I’ve had a few political things bouncing around in my head of late, and this seems like as good a day as any to get them out.
First of all there’s all this ballache from conservatives over John McCain. Commentators like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck (both of whom I actually enjoy – Glenn can be a lot of fun when he isn’t screaming that the sky is falling, or crying on the air) are lamenting that they’re getting stuck with the “liberal” McCain because of the way the caucus/primary system has been set up to allow moderates, liberals, outsiders, or whoever, to pick their candidate, and have recently started playing this ridiculous game in which a lot of conservatives say that if McCain gets the nomination they’re going to actually vote Democratic in November just to teach the Republican party a lesson that they can’t take the conservative/Christian vote for granted the way they say Democrats have done with the black vote.
Personally, I think this is a completely stupid idea. I’m not saying McCain’s my guy; in fact, most of the candidates still in the running have some things I like about them, and some things that bother me about them. I find Romney to be rather smarmy and a bit too eager to tell the voters what he thinks they want to hear. But his management experience in both the public and private sector are noteworthy, and may make him the best candidate for economic issues and hopefully some much-needed fiscal restraint in government, and he genuinely comes off as a smart guy that communicates well. McCain’s military experience is similarly noteworthy, which is why I find it strange that the same conservatives who were claiming a few months back that the War On Terror is their number one issue are now moving away from the candidate with the best military credentials.
Part of it may be border thing; McCain’s policies there aren’t to the liking of many, and I respect that, and many commentators have succeeded at framing the border issue in terms of the War and national security, evoking images of jihadists sneaking over the Mexican border to attack on US soil. Honestly I would expect them to come through Canada instead, but that’s how it’s playing. I have other things to say about that issue further down, but I do think that characterizing McCain’s stance as pro-amnesty or open-borders is a disingenuous, gross oversimplification.
Another thing is that McCain voted against Bush’s tax cuts. But I’ve also heard it said that the reason he did so is that there were not spending cuts associated with it. If true, I think this is very significant. Low taxes are very important to the economy, but so is smaller government, and the two should go hand-in-hand. When Obama says “we can’t afford more tax cuts,” it makes about as much sense as saying that I can’t afford the price of gasoline to go down. Even if I don’t drive much, the price of gas carries over in the price of food and other goods that I purchase, and corporate taxes do the same – they’re just another expense of doing business, and companies will just factor it in in any of a number of ways including raising prices, hiring fewer workers, cutting research and development, moving operations overseas. But cutting taxes while continuing to expand government (contrary to election-year promises to do otherwise) is exactly the kind of fiscal irresponsibility that has caused every Republican administration going back to at least Reagan to run up huge deficits, which is what allows Democrats to continue to get away with framing tax cuts as a cost.
McCain has been grating on me big time lately with the class-war rhetoric, however. Maybe he just thinks that’s the best way to differentiate himself from Romney, but that kind of talk is exactly the last kind of thing I want to hear out of the mouth of a Republican. There is nothing whatsoever wrong with business and profit. You may have run your unit “for patriotism, not profit,” John, but businesses making profits are what footed the bill for that unit to exist in the first place.
And yes, McCain-Feingold sucks and needs to go away.
I registered Republican this year at the Iowa Caucus, the first time I’ve registered under a party rather than as independent, and I did it because for many years I’ve been more in line with the Republicans on economic issues and the scope of government, and because I wanted to get involved at the caucus/primary level for a change. I think the record turnouts this year to caucuses and primaries around the country, for both parties, reflects a similar feeling throughout the country. Voters are sick of just getting stuck in November with whoever the most activist in the two parties, who tend to be the most far left or far right, pick out. So they’re getting involved earlier. I support this wholeheartedly. I considered going with my arty/techie-libertarian friends and voting for Ron Paul, but in the end I put my two cents in for Fred Thompson, who I thought had similar underlying principles, but better-thought-out policy positions and a more electable persona and communication style. Plus he really impressed me at the Iowa debate on that global warming bit, and how it reflected his general refusal to be reduced to a sound-bite on issues that require serious, detailed discussion. So sure, I’m a little bummed out that my favorite is out of the running, but to throw a hissy fit when I don’t get my way is supposed to be what liberals do (see Florida 2000). Me, I’m going to be pragmatic about it and root for whomever I like best out of who’s left (though I’m still not sure who that is).
I’ve noticed an interesting trend in coverage of these events of late, too. Maybe this has been going on for some time and this is just the first time I’ve noticed it, but it seems that when the media talks about different sub-groups of voters from each party that candidates are getting or courting votes from, the Republicans get divided up among lines of ideologies, beliefs, professions: “the evangelical vote,” “the business vote,” “the moderate vote,” and so on; but when talking about the Democratic vote, the groups mentioned always seem to be those defined by things like race and gender: “the black vote,” “the women vote.” I think many Republicans see their party as “the party of ideas” and the Democrats as the party that plays identity politics, and this just confirms that for them, even if only subconsciously. Personally, I find the former type of group more interesting; I’d like to hear where the evangelical vote is doing among Democrats, if there is one, or at least what the liberal-protestant vote, and maybe the union worker vote, and so on.
Speaking of evangelicals, I need to put in a word for my home state. Around the time of the Iowa caucus the media was hammering this meme about the “evangelical vote,” characterizing Iowa as being dominated by this group. Then when Fox News had their little focus group of voters from the New Hampshire primary, they asked one of them “what makes you different from the voters in Iowa?” and one responded, “we don’t wear our religion on our sleeve like they do.” What the hell is that? Personally, I don’t see it. I mean, we have hard-core Christians and evangelicals in Iowa, but I don’t think we have them to so much greater a degree than most other states. I felt like the media was trying to characterize Iowans as the type of people who wouldn’t know what socks to put on in the morning if our pastor didn’t put it in a church bulletin, the sort who would probably vote in all the nanny-state you can throw at us if you call yourself a Christian and convince us you can ban abortion. And I’m here to tell you, that’s not the typical Iowan, not even the typical Christian Iowan, in my personal experience. Maybe it’s just because I come from a beer-drinkin’ blue-collar classic-rock town like Waterloo and I don’t see it, but in any case that coverage just struck me as unfair.
So all right, I said I would mention something about immigration and the border, so here goes. This was originally going to be my “things I wish a candidate would say in a debate, part 2” but I never managed to get it worded to my satisfaction to sound like a candidate would actually say it. I see the immigration problem as a government-bloat problem. I wish some candidate would frame it that way, but it does lead to a potentially unpopular position among conservatives.
The reason we have so many people breaking the law and risking life and limb to come into our country just for the sake of a job on a construction crew or farm or meat-packing plant is because trying to do it the legal way sucks ass. I recently read a newspaper article about a young man who grew up in the US and wanted to become a police officer, only to find out much to his surprise that he was not a US citizen. He sounded like a great guy and his town could probably use a guy like him on the beat, but he would have had to return to Mexico (a country he is wholly unfamiliar with, having been brought to the US as a small child) and go through a process that could take ten years just to get allowed back into the States. Ten years?
Seriously, if you’re a poor person in Mexico who wants to move to the US for better economic opportunities (and would be contributing to the US economy in the process), would you want to fuck around with ten years of paperwork and bureaucracy? By the time you got in to the US you’d be too old and decrepit for the job you were hoping to get anyway. So what do you do? Well, if you’re desperate enough and/or wily enough, you border-jump. And the result is that the volume of people coming across the border illegally is too much for our law enforcement agencies to handle. If we provided a more realistic option for folks to come work in the US, and a realistic path to citizenship for them should they choose to pursue it, there would be a lot fewer people coming over the border the illegal way, and when we caught one, we could be reasonably sure that they’re up to something bad like smuggling drugs rather than just trying to make a semi-honest buck – and the ones coming here to be part of our legitimate economy, we would have documentation on, in the event that they get into trouble.
I actually supported Bush’s guest-worker program the way he initially outlined it, but then of course Congress fucked it up and then ended up not passing it anyway. Also, this shouldn’t just apply to Latino laborers either: the arbitrary caps on H-1B visas and the bureaucratic runaround that holders of such visas and their employers have to go through is just downright silly. Mexican construction workers and Bangladeshi software engineers are both good things to have in the US working for US companies. We’re only hurting ourselves by making it harder for them to do the right thing.