I think it's inevitable.

Obama has expressed opposition to the Fairness Doctrine in the past. http://www.broadcastingcable.com/CA6573406.html Maybe the Dems will still push it through. I hope not. The Supreme Court might overturn it.

That's probably enough for now. I look forward to your responses.

Lee said...

Andy,
I agree with you that conservatism was absent in this election. And I do not think they will ever hold on to a political party as conservatism is about reducing power, and political parties are about gaining it. That usually leaves conservatives out in the cold.
Although I disagree with you that once statism invades it can never be turned away. There is always hope.

Lee said...

Jay,
I will give 538 credit. They weighting of polls was good. I don't think it is hard to see which ones are good and which ones are a bad. I still think sabermetrics is wrong in baseball. That guy will never convince me.

Technically I think socialism is the same as communism. The English used the word socialism and the Continent used Communism. However, I did have a little broader definition in mind. I think definition number 1 is pretty good. Note that does not require governmental ownership, but can have the means of production controled by a collective (read the word unions). Although I would add to the definition a belief that captialism is unfair and does not work. He was pretty honest in the last weeks that he does not believe in capitalism.

Obama has some pretty strange ideas about requiring a unionization of farmers, and often pledge to creat "union" jobs. He is supportive of removing the secret ballot for the creation of unions. This is a step toward socialism. He is very pro-union, and while unions are not necessarily socialist, they often are. Let us not forget that he also favors Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac, which are already half-nationalized. He favored the bailout of banks and the auto industry, which is only a hair's breath short of nationalization of that stuff. Especially when you consider that participation in the bail out program for banks is not voluntary. He does want government ownership in areas of retirement, health care, and education including paying for a college education which was a campaign promise.

I think his plan is clearly an attack on personal wealth, as I believe the income tax system is as a whole. I agree with Justice Marshall, "the power to tax is the power to destroy" (from McCulloch v Maryland if I remember correctly). You tax what you want to destroy. Everyone understands that when the government slaps a couple dollar tax on cigarettes or alcohol. They tax it with the hopes people will stop it. There is no fundamental difference between that tax and the one on my income, except I do not have the choice to avoid the one on my income. If the power to tax is really the power to destroy, then the progressive income system is indeed an attack on personal wealth.

Your points about Roe v Wade are good ones. The church ought to teach people the value of life and to choose life. However, I disagree with you that it is an either/or proposition. Why can I not do both? I should try to teach and preach and reach as many people as I can, but should I also not try to overturn a law that makes it legal? I can do both. The problem with Obama's idea of a post-culture war idea is that he is equating the culture war with politics. Abortion is not a political issue. It is a moral one. Life is an inalienable right given to us by our Creator. At least that is what the founders of this nation thought. Roe v Wade is a complete abandonment of that idea. If there was a law that said it was legal to shot Asians on the street, would people really say "we should not try to overturn the law, just try to teach people not to kill Asians." I think we would try to do both.

And I disagree that it is a goal that Obama embraces. Why would he support FOCA if he wanted people to choose life? Does not the fact that a country makes it legal send a lesson to its children that babies are not yet people while they are in the womb? Of course it does. That and the fact that Obama removed from the Democratic Platform the phrase "safe, legal, and rare" that Clinton made so famous. The Democratic platform no longer suggests that abortion should be rare. Thus, I find it hard to believe that Obama truly wants them to be rare.

I hope he does veto the fairness doctrine, but Pelosi will push it through.

Andrew said...

Lee,

I admire your optimism. I am optimistic in one sense. Although I think we will become little more than a socialistic, European-like, pathetic welfare state, we must remember that many Christians live good lives in that context. Life may not be as easy in the future, as productive, as rewarding, or as enjoyable, but it will still be liveable. Our churches will suffer financially, as will the entire nation, but we will survive in one way or another. However, my pessimistic side sees a lack of something in today's America that keeps Europe going. It is cynicism. The Europeans do not look to their leaders as Messiah figures because they are thoroughly cynical, especially since WWII. Thus, absolute tyranny in their context is unlikely. I used to think Americans were the same, perhaps not cynical but thoroughly suspicious of all powermongering. But, this election has changed my mind. Americans have pawed after Obama like sad, pathetic subjects in a third world dictatorship. We have traded our "Don't tread on me" inheritance for a whore's wage.

Peace to you,

Andy

Jenny Jo said...

I agree with Andy: Christians certainly can live good lives in the context of a European-like welfare state. So long as I can raise my children as I see fit, I can do without all kinds of other freedoms/wealth.

However, Andy, I also think that a good deal of the "pawing" after Obama came directly from the media. I imagine that for most people, the day-to-day concerns of their own lives trump concerns even about who is President.

Jay, I believe Lee defined socialism for the discussion. Let us hear your response to his posting.