Marco Rubio, the Dems, and the GOP

It looks as if, at least for the time being, Marco Rubio is the face of the mainstream Republican Party.  I’m not concerned with this at all.  In fact, on the whole, I kinda like Rubio.  At least enough to want to hear more.  He seems like a pretty straightforward guy, as politicians go, and I think he approaches his views genuinely.  Make it past those wickets and you’ve gotten my attention.  To be honest I haven’t yet read the Time article, nor do I think I know enough about him at this point to offer either my support, or my opposition.  I do, however, look forward to learning more.politifact_photos_marcorubio

Unfortunately, though, our political discussions are rarely based on facts, or even common sense for that matter.  Instead they are grounded in hyperbole, situational ethics, and one of my personal favorites; cognitive dissonance.  Assuming the Rubio trend continues towards 2016 (admittedly far from a sure thing), it will be interesting to see how both parties react to the shoe being on the other foot.  That shoe being a youthful one term Senator, energizing a minority demographic, with terrific speaking skills and gift for connecting with a plethora of other voting blocks.

The GOP already has a history of cognitive dissonance on things Obama has done, highlighted with a bit by Jon Stewart here. It’s funny, and insightful.  I have also written in the past about the selective memory and hollow arguments on talk radio.

But I also have full faith in the Democratic party’s ability to make fools of themselves, as well.  I wonder, will the same people who wrote articles defending Obama’s thin resume by saying things like, there are two problems with the attack on Obama’s inexperience: it isn’t true, and it doesn’t matter. be able to resist the temptation to question Rubio’s youth? In 2008 some pundits were doubling down by quoting Obama, as he referenced Bill Clinton. Candidate Obama said, ““I remember what was said years ago by a candidate running for president, ‘The same old experience is not relevant. You can have the right kind of experience and the wrong kind of experience.’ Well that candidate was Bill Clinton. And I think he was absolutely right., Will those in the media jettison that line of thinking because the subject is a Republican vice a Democrat?  I doubt it. I bet the hypocrisy happens. I see it coming a mile away.

What to do? Well, here’s three things I’d like to see:

1- Rubio needs to lead without campaigning.  He doesn’t need to be on the cover of Time, or take any trips to Iowa or New Hampshire.  If you want some gravitas, do it by leading the way on issues.  Jump in on the sequester and immigration. In so doing, Senator, please take a stand you can still conceivably defend three years from now. Don’t pander to the base now and try to run to the center later. Principles matter.

2- Democrats, please, please, please avoid going after Rubio on the inexperience thing.  That ship sailed in 2008. And when it did, you were at the helm.  What was good for the goose is good for the gander.  You will look like fools if you do this.

3- If the Dems do play the “inexperienced” card, they way for the GOP to answer it would be with positive facts about Rubio, not in pointing out the hypocrisy of the left. Otherwise we will just have more people shouting at each other about how bad/evil/mean/incompetent their opponents are, and not about any actual thoughts/ideas/plans for making a positive change in Washington.

I don’t know if this will happen. It’s obviously a long way to 2016.  I just hope those that will be involved think about this stuff now. Maybe if they do we can avoid some of the “silly season” that rolls around every 4 years.

Don’t Judge a FoxNews Story by Its Headline

Fox News recently ran a story headlined “Republicans want to change laws on Electoral College votes, after Presidential loses”.  What a great headline to grab a reader. Who are these people who want to change their laws? What are their plans? When will it start? This sounds like a juicy story. (It worked, I clicked).

As I read though, I couldn’t help but come the conclusion that there is no meat in this story at all.  It’s a story about ambivalence at best. The following reactions are taken from the body of the story, in the order they appear.

– Rience Priebus said states “ought to look at it” but “emphasized each state must decide for themselves

– Michigan Governor Rick Snyder told the AP he “could go either way” and doesn’t plan to push the idea.

– Michigan Rep. Peter Lund, who introduced a bill two years ago, thinks some people “might be more receptive now

– Republican strategist Phil Musser admitted the idea had “potential” but predicted “pressing economic issues would likely take priority

– Pennsylvania Republican Senator Dominic Pelligi “renewed his call for the legislature to consider it” though the Governor has not seen a proposal and therefor couldn’t comment.

– Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker called it “interesting”, but not one of his priorities.

– The Wisconsin legislature is “lukewarm” to the idea. The story does note that a similar proposal was brought up 2007 but the speaker (who first brought it up 5 years ago) would “have to hear all the arguments“.

The article does also mention the Democratic outrage in the fifth paragraph of the story (a word sentence paragraph at that). It also has some quotes from local Dems later in the story as well. I choose to focus on the Republican quotes in this blog post to highlight the disparity between the headline and the actual story. There may be valid reasons to review the usefulness of the Electoral College, and if there is ever any serious discussion it should be reported.  But in this case, there is no serious discussion.

C’mon FoxNews……this article is about creating division and getting people riled up, not about reporting the news. There is no real conflict here, at least not yet. Some would say, however, that your organization is seeking to create one.

Fighting Passion With Reason

Despite what many may believe I am regular listener to Sean Hannity’s radio show. This does not/nor should imply that I agree with everything he says. Recently on  the issue of guns and the debt ceiling, he’s had three “back pocket arguments” that he whips out to beat back callers who take an opposing view.  The commute home is not far enough to justify calling in, so I thought I would post my potential responses below.

1- We protect our money, our politicians and our Hollywood elite with guns….why can’t/shouldn’t we put guns in our schools to protect our most valuable assets….our children?  I love how he phrases this because it begs for the caller to respond with “why we shouldn’t”.  This meme has been on his show for over a week now, and it’s not much of a surprise it got turned into an NRA ad.

My answer: Sure we should look at that.  If a community wants armed guards in their schools not only should they be allowed to, but many locations already allow it, and more are considering it.  Although there may be some people who completely oppose this idea, Obama isn’t one of them, the President has only said that it shouldn’t be the only solution.  In fact his recent proposals included money for more School Resource Officers (AKA Cops with guns in schools) and was supported by the National Education Association.

So- while you can debate its potential effectiveness, or even some of the details (Resource Officers vs arming the staff), you really can’t honestly portray this as a President against the idea of protecting our children.  These decisions are being made at the local level, something the Republicans espouse and the principle is being supported by the federal government.

2- New York’s new gun law calls for limiting magazines to 7 rounds is horrible. Hannity’s example du jour about why this is a bad idea is the woman who recently had to shoot an intruder 5 times and he still got away. Sean then will go on to ask what would happen if there had been two intruders or even three?  Sarcastically talking about how she would have to ask them to wait while she changes magazines. I heard this story at least three times this week as I drove home.

My answer: The question would be a lot more valid if Hannity’s immediate reaction to people limiting high-capacity magazines earlier had not been based on a theory that it “would do no good”.  His position at the time was that changing a magazine was not hard.  In fact, he could do it seconds (or less).  Of course this was because he is a responsible gun owner who knows his weapons.  So which is it Sean?  Is it so easy that even a deranged person could change magazines and still inflict mass carnage, or is it so difficult that reducing magazine sizes puts lawful Americans at risk.  I believe you could argue either point….but not both.  Caveat the NY Law that allows for larger magazines but only if they aren’t all the way filled up is a recipe for unintended consequences. and should be changed.

3- Obama is a debt ceiling hypocrite. Hannity likes to run the audio clip of Senator Obama arguing against the executive request raise the debt ceiling in 2006 and asks any guests of the more liberal persuasion if the President is inconsistent in his thinking.  This only gets the guests to move off on a tangent and not address Sean’s question leaving him with the apparent high ground.

My answer: Yes….Absolutely…He is inconsistent….This is an undeniable Flip Flop.  The next question would then be; Who was he arguing with?  Turns out it was a Republican President that wanted the debt ceiling raised.  It was raised (many times) with “yea” votes coming from the likes of John Boehner, Eric Cantor, and Mitch McConnell .  This isn’t about principles it’s about a Congress (any Congress) that has the power of the purse, yet seeks to paint the executive branch as the root of our problems.  Both sides do it, which is bad.  Worse, are those who pretend it doesn’t happen and use selective examples to stir the passions of their base.

These are just some examples of how the infotainers in our country whip people up into a frenzy about “the other guys”.  Both sides have these people who make money pandering to the base and they are equally at fault for the toxic political environment. Rational thought, unfortunately, doesn’t get the ratings on TV and doesn’t get “shared” on Facebook.

Knowns and Unknowns of an Undecided Voter

Saturday Night Live recently had a skit mocking the undecided voter, portraying those of us uncommitted to a certain candidate as completely unaware.  I can take a joke, and to some extent it was funny, but it does not describe me.  I am certainly undecided, but certainly not unaware.  So if I don’t know exactly who I’m going to vote for, then what do I know and believe?  Well………

1. I think we need fiscal responsibility

2. I believe in Social Justice

3. I know the first two points are not 100% compatible

4. I believe we need a strong military but know there is a lot of fraud, waste, and abuse in the DOD

5. I believe the recession is complicated and the only way out involves much more than the funding of PBS

6. I believe PBS will do just fine without government funding, but ceasing to fund it will not make any significant difference in the federal bottom line.

7. I don’t think there is a war on Christmas, guns, or women and people who rail against these “wars” are using politics for personal power and influence.

8. I know there is a war in Afghanistan that costs a lot of money and lives but is no longer on the radar of most of the country.

9. I believe there has been a natural creep of executive branch powers that is enabled by political parties who can not bring themselves to push back against one of their own.

10. I believe Mitt Romney really wants to make America successful and believes his plan will do that.

11. I believe President Obama feels the same way.

12. I believe there are very influential people in the Republican Party that are more concerned with making money than with helping the less fortunate.

13. I believe there are influential people in the Democratic Party that are more concerned with making money than helping the economy recover.

14. I believe Social Security and Medicare will need significant changes in order to survive.

15. I believe basic health care is a right, but extensive health care is a privilege.

16. I believe military health care is essentially socialized, single payer, health care and it works pretty well (all things considered).

17. I believe even a well intended voucher system will not be able to keep pace with health care costs, mostly due to government administration issues.

19. I believe if it did keep up, we would be in the same boat we are now.

20. I believe every candidate on the ballot in all 50 states should be allowed to debate (See: Gary Johnson).

21. I believe people have different views of the need for government based on their personal life experiences.

22. I like Moderate Mitt, but dislike the extreme right wing of the party to which he had to pander.

23. I liked the idealism of Barack Obama and was disappointed that he was unable to work more with Republicans.

24. I believe his inability to work with Republicans was mutually acceptable.

25. I think that if Romney wins, the most vocal Obama critics will continue to find new and interesting conspiracy theories to support.

26. I believe the tax/debt ceiling issues that we’ve put off for so long could have been solved if not for political gamesmanship by the parties.

27. I do not believe this election will make either side more willing to compromise than before, no matter who wins.

28. I believe too many people view politics as a spectator sport. I think they root for their home team candidate in order to improve their own self esteem.

29. I believe the playing field is rigged by the parties to exclude any other legitimate challengers.

30. I believe many Americans are unwittingly being duped by their party of choice through scare tactics about the opposition.

31. I believe Congress is the most polarized institution and represents the worst part of us as a country.

32. I believe the redistricting that led to “safe” districts for parties is the primary cause of the polarization.

 

Here’s what I DON’T know:

1. Can Mitt Romney influence the Republican Party…or will it be the other way around?

2. If Obama wins…..can the Republicans ever work with him?

3. Is a vote for Gary Johnson worth anything more than a personal statement?

4. Does it really matter who wins the executive branch if Congress remains so dysfunctional?

I have my absentee ballot (for a swing state, no less) and will vote, but not until after the debates and probably not until the last minute.  Any thoughts or comments that are respectful and intelligent are welcome.  Honest debate is good and I welcome any opportunity to learn more about the candidates and issues.

Scott Brown Is Not A Republican Mandate

                As I write this, the good citizens of Massachusetts are off to the polls to elect someone to replace the late Ted Kennedy.  The fact that a Republican even has a chance, let alone is leading in the polls has many in a tizzy.  According to reports not only is the Right absolutely giddy with this possibility, but the Left is falling apart.

                While this special election has direct and meaningful effects in regards to the health care bill, it is not only about that.  In fact, according to Brit Hume this could be the best thing that ever happened to the Democrats.  I agree with essentially everything he says in this snippet.  But the lesson here is about more than healthcare.  It’s about people taking their power for granted.  It’s about people believing that once they get a party nomination, the rest of it is “in the bag”.  That’s why Coakley is having such a hard time.  Her loyalties were to the party- not the people.

                There is a significant lesson for the Republicans here as well.  This vote is not a mandate that the country believes that the Republicans have the perfect plan for this great country.  The Right should not even utter the word MANDATE, though I am afraid they will.

                The message being sent by this election is that America is fed up with those entrenched in power- and this applies directly to the party leadership.  Coakley will lose because she is tightly associated with the Massachusetts Democratic Party, Brown will win because he is not.

                So this should cause all candidates and parties to take heed.  Uneasy should be the head that wears the crown.  This statement has not rung true in the last century in America, but that mentality should return.  This antiestablishment trend is beginning to take hold. Obama wasn’t the one anointed by the Democratic Party last year, they wanted Hillary.  McCain was labeled a RINO, Republican In Name Only, yet he ended up taking the nomination.  The Scott Brown phenomenon is similar.  Since there is essentially only one real party to speak of in Massachusetts, his election will take a good bit of people voting against the wishes of their party.         

               Scott Brown can waste this away if he uses this new found celebrity in the wrong manner.  The Republicans will look to parade him around as the health care dragon slayer.  But the more he swallows the party line the further he will move from his constituents.  If he truly believes that somehow, Massachusetts has become a bastion of conservative politics, he is mistaken.

                So Brown, and the Republicans, should be careful to take this for what it is, not what they wish it to be.  It is not a mandate to oppose everything Obama. It is a mandate to reconnect with the people.  It is a mandate to govern humbly.  It is a sign that anyone can be defeated. This includes  Red State Republicans as well as Blue State Democrats.  Voters going against their party are the real story and the lesson that should be taken forward.

The Real Minority Party: “We the People”

              There is a palpable feeling of “throw the bums out” regarding the upcoming election cycle.  This is not entirely unexpected, as mid-term elections are normally favorable to the party out of power.  That’s how the thinking goes, at least.  But that’s only if you view it from a strictly Republican vs. Democratic perspective.  I believe, however, that while this is a true statement from a narrow bipartisan view, it is not the same as a true “throw the bums out” mentality.  To really upset the politically entrenched would mean upsetting all incumbents, regardless of party affiliation.  This would finally signify an election favorable to the one party truly out of power….”We the People”.

                “We the People” are the ones on the outside.  The parties know this and don’t really care, unless saying so would help their cause.  As I began to contemplate this I thought about how over a barrel we are.  Here in North Carolina the big race will be for the Senate seat of Richard Burr.  Burr is a Republican and running unopposed for the nomination of his party.  Burr has been in Washington since 1994, though he has only served one term as Senator.   At the present time there are at least three Democrats running for the office. They are led by Cal Cunningham, a lawyer and veteran of the war in Iraq.  Although early in the campaign and he has focused his energy on Senator Burr, he is still facing significant challenges from two other “outside the beltway” candidates Elaine Marshal and Ken Lewis.

                So, if we in North Carolina want to vote for a change in the way things are going in Washington, we have to decide between a guy from the minority party but inside the system or a person outside system but inside the majority party.  Not exactly a simple choice.  The parties themselves want to keep us thinking along the lines of partisanship.  The talking heads and party elites of both sides like to keep things basic:  “Vote for Burr to stop the evil Obamacare!”   Or “Vote for Cunningham/Marshal/Lewis to show those evil Republicans that you support everything Obama stands for!”  

             It shouldn’t be, and it fact it isn’t that simple.  What do we really know about these people?  Are we really going to let our votes be decided strictly on party affiliation?  Doing so is rarely a vote to overturn the status quo. Both parties are interested in either holding onto or regaining power.

                So this is where we end up. No other Republicans want to challenge  Burr.  Yet three people feel they deserve the Democratic nomination.  In a few years Kay Hagan, our sitting Democrat Senator, will be up for reelection.  Will it play out the same?  Will there still be no Republican candidate that feels they have services to offer their country?  Will there still be a deep field of Democrats throwing their hats in the ring to challenge Senator Hagan…….or will the results be exactly the opposite?  My guess is the latter.  I think we will see a big Republican field and nominal, if any, Democratic challenges.

                So in 2014 when the Republicans all line up to challenge Hagan’s seat and position themselves as “outsiders”, I hope they are asked where they were in 2010. And when Hagan runs unopposed, I hope the Democrat’s that don’t get nominated or elected this year are asked about their reluctance to run again.

                In the end the parties don’t want their incumbent to face challenges because it isn’t good for the party.  Long serving politicians are good for the party, they hold lots of power, they get big committee assignments and they can help raise a lot of money.  No doubt about it they are good for the party, just not the party that is really out of power…”We the People”.

             So as the election season heats up, there are a few things we can do.  One is pay attention to the primary races.  Primaries are the few times you can look at a candidate relatively unfiltered by their party.  Unfortunately, though, their main mission in a primary is to play the party base.  So we need to ask these candidates to explain how they are not, in fact, already in the bag for the party leadership.  If more moderates got involved in the primary season, perhaps things would begin to change.

             Finally, we must all admit that voting fora Republican or Democrat does not in itself mean a vote for or against the status quo.  Power in Washington is dug in deeper than that.