Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Shifting Sands -- Why Republicans Lost in 2012

This is in response to my Facebook friend's inquiry.  So bear with me if it seems overly sweeping -- it is my humble attempt to respond to her, and I thought it easier to post as a general blog than to post as a Facebook "status update".  

The Republicans do embrace all people -- no matter their race or gender.  They believe that all people have inherent value and have equal rights to freedom and the pursuit of happiness.  They agree with the Declaration of Independence, in other words -- "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."  Republicans who deny God but are libertarian in belief, also believe in the human right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Why did the Republicans lose, then, if they are such a welcoming party, embracing such a broad view, and more specifically, why did they lose among minorities and women?  

Theories abound.  Some think they lost because Romney was too moderate; he did not stand up against Obama, for example, regarding the Benghazi disaster in which our own president stood by while our American ambassador was murdered.  He was too moderate, because although he stated he would repeal Obamacare, Romney did not explain why it was wrong – and how it would lead to the ultimate loss of freedom and to an economic disaster for Americans.  Some friends, conservative, but more pessimistic than I, chose not to vote because they felt Romney, as a moderate Republican, was not conservative enough, and they believed a Republican would do little different than a Democrat in office.  

Other theories are that the Democrats played victim politics – and scared women into believing that Republicans wanted to take away their health care and, particularly, their birth control and abortions, although Romney stood for none of these goals. Ad campaigns tended to play on this scare tactic theory that Republicans hate women.  Then there’s the mantra from the Democrats that Republicans are racists – people believed that too, maybe.  I certainly heard someone at the polls on election-day grumble that Republicans hate Hispanics. It’s ironic that the Democrats have claimed to be non-racist, given history, but the tag “racist” sticks, proof or no proof.  There were the ads that tried to show that Romney cared for nobody and actually killed people.  Those ads may have worked, at least on some people.  There were the claims that Romney did not provide enough specifics, heard from the Democrats, particularly from Obama.  I heard friends making that claim.  It was bizarre, considering that Obama had no plan and that Romney did have specific plans (and Ryan, for that matter, could not have provided anything more specific than he did on economic policy).  Perhaps Romney did lose because he did not provide enough specifics in other areas: schools, immigration, foreign policy.  Others think Romney lost because the Democrats ran a smarter campaign -- targeting individuals with the issues they deemed important -- whether that was abortion, gay rights, Sesame Street, or health care.  

Why do I think they lost?  All those theories played a part.  I have my own theory: the public school system has relentlessly educated our children (starting with our generation – and instituted by our parents – the Baby Boomers) that the United States of America is not special; that Americans are bullies; that Americans are racists; that America is a country full of wrong-headed bigots who victimized swaths of people.  That the United States of America founders and subsequent American citizens never followed God, and even if they did, that God is a myth – believed in by simpletons, not by serious-minded smart folks. Because of the indoctrination by government schools, many Americans today have no interest, understanding or appreciation for the underlying principles of our nation, nor do they see how or why we should preserve these principles.  They don’t know or they don’t agree on what freedom means – that freedom is meant to be the freedom to live your own life as you see fit – and that government is there to protect you, not to provide for you, and that government is inherently dangerous to individuals and so must be limited.  They believe freedom means the freedom to be provided for -- by the government.  They don't see that reliance on the government by definition erases their individual freedom.  

I went to school and I was immersed in that education.  I see it in the public schools today – where comprehensive American history is not taught – only the history of American victims.  If you believe you are a victim or that people you know are victims and that the United States of America is a country fraught with errors, governed by bigots, and that the government is there to serve you or to make up for wrongs it committed against you, not protect you and allow you to make your own choices, then you will vote for someone who represents you.  I found the election disturbing because it made clear that a large group of Americans now believe the latter, not the former, about our country.  

Of course there have always been competing views within our country about the purpose of our government, but in recent years, the country has shifted so that more and more people no longer believe in the original definition of freedom.  I do not and will not fear the future, but I see darkness for a country with diminishing individual freedoms.  Government is not known for relinquishing power once attained.  

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Presidential Leadership: A Comparison

President Obama laments that he has been unable to accomplish his goals because of the "Republican Congress".  (President Obama seems to forget that he has a Democrat majority in the Senate) Does he have a legitimate argument?  Let's look at recent past Presidents.

When President Reagan was elected to his first term, he had a Republican Senate, but an overwhelming Democratic House led by Tip O'Neill, a strong ideologue for his party.  Yet President Reagan was able to push through his economic growth agenda that led to an unprecedented recovery from much worse economic circumstances than Obama inherited.  In addition, he famously worked with Tip O'Neill to pass social security reform.    At no time did anyone hear Ronald Reagan blame anyone for any failure.

When Bill Clinton was elected, like President Obama, he had Democrat majorities in both houses of Congress.  Also, like Obama, during the mid-term elections in 1996, the House went Republican, but unlike, Obama, the Senate also went Republican.  Bill Clinton had to work with Newt Gingrich as Speaker of the House of Representatives - an ideologue, basically, a right-wing Tip O'Neill.  Bill Clinton most likely wasn't happy, but he nonetheless set out to work with Newt Gingrich and his colleagues and accomplished major welfare reform as well as spending cuts that led to a surplus.

George Bush had a Republican majorities in his first term and Democrat majorities in his second term.  He famously worked with Ted Kennedy to push through bipartisan education reform. He never complained that the Democrats blocked his economic agenda during his second term and attempts at reforming the federal mortgage system.

Now to the current President.  President Obama had overwhelming majorities in both houses of Congress when he came to office in 2009.  He worked with the Democrats to pass an $800 billion stimulus package that ended up costing over $300,000 for each job it supposedly created.  (Although according to Bob Woodward's book, he apparently did not take a leadership role.)  He is credited with pushing through Obamacare, although it might be better-named Pelosi care as he never proposed his own plan, but allowed Congress to come up with a plan.  He presided over TARP II which led to more bailouts including the government becoming an owner of the General Motors.   Obama had no trouble passing his agenda during the first two years and our ballooning debt and deficits are a testament to that fact..

Then the midterms came at the end of 2010 with voters soundly rejecting Obama's agenda through an election of an overwhelming majority of Republicans in the House.  President Obama's first foray into working with the new House was to state, "The Republicans can come for the ride, but they gotta sit in the back."   A leader doesn't lead by marginalizing an elected opposition.  A President leads by reaching out.  Yet there are many instances of Obama lashing out from the beginning.  Bob Woodward in his new book speaks about how Obama failed to lead during the debt deal negotiations.  During the negotiations with Boehner (an ideological midget compared to Gingrich, O'Neill and Kennedy), Boehner had agreed to revenue increases put forth by Obama, but Obama reneged on his offer and asked for more.  Boehner threw up his hands at the bad faith and Obama became enraged.  The debt talks failed.    Not only can Obama not reach out to Republicans, he cannot reach out to his own party in the Senate to get his budget passed.  Obama sent a budget which was defeated 97-0 by the Senate.  Moreover, his Democratic Senate has failed to pass any budget for over three years in contravention of the law.  Even one of his own Democrats said that Obama is alienating and arrogant.  Now, during the campaign we are hearing that its all the Republicans fault, he can't change Washington from the inside.  President Obama's lament is really an admission of failed leadership.   And he wants us to re-elect him?

So would Mitt Romney fare any better?  Consider that Mitt Romney was governor of a state whose legislature was 85% Democrat.  However, he managed to work with the Democrats to eliminate a billion dollar deficit, end with a surplus and a "rainy-day" fund of over 2 billion, lower unemployment to 4.6% and raise Massachusetts' credit rating.

He was called in to save a corrupt and debt laden Olympics in Salt Lake City.  The Olympics ended up being successful financially and otherwise. 

Obama has demonstrated that he is not a leader.  He has demonstrated that he cannot work with ideological opponents or even those who tend to agree with him.

Romney, on the other hand, has a history of working successfully with political opposition even when such opposition is overwhelming.  He has a history of problem solving, both in the private sector and in the public sector.  And unlike, Obama, he brings to the presidency executive experience.  I am confident that if he is elected President, you will not hear Romney blaming Democrats for their or his shortcomings.  You will see Romney working with Congress toward solutions to improve America's woeful economy and debt problems.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

This is hilarious

The Great Communicator Speaks:

Obama: A genius for metaphor    

I wonder if any of the late night comedians will pick this up. Or maybe Good Morning America?   Hmmm.

Hat tip:  http://www.powerlineblog.com/

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Sen. Sanders Assault on the Constitution

Sen. Sanders Assault on the Constitution

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that "Congress shall make no lawabridging the freedom of speech…" In January 2010, The United States Supreme Court issued a ruling in Citizen’s United v. Federal Election Commission which held that the sweeping language of the freedom of speech section of the First Amendment required striking down a federal statute that prohibited any for profit or non-profit corporation and any union from using money to pay for "speech that is an ‘electioneering communication’ or for speech that expressly advocates the election or defeat of a candidate." The Court held that such prohibition amounted to a violation of the First Amendment right to free speech, and noted that the Supreme Court had traditionally held that prohibitions against political speech must meet a "strict scrutiny" test if they were to pass constitutional muster. The outright ban on political speech, on the pain of criminal penalties, outlined in the statute under review, did not pass the strict scrutiny test.

Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority, stated:

"Speech is an essential mechanism of democracy, for it is the means to hold officials accountable to the people…The right of citizens to inquire, to hear, to speak, and to use information to reach consensus is a precondition to enlightened self-government and a necessary means to protect it. The First Amendment has its fullest and most urgent application to speech uttered during a campaign for political office. Discussion of public issues and debate on the qualifications of candidates are integral to the operation of the system of government established by our Constitution".


The decision followed a long line of cases which have held that corporations have certain constitutional rights, including the right to free speech.

Indeed, it is imperative that corporations have protections under our constitution, for stripping corporations of their rights under the rule of law would strip away individuals’ rights as well. The constitutional amendment proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders demonstrates the danger to our constitutional democracy of taking away rights from corporations or other private entities.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, outraged by the Citizens United decision to protect free speech rights of certain entities, has proposed a constitutional amendment that not only takes away corporations and other "private entities" free speech rights, but all other constitutional rights as well.

Section one of the proposed Sanders Amendment states:

"The rights protected by the United States Constitution are the rights of natural persons and do not extend to for profit corporations, limited liability companies, or other private entities established for business purposes or to promote business interests under the laws of any state, the United States or any foreign state."

Sanders’ amendment, then, not only applies to corporations, but to "private entities" established for business purposes or to promote business interests. The dictionary definition of business is, among other things, "an occupation, profession or trade". "Private entities" would include sole proprietorships, cooperatives, associations, and partnerships. Credit unions, auto repair shops, food coops, farms, realtors, accounting firms, street vendors, and home day care operators would all be covered by this amendment. A "private entity" that "promotes business interests" would include Northeast Kingdom Chamber of Commerce, groups like St. Johnsbury Rotary Club and St. Johnsbury Business and Professional Women’s Club, and trade organizations like Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility.

The Sanders’ Amendment extinguishes the rule of law for anyone engaged in an occupation, profession or trade by declaring that all business entities and those promoting business have no rights whatsoever under the U.S. Constitution.

Here are some of the constitutional protections that would be lost under the Sanders Amendment:

The constitution’s First Amendment right of free speech would not apply to any business entity. Any business entities from the local Chamber of Commerce to the professional organizations to the Northeast Organic Farming Association could be muzzled by government officials.

The First Amendment right to assembly would not apply to business entities. Business and trade conventions could be prohibited under the law. Organizations like the local retail association or Rotary Club could be banned from meeting.

Article 1, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution prohibits bills of attainder--laws that target certain individuals--and ex post facto laws criminalizing conduct lawful when committed. That section would not apply to business entities. Congress, state legislatures and local select boards could pass laws targeting any individual business they chose, and criminalize conduct of a business after the fact.

Article I, Section 10 of the Constitution prohibits states from impairing contracts. This protection would no longer be afforded to business entities. State legislatures could void any business contract, giving favors to its business friends and punishing those companies which were out of favor with the politicians.

Business entities would not be entitled to Constitutional due process under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments if the Sanders Amendment was added to the constitution. Business entities could have their property confiscated and their contracts voided, and they would have no legal recourse. Indeed, the Sanders Amendment would arguably deny business entities and those promoting business the right to access to courts, if a federal or state legislature so chose.

Constitutional equal protection of the laws would not apply to business entities. If a government official did not like a local realtor or book store, he could shut the business down for no reason; or a legislature could declare only certain favored business entities could do business in their state. There would be no recourse.

The far-reaching language of the Sanders Amendment would abrogate the rule of law for businesses of any type or size in this country. Its unlimited scope would encourage local, state and federal governments to wield the power it provides to them. The expansive scope of the amendment would preclude any narrowing interpretation by the courts.

If the Sanders Amendment passed, we would have a fundamentally different country where people who engage in business would be at the mercy of politicians who could give favors or take away privileges with impunity.

Private entities must enjoy constitutional rights if the rule of law enshrined in our constitution is to have any meaning.