Monday, 4 August 2008

QotD, 2008 from the apathetic libertarian perspective edition

Steven Taylor on GOP efforts to get “spoiler” Libertarian candidates to withdraw from fall election contests:

[I]f the Texas GOP is truly that concerned about losing votes to the Libertarian Party, then perhaps they ought to try harder to please libertarian-minded voters who might be persuaded to vote Republican if the party was made more palatable to them.

Although, I have to add a caveat: that ain’t going to work unless the GOP can come up with someone less batshit than Rоn Pаul. But nobody ever said building a big tent was easy.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Obamacon yawn

Andrew Sullivan links the debate between Steven Taylor and James Joyner over the merits, or lack thereof, of the Obama alternative for disaffected conservatives. From my point of view, which is a bit more apathetic than disaffected and libertarian than conservative, and thus theoretically (at least) a bit more analytical, things work out as being roughly outlined as follows:

  • John McCain is, by all reasonable standards of analysis, more conservative than Barack Obama, across the issue space. (At worst on some obscure issue dimensions they may be tied.)
  • All other things being equal, this means the expected policy outcome would be more conservative under a McCain administration than an Obama administration.
  • Therefore, if you want to cast a instrumental vote, and you are conservative, you probably should vote for McCain.

Personally, I don’t think there are large, meaningful differences between Obama and McCain on the few issues that poorly map to ideology, like executive power, where there are few politicians of principle whose positions don’t reflect the partisanship of the executive officeholder. Obama is probably a bit more of a liberal internationalist than McCain when it comes to small-scale interventions, although I can’t see this making a huge difference or really being a useful voting criterion. By and large I think what’s happening in Iraq, rather than who’s in the White House, really matters when it comes to bringing the troops home sooner rather than later, although I suppose there may be a difference in the semantic game we’re going to play with distinguishing “the troops” who leave and those who remain. Afghanistan isn’t going to be fixed until the Pakistanis fix themselves, and I don’t see that happening any time soon. McCain as a hawk can probably more credibly produce a rapprochement with the various pariah states of varying degrees (Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Venezuela, etc.), but I don’t think there is a huge obstacle to Obama doing the same (he may just have to do less).

From an apathetic libertarian perspective, neither candidate is particularly appealing, although generally speaking I find critiquing Washington from the (Postrel-1990s Reason) economic classical liberal perspective more interesting than from the (Gillespie-current Reason) social/cultural left. As a future upper-middle-income government bureaucrat I suppose the Democrats are more likely to govern in support of my personal, short-term financial interests (throwing money at higher education, lower taxes on the “middle class” which seemingly tops out right at the peak Congressional salary, transferring more of my personal health care expenses onto the backs of Bill Gates and Mark Cuban), even if I have to balance that against the possibility that eight years of Democrats at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue could fuck up America economically to the point it becomes Britain circa 1978, and the billboards won’t even be as catchy.

All this is, of course, really just a boring way of saying that since my vote really won’t matter I’m having a hard time feeling all that motivated to care one way or the other.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Veeping with the Enemy

The Libertarian ticket for ‘08: Barr and Root. With a name like that, you’d think they have a no-bid contract in Iraq or something.

Meanwhile, John McCain is allegedly talking with potential running mates at his ranch, including Bobby Jindal, Mitt Romney, and Charlie Crist, and the Obama veep spin cycle is ramping up too.

I have no real substance here, I just wanted to use this post title before I forgot it…


I don’t really see what all the fuss is about, but then again I’m not a Democrat so I don’t hold the Kennedy fils (John, Bobby, and Ted) as the Holy Trinity of modern American politics either. Maybe it’s genetic; my mother, by her own account, didn’t cry when she learned that JFK had been shot.

All that said, the analogy is pretty stupid, not because it’s offensive but because it’s specious. Much like in NASCAR, where there is a useful division between “prehistory” and “the modern era,” there is no valid comparison between anything today to anything that happened before 1972 when it comes to Democratic nomination politics. And pretty much everyone who was actively campaigning into June since then was either a loser in the primaries or the general election; Clinton would be better off not reminding Democrats of that history.

Friday, 16 May 2008

Having a gay old time in California

My office-neighbor just observed that state supreme courts seem to have a lousy sense of timing when it comes to inserting same-sex marriage into presidential election year agendas.

I tend to agree with Timothy Sandefur’s view that the California Supremes made basically the right decision for the wrong reasons. I think the right solution, broadly speaking, is to formally decouple the civil and religious institutions of marriage (as is essentially the practice in a number of religions anyway, most notably Catholicism)—confer legal recognition only on civil unions licensed by the state (or recognized as common-law unions, where applicable), with criteria that are constitutionally permissible under strict scrutiny (for example, requiring that all parties be humans, limiting the number of participants, and requiring them to be of legal age of consent—no Rick Santorum or Warren Jeffs fantasies here), and make marriage something that can only be recognized by religious institutions or civil society and can be decided based on whatever criteria they choose. If the Washington Times and the Pope don’t want to say that Adam and Steve are “married,” so be it; if Adam and Steve want to say they’re married, more power to ‘em.

A pipe-dream, I know. But a man can hope, can’t he?

Monday, 12 May 2008

Barr's giant sucking sound

I ponder the question of which major-party candidate would be harmed more by a Bob Barr LP candidacy over at OTB this afternoon while I wait in vain for any last-minute assignments to show up.

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

The Obama paradox

Sully on Obama’s conversion to speaking truth to power douchebags:

It’s extremely depressing that the first major national black politician who takes on the victimology of Sharpton and Jackson is greeted by the right with the kind of cynicism you see at Malkin or the Corner or Reynolds. It reveals, I think, the deeper truth: the Republican right only wants a black Republican to do this. They are not as interested in getting beyond the racial question, in changing the hopes and dreams of black America, as they are in exploiting it for partisan advantage. Their response to the first major black candidate for president tackling the old racial politics? “We don’t believe him.”

To my mind, the “cynicism” is warranted (and, by the way, it’s a cheap shot to lump Glenn Reynolds—who has spoken very positively of other black Democrats, like Harold Ford—in with the Corner crowd and the odious Michelle Malkin) because, fundamentally, the question is which Obama is genuine. He’s spent two decades in Jeremiah Wright’s pews, and there are two plausible interpretations of that: he sat there all that time thinking “bullshit, bullshit, bullshit” while Wright preached his nonsense about CIA conspiracies to infect blacks with AIDS and spread crack in the inner cities and was being politically expedient in using that as a platform for reaching out to a black community skeptical of his African-American bona fides as a half-white, half-black-but-not-black-American politician, or he’s being politically expedient now reaching out to whites and Hispanics who are rather more troubled by Wright’s bullshit (and the related bullshit spread by Sharpton and Jackson) than he genuinely is. Neither interpretation squares well with the Sullivanesque interpretation of Obama as the Great Black Hope who will unite all the races in the quest for the one ring to rule them all, or at least a quick exit from Iraq or something.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that Obama is a bad person or isn’t telling the truth now; hell, even if he is a liar on this one issue he’s still an order of magnitude more genuine a person than Hillary Clinton, who skillfully combines all of her husband’s artistry for compulsive dishonesty with none of the used-car-salesman charm that made it at least vaguely palatable. But it’s somewhat harder to square Obama the presidential candidate with Obama the inner-city politician than it is to square, say, Ford, who never had to pander as much to the black establishment (in large part because of his father’s coattails) before becoming a DLC-style centrist in Washington.

Update: Timothy Sandefur makes largely the same points, but far more eloquently (particularly with 100% fewer uses of the word “bullshit”), while Johnathan Pierce at Samizdata critiques another part of Sullivan’s argument.

The long arm of Barack Obama

Current MS-1 resident Marvin King and I have been taking note of the surprisingly successful campaign of Prentiss county chancery court clerk Travis Childers, running as a Democrat, against Southaven mayor Greg Davis; the surprise is that this has been a reliably Republican district since 1994, and likely would have turned to the GOP a decade earlier if not for Jamie Whitten’s heroic efforts to get federal largess directed to northern Mississippi.

Now that Childers has placed first in the first round of the contest, it appears the gloves have come off with GOP ads linking Childers to two recent winners of the not-very-coveted National Journal “most liberal senator” award, John F. Kerry and Barack Obama. Childers is now trying to distance himself from the national Democratic party and Barack Obama in particular, but it’s questionable how effective that tactic will be over the course of the campaign. Childers also has to contend with the real likelihood that he will win the special election amid low turnout, only to be turfed out in six months when the presidential contest will bring out more of those GOP-leaning voters and Davis will have a big stack of roll-call votes showing Childers having an 80%+ agreement in his voting record with Nancy Pelosi; I can almost imagine the ads now.

Friday, 25 April 2008

QotD, not-so-super-delegates edition

Marc Ambinder on the uncommitted Democratic superdelegates:

So if Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), who comes close to calling former President Clinton a racist, who believes that African Americans think that the Clintons “are committed to doing everything they possibly can to damage Obama to a point that he could never win,” who says these things in multiple venues (Reuters, the New York Times).... still won’t endorse and still won’t call for Clinton to drop out, should it surprise us that other superdelegates are even more shy?

Personally my suspicion is that a large part of the non-commitment by the superdelegates is that it goes against the way politicians deal with the tough issues—in large packs like roll-call votes where they can be at least somewhat anonymous. There is no “safe vote” now—or at least there’s nothing that is obviously the safe vote—so why commit now when in a few weeks you might have the political cover to commit after the heat is over?

Friday, 18 April 2008

Voters don't give a damn about policy, news at 11

Alex Tabarrok on the open letter being sent to ABC about the debate that no sane person lots of people watched earlier this week on their network:

The only thing the signatories got wrong was where to send the letter. The letter should have been addressed to the American public. After all, this debate, which came in the flurry of all the tabloid journalism of the past several weeks, was the most-watched of the 2008 presidential campaign. The public got what it wanted.

I’d add the caveat that if there were any substantive policy differences of consequence between Clinton and Obama, this might actually be a worthwhile complaint about the Pennsylvania debate. However the policy debate at present between the two candidates is over minor semantic differences between public policy agendas at levels of detail that will have to be negotiated with other policy actors years down the road. I dare say the nuances of the differences between the two candidates’ health care policies will have the same impact on the average American as whether or not Obama wears a flag pin or not.

Actually, given chaos theory the presence or absence of a flag pin might actually impact the weather in six years’ time. No such hope exists for whether or not there is an individual mandate buried in the health care plan that gets sent to the Hill and then immediately thereon to the nearest shredder.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

QotD, Bill Clinton has jumped the shark edition

Taylor Owen of OxBlog, on an unfortunate recent reading choice:

I just finished listening to an abridged version of Clinton’s autobiography (I just couldn’t commit to the full thing). There are two things that are glaringly clear. First, it’s all the evil “far right’s” fault. Everything. It is never Clinton’s fault. Second, and more relevant here, is that in 1992, Clinton was running a VERY similar campaign to Obama. Had Hillary been in the race, there is no doubt that he would be have mocked her as the establishment candidate. He would have been right, and he would have won. He would have done so using words, which he was at one point pretty good at. And he would have argued that a new generation was ready to have a turn in Washington. Sound familiar?

Monday, 7 April 2008

QotD, having your cake and eating it too edition

Dan Drezner today, on Democratic posturing on trade:

Just to repeat myself:

I’ve said it before and I will say it again: Democrats cannot simultaneously talk about improving America’s standing abroad while acting like a belligerent unilateralist when it comes to trade policy.

A close second, from the same source: “A bitter irony of this latest kerfuffle is that this will likely be the most prominent mention of Colombia during the presidential campaign—just as the NAFTA imbroglio will have been the most prominent mention of Canada.”

Saturday, 5 April 2008

None of the above

Jeff Jarvis considers donating money to the Titanic Hillary Clinton’s campaign and notes it is a violation of the canons of journalistic ethics:

What do you say: venial sin or act of grace?

Sorry, the correct answer is c: a waste of your hard-earned money. Thanks for playing, though!

Friday, 4 April 2008


I’ll just take it for granted that some idiot leftists will decide that John McCain’s presence in Memphis today on the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King is a really deeply-coded appeal to racists. Your challenge: guess their rationale in the comments. Bonus points if you can work in the concept of James Earl Ray not being the lone gunman/involved in a conspiracy/also being the shooter in both Kennedy assassinations and making Ted run off the road at Chappaquiddick. Super bonus points if you can somehow tie Hillary Clinton’s simultaneous presence in the same city to a plan orchestrated by The Man to make Barack Obama look bad.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

In November, party identification will win

I can’t say I’m likely to get all that excited by Gallup’s numbers that allegedly show Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama’s supporters will engage in mass defections to John McCain in November if their preferred candidate doesn’t win the Democratic nomination. For starters, it reeks of the same whininess we were hearing back in ancient history (i.e. about six weeks ago) when we were told on good authority that Republicans who supported Romney/Thompson/Giuliani/Huckabee wouldn’t vote for McCain in November. A little smooth talking by the eventual nominee will get the base on board for November.

More importantly, most partisan voters are going to figure out that at some level their party’s nominee is preferable to the opposition’s candidate. For all Republicans’ complaints about McCain on issues like campaign finance reform, the Bush tax cuts, and judicial nominations, from the perspectives of the campaigners Obama and Clinton are at least as bad on those issues, if not worse, and they’re bad on many issues where Republicans agree with McCain too. For Democrats upset about Clinton’s triangulation or Obama’s lack of substance on the War in Iraq, the various spiritual advisors of those candidates, the level of armed attack Clinton was under when she visited Bosnia, or the detailed nuances of their plans to nationalize health care, again those differences pale in comparison compared to the prospect of voting for John “1000 Years” McCain. The real partisans will come home in November, once the nomination campaign sideshow is through, provided the process in the end is seen as reasonably fair.

Now, I may eat my words if one candidate somehow gets the Democratic party convention to unseat fairly-selected pledged delegates or otherwise makes an end-run around the established rules, but if that happens the Democrats will have much more serious problems in November than a bit of negative campaigning that will quickly be forgotten once the Democratic-leftist-liberal noise machine lines up behind the nominee—as much of the Republican acrimony has already moved to the wayside as most of the GOP-rightist-conservative noisemakers have gotten on board, to the point that the only real McCain complaints that show up on my RSS feed these days are coming from libertarians, centrists, and the Democratic side of the aisle.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Wright, past wrongs, and Obama

There are, to steal John Edwards’ shopworn phrase, indeed “two Americas,” and the controversy surrounding Rev. Jeremiah Wright and presidential contender Barack Obama has brought that to the surface, most prominently in the latter’s speech Tuesday in which he discussed the distinction between the African-American experience and the experiences of whites in this country. I haven’t had time to read all the commentary the speech has generated, and probably won’t, but I will at least commend my OTB co-blogger James Joyner’s take as well as that of Marvin King.

The existence of this disconnect is, of course, nothing new in American politics—indeed, perhaps the oddest feature of modern American political history is that for a few years enough of the gap between the two Americas was bridged to bring the Civil Rights Movement to fruition and partial accomplishment of its goals. But as we all know, even that bridge was a fleeting one; in a small bit of serendipity, the Memphis Commercial Appeal revisited a point by which that bridge was largely washed away, the 1968 sanitation worker’s strike.

The paper’s (somewhat unsatisfactory, largely for its failure to recognize that even if white leaders in Memphis—including the CA editorial board—had seen it as a form of civil rights protest, rather than a labor action, they still would have seen it as a threat to public order) effort to address its own coverage of that strike here and here addresses the fundamental disconnect: most blacks saw the Civil Rights Movement as a means to an end, getting redress for the economic and social injustice of slavery and subordination, while whites primarily saw it (in the south) in terms of a challenge to the established political order or (outside the south) primarily focused on securing equal rights in a more classically liberal sense, such as equal standing before the law and the right to participate in the electoral process. As such, the post-Voting Rights Act movement found itself caught between a black community that didn’t think the movement had achieved enough and a white community that thought the movement had either achieved plenty—or, once the issues moved beyond abstract principles to more concrete implementation, such as integration of schools in redlining-induced de facto segregated communities across the nation, too much.

The unenviable challenge, I think, that Obama (and to a large extent, the Democratic Party he represents) faces is the need to move the debate beyond race—in other words, to diminish the importance of white-black differences—while simultaneously addressing the deep-seated, and in my mind broadly justified, demands of the black community for economic empowerment. Without diminishing the perceived racial differences—and, by extension, convincing working-class whites in the traditional Democratic coalition that economic empowerment is not a wealth transfer from them to blacks, a case that may be harder to make given that virtually any such empowerment (if in the form of government intervention) would necessitate increased federal taxation—the left has no hope of building a viable coalition that can do more than fiddle at the margins.

Update: As Megan McArdle indicates, that challenge won’t be a pretty one either, at least for those of us who don’t think the Smoot-Hawley Act was one of the high points of the Hoover administration’s response to the Great Depression:

And then he has to go and make possibly the stupidest remark in this entire campaign—or at least, Best in Class (you can't really expect him to outdo a television anchor.) "This time we need to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn't look like you will take your job, it's that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit."

This is jaw-droppingly, head-shakingly, soul-cringingly, "Oh my God, maw, I think my eardrum just exploded" stupid.

"Don't be afraid of the people who don't look like you—be afraid of the people who don't look like you, and have the nerve to live somewhere else." They'll sneak over the border at night, steal your job, and sell it to some wetback hooker in Juarez.

I understand the political logic that forces Barack Obama to spend a fair amount of time hating on trade. But I sort of feel--call me a starry-eyed idealist though you will--that a speech urging Americans not to hate and fear people who are different from them, should perhaps itself forgo urging Americans to hate and fear people who are different from them. You know, to set a good example for the children.

Megan might be reading in a bit more xenophobia than Obama intended, but it’s a very short bus ride these days from being a Democratic presidential contender to a Dobbsian/Paulian/Tancredian foaming-at-the-mouth zero-summer-slash-Minuteman-wannabe.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Run-off in the first

The GOP primary in the first congressional district election to replace Bobby Jindal in the House is headed to a run-off election next month, as southshore candidate Steve Scalise came up short of the absolute majority he needed to avoid facing the second-place candidate on April 5th. This also means that the general election will take place on May 3rd, where he will face Gilda Reed and two independents in Louisiana's first plurality-winner election to Congress in 30 years.

At least in my precinct, the turnout in the special primary election was abysmal; we had 27 voters (11 Democrats and independents, 16 Republicans) out of 512 registered voters in 14 hours. On the upside, at least we didn’t have to turn anyone away or fiddle with provisional ballots this time around.

Friday, 7 March 2008

Democratic crime and punishment

Let me get this straight: the Democrats penalized Michigan and Florida for holding their primaries early, because those states wanted to have disproportionate influence on the nomination process. And the proposed remedy for the situation is that Michigan and Florida may get “do-overs” and thus have disproportionate influence over the nomination process—likely even more influence than they would have had their delegations been counted in the first place (or even if the DNC had been as sensible as the Republicans and just docked them 50% of their delegates, which would have knocked down all the silly Bush v. Gore II arguments that got us to this point).

Is there a planet in the universe where this makes any sense whatsoever? Your Democratic National Committee—making the rules up as they go along.

Vote for this

The race to replace Bobby Jindal in Congress has largely played out off of my radar screen, but the Times-Picayune reviews the recent round of mudslinging from the contenders. For some reason, I’ve only gotten mailings from the Scalise campaign; I guess the other Republicans are working from an older GOP registered voter list—I changed affiliations from Libertarian to Republican in January so I could vote in the February presidential preference primary, when I thought the GOP race would be more competitive than the Democratic one, and upcoming special elections.

In terms of my personal self-interest, I’m hoping that no candidate gets 50% of the vote so I’ll have another election in May—I’ll miss working on the April election date due to being at the Midwest, and if there’s no runoff the general election will be held then.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

McCain rounds up 43 of 47 delegates at La. convention

The Times-Picayune reports that the end result of last month’s Louisiana caucus and last week’s primary is that John McCain has pretty much swept the state’s delegates who were appointed at today’s state GOP convention, adding another 43 delegates to McCain’s prohibitively large total that’s now somewhere in the mid-800s depending on exactly who you ask.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

QotD, primary elections edition

Steven Taylor on the primary process:

Of course, it would be nice if we could trash this byzantine process and construct a better one, but then again, a magic pony would be nice, too.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

More Obamamania

The Times-Picayune reports on Obama’s visit to Tulane this morning. I was somewhat tempted to go but my desire to sleep in today (since I have a 15+-hour day on Saturday, in addition to the regular 8 am class and the tornado warning that resulted in me getting no sleep Tuesday night) outweighed my desire to stand in line at the crack of dawn.

Meanwhile, Tubby will be here in New Orleans tomorrow to further his apparent goal of running his wife’s campaign into the ground.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Obamamania hits NOLA

Barack Obama is coming to Tulane tomorrow morning. I doubt Hillary Clinton will bother with Louisiana, symbolism or no.

I wonder if any of the Republicans will make an effort to get over the 50% hurdle and the 20 pledged delegates that come with it; Romney, who probably needs it more than anyone else at this point, would just be wasting his money, and getting that absolute majority probably isn’t worth it to either McCain (who with the Fredheads’ delegates from the caucus will control the state convention anyway) or Huckabee (who will probably get a plurality, but no majority, if McCain doesn’t campaign here).

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Chris Matthews is an idiot but at least he gives me a lecture topic

I am now officially tired of Chris Matthews continually pointing out that John McCain is winning GOP primaries in states the GOP does not do well in at general elections—he did it with Mel Martinez, and now he’s doing it with Tom Brokaw. Somebody needs to slap him upside the head with a copy of Downs, although it’s not heavy enough to penetrate his skull unfortunately.

Then again, a $60 book would probably be wasted on Matthews.

I feel left out

With all the excitement about Super Tuesday and Mardi Gras, all I’ve really done today is get woken up by a parade down Jefferson, have a phone interview for a job, and work on prepping for classes Wednesday. The real voting action here is on Saturday, where the two big questions will be whether somebody gets 50% statewide in the GOP primary and some delegates to go with it and how big a margin Obama wins by, and I’ll be spending my 14 hours of poll work down at Ben Franklin Elementary as always.