Category Archives: 2012

Random Musings on a Random Act

The horrific shootings in Newtown, Connecticut has left a lot of people stunned.  It wasn’t simply the number of people who died, 27, that has left people speechless, nor was the fact that it took place in a school.  What has stunned folks is the fact that this took place in an elementary school and 20 of the victims were between the tender ages of 5 and 9.  No wonder President Obama could barely contain his composure when speaking to the nation yesterday.

The event has brought about a number of thoughts, so I decided to talk about all of them here in this post.

Facts vs. Facts.  Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein has gotten a big buzz from a post he wrote yesterday about the massacre.  He puts forth several statements complete with charts that he states as the facts concerning gun control.  One could look at these statements and take them as myth-busting truths.  Then you read someone on the other side of the debate, like Nick Gillespie who can produce facts and charts as well.  Is one of them lying?  Not necessarily.  It could be that both Klein and Gillespie are finding facts that fit their own bias.  What this shows is that we can’t really talk about this as if only one side has the facts while the other side is made up a liars.

Let’s Have a Conversation!  I’ve become a bit skittish when I hear people saying that we need to have a national conversation or debate on whatever issue.  My aspie brain tends to take this literally and I imagine people calmly sitting in some cafe in Buenos Aires discussing the pros and cons of gun control.  The reality is that having a conversation really means “My side is right and I want to tell everybody and I want the other side to shut up.”  Frankly, I wish people would stop saying they want a conversation when what they really want is to win or stop an argument.

Aspies: the Potential Psychopath Next Door.  Rod Dreher reacts to some news reports that the gunman in Newtown, 20 year-old Adam Lanza, might have had Aspergers.  Dreher, who has a son with Aspergers has this to say:

An aside to this: As most readers know, I have a son with Asperger’s, so it’s painful to read that Adam Lanza had Asperger’s — painful, not because we think that our son is more capable of this kind of thing than anybody else (and besides, it sounds like his Asperger’s is far less pronounced than Lanza’s), but because we know that we’re probably about to go through a phase in popular culture in which Aspie kids, who have a hard enough row to hoe, are going to be looked at as potential mass murderers. God help the Aspie boys and girls on the playground for the next few weeks.

I have a better idea now what American Muslims must have felt like after 9/11.

I totally agree with him.  Young boys with Aspergers are now going to be looked at as potential murderers- which is going to make their life more of a living hell than it already is.  It might not be any better for those of us who are adults with Aspergers.  So after going through life with people scared of big, tall black men like me, they can now be totally scared you-know-what by a big, tall and autistic black man.  Great.

More guns, more gun control.  Jeffery Goldberg, a writer for the Atlantic, wrote a fascinating piece in the current issue about guns in America.  You might expect that he would write about restricting guns, but he proposes the exact opposite, albeit with some controls.  Where so many give a black and white response, he is able to give a more nuanced answer that should be the course on how we deal with guns and gun violence.  Here’s a taste:

There are an estimated 280 million to 300 million guns in private hands in America—many legally owned, many not. Each year, more than 4 million new guns enter the market. This level of gun saturation has occurred not because the anti-gun lobby has been consistently outflanked by its adversaries in the National Rifle Association, though it has been. The NRA is quite obviously a powerful organization, but like many effective pressure groups, it is powerful in good part because so many Americans are predisposed to agree with its basic message.

America’s level of gun ownership means that even if the Supreme Court—which ruled in 2008 that the Second Amendment gives citizens the individual right to own firearms, as gun advocates have long insisted—suddenly reversed itself and ruled that the individual ownership of handguns was illegal, there would be no practical way for a democratic country to locate and seize those guns.

So, how does one of these gun-thingies work? As I was reading a post at the National Review website, a thought occurred to me: I really don’t understand guns.  I couldn’t tell you the difference between various styles of guns.  I never grew up around guns and when I did hear about them, it was mostly in negative terms.

I think that’s a problem.  A lot of the people who might support stricter gun laws know very little of guns.  All we might know is that guns shoot and tend to hurt people.  We don’t understand why people would want to go down to the shooting range and squeeze out a round of ammo.  How in the world can we ask to restrict something we might not really understand?

I’m thankful for folks like blogger Mike Dwyer, who is a hunter and has helped me see another side to guns than the side I grew up hearing about.  Dwyer is a “gun nut” as some might think, but a guy that likes to hunt and sees the good and bad of guns.  I think that’s important to remember: guns can be used for good as well as evil.

It’s Gonna Be a Blue Christmas. Being a pastor, there is a theological dimension to all of this.  The slaughter of ones so young brings to mind the story that’s told in Matthew 2.  King Herod, a puppet ruler installed by Rome, finds out there is a young child that is being called the King of the Jews.  Herod doesn’t like someone else sharing the spotlight with him, so he orders soldiers to go to the town of Bethlehem where Jesus was living with his parents.  The soldiers come in and kill every male child under the age of two.  In verse 18, we find this passage:

A voice was heard in Ramah,
weeping and much grieving.
Rachel weeping for her children,
and she did not want to be comforted,
because they were no more.

This passage is actually found in the book of Jeremiah, but the author of Matthew uses it here to highlight the horror of the event.  There is great sadness in Bethlehem among the mothers who cry in agony for their young ones who have been taken away from them.  We can only imagine there are many mothers in Newtown tonight who cry the same tears as those mothers in Bethlehem did oh so long ago.  Ross Douthat wrote in his Sunday column about how this tragedy and that tragedy so long ago, shed light on the meaning of the holiday season and the role of God in our lives:

It’s telling that Dostoyevsky, himself a Christian, offered no direct theological rebuttal to his character’s speech. The counterpoint to Ivan in “The Brothers Karamazov” is supplied by other characters’ examples of Christian love transcending suffering, not by a rhetorical justification of God’s goodness.

In this, the Russian novelist was being true to the spirit of the New Testament, which likewise seeks to establish God’s goodness through a narrative rather than an argument, a revelation of his solidarity with human struggle rather than a philosophical proof of his benevolence.

In the same way, the only thing that my religious tradition has to offer to the bereaved of Newtown today — besides an appropriately respectful witness to their awful sorrow — is a version of that story, and the realism about suffering that it contains.

That realism may be hard to see at Christmastime, when the sentimental side of faith owns the cultural stage. But the Christmas story isn’t just the manger and the shepherds and the baby Jesus, meek and mild.

The rage of Herod is there as well, and the slaughtered innocents of Bethlehem, and the myrrh that prepares bodies for the grave. The cross looms behind the stable — the shadow of violence, agony and death.

In the leafless hills of western Connecticut, this is the only Christmas spirit that could possibly matter now.

In a few days, I will lead what is called a “Blue Christmas” service.  These services have caught on in the last few years, to give space to those who might be greiving this time of year.  It’s easy to see Blue Christmas worship as kind of an outlier to a festive season, but I think Blue Christmas sums the entire season.  It is a time when we wait for deliverance and we find God with us as we suffer.  The coming of the Christ-child is a sign of God making room to stand with us in our suffering and through the cross to even suffer with us.

I don’t have easy answers right now.  And maybe nobody does.  All we can do is come together and hold each other, trusting that God is with us no matter what.

Conservatives Need Better PR

The Republican Party and the conservative movement in America doesn’t really have a diversity problem as some would have us believe.  The GOP can boast that it has several persons of color holding electoral office in the statehouse , the Senate and the House.  Former Secretary of State Condi Rice received cheers during the recent Republican National Convention in Tampa.

The party doesn’t have a diversity problem per se.  It most certainly does have an image problem.

The two most recent conflicts in the news: the flap over UN Ambassador Susan Rice and the defeat of a UN treaty on disabilities are not placing conservatives in a good light.  There might be good reasons to oppose Ms. Rice and the UN treaty, but those reasons, however sensible they may be, are getting trampled by the images of white men going after a black woman and someone in a wheelchair.

Let’s look at Ms. Rice first.  While I think Ms. Rice would make a poor choice for the State Department, I think the current campaign against her is foolish.  Why?  Because this is not a hill to die on.  Yes, she did make a big flub when it came to Libya, but take a step back and look at how people are seeing this.  When the average Joe is looking at this, there are probably a few folk who will see Senators McCain and Graham, two white men, and think that this has to be about race or because she is a woman.  Nevermind that two GOP women Senators have questions.  Nevermind that Republicans did endorse the nomination of Condi Rice to State.  Fair or unfair, what people will see is two aging white men going after a black woman and they will make judgements based on what they see.

People in the wider culture already view conservatives with suspicion.  Why on earth do you want  to add  fuel to the fire?

Now the treaty.  I understand that some of the concerns posed by UN treaties.  I also think they are a waste of time.  But there again, no one is going to think in those terms.  What they will see is a bunch of crazy, whackjobs who hate persons with disabilities.

A few weeks ago, Jim Geraghty  wrote about why conservative ideas are popular, but conservative people aren’t:

So why are Republicans so much less popular than their ideas? A ubiquitous accusation from their Democratic rivals, echoed by an allied media, is that Republicans lack empathy to the point of displaying sheer meanness. With Obama running up huge margins among various demographics — African-Americans, Hispanics, women, young people — the argument is that the GOP increasingly represents an aging, white, bitter, and angry rump of the electorate, lashing out nastily at a world changing too fast for them.

Conservatives need to be more aware of how things look to others.  Right now, the GOP is considered the party of bitter, white men.

There are times you need to fight a battle and times when you need to fall back and make plans.  It’s way past time for the GOP to spend less time on things like UN Treaties and to focus on burnishing their image with gays, African Americans, women and a host of other groups.  The image of being misanthropes is not a winning strategy.  When we have improved our diversity image, then maybe we can go after people like Susan Rice with more integrity.

 

Republicans Key to Same Sex Marriage Victories

The state I live in, Minnesota, was one of four states that voted on same sex marriage.  In Maine, Maryland and Washington, the vote was to allow same sex marriage.  In Minnesota it was to prevent a ban on same-sex marriage from being on the Minnesota constitution.  Walter Olson notes that in all four states, Republicans were key in voting for same sex marriage.  Here’s what he said about the Minnesota results:

In Minnesota, where voters were asked to ban same-sex marriage through a state constitutional amendment, precinct returns show that suburban Republicans broke from their party in droves to defeat the ban. According to the Pioneer Press of St. Paul, 47 towns around the Twin Cities area voted for Romney while opposing the measure, known as Amendment One. Exurban Scott County, the state’s fastest growing, narrowly turned down Amendment One, even as it gave Romney a comfortable 56.5 percent of its vote.

To be sure, rural parts of Minnesota saw ticket-splitting the other way, with some Democratic-leaning areas backing the marriage ban. But within commuting distance of the Twin Cities, the defections from the Republican line were deep and unmistakable. Romney won easily in such lakeside Hennepin County towns as Orono, Deephaven and Shorewood. Conventional wisdom would have them voting for the marriage ban as well — but they rejected Amendment One by 60 percent or more, an outcome that suggests a significant change in demographics and attitudes from even a decade ago.

 

It’s Obama’s World; We Just Happen to Live in It

Even though I blog about politics on occasion, I am not a strategist of some political mind.  I’m just a simple pastor in the heartland who is on the center right and shares what he happens to be thinking at the moment.

And what I see at the moment for the Republican Party reminds me of all those times I played chess with my friend Marty Visser 30 years ago.  We would get to a point where you were in checkmate.  There was no way that I could get out of the mess that I was in.  The only thing I could do is simply surrender, game over.

The GOP is bascially facing its own checkmate when it comes to the fiscal cliff.  Yes, the President’s “plan” is laughable and not even serious about balancing the budget.  However pleasing it might be to raise taxes on upper income Americans, the amount raised won’t pay for all the spending that is coming down the pike for Medicare, Social Security and Affordable Care Act.  Yes, Obama and the Dems tend to see compromise as nothing more than terms of surrender. And yes, I think the President and the Democrats took the low road in trashing Mitt Romney.

But the fact of the matter is, President Obama won and as conservatives like to say, elections have consequences.  The Democrats picked up more seats in both houses and the GOP has been weakened severely.  The reason the President came out with his non-plan is because he doesn’t have to give anything up.  He has all the cards and the GOP has none.  It’s not fair and I think this is part and parcel of the president not living up to his high sounding rhetoric, but again, he won and life isn’t fair and politics even less so.  Bill Kristol basically sums up the sorry state of Republicans in this post:

It’s also gradually sunk in that the GOP has lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections, and that the GOP has been thumped in three of the last four national contests (2006, 2008, and 2012). Since the end of the Cold War, the Republican party has had only two really good election days, in 1994 and in 2010. Those were both off-year victories in reaction to the mistakes of first-term Democratic presidents, and in neither case proved harbingers of presidential victory two years later.

Well, if the electoral scene isn’t pretty, maybe the legislative one is better? It’s true Republicans still control the House. But this turns out to be at best a mixed blessing. Because they’re in control, House Republicans are supposed to negotiate with the president on the budget and taxes. They’re united in scorning President Obama’s opening proposal. But what’s the GOP proposal for averting the fiscal cliff? There doesn’t seem to be one.

Might it be prudent for Republicans to acquiesce, for now, to a modified version of Obama’s proposal to keep current income tax rates the same for 98 percent of Americans, while also insisting on maintaining the reduced payroll tax rate of the last two years (see “The GOP’s Payroll Tax Opportunity” above) and reversing the dangerous defense sequester? That deal would be doable, wouldn’t wreck the country, and would buy Republicans time to have much needed internal discussion and debates about where to go next.

I tend to think this is the only option for the GOP.  Yes, Bob Corker has a fairly good plan, but frankly, it’s a day late and a dollar short.  The Democrats are not in a mood to be magnanimous.  They won, they know it and they thumb their noses at the losers.  I disagree with Kirstol that Obama’s plan won’t wreck the country, but again, elections have consequences.  In a democracy when the people speak, we need to adhere to their word.

Politics is very much like chess or even war.  There are times to charge forward, times to make alliances and times to retreat.  This is a time to retreat, not to charge ahead.  What needs to be done now is for the party to decide what it needs to do next.  Many on the center right have come up with various ideas, but there is no coherent idea much less a person.  This is a time for a strategic retreat to make battle plans for the future.

None of this means I think the Dems have better ideas.  In many ways what the President and the Democrats are selling is warmed over New Deal/Great Society stuff which is not taking place in the same economic milleu that allowed for such ideas to take root.  At some point, something in the future will expose their weak points.  But in the meantime, the Republicans needs to tend to their own weak points.  The GOP has to come up with ideas that really speak to the middle class, as well as to an America that is become more and more diverse.

If the GOP is smart, it will cave on this and let Obama have his win.  And then let the party decide how to come up with a better answer than the Dems.

“The Republican Party is Screwed”

Josh Barro:

Murphy urges Republicans to talk about “economic freedom.” But Mitt Romney did talk a lot about that, and middle-class voters weren’t impressed, because calls for lower taxes and less regulation are not responsive to their need for more jobs and higher wages. Murphy also urges “reform of government institutions like schools,” but that’s an issue for state and local officials.

In order to appeal to the broad middle-class, the party will have to adopt some economic policies that its big donors don’t want. As Ross Douthat points out on Twitter, that means Murphy may have picked the wrong side of the Republican schism: Social conservatives are more likely to signal openness to pro-middle class economic policies than the “hardheaded business types” who fund the party.

But social conservative interest in non-plutocratic economic policy looks awfully soft. When you look at the 2008 and 2012 Republican presidential primaries, social conservatives threw in their lot with the candidates pushing the most regressive economic policies. Mike Huckabee sounds good rhetorical notes about middle-class economic struggles, but he’s also a backer of the hugely regressive “Fair Tax.” While the donor base drives the Republican Party’s orthodoxy on economic policy, conservative activists are not exactly being dragged along — they, too, are opposed to pro-middle class policies.

The upshot is that the Republican Party is screwed: It’s in for a lot of infighting, but both sides of the party’s internal fight are committed to economic policies that are not saleable to the broader public.

As much as I don’t like to admit it, Josh is correct. I would probably fall on the side that Murphy represents and so would many Republicans that don’t care much about the social issues. But the problem isn’t just the social issues, it’s also the economic ones as well. The party is going to have to go through a wholesale makeover, not just a touchup. None of this means that the GOP becomes the diet version of the Democrats, but it does mean speaking to the economic realities Americans face in ways better than they are currently doing and in ways far better than what the Dems are selling. As Barro says in an earlier piece, conservatives are going to have to get used to talking about redistribution.

Republicans vs. African Americans, Part 2,225

I like to read Rod Dreher’s blog over at the American Conservative and occassionally  like to add my view points.  I’m guessing that I’m not provocative enough, because no one ever notices what I say.  One of this most recent posts is on Conservatives and Black Folk and it has set off a discussion or at least a shoutfest.  Below are my comments to his post.  I have to add that I get a little bit tired of this debate mostly because it engages in blaming each other.  Liberals and African Americans talk about how racist conservatives are and conservatives fire back about how useless it is to reach blacks, blah, blah, blah.  I really wish that both sides would put aside their egos and sit down and listen to each other.

As I read this post, I had to heave a heavy sigh, frankly because I’m tired of dealing with it.

From the viewpoint of this African American that voted for Romney, I have a few points.

First, while there have been some racially tinged rhetoric coming from conservatives, I don’t think that conservatives are automatically racist.

Second, while I don’t think conservativatism = racism, that is the bias that conservatives have to live with. The larger society thinks this and speaking from experience, it is hard to break free of a sterotype.

Third, conservatives aren’t racist, but when it comes to the concerns of African Americans, they tend to neglect us and focus on white people. During the election, the only visible time that Romney spoke to African Americans was at the NAACP convention and there he was denouncing Obamacare and not offering a viable alternative. Since many African Americans tend to be in a more precarious situation than whites when it comes to employment, that means we are more likely to lose health insurance, which means not going to the doctor and dealing with all the health issues that blacks deal with like high blood pressure and diabetes. Again, Romney wasn’t racist, but in talking about repealing Obamacare and offering nothing in its place made African Americans think that the GOP doesn’t care about them.

Fourth, while Rod is correct that African Americans won’t ever become a major part of the GOP coalition, it really doesn’t need to get every vote, it just needs to get enough votes. In the 50-50 nation we live in, what matters is getting enough votes from different groups to eke a victory. The GOP will never get the majority of black votes, but if it can make in-roads; say make it a goal to get 15-20%, then you might make a difference.

Fifth, conservatives have to do more than what I call “showroom diversity.” You see this every four years at the convention when a number of persons of color speak at at the podium. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if there are very few delegates on the floor that match the diversity at the podium, then you aren’t going to get the attention of African Americans.

Sixth, the GOP has to actually go to black communities and listen to African Americans. Hear about our lives and what we think we need. The party doesn’t have to pander to us, but they need to tailor conservative ideas to the lives of black folks. I’m sorry, but a tax cut ain’t gonna help.

Finally, conservatives as a whole need to stop unintentional race baiting. Let me explain. After the Trayvon Martin incident, there was a lot of press in the conservative media about that insinuated that Martin was nothing but a thug. While there might have been no racist intent, to African Americans, especially those with sons, it seemed that conservatives were going after black men. I can tell you as a black man, I’ve been looked at as something to fear when in reality I’m about as harmless as a bunny rabbit. There were ways of talking about this without slandering a dead black kid. When such things happen, other conservatives need to speak up and set the record straight. You can’t just ignore it or act like it wasn’t a big deal because to blacks it is.

That’s my two cents.

Rand Paul and the GOP Future

From Mike Dwyer:

The key for the GOP to move forward is not a national mea culpa where they beg forgiveness for being too rigid in the past. The point is to begin to move forward on the issues conservatives can support and on others, same-sex marriage being the most obvious, conservatives need to quietly begin to withdraw their opposition…

Senator Paul seems to understand that.

Dirty, Rotten Republicans?

Jim Geraghty of National Review opines that conservative ideas won on November 6, but conservative candidates, not so much.  Why?  Because they come off as mean:

Conservative ideas, though, won in distinctly Democratic-leaning states once the word “Republican” was no longer associated with them. In Michigan, where Obama won handily, a push to enshrine collective-bargaining rights in the state constitution was roundly defeated, 58 to 42 percent. In California, voters rejected a proposition to repeal the death penalty, rejected mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods, and also rejected Proposition 38, which would have added funding to education and early-childhood programs by raising taxes on those making as little as $75,000 a year. In Virginia, voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment making it tougher for the state government to seize private property under eminent domain — while Romney and George Allen were losing statewide.

So why are Republicans so much less popular than their ideas? A ubiquitous accusation from their Democratic rivals, echoed by an allied media, is that Republicans lack empathy to the point of displaying sheer meanness. With Obama running up huge margins among various demographics — African-Americans, Hispanics, women, young people — the argument is that the GOP increasingly represents an aging, white, bitter, and angry rump of the electorate, lashing out nastily at a world changing too fast for them.

More:

At a recent conservative gathering, one well-known pundit exclaimed, “Why can’t I marry my cat?”

Now, think about how this argument sounds to any gay or lesbian or to anyone who loves them — to their mothers, fathers, brothers, and friends. It takes a consensual relationship that more and more Americans see practiced by their friends, neighbors, and relatives and equates it with criminal acts, among the most reviled in our society. Put another way, if some jerk in a bar came up and compared your relationship to your spouse to bestiality, you would probably be sorely tempted to knock his teeth out.

Are gays and lesbians welcome in the GOP or conservative movement? Arguments and jokes like that send the signal they aren’t.

To a lot of people outside the party, this is pretty obvious, but it is good to see someone within the GOP (and not a moderate “squish”) say this.

Demographics or the Red Social Model

Within a few moments of knowing President Obama had secured the 270 electoral votes needed to win a second term, the explanations and recriminations had begun.  The two that bubbled up to the surface were demographics and social issues.  People saw this victory as proof that the new minority-majority America that we have been told was coming finally arose.  This meant the dawn a new Democratic era where the the GOP would be reduced to regional rump of a party.

The other issue that came to fore was the party’s views on same sex marriage and abortion rights.  If only they were able to pass an immigration bill to please Latinos or support same sex marriage, well, the party would be saved.

Now, being a gay African American/Puerto Rican such talk should be music to my ears.  After all, I am the mythical diverse voter that the GOP needs.  But this mythical voter doesn’t think making a few changes such immigration reform or allowing my partner and I to legally wed will bring salvation to the party of Lincoln.

First off, it’s not like the GOP is openly hostile to minorities.  The George W. Bush Adminstration placed not one but two African Americans in the positon of Secretary of State.  The 2012 GOP convention in Tampa had the likes of Marco Rubio, Susanna Martinez and Condaleeza Rice as speakers.  A racist political party would not have such people speaking in front of them.  As for the gay issue, the party has been making some halting moves towards inclusion.  Lost in the headlines was the fact that an openly gay Republican ran for a House seat in Massachusetts.

Diversity is important, and I do think there is room for improvement.  But demographics is only the dessert to a bigger issue: the economy.

It’s easy to get more black folk up on the dais of a convention to speak; it’s a lot harder to figure out how to help people in a changing economy.

Walter Russell Mead has talked about the disintergration of the blue social model.  For those who don’t know that phrase, it talks about the guiding rule of American Society from the New Deal onward.  Here’s how Mead describes the model:

The blue model rested on the post-Second World War industrial and economic system.  The ‘commanding heights’ of American business were controlled by a small number of monopolistic and oligopolistic firms.  AT&T, for example, was the only serious telephone company in the whole country, and both the services it offered and the prices it could charge were tightly regulated by the government.  The Big Three car-makers had a lock on the car market; in the halcyon days of the blue model there was no foreign competition.  A handful of airlines divided up the routes and the market; airlines could not compete by offering lower prices or by opening new routes without special government permission.  Banks, utilities, insurance companies, trucking companies had their rates and, essentially, their profit levels set by federal regulators.

The stable economic structure allowed a stable division of the pie.  Workers (much more heavily unionized then than now) got steady raises and stable jobs.  The government got a stable flow of tax revenues.  Shareholders got reasonably steady dividends.

This system was all about security and stability.  This was the system my mother and father encountered when the arrived in Michigan from Puerto Rico and Louisiana  respectively.  You got a job at one of the Big Three automakers and you were set.

But life started change in Michigan and the rest of the nation in the 70s.  Mead notes:

The blue model began to decay in the seventies.  Foreign producers began to erode the market share of lazy, sclerotic American firms–like the Big Three automakers.  The growth of offshore financial markets forced the financial services industry to become more flexible as both borrowers and lenders were increasingly able to work around the regulations and the oligopolies of the domestic market.  Demand for new communications services created an appetite for competition against Ma Bell.  The consumer movement attacked regulations that were clearly designed to protect companies; Teddy Kennedy was a cosponsor of the bill to deregulate the airlines.  Anti-corporate liberals rebelled at the way government power and regulation was being used to allow corporations to give their consumers the shaft.

As the old system dissolved, companies had to become more flexible.  As industry became more competitive, private sector managers had to shed bureaucratic habits of thought.  Lifetime employment had to go.  Productive workers had to be lured with high pay.  The costs of unionization grew; in the old days, government regulators simply allowed unionized firms to charge higher prices to compensate them for their higher costs.  The collapse of the regulated economy (plus the rise of foreign competition from developing countries) made unions unsustainably expensive in many industries.

 

If you haven’t already guessed, this system was powerful during the years of Democratic party dominance.  As that system started to decay, the Dems started to lose power.

As this old model is passing by, there has not been a response from the Republicans.  There has been no Red Social Model. When people look to the party for answers on how to deal with the new economic uncertainty, they get an odd response about lowering taxes- an answer that seems to fit all situations.

I think that’s the reason the GOP lost so big this year.  Yes. the President hasn’t done much and the economy is still in the doldrums.  He hasn’t really told the public what he will do in his second term.  But when people looked to the GOP for an alternative, they found…nothing.  The voting public would rather go with the devil they knew.

Take for example health care.  People are not crazy with Obamacare.  The GOP latched on to that and used to make big gains in the 2010 midterms.  Mitt Romney said one the first actions as President would be to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

But as much as people didn’t like the President’s plan, at least it was a plan compared to…..well, nothing on the Republican side.

In his weekly column, Ross Douthat explains that middle class Americans are facing economic pressures and are not finding good answers from the GOP:

What the party really needs, much more than a better identity-politics pitch, is an economic message that would appeal across demographic lines — reaching both downscale white voters turned off by Romney’s Bain Capital background and upwardly mobile Latino voters who don’t relate to the current G.O.P. fixation on upper-bracket tax cuts.

As the American Enterprise Institute’s Henry Olsen writes, it should be possible for Republicans to oppose an overweening and intrusive state while still recognizing that “government can give average people a hand up to achieve the American Dream.” It should be possible for the party to reform and streamline government while also addressing middle-class anxieties about wages, health care, education and more.

The good news is that such an agenda already exists, at least in embryonic form. Thanks to four years of intellectual ferment, Republicans seeking policy renewal have a host of thinkers and ideas to draw from: Luigi Zingales and Jim Pethokoukis on crony capitalism,Ramesh Ponnuru and Robert Stein on tax policy, Frederick Hess on education reform,James Capretta on alternatives to Obamacare, and many more.

The bad news is that unlike a pander on immigration, a new economic agenda probably wouldn’t be favorably received by the party’s big donors, who tend to be quite happy with the Republican Party’s current positioning.

In light of the disintergrating blue social model, there needs to be a red social model to come and fill its place.  People want to know how they can pay for college or have some kind of health care even if they lose their job.  The GOP circa 2012 couldn’t find an answer to give the people and they chose accordingly.

Becoming a bit more diverse is a good thing, but in this post-civil rights era, is not as pressing as some have made it out to be.  What really matters to the middle class family in the suburbs and the single mom in the inner city is how to keep their heads above the raging economic waters.

Trying to answer these “bread and butter” issues will take some time.  But I think if the GOP can find away to address the anxieties of millions of Americans, they might have a shot of having the chance to govern again.

On Dick Lugar

Pejman Yousefzadeh, offers words of praise for the defeated GOP Senator:

Let it be conceded–as though it has to be–that Dick Lugar never had any particular right to be re-nominated to another term in the United States Senate by Indiana’s Republican voters. Let it also be conceded–as though it has to be–that Richard Mourdock had every right to run against him, and won fair and square. He simply ran the better campaign, and 2012 simply wasn’t Dick Lugar’s year.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that I was ever in favor of targeting Lugar for defeat. In fact, quite the contrary; I had hoped that he would be able to prevail over Mourdock. Lugar is a highly experienced senator in the best sense of the term. He is a responsible and thoughtful legislator, he understands that in order to get things done in Congress–and yes, sometimes one ought to want to get things done in Congress–one has to be prepared to deal with the other side of the aisle, and he has tremendous expertise when it comes to foreign affairs, and national security.

He wasn’t the most conservative senator around, but he was no liberal, and could scarcely be called a moderate. Ronald Reagan used to say that the person who agreed with him 4 times out of 5 was an 80% friend, not a 20% enemy. Dick Lugar may not have reached 80%, but being a nearly 70% friend is not half bad, and is little cause for an insurrection.

 

Meanwhile Tom Van Dyke saw good riddance to man who consorted with Democrats:

Want to blame Republicans for spending like drunken Kennedys during the GWB era? Dick Lugar’s your man, what was wrong with the GOP, except he’s a “moderate,” so he gets a pass.

No longer, though. If the GOP is going to win elections, it’s going to win them fair and square with real Republicans, not fake ones.

Mebbe it was Sen. Lugar’s fronting for the execrable “Law of the Sea ” treaty that reduces the United Steezy into just another arm of the Euroweinie enviro-diplomatic complex. My jingoistic self is thoroughly appalled. I wouldn’t give you two cents for the rest of the world combined over the United States of America.

So call me pisher.

In any case, the 80-yr-old Sen. Lugar’s brand of Republicanism has had its day, where any “moderation” is a demerit on the GOP record and any guts are proof of the GOP’s “extremism.”

It’s not win-win mugwumpery, it’s a lose-lose Rockefeller Republicanism where the critics nail the GOP either way, coming or going.

If the GOP is to reform, and it must—it got no credit for GWB’s Democrat-lite “compassionate conservatism”—it’s to be as the adult alternative to Barack Obama’s “Audacity of Hope” and Dick Lugar’s Audacity of Professional Politicianism, where there’s little difference between Pin the Tail on the Donkey and Find the Elephant in the Room.

Myself, I would echo Pejman.  While I think Lugar stayed way past his time, he represented a gentlemanly conservatism that was resolutely Republican, but willing to deal with the other side in order to get things done.

As for Van Dyke’s too-cute-by half post mocking Lugar; well, one wonders how much a real Republican you have to be to get his approval.  Lugar was never really considered a Rockefeller Republican like many of the Northeastern Republicans, so his painting Lugar as one is a sign of how far the goal posts have moved in considering who is a Republican and who is not.

Richard Murdock may well make a good Senator, standing up for conservative values.  But part of being a politician is to be able to govern as well.  Will Murdock be able to work with Democrats when the need arises?  We shall see.