From citizens to clients

George Will sums up Spoiled Rotten: How the Politics of Patronage Corrupted the Once Noble Democratic Party and Now Threatens the American Republic by Jay Cost, who argues “that the party has succumbed to ‘clientelism,’ the process of purchasing cohorts of voters with federal favors.”

Before Franklin Roosevelt, “liberal” described policies emphasizing liberty and individual rights. He, however, pioneered the politics of collective rights — of group entitlements. And his liberalism systematically developed policies not just to buy the allegiance of existing groups but to create groups that henceforth would be dependent on government.

Under FDR, liberalism became the politics of creating an electoral majority from a mosaic of client groups. Labor unions got special legal standing, farmers got crop supports, business people got tariff protection and other subsidies, the elderly got pensions, and so on and on.

Government no longer existed to protect natural rights but to confer special rights on favored cohorts. As Irving Kristol said, the New Deal preached not equal rights for all but equal privileges for all — for all, that is, who banded together to become wards of the government.

In the 1960s, public-employee unions were expanded to feast from quantitative liberalism (favors measured in quantities of money). And qualitative liberalism was born as environmentalists, feminists and others got government to regulate behavior in the service of social “diversity,” “meaningful” work, etc. Cost notes that with the 1982 amendments to the Voting Rights Act, a few government-approved minorities were given an entitlement to public offices: About 40 “majority-minority” congressional districts would henceforth be guaranteed to elect minority members.

Walter Mondale, conceding to Ronald Reagan after the 1984 election, listed the groups he thought government should assist: “the poor, the unemployed, the elderly, the handicapped, the helpless and the sad.” Yes, the sad.

Republicans also practice clientelism, but with a (sometimes) uneasy conscience. Both parties have narrowed their appeals as they have broadened their search for clients to cosset.

via George Will: An election to call voters’ bluff – The Washington Post.

Favorite TV shows of different political factions

If you are an ultra-liberal “Super-Democrat,” your favorite TV show is The Daily Show (no surprise there).  If you are an “On-the-Fence Liberal,” your favorite show is the Graham Norton Show (that of the flamboyantly gay variety show host).  If you are an “ultra-conservative,” your favorite TV watching is college football.  If you are a “mild Republican,” you like Rules of Engagement.  If you are a “Green Traditionalist,” you like Lizard Lick Towing, as well as other reality shows (contrary to the image or self-image of crunchy conservatives being all intellectual and sophisticated).

So says a study that gives the top 20 TV shows for each political category.  Find yourself, if you can.  (I found no category for someone who watches the few eclectic shows that I prefer.)  But assuming this is, in the aggregate, correct, what can you learn about the different groups based on the TV shows they watch?  (For example, “Super Democrats” seem to be the main ones subscribing to  premium channels like HBO and Showtime.  What does that mean?  And why would crunch-cons like reality shows?)  After the jump is the entire list. [Read more…]

Romney’s big night

The Republican convention–after a bunch of testimonials from Olympic athletes, businesses saved by Bain Capital, and others about what a good person Mitt Romney is–wrapped up with rambling musings by Clint Eastwood, an impressive speech by Marco Rubio, and then the presidential candidate’s acceptance speech.

What are your thoughts on the last night of the convention and especially Romney’s speech?  Do you think the convention succeeded in its stated goal of introducing Mitt Romney to the American people?  And of humanizing him?  Will the convention prove to be a successful infomercial for the Republican party?

Next week, starting Tuesday, will be the Democrats’ turn.  I hear it will be a veritable abortion-fest.  Expect to hear from a college student at a Catholic colleges whining for her right to free birth control, from teacher union leaders praising our public schools, from in-your-face gay activists, from Obamacare fans, and from would-be comedians mocking conservatives, moderates, creationists, gun-owners, and the general public in general.  Democrats, especially when they play to their base, sometimes over-reach.  They think they are populist, but they are not, and they may come across in ways they do not intend, putting off more voters than they attract.  But we’ll see.

Cataract update

My cataract surgery went well, as far as I know.  (I go in for my post-op exam later this morning.)  Usually it’s done with local anesthetic, but my eye-muscles and reflexes were such that they put me completely under, which was nice, actually.  Instead of watching the probe move closer and closer to the jelly of my eye, I simply went to sleep.  When I woke up, it was done.  My vision from the eye that was operated on is still really blurry.  Some patients report immediate and dramatic improvements, but, from what I’ve read, it sometimes takes longer.  Reading and computering (to coin a verb) is pretty difficult right now.   I’ll keep the blog going, though.  I’m working on formatting something big for you to chew on, so stay tuned.  I really do appreciate the support and the prayers that many of you have been offering.

Convention or conventional?

After my cataract surgery, I was told that reading might be hard, but that I should be able watch TV.  As if that was supposed to make me feel better!  So while convalescing I caught up on Netflix and then finally slipped back into my long-held tradition (or is it betrayal) of watching the political conventions.  (My custom, engrained into me from childhood, is that I should watch both of them.)  So last night I tuned into the GOP speeches.

Quick review, because I can’t see very well to type:  The speech by Ohio’s Rob Portman was not very good–he would have been a disaster as the vice presidential candidate, as he was widely expected to be.  Mike Huckabee did well.  Then Condoleeza Rice gave an outstanding seminar on our foreign policy woes.  Followed by New Mexico governor Susana Martinez, the Hispanic woman who acquitted herself well as a rising star in the Republican party.  Finally, vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan gave an outstanding speech, showing strong promise as a campaigner, as well as an intellectual bright light.  (The vice presidential debate between him and Joe Biden should be especially fun.)

Are any of the rest of you watching the convention?  Or do you have to be laid up from an operation to do so?  What observations do you have?

Rudy Giuliani has said that Republicans have a better and deeper “bench” than the Democrats do.  Do you agree?  Who are the upcoming potential stars?   This will be a good thing to watch for in the Democratic convention also.  Who are the upcoming Democratic stars?  Are they centrists, leftists, or do they  have some new ideas?

Cataracts

Things started looking kind of blurry, so I figured it was time for some new glasses.  It turns out, I have cataracts!  I have surgery this morning.

I had assumed that they just peel the cloudy film off.  It turns out that they take out the lens inside the eye.  But then, these days, they replace it with a lens implant that actually corrects vision!  The doctor told me that after all of this is over I might not even need glasses!  Which would be for the first time since around seventh grade.  I am astounded and kind of excited about it.

The operation is reportedly no big deal to go through, nothing to worry about.  My only concern is my vision between the first surgery and when it is all over–three weeks later, they’ll do my other eye, and then it takes a few more weeks to heal and for the brain to get used to the new optic signals–so I may have some visual limitations for a month or more.

I’m thinking that after today I’ll have one really good eye, adept at distant vision, but my other eye will still be bad and my glasses will be useless.  Will I be able to read?  Fool with the computer?  Later my other eye will get a new lens for close vision and all will be well.  (Realistically, I might need glasses for reading, though those reading glasses you buy at the drug store may be all I’ll need.)  But what to do until then?

I’m pretty sure I’ll find a way to function.  I’m not supposed to do anything for a couple days after the procedure, which I’m looking forward to also, an enforced rest without guilt.  I’ll probably keep up the blog–that surely doesn’t count as “anything”–though I might have trouble seeing for a day or two.  So if I miss some days of posting, you’ll know why.


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