Friday, January 04, 2008

Culture matters

Peggy Noonan summarizes the Iowa caucuses. Mark Steyn agrees with her diagnosis. On Friday David Brooks had a similar intuition. One can only hope that all of this indicates some kind of cultural shift, at least on the conservative side.


kabloona said...

Among the Democrats, Barak Obama won the Iowa caucus because he is the only transformational leader out there. To my surprise, none of the other candidates, Democratic or Republican get it. The man and his message are exciting, and that coupled with the knowledge that an Obama presidency would be an earthshaking historical precedent is moving people. Of course, Obama is all talk. In his elected career he has never gone against a single liberal, Democratic special interest group.

Hillary certainly campaigns in a polarizing manner. In every appearance she attacks the other whether it’s Bush, the Republican establishment or her Democratic opponents. Hillary does not appear to have any values of her own. She advocates whatever the popular, liberal Democratic ideology of the day is. And then she tacks a little towards the center for electability.

Edwards has no chance of gaining the presidency. The times are not right for populism. His economics are all wrong. His demonization of big corporations is not a successful strategy, whether they are really demons or not. To solve America’s social problems, the rich and powerful interests need to be brought in as part of the solution. As Obama says, no one said it was going to be easy.

Richardson strikes me as more of a pathetic buffoon than anything else. He simply spouts off with absolutely anything that he thinks might get him the nomination.

But when all of the above speak, I cringe because the solutions they advocate would require unprecedented, monumental tax increases, not to mention more bureaucracy and government control.

We need a leader whose actions are as broadly transformational as his words.

Stephen M. Bauer

kabloona said...

I have mixed feelings about Huckabee’s Iowa Caucus win. His win is attributed to his outspoken and authentic conservative Christianity, plus his populism. His populism, however, unlike John Edwards, is not so much a political populism but a personal one. People identify with his background of being relatively poor and not forgetting where he came from. I respect that myself. I also like the idea that here was guy with little money or organization who won by campaigning on his wits, while not hiding his personal values.

I do have a problem with him sometimes appearing even dumber than President Bush. Even Huckabee has admitted that he very often speaks first and thinks later. He’s not really dumber than Bush, but he is very glib and will rattle off at the mouth whether he knows what he is talking about or not. He is not circumspect. After Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, his ignorant comment about Pakistanis sneaking across the border illegally into this country is exactly the type of fear and paranoia we do not need.

I hope that Huckabee does not become president. He is not presidential material. I think even the Arkansas governorship exceeded his capabilities.

I respect John McCain, the man, enormously. As much as he really is the straight talk express and really does tilt at big government solutions, waste, fraud, corrupt and unjust campaign finance laws, and lack of ethics in government, especially when they come from the Republicans, I feel that his time has passed. His solutions are all in the traditional Republican style: piecemeal, issue by issue. He has failed to create a single unifying image of himself or his message. He is man who could easily be transformational if he wanted to but lacks the necessary vision to get there.

On Saturday, I watched the very exciting Barak Obama town hall meeting. I saw thousands of people full of excited hope. He introduced some of his national coordinators, and they looked like teenage or college age girls. This is the future.

After that I watched, in stark contrast, the McCain town hall. Lined-up on the stage behind him, all in a row, across the stage, were men who had served with him in the military. The contrast of this very grim, old, gray, impassive lineup of faces was in dramatic stark contrast to the hopeful, youthful forward-moving excitement of Obama’s supporters. The message that I got from the image of the McCain stage was of a desire to go back to America as it was under Eisenhower or Teddy Roosevelt. McCain is a has-been.

Mitt Romney represents the traditional rich and powerful Republican establishment of this country. I dislike Romney personally. Apart from looking like an elitist, I think he really does look and think like one. He was once asked something along the lines of, if he supports the troops in Iraq so much, why aren’t any of his sons serving in the military? His answer was that his sons were serving their country by working in his campaign. That Romney could compare one of his son’s serving in his campaign, to a poor person who joins the military needing a job, knowing he is going to get sent to Iraq, turns my stomach. The silver hair on his head matches the silver spoon in his mouth.

Stephen M. Bauer

Carlo said...

After reading about him for several months, I still have not understood what Obama stands for that is different from the rest of the Democratic field. Why do you say he is transformational, exactly? (besides being black...)

Freder1ck said...

this article by Ezra Klein describes some of Obama's appeal.

kabloona said...


It is his message of hope that is transformational. He is also reminding people of what this country is supposed to stand for. He is appealing to people’s dreams and higher aspirations.

Stephen M. Bauer

kabloona said...

I just had a phone conversation with my mother, who follows and likes to talk politics. I think that she is a very good litmus test of political sentiment. She thinks quite positively of Huckabee, and so I'm wondering if I am still underestimating him.

Vit said...

What I don't understand is what is Ron Paul's appeal, and if he is truly a good candidate as well. His plans sound very radical as well (and popular among the youth that understand Obama is mostly an image).


kabloona said...

Ron Paul is a libertarian. I’ve known libertarians, and I myself have been tempted by that philosophy in the past. Libertarianism is very simple and logical. It gives the believer a feeling of certainty, even a sense of political purity, and I think that is what attracts many of the young people to Ron Paul. Another thing that makes Ron Paul an attractive candidate is that many of his ideas are explicitly and solidly grounded in the U.S. Constitution or other foundational American documents.

I am impressed by Ron Paul’s objectivity and detached evaluation of issues, as well as the fact that he doesn’t appear to be influenced by special interests. My problem with libertarianism is that it is unworkable.

To my observation Libertarians tend to think of the world as a sort of laboratory where perfect conditions can be established rather than accepting that this is a dirty, imperfect world requiring compromise and less than perfect solutions. But Politics is the art of compromise, and I’ve never heard a libertarian, including Ron Paul, ever suggest compromise.

Ron Paul’s stand on the significant issues actually agrees more with my own than any other candidate. But apart from big issues like immigration, the war, taxes, the size of government, and so on, he has numerous beliefs that might rightfully be labeled “lunatic fringe.” As a libertarian, he advocates the elimination of the FBI, the IRS, and the Federal Reserve Bank, for example.

I think that one major weakness that Ron Paul has personally is that he talks about issues too much in depth—the nuts and bolts, the nitty-gritty. When someone is running for president and they talk in technical, legal, and social depth all the time, you lose people’s interest. Too many details bore people, and few understand the issues in depth anyway. Instead, what Ron Paul should be doing is projecting a coherent visions and an over-arching transformational theme. In this presidential race, the only candidate doing that is Barak Obama with his message of the Audacity of Hope.

Libertarians argue vigorously that it is the best way to achieve the greatest common good. Perhaps Ron Paul really does believe what he preaches, but my observation is that once you get to know most libertarians, you discover that personally do not care one bit about the common good, or anyone else, at all. They just posit the argument to try and persuade the rest of us, for their own ends. What libertarians really want is to protect their own wealth and power, and opportunity for more, from potential threats.

Many conservative Republicans have libertarian beliefs, and I believe that for certain problems, the libertarian solution is the best one. I do think that sometimes libertarianism produces some very good analysis and insight into issues of civil liberty. But ultimately libertarianism is just a theoretical model, and is totally inadequate as an overall or absolute political philosophy.

kabloona said...

For the record, I've decided that I support John McCain.