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A Lack of Nuance

Having recently railed against the “establishment”, it’s time for a crack at the base.

As I have previously asserted, the base is allergic to compromise.  While this idea is widely taken as a given among the establishment and the Left, few take the time to analyze the behavior.  The problem is actually a somewhat broader aversion to nuance.  Outrage fuels donations, and donations pay the bills, so there’s somewhat of a negative incentive for base-oriented groups to promote nuance.  But a lack of nuance can often inhibit constructive conservative policy movement.

A thought experiment: What if Democrats credibly and convincingly offered to cut Federal spending to such a degree that the budget would come into immediate balance, and also could somehow fix the Federal entitlement problem.  In exchange, Republicans would agree to a one percent increase in the personal income tax.  Do we take the deal?

True, the parameters of the thought experiment are absurd on their face, but for the sake of argument, take it for what it is.  We’d be fools not to take this deal, right?

Whoa, now!  Once you start to entertain this deal, you’re “for” raising income taxes.

Well, no, you weren’t really “for” it.  You were willing to make a concession in order to get a number of other things that you wanted and thought were more significant.

Take a more realistic issue, immigration.  The moment a Republican starts having any sort of conversation about immigration reform,  he is blasted as being “for” amnesty.  (The opponents of immigration reform use the term “amnesty” rather promiscuously, but for the sake of argument, I’ll use it here and not bother about details of what does or does not constitute “amnesty”.)

Understand that, to the Left, some form of amnesty is a sine qua non for any concessions on significant border security improvements, employment e-Verify, or – heaven forbid – voter ID.  You don’t even begin to have negotiations about how to deal with millions of illegal immigrants until you lay your amnesty bargaining chip down on the table.

But by reacting violently to this potential offer of amnesty as something we could consider giving up in order to get a better outcome, the base makes this a question of amnesty vs non-amnesty, not a question of what we could possibly get in exchange for amnesty.  When we put the focus on what we get in exchange for amnesty, we put the Democrats on the defensive.  When we focus on whether to offer amnesty at all, we make ourselves irrelevant, and the status quo reigns.

To be fair, Republican politicians have a history of being cheap dates.  I dare say though, it wouldn’t kill us to “show a little leg” on this issue.  I’m not “for” amnesty, I’m for using the offer of amnesty as a means of getting more significant concessions from the other side and for (hopefully) putting the issue behind us.  If we get a bad offer in return, we walk away and blame the Democrats for not being serious and for keeping people in the shadows unnecessarily.

Unfortunately, nuance requires trust, which is in short supply.

March 2, 2014 at 5:44 pm Comments (2)

A Lack of Trust

Some weeks ago I was asked my thoughts about the way forward for the conservative movement. I felt a little like I had been asked to provide a proof for Einstein’s general relativity and then handed a napkin and a crayon.

I mentioned the obvious “base-vs-establishment” split, but could not see an obvious way forward.  If anything, the divide continues to grow wider.  Both sides are at some fault, and I would be hard pressed to say which is more blameworthy.  However, the flaws of the base are fairly well known and understood, so I will be focusing more on the “establishment”.

The authority of the “establishment” is predicated on two assumptions.  Firstly, that they know what they are doing, and secondly, that the base will get at least some of what they want by deferring at times to the party leadership.  This is the essence of the unwritten compact among Republicans.

Both legs of this platform have been thrown into serious question in the last few election cycles. The McCain and Romney campaigns epitomize the failures of the party, both technical and ideological.  Our last two standard bearers did not understand the philosophy underlying the conservative movement, and then when pressed had no chance of adequately conveying or defending it.  Steve Schmidt should have his proverbial license to campaign revoked.  There are many more examples than these, which are merely the most prominent.

The transactional leg of the compact is no less suspect.  Pennsylvania Republicans, despite controlling both houses of the legislature and the governor’s mansion, have been unable or unwilling to take even small steps toward privatizing our Soviet-style liquor stores, nor have they been able to mitigate the certain fiscal doom of the looming pension crisis.  Federally, Republican leadership recently capitulated on the debt ceiling hike without getting so much as the re-naming of a post office in return.  (Please note, I have argued for having fights on appropriation bills and continuing resolutions, not the debt ceiling.  Nevertheless, the swift and unconditional surrender was a little unsettling.)

The “establishment” relies on a model of the electorate that assumes voters (1) have consistent policy preferences that (2) are logically consistent and unidimensional and (3) that voters cast their votes according to which party or politician best satisfies these policy preferences.  It’s an interesting model, one that has served academics and political practitioners for decades.  But like all models — even the useful ones — it is wrong.  It also happens to be least applicable where practitioners would most like to apply it — with the “swing”/”centrist” voter. The major problem with this seductively simplistic model is the general and perpetual prescription of retreat on all substantive issues.

The base, understandably irritated with the strategy of perpetual retreat and burned by a few too many failures of the transactional leg of the compact, has become allergic to compromise on any issue. Simply, to the extent that the base ever trusted the establishment, the base doesn’t trust them any more at all.

It doesn’t help matters that the establishment has declared open war against the Tea Party.  To be fair, the feeling is often mutual, but party leaders “misunderestimate” the intensity and resolve of the base.  Attacking or delegitimizing certain elements of the base/Tea Party (-even deservedly-) does not make the party leadership any more attractive.  Democratic pollster Pat Caddell threw up a flag prior to the 2010 elections that America was in a “Pre-Revolutionary” state. Among Republican base voters, this feeling has not subsided.  Tens of thousands of Connecticut gun owners have seemingly scoffed at the state requirement to register their weapons.  (And why should they, when registration seems to lead to police abuse and eventual confiscation of weapons.)  Those Connecticut –Connecticut– gun owners are surely not all tea partiers.  And yet, they have shown a clear disregard for state control.  This is not how a healthy democracy functions.

The base, much to its detriment, seems not to comprehend that the electorate is against us.  Frankly, it is a little incomprehensible to me that Obama was re-elected, and yet here we are.  The general electorate was never particularly well-informed or sophisticated, but seems much less so in recent years. Correspondingly, there has been an increase in “liberal” political identification amidst the massive disruption and likely collapse of Obamacare, the biggest liberal project in several generations.

The common ground may be what the base wishes to do, but can’t seem to, and what the establishment may be somewhat better equipped to do, but won’t, and that is to fight the basic linguistic and cultural assumptions that have crept into the swing-voter’s mind.  Maybe once in a while somebody should explain the difference between “insurance” and pre-payment for service.  Or explain that “access” is not equivalent to “subsidy” (birth control), and lack of subsidy is not equivalent to a “ban” (embryonic stem cell research).  When debating Democrats, have our candidates ask, “and then what will happen?”, per Thomas Sowell’s Applied Economics.  Explain that the Democrats would rather that the poor were poorer when it comes to “inequality”. And once in a blue moon, explain that the economy is not a zero sum game.

But as things stand now, there’s just no trust to be found for Republican leadership.  Until some modicum of trust can be re-established, hostilities will persist.

February 17, 2014 at 3:21 pm Comments (0)

Ryan-Murray Budget: Outrage level 30%

Look, Ryan-Murray is not good. I’d probably vote against it if I were in Congress.

However, I have a hard time getting too incensed about it. One of the problems of our contemporary politics is the seeming inability to differentiate the merely bad from the atrocious. Ryan-Murray is merely bad. It is not the WORST THING EVER!

The bad parts are indeed bad. Perhaps Ryan was ignorant of this provision, but under the deal a tax increase can pass the Senate with a simple majority vote. Probably more importantly, the sequester has been weakened. It’s not quite right to say it’s “broken”, because much of it remains in place, but it’s not quite right to say that it’s still intact, because it isn’t. The precedent has been set that spending can be increased. If you get the impression that Ryan is willing to pay you on Tuesday for a hamburger today, you’d be basically correct.

In a half-hearted defense of Ryan, certain things should be pointed out. The headline number of spending increase/decrease is essentially negligible in the grand scheme of things. Defense spending gets some breathing room, without which there’s a chance we would have lost the votes of a bunch of GOP House members and gotten a worse deal. The Congress is reclaiming from the Executive some of the fiscal authority it had squandered. So, we get back to something approaching normal order, and in theory we have a firmer base from which to attempt to hold ground.

In theory.

It’s not quite a crap sandwich. It’s perhaps a sandwich with some crap-onnaise on it. At the very least it’s a sandwich upon which Harry Reid farted after having eaten quite a bit of Mexican food.

Given how little anything changes with this agreement, I’d say I’m outraged about a 3 on a 10-scale. I can’t give myself an aneurism about this deal. I’m not making this a personal “key vote”, but neither am I going to be very happy with those who vote for it.

December 14, 2013 at 4:33 pm Comments (0)

Toying with us

In a sane and rational world, and in light of the illegal delays and waivers issued by the administration, insisting that the individual mandate be delayed for a year was not a particularly radical demand.

Despondency surged as I realized Obama was toying with us, much like a predator might play with its prey before delivering the death-blow. The administration took extraordinary care to make sure the shutdown was as inconvenient as possible, shutting down things that it is not ordinarily possible to shut down, such as open-air monuments, private businesses and homes,… and the ocean.

At first I thought Obama’s strategy might backfire. Surely he had overplayed his hand! Then I watched the 6:30 news for a few evenings. And what finally convinced me that the administration would get away with it was the concern-trolling by the media about the Obamacare rollout failures.

–Oh, if only the Republicans’ antics weren’t sucking up so much oxygen, we might be able to report more about these glitches in Obamacare!–

Really? What have I experienced in the last five years would lead me to believe that the media was eager to report on a story reflecting negatively on Obama? Would that be the failure of the stimulus? Or Fast and Furious? Or Benghazi? Or the IRS?

No, they were pretty openly mocking conservatives. They knew what an empty promise they were suggesting.

Brian Williams’ snarky asides during the evening newscasts would have made Dan “fake but accurate” Rather blush.

Speaking of Benghazi, the modus operandi was pretty similar. Put out some bogus story for the weekend/Sunday show cycle, allow the media to go with it, and let the story die within a week, because heaven knows neither the media nor the American public has an attention span longer than a week. With Benghazi it was that ridiculous story about the YouTube video. With Obamacare, it was the fairy tale about overwhelming demand for the product.

Though nobody was exactly covered in glory in the public’s eye, polls showed Republicans faring worse than Democrats on the subject of the “negotiations” long before any actual negotiations took place, and in spite of the fact that it was the publicly stated position of both Harry and Barry that they would not be negotiating at all. The mind boggles.

And to top it off, you’ve got the likes of John McCain, who should be ejected from the party for serial violations of the eleventh commandment. If anybody invents a time machine, they need to loan McCain the Delorean so he can go back and retire 15 years ago.

This is not an environment in which any serious policy debates can be had, let alone won.

Oh, and the next time somebody says we’ll have more leverage on the debt ceiling rather than the continuing resolution, just go ahead and slap that person in the face for me.

October 16, 2013 at 10:55 pm Comments (0)

Will we really do any better on the debt ceiling negotiation?

It’s been said that the GOP will get serious about spending reductions when the debt ceiling comes to a vote. Supposedly we have more leverage on that issue.

I’m thinking not. The GOP has less leverage on that issue.

The basic structure of the debt ceiling vote is similar to the fiscal cliff vote. Republicans have the ability to block something the President wants, with a painful consequence if a deal is not struck.

However, with the debt ceiling, the overall breakdown value is worse than it was with the fiscal cliff vote, and is far worse for Republicans than Democrats. If the fiscal cliff had broken down, there would have been some negative economic consequences, public pressure, and if it dragged on long enough, perhaps some electoral pain. Had we gone off the cliff in a meaningful way, we might have even eventually worked out a better deal. But Congress was unable to bear the pain.

The debt ceiling is worse for Republicans in several ways. Firstly, the overall consequences of a breakdown are worse in the sense that a sovereign default would almost guarantee a severe and long-lasting depression that would make the Great Recession look like a walk in the park. Secondly, knowing that this consequence is unbearable to Obama as well, we should anticipate his actions. Who doubts that Obama would invoke the 14th Amendment, or perhaps pull out the old platinum coin trick? The breakdown value of the debt ceiling negotiation could be a massive unconstitutional power grab by the executive. Huzzah!

If we try to play hardball with the debt ceiling, we’d get a repeat of the fiscal cliff vote, and we’d walk away with out pants around our ankles.

Does anybody think that a Congress unable to explode the daisy-cutter they were sitting on will have the intestinal fortitude to explode the debt ceiling nuclear device? I thought not.

No. Pass the debt ceiling, relatively cleanly. I mean, sure, try to get some cuts, but when push comes to shove, just pass the thing.

Then shut down the government – Gingrich style. Don’t pass another spending bill. Save for defense and homeland security, don’t so much as appropriate toilet paper for government lavatories. Not one dime.

Deprive Obama of something he wants. The relative pain of the breakdown values should be reversed. Obama loves government. So do Republicans, but less so than Obama. Take it from him. Perhaps for months.

And if you think a prolonged total government shut-down is too harsh, you really didn’t have the stomach for the debt ceiling vote in the first place.

(“Plan B” is looking pretty sweet right now, ain’t it? Remember that.)

January 2, 2013 at 11:51 pm Comments (0)

re: Perspective

Of course the constructive thing to do is take a deep breath and soldier on, … swinging pendulum or whatever.  The darker part of my psyche thinks that with this election we’re going to start seeing some of those irreparable consequences folks have been talking about, and that even if things swing back our way in four years there might not be much left for us to work with.

As for learning our lessons, I’m not holding my breath.  You’d have thought we would have learned something from Christine O’Donnell and Sharron Angle, but no.  And that’s not to pick on the Tea Party, because the Establishment ran losers too (-most notably, Mitt Romney).  Candidate quality is of utmost importance.

Since every other pundit in the universe has spun this election to fit his or her own pet Theory of Everything, I might as well too….

The winning formula that I have discussed at great length is to find a high quality conservative candidate who knows how to translate conservative ideas to non-ideological/moderate/middle voters.  We had pretty much the opposite of that in Mitt Romney, a mediocre candidate with a wobbly conservative history who had no chance of conveying conservative thoughts to moderate voters because he really didn’t understand them himself.  (This would be why I was for Pawlenty, self-professed “Sam’s Club Republican”.)

Agreed, Fred, we should entirely reject the notion that we must become Democrat-lite and either abandon or moderate every conservative position under the sun.  Everybody say it with me now — swing voters don’t vote on ideology.

The one policy exception I see is immigration.  I don’t like to play this card too often, but I’ll BLAME BUSH for screwing up the immigration issue.  The “comprehensive piece of sh*t” he cooked up was so bad that even notable immigration softie Bill Kristol didn’t like the bill.  That fight brought out the worst of people on both sides of the argument, and the real loser was the GOP –even after we nominated John McCain, king of comprehensive immigration reform.  Now Obama will get to be the guy who claims credit for delivering immigration reform — ironically after avoiding the issue in his first term, and while following a bizarre gun policy wherein a key element was that there would be a bunch of dead Mexicans.

Going forward, I’ll try to be as positive as possible.  Just understand that privately I’ll be shopping for miscellaneous firearms and lingering at Cabela’s.  And I am definitely interested in Fredistan.

November 18, 2012 at 5:09 pm Comments (0)

Re: Community Voters Project???

ACORN, you say?

You mean that group that Senator Casey voted to maintain federal funding for even after they were exposed as child-pimp abettors?

November 5, 2012 at 10:21 pm Comment (1)

Will Sandusky And Corbett Defeat Romney?

The Governor’s mishandling of the Sandusky investigation may doom the GOP

Ohio, Ohio, Ohio. It’s all about Ohio. Win the Buckeye state — win the White House.

Very true, especially for Mitt Romney, since no Republican has won without it.

But the monumental point is being overlooked.

Ohio is only kingmaker by default.  Its 18 electoral votes would not be needed if Romney wins Ohio’s larger neighbor — Pennsylvania and its 20 electors.

That’s not wishful thinking, but eminently achievable. Or at least it was, until two men severely diminished hope for delivering the Keystone State: Jerry Sandusky and Republican Governor Tom Corbett.

*****

Make no mistake. Pennsylvania should have been a lock for the GOP.  The fact that it has not voted Republican for president since 1988 is misleading. When there is a solid candidate, Pennsylvania is always in play, where a small vote swing changes the election result (George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004).  Conversely, bad candidates lose handily (Bush I in ‘92, Dole in ’96, and McCain in 2008). And remember that Ronald Reagan won it twice, and George H.W. Bush in ’88.

In 1994, it became the most Republican state in the country in terms of elected officials, with the GOP claiming both U.S. Senate seats, the governorship, total control of the state legislature, a majority in its congressional delegation, and two of three statewide row offices.

Fast forward to 2010, when GOP Governor Tom Corbett rode to victory with a massive ten-point margin.  Conservative Pat Toomey was elected U.S. Senator, and Republicans gained control of the State House in historic fashion, smashing the Democrats and taking a ten-seat majority.  The State Senate remained solidly Republican — as it has for three decades.

So why is it likely that Romney will lose the Pennsylvania Prize?

Enter Corbett and Sandusky.

*****

The most worthless commodities in politics are endorsements. Party leaders endorsing their own is expected, swaying no one.  And celebrities choosing sides only makes for good cocktail talk.  Romney doesn’t benefit from Clint Eastwood, nor Obama from Bruce Springsteen.

But while endorsements don’t sell, popularity does. And they are distinctively different.

If a leader possesses a bold vision — and the ability to articulate ideas in a common sense, bipartisan way — he will have followers from the entire political spectrum. New Jersey’s Republican Governor Chris Christie is the best example, having achieved monumental victories despite both legislative chambers being heavily Democratic.

While no single Republican could swing Jersey to Romney, that feat should have been in the bag in much more Republican Pennsylvania. If Christie could rack up wins in The People’s Republic of New Jersey, gaining immense popularity, how could Corbett not deliver Pennsylvania?

Because he is an MIA governor.

After the first year of his Administration, when virtually nothing was accomplished, Corbett’s own legislators nicknamed him “Christie-lite.” But after the second year, with an even more startling lack of achievements, the nicknames became unprintable.

We’re not talking about a failed extreme right-wing agenda, but common sense ideas Corbett promised but didn’t come close to delivering, despite holding all the cards.

-Was the nation’s largest state-controlled liquor system dismantled — a move overwhelmingly supported by most Pennsylvanians? Nope. Zero action.

-Was any effort made to 1) solve the state’s massive pension crisis, 2)lower the job-killing, corporate net income tax (second-highest in the nation), or 3) reform the nation’s most hostile legal climate? All drive businesses away, but no action was taken. The can was kicked down the road.

-Did state union workers receive a contract in line with private sector employees? No.  Instead, Corbett gave them guaranteed raises, no increases in health care premiums, and eliminated layoffs for economic reasons. At the same time, he raised salaries of his inner circle, aides who apparently couldn’t get by on $135,000.

While his inaction sunk the Governor’s favorable ratings, it was his handling of sexual predator Jerry Sandusky that really put him in the toilet, flushing away whatever attractiveness he had left.

Corbett’s attempt to steal the national limelight at Penn State news conferences by portraying himself as the savior who took down Sandusky rapidly backfired. Instead, his decisions in that case (he was the investigating Attorney General) grew into a firestorm that continues to explode.

No one is buying Corbett’s claims that he didn’t play politics with the Sandusky investigation. A whopping 69 percent of Pennsylvanians don’t view Corbett favorably, making him the nation’s least popular governor.  And a miniscule 17 percent think he handled the Sandusky investigation well.

Why? Maybe because:

-It took three years to get Sandusky off the street. Within the law enforcement community, it’s almost unanimous that Sandusky should have been nailed much, much earlier. Ten cases weren’t needed, as Corbett maintains, but only two or three to make an arrest while continuing to build the case.

-Corbett ordered a narcotics agent to lead a whopping team of two to investigate Sandusky, while scores of agents — including child predator units — prosecuted a political corruption case.

Because of Corbett’s colossal inconsistencies, Republican leaders were forced to abruptly end a legislative session, killing a motion requesting a federal investigation of Corbett’s handling of the case.

As a result, Corbett’s numbers have stayed in the basement. The erosion of his popularity, transcending Party lines, stems from the nagging feeling that Corbett placed politics above the protection of innocent children.

*****

The most far-reaching result of the Governor’s failures will be the political earthquake that never was. If Corbett had been just a fraction of Chris Christie, and had run the Sandusky investigation properly, Mitt Romney wins Pennsylvania hands down.

Instead, because of Corbett’s toxicity, Romney was forced to focus on Ohio, which he will likely lose, and with it, the White House.

But that may be the least of Corbett’s troubles. Kathleen Kane is poised to become the first elected Democratic Attorney General in Pennsylvania history.  Should that occur, the political embarrassment for Corbett would be immense, since he would be seen as the main contributor to a Kane victory.

If elected, Kane promises an intense review of the Sandusky investigation, with no hesitation to charge anyone —including the Governor — should improprieties be uncovered.

And who thought politics wouldn’t be interesting after this election?

As published in Daily County Daily Times:
http://www.delcotimes.com/articles/2012/11/05/opinion/doc50979500780a2499235935.txt

Philadelphia Magazine:
http://blogs.phillymag.com/the_philly_post/2012/11/05/sandusky-corbett-defeat-romney/

Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television/radio commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com  His self-syndicated model has earned him the largest cumulative media voice in Pennsylvania. He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com

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November 5, 2012 at 3:57 pm Comments (0)

National Review sizes up PA Senate race

As of this writing, the Real Clear Politics averages have Casey up by 6 and Obama up by 4.7.  And you know some of those polls are BS. This thing is close.

As at least some of us said could happen, the Senate race has tightened along with the Presidential race. Consider the gap effectively closed.  The Smithies deserve major credit with putting a floor under the GOP ticket in Pennsylvania. Significant credit for PA’s competitiveness also goes to AFP, which has done quite a bit of phone banking and has run some excellent TV ads.

People are starting to notice. The NRSC is kicking in a cool half-million.  Ex-Gov Ed is at least paying lip service to the idea of a Romney upset if Democratic turnout collapses.

Now National Review is out with an editorial exposing some hard-hitting facts about Casey (emphasis added):

More recently, Senator Casey has turned his back on the Keystone State’s energy sector, which hovers precariously between resurgence and retreat.

In June, Casey voted against a bill to block a bundle of EPA rules known as Utility MACT, which stands for Maximum Achievable Control Technology, a fitting name for progressive job-killing regulations if ever there was one. Nationwide, MACT is expected to cost $9.2 billion, destroy 39,000 jobs, and result in 700,000 new hours of paperwork each year. In Pennsylvania, it has already caused five coal power plants to shutter, costing the Keystone State over 3,000 megawatts of electricity and hundreds of jobs while raising energy prices for Pennsylvanians. And its impact is only just starting to be felt; more than 20 other plants in the state could fall idle before all is said and done.

Casey’s [FRAC Act] bill would turn over regulation of drilling in the region’s Marcellus shale formation to the federal government at the worst possible time, endangering as many as 240,000 jobs and sending a message to his state’s own regulators that they aren’t up to the task of balancing environmental concerns against economic exigencies.

 

 

October 27, 2012 at 9:40 pm Comments (0)

US-Senate: Smith Within Two

Inside the margin of error

US Sen. Casey leads GOP challenger Tom Smith by 2 points, or 46% to 44% with 9% undecided. This margin is a statistical tossup within the +/-3.7% margin of error. Intensity for the candidates is nearly tied – 33% “definitely” voting for Smith compared to 36% “definitely” voting for Casey. This poll shows little change when compared with our last two polls on behalf of both the Pittsburgh Tribune Review (conducted 9/18-9/20, showing Casey leading Smith 46-41) and the Republican State Committee of Pennsylvania (conducted 9/15-9/17, showing Casey leading Smith 45-42).

I dont know if it’s Tom Smith’s story, Bob Casey’s riding his father’s name, or Obama’s evaporation, but I’ll take it.

October 10, 2012 at 1:51 pm Comments (0)

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