Special Election Day Edition

Today Americans go to the polls to vote.  In our ongoing discussion of those forbidden topics of religion and politics, I want to underscore that the two are, literally, different realms; that is to say, different Kingdoms.  Christianity is not about politics.  It is possible for two Christians to agree in the faith and yet disagree politically, and the former is far more important than the latter.  And yet we do have vocations as citizens, so participating in the deliberations of civil government has great value.

Anyway, today we will attend to politics and what looks to be a very interesting and potentially significant election.  In this post, feel free to comment upon the election as it unfolds:  your predictions, your local issues, what you see happening where you live, the key races, the final results.

Don’t get so caught up in online discussions that you forget to vote!

Voting for change, yet again

Liberal columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr., quotes a Democratic operative who deserves the Martin Luther Catechism Award for putting the best construction upon everything:

Nathan Daschle, the executive director of the Democratic Governors Association, argues that if the Republicans do as well as is expected, 2010 would be the third election in a row in which voters cast ballots for change, the very quest for a “new direction” that propelled Democrats such as Murphy into office four years ago.

via E.J. Dionne Jr. – Victories that are hardly mandates.

So, see, if the Republicans win in a landslide, that shows the public is really sympathetic to the Progressive cause!

Actually, though, he has a point.  People want change, but the nature of that change matters.

If Americans keep voting for change, why haven’t they gotten it? Or is it that they don’t like the change they have gotten and want to change it back?   What changes do you think might happen with this election?

The campaign strategy of staying out of sight

From a piece about Harry Reid’s difficult re-election campaign:

Reid has what some political strategists refer to as an “Al Gore problem.” It is widely believed that Gore would have won the 2000 campaign if he would have just stayed out of public view for the last two weeks of the campaign. But every time Gore would emerge into the spotlight, George W. Bush’s numbers would improve.

For an incumbent (or in Gore’s case, quasi-incumbent) who is not well-liked, visibility is the enemy.

via Today’s Power Play: Reid Withers in the Spotlight | Foxnews.com.

Would that more candidates would try that strategy of not making public appearances!  I suppose it would only work for incumbents, but still, not being visible would make many politicians more likable.  In the early days of our republic, presidential candidates would make a point of not campaigning, allowing their surrogates to do that for them.  It was considered undignified to appear in public asking people for their votes.  And it is undignified!

Can you think of other politicians, past or present, who might have “an Al Gore problem”?  I don’t want to bash them.  Let’s limit this to politicians who actually might be pretty good at their job, but simply don’t come across all that well.

Obama uses Clinton's 1994 speech

Pro-Obama pundit Dana Milbank notes a curious fact about the President’s campaign speeches:

As he barnstorms the country in these closing days before the midterms, he has borrowed Bill Clinton’s 1994 stump speech — in some cases, word for word.

“It’s up to you to remember that this election is a choice,” Obama said in a recent speech. “It’s a choice between the past and the future; a choice between hope and fear; a choice between falling backwards and moving forwards. And I don’t know about you, but I want to move forward. I don’t want to go backward.”

Compare that to this common Clinton passage from ’94: “Ladies and gentlemen, this election, all over America, represents a choice, a choice between hope and fear . . . between whether we’re going forward or we’re going to go back. I think I know the answer to that. You want to keep going forward.”

Obama has even extended Clinton’s automotive metaphor of ’94. Clinton’s model: “You know, if you drive your car and there’s a lot of stuff on the windshield, you could think it’s dark outside when the sun shining. . . . That’s what they’ve done. They’ve put a lot of dirt on America’s windshield. We got to clean it off between now and Tuesday. Will you help? Will you do your part? Will you go forward? . . . Think about it like this: Every one of you is in the driver’s seat.”

In Obama’s model, Republicans drove a car into a ditch and were “kicking dirt down into the ditch, kicking dirt in our faces, but we kept on pushing. Finally we got this car up on level ground. And, yes, it’s a little beat up. . . . But it’s pointing in the right direction. And now we’ve got the Republicans tapping us on the shoulder, saying, ‘we want the keys back.’ You can’t have the keys back. You don’t know how to drive. You can ride with us if you want, but you got to sit in the back seat. We’re going to put middle-class America in the front seat. . . . I’m going forwards, with all of you.”

via Dana Milbank – Obama isn’t ducking role in election reprise of ’94.

I don’t consider this plagiarism.  There are only so many cliches that one can use to describe both presidents’ dilemmas, and I’m sure they are in the public domain.

Political dysfunction

Robert J. Samuelson on why are political divisions are growing, even as most Americans get along with each other pretty well, despite their political differences:

It’s not that the public has become sharply polarized. In 2010, 42 percent of Americans call themselves conservative, 35 percent moderates and 20 percent liberals, reports Gallup. In 1992, the figures were 43, 36 and 17 percent. So there’s a widening disconnect between the polarized political system and the less-polarized public. There are at least four reasons for this.

First, politicians depend increasingly on their activist “bases” for votes, money and job security (read: no primary challenger). But activist agendas are well to the left or right of center. So when politicians pander to their bases, they often offend the center. In one poll, 70 percent of registered voters said Republicans’ positions were too conservative at least some of the time; 76 percent likewise thought Democratic positions often “too liberal.”

Second, politics has become more moralistic from both left and right. Idealistic ideologues campaign to “save the planet,” “protect the unborn,” “reclaim the Constitution.” When goals become moral imperatives, there’s no room for compromise. Opponents are not just mistaken; they’re immoral. They’re cast as evil, ignorant, dangerous, or all three.

Third, cable television and the Internet impose entertainment values on politics. Constant chatter reigns. Conflict and shock language prevail; analysis is boring.

Finally, politicians overpromise. The federal budget has run deficits in all but five years since 1961. The main reason: Both Democrats and Republicans want to raise spending and cut taxes. To obscure their own expediency, both parties blame the other.

Politicians have always assailed one another. But the totality of these changes has altered the system’s character. Many players have an interest in perpetuating disagreements and differences. Advocacy groups and their allies derive psychic rewards (a sense of superiority) and political benefits (more members and contributions) from demonizing their adversaries. Cable TV needs combat, not comity.

The impulse is not to govern from the center, which still represents most Americans, but from “the base.” President Obama’s health-care “reform” was a good example. Strongly favored by Democrats, it was consistently opposed by about half of Americans. To be fair, George W. Bush governed the same way.

The result is mass discontent. Overwrought expectations are regularly disappointed. Liberal and conservative bases feel abused because their agendas are rarely entirely enacted. They are too radical or unrealistic. The center feels frustrated that the bases’ disproportionate power impedes action on long-standing problems (budgets, immigration, energy). Can next week’s election resolve this stalemate? It seems doubtful.

via Robert J. Samuelson – The dysfunction of American politics.

Non-political spheres

R. R. Reno, in the context of another interesting discussion of the Juan Williams debacle, raises a point that conservatives need to remember:  Conservatives believe that some spheres need to be outside government interference, and thus not political.  (Unlike current leftist ideologies.)  Conservatives, therefore,  must be careful not to politicize those spheres themselves:

First, as I point out, the tendency to task everything to the political purpose of the moment is not good for the nation, because it has the tendency of perverting the non-political missions of important institutions, e.g., education, news-gathering, art museums, and so forth. Unfortunately, the Left has theorized culture in such a way as to make everything into politics, which eases their consciences as they politicize non-political institutions. What worries me is that conservatives in America assume that they must do the same.

The second thought follows directly. The struggle for political power is important. There are civic goods at stake in American politics: questions of fiscal responsibility, foreign policy, appropriate regulatory controls and social welfare policies, as well as the always important question of whether our laws are in accord with moral truths. But it is very important that conservatives not become counter-revolutionaries who have an essentially Bolshevik mentality oriented toward supposedly conservative ends.

One of the signal principles of true conservatism is that there exist personal and cultural spheres of life that are not the proper domain of government power. Therefore, no true conservative should use these spheres—family, education, art, and most importantly of all religious life—as mere instruments in the struggle for political power.

via More on Juan Williams » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog.

Someone might reply, yes, but since the left HAS politicized the family, education, art, and religion (hang out at a big university if you doubt that; browse the academic journals) undoing that influence will have a political shape.  Still, this is a good point, isn’t it?


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