Eating our own *UPDATED*

I caught a minute of Mike Gallagher today, and he was talking about the fact that Republicans are more critical of Republican candidates than Democrats are critical of Democratic candidates. It occurred to me that, at least in this election cycle, that may be because there are real, substantive differences between the Republican candidates. We’ve got Ron Paul, who is a pure libertarian and possible white supremacist; John McCain, who is strong on defense, but weak on free speech, and spineless to environmental extremists; Mitt Romney, who has positioned himself as a traditional conservative who is for strong borders, a strong national defense, pro-life, etc., with a sound grasp of economic issues; Mike Huckabee, who is loudly Christian, a social conservative, and a big government liberal; and Rudy Giuliani, who is a social liberal and a hawk. With the exception of Ron Paul, all have had leadership experience, but of a very different type: McCain was in the military; Romney ran businesses and the Massachusetts government; Huckabee governed Arkansas; and Giuliani ran huge criminal prosecutions and New York. So, just as there are differences in their approach to conservative politics (and all are more conservative than not), there are also significant differences in their practical experience. Republicans have a real choice, and real choice begets real debate.

It’s different with the Dems. For one thing, none of them have any managerial experience. They’ve all been Senators, which means working with a group of 99 other people. None have them has taken the lead in the Senate, so they can’t even point to leadership experience in those august chambers. John Edwards has a bit more private sector experience than the other two but I can tell you that even the most successful lawyer cannot be compared to a manager. Managing a case is not the same as manager a system — whether that system is a business or a government. Obama was an academic, which is the antithesis of management, and Hillary was, well, Hillary managed Bill, I guess. They’re all good at manipulating people, Edwards because he’s a trial lawyer, and Obama and Hillary because they’re Alinsky disciples, but that’s not leadership or management. So, they’re pretty much the same looked at from that point of view.

In terms of politics, they’re peas in a pod: they want out of Iraq, they deny that Islamists pose a threat to America, they like open borders, and they want more government involvement in everything (parenting, health care, education, managing people’s money, controlling businesses, etc), which means more taxes on people they decide are “rich.”

The fact that Edwards, Obama and Hillary are virtually indistinguishable on paper may explain why identity politics has become so important. It’s not just Hillary’s dirty politics and it’s not just that the “identity politics” chickens are coming home to roost. The preeminence of racial or sexual identity in this race has become the only way you can tell one Democratic candidate from another. And poor Edwards, distinguished by being white and male, is precluded by political correctness from trumpeting that fact. In other words, identity, by being the only difference between the candidates, is also the only area of debate left for the Democrats. And it’s no surprise that it is in this area — the substance-free area that will have absolutely nothing to do with the way in which a Democrat, if victorious, will govern — that the Democratic debate has become most heated.

So, I guess I’m happy that Republicans are focused on substance, and using their free speech rights to hammer out important issues that will have a lasting effect on America (if a Republican wins). And I’m desperately sad that the cookie-cutter Democrats, in order to have a debate and distinguish themselves in the eyes of the voters, have almost completely backed off from any substantive issues (as to which they have no meaningful differences), and devolved into childish racial and gender name calling. If Americans elect one of them, the Country will deserve what it gets.

UPDATE: Regarding the enthusiasm gap the media professes to find between Dems and Republicans, if one does indeed exist, I suspect that has more to do with the enthusiasm Democratic voters have for a shot at the White House than with anything else. That is, I think that, even more than feeling excitement about their own candidates, Democrats are simply excited about a possible chance to defeat Republicans.

UPDATE II: For another reason why there might be an “enthusiasm gap,” keep in mind that, while Bush’s presidency is almost over, Bush Derangement Syndrome continues in full force. Indeed, with the inevitable end of his presidency drawing near, Bush haters seem to be drawing on after burners for some new energy.

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A forum to discuss an article that might run on American Thinker

I’m heading in the pre-dawn hours tomorrow morning for a day of soccer far from home. I have reason to believe that something I wrote might run on American Thinker tomorrow (Saturday), and that people might want to comment about it here. (Indeed, those of you who visit my blog regularly may recognize what I wrote and even be able to wave hello to your own helpful contributions.) Therefore, consider this the open thread for the American Thinker article, or for anything else you might want to say.

All comments, of course, are subject to my usual blog rules. I’m always delighted with civil, rational input but, at the first opportunity, will destroy nonsense, obscenities, personal attacks, threats, racism, etc.

What conservative bloggers are thinking.

Just quickly wanted to let you know that, if you go to Right Wing News, you can get some insight into the way in which conservative bloggers view a lot of policy initiatives on the table right now in Washington.

Moving Republicans forward in American hearts and minds

A week ago, I did a post that sought to find issues common to the greatest number of conservatives — and I got a lot of wonderful help from you guys in the comments section. I still hope to turn it into a more widely read article, but I’m a little bogged down in real world work right now (the kind that pays the bills).

In some ways, it was a silly, almost school-girlish effort (or a Rodney King-ish, can’t we all can’t along exercise), but I think it was still an important one. Lorie Byrd might agree, since she wrote a column today pointing out the damage conservative divisiveness is doing to our chances to stop the Hillary juggernaut:

Many Republicans are battling over the reason for the 2006 losses and come down in different camps. Some think the cause was not enough Republicans running as strong conservatives — especially on the issues of spending and immigration. Others think the blame lies with those Republicans who preferred their side go down in defeat to punish those who did not take a strong enough stand on various issues. I think it was a little bit of both. Too many Republican politicians were too squishy on issues like spending and immigration and let the Democrats campaign to the right of them. That never should have been allowed to happen. There were also some in the Republican party who decided they would prefer a loss to punish the party in the hopes that the result would be a return to more conservative principles. Those people sure got what they wanted, but I wonder how happy they are with Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Reid.

One big problem I see right now for the GOP is that some factions within the party are too busy trying to convince each other they are right about what went wrong in 2006 that they can’t come together to build a strategy that will win elections. There are many things that can be done to elect conservative Republicans, including recruiting attractive candidates with strong conservative credentials. There are also many ways to ensure another Republican defeat. Unfortunately I am seeing a whole lot of defeatist behavior. Here is a short list of things I see some Republicans doing that could ensure another loss in 2008.

1. Instead of taking positive action and doing the hard work necessary to elect strong conservative candidates in the primaries, whine about how the Republicans aren’t any better than the Democrats. It is sure as heck a lot easier to whine than to make phone calls, stuff envelopes and knock on doors for conservative candidates.

2. After a primary candidate is chosen (without any help from you), forget about how many more positions on issues you and the GOP candidate share, and forget how far left their Democratic opponent is, and instead work against the Republican in the general election (or withhold support from them) to “send a message.”

3. Instead of disagreeing in a civil manner over various issues with those in the party, get emotional and accuse those on your side of being mean doodyheads. (If anyone doubts this is going on, I will gladly share evidence of it with you, but will admit that generally a word worse than “doodyhead” is employed.)

4. Bask in the misery of another loss and instead of working to get conservative Republicans elected in 2010, try to pull as many others as possible into your negative state of being.

Okay, those were just a few suggestions. There are literally thousands of other ways to lose elections, but those worked pretty well the last time around.

I particularly like the “mean doodyhead” reference, which could only have been written by a parent!

What we stand for

Matt Bai has written a new book, The Argument: Billionaires, Bloggers, and the Battle to Remake Democratic Politics, which looks at the movers and shakers who are working hard to remake the Democratic party. It sounds like an interesting, well-written book, and one that anyone interested in American politics should read.

I learned about the book through Dan DiSalvo’s review in Commentary. DiSalvo commented on one facet of the new Democrats that struck me with particular force:

According to Bai, the new progressive coalition is primarily united by what it is against. Its opposition to the Iraq war is ferocious. The person of George W. Bush, who has been described by one activist as a “chicken hawk” bent on instituting a “dictatorship,” elicits emotions of universal fear and loathing. Bush aside, almost any policy initiative associated with the Republican party is regarded as stupid, malicious, or both.

But the new progressives have great difficulty in saying what they are for. Although Bai reports that intellectual circles on the Left have put forth many technocratic policy prescriptions, mostly aimed at extending the programs of the New Deal and the Great Society, the movement lacks any sort of larger vision. A typical statement from the Democracy Alliance proclaimed support for such vagaries as “the highest quality education, affordable health care, retirement security, and the opportunity to earn a living wage.” Similarly, MoveOn.org was able to distill only three goals from a series of tightly scripted “meet-ups” held across the country: “health care for all, energy independence, and democracy restored.”

Despite this paltry output, the new progressives are convinced not only of their intellectual superiority but of their political acumen. They see only two possible explanations for the errant behavior of Americans in the “fly-over” states who remain stubbornly in the Republican column. One is that red-state residents tend to be Christian evangelicals who do not know any better than to “vote against their own economic self-interest.” The other is that they have been manipulated by Republican operatives who, however dim-witted their policies, are cunning masters of electioneering. Some bloggers also complain that establishment Democrats, as the Daily Kos has explained, “don’t care [enough] about winning” to engage in the sort of campaign skullduggery that is routine for the GOP.

With such convictions as the backdrop, debate inside the Democratic party’s “Democratic wing,” Bai shows, is less about policy than about tactics and strategy.

That’s an interesting concept, and I think one that contains within it the seeds for the new Democrats’ eventual destruction. Americans are an essentially optimistic people, and while the angry fringe may be an “against” vote, I wonder how well that plays to the average voter who is simply trying to vote in a way that will most optimize his own life and belief systems. The fact is, though, that the destruction is not imminent and Republicans are so bogged down in a “we’re failures” mentality that they’re not coming up with any affirmative principles to which the average, optimistic voter can cling.

I’ve therefore come up with a few of my own rock bottom principles that I think unite most conservatives, as long as we don’t look too closely at details. What I’d like is for you to chip in which principles, beliefs, values, etc., that you believe are common to the greatest majority of conservatives. And just to give an idea of what I mean — which is that I’m looking for huge, binding issues that transcend Congressional details — I’m starting with the issue that is getting press as the one that most severely damaged the Republican party in the last go round.

Immigration

Lowest common denominator Conservative belief: Conservatives believe that America is weakening itself by allowing illegal immigrants to stream into the country.

Apparent Democratic belief: It’s racist to challenge the numbers of illegal immigrants and to place barriers in their path.

The Supreme Court

Lowest common denominator Conservative belief: Conservatives believe that the role of the Supreme Court is to examine state and federal laws and lower court decisions to determine whether they comport with the written Constitution.

Apparent Democratic belief: The Supreme Court is to decide what is right and what is wrong — and it can get help for this by looking to its own private standards of morality, to dominant cultural trends, and to foreign systems — and it should then direct policy consistent with its findings.

(I was going to do an “abortion” heading here, and then I decided not to. I’m looking for a lowest common denominator strand of beliefs and, while the Republicans are more closely connected with the pro-Life movement, there are pro-Choice Republicans. It’s therefore not a lowest common denominator. However, it is affected by the binding conservative view of the Supreme Court, since we all know — as Clarence Thomas articulated — that a strict constructionist Supreme Court will jettison Roe v. Wade and return the matter to the states, where it belongs. Then, the chips will fall where they may, regardless of political platforms.)

The Iraq War

Lowest common denominator Conservative belief: Conservatives believe that, whether or not we made the right decision in 2003 to invade Iraq, that is a done deal, and our only responsibility now is to fight wholeheartedly and to win.

Apparent Democratic belief: President Bush got us into the War to satisfy his oil buddies in Texas and, to punish him, we must leave immediately, regardless of the consequences to America, to Iraq, or to world security.

Islamic Terrorism

Lowest common denominator Conservative belief: Islamic terrorism is real, it is the product of a totalitarian religious ideology that has as its ultimate goal the destruction of non-Muslim Western culture, there is no middle ground given its goal, and we must fight it.

Apparent Democratic belief: Islamic terrorism is the work of a few people angry at the US (and especially at George Bush), and the best thing we can do to placate these people is to (a) leave Iraq; (b) abandon Israel; (c) dump George Bush; and (d) engage in dialogue with the Islamic leaders.

Taxes

Lowest common denominator Conservative belief: Government is a bad money manager. People make money grow, and lower taxes allow for a livelier, growing economy, with the inevitable result that the government, despite lower taxes, brings in more money.

Apparent Democratic belief: People cannot be trusted to make the right decisions with their money. It’s better if the government takes and redistributes wealth, notwithstanding the fact that doing so slows the economy.

__________

And that’s it for my ideas and my time right now. I’d love it if you guys could take a crack at this in the comments, either editing what I wrote or adding your own. Please keep in mind that I’m looking for big ideas that appeal to the greatest number of people. Gay marriage might be another area to add. I think the vast majority of Americans are tolerant of gays, who are their friends, family and colleagues. They don’t want gays to suffer from violence, public humiliation or discrimination. But they’re pretty sure that marriage is between a man and a woman, and that the rights extended to gays should be limited to civil and legal rights, by statute or contract, provided they fall short of marriage. The question, though, is how to say that pithily, in a way that states the lowest common denominator belief (no gay marriage) while at the same time not playing into the hands of those who would accuse conservatives of being violent homophobes.

So, go to it. Come up with something better than I did, and perhaps we can work this into a real “platform” of affirmative ideas that are unifying, rather than getting bogged down in picayune details that muddy the message and pass the power to the haters.