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A Fox News poll that strikes me as quite plausible.
There are lots of ways to influence polling. You can get a bit selective in who you approach with questions. That's the charge Democrats made against Republicans, and that Republicans made against Democrats in 2012.
It turned out Democrats were right.
You can ask questions in a manner that is designed to get the desired result:
Who are you more likely to vote for in the next election, the Republican who is noted for sending flowers to his mother, or the Democrat who is accused by some of torturing kittens?
Fox News does have a reputation of asking questions that can charitably be characterized as leading. Here is an actual question that was only a small part of one recent Fox survey about Benghazi:
Which of the following do you think best describes why Obama administration officials gave false information in their early public statements about the September attacks in Libya?
- Fox News Survey, released January 24, 2014
You can also take a series of polls, knowing that polling is an inexact science. If you keep polling, you will eventually produce a statistical anomaly, an outlier that doesn't conform to every other poll. Then you release only the outlier:
Heads I win. Tails I keep secret.
Conservative hostility against Obamacare has been bumping up hard against initial data. It looks a lot as if the Affordable Care Act is more successful than anyone could have anticipated in the days of site breakdowns and Republican crowing.
The central planks of Republican opposition have been collapsing.
Republicans were confident that not enough people would sign up. Total numbers are a couple of million beyond the publicly announced 8 million enrollment figure, when medicaid coverage and child dependent coverage are included.
Republicans said that the program would collapse into an actuarial abyss as Obamacare exchanges are overwhelmed by those who are ill or elderly. It turns out that the 30% or so young, healthy enrollees are more than enough to make the program sound.
Republicans predicted enormous increases in the cost of healthcare. Initial increases this year are the lowest in my lifetime, and I've been alive longer than most.
How many ways do Republicans have to be wrong?
Democrats are becoming cautiously optimistic about Obamacare as an issue. The electoral math for this year still works against Democrats. A lot more vulnerable Senators are Democrats.
That is largely because of Democratic gains 6 years ago, when President Obama was first elected. People kind of resented the anti-regulatory Republican policies that were suddenly costing millions of jobs and tipping the economy toward full scale depression.
Now those Democrats are coming up for re-election. Add to that the tendency of traditional Democratic groups not to vote in years not divisible by 4, with a lack of a Presidential choice, and things look a little bleak.
But Republicans have been counting on Obamacare being a train wreck. It has been their number one issue, with number two being a blank. If the economy bumps up, if President Obama's popularity increases, it will help Democrats.
If Obamacare turns into a wild success, maybe election losses will be less than anyone now believes.
Well, keep not believing it.
The Fox poll says this:
Most voters say ObamaCare will play an important role in their vote in this year’s elections, and over half are more inclined to back the candidate who opposes the health care law.
- Fox News Survey, released April 21, 2014
Yeah, I know. Fox.
These are the same people who were so confident Obama would lose in 2012. They're the same folks who tell polling participants that President Obama and his administration are lying, then ask the polling question: why do you think they're lying?
Here's why they're right on this one.
If Democrats defend the component parts of Obamacare, they win. Discriminating against pre-existing conditions, cutting loose young folks, coverage by fine print, all belong to Republicans. Obamacare belongs to Democrats. If they defend Obamacare itself, they lose.
The electorate in 2014 will largely be angry white male voters. Not all voters will fit this demographic, of course. But this is the group that turns out for mid-term elections more than any other.
And this group, frankly, does not care whether Obamacare is a success. They are not impressed by enrollment numbers, or actuarial soundness.
They see universal healthcare as a sort of welfare program. It benefits the uninsured, which may tend to be ... well ... unsuccessful people. Those people.
People who have labored all their lives to achieve retirement security, or have won economic success way beyond that of those in other neighborhoods, have worked with the sure knowledge that their place has been earned.
They are not only better off, but they are secure in the knowledge that those who are less well off are the victims of their own pathologies. The losers in economic life are not ambitious. They don't work as hard. They do not possess the virtues that lead to success.
It simply is not right that such people be rewarded in spite of their work habits and way of living. Rank has its privileges, and those privileges ought to be earned.
The grass is always greener when those on the other side of the fence have no grass.
From the Post and Courier - Charleston, SC
Lots of dignitaries, including President Obama's Attorney General Eric Holder, attended last week's unveiling of a statue honoring former U.S. District Judge J. Waties Waring.
But the Republicans from the area's congressional delegation were conspicuously absent.
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From the Patriot-News - Central Pennsylvania
A local chapter of the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan launched a neighborhood watch in the area of Ridge Road in Fairview Township in response to a recent rash of break-ins, said Frank Ancona, the organization’s imperial wizard and president.
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From the Boston Herald:
Elizabeth Warren, the state’s first woman senator to serve in Congress, will not run for president in 2016, she insisted repeatedly and emphatically during an interview this morning on CBS’ “Sunday Morning” program.
“I’m not running for president,” Warren, 64, of Cambridge, told reporter Mark Strassmann. Her autobiography, “A Fighting Chance,” hits bookstores Tuesday.
Strassmann persisted, however, noting that President Obama wrote “The Audacity of Hope,” like Warren, two years into his first term as U.S. senator.
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Until recent times, it wasn't that hard to trace philosophical principles of conservatism going back hundreds of years.
American conservatism continued to hold Edmund Burke to heart long after British conservatives moved on. Perhaps it was because Burke was able to oppose the French revolution, but supported American independence.
There were other differences. Adam Smith, with his economic model of capitalistic self-regulation, the invisible hand, was more enthusiastically embraced in England, at first. Americans liked Smith, but with reservations. Hard to believe now.
The clearest separation between British and American conservatives eventually came over slavery. Conservatives in Britain became suspicious, then hostile, to the proposition that one human could own another. American conservatism has evolved, but has always been way behind the British curve.
There were other influences. David Hume went toward pragmatism, John Locke to personal rights. In more modern times, William F. Buckley became a guiding light. He shepherded American conservatism back to Burke and Hume.
Today, the intellectual moorings of American conservatism have changed to fit the times. The most vibrant of conservatives have little use for philosophical constructs from past centuries, or even past decades.
In 2008, the last year George W. Bush was President, too-big-to-fail financial institutions were prevented from going under with a government bailout. If financial institutions went under, the economy would fall like a line of dominoes. We would all be selling apples on street corners to survive. Knowing this, financial traders had taken enormous risks.
In all, almost half of everything produced in the entire nation that year was committed to trading institutions from going down. Some of those trading gurus being bailed out held a massive corporate party in Los Angeles.
As President Obama took office, reckless financial institutions has been rescued, but ordinary families were still suffering. Jobs had been lost. Savings were crushed. Homes were about to go under foreclosure. Some of the emergency funds were diverted to saving individual homes. Financial traders were outraged at the new President for extending the bailout beyond themselves to those they considered financial losers.
This is America. How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor's mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can't pay their bills? Raise their hand.
President Obama, are you listening?
- Rick Santelli, former Hedge Fund manager, February 19, 2009
It would be easy to think that Mr. Santelli is the new guiding light for today's conservatism. He is a good representative of new principles, but he is more of a reflection than a philosophical source.
There are other controversies, contrasts between conservatives and others that lend some insight. Each presents new leaders.
Obamacare remains a point of contention. New figures are startling. It appears that 10 million or so Americans now have insurance who would not otherwise have it.
The Supreme Court ruled that one important component, the expansion of Medicaid, has to be voluntary for states. Medicaid expansion has been a major part of Obamacare in those states that allow it. It costs states nothing for the first few years, not much after. But several Republican run states have refused to expand Medicaid for ideological reasons.
Those Republican states that have refused to expand Medicaid account for a large portion of Americans who are still not insured.
Republicans attacked Obamacare as a failure because of the numbers.
How many actually signed up and paid and completed the process? How many got subsidies? How many are on Medicaid?
- Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), April 13, 2014
How many are on Medicaid? Really?
The search for a philosophical underpinning for conservative principles must extend beyond healthcare.
We can go to foreign policy. Conservatives refused to fully fund embassy security, then accused Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of not providing security before the deadly attack in Benghazi.
We can go to domestic subsidies. In a recent farm bill, conservatives dramatically cut food for those struggling to get out of poverty including breakfast programs for school children. Conservatives complained about helping the undeserving.
In the same bill, they dramatically increased subsidies to giant agribusinesses. In some cases, those subsidies went to the same Congressional representatives who were voting for the increases.
There is a pattern in all this.
We may be able to discern an encompassing ideological underpinning in a story from Australia. Oddly, it involves an automobile accident. A young woman, accused of texting while driving, hit and broke the back of a bicyclist.
When interviewed by police, she expressed irritation at the damage the cyclist had caused to her automobile: "my car is like pretty expensive and now I have to fix it." Comments attributed to her by police do make it seem that she blames the victim. "I’m kind of pissed off that the cyclist has hit the side of my car."
As we look for a set of philosophical principles that includes causing damage, then blaming those who suffer the damage, I suggest we have a youthful nominee from Australia. We have no more need for Burke, or Hume, or even Buckley.
This young woman strikes me as the perfect guiding light to the current state of contemporary American conservatism.
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Manifesto Joe at Texas blues explores the Republican approach to great wealth and to those who are economically squeezed.
News Corpse reads Fox so you don't have to. Fox highlights a proposition, linking to a favorable comparison of insurrectionist Cliven Bundy to Mohandas Gandhi.
Conservative James Wigderson reports that a candidate for a local position, hoping for a comeback after being thrown out of office, loses again, then writes an angry letter to the editor. James graciously shares.
Harvard based Doc Searls takes a new look at the Mozilla controversy, the resignation of a CEO over his support for anti-gay legislation. Could the real issue be the commercialization of web services?
Why do we have to do this, Sir? looks at the Easter story as one of rising from suffering and defeat. He suggests a model for applying spirituality to personal and political transformation. We need a resurrection.
I have no idea how he does it. Every post is an adventure. Vincent at A wayfarer’s notes floats effortlessly from a Reader's Digest story he read as a child, to a book from 1843 about printing, to the book he, Vincent, has been writing, every transition a seamless bit of tapestry.
- Mad Mike's America observes astronomical observations of a distant replica of earth, complete with baby bear environmental conditions needed for life.
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After three people were killed near Kansas City by a white supremacist who apparently thought they were all Jewish, a local television station went to a nearby small town to talk with those who had known the apparent perpetrator.
The televised segment went pretty much as you would expect. The man residents had known was a bit different. He was outspoken. You always knew where you stood with him. Nobody expected violence.
The mayor of Marrionville, MO, said the alleged killer had been a friend years ago. He spoke with a sort of understated irony.
He was always nice and friendly and respectful of elder people. He respected his elders greatly, as long as they were the same color as him.
- Daniel Clevenger, Mayor of Marrionville, MO, in an interview with KSPR-TV of Springfield, MO, April 15, 2014
Then came the one statement that went around the internet, endowing his honor the Mayor with instant notoriety:
"Kind of agreed with him on some things, but I don't like to express that too much."
It went from there. Mayor Clevenger went on to calmly speak out against Jews:
There some things that are going on in this country that are destroying us. We've got a false economy and it's, some of those corporations are run by Jews because the names are there.
The television station did a little research and came up with even stronger language from years ago. Mayor Clevenger wrote for publication about his friendship with the future killer and how he too condemned what he called the "Jew-run medical industry" and the "Jew-run government backed banking industry."
Pretty ugly stuff.
What is striking about the bigotry expressed on camera is the calm, almost gentle, way it is expressed. Listening, over the years, to relatives, friends, a few, thankfully very few, churchgoing fellow worshipers, certain phrases keep coming up. "I'm not a racist" or "I'm no bigot."
It doesn't often become comic, but once in a while... I remember, as a kid, walking with a group on a naive, self-appointed, mission to search the hearts of neighbors. "I'm not prejudiced," insisted one adult we met. "But I'll tell you who is. It's those damn Irish Catholics."
Hannah Arendt made the point a couple of generations ago in her study of the crimes and times of Nazi genocide perpetrator Adolf Eichmann. The Nazi leaders and those around them were so ordinary in the way they lived, in the way they apparently thought of themselves.
More recently, Atlantic Magazine's Ta-Nehisi Coates rejects what he sees as the Racist Child Molester Serial Killer theory. Racists are not monsters. They are seen, and often see themselves, as decent, goodhearted people.
That bigots are viewed as monsters enables us to reject such harsh opinions about ourselves and those we encounter in everyday life. We, and those we care for, are not the snarling menaces we see in movies. We look within ourselves, we look to those around us, and we can honestly say there is not any such evil in view.
Those who throw about such obviously false and hurtful charges are themselves guilty of malicious slander, playing the race card.
To those two men, race has been both a shield and a sword that they have used effectively to defend themselves, and to attack others.
- Brit Hume, Fox News, April 13, 2014
Brit Hume was speaking specifically about President Obama and his Attorney General, but the same charge can be heard on any given day about pretty much any historically oppressed minority. We need not even turn on radio or television. Face to face conversation in everyday life provides most of us with enough examples.
We look within, we do not find pure evil, and so we reject the charge.
The clearest insight for me comes from my own eventual change of heart as I turned away from from the harsh attitudes toward gays that I accepted so uncritically as I grew up. I wonder what other demons now find shelter inside, protected by a lack of examination, an absence of healthy questions.
Our friend the mayor might, if he chooses, insist he is not a bigot. After all, he thinks the killer of innocent people, presumed to be his friend the white supremacist, should be executed. He himself is not a monster, therefore he cannot be a racist.
We can find, among the famous and among the almost unknown, examples of the opposite: living demonstrations of the human capacity for growth. Hodding Carter, Jr. was an outspoken white supremacist as a college student. He eventually became a tireless campaigner against the very racism he once espoused. He recognized the evil within, then he turned.
Anti-Gay bigotry was once unquestioned. Now most Americans have changed their minds and their hearts. People can change.
Bigotry exists within an umbrella, separated from recognizable evil. I haven't killed anyone. I haven't spit on a child trying to go to a previously all-white school. I haven't attacked anyone, or said anything I recognize as evil.
The worst lie is the one that lies to the teller of the lie.
The unrecognized monster that dwells within survives undetected. It is the evil within the gentle, caring soul.
It lies peacefully, surrounded by the best protection of all:
The security of obscurity.
Twenty-seven wooden blocks weighing 600 pounds each? That's no regular game of Jenga—that's a job for a team of five giant, yet agile, Cat excavators and telehandlers to take on. Just some machines having fun.
This is very clearly a promo for Cat, but it's an awesome one.
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It was a discouraging time for folks like me.
Barely two years after Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy had been assassinated, just seven years after we had lost a President, the war in Vietnam continued and continued, seemingly without end.
Richard Nixon had just made an angry speech in Phoenix, televised nationally, talking about demonstrators as a core group of the violent few. It was a final appeal to voters to elect Republicans, casting those who opposed the war as a combination of brick throwers and those who thought brick throwers should be appeased:
The networks had provided 15 minutes to Republicans and equal time to Democrats. The President had provided a good summary of that year's campaign. Democrats were cast by Vice President Spiro Agnew as "an effete corps of impudent snobs." So confident were members of the administration, they went after Republicans who were insufficiently enthusiastic about the war effort.
Richard Nixon yelled to his audience and they roared back, furious at those disloyal enough to oppose him. It was a ferocious performance. He ended with a shout. "Nobody is going to tear this country down as long as you are ready to cast your vote to build this country up."
And that was it. Americans were told that those who opposed the war, or were insufficiently angry at those who did, that they were willing to see the country torn down. And he was talking about me and those like me.
Historians tell us it was a continuation of the Nixon Southern Strategy, devised with the help of former Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond.
When Edmond Muskie spoke next, it was from an armchair in front of a fireplace. He spoke calmly, as if to each individual voter. He asked those about to cast their ballots not to vote against themselves. He characterized the tactics of the Republican campaign.
There has been name-calling and deception of almost unprecedented volume. Honorable men have been slandered. Faithful servants of the country have had their motive questioned and their patriotism doubted.
I still remember a sense of youthful relief. Even though the forces of angry intolerance were about to prevail, a calm voice had spoken against the tide. The case had been made. We could lose with some bit of honor. Someone had fought back with plain truth and crystal clarity.
One small hope flickered in Florida. Out-moneyed, outshouted, a mostly unknown state Senator had conducted an unusual, almost bizarre, public effort. He went hiking. Lawton Chiles had announced that his campaign would be very simple. He would walk across the entire state, meeting and talking with average voters. And he took a 1000 mile hike through Florida.
It was hailed as quite the gimmick. A campaign tactic of such creative novelty would get some attention, doomed as it was to lose against wealthy and well known opposition. The Republican, William Cramer, had been active in state politics for many years.
But the walking tour - no vehicles allowed - caught on. People liked the easy going one-on-one. Television outlets found that audiences seemed to get bigger when Walkin Lawton Chiles was on screen, listening to some ordinary voter, or explaining some complex issue in homespun terms.
Lawton Chiles won that year, by almost 8 points. Florida became a setback for Nixon politics.
Republicans didn't do so well around the country, either. The Muskie voice of calm discussion had more appeal than a President who looked as if he was running for local prosecutor.
I'll always remember Lawton Chiles as leading the way out of those dark times by walking a thousand miles and talking to individual voters.
But his place in history may turn out to have been earned years later.
Lawton Chiles served three terms in the Senate, then retired from politics in 1989. It didn't last long. He was pretty much drafted the next year to run for Governor against incumbent Republican Robert Martinez. He won in a landslide.
He got to be a popular governor. He introduced insurance reforms, then dealt with a major hurricane with active diligence that won wide acclaim.
Still, 1994 was a very tough year for Democrats. Chiles ran for re-election against a very famous challenger. Jeb Bush was not only set to become governor of Florida, he was said to be on his way to become the second Bush to be President of the United States. All of them.
History in democracy is changed by elections. They matter in ways that are not always predictable. George W. Bush was not supposed to win in Texas against popular Ann Richards. His smarter brother, Jeb Bush, was supposed to win that year in Florida.
Lawton Chiles never saw the beginning of the second Bush administration. He died in 1998. I wonder if he suspected what might come.
Had things gone according to the Bush family plan, would a different brother have been the Republican nominee in 2000? Would he have been more interested in policy once he took office in the White House?
Outgoing President Clinton and his advisors had urged the new Bush administration to take very seriously the threat posed by international terrorists. Incoming Republicans had actually laughed among themselves at what they considered a silly Clinton obsession. Would a President Jeb Bush have reacted similarly?
If Karl Rove had remained relegated to Texas, smearing opponents with whispering campaigns about child molestation, would a Jeb Bush have ordered United States Attorneys to drop corruption investigations against Republicans or to contrive charges against Democrats? Would he have launched voter suppression drives to keep minorities from voting?
Would torture have become official policy under a euphemistic label? Would financial regulation have been bobbled with resulting financial calamity following?
It's hard to think of worse Presidential performance in modern times, with the exception of Nixon criminality. Would George's smarter brother have been a smarter President?
Personalities do often drive policy. But I am still inclined to believe that policy drives results. One interesting question about the past is whether the policies of President Jeb Bush would have differed at all from those of George W. Bush.
A better question just now translates that to future tense. In what respect will policies of a President Jeb beginning after 2016 differ from those of President George?
If that difference is not compelling, we may yet hope that the legacy of Walkin Lawton extends a few more years.
From the Las Vegas Review-Journal:
Amid raucous debate, Nevada Republican Party conventioneers on Saturday stripped opposition to gay marriage and abortion from the party platform and endorsed Gov. Brian Sandoval for governor in the June 10 primary despite misgivings by conservatives, his criticism of the process and his absence from the meeting...
...Republicans who sat on the platform committee said they decided not to deal with social issues this year because the U.S. Supreme Court and lower courts have weighed in and it doesn’t make sense for the party of “personal freedom” to have the government or the political party get involved in people’s personal lives.
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The way I look at this is someone who comes to our country because they couldn't come legally, they come to our country because their family's dad who loved their children was worried that their children didn't have food on the table, and they wanted to make sure their family was intact.
And they crossed the border because they had no other means to work to be able to provide for their family.
Yes, they broke the law, but it's not a felony. It’s kind of -- it's a, it’s an act of love. It's an act of commitment to your family.
- Jeb Bush, Commemoration of Presidency of George H. W. Bush, April, 6, 2014
Most analysts have looked at the statement from a political perspective, grading Jeb Bush's strategy and his calculation of its effect on the Presidential race of 2016. One or two mention a family tradition of tactically including Hispanic voters in political appeals.
I have yet to hear anyone, anyone at all, speculate that he may simply have been saying what he believes is right. I look to another practice begun by President George W. Bush..
There really were not that many things about the policies and practices of the latest President Bush that I can bring myself to appreciate. There are some, of course. He did indeed make honest appeals to Hispanic voters. He initiated programs to save lives in Africa, where AIDS was endangering millions.
I was especially grateful that he stood tall against anti-Muslim bigotry.
The enemy of America is not our many Muslim friends. It is not our many Arab friends. Our enemy is a radical network of terrorists... and every government that supports them.
- President George W. Bush, to a Joint Session of Congress, September 20, 2001
That “every government that supports them” is striking. It is unfortunate that the Bush administration adopted the cold war view that every significant act against Americans by citizens of other countries had to have a government sponsor. They considered the idea as not worthy of consideration that thousands of Americans in urban centers could be killed by order of a comic book villain in a cave on the other side of the world without some government sponsorship.
There had to be a government sponsor, and the guilty government had to be that of Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
But the distinction between Islam and terrorism is one he made repeatedly in the heated days after the September 11 attacks. Three days before his address to Congress, less than a week after the terrorist attacks, he journeyed to the Islamic center in Washington, DC, to make the same point. We were not attacked by Islam, and our battle is not against Islam.
Through the remainder of 2001, and through 2002, at every public opportunity, he made the same point. Pretty much every visiting head of state was greeted with the same message.
To the the visiting President of Indonesia:
“...the war against terrorism is not a war against Muslims.”
To the King of Jordan:
“...our war is against evil, not against Islam. There are thousands of Muslims who proudly call themselves Americans, and they know what I know -- that the Muslim faith is based upon peace and love and compassion.”
To the Warsaw Conference against Terrorism:
“All of us here today understand this: We do not fight Islam, we fight against evil.”
At a Town Meeting in California:
“this great nation of many religions understands, our war is not against Islam, or against faith practiced by the Muslim people. Our war is a war against evil.”
At dozens of public events, at diplomatic ceremonies involving heads of state, at formal gatherings and political events, he would stress the same theme.
Even in retrospect, I don't find much political benefit in all this for President Bush. He struck me as taking a stand that was good for the country and, more important, morally right.
In what is a constant corrupting competition for votes, we should acknowledge occasional stands of humanity, of doing the right thing when the right thing is costly.
Jeb Bush, the brother and son of Presidents, has not proposed open borders. He has not suggested more than moderate changes to existing law to make legal immigration more available. He is not for relaxing enforcement.
He seems to have suggested what is, or ought to be, obvious to any of us, regardless of what policies we favor.
I don't see much hope for the Republican Party in the long term. The political base that determines nominees is shrinking, driving out those who are thoughtful and tolerant. Those who remain take the party to ever new extremes of disdain for those of different religions or cultures, for those less well off, for those who are desperate for opportunity, for those who have sacrificed their well being in military service to the nation.
Certainly they have expressed intolerance for those from other lands who struggle against restrictive laws to gain entrance.
If I turn out to be wrong, it will be because of conservative leaders who convince moderates that it is okay to express compassion and common sense. That tolerance can be tolerated. That hatred can be rejected outright.
It is a fact that many of those who break laws to gain entrance are struggling to benefit their families, that they are, in fact, acting out of love.
That some conservatives find that idea too offensive to consider tells us something about their strain of ideology.
Capital Comedy in Congress - the Voice Vote (5:42) - Click for Podcast
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