American Ideology

I thought this piece in the WSJ nailed it:

The Democratic party's problems, crystallized in the last-ditch scramble to save Ted Kennedy's Massachusetts Senate seat in a special election Tuesday, can be traced to a simple mistake: Many in the party misread voters' desire to switch parties in recent years as an ideological shift to the left.

In fact, there is little sign that Americans' ideological tendencies changed much at all, even as voters gave control of Congress to Democrats in 2006 and handed President Barack Obama and the rest of his party a massive victory in 2008. Ideologically, the country remained throughout this period what it was at the outset: a center to center-right nation.

My amateur analysis of why Obama won the election, which is based on talking to friends and co-workers, is as follows:

* The "middle" was unhappy with Bush's policies, especially the War and spending.
* Fashion. Obama is much cooler than Bush, especially if you're a hipster.
* White guilt.

It had nothing to do with changing attitudes about the role of government. We're not Europe, and we're not going to be Europe anytime soon.

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Back before Bush was

Back before Bush was elected, I considered him a liberal, a progressive, and I didn't find much to choose between him and Gore. He was, I think admittedly, a "compassionate conservative", and that to me meant liberal. I felt the same way about his father (and he certainly proved me right by breaking his "no new taxes" pledge). His major policies tended to have a progressive flavor, though they are criticized by the left (for as far as I can see partisan reasons; I mean, yeah, they don't work, but since when did that prevent the left from championing something). One was the medicare prescription drug expansion, which is pure welfare state. Another is no child left behind, which increases the national government's role in education. Another is the war to make the middle east safe for democracy, with its echoes of Woodrow Wilson, Mr. Progressive himself. Bush is even progressive in one of the respects in which I'm progressive: he's for more open borders. And then to cap it off, the 2008 bailout.

The Republican Party has plenty of progressives. There's Scozzafava. Gingrich must be included for having pushed Scozzafava. McCain, obviously. (not Palin - Palin was selected precisely because McCain was no conservative, to attract conservative voters who hated McCain) And Mitt Romney. Anyone who thinks Mitt Romney is a good conservative should recall (or learn) that Romney pushed, and got, health care legislation similar to the legislation that the Democratic party is pushing right now. It's been a disaster in Massachusetts, which may be one reason why Massachusetts voters were so up in arms about the Washington DC health care legislation. They've actually experienced it and so are under fewer illusions about it.

A lot of Republicans are essentially progressives.

That being the case, it is not all that surprising that the DCCC calls CATO a "right wing extremist group". If the Republicans are a bunch of socialists (and they largely are), then CATO must indeed be "right wing extremist" in comparison to the supposed "far right" George W. Bush.

BTW: People love Palin

BTW: People love Palin largely because she's the only major national conservative politician. Even if she's not a politician (for now). But think about that. If Palin is alone out there, what about the rest of the Republicans? It's like I said - they're mostly a bunch of socialists. Yeah, Palin is no pure conservative herself, but to realize this and to realize that she is still alone out there, only goes to show how far gone are the rest of the Republicans.

Speaking of left wing Republicans, I should have remembered Arnold, the Governator. This guy at one time introduced Milton Friedman's miniseries no less, but by now he's completely fallen off the wagon. At times it seems he's to the left of Obama.

She's a modern day conservative

But I'd argue she's a Bush I/II conservative, an entirely different species from the Goldwater/Reagan conservative. The former seem to revel in their unsophistication.

I don't know about your

I don't know about your comparisons. Bush I is an insider's insider, former head of the CIA, among other things. Bush II is, well, Bush I's son. In background, with respect to politics, he's no country bumpkin. Nor do I recall Bush I ever being attacked as unsophisticated, though of course his son was attacked for that. Meanwhile Reagan was attacked for being a simpleton. There's an SNL skit that pokes fun at Reagan over this.

Sarah Palin is much more "ordinary folks" than any of the above, Bush I and II being from a political and business dynasty stretching back to 1863 (Samuel Bush born), and Reagan being a Hollywood star. Her public persona is obviously appealing to many, who I would imagine find her regional accent a reassuring reminder that she's not a political insider.


Um, Palin is still carrying water for McCain. She has a decent sense of how to position herself politically, but I see no evidence that she's especially principled. If McCain had won she'd be promoting socialist schemes today. Meh.

Palin is tied to McCain by

Palin is tied to McCain by circumstances, not ideology. Unless he is forced to, McCain is not going to repudiate Palin, because that would discredit himself, since he chose her. Nor is Palin going to repudiate McCain, because it's good to have a powerful friend in DC. If they don't see eye to eye on things, they're not going to highlight this. They will do everything they can to seem to be in agreement.

My argument in any case is not that Palin is an especially principled conservative, but that the major Republicans generally are not. Bizarre as it may seem, Palin, who recently had nothing but a facebook page, is currently the de facto political leader of the political opposition, largely because nobody else comes anywhere close to qualifying. She's a focal point because there are no close competitors.

Ron Paul is of course far more principled than she, but he's more or less vanished out of the limelight, so he can't be a focal point. You can't be a focal point if nobody is paying attention, and nobody's paying attention to Ron Paul.


"Nor is Palin going to repudiate McCain, because it's good to have a powerful friend in DC."

Good fer her as a politician, but not good for any supposed conservatism, is my point.

Palin would be pushing McCain's version of cap-and-trade right now if they'd won. Such "consevatism" is 'bout worthless.

"Bizarre as it may seem, Palin, who recently had nothing but a facebook page, is currently the de facto political leader of the political opposition, largely because nobody else comes anywhere close to qualifying."

And that bodes very badly for for the prospects of that political opposition. Now they get to vote for unprincipled republicans and democrats giving them lip service until they get tired and lose interest.

But Glenn Beck is actually a bigger figure than Palin for the opposition, which I'll roughly call the Tea Party movement. As for Paul, Beck is quite capable of putting the Tea Party focus back on Paul and that would matter. Why doesn't he? Because for all his principles Paul doesn't support the War On Terror, and that's a deal breaker for Beck, unwisely.

But Beck has consistently done better than I expected over the past year, so I look forward to seeing what he'll pull out of his hat next. I expect nothing of consequence from Palin.

Mass mandated healthcare

The main problems with Mass healthcare are public cost issues in the medium/long term, not primarily individual issues that would have driven election results. It seems more likely to me that Mass voters might have been afraid that Obamacare would have taken away their present plans, which, while not perfect, are likely better than what people had before the Mass mandate program. Mass would be the last place to vote on principle, at least these principles.

Regards, Don

That implies that Mass voters are rational...

...which is not clearly true. The focus groups on MSNBC the other night had a few Democrats who voted for Brown, and all of them gave reasons along the lines of, "I needed to send a message to Washington, too much spending, I don't like the proposed healthcare bill." None mentioned preferring Masscare to Obamacare.

Masscare has a nice ring to it.

Masscare has a nice ring to it.

Soon by what standard?

We're not Europe, and we're not going to be Europe anytime soon.

Protest all you like, we'll be Europe eventually; plate tectonics always wins in the end. Arguably this will bode well for the Red States, since New England will be obliterated more thoroughly that even Osama could imagine.

Chechnya, however, is iffy.

Geek-Out moment

We are actually getting pushed further away from Europe via Atlantic sea-floor spreading, and the Pacific plate is shrinking. Its more likely that North America will get rammed into Japan and possibly Australia in a few hundred million years.

Ah! Out-geeked again!

Whoops, that's right.

But I'm not sure how that helps this discussion. Though we may not become Europe after all, instead we're turning Japanese, oh yes we're turning Japanese, I really think so.

...hyperlinks again....

Off-topic: Does that hyperlink button work for you guys? Somehow I keep screwing it up.

I'm really tired of hearing

I'm really tired of hearing about "white guilt." This is because I have never ever felt guilty about what a minority of rich people did several hundred years ago just because they had a similar skin color to myself.

That makes as much sense to me as feeling guilty every time another brunette does something mean, only applied several centuries before my ancestors even came to this country.

Personally I loved Obama as a presidential candidate, and probably would have voted for him if I hadn't been opposed to most of the policies he was supporting.

Why? Because he's the best orator we've had as a candidate since Reagan. Compare his speeches to the inane dawdling of John Kerry, or John McCain for that matter. His speeches were polished, passionate, and occasionally even eloquent.

It comes down to this: Good marketing will sell a product even if the product sucks.

I agree for the most part,

I agree for the most part, although you may be discounting Bill Clinton's oratory skills. Dude could emote.

Suffer Well

Don't get too tired.

I get a suspicion that guilty victims of "white guilt" are unaware of that label as an accurate description for what they know (or think) they feel, but can't explain. Purely speculation, but I thought it was worth a mention, in this dimension.


Nobody who I consider suffering from white guilt actually believes they're suffering from white guilt. They just get super excited about a black dude who, if he were white, they wouldn't be so excited about. This double standard in reaction to likeable blacks is what I'm calling "white guilt." There's no logical reason for the excitability other than the fact that they feel guilty about the relative difference in living standards between whites and blacks and wish really badly to see blacks succeed.

Nobody who I consider

Nobody who I consider suffering from white guilt actually believes they're suffering from white guilt.

I think this is common. This is why the mere "bringing up" of white guilt can heighten enlightenment, and in so doing help rather than hinder.

"White guilt" is likely the

"White guilt" is likely the result of government pressure. When a population's bias aligned with official truth, then we should expect that government pressure is behind that alignment. For example, if citizens of China under Mao thought that communism was superior to capitalism, an opinion that would be in alignment with Beijing's official truth, we should expect that the reason for this alignment is government pressure, for example totalitarian controls on political speech.

My point is that the nature of the solution depends on the nature of the problem. You want to correct the error where there is an error. If there is an error at point A, and if people are simply optimizing at point B for the error at point A, then you don't want to "correct" people at point B, because this simply exposes them to danger from the error at point A. It would be a mistake to think, "in an ideal world, people would not be behaving as they do at point B, and therefore I will try to change their behavior at point B."

Suppose that a bus has left the road and is hurtling down a sidewalk. Pedestrians jump out of the way. In an ideal world the bus would not be speeding down the sidewalk, and therefore in an ideal world pedestrians would not be jumping out of the way. But what you do not want to do is convince pedestrians not to jump out of the way because in an ideal world they would not do that. If you convince pedestrians to act in the way they would act in an ideal world, you will get them killed, because the bus is still there.

In the real world, people need to maintain their race-conscious double standard for blacks, for their own safety and security, because this is the go-along-to-get-along attitude that is needed in light of official government truth. If you're not careful, you'll find yourself out of a job or worse.

Do you really want a good orator?

Politicians don't talk like normal people. Imagine a group of people having a normal conversation--"Hey man, what's up?" "That was awesome." "How're the kids?"

When all of a sudden someone walks up to you with a stern face and tells everyone, "We must start grilling, start grilling now, and grill with every fiber of our being," ending up a fist thrust.

Yet politicians do this every single time they open their mouths. Shouldn't we see through this? All it does is hypnotize people; that's the goal.

Powerful orators can hyponotize the masses. Is that what we really want?

A lot people, politician or

A lot people, politician or no, talk and write more or less that way when the topic is politics.