The principles that rule this blog

Principles that will govern my thoughts as I express them here (from my opening statement):

  • Freedom of the individual should be as total as possible, limited only by the fact that nobody should be free to cause physical injury to another, or to deprive another person of his freedoms.
  • Government is necessary primarily to provide those services that private enterprise won't, or won't at a price that people can afford.
  • No person has a right to have his own beliefs on religious, moral, political, or other controversial issues imposed on others who do not share those beliefs.

I believe that Abraham Lincoln expressed it very well:

“The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do, at all, or cannot
so well do, for themselves — in their separate, individual capacities.”

Comments will be invited, and I will attempt to reply to any comments that are offered in a serious and non-abusive manner. However, I will not tolerate abusive or profane language (my reasoning is that this is my blog, and so I can control it; I wouldn't interfere with your using such language on your own!)

If anyone finds an opinion that I express to be contrary to my principles, they are welcome to point this out. I hope that I can make a rational case for my comments. Because, in fact, one label I'll happily accept is rationalist.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What is bad about professionalism?

From time to time I see editorials, columns, or postings which bemoan the professional politicians who populate our State and Federal governments and want to go back to the idea of part-time politicians who serve a few years and quit politics (often, in fact, they advocate term limits to make politicians quit after serving a few years). Frankly, I see no sense in such proposals.

For one thing, anyone who is a full-time public servant is going to understand how to do things better than someone who comes in for a few hours, and then goes home to running a used-car business or a clothing store. I can only assume that people making proposals like this figure that because they want more limited government (a concept with which I agree), they believe that amateur politicians with only a few hours a week of political duty are going to want to do less. But one can easily find people who have never spent a day in a political office who still want an all-powerful government. A person's political philosophy will count for much more in this matter than whether they are full-time or part-time.

And I think that no matter what task you want to assign to someone, you'll get a better job done if you have someone do it who understands the job. I would rather have a professional legislator write a bill, for example, so he knows what his words will mean in practice, than an amateur who might put in some vague phrase that a court subsequently will interpret in a totally unexpected manner. So I would prefer a person who thinks of his job as a full-time one, who has taken the time to study the rules of the legislative body in which serves, and who knows what the existing laws are and how the courts have interpreted them, rather than an amateur who, for most of the year, is running his own business and just came over to the State Capital or to Washington, D. C. long enough to file a couple of bills, vote on them, and go home. In fact, in States that allow initiatives, written by non-elected amateurs, sometimes some crippling rules get put on the books because the people who wrote the initiative don't understand the consequences of their words.

The worst idea of all is term limits. Preventing a person who has shown that he recognizes the interests of his constituents and is willing to represent those interests from doing so, the only result of term limits, seems to me to be the stupidest, craziest idea. An elected official who is not representing hius constituents' interests can simply be denied re-election, or in some jurisdictions even recalled. And an elected official who knows that whatever he does, no matter how good or bad his constituents think it is, cannot affect his future because he will not be re-electable even if they like him, as more likely to do crazy stuff than someone who wants to be re-elected and so will try to please his constituents.

In short, what do these people who wish a part-time, amateur legislature, hope to accomplish? I can't see it as anything I would desire.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Some other posts I would like to echo

A few days ago I recommended a post on another blog, and asked you to consider it as posted here. I also would like you to read the post entitled "Repeal Amendment" on "The Voice of Reason" blog, but note that I made a comment on this post to indicate my slight disagreement; the owner of that blog, however, seems to understand that our agreement is more than our disagreement.

And just yesterday, there was another post that I spotted and would like to recommend. Please also read this post. I heartily approve of what he says.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

We need them all!

Let's face it. With only two parties that have any chance of getting a share of power in the U. S. Government, the Republicans need all of the people who want to fit under the "big tent." We need our Sarah Palins, as well as our Lisa Murkowskis. And I hope that somehow this personal vendetta can be buried in the cause of a greater need — the need for the United States to have sanity restored, by the Republicans' working together to undo some of the damage which President Barack Obama has done to this nation. To prevent funds from going to implementation of the damages caused by the health care legislation that was forced in even after Massachusetts voters chose Scott Brown (which should have been a signal to Congress that they were going too far, too fast!), to fight all Obama initiatives that are not in the Nation's best interest, and ultimately, to get the White House back in 2012.

I hope that Lisa Murkowski will choose to join the Republican caucus in January (I believe she has already indicated this intent). I hope that Mitch McConnell will welcome her, as the Democrats accepted Joe Lieberman after he made a similar (but easier, since he had a ballot line!) effort a few years ago. And I hope that somehow a way can be made to keep such diverse Senators as Jim DeMint, Murkowski, Rand Paul, and Scott Brown all happy. As the title says, we need them all in a single party!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Lisa Murkowski, The Republican Party’s Moderate Savior? (from "Death and Taxes" e-magazine)

Please read the article entitled "Lisa Murkowski, The Republican Party’s Moderate Savior?" which was posted in "Death and Taxes" magazine. Except that its title doesn't give enough credit to such other moderate voices in the U. S. Senate as Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, and Scott Brown, it comes close to my own point of view. So read it, and consider it as posted here.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

On religious differences vs. political ones

When I started this blog, I expected to post on religious subjects more than I have; this blog, in fact, has turned out to be almost entirely on political subjects, and just about the only posts that could be considered "religion-related" have been about religious topics that affect our political differences (especially abortion). Somehow it seems less useful to post about religious topics, though, as you will read, this post is in that category.

There are people who consider it their purpose in life to proselytize for their view of Jesus, and these people are (in my mind) the worst of my enemies. In fact, anyone whose business is to convert me to their religion — whether that is Christianity, Islam, or Richard Dawkins-style atheism, is (in my mind) among the worst of my enemies. Because I think that religion is something that each person needs to figure out for himself/herself.

The only thing anyone can do in the "religious enlightenment" sweepstakes that makes any sense is to present the arguments that make sense to you and stand back, seeing how much they seem convincing. And unlike, say, science, in religion there is no such thing as an absolutely convincing argument. Experiments in the late 18th century made it clear that phlogiston did not exist. (Though, in fact, I recall seeing, in the 1960s or 1970s, a paper in the Journal of Chemical Education that showed how much chemistry could be explained by phlogiston theory, obviously an interesting intellectual exercise!) But I challenge anyone to devise an experiment that could prove, in the same way, that God exists (or, for that matter, that He does not)!

So I live my life with certain religious beliefs — but how I interact with other people does not really depend upon them. On the other hand, not only do my political beliefs impact on my votes every couple of years (more often, when I lived in New York!) but I have hope that I might be able to convince others of their correctness, and if I can, they could improve things. (Convincing people to vote for McCain two years ago might have made my life in recent years better. Convincing them to vote for whoever will be Barack Obama's opponent two years from now would certainly do so for the next four years. [At least, if I could convince enough of them!]) And this, I guess, is why I discuss politics more than religion on this blog.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sarah Palin (again!)

I recently saw a poll which seems to show Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, and Mike Huckabee in almost a three-way tie. Now keep in mind that the Presidential election is nearly two years away, and four years ago the front-runners for the major parties' nominations were Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Rodham Clinton, neither of whom made it. So I can't really put a lot of credence in this poll. But others seem to, so we are seeing a lot of negative comments about Palin's suitability. Now, I cannot really be surprised about Lisa Murkowski's comments: Palin just spent the last few months trying to derail what should have been an easy re-election bid by Murkowski. So anything Murkowski says about Palin like the comment to Katie Couric that she "lacks the 'intellectual curiosity' to be president" can simply be laid on the feud of the last few months (as well as political infighting, over the past few years, between Palin and both Frank and Lisa Murkowski). I imagine that if it comes to Palin vs. Barack Obama in 2012, Murkowski is certainly not going to endorse Obama.

What really did surprise me is the comment by Barbara Bush. She recently said (on Larry King's show):
"I sat next to her once, thought she was beautiful. And I think she's very happy in Alaska -- and I hope she'll stay there."
Now Barbara Bush is the wife of a former President and the mother of another one — but as First Ladies go, she's never been thought to be the political type, such as Nancy Reagan or Hillary Clinton. So a comment like this was totally unexpected. Now it is clear that George H. W. Bush feels that Mitt Romney is the best of the candidates (an opinion with which I have concurred recently). And Barbara presumably agrees. But I've never seen her get as political as this before.

Let me state this unequivocally. The only Republican who is being discussed currently who would not get my endorsement against Pres. Obama is Mike Huckabee. (And if he were nominated, I would not endorse Obama either: my support would go to some third-party candidate.) Sarah Palin is emphatically not my choice — I think the GOP can do far better. (And, as I just said, I concur with former President Bush that Mitt Romney seems the best of the choices.) But I'm not about to pile the invective on former Gov. Palin. I don't think she's as bad as Lisa Murkowski would like to have us believe.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Why I could NEVER vote for Mike Huckabee

I have never much liked Mike Huckabee. First I found out that when he was Governor of Arkansas, he was liberal on all the things I'm conservative on, and conservative on all the things I'm liberal on. Then there was his comment, nearly three years ago, that "what we need to do is to amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards rather than try to change God's standards." This is so contrary to what I believe, that the Constitution must be religiously absolutely neutral, that this one quote alone would make me unalterably opposed to Mike Huckabee and all he stands for.

But he's now added one more quote to the picture. Recently, Iowa voters voted to remove three judges who had issued a pro-gay-marriage opinion. Now, it is clear that a lot of "social conservatives" disliked that opinion. And it should not surprise me that there's a lot of gnashing of teeth on this judicial decision, though I for one applaud Iowa's judges for having the courage to do thr right thing. But Huckabee's defense of the removal vote goes beyond disgusting. To me it is the victory of bigotry at the polls, worthy of condemnation by all. But to Huckabee,
"The significance and historic nature of the judicial elections here in Iowa were far bigger than the borders of Iowa. It was a very important statement that voters made, a statement that resonated across the country and one that I think will give legs to a larger movement over the next few years."

Obviously, Huckabee's bigotry knows no bounds. And that is why I could never vote for him for any position in government.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Lisa Murkowski, write-in winner

It seems that Alaska has elected Lisa Murkowski to another term in the Senate, even though it was required of Alaska voters to write in her name. A tremendous victory for common sense, since her opponent, Joe Miller, seems to have been a very light candidate, intellectually. And a major defeat for Sarah Palin, coming in her home state.

I congratulate Sen. Murkowski, who certainly was the candidate I hoped would win Alaska's Senatorial election. But I hope that the personal animosity between Palin and Murkowski can be toned down. I think everyone understands that both of Alaska's highest-profile political women despise each other. But for the good of the Republican Party, for the good of the State of Alaska, and for the good of American political progress, I hope they can bury this hatchet.

The Republican Party, I believe, is the only hope for any short term improvement in American political fortune. So anything like this Palin-Murkowski feud hurts America, not just the GOP. It also hurts Alaska particularly; however, not being an Alaskan, I don't have as much to concern myself with there. But I would think that both Murkowski and Palin, as important Alaskan politicians, would be concerned.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Health care reform

Now that Republicans who have vowed to "repeal and replace" Obama's health care bill control the House of Representatives, it will be interesting to see what they can do. They can't override a veto by the President, and they certainly face, even before it gets to the President, a Senate that still has a Democratic majority (though very closely divided, especially since one of the Democrats is Joe Manchin, who was elected as an anti-Obamacare candidate).

There are some parts of the health care bill I like — like barring denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions — but one provision that I feel must be gutted, whether by the Courts or by Congress: the individual mandate.

If they make no other change, the new Congress must find a way to derail that single provision. And if that is all they can do, I'll be satisfied. Now, if they can do things like allowing purchase of plans across state lines, or meaningful tort reform, I'll be happier, but the individual mandate is the one thing I consider the worst part of the bill as it ended up. (They thankfully scrubbed the "public option," which would have been even worse.)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Joe Miller, sore loser

It seems that in the Alaska Senatorial race, the Republican candidate, Joe Miller, is trying very hard to have all ballots rejected where the name of his write-in opponent, Lisa Murkowski, is misspelled. And according to at least one other blogger, he has Alaska law on his side. I'll get to whether Alaska law says that Miller is right in a bit. But even if it does, Miller is a sore loser, who has about as much of a conscience as Barack Obama does. (Remember how Obama used the nuances of Illinois law to rule three opponents off the ballot so he could run unopposed for the State Senate?) If I were Joe Miller, sitting in the Senate because a few people misspelled "Murkowski," (and it's pretty telling that I bet nobody has ever misspelled Joe Miller's name!) when they actually meant to vote for her, I think my conscience would haunt me all six years of my term. But Joe Miller, I guess, has no conscience.

Now what does Alaska law say? "(11) A vote for a write-in candidate, other than a write-in vote for governor and lieutenant governor, shall be counted if the oval is filled in for that candidate and if the name, as it appears on the write-in declaration of candidacy, of the candidate or the last name of the candidate is written in the space provided." Note that, as written, the phrase "as it appears on the write-in declaration of candidacy" in that statute seems to modify the first occurrence of the word "name." So the way I read this statute is that "last name" is not qualified by the phrase "as it appears on the write-in declaration of candidacy." The blog post I cited disagrees. But I think English grammar is on my side.

It is to be hoped that enough people spell Murkowski's name correctly that her win is clear even to those who insist that the law must be construed as that blogger believes it should be. But if not, we may end up having a court case to determine what the law means!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Working toward 2012 endorsements

Now that this year's election is over, it's time to start looking at 2012. I had hoped that Meg Whitman might have been elected Governor of California, and had she been, she would have been — as I said more than once — my first choice for the 2012 nomination. But I think that one of the qualifications that would have a major bearing on acceptability would be having run a State Government. (Running a big corporation, which Whitman certainly has done, is helpful, but I don't think enough.) So she's out of there for now. Being a Senator is about the only other qualification that I might accept as even close to a Governorship of a State, and if Carly Fiorina had won and Whitman had not, she might be my first choice. But she didn't win, either. So the two people I really might have endorsed enthusiastically under different circumstances are out. So who might I favor?

Two years ago, I was somewhat negative about Mitt Romney, in part because of some ambiguity in where he stood on a lot of issues. But in the current situation, the importance of economic issues makes Romney look pretty good to me. He is currently my #1.

I don't know as much about Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, but whatever I've seen about him I like. I am particularly impressed by something he's said which infuriates a lot of "social conservatives" — as I've said in the past, I think that they harm the party more than helping it, so what infuriates them pleases me. And Daniels has said that he felt that social issues should be de-emphasized, even though he is socially conservative. I strongly support his stand there and for that reason alone, he ranks high in my opinion. And his performance as Governor of Indiana is creditable. Daniels, then, is currently #2 on my list, and I would not be surprised if, on learning more about him, he moves up to #1.

Finally, recently I saw a story to the effect that former Governor of New York George Pataki might run. He is also someone I could easily support. Call him #3 for now; again, as time goes by, he might move up on the list, depending on what happens regarding Romney's or Daniels' actions.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The season I hate

Tuesday I was shopping and I noticed that the background music had shifted to Christmas music. Actually, I should probably be thankful this was the first time I'd heard any — usually it starts in October or even September, and it was already nine days into November this time — but I wish there were some way to just get away from it all! Oh, some of the music was innocuous stuff like Leroy Anderson's "Sleigh Ride" (not a mention of Christmas in the whole song, thank goodness!) but most of it was the usual carols, heavy with the spirit of Christian dogma.

It's the one time of the year I really feel I'm a minority. Now, at least this isn't an actual Government-sponsored commemoration. But as some people don't like mosques near Ground Zero, which are just as privately organized, I would love to see Christians keep their observation of a holiday I find distasteful in their homes and churches.

Let us be factual. Christmas is the commemoration of the birth of the man who created a split in my religion, whose followers over the centuries have persecuted my co-religionists, and who continue to try to proselytize to win converts. They have the right, under our great First Amendment, to freely exercise their religion; but I wish they would realize that drawing other people into their celebration is offensive to some of us.

Hopefully, I will not have any more reason to mention Christmas this year. Just understand that, as far as I'm concerned, I wish to ignore it as totally as I can — though I can't totally, because I'll have to contend with such matters as the fact that even places that are normally open seven days a week will be closed on December 25th.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Political Compass and similar measures

A bit more than a month ago I posted a comparison of my scores on the Political Compass and other similar measurement schemes. The one thing I have always noted about these is that, while they work better than simple "left/right" scales, two-dimensional schemes like these never get it quite right. I wonder if yet more dimensions are necessary. (But then, I need someone else to devise the test; I'm not a psychologist and I don't think I can do it!)

There is a common psychological analysis test called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. It has engendered a number of clones, but all use the same four-dimensional system for classifying people. And I note that every time I've taken one, I always come out the same way, an unambiguous ISTJ. (My wife comes out almost the exact opposite; she is usually an ENFP, which is truly the exact opposite, but on the "thinking-feeling" axis she is so close to the zero point tat she sometimes comes out as an ENTP, and thus is often categorized as an ENxP. But the important thing is, all these personality measures seem to be consistent, while the political ones sre not.) I really think there needs to be more teased out. Perhaps not a four-dimensional scheme, but certainly more than two.

One thing I note is that there is a distinct urban character to my libertarianism. While I want to be left alone to my own way of thinking, I'm not eager to be left on my own. The idea of providing for my own self-defense rather than relying on the police appalls me, as does the idea of driving everywhere rather than using public transportation. This, of course, comes from growing up in a big city, but it separates me from many libertarian types. And it probably explains why I part company with them on Second Amendment-related questions.

I wish people would look at this more closely. There needs to be a better way of gauging political similarity.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Postmortems - Part 3 (Pennsylvania/Maine/Rhode Island)

Of all the States, the one about which my feelings are the most complicated is Pennsylvania. I had followed the career of Arlen Specter for many years, beginning in the 1960s when I had a job in Philadelphia and Specter was a young DA uncovering corruption in that city. Over the years Specter developed into the Senator I had my greatest agreement with. So the ideal result for me would have been for Specter to stay a Republican and serve six more years in the Senate. But six years ago Specter was challenged for the nomination by Pat Toomey, a "Tea Party" type before they ever called it that. Given the rightward drift of the GOP, Specter apparently figured he could not beat Toomey in a primary this year, so he went over to the Democrats, which saddened me, though I could understand why he did it. This didn't work, because as far as the GOP primary voters were to his right, so were the Democratic primary voters to his left, and Specter lost that primary to Joe Sestak, so Specter was out of the pictue completely. If Specter had won the Democratic primary, and I had been a Pennsylvanian, I would have been faced with a terrible decision: Support someone who agreed with me on most issues, but whose first vote would be for Harry Reid to lead the Senate? or someone far ro my right, but who at least would help keep the Senate Republican? Sestak's winning the primary made the choice pretty straightforward. And so I wanted to see Toomey win, and was glad to see it happen, even though this was one of the closest races in the 2010 election. Pennsylvania, unlike both of its neighbors New York State and Maryland, was good territory for the GOP this year. Not only was Toomey elected, but a Republican Governor and State Legislature. All I can say is I wish Maryland had done so well.

Both Maine and Rhode Island had independent candidates running for Governor. Maine has in the past actually elected an independent to the office, so there was really a chance, but the Republican, Paul LePage, pulled it out. Maine seems to be the one State in New England which the GOP still can win frequently — it has two very competent Republican women as its Senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, who, with Specter gone, are probably the best representatives of the kind of Republicanism I prefer. LePage is considered a Tea Partier, so we'll have to see what sort of job he does as Governor of Maine. But I congratulate him and wish him well.

It was Rhode Island, however, that actually elected an independent this year. And Lincoln Chafee, Rhode Island's next Governor, is an enigma. He used to be a Republican, but supported Barack Obama's candidacy for the Presidency in 2008. And Obama recognized this and refused to endorse Chafee's Democratic opponent, Frank Caprio. (This led Caprio to say Obama could "take his endorsement and shove it," certainly one of the most impolite things a politician has said about a President of his own party!) Obviously, Chafee got elected mainly by Democratic votes, so it will be interesting to see whether he governs as a Democrat or a Republican. He looks like another Lowell Weicker to me, becoming a Democrat in all but name as Weicker did in neighboring Connecticut.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Postmortems - Part 2 (Maryland/California/New York)

A local weekly newspaper in this area printed a headline, following the election, saying "GOP Wave misses Maryland." Yes, it certainly did. As I said in yesterday's post, the most important observation to take from Tuesday's election is that every State is different. Maryland is sandwiched between Pennsylvania and Virginia, both of which were great states for the GOP this year. (Virginia was already so red that there was not much to go redder, but the GOP took 3, or possibly 4, House seats away from the Democrats there. I'll say more about Pennsylvania in a subsequent post.) But in Maryland, as I said in my October 12, 2010 post, the GOP made hardly a dent in the blueness of the State. One House seat, which should have been Republican anyway, but which went to Democrat Frank Kratovil in 2008 because of an internecine split in the local GOP, came back home. A few more seats in the lower house of the State's legislature went red, but in the upper house, a couple went the other way. And a good former Governor, Bob Ehrlich, certainly not a bizarre "Tea Party" type, lost by 10 percentage points to the sitting Governor, Martin O'Malley. In the Senate, one of the most liberal members of the chamber, Barbara Mikulski, had no trouble winning by a much larger margin, over a pretty uninspiring Eric Wargotz, who was pretty much unknown outside his home county. As I said in that post on Oct. 12, it seemed strange to see the GOP winning all over the place, while seeing nothing but blue here at home. It may be because so many Marylanders are Federal Government employees, and thus unsympathetic to a "smaller Government" GOP, and rather sympathetic to a President Barack Obama who the rest of the country was rejecting. As I said earlier, O'Malley even invited Obama into the State to campaign for him, something most Democrats were certainly not doing. Pretty dispiriting, though I'm happy for the rest of the country.

New York didn't look much better. As a native of that State, I tried to follow it; the GOP didn't help their cause very much by nominating a lame excuse for a gubernatorial candidate, Carl Paladino. They elected a Democratic Governor and two Democratic Senators; most of the time you don't see two Senate seats filled in the same election in a State, but here there was one term expiring and the other seat vacant because Hillary Clinton had left to become Secretary of State, with Kirsten Gillebrand only appointed to an interim position. Both Gillebrand and Chuck Schumer easily won re-election, and Andrew Cuomo, son of a previous Governor, won the gubernatorial office.

While New York State elected the son of a governor from the 1980s and 1990s, California was restoring a governor who had served even earlier, in the 1970s and 1980s, Jerry Brown. Like New York and Maryland, California seemed to be bypassed by the GOP wave. And this one was even stranger, because in California, the GOP had some excellent candidates. Meg Whitman, running for Governor, and Carly Fiorina, running for the Senate, were well qualified, very desirable candidates, and both put millions of dollars of their own money into their campaigns. But Jerry Brown beat Whitman, and Barbara Boxer gained reelection to the Senate over Fiorina. I guess California voters just couldn't see what was best for them, but that's how democracy works sometimes.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Postmortems - Part 1 (Florida/Alaska/Delaware/Nevada)

Last Tuesday's elections showed a lot of different things. But the most important is that every State is different.

In Florida, the "Tea Party" candidate, Marco Rubio, succeeded in gaining the support of the entire Republican electorate. While I might have liked to see a better showing by Charlie Crist, he made a serious mistake. He let himself be painted "blue" (i. e. a secret Democrat). First, when some people were saying he might join the Democratic caucus if he were elected to the Senate, he refused to come out and say he was a Republican who would never support the Democratic leadership (i. e. Harry Reid et al), which lost him voters who wanted to express their hatred for the Obama/Reid/Pelosi agenda. Second, when such as Bill Clinton worked to get Kendrick Meek to withdraw so that the Democrats could unite to defeat Rubio, Crist accepted this role without saying anything that might have inspired Republicans to stay with him. This made Crist seem to be a Democrat while Rubio managed to unite all the Republicans, even those who had originally supported Crist. So Crist and Meek split the Democratic vote, instead of Crist taking both the moderates among the Republicans and those among the Democrats, which would have been the way to win. Too bad. But at least the winner in this scenario was a Republican, though further to the right than I'd like. Better this result than what happened in Delaware and Nevada, about which I will say more later in this post.

Alaska was a bit like Florida, but here the "Tea Party" candidate, Joe Miller, did not reach out to mainstream Republicans, who rallied behind Lisa Murkowski. So even though Alaskans had a harder job — Murkowski's name had to be written in — they seem to have done so. The write-in votes have to be examined to see how many of them are for Murkowski, but most people think she will become the second person in United States history to win a Senate seat on a write-in vote. If she does so, I congratulate her. It was a hard job, but it looks as though she did it!

The other two States I'm discussing in this post had much more unfortunate results. In both Delaware and Nevada, the "Tea Party" candidates were relatively unqualified people who made outrageous statements that drove even anti-Obama voters into the camps of their Democratic opponents. As disliked as Harry Reid was in Nevada, people voted for him over Sharron Angle, and in Delaware, Christine O'Donnell was so ridiculous in some of her statements that even Chris Coons' admission of having been a "bearded Marxist" did not prevent his beating O'Donnell. (And more to the point, Mike Castle, who was the loser in the GOP primary to O'Donnell, probably could have beaten Coons, according to all polls.) Obviously, if a "Tea Party" candidate like Marco Rubio (or Pat Toomey, to be discussed in another post) could run a sufficiently mainstream campaign to win, it is pretty clear that one cannot paint all the "Tea Party" candidates the same color. Some were plausible candidates, but others, like Angle and O'Donnell, were not. Too bad. Imagine if Sue Lowden had won in Nevada and Mike Castle in Delaware. The GOP would have been closer to tying the Senate. I just wish...

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Jeff Vanke

It appears that Jeff Vanke's candidacy as a Modern Whig got about 13% of the vote in the 6th Congressional District of Virginia. Is that a good number? It's pretty far from winning — the winning Republican candidate got six times as many votes — but for a candidate whose party is unknown to most people, it is probably a decent start. But it looks as though there's a long way to go.

Friday, November 05, 2010

An interesting development

In the Civil War, a political alignment was established that lasted for many years. Since the party of Abraham Lincoln was the Republican Party, white Southerners universally became Democrats, even as the party became rather liberal elsewhere in the country and they stayed conservative. For the same reason, African Americans became Republicans, to the extent they were able to vote at all. (In the South, after Reconstruction, they generally were not, because of major obstacles placed by the white population, which led to the South being firmly Democratic.) This alignment remained the case until the Presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, when he put into place a number of economic changes that most people considered beneficial to the poor, and as most African Americans were poor, they moved into the Democratic Party. (White Southerners remained Democrats, so there was the odd phenomenon that the African Americans and their greatest opponents were both in the Democratic Party.) But even then, the African Americans were not solidly Democratic; Republicans received perhaps 1/3 of the vote of those who were able to cast ballots.

The big change took place in 1964, because Barry M. Goldwater voted against a civil rights bill. Goldwater was not a racist, but simply believed in limited government and felt this was too much of an incursion of Government into people's lives. (To me that was a misguided attitude, but I'm only stating Goldwater's feelings here, not agreeing with them.) As a result, almost all African Americans moved into the Democratic Party, and white Southerners became Republicans, though more gradually; they continued voting for local Southern Democrats for a couple of decades, though supporting Republicans nationally. A few African American leaders were Republicans, such as Sen. Edward Brooke of Massachusetts, and more recently Justice Clarence Thomas, General Colin Powell, and Condoleezza Rice, but the African American voters generally split approximately 90-10 Democratic, and almost all of their politicians were Democrats as well.

But this week, two African American Republicans were elected to Congress. There were a few others in the past, but both of these were from the old South, and it's the first time in more than a decade that two African American Republicans will be serving at the same time. This will be an interesting development. Will the Black Congressional Caucus treat them as traitors to their race? It's going to be interesting to see.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Mixed emotions

The results of Tuesday's elections leave me with mixed emotions. On the one hand, Nancy Pelosi gets to hand her gavel over to John Boehner, which is absolutely great, and the Republicans gained a significant number of seats in the Senate (though not a majority, but nobody really expected that) and a bunch of Governorships as well. These are the positives. But it seems that none of the specific elections I really cared about went right, except perhaps in Alaska where the results are not too clear yet.

In the State I live in, Maryland, it seems that Martin O'Malley won by a rather big margin over Bob Ehrlich. Certainly this was not a big surprise, but Ehrlich seemed to have a real chance, and so this result was a major disappointment. In California, there was an even bigger disappointment: both Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina seemed to have good chances to win, but neither one could pull it off. And in my original home state of New York, only one of the third party candidates got the 50,000 votes needed to keep his party on the ballot, and that was the Green Party candidate, the one I liked least. (The Libertarian, Warren Redlich, came very close: nearly 45,000, but close is not enough to do it. And the other third party candidates got no more that 20,000-30,000 each.)

Florida is another state I was looking at. That one was not too bad — I was very pleased to see the Democrat, Kendrick Meek, finish third! And while I would have preferred Charlie Crist to the actual winner, Marco Rubio, I think Rubio would be a reasonably good choice from what I've seen.

The worst of the results this Tuesday was in Nevada. I really thought that Harry Reid could be defeated. But this was not to be. Apparently, by nominating Sharron Angle, just like Christine O'Donnell in Delaware, The Tea Partiers threw away a good chance to help throw the Democratic rascals out!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Perils of plurality voting

One of the perils of plurality voting, the system we use here in the US for most elections, is that the candidates most similar to each other are the ones who will attack each other the most viciously. There are two candidates for Governor of New York in yesterday's election who could be described as "libertarian": Warren Redlich, who actually had the Libertarian Party's nomination, and Kristin Davis, who ran under the banner of the Anti-Prohibition Party (apparently favoring legalizing prostitution). Davis had tried to gain the Libertarian nomination, and before Redlich had secured it, he called her a "whore." (She had actually run an "escort service," though apparently she was not a prostitute herself.) Later on, just before the election, campaign flyers were distributed, it would appear by members of Davis' campaign staff, though with the actual connection obscured by using a fake sponsor's name, calling Redlich a child molester. Obviously, these two candidates, who were seeking to get the same voters' support, felt it necessary to attack each other rather than their more remote opponents.

And this is only one such example. I remember one election, many years ago, also in New York when I still lived there, when the Socialist Workers' Party and the Socialist Labor Party candidates found themselves on adjacent lines of the ballot. Now it is granted that these two parties differed more than their names would imply, but they were the most left-wing of the parties on the ballot and were obviously competing for the votes of those who favored some sort of socialism. So again, they felt it necessary to attack each other rather than their more remote opponents.

It's one of the plurality system's biggest flaws. Candidates who should be boosting each other as second-best end up fighting tooth and nail. If we had score voting, or approval voting, or even instant runoff voting (though supporters of SV and IRV mostly oppose each other's ideas almost as strongly as supporters of rival, but similar, candidates in plurality do!) you would not see this. Candidates who were rather similar would be more likely to boost each other since it would not hurt themselves to do so.

That alone is a good reason to change our voting system.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Carl S. Milsted, Jr. and his "Holistic Politics"

Carl S. Milsted, Jr. runs a website named "Holistic Politics." Normally, a name like this would send me running for the hills. Usually anyone who uses the wod "holistic" is the mystical kind of person, definitely antithetical to my rationalistic mode of thought. And Milsted's site uses psychedelic colors and lettering which might go along with that perception. So why am I writing this post, which, as you will see, is strongly in favor of some of the things he says?

Well, if you actually look at his site, his politics is not too far from mine. He started as a Libertarian but has grown away from its more extreme ideas — my first, and still current, political beliefs are really those of a "Rockefeller Republican," but this includes a lot of at least "small-l" libertarianism, and even some sympathy for the Libertarian Party's ideas, though I feel they are in need of watering down. He uses the Nolan Chart to plot political philosophy, which is the same as the "World's Smallest Political Quiz," which I mentioned in an earlier post. And on the basis of the chart, he argues that the political group most poorly served by our present two-party system is a big area in the upper-left portion of the chart, exactly where I find myself.

Actually, it looks as if Milsted was the author of the quiz that called me a "social liberal" which I referenced in my earlier post.

I'm getting rather interested in Milsted's ideas, though obviously I don't totally agree with them. And I will be commenting more on them in the future.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Tomorrow is Election Day

Tomorrow is Election Day. And it is customary to urge everyone to vote. But I differ with that sentiment. I believe that not voting, if you have a good reason, is a perfectly good option. But if you don't vote, let it be because you really mean your vote to be an abstention.

There are specific contests on the ballot for me tomorrow that I will consciously abstain in. For example, I have already given my reasons for abstaining in elections for the Board of Education. There is a question on the ballot tomorrow about amending the State Constitution to change the qualifications for judges in one court in the City of Baltimore. Because it's a State Constitutionsl requirement, everybody in the whole State is entitled to vote on this. I would favor taking things like this out of the State Constitution entirely. But since they haven't put that question on the ballot, all I can see myself doing is abstaining. In all these, though, my abstention is deliberate. If you don't vote because you deliberately mean to abstain, that is reasonable. Otherwise, if you don't vote, you are failing your civic obligation.

So, instead of telling people to vote tomorrow, I am saying in this post, "Vote, unless you really mean to abstain!"