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.

Trust Mark Steyn to sum up the political playing field perfectly

Three paragraphs of perfect political analysis from Mark Steyn:

If I could just sneak out in the middle of the night and saw off Rudy Giuliani’s strong right arm and John McCain’s ramrod back and Mitt Romney’s fabulous hair and stitch them all together in Baron von Frankenstein’s laboratory with the help of some neck bolts, we’d have the perfect Republican nominee. As it is, the present field poses difficulties for almost every faction of the GOP base. Rudy Giuliani was a brilliant can-do executive who transformed the fortunes of what was supposedly one of the most ungovernable cities in the nation but on guns, abortion, and almost every other social issue he’s anathema to much of the party. Mike Huckabee is an impeccable social conservative but fiscally speaking favors big-government solutions with big-government price tags. Ron Paul has a long track record of sustained philosophically coherent support for small government but he’s running as a neo-isolationist on war and foreign policy. John McCain believes in assertive American global leadership but he believes just as strongly in constitutional abominations like McCain-Feingold. So if you’re a pro-gun anti-abortion tough-on-crime victory-in-Iraq small-government Republican the 2008 selection is a tough call. Mitt Romney, the candidate whose (current) policies least offend the most people, happens to be a Mormon, which, if the press is to be believed, poses certain obstacles for elements of the Christian Right.

On the other hand, as Jonah Goldberg has pointed out, the mainstream media are always demanding the GOP demonstrate its commitment to “big tent” Republicanism, and here we are with the biggest of big tents in history and what credit do they get? You want an antiwar Republican? A pro-abortion Republican? An anti-gun Republican? A pro-illegal immigration Republican? You got ‘em! Short of drafting Fidel Castro and Mullah Omar, it’s hard to see how the tent could get much bigger. As the new GOP bumper sticker says, “Celebrate Diversity.”

Over on the Democratic side, meanwhile, they’ve got a woman, a black, an Hispanic, a preening metrosexual with an angled nape – and they all think exactly the same. They remind me of The Johnny Mathis Christmas Album, which Columbia used to re-release every year in a different sleeve: same old songs, new cover. When your ideas are identical, there’s not a lot to argue about except biography. Last week, asked about his experience in foreign relations, Barack Obama noted that his father was Kenyan and he’d been at grade school in Indonesia. “Probably the strongest experience I have in foreign relations,” he said, “is the fact I spent four years overseas when I was a child in Southeast Asia.” When it comes to foreign relations, he has more of them on his Christmas card list than Hillary or Haircut Boy.

In the same article, Steyn has some words about the amount of pandering going on, minimal from Giuliani and McCain, chronic from every Democrat but for Kucinich:

Let me ask a question of my Democrat friends: What does John Edwards really believe on Iraq? I mean, really? To pose the question is to answer it: There’s no there there. In the Dem debates, the only fellow who knows what he believes and says it out loud is Dennis Kucinich. Otherwise, all is pandering and calculation. The Democratic Party could use some seriously fresh thinking on any number of issues – abortion, entitlements, racial preferences – but the base doesn’t want to hear, and no viable candidate is man enough (even Hillary) to stick it to ‘em. I disagree profoundly with McCain and Giuliani, but there’s something admirable about watching them run in explicit opposition to significant chunks of their base and standing their ground. Their message is: This is who I am. Take it or leave it.

That’s the significance of Clinton’s driver’s-license dithering. There was a media kerfuffle the other day because at some GOP event an audience member referred to Senator Clinton as a “bitch” and John McCain was deemed not to have distanced himself sufficiently from it. Totally phony controversy: In private, Hillary’s crowd liked the way it plays into her image as a tough stand-up broad. And, yes, she is tough. A while back, Elizabeth Edwards had the temerity to venture that she thought her life was happier than Hillary’s. And within days the Clinton gang had jumped her in a dark alley, taken the tire iron to her kneecaps, and forced her into a glassy-eyed public recantation of her lese-majeste. If you’re looking for someone to get tough with Elizabeth Edwards, or RINO senators, or White House travel-office flunkies, Hillary’s your gal.

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!

Reaching out to women voters

In an inspired Wall Street Journal article, Kimberley Strassel points out that Republican candidates, at their peril, are ignoring women, while Democratic candidates, knowing that women voters are the statistical difference for them between success and failure, are wooing them aggressively. This wooing needed go well.  Strassel explains that the Democrats are locked in the 1970s when it comes to thinking about what women want. She, therefore, uses her column to look at what women want now and to give the Republican candidates some pointers about how to communicate to women that the Republicans, not the Democrats, will address their 21st Century needs. Here’s just one of her ideas:

Here’s an example of how a smart Republican could morph an old-fashioned Democratic talking point into a modern-day vote winner. Ms. Clinton likes to bang on about “inequality” in pay. The smart conservative would explain to a female audience that there indeed is inequality, and that the situation is grave. Only the bad guy isn’t the male boss; it’s the progressive tax code.

Most married women are second-earners. That means their income is added to that of their husband’s, and thus taxed at his highest marginal rate. So the married woman working as a secretary keeps less of her paycheck than the single woman who does the exact same job. This is the ultimate in “inequality,” yet Democrats constantly promote the very tax code that punishes married working women. In some cases, the tax burdens and child-care expenses for second-earners are so burdensome they can’t afford a career. But when was the last time a Republican pointed out that Ms. Clinton was helping to keep ladies in the kitchen?

For that matter, when was the last time a GOP candidate pointed out that their own free-market policies could help alleviate this problem? Should President Bush’s tax cuts expire, tens of thousands of middle-class women will see more of their paychecks disappear into the maw of their husband’s higher bracket. A really brave candidate would go so far as to promise eliminating this tax bias altogether. Under a flat tax, second-earner women would pay the same rate as unmarried women and the guy down the hall. Let Democrats bang the worn-out drum of a “living wage.” Republicans should customize their low-tax message to explain how they directly put more money into female pockets.

As you know, I hate identity politics. However, to the extent that’s the game Democrats play, the Republican contenders would do well to heed Strassel’s warning and curry a demographic that has the power, if ignored, to latch on to bad Democratic policies in the complete absence of any Republican policies.

Keep your legs crossed

Chris Muir, of Day by Day cartoon fame, hits another wonderful home run:

 

Hillary is being very weird

In a bizarre speech yesterday, Hillary wittingly or unwittingly admitted that the Republicans are best when it comes to security against terrorism. Here’s what she said:

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton yesterday raised the prospect of a terror attack before next year’s election, warning that it could boost the GOP’s efforts to hold on to the White House.

Discussing the possibility of a new nightmare assault while campaigning in New Hampshire, Clinton also insisted she is the Democratic candidate best equipped to deal with it.

“It’s a horrible prospect to ask yourself, ‘What if? What if?’ But if certain things happen between now and the election, particularly with respect to terrorism, that will automatically give the Republicans an advantage again, no matter how badly they have mishandled it, no matter how much more dangerous they have made the world,” Clinton told supporters in Concord.

“So I think I’m the best of the Democrats to deal with that,” she added.

The former first lady made the surprising comments as she explained to supporters that she has beaten back the GOP’s negative attacks for years, and is ready to do so again.

Yes, it’s true that, after hypothesizing that there might be a terrorist attack, Hillary goes on to say that the Republicans have, to date, mishandled terrorism. What’s peculiar is what Hillary goes on to say after that: “So I think I’m the best of the Democrats to deal with that.” (Emphasis mine.)

In that single little sentences, it’s obvious that Hillary intends to put down the other Democratic candidates. By framing it as she did — that is, by comparing herself only to Democrats — it makes her sound as if she is tacitly admitting that, while she’s the best amongst Democrats, she can’t compete against Republicans.

The fact is that, despite Hillary’s insult to the Republican administration, voters who are not true believers when it comes to the anti-War movement know three things: (a) There haven’t been successful terrorist attacks on American soil in almost six years of Republican control over security. (b) None of the Democrats have come up with an alternative plan for fighting terrorism beyond cutting and running in Iraq, which most sensible people know would be disastrous, a la the President’s recent Vietnam speech. And (c) the only thing Hillary has promised is to take the Republican war and, in some vague, unexplained way, do it better. At best then, she’s like a Republican — and knowing this, all she can do is assure voters that she’s better than the Democrats.

(If you think this little squiblet deserves some attention at Patrick Ruffini’s 2008 Presidential Wire, please click **here**.)

UPDATEBest of the Web caught the same inadvertent (?) admission.

Internecine warfare

In an earlier post, I mentioned that internecine warfare can be a good thing — when it’s something in which your enemies are engaged. Using the same reasoning, it’s not such a good thing when your own group is breaking down into desperate factional battles. Lorie Byrd things the same thing, and writes eloquently on the point in the San Francisco Examiner:

What repelled me from entering the debate [about the immigration bill], though, was the childish name-calling that bounced back and forth between many supporters and opponents of the bill, as well as some who even took quotes out of context to manipulate the statements and perceived intentions of their opponents.

There were powerful arguments to be made on the facts, and some did just that. Unfortunately, though, some in the GOP decided the way to succeed was to revert to the tactics they have criticized those on the other side of the aisle for engaging in for so many years. I wonder if they realize how many supporters they risk alienating if they continue down the road of trading accusations like “traitor” and “bigot” in future debates.

***

In the case of the recent immigration debate, the public desperately needed facts about the bill and its possible ramifications. In addition to facts, emotion does play an important role in political debate. Passion is what moves the public to call and write their congressmen and to venture out on a rainy day to vote. What too often passed as passion and factual debate on this issue, however, were attacks hurled from those on both sides of the issue.

***

Being in the minority makes it difficult enough for conservative agenda items to be passed, but when Republicans seem more interested in punishing each other than they are in working together on common goals, the resulting drama is anything but good for the conservative agenda or for the Republican Party.

Lorie’s absolutely right. Reasoned debate within a political party is healthy and even strengthening. Name calling and insults, all of which are aimed at drowning out fact and logic, are destructive.  Even if there’s a last man standing at the end of it all, he’s not good for much except collapsing entirely in the face of the opposition.