Sometimes distance provides perspective. My travels meant that, rather than being enveloped by news as I usually am, I read it only intermittently, and often through the New York Times’ filter, since that was the only news to which I had access for many days at a time. The few stories I was able to follow put me strongly in mind of the Gettysburg Address, and how far away from those principles our current government has come. Some of this is directly attributable to the current Democrat presidency, and some is an unpleasant by-product of a bureaucracy that has taken on a life of its own, independent of its creators’ ideas and energies.
Lincoln’s genius was that he was able to reduce to the smallest number of words the revolutionary principles that drove the Founding Fathers, as expressed in both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution: “We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Do we still have a government “of the people, by the people [and] for the people?” No. Our political and bureaucratic classes no longer believe that the people have anything to do with their continued existence (that is, they do not view themselves as parts of a government “by the people”); they do not believe that they have anything in common with the people whose lives they dictate (in other words, they are not part of a government “of the people”); and nothing they do benefits the people who are trapped in their web of laws and regulations (so that they are not part of a government “for the people”).
America has ceased to be a representative democracy and has, instead, become an oligarchy: We, the People, are controlled by a proportionately small number of people who claim all entitlement to themselves and who, through laws, lawlessness, and unbridled bureaucracy (with a bureaucracy made up of people entirely beholden to the oligarchy for their continued well-being), control every aspect of our lives. This oligarchy is separate from and unrelated to the constitutional, representative democracy Lincoln believed was the necessary underpinning for a nation “conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
A handful of stories upon my return forcefully brought home the vast chasm that has formed between “we, the People” and those who no longer represent us but who, instead, simply govern us.
1. The people have long loathed ObamaCare, and by a significant and unchanging percentage too. Even the President’s water carriers are getting nervous. Those charged with enforcing it against us will not use it for themselves, nor will those who imposed it upon us. It is a product of the oligarchy, with the benefits, but not the burdens, flowing solely to the oligarchy. It was imposed upon the People, not through a true democratic process, but through dirty political dealing. This is neither government by the people nor for the people.
2. Despite the stagnant economy, the high unemployment, the rise of part-time jobs (i.e., no living wage), the number of young people stuck at home, and the continuing bankruptcy of our country’s business and economy, our President and his family continue to live like Nero or Marie Antoinette. The Nero analogy was most recently demonstrated with the story that Obama is golfing while the world burns down around us. The Marie Antoinette analogy can be seen in the endless round of A-list partying and multi-millionaire style vacations the Obamas enjoy, using our money (White House facilities for parties, taxpayer-funded air transport and security for offsite pleasures), even as ordinary citizens struggling to make ends meet. Obama, however, is worse than either Nero or Marie Antoinette, or any other analogous political figures (both historic and present day) who rob from the people to fund their lavish personal lifestyles. This is because Obama is the only one of these figures who is — in theory, at least, an elected representative who is supposed to be only first among equals. Obama’s grandiosity, however, shows that he no longer considers himself one of the people. Worse, he is abetted in this historic break from a constitutional presidency by a ruling political and media class that has a vested economic and social interest in breaking with a constitutional republican democracy.
3. The current government has abandoned the notion that government belongs to the people (“of, by, and for”) and holds, instead, the belief that the people and everything that they possess belong to the government. Rep. Keith Ellison, a black, Muslim convert who is a darling of the Left, articulated this sentiment with startling clarity: “The bottom line is we’re not broke, there’s plenty of money, it’s just the government doesn’t have it. . . . The government has a right, the government and the people of the United States have a right to run the programs of the United States. Health, welfare, housing – all these things.” Government unions are a subset of this mindset. In private industries, both management and the unions are negotiating with real money, real products, and real labor. In the government sector, they negotiate with other people’s money regarding intangible products and services that are of dubious value. (Think about the fact that California alone has more than 500 different agencies, a spectacular percentage of which are duplicative, and an even larger number of which do not serve the California taxpayers, but instead are directed at steering special interest groups into the government fold.)
4. The bureaucracy has become an entity of itself. It is no longer a subset of American government. It is its own special interest group, and it advances its own agenda. This fact can be attributed in significant part to government unions which, as noted above, sever government employees from the Peoples’ economic and practical needs. Moreover, as the IRS scandal shows, the government bureaucracies no longer need political guidance to go after citizens who have the potential to disrupt their bureaucratic livelihood. With little or no prompting from the political class, the bureaucracies abandoned their obligation to impose the law impartially and, instead, attacked what they perceived as threats. If this seems familiar to you, you have only to think of innumerable science fiction books or movies (e.g., Terminator III), in which robots become sentient and turn on their human creators.
5. Our next election is already predetermined. Sadly, Myrna Adams makes the best argument for why Hillary Clinton will win in 2016 — and you’ll notice that none of her points have anything whatsoever to do with the will of the people or the state of America and the world, either now or in 2016. Instead, Adams points to the political machinery which has broken down, with the dial perpetually set to “Democrat.” Neither Hillary’s and her teams’ lack of any accomplishments to speak of nor the fact that Hillary herself is an undistinguished and inspiring human being will matter. The oligarchy, made up of politicians, monied interests, government bureaucracies, media players, and academics, has spoken. It’s Hillary’s turn now. After all, in 2008 and again in 2012, Obama was a candidate without accomplishments or, when off the teleprompter, charisma. The robots — er, oligarchs . . . er, political class . . . er, media — anointed him and he won. “We, the People” — our needs, desires, and existence — have become entirely expendable.
In the next election, democracy will be just as meaningful as it was in the old Soviet Union when 100% of the voters “freely” cast their votes for the Communist party candidate. The Soviet Union was a nominal democracy in that the people “voted,” but it totally by-passed Lincoln’s requirement that a government worth saving must be “of the people, by the people, [and] for the people” in order to ensure that a nation “conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal” shall not “perish from the earth.”
An increasing number of Marin residents vote by mail (more than 65% in the last election). I know I’m one because, when the kids were little, there was always the chance that I might forget that it was election (at least for off-season elections) or that a sick child could keep me away from the polls even if I did remember. I still vote by mail now, simply because I am forgetful and I lose track of time. I usually fill the ballot out on election day and drop it off at my local polling station. My mom votes by mail because her mobility is limited.
My mom and I represent the good reasons for voting by mail. Here’s the really bad thing about absentee voting: The absenteeballots go out very early. When those people who are not procrastinators receive them, they vote immediately and pop the completed ballot in the mail. Very efficient, but it also means that these busy bees deny themselves the opportunity to see how things play out in the weeks and days leading to the election. They’ve essentially locked themselves into a vote they may deeply regret when there’s an October surprise. Of course, if they’re die-hard whatevers, it’s unlikely that their vote will change unless something absolutely shocking occurs right before the election. Unlikely, but still possible….
These aren’t just idle ruminations. The Marin County grand jury has proposed that, to save the county significant sums of money, everyone must vote by mail:
The grand jury, in a report released last week, suggests that moving to an entirely mail ballot election could save the county hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“The Elections Department estimates that an election in Marin County costs about $1 million. If Marin County were to go to 100 percent vote-by-mail, the Elections Department estimates that the county would save between $100,000 and $200,000 per election,” the report states.
Members of the grand jury think it might lead to a more involved electorate. I think the opposite will happen: People who wouldn’t normally vote by absentee ballot will lose their ballots in their in-boxes. Then, on election day, when their only choice to to drive up to the Civil Center if they want to cast their vote, they’ll just blow it off — at least if they’re in the comfortable Democrat majority. (Hey, maybe this mail-in-ballot thing is a good idea, after all….)
What I’m worried about is that converting the system to one that’s only by mail-in ballot somehow corrupts voting by moving it so far forward from an actual election day that we create a disengaged voter who just votes along party lines without any regard to late-breaking data (or even the possibility of late-breaking data). In Marin, it really doesn’t matter, given the 65%+ Democrat majority, but it seems to me that this is important in swing-vote counties, where late-breaking information can change people’s minds.
What do you think?
Does anyone study Edna St. Vincent Millay anymore? I don’t recall reading her at school myself, but I’ve always liked this little rhyme:
My candle burns at both ends
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends –
It gives a lovely light.
I’m hoping my candle lasts the night, but I have to admit to being tired. Lord alone knows how, but my candle ended up with more than just two ends. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been working full time, interrupted by taking my Mom to the doctor, playing host to my sister for several days (she was a lovely guest), taking care of my family, and having surgery. Pretty soon I’m going to develop some sort of dissociative disorder, because I’m functioning only by convincing myself that I’m having out-of-body experiences, and that it’s not really me trying to juggle all this stuff.
I know this will all get easier. My surgery is a thing of the past, my sister’s delightful visit is over, and the Mr. Conservative work is pacing itself better, but I still have this kind of vibrating anxiety following me around, since the clock is definitely not my friend. I keep waiting for some deux ex machina to emerge abruptly from backstage and save me from myself.
One of the things I haven’t had time for is leisurely blog and online newspaper reading. I’ve been so busy chasing specific headlines, I haven’t pursued my own interests. In a way, it’s rather nice, because the objects of my interest depress me. I do believe that the Obama administration has reached its tipping point. The bloom is off the rose, the media is no longer protecting him for the next election, and his sins (and his administration’s) are starting to find him out. Still, considering how powerful he is, I worry that his downfall will also be our downfall.
So let’s talk about something more cheerful (perhaps) than Obama.
What do you think of Rand Paul and Ted Cruz?
I have to admit that I am finding Rand Paul very intriguing. The same goes for Ted Cruz. I’ve promised myself that I won’t fall in love with a potential candidate this early in the game, but I’m certainly keeping an eye on these two. Ted Cruz is the intellectual side of the new conservativism, one that is somewhat libertarian in nature, while Rand Paul is the theatrical side. I tend to lean libertarian, but I disliked Ron Paul’s patent Israel hatred. Rand Paul has gone out of his way to try to show that he’s a friend to Israel. I don’t know if this is what he truly feels or a clever theatrical posture, but it’s a smart tactic.
So I ask again what you think of these two men who are big on the constitution, big on individual freedom, big on cost-cutting, unafraid of the Progressive establishment (especially the media), and, in Paul’s case, savvy enough to outflank the media?
Yup. You read that right. I am not a Ted Cruz fan. I should be. He’s young, conservative, and courageous. Although new to the United States Senate, he was unafraid of rigid collegiality rules and, instead, interrogated Hagel the way a good lawyer or a good Senator should. After all, although a president is entitled to his own advisers, the fact that those advisers have to pass Senate review should mean something — and Cruz made sure it did.
That Cruz’s efforts were for naught had nothing to do with his courage or competence, and everything to do with a dysfunctional D.C. mentality. For those of you who watched Netflix’s House of Cards, while the whole melodrama soap opera part was boring, the political machinations were true to form and they were more frightening than any horror movie could be.
So why aren’t I gaga over Cruz? Because I’m not putting my heart on the line again. In past years, conservatives have had the chronic frustration of watching our elected officials get played by Democrats, choose collegiality over values, or behave just plain stupidly. Our response is to become desperate and are constantly on the lookout for a messiah.
Have we learned nothing? To begin with, after the experience with Obama, instead of trying to create our own cult of personality, we should be afraid of that path. I’ll abandon that objection for now, though, because in a media-saturated, low-information age (a sad oxymoron), personality may be all we’ve got.
But more important than this foolish cult of personality is our rush to open our hearts to any conservative candidate who’s not the one that came before. With luck, Cruz will be everything we hoped. But as we’ve seen with other candidates, his past (if he has one) will catch up with him, or his ego will outrun his abilities or, of course, the drive-by media will utterly destroy him. I’m ready to fall in love with Cruz only if the drive-by media is unable to expose a sordid past, his ego remains in check, and he figures out how to play the media better than they play him. And of course, he has to continue to be a stalwart, intelligent, courageous conservative politician in the D.C. cesspool.
This time around, I refuse to rush headlong into love with the first (or the second or the third) potential presidential candidate who comes along. I’m not Marlene Dietrich:
Nor am I going to be the exhausted Lily von Shtup, too tired to function after falling in love with one candidate after another. (And despite the vulgarity of these lyrics, it’s rather uncanny how accurate Madeline Kahn describes the conservative voters’ relationship with the legions of candidates who pass before them and then fail.)
I can help falling in love again — and I will not give my heart to a politician until I’m pretty darn sure the romance has legs.
All the talk lately is about talking. Tune in to any conservative outlet, and you’ll see that the politicians and thinkers are scratching their heads, trying to figure out how to get voters to support conservative values. Conservatives are talking about their lack of a clear narrative. Conservatives have an ideology, and a good one at that, but ideologies don’t sell. It’s the stories about those ideologies that sell. It sometimes seems that conservatives are so hamstrung by the fact that the plural of anecdote isn’t data, that they too often stop making any effort at all to use anecdotal stories to sell their ideas.
This past weekend, National Review hosted an emergency summit devoted to conservative messaging:
Nearly every speaker advised that [conservatives] “make the case” for conservatism, that their leaders find a better way of communicating the superiority of limited government and traditional social values. The country is prepared to hear it, they said, it’s only a matter of explaining it–an admittedly difficult task when the latest national election proved that more people are interested in a message of government-provided security and spoils.
After attending a part of this summit, James Taranto noted that Democrats went through this same soul-searching after the 2010 election. The president, they said, needed to send out a better message. The greatest orator since . . . well, ever, was falling down on the job and failing to communicate. They did win in 2012, but was it the message, or something else?
Obama won re-election, but would anyone really describe the 2012 Obama campaign as a clinic in exegetical politics? Did Obama lay out a compelling case for his principles? Far from it. In fact, his clearest ideological statement was “You didn’t build that.” His supporters spent weeks insisting he didn’t say that.
What Obama did do successfully was vilify his opponent (“not one of us“) and make narrow, often fear-based appeals to particular interest groups. His campaign also demonstrated a mastery of technology for identifying voters and coaxing them to the polls.
Taranto suggests that conservatives stop agonizing about “messaging” and start focusing on winning. This is one of those rare occasions where I part ways with Taranto’s conclusion. I agree with him that Obama won, not because he sold voters on his vision, but because he was able to turn Republicans into heartless, greedy, misogynistic monsters. The thing is that this vilification was the message — it just wasn’t a positive message about Obama. Instead, it was a negative message about Romney and the Republicans. In other words, Dems did a great job messaging. Conservatives simply missed it, because they were looking for soaring rhetoric, while Progressives were actually serving up trash talk.
The reason the Democrat’s trash talk message worked so well is because it fell on fertile soil. The Left knew that it couldn’t sell Obama — his record did not speak for itself — but Leftist strategizers also knew that for decades the Left had created an intellectual atmosphere in which it was easy for people to believe, all evidence to the contrary, that Romney was an evil, soulless man, and that a Republican America would be, as Ted Kennedy so memorably said about Robert Bork,
a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the Government, and the doors of the Federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is—and is often the only—protector of the individual rights that are the heart of our democracy….
That none of this came to pass during any Republican ascendency is irrelevant. Kennedy’s message has stuck for two generations, forever tarring Republicans with the “evil” brush. The cultural bias the Democrats have created against conservativism reached its tipping point in November 2012 when a president with a disastrous economic record rather handily got reelected. Relying on decades of indoctrination and sophisticated modern social networking, Democrats spread a message that stuck: Republicans are evil. Everything else, whether from the Left or the Right, was just chatter that people ignored.
It’s the tipping point that matters. Malcolm Gladwell wrote The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference back in 2002, long before social networking websites had appeared on the scene. In a way, though, our modern age’s manic social networking makes Gladwell’s points even more relevant than they were ten years ago.
Gladwell’s thesis is a simple one: Ideas are like viruses. Most of them float around, affecting a pocket of people here, or a pocket of people there. Given specific circumstances, though, the virus reaches a tipping point and suddenly explodes out of the pockets, and becomes dominant.
After looking at studies that explain the explosive spread of certain ideas (including product popularity) Gladwell came up with a list of three must-have factors that will cause an idea to go viral. The first is what he calls “the Law of the Few,” the second is “the Stickiness Factor,” and the third is “the Power of Context.” The factors are surprisingly uncomplicated.
The Law of the Few says that studies show that there are specific people in society who are information, idea, and style vectors. Whether they have a vast network of contacts, a reputation for sharing useful wisdom, or the innate gift of salesmanship, these few people exercise a disproportionate effect when it comes to dispersing ideas. When they talk, other people — lots of other people — listen.
Do we have anybody like that articulating conservative ideas? I’m not so sure. Gladwell’s point is that these people spread their ideas because of their ability to connect directly with other people. All of our conservative talking heads are just that — talking heads on TV or the radio. Conservatives, perhaps true to their commitment to individualism, do not have networks of people on the ground (i) who are themselves networkers, (ii) who are viewed as reliable information sources, or (iii) who can sell anything to anybody.
In a way, the internet has made things even worse for conservatives. While it’s increased information dissemination, it’s also increased information ghettoization. We don’t talk to our neighbors about politics anymore. Instead, we go to a like-minded blog and enjoy the feeling that we’re not alone. But by doing so, we delude ourselves into believing that there are more like-minded people out there than a walk in the community and a talk in the park would reveal. Facebook is more of a marketplace of ideas than the blogosphere, and I can tell you that my liberal friends used it aggressively for political networking, while my conservative friends did not — it part, because conservatives didn’t have any “sticky” messages to disseminate.
The Stickiness Factor? That’s what it sounds like: it’s a message that doesn’t just amuse or intrigue people for a mere minute. Instead, it sticks with them and, even more importantly, makes them act. During the Bush years, the Dems came up with a great one: No War for Oil. The fact that this slogan had little relationship to the facts, or that a ginormous number of people stuck it on the back of their gas-guzzling SUVs was irrelevant. Those four words convinced too many Americans that the Republicans were fighting wars on behalf of Standard Oil.
In 2012, the Democrats announced that Republicans were “waging a war on women.” Again, data was irrelevant. It sounded good, especially when Democrats Alinsky-ized Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock.
The Progressive penchant for ignoring facts undoubtedly makes it easier for them to come up with the pithy slogans and posters that sweep through Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and email chains before ending up on tens of thousands of bumper stickers that subliminally drill into every driver’s head. People could laugh when reading “Somewhere in Texas, a village is missing its idiot,” never mind that George Bush was a highly educated, accomplished man with an academic record better than or equal to his opponents’.
Conservatives used to have pithy sayings (“Live free or die,” “I regret that I have but one life to give for my country,” “That government is best that governs least”), but we don’t seem to have come up with any clever ones lately. As you may recall, during John McCain’s failed candidacy, his slogan — “Country First” — managed to leave supporters cold, while allowing opponents to mumble about racism. I doubt that we’ll ever get another “I like Ike,” but we can certainly do better than Romney’s “Believe in America,” which sounds more like the beginning of a fairy tale than it does a rousing call to the ballot box.
And finally, there’s the Power of Context, which at its simplest level means that a message has to capture the zeitgeist. People have to be primed and ready to receive the message. In 2012, Americans, fed on decades of anti-capitalist education and entertainment, were more than ready to believe that Romney was a dog-abusing, woman-hating, religious nut who wanted to enslave poor people and blacks. Thirty years ago, people would have laughed at this message. Last year, there were too many people who thought it made a good deal of sense.
Democrats are masters of leveraging context or, as Rahm Emanuel said, “never letting a crises go to waste.” Just as the Pentagon has shelves full of war scenarios that they’re ready to break out should one geographic region or another blow up, it’s quite obvious that the Progressives also have shelves full of battle plans. Economic crisis? Let’s nationalize! Crazy person goes on a murderous rampage with a gun? Let’s jettison the Second Amendment. Woman in Mississippi isn’t near an abortion clinic, so she decides to give herself a do-it-yourself abortion? Malign pro-Lifers as murderers. Islamic terrorism against Americans? Blame Americans or video-makers. There’s a playbook.
On the other side of the aisle, have you ever seen conservatives do anything but be caught flat-footed when a crisis arises? Conservatives instantly go into ad hoc mode. There’s a virtue to having sufficient flexibility to deal with an actual, as opposed to theoretical situation, but the person without a plan always looks unprepared and, therefore, helpless.
It’s not enough for conservatives to talk about talking, or to send each other messages about messaging. If they want to be the zeitgeist’s master not its slave:
- They must come up with a message that matches the mood of the time, whether it’s pro-conservative or anti-Progressive;
- They must shape the message so that it gets stuck in people’s minds and drives them to action; and
- They must make a deliberative effort to get the message to conservative networkers (i.e., information purveyors, and salesmen), rather than hoping that the message will magically disseminate itself.
We have a good message — we just have to sell it.
And in that vein, here’s an idea from Mike Devx, one that would work marvelously well on Facebook. It would appeal to people on both sides of the aisle, and it would give a campaign advantage to Republicans if they would loudly embrace it:
I’ve wondered at times why laws aren’t required to have a “sunset provision,” meaning every law would expire at a certain time after passage. The law would have to be re-passed by whatever legislature passed it in the first place, or else it goes on the dustbin of history. Perhaps the default should be twenty years to the date after passage. But you could specify a non-default expiration that would be allowed to be LESS (not more than the default).
Same thing perhaps for regulations. It might keep the tsunami of laws and regulations under control. And the bad ones or the controversial ones would be guaranteed to be re-fought. Or the laws whose time may have come and gone — such as affirmative action to redress a wrong — would get re-fought and resisted because we have done enough.
UPDATE: If you like the idea of a Sunset Amendment, I’ve developed it at greater length here.
America’s not the only one with crazed Leftists. I managed to miss the fact that Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert just accused Sheldon Adelson of using Benjamin Netanyahu as his puppet in this election. Adelson utterly destroys that canard and, to my delight, he does so in three short paragraphs that are a triumph of classic logic over arrant nonsense. Go there and enjoy!
In the past two days, I’ve fired off a flurry of posts about what Constitutionalists (my current favorite word for what we are) can do to win in 2014 and beyond. Those posts were a wasted effort, of course, if our loss on Tuesday was so devastating that there’s no rearguard capable of re-grouping. The numbers, however, are not that bad. Two of my favorite political thinkers suggest that the Dems haven’t yet created that permanent new coalition they dream of: Gay Patriot and Pondering Penguin.
A few months ago, I though Elizabeth Emken’s chance of unseating Dianne Feinstein in the Senate was about equal to the Giant’s chance of winning the World Series. I was not optimistic. Today, I believe that both are possible and, indeed, probable. I’ll leave the baseball talk to others, and I’ll focus on Elizabeth Emken. It’s not just that Elizabeth Emken is such a good candidate (which she is); it’s that Dianne Feinstein has refused to be any type of candidate at all (which is unsurprising given her embarrassing record).
Elizabeth Emken is impressive. She graduated from UCLA with dual degrees in Economics and Political Science, and spent time at Cambridge studying China and the Middle East. She worked for years at IBM running numbers and analyzing management in order to increase performance and decrease costs. Elizabeth understands how complex financial systems operate and she understands effective management technique.
Sixteen years ago, when her son was diagnosed with profound autism, Elizabeth left the private sector to work in Washington to help fund cost-effective, productive programs for those who are unable to care for themselves. I’m going to quote directly from Elizabeth’s website regarding her autism work, because it is a snapshot of her intelligence, her familiarity with Washington politics and procedures, and her no-nonsense approach to budget issues, even when federal funds have a direct impact on her own life:
Elizabeth is a fighter and a problem solver. She was “drafted” into a second career as an advocate for developmentally disabled children after her son, Alex, was diagnosed with autism. She served as Vice President for Government Relations at Autism Speaks, the Nation`s largest science and advocacy organization devoted to the public health emergency of autism.
Elizabeth coordinated advocacy for multiple pieces of federal legislation addressing autism, the Advancement in Pediatric Autism Research Act, the lead title of the Children`s Health Act of 2000, and the Combating Autism Act of 2006 which authorized nearly $1 billion over 5 years to combat autism through research, screening, early detection and early intervention.
A vital element of this accomplishment, Elizabeth led the charge to ensure transparency and accountability on how the NIH would spend autism research dollars. For the first time at the NIH, her efforts produced a portfolio analysis of autism spending that would have to withstand public scrutiny – a policy Elizabeth believes should apply throughout the entire government.
At Autism Speaks, Elizabeth launched a multi-state campaign to secure insurance coverage for autism-related services. 30 states have enacted autism insurance reform laws, saving participating states millions in taxpayer funds that would otherwise have been directed to state health care and special education services. This groundbreaking legislation, aimed at ending marketplace discrimination against individuals with autism, passed into law in California on October 9, 2011.
Elizabeth doesn’t just have intelligence, skills, and a strong record, she also has charisma. I was fortunate enough to hear her speak today at the Marin Republican Women Federated and I was blown away. She is a smooth, but not glib speaker, who engages almost fiercely with her audience. She is not a dilettante. She is a woman who believes passionately in a government that maximizes individual freedom, while efficiently providing necessary services in the most cost-effective way.
I’ve been fortunate enough over the years to see many good conservative candidates come and go in California. Why then do I think Elizabeth has a chance? Because this is a year like no other year. As in 2008, Republicans are fired up and want to vote. As in 2008, even if they cannot affect California’s electoral college votes, California Republicans want to make a difference in local elections. What makes 2012 different from — and better than — 2008 is the fact that Elizabeth is running against Dianne Feinstein, not Barbara Boxer.
I hold no brief for Boxer, but she is an energetic politician. She campaigned hard in 2008, in part because her opponent, Carly Fiorina, was a very visible candidate, with a large pocketbook. Boxer went up and down California, rallying her troops, and it’s the boots on the ground that will ultimately matter at the ballot box.
Dianne Feinstein, doesn’t have boots on the ground . . . or slippers . . . or delicate, expensive sandals. She is the invisible candidate. She has repeatedly refused to debate Emken. Feinstein takes her “no debate” stance so seriously, she won’t even talk to the press about debating Elizabeth.
Feinstein’s sudden shyness isn’t really surprising. Whatever energy Feinstein originally brought to Washington has long since dissipated. Having put in her 20 years, she seems to view serving as a Senator a giant boondoggle. She ignores her constituents, she ignores voters, she even ignores California itself, as she demonstrated when she failed to get any significant part of the $850,000,000 Jobs Bill earmarked for California. (By this, I’m not endorsing the stimulus. I’m only pointing out that, when there was money to be had, and when our state was — and is — hurting badly, Feinstein was supine.) Further, given that Feinstein is already 80, there’s reason to believe that she has no intention of serving out yet another six-year term. Instead, there’s a strong possibility she’ll retire early, letting Jerry Brown have his pick of California Progressives to fill her Senate seat.
In other words, Feinstein is running as the ultimate incumbent: she’s just assuming that her name on the ballot is enough to get her elected, and she’s probably hoping that an unelectable Progressive can hang onto her coattails to hold the same seat.
But this is 2012, and everything is different. Before this election, Feinstein’s name might have been enough to win. But there’s a dirty little secret in 2012, one that the media has kept under wraps: Californians don’t like Feinstein. The rolling California Business Roundtable/Pepperdine School of Public Policy polls have some interesting numbers. First, for months more than 65%, and often more than 70%, of Californians have thought that California is heading in the wrong direction. That attitude is bad for incumbents. Second, specifically with regard to Dianne Feinstein, voters don’t like her: she’s occasionally cracked the 50% mark, but she’s also spent a long time in the mid- to high-40% likability area. As with Obama, it’s bad news for an incumbent who cannot stay above 50%. An even more interesting number is the high percentage of undecideds polled: 20% of California voters are up for grabs.
Emken ended her speech by saying, “I’m a different kind of candidate. I’m a Mom; I work for a living. I understand what families are going through…. If you are mentally or physically unable to care for yourself, you have nothing to fear from me.” Emken, like Romney, is not a monster. Instead, she is an ordinary (albeit very talented) person who recognizes that California and the United States can be saved, and can still provide necessary support for the most helpless. She also understands, though, that this can only be done through greater efficiency, not greater profligacy. The current governmental approach, one the Feinstein embodies, works hard to kill the taxpayer geese who for so long have laid the golden government eggs. Those days are over. We need sound fiscal management, and Emken gets it.
If you’re a California voter, don’t let the fact that your Presidential vote is probably symbolic stop you from going to the polls. There are important issues (“Yes on Prop. 32!”) and candidates out there that need your support. Sending Elizabeth Emken, rather than Dianne Feinstein, to the United States Senate could be the most important thing you do on November 6.
(Cross-posted at Brutally Honest.)
Yesterday, I posted about the result of California’s open primary in Marin: two Democrats running against each other for the California Assembly. My post was about the problem that this creates for those people whose party has been shut out of the election. The net effect of open primaries is that, rather than allowing parties to choose their own candidates, the primary just becomes a “pre-election election,” with the November election serving as a run-off.
It turns out that the open primaries are also a problem for the candidates facing off against each other in November, because it’s hard for voters to distinguish between Tweedledee and Tweedledum. In the article I quoted yesterday,the Marin IJ tried to help, by painting Marc Levine as more “pro-business,” which can be translated as “Mitt Romney surrogate.”
The IJ needn’t have made the effort, though. I didn’t realize it when I wrote yesterday’s post, but I had waiting in my mail box a flyer from the California Democratic Party making the difference between the two candidates as clear as a bright summer day (click on thumbnails to enlarge):
Marc Levine Doesn’t Want You to Know About the Elephant in the Room . . .
Because the elephant in the room is MARC LEVINE
Turn the flyer over and the message gets more specific:
The MITT ROMNEY CAMPAIGN KICKOFF in San Rafael was described as “LIKE MINDS COMING TOGETHER…”
[Quoting a female attendee] “We’re a bunch of red folks . . . and we find comfort with our own.”
Marin County Republican Chair Kevin Krick dismissed Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” comments as “a speed bump on the way to the White House.”
And the applauding Elephant in the Room was Marc Levine! [With a big red finger arrow pointing to a picture of Levine attending the kick-off, with the Levine picture cropped in the shape of an elephant.]
What’s next — campaign contributions from Republican Special Interests? Is this the kind of “Democrat” we want representing us in the State Assembly?
One can guess what happened. Marc Levine, in an effort to distinguish himself from a Democrat opponent who is pure Progressive, sought to make himself known to a broader coalition of Marin County voters. Since Marin has no subway or train stations outside of which the candidate can stand to introduce himself to voters, he goes from one political event to another. This one was a Republican event. He probably thought it was a smart move, because Republicans, having been denied a candidate by the open primary system are, theoretically, an up-for-grabs constituency. They’ve got to vote for someone, so why not Levine?
Poor Levine. His tactical outreach effort backfired, but it had the salutary effect of exposing the anti-democratic effect of open primaries: Because of the open primary, which denied Marin County Republicans the right to choose their own candidate, the Democrat Party in California filled the vacuum by anointing a “Republican” candidate.
This whole thing has become a travesty. What we’re seeing isn’t democracy in action. Instead, it’s one-party rule, complete with infighting, without even the pretense of open elections.
The theory behind Open Primaries is that it will encourage moderation in districts that are extremely Democrat or extremely Republican. Without Open Primaries, minority opposition votes are symbolic throwaway votes. Whoever is the majority candidate wins, regardless of the details of that candidate’s platform. With Open Primaries, which inevitably result in two majority candidates going head to head, the minority opposition must either refrain from voting entirely or vote for the least bad of the other party’s candidates. The hope is that, if minority party voters do the latter, they’ll vote for the opposition candidate who is least extreme. I suspect that’s what’s going to happen in the upcoming Marin County election for 10th District in the California Assembly:
Due to California’s new open primary law, two Democrats will compete for the 10th District Assembly seat in the Nov. 6 general election.
Because the 10th District is overwhelmingly Democratic, in past years the general election has been little more than a formality; for all practical purposes, the eventual winner had already been decided in the Democratic primary election.
The incumbent in this race is Michael Allen, who was elected to the Assembly in 2010 to represent the 7th District. Allen, 65, moved from Sonoma County to an apartment in downtown San Rafael after the 7th District was splintered by redistricting in 2011. Currently the assistant majority leader in the Assembly, Allen is a labor lawyer who has served as executive director of the Service Employees International Union Local 707 as well as president of the North Bay Labor Council and district director for state Sen. Patricia Wiggins. [Bookworm: In other words, way Left.]
His challenger is Marc Levine, 38, who has served on the San Rafael City Council since 2009. McCuan said Levine is known as a more business-friendly Democrat, and Levine’s endorsements and campaign donors indicate that. Levine angered some more liberal Marin Democrats in 2011 when he supported the opening of a Target store in San Rafael.
“Levine’s supporters are Joe Nation Democrats,” McCuan said, referring to the former assemblyman from Marin who once tried and failed to upend U.S. Rep. Lynn Woolsey in a Democratic primary election. [Bookworm: In other words, slightly less Left, thereby marginally avoiding fiscal insanity.]
I’m going to vote for Levine, because he’s better than Allen. Anything is better than Allen. But I truly resent having my voice muffled in this way. My candidate has been thrown out of the election entirely. Republicans are denied a voice and that is, I think, a complete failure of representation. It’s one thing always to lose; it’s another thing to be unable even to cry out as you do.
Could there be a better “compare and contrast”?