Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Conservative Opposition to John McCain

As should be perfectly clear by now, Senator John McCain of Arizona is set to be the Republican nominee for President. As should also be perfectly clear, a lot of the Republican Party hates him.

Why is this? Well, ask and you'll get many reasons.

McCain-Feingold, for one. Hey, I didn't like it either when the Federal Election Commission tried to apply the rules meant for big advertisers to private bloggers, but we came through that all right. Still, it's a sloppy piece of legislation.

McCain-Kennedy for another. Amnesty for illegal aliens? Get out of here, and take your bill with you.

Then the opposition to Bush's tax cuts. John McCain opposed the tax cuts, it's true. But let's look at why he did it: There were no spending cuts to accompany them, which means that he was opposing cutting revenue while not cutting outlays, i.e. going further into debt. Is this not a fiscally conservative position?

However, the same commentators who lambast McCain tend to love George W. Bush. So for comparison's sake, let's talk about Bush's positions on these same issues that conservative pundits are taking exception to.

First, campaign finance reform. Fine, McCain pushed it and it can be seen as an infringement on freedom of speech. However, these same pundits love the PATRIOT Act, which Bush fervently supports and if anything is a larger infringement on civil liberties than campaign finance reform could ever conceivably be.

How about the McCain-Kennedy immigration bill? Oops. Bush pushed that same bill harder than John McCain ever did.

And sure, Bush cut taxes, but he did absolutely nothing to curb federal spending; in fact, he increased it to higher levels than any other post-Cold War President. And yet, for all this, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and the other big-name talk radio pundits love the President.

No, the real reason is none of those. It is this: Look at the other names on the bills I mentioned above. Notice anything?

Yes. Kennedy and Feingold are Democrats. And that's it right there. This is not about the issues, it isn't about conservatism, and it isn't even about McCain himself. It's all about party loyalty. McCain will occasionally cooperate with Democrats to get things done on Capitol Hill, and to the hard-line Republican wing, this is an unforgivable sin greater than any of the many non-conservative indiscretions Bush has committed in office. Sure, he shot the national debt through the roof, signed the PATRIOT Act into law, and did absolutely nothing to curb Congressional pork spending (it took the man how long to veto even a single bill?), but he never cooperated with Democrats on any meaningful level. So he's good.

What does it say about American politics when party loyalty is the determining factor in an election, rather than the candidates' positions on the issues, capability to act, or even political skill? (For the record, the ability to cooperate with Democrats across the aisle marks McCain as a consummate politician; someone with the ability to exercise great influence in Washington. If anything, it should be a qualification.) There's nothing wrong with opposing McCain based on the issues (despite writing him in as a protest vote in 2004, I do), but doing so simply because he will actually execute his legislative duties when doing that requires being civil to a Democrat is an ideologically and intellectually bankrupt position to take.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The U.S. primary elections: Super Tuesday, late voters, and Party shenanigans


Yesterday was the biggest primary election day in United States history. Twenty-four of the fifty states held their primary elections on that day, popularly dubbed "Super Tuesday."

Hillary Clinton edged out Barack Obama, though just barely. Neither one yet has a majority of the Democratic convention delegates, meaning that far from deciding the primary as was widely expected, Super Tuesday has left the race still open, making the primaries of states that have late primary dates still relevant, a rarity in U.S. politics. (Incidentally, this is why I advocate simply holding all primaries on the same day; more on that below.)

Similarly, the Republican primaries on Tuesday gave John McCain a lead in the number of delegates, but he still only has a little over half of the necessary delegates to guarantee him the nomination. His lead has many conservatives running scared, since his popularity among the conservative wing of the Republican Party is not high, to make an understatement. A separate post on my take on McCain will follow this one.

The upshot of all this is that primaries in late-voting states (such as my own) might actually matter this time out. As I said a couple paragraphs above, this is rare; usually by the time the latest primaries come around in May and June, there have been enough delegates assigned by earlier primary elections to some candidate or another that the primary results in those late states are completely irrelevant to the outcome, causing candidates to neglect the concerns of the voters in those late states, since their votes cannot influence the nominating conventions.

The primaries are staggered the way they are to deliberately give some states more clout in comparison to others. Namely, Iowa and New Hampshire go first because doing so supposedly gives "small states" a say in the race. Which is completely wrong; it does not give "small states" a larger say in the race; it gives Iowa and New Hampshire a larger say in the race. That the Democratic Party is refusing to seat Florida's delegation to the convention because they dared to hold their primaries earlier than they were "allowed" to in order to uphold this fiction is abhorrent and a massive violation of Floridians' right to equal representation. (Incidentally, allowing Florida's delegates to be seated might bring on a result that I really don't want to see; namely, their support for Hillary Clinton's candidacy, since she won the Florida primary nearly uncontested because the other candidates did not bother to campaign there, but it doesn't matter; their rights to representation trump any such considerations.)

In fact, I'm not even sure just why it is that the political parties get to dictate primary dates to the state governments. The parties are not supposed to have that kind of authority, or indeed any authority of their own over the governance of the nation. This is different from politicians who are members of political parties running the governments; this is the party committee itself telling a state government that no, it may not exercise its Constitutional authority to set the date of the election, which is just wrong. The current rush to hold elections first is stupid, but denying entire states their representation for it is inexcusable.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Civil Rights Making Progress

No, it's not what you think. No, really.

The state assemblies of South Dakota and Arizona are currently considering bills that would make it legal to carry firearms on public university campuses. I expect much whining from the anti-gun lobby in the days to come as the bills go to votes before their respective assembly houses. They'll say how it places our children in danger, how there will be deadly shootings by students who are legally carrying weapons, and other such nonsense.

And it's just that. Nonsense. If someone wants to shoot up the University of South Dakota, then he will attempt to do so. A would-be murderer is already setting out to break one of the most serious crimes on the books; he is not going to care about whether or not a campus is a "gun-free zone."

I don't usually cite other bloggers' work, but as a college professor I feel that Glenn Reynolds has some insight into this particular issue. That op-ed was written in the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shootings. I encourage you to read it; he raised the obvious points, but it's worth seeing.

Here's to these bills passing. University students are legal adults, and if they can show themselves competent to carry a firearm, there's no reason why their college campuses should be any different than the rest of the country.

And to quote Freud: