Friday, January 12, 2007

Friday, December 08, 2006

The Turtles Among Us

Just thought I might point people in Royce's direction. He's thinking about it.

On recommendation, I'm reading R.W. Emerson because sometimes the only reason we do, produce, love these things is to chance upon writing a string of words that we never thought possible. I'm all about Providence; I think that might have something to do with transcendence, perhaps; although experiencing Rudolph with a quirky middle child on the cusp of adolescence can be equally transcendent, provided the BlackBerrys are in the drawer

I don't have one, not enough email, I'm not really consequential in a transactional sort of way. I just thought the WSJ article was somewhat sad. But there’s always stuff that comes between children & parents, sub any substance/item that can spur obsessive & compulsive behavior -- like blogging. And with an ironic eye, we can turn back to Royce our Libertarian, friend in absentia, and wonder if the kid(s) (sorry M'ville, it's not going to change) gave you a sideways glance that said it all. Mine have.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Since this blog is my own unique form of relevant irrelevance, I thought it might be nice to go over a few rules for kindergarten. From Mrs. Pohlmeyer’s Kindergarten webpage:
We are always good listeners.
We are helpers, not hurters.
We are walkers, not runners.
We are builders, not breakers.
We are talkers, not shouters.
We are quiet workers, not players.

Friday, November 17, 2006

What did he do?

The reemergence of Newt as political guru is not all together true, he’s always been around just a little verklempt during the DeLay years. Who wasn't? The Gay Patriot -- yes a conservative homosexual, there are still a few left under the big tent -- had this to say about the demise of the Republican Congressional Majority.

If there was one event which would serve as a harbinger of the Republican Congress' retreat from its Reaganite principles and defeat in last week's election, it was the 1994 election for majority whip. After the Republicans won the a majority in the House for the first time in forty years, Pennsylvania's Robert S. Walker, then-incoming House Speaker Newt Gingrich's best friend, "was initially favored to win the contest." But, Tom DeLay, having raised money for many of the newly elected Republicans that year, won 52 votes out of the 73 GOP freshmen in the 104th Congress.

And while DeLay was an effective whip, he was less interested in advancing conservative ideas than was Walker. Five years before his election as Whip, he "managed the campaign" of then-Minority Leader Robert Michel's choice for party whip, Edward Madigan against Newt Gingrich. That is, he supported the status quo against "the forces of change."

By contrast, Walker was, with Gingrich, one of the founding members of the Conservative Opportunity Society (COS), a group of House Republicans committed to building on the ideas of Ronald Reagan to build a Republican majority. While committed to the principles which animated the party, the COS was often at odds with the House GOP leadership.

Perhaps had Walker won that election, he might have helped the GOP stand true to the principles he had long promoted. Instead, Tom DeLay sought to retain Republican power by the means the Democrats has used when they were in the majority, building alliances with lobbyists and using earmarks to set-aside pork for the districts of the various representatives. So brazen had DeLay been in pursuit of this agenda that he even set up a web site for his K Street Project, a program which demanded that "lobbying firms seeking access hire loyal Republicans."

Whereas Gingrich and Walker built a Republican majority by appealing to the conservative ideas which had been -- and still are* -- gaining increasing favor with the American people, DeLay sought to maintain that majority by traditional political means. But, losing sight of principle and relying on "traditional political means" made corruption all the easier. And corruption had a significant impact in last week's GOP loss. As Karl Rove put it in an interview with Time's Mike Allen:

The profile of corruption in the exit polls was bigger than I'd expected. . . . Abramoff, lobbying, Foley and Haggard [the disgraced evangelical leader] added to the general distaste that people have for all things Washington, and it just reached critical mass.

(Via OpinionJournal Political Diary (available by subscription).) Too focused on maintaining their power, House Republicans became cozy with the establishment they had been elected to confront.

And Democrats won this year largely by running against that establishment.

As House Speaker-designate Pelosi supports a man which one left-wing group calls "one of the most unethical members in Congress, Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), to be Majority Leader of the House of Representatives" and backs an impeached federal judge for head of the House Intelligence Panel, it appears she is willing to embrace the corrupt establishment against which her party so recently -- and successfully -- ran.

But, if my party wishes to recapture the majority, it won't be enough just to run against the new majority's casual attitude toward corrupt leaders, our party must return to the principles Gingrich and Walker so effectively championed in the early 1990s. House leadership elections matter. Bob Walker's loss in 1994 all but guaranteed that the Republicans would lose twelve years hence. … (read the rest)

Anyway, I suppose people are looking at Newt’s long term effort to move the House of Representatives from Democrat to Republican control and trying to glean a few ideas on how to make that happen It’ll happen, perhaps not as fast as some people might like and it’ll certainly depend upon how the pols adjust to their new roles.

If Republicans don’t get over the internal fights and open the party up to more people & policy ideas, and not just for votes and free labor -- really open the culture up so people with slightly different points of view actually feel welcome and not like interlopers -- then it’s going to be a really long time in the wild (I can say this until my head bleeds, but somehow I don’t think it matters.)

If Democrats choose to overreach and decide to spend oodles of money and reinvent whole sections of government, then their’s will be a short-lived majority. Their pandering to public employees and agenda to grow government, highlighted in Culver’s speech nixing any pay-for-performance legislation, is out of touch with what voters want. And without much practice in the art of crafting center-oriented policy this could be the first of many Democratic dives into a shallow pool.

This election was not a referendum on Democrat or Republican core philosophical beliefs; rather, it was an opportunity for voters to give the ill-behaved Republicans a spanking. Voters went around spanking every GOP political culture that could be painted as corrupt regardless of the facts. (I think I might have given fair warning to a Krusty fan back in January that voters might consider heavy-handed legislating on behalf of lobbyist friends to be a problem, oops.) So, we’ve given the reins of power to the Democratic “he did it” finger pointers and it’s a guess how long the anti-Bush & anti-Republican rhetoric minus a solid governing agenda will appeal to voters.

Newt’s big phrase is “real change”, he uses that term constantly -- a sobriquet of sorts -- as a reference point to transmit the idea that this is about breaking bad habits that work against achieving innovative, populist & progressive conservative policy. Not that easy. We all become comfortable in our habits and even with a Newt inspired “ah ha” moment change doesn’t often follow. It’s too easy to slip back into old patterns.

What are the old patterns?

Politics that lack a certain voter recognized humility. Why do you think Jim Leach is beloved by so many voters? This doesn’t mean that you can’t be confrontational or tough minded, but it does require minority members to practice being inclusive and respectful of a variety of opinions. The last thing Republicans need is a minority that can’t hear the whispers and adjust accordingly. That said, once Republicans have reasserted their integrity & humility, taking principled stands on issues will resonate with voters.

Political parties that overly indulge their far right/left members, the fringe is on the edge for a reason. The fact that Bush signed the fence legislation late one evening and without funding speaks volumes about the Republicans discomfort with their far right members. Republicans have too many elected officials mired in small-minded issues that push the caucus way right. Steve King has never pulled in the same level of voter support as Greg Ganske or Tom Latham. In county after county, Steve King underperforms in the most Republican district in Iowa; counties that Ganske & Latham held by 69% (Audubon) & 70% (Carroll) King held onto with only 50%, that’s a twenty-point loss in six years. When you're in the minority, politics rewards calculated risk takers with reasonable voice and not hyper-partisan combatants like DeLay & King.

Political parties that neglect to stick to their core values and fly off on spending and/or policy tangents based on leadership whims are bound to disengage their base. Stick the whole earmark habit under this one and call it “‘nuff said”.

There are probably more habitual patterns to dissect and ultimately break, but I think these are the biggies. Republicans need to practice a little self-reflection and then embrace real change, while the Democrats need to hold on to their centrist spin and hope Republicans take their time in the wilderness.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Post Election, Part II

As one side gets down to the business of governing, the other side is still ruminating in that kind of old man in a moth eaten sweater & smelly chair with an odd fixation for keeping time with a clicker: on, off, on, off, on off…. – yeah, it’s a little sad – about what happened.

Despite some new post-election angst about the GOP early voting and absentee program -- which really should read “Gurr, if we had only figured out how to co-opt more volunteer time early on to collect old people's votes before the Mark Foley scandal broke, we would still be in control of something!?” -- Republicans are just starting to sort the mess. I’ll take the Broder analysis on this one:

Never was a political wipeout better advertised in advance than the one that hit the Republican Party on Tuesday and cost Don Rumsfeld his job. From the first of my political soundings in the Midwest in early spring, it was clear that the public's frustration with the war in Iraq, the inept performance of the Bush administration after Hurricane Katrina, and the stunning partisanship and tawdriness of the Republican Congress was reaching explosive levels.

When Congress quit work without addressing immigration, energy prices or health-care inflation in any serious way, the majority Republicans were clearly asking for trouble. And the scandals that kept erupting just added to the public disgust. …

…The Republican Party paid a heavy price for Bush and Rove's obduracy -- and for the miserable performance of the GOP congressional leadership. The vaunted Republican "base," on which the White House has relied to support the president's agenda, splintered on Election Day. In exit polls, one-fifth of self-described Republicans and three out of 10 white evangelicals or "born-again" Christians said they voted Democratic for Congress.

Meanwhile, independents and moderates went Democratic by margins of 18 and 23 points, respectively. Democrats broadened their coalition, winning the cities and splitting even in suburbs and rural areas, while capturing majorities in all age groups and every income level up to $100,000 a year. That same range is reflected in the expanded Democratic caucuses in the House and Senate, with notable victories from New Hampshire to Arizona.

At some point, Iowa political types will sit down and seriously look at what happened last Tuesday. Both Democrats and Republicans need to evaluate how much of the Washington meme affected the political outcomes in this state, and what happens when we take away the Washington problem in the next election. For Republicans the challenge is a little easier, self-reflection is often a natural outcome of defeat, of course always more pleasant when tempered with humor (see this Weekly Standard list for inspiration). The Democrats are in a more precarious situation; they must ramp up and govern leaving little time to reflect on why they have arrived, and that’s troublesome for a Party known for its love of government programs and taxes. To wit: a story in today’s Iowa Press Citizen confirms the Democrats balancing act.

In a meeting with area legislators, the Iowa City Council discussed changing the property tax system as a way to generate more money for city services.

Condominiums, taxed at a lower rate than commercial properties, would provide a significant amount of tax dollars to the city's general fund if they were classified as residential (i.e. apartments), city councilors said. …

… Bolkcom, meanwhile, said Iowa's budget deficit could require some belt-tightening. He said the upcoming year will be "fairly austere" and will result in legislators taking a more "pragmatic" and cautious approach to funding.

However, Bolkcom, Jacoby and Dvorsky also expressed optimism that solutions could be found because of the new Democratic majority in the Legislature.

Other legislative priorities listed by City Council include:

• Advocating for increased funding for the Iowa State Housing Trust Fund to make affordable housing more available.

• Maintaining control over local cable franchise to better endorse public television.

• Giving city government the power to increase its hotel/motel tax.

• Allowing home rule so local governments can determine their own public smoking regulation.

• Eliminating the tax break for licenses on pickup trucks that originally was intended to benefit farmers.

I am sure the Iowa City Council’s legislative agenda looks like a number of other Democratic constituencies’ wish lists – most all revolving around more money and more taxes. That cannot add up to a winning campaign theme in two years.

Friday, November 10, 2006

On The Issues

A new website to check out that tracks the direct quotes of public and political leaders. You can search by name, by topic and/or by geography. It's user friendly & fun...well, not so fun if you happen to be a presidential candidate with a variety of positions on a couple of key issues that might offend some "base".

When will all of this irrational political litmus-testing end?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


I think they call this a sea change election. Whether the change is directed towards some new set of priorities & goals or a reaction to the perceived dysfunction is certainly speculative.

The analysis is as varied as the audience: netroots keying in their progressive self important take (that’s unexpected); the Republican establishment minimizing and making nice; and the somewhat startled appearing Democrats with their hesitant sound bites designed not to spook the center -- which has absolutely no idea what ticket they just punched.

It is punched. For the next two years, at least, we'll be treated to a mish-mash of liberal lite and union-speak emblematic in priority number one: raising the minimum wage. Culver & legis Democrats gravitated to this safe, poll tested issue to stake out their early leadership ground. I assume Democrats will stick to their poll tested issues for quite some time, no need to tempt fate and end up back in the minority too soon.

On the other hand, Republicans have a few things to learn about successfully maneuvering in the minority. Do they simply take contrarian positions despite public opinion or will they learn quickly to take Democratic priorities and reconfigure the policy goal using universal Republican principles of lower taxes and less government.

I suppose we’ll have at least two years to find out.

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