Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Guest Blogging

Blogging over at JTTR for Ryan all this week. It should be interesting writing for a conservative blog, so check it out!

Monday, August 06, 2007

What is the Center-Left?

Ryan over at JokersToTheRight was inquisitive about center-left ideology and whether or not it represents more or less a monolith of ideas.

While one type of candidate tends to do well, I would argue that the modern Democratic Party is made up of a coalition with many divergent ideas and origins, and that much like the Republicans, different special interest groups tug at and influence the individual candidates in various ways.

The modern Democratic Party is what remains of Roosevelt’s New Deal coalition; much of the unifying ideology is the notion that government has the power and obligation to help its citizens in times of need. The 1960s and the Vietnam War led to an awkward alliance of anti-war leftist and the traditional bigger government liberals, though Johnson’s approval of the civil rights legislation marked an end to the unity of the party in the south as so-called “Dixicrats” left in mass numbers.

Today, many Democrats are party members for topical reasons; the main division presently comes between economic and social liberals; even within these groups there are sub-divisions. There are some “liberals” who have the libertarian bent; government should leave both the economy and our private lives alone. Others would be fine with a sales tax of 70% but tons of social services for everyone, much like Sweden. We have union activists along with Clintonian free-traders, and rarely if ever will those sides agree. Socially, we have some who believe the government should actively protect its citizens while others believe that it should leave them alone. We have Christians who support government assistance to the poor while opposing the death penalty, war, and abortion all at the same time on moral grounds. We also have other anti-war and even anti-establishment types out there as well, though most believe in strong national defense, support the military, and work strongly for veteran’s benefits

Most people are a kind of hodge-podge of these ideologies, as reflected in the candidates; most in the 2008 field are “in the middle” on many of these issues, as are many of the Republicans. Especially in the post-Bush and Clinton era, I’m not certain what a traditional Democrat OR Republican believes any more. It should be interesting to see where the Democrats and the Republicans head with the choices for 2008; it could be a crowded center, especially if Bloomberg joins the fray, leaving room for extreme candidates on both sides that could further complicate the national electoral picture.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

2008 Democratic Analysis

While fatigue and frustration resulting from the seemingly endless election cycle we’ve been in since about 2005 have dissuaded me from following the 2008 developments too closely, I figured I’d at least give my early view of the Democratic field since I did catch a bit of last night’s “YouTube” debate. I enjoyed the format, and hope we move closer and closer to real people asking questions and holding the candidates accountable for their typically evasive answers. Now, on to the list, starting with front-runners….

Jane Doe” – a shoe-in – she worked in the executive branch for 8 years and knows the ins and outs of White House politics. She’s a second-term Senator who has garnered support from members of the opposite party in a non-native state. Politically savvy and tough, she has a strong yet amicable personality that endears more and more voters who meet her. But wait – her name isn’t Jane Doe, its Hillary Clinton – and as a result, talk turns to “electability” instead of “inevitability.” Suppose it’s too late in her life for a name change?

Barack Obama – speaking of too late in life for a name change, the man whose name is one letter off from “Osama” is doing remarkably well given his inexperience. That said, he’s a fresh face with a resume eerily similar to Abraham Lincoln, who turned out to be a remarkable president in a time of crisis. He’s got good ideas, charisma, and the common touch that a lot of politicians lack. He’s forcing this nation to reopen the dialogue about race, an issue that still touches nerves on so many levels. Win or lose, he’s not going away and the weight on his shoulders is much more than that of most other presidential candidates, for better or worse.

John Edwards – Still has the common touch, but running for president for six years straight does not count as experience. If he’d held off in 2004 and won reelection to his Senate seat, he’d be a serious threat. The failure of Kerry-Edwards will hurt him in the long run, and the slew of stronger, more experienced candidates will keep him from breaking through. Name recognition alone is keeping him going at this point.

Joe Biden – The opposite end of the spectrum from Edwards. Probably the most knowledgeable guy in the field and he actually comes across as a straight talker in spite of spending over half his life in the Senate. He may have been the nominee in 2004, but the 2008 field is strong and crowded. Biden would be well served to play nice and prepare to be the next Secretary of State; he would be a sound choice for a President from either party.

Bill Richards – Another would-be nominee from 2004, his résumé is tremendous and he’s more than qualified for the spot. His personality is keeping him out of the top tier, and the debates aren’t helping. Another great cabinet member for any future president.

Dennis Kucinich – An important candidate, not because he will win the nomination but because he forces the field to reconcile with the liberal base of the party, all the while standing on pure ideological principle. His courage is to be admired, even if some of his views are “fringe.”

Mike Gravel – A less chipper version of Kucinich, he still brings some interesting insights to the debates.

Chris Dodd – good ideas, lots of experience, but it doesn’t seem that this is the year for old, white men in the Democratic Party. Maybe he should run as a Republican – they like them exclusively and seem to be more and more open to “moderates”…

Al Gore? – would be top-tier if he joined, but he seems to be enjoying his retirement, writing books and making movies in order to irritate Republicans and force the Democrats to focus on environmental issues. However, he’s still young; if the Dems fail in 2008, watch out for them to turn to their favorite martyr in 2012.

For the record, I’m still “undecided,” in part because it seems like the people of Iowa and New Hampshire get to decide for me. Something needs to change in the primary system. That said, I think the Democrats have a strong field overall, and suspect that the Vice-Presidential candidate will again come from within the existing field. Things should get much more interesting as fall turns into winter.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Time to Go

While its been too long since my last post (approaching a year, so it seems), today I felt the pressing need to publish my thoughts on the Iraq matter, to articulate them to the best of my ability. Since it became rather lengthy and I feel all parts are vital, I will not risk sending it to any newspapers. So, in conclusion, horray for the internet.

Call it flip-flopping if you must; I’d call it evolution of thought, a change of ideas based on facts, contemplation, and evidence collected over time. Though I’ve resisted my liberal tendencies thus far, I can no longer continue to support our massive troop presence in Iraq. It is time to bring our men and women home, to refocus our efforts back to the real war on terror, to find Bin Laden and bring him to justice, and to play nice with our allies once again in order to deal with growing threats around the world.

Recommitting and refocusing on the war on terror necessitates that we leave a small force in Iraq to deal with the Al Qaeda threat that has developed since our invasion, though many of the groups that claim alliance do so just for the hope of financial support from the worldwide group. While we need to make sure Iraq does not become a haven for international terrorism, most Iraqi nationals do not want these outsiders there any more than they desire a continued American presence. Many “insurgents” tolerate the terrorists because they have a common enemy in what they view as a much more powerful occupying force. Still, a select group of American Special Forces could probably see to this issue and greatly diminish the image that we are there for permanent plunder.

Up to now, I have relied on the fear and the belief that if we left, Iraq would descend into total chaos. Everyday in the news, I see evidence that such a state of affairs already exists, and that the risk of it increasing is in no way diminished by a massive American presence. The “surge” might have worked if we had done it in earnest or earlier in the conflict; however, a creeping surge this late in the game was ill-fated from the start and should not be allotted much more time to fail; the lives of our soldiers are too valuable for that. While I would like nothing more than success or, at the very least, a clear change in Iraqi fortunes, increasing our numbers merely served to reinforce the idea that we are there for good, creating more enemies and catalyzing even more chaos, which is seemingly the only true force dominating the nation as a whole at this time.

Quite possibly, Iraq may break apart if we leave; it may also break apart if we stay, as support for the Americans is yet another issue that divides rather than unites the Iraqis. At the very least, a greatly decreased U.S. presence will force the hand of the Iraqi government either into the success that we cannot create for it or final failure, perhaps leading to something new and better. We simply cannot divine the future – but we cannot control it even if we are there. As such, the risks to our troops simply outweigh the benefits.

Risk – a word with new meaning since 9/11; a recent report stated that the terror threat from Al Qaeda has grown yet again and that they are preparing another attack on the United States. The war in Iraq has not diminished or even really addressed this threat. Rather, it has taken our eye off of the ball; we live in risky times and cannot afford further distraction. As Russia seems content to escalate old tensions, Pakistan continues to refuse to fully cooperate against the Taliban and the hunt for Bin Laden, Iran and Turkey threaten to expand the Iraq conflict into a regional war, North Korea remains unstable, genocide continues more or less unchecked in Darfur – the threats to international peace are everywhere, including within our own borders. With all of our resources tied up in Iraq, how can we expect to act as a superpower and world leader? How can we meet the needs of our own people and deal with our own domestic challenges as we struggle to do so for a nation whose prime minister already told us that we are “free to leave”?

And so, while my support for our troops, our brave men and women in uniform remains unwavering (and should not be questioned because of my position, but alas, we live in an area where the patriotism of all dissenters is doubted), I can no longer support their massive presence in Iraq. The time has come for us to go and to bring our soldiers home, to disengage them from a dangerous civil war where the mission is unclear, the end game undefined, and the original purpose blurred by years of changing platitudes emulating from President Bush and his cronies who dominate our foreign policy and have steered it down a reckless and self-aggrandizing path.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

From Jungle to Desert

Richard Cohen has an excellent yet chilling piece in today's Washington Post on Bush's recent visit to Vietnam. He writes:

"...the military is now considering three options for Iraq: more troops, fewer troops (but for a longer time) and no troops at all -- the ol' cut and run. The missing option here is victory. Don't worry, it will be invented. "You have to define win," Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, who is about to return to Iraq, told the New York Times. Ah, just in the nick of time.

Where have we heard this sort of language before? It is the lingo of Vietnam. As with Vietnam, we are fighting now merely not to lose -- to avoid a full-fledged civil war (it's coming anyway) or to keep the country together, something like that. But not for victory. Not for democracy. All this talk of the Iraqis doing more on their own behalf is Vietnamization in the desert rather than the jungle. What remains the same is asking soldiers to die for a reason that the politicians in Washington can no longer explain. This, above all, is how Iraq is like Vietnam: older men asking younger men to die while they try to figure something out.

That's why Bush kept moving. He knows Vietnam is not just about the past. It's also about the future."

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Election 2006 Thoughts

Better late than never I suppose.

At any rate, my singular thought is this (beyond sheer joy):

The Republicans lost this election. They lost because, as the old saying goes, "Absolute power corrupts absolutely." The Democrats were the fortunate bystanders who now have the chance to prove that they deserve to win, on their own, the next election. They have the chance to put forward ideas and policy now that, realistically, Bush will probably reject. However, if the public likes it and realizes that Democrats do in fact have good ideas, they will get the president they need in 2008 to make these ideas realities.

All this is not to say that Dean and various local candidates do not deserve credit; they were able to find candidates palatable to the disenchanted electorate. In turn, these candidates were able to pull off victories over the hapless Republicans.

As 2008 takes shape, the Democrats, along with the Republicans, must struggle to find an identity. Will the extremes continue to dominate the political landscape, or will their time in government move the Democrats towards a practical, Clintonian center that will win throughout the country? Will the Republicans continue to act as though they are God's soldiers, or will they eat humble pie and work with Democrats to actually get practical things done for our nation?

Starting in January, I guess we will find out. Either way, it is bound to be an improvement over the way things were. Fellow Democrats, the celebration is over. Now, it is time to work and build on this victory.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Endorsments: Election 2006

This seems to be the trend, so I figured I might as well keep up with the Jones’ (and other bloggers) and post my endorsements.

Tom Carper: Carper has done a great job serving Delaware throughout his career. He is a moderate consensus builder who does not lose touch with his constituents. Though his political views sometimes fall to the right of mine, I generally agree with him on most issues and feel his is the best man for the job.

House of Representatives
Dennis Spivack: He is the most qualified challenger to Mike Castle in a long time. Castle’s support of Bush/Republican budget cuts in favor of tax cuts for the wealthy prevent me from supporting him, in spite of his efforts on stem cell research that I greatly admire. Besides, Castle is part of a party that needs to be sent a message; the only way to change the status quo is to remove the Republicans from power, even the moderate ones who simply add to the majority.

Attorney General
No Endorsement: Both men would bring positives to the table. Biden has good ideas, Wharton experience. Wharton is the safe pick, but maybe it is time for a change. A change for the worse is possible, however. See, I’m stuck.

This has been an unnecessarily nasty race for an office that really shouldn’t be that politically charged. Republicans are pulling out all stops to prevent another Biden from entering the public arena: after all, the last time they failed to do this, he held the same seat for over 30 years. In the end, I am leaning towards Wharton right now because his experience is overwhelming, but I plan to do more reading on both candidates tonight before I go to the polls.

Jack Markell
: He has done an excellent job so far and deserves to be reelected. If he runs for anything in 2008, I’ll give you more informed analysis then.

Thomas Wagner
: My dad always said the auditor should come from the opposite party as the one in power. Sounds good to me. Wagner has done his job well, and the Democrats failed to field a serious candidate.

39th District Representative
Dr. Richard Sternberg
: A real person instead of a local politician sounds good to me. And a bonus: he’s a Democrat, which would help the push for the Democrats to take a majority in the House. Now, if only the Senate had a majority Democrat instead of Dixie-crats in control…