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Democrats own the Left. Might as well accept it.

It would appear that the National Republican Campaign Committee has thrown in the towel in the NY-23 race. As I said yesterday, it looks like at least some Republicans can see lightning and hear thunder. Even Michael Steele looks like getting a clue. (All via memeorandum.)

It’s about time.

Mark Ambinder at The Atlantic snarks, “…Republicans versus Conservatives, Governing Conservatives versus Theoretical Conservatives, Palin-Beck Crazies versus Sane Modernists.” Well, yes, shorn of the sneers, that’s just what’s going on.

If both parties have the same policies and ideological orientation, there’s no need for two parties. People who want to vote for Big Government, for “compassion” (meaning redistribution, envy, and jealousy of the more fortunate), for a society of dependents who can’t wipe their butts without aid from the Department of Personal Hygiene, are going to vote for Democrats. No amount of “me too!” is going to attract them to Republicans, because Democrats have made those things their emblem and standard. A Republican campaigning on “compassionate conservatism” is behind the curve right from engine start, because the Democrat will always be ahead on that issue.

If there is a future for the Republican Party, it is opposition to that kind of policy. That’s what the TEA Parties are all about; that’s what the “Palin-Beck crazies” are preaching. It’s impossible to build the Republican Party back up by moving it to the Left, because the Democrats own the Left.

The McCain-Gingrich Republicans see the issues as part of a “big tent” strategy, in which the Republican Party should adopt Leftoid policies and strategies to attract independent voters. It would have been a perfectly appropriate approach as recently as Bush I, and indeed it was the strategy largely adopted. Events since have demonstrated that it is the wrong strategy now.

If, as a commenter at Akbar’s post suggests, this is the death of the Republican Party, so be it. Parties have died before. It ain’t necessarily so, though. Poll after poll has suggested, and the Palin phenomenon and TEA Parties demonstrate, that there is still a significant conservative sentiment in this country, and if Republicans seize it and run with it they have a chance to remain viable, even if in the minority.

Say it again, say it loud: Democrats own the Left. There is no future for the Republican Party in trying to adopt Leftist philosophies to attract the independent voter. People who want Democrats will vote for real ones.

The New York Times informs us that Honduras will, in fact, get the Communist Government the Obama Administration insists upon. (via memeorandum) Ms. Clinton says

“We were very clearly on the side of the restoration of the constitutional order, and that includes the elections.”

That’s either a flat lie or pig-ignorance. The Honduran Government did everything by the numbers according to their Constitution; the fact that it doesn’t exactly correspond to ours doesn’t make it unConstitutional. As William Jacobsen points out, it’s simple bullying. The Hondurans don’t want Zelaya, and Barry and Hillary do.

Oh, well, Hugo gets another ally, which was the point all along.

Lots of Congresscritters are in ethical trouble. Ho hum. It would be faster and more efficient to hunt down the few who aren’t scumbags and just shoot them. Might as well make it totally uniform, eh?

It would appear that at least some Republicans can see lightning and hear thunder. I’ve been wondering. Look, guys, if both parties agree on basic policy and procedure, there’s no point in two parties, and voters know that. People who want an intrusive nanny state that guarantees safety and comfort for everybody are going to vote Democratic, and that’s that despite “Me too!”s from Republicans. If Republicans want votes, they have to offer something different.

The kids and I got part of the new fence up and a good bit of the trash lying against the old one cleaned out. Now I need to get in touch with somebody who’ll carry off a huge tangle of old wire of various types — no antique barbed wire, more’s the pity. (That stuff’s worth money to collectors.) The antique gate’s hung, and if I can get the post straight up and down it’ll even swing properly — with the wet ground lately, it’s hard to get it to stay in one place.

Bobbe had an attack of some kind last night. I don’t know what it was, but her feet were numb and she couldn’t walk, fell down on the way back from the bathroom. This worries me. I have to travel to make money, and if I can’t leave her alone, what can I do?

Pray, is what, and I do. Some hits on the tip jar would be nice about now.

…in the airplane at Dover Air Force base. (via memeorandum.)

Lefty bloggers snark that “…Count on some right-winger to carry on about the president ‘exploiting’ the tragedy and the families of the dead…” Well, yes. WoofWoof even points out that “Mr. Bush … never went to Dover, preferring to meet with the families in private.” That is, after all, the difference between “photo op” and “compassion”, and it’s easy to tell which is which.

Jazz Shaw at the Moderate(ly liberal) Voice gives the man credit: “The President is in the midst of wrestling with a very important decision regarding our future course in Afghanistan, and this is one aspect of that weighty choice which should never be far from his mind.” That’s certainly a possible interpretation, but given the background and previous actions of Obama and his Administration, not the most probable one.

The Mudville Gazette gets it right:

How to turn the situation around? Some say more troops, some say change strategy, others say withdraw – but someone in the White House got the bright idea that now would be a good time for a photo op.

Yup. The central fact here is that Teh Dear Leader has no idea how to do anything at all except campaign. It’s not just a photo op, it’s a campaign photo op. What the Hell is this man running for now?

Serr8d at Protein Wisdom smells a policy shift in the wind, and quotes Senator Durbin: “Escalation of this war is not the change the American people called for in the last election.” It’s not a shift, guy. It’s the policy being made apparent.

Think Progress refers to Bloomberg, who notes that the family of the soldier whose casket was front and center consented to the coverage. Good to know they at least asked, isn’t it?

No, it isn’t. There’s nothing good about the whole thing.

The MSM has been lusting for years for access to Dover, where the bodies of slain servicemen are returned to their native soil in solemn ceremony. What they want, of course, is to turn it into a circus, and to be able to feature a continuous stream of coffins every night on Teh News, with lugubrious commentary to the effect that These Valued Dead Have Given Their Lives In Vain to support American Imperialism! This is the thin edge of that wedge.

It’s a fact that the U.S. military is unlikely to be defeated in the field by any currently-credible entity, although defeat or at least loss in any particular battle is always possible. Fortunately for our enemies, it isn’t necessary to defeat the U.S. military. All you have to do to win is wait until a Democrat is elected, whereupon the Americans run like rabbits.

My wake-up talk radio was all about swine flu this morning. The New York Times says, in part:

…despite months of planning and preparation, a vaccine shortage is threatening to undermine public confidence in government…

It doesn’t surprise me at all that there’s a vaccine shortage. What I want to know is: why is there any vaccine at all? If I were an investor, I’d be looking up the companies making it and shorting them like mad.

Let us imagine the best possible case: the vaccine works as expected without side effects. Nobody who takes it gets the flu or gets sick from the vaccine itself. What’s the result?

Clearly it wasn’t a big problem in the first place! Now, let’s convene a Congressional investigation inspired by the legions of news stories complaining about the fact that the drug companies charged the Government six bucks a dose for something that cost them pennies to produce. After all, the CDC, inspired by the sheer Goodness and Compassion of the Dear Leader (who wouldn’t be in office for a year after the effort began, but that’s a picky detail), identified the strain and provided the seed stock; all the drug companies had to do was grow the stuff, which is easy, not to mention cheap. Damned profiteers grasping for every dollar…

The most probable result, of course, is that the vaccine works well but not perfectly. Some people who take the shot get the flu; some people who take the shot have side effects, perhaps serious ones. What will the political climate look like?

The damned profiteers can’t even get it right! The CDC, inspired by the sheer Goodness and Compassion of the Dear Leader (who wouldn’t be in office for a year after the effort began, but that’s a picky detail), provided everything they needed… and they screwed it up. People got sick when they shouldn’t have! People got sick from the messed-up vaccine! Let there be stories in the Press! Let there be huffs from Arianna and company, let there be fire-breathing denunciations at FireDogLake, spitting on the damned drug companies for cutting corners in making the vaccine, all to make a profit! Let there be investigations by every committee of the Congress that can claim a corner of the issue! And, of course, the ATLA will immediately grasp the opportunity presented by the sufferers of side effects. Surely twelve good cretins and true can be found in Alabama to make them hand over million$ for the unnecessary pain and suffering caused by their negligence!

Of course, the worst case is that the vaccine works badly or not at all, or has severe side effects. In that case, just take the reaction to the normal or best-expected version, above, and multiply by approximately one hundred.

Defense? Don’t make me laugh. Given the clear orientation and past behavior of the Obama Administration, you can expect them to be leading the charge to blame somebody, anybody, other than themselves — which, in this case, would mean the damned profiteering drug companies, the Republicans who allowed them their grasping greedy ways, and (of course) George W. Bush (yes, they’d find some excuse). The talk-radio host, this morning, suggested that the drug companies would do it out of patriotism and desire for the health of the American people. If they know, in advance, that even in the very best case they’re going to be insulted, and in the worst case destroyed, with no chance whatever that anyone in a position of responsibility will defend them, how strong would that motive look?

So in the very best case the drug companies can expect to be denounced and calumnified for nasty vicious profiteering, and in any situation where the results are better than perfect they can expect ordure to be heaped upon their heads, with the possibility of losing the company entirely to the trial lawyers. What sane person would take that bet? If I were a stockholder, I would already be sending indignant missives asking why the Management is assuming such a risk for no reward.

That, to my mind, is a real pity.

Foreigners puzzled by the US political system used to ask me about it. I would explain to them that American politics can’t be understood in terms of the political parties found in other systems, especially Parliamentary ones. Political parties around the world are based on some unifying principle all the members agree with. It might be (usually is) some sort of ideology, but it can also be a particular religion or, more often, simple family ties. If I had been advising the Iraqis, I would have suggested that they incorporate the clan structure of Iraqi society explicitly, with political parties as a model.

American political parties are, or used to be, quite different. We have “first past the post” voting and no formal recognition of Party structures, and the result (as political scientists will tell you is inevitable, and prove it with math) is two parties, with the always-smaller ideologically based parties relegated to near irrelevance. Until recently in historical terms, the two parties were not particularly unified within themselves. There were a pair of nebulous philosophies that helped keep them semi-cohesive, but the two parties each contained a broad spectrum of opinion. Ideological differences didn’t matter much anyway, because the Government was relatively weak as regards internal affairs. Political parties could be understood in much the same terms as the fan base of a sports team — “our side” vs. “their side”, but both playing the same game.

In a very real way, the United States didn’t have two political parties, it had two Governments, and they traded off. Parliamentary Governments require that the newly-elected representatives “form a Government” as the first step after an election, which is why they try to have elections as seldom as possible — it’s a cumbersome and complex procedure. American political parties went through the coalition-building and give-and-take to form a unified whole at the Party stage, and after the election had only to appoint the appropriate ministers to be off and running.

This is where Newt Gingrich and John McCain are coming from; this is the structure they are familiar with and expect. If you examine their recommendations and tactics, you will see that they are based on the expectation that the system they’re used to continues in force. Unfortunately for them — and us — they are brontosaurs in a world where the mammals are biting their heels while the velociraptors think of them as “lunch”.

The unifying principle for Republicans was, and remains, centripetalism, a tendency to favor unified solutions and single points of power — the Government itself, large private corporations, associations of all kinds. In the earlier era, Democrats tended to approve of individualistic philosophies, but since about the Kennedy Administration Democrats have become more and more a Party that promotes communitarian solutions, ranging from Populism to out-and-out Communism. Communitarian policies are, almost by definitition, centripetal, tending to push toward more and bigger organizations and more and stronger central control. It’s important to realize that the “Party Flip” applies almost entirely to Democrats. Republicans stayed pretty much where they were while Democrats moved strongly toward communitarianism, for which the shorthand is “the Left”.

The result is appalling uniformity between the two parties, and the incredible growth of centralizing Government intrusion. Each individual intrusion may, and often does, have good-sense argument in favor of it, but without a stabilizing force in the form of a Party with centrifugal tendencies there is no restraint on the centralizing force. They may apply different reasoning or invoke different principles in support, but both Democrats and Republicans today work toward a system with strong central control, differing only in the details.

Gingrich, McCain, Snowe, et. al., are still trying to make the old system work. They fail, because the basic function — effective opposition — no longer exists. Both Parties agree on the underlying principle of growth of Government as a centralizing force. When Democrats propose some centralizing policy, Republicans differ with them only in the details. Details may be important, but the only thing Republicans can offer is, perhaps, a bit less central force, because their own tendencies are in the same direction.

The TEA Parties and the occasional intrusion of people who label themselves “conservative” — meaning, in this context, opposed to forceful centralization — are an attempt to provide an opposition to the centripetal tendency that has become uniform in main-line politics. Conservatives, by that definition, have almost no representation in Government today, although they are certainly a large minority and perhaps a thin majority of the populace. It remains to be seen whether or not Republicans can ever understand that and re-form themselves as a largely-Conservative party opposing the communitarian Democrats; the early signs aren’t hopeful. The fact that most Party-favored candidates on both sides are Senators, rather than Governors, Representatives, or people from outside the system altogether, is symptomatic.

In a two-party system third parties have a tough row to hoe, and a good chunk of that comes from the short-term effects. It could be argued that Ross Perot elected Bill Clinton by siphoning off the conservatives from Republicans, allowing Democrats the majority. It could equally be argued that Ralph Nader did something similar for George W. Bush. This is the problem Gingrich is pointing out. In the past, it’s been overcome by having third-party policies incorporated into the philosophies of the major party most closely aligned — but if Republicans cannot abandon centripetalism, cannot adopt centrifugal, Conservative policies, that won’t work here.

If there’s nobody on the ballot who isn’t a promoter of centralization, there’s little point in voting Republican and no real motive to do so beyond the “sport fan” attitude. When it comes to promoting centralization, Democrats have the stronger, or at least more effective, arguments. If Republicans want to survive as a Party, the only real alternative is for them to adopt centrifugal — “conservative” — policies and promote them. “Me too, but cheaper” is not an effective campaign slogan.

The NY-23 race is interesting to a lot of people, and memeorandum has pointers to a Ben Smith article in Politico quoting a Newt Gingrich interview by dear Greta. Newt is banging the “moderation” thing pretty heavily, still:

And so this idea that we’re suddenly going to establish litmus tests, and all across the country, we’re going to purge the party of anybody who doesn’t agree with us 100 percent — that guarantees Obama’s reelection. That guarantees Pelosi is Speaker for life. I mean, I think that is a very destructive model for the Republican Party.

I think he’s wrong, and even if he isn’t, he’s meta-wrong. The “agree with us 100%” is a stupid mischaracterization. What’s being objected to is having a candidate supposedly on “our” side who agrees with the “other” side more than with us. It does us, as a country, no good whatever to have two political parties if both the parties are playing from the same hymnal.

The selected (by the local Republicans and the NRC) candidate can’t be distinguished from a somewhat-conservative Democrat by neutron activation analysis. If people want a Democrat, they’ll vote for a Democrat. This is the real problem with the “reach across the aisle” strategy — “Me too, but cheaper!” is not a winning political slogan.

Meanwhile, a Real Clear Politics poll finds Hoffman, the conservative Independent, with a clear lead over all other candidates, and the RNC’s preferred candidate in last place except for “undecided”. I don’t know what New York does about runoffs, but Hoffman isn’t running officially as a Republican. Perhaps he and Joe Lieberman can form the nucleus of a new party of current Independents?

What was Barry Obama’s thesis about?

Simon Maloy at Media Matters sneers at length (with UPDATE!s) at the recent kerfluffle among conservatives about somebody saying Obama dissed the Founding Fathers in it. The screed reminds me strongly of some of the pieces that have appeared on conservative sites debunking the crap that’s been spewed about George Bush, Republicans, and conservatives in general over the last few years, with one important difference.

We still don’t have Obama’s thesis to look at, so its content is still subject to assumption and rumor. Maloy provides no evidence whatever in his “debunking”, merely assertion plus quotes from some of the more strident conservative comments on the subject. Conservatives generally had evidence, however thin, that the Leftoid accusations were false. Maloy’s got nothing but the bare word of people who haven’t seen the theisis, either!

By the Mapes/Rather standard of “evidence” Maloy’s essay counts as confirmation that Obama really did call the Founders a bunch of uncaring, slaving capitalists too stupid and vicious to invent Socialism. Somebody with more leisure than I have should search the archives of Kos, et. al., for the pieces expressing that sentiment regarding “Bush AWOL”, “Cheney Profiting from the War”, or the Lancet “statistics”, and paraphrase them in response. It’d probably take Moulitsas and Hamsher a week to catch on.

Don’t give me “nobody keeps old papers”. A college thesis is supposed to be a contribution to scholarship which later writers can cite in support of their own contributions. As such, it’s supposed to be kept around for the convenience of those later scholars. If it wasn’t, it confirms that young Barry was being given a free ride — he produced enough verbiage for them to give him the degree without regard to content, then they tossed it in the Dumpster® to avoid later embarrassment.

In the meantime, Rush and others used the story to get attention, therefore viewers, listeners, and readers, and therefore to attract advertisers who paid them money. Other media outlets take note. Mr. Emmanuel had a true insight that doesn’t apply only to direct politics.

“Dumpster” is a registered trade mark of the Dempsey Corporation. Used under the “Fair Use” provisions of the Copyright Act.

It’s amazed me for some time now that so many of the Media seem able to ignore the elephant in the room: Fox, Limbaugh, Becker, et. al., are making money where the others are, to put it mildly, not. The demise of Air America, which ultimately resulted in Franken’s being demoted to Senator, should have been a wake-up call, but somehow was not.

William Jacobsen touches on the matter, quoting a New York Times editorial noting that “… their newsroom[] had not been fast enough in following stories that Fox News, to the administration’s chagrin, had been heavily covering through the summer and early fall…” But Jacobsen, like most others, has been concentrating on the free speech implications of the Obama Administrations attacks on Fox and, indirectly, the rest of the Press, later wondering if the Press realizes that it’s created a monster. That dim realization is (or so it would seem) beginning to creep in on little cat feet, but it isn’t at all what I would have expected to get attention.

A newspaper, a TV station or cable channel, a radio station, is a business that has to make money. In our system, that money comes from advertisers; viewer payment to support the system comes as the time viewers spend looking at the ads, as well as the surcharge on product cost represented by the advertisements themselves. In order to make that system work, the paper or station has to be able to attract viewers. In a very real way, the function of the programming is to attract “eyeballs” to look at the ads — and it hasn’t been serving that function very well.

It’s not a new statistic to note that Fox has more viewers than all its major competitors or cable combined, and it’s not news to anyone that newspapers and over-the-air TV stations have been hemorrhaging readership, viewers, and consequently ad revenue, and as a result have been cutting staff and taking other measures to contain costs. What’s amazing is that the directors and executives of the corporations that own those organizations haven’t noted that they aren’t making money and their competition is making money, and tried to figure out why that might be.

Sam Goldwyn is supposed to have said, “If you want to send a message, call Western Union.” Most “news” people today are famously devoted to “making a difference” by endorsing messages they like and sending messages of their own. It gives the lie to the very concept of “journalism”, and isn’t a profitable way to go about things, either, especially when the “message” being sent is blatant and differs in important ways from the basic philosophy of their potential audience.

More important,  anyone seeking a wide audience must titillate. Things have to be shocking, amazing, titillating, or they become boring and people tune them out. (That’s why car crashes are so popular on the local news.) Messages are always boring, especially on the nth repetition. A profitable news organization would never let a juicy scandal go to waste, because blaring it across the masthead attracts eyeballs and therefore the advertisers who pay the bills.

Our news media have been ignoring that in their eagerness to get the message across. Only Fox covered the ACORN scandal, and it gained a lot of viewers that way, not because people were attracted to honest journalism but more because they were titillated by the scandal. The rest missed out because they were trying to support the message. In an age where the struggle to attract viewers or readers has become ever more frantic, it isn’t profitable to cede juicy scandals to your competitors.

…of the kine that tread out the grain.

It’s not just humanitarian advice.

A freeway rest stop near Van, Texas, is not the ideal place for blogging, even if they do have free WiFi.

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October 2009