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Monday, August 02, 2004

Random thoughts about Republicans and conservatives

Somewhat bored earlier, I was checking site statistics today and came upon the fact that some people were visiting this site coming from this post at Fraters Libertas. I was somewhat amused to find that this blog, which is purely an exercise in self-centeredness, has met anybody's standards, but as they say, if it is on the Web, it must be true. Further down, I saw the commentary that many of the lefty blogs listed seem to be written by younger people, and that they may turn conservative when they are older, and by implication, wiser. That started the hamster turning in the brain...

I then reflected a bit more about Randy Kelly's endorsement of Bush, as told in the Pioneer Press story. Some things in that article, which I will get to in a moment, also got me thinking.

I really don't do much to advertise this blog, because for me it's just an enjoyable pastime, and I'm not driven by visit numbers or any ego-stroking things. So it is interesting to see who is visiting this site, and where it is mentioned. The World Wide Web works in mysterious ways, as they say. In any case, in response to the observation over at Fraters Libertas, I can say that I don't see my beliefs changing in any appreciable way as I grow older. I am mainly pragmatic, liberal on some issues, conservative on others, but I am mainly interested in good government and things that work. Government has an important role in many circumstances, but so does the market, families, social institutions, and so on. Nobody has a monopoly on what works best.

Examining the issue further, however, brings up an important distinction: does change mean changing positions on an issue, or changing political parties? I can and certainly will do the former, but I don't see myself ever doing the latter. The Republican Party today stands for so little, I can never see myself voting for its members. Since I believe that a good democracy needs functioning political parties that stand for something, I am honestly disappointed that the Republicans have become the party that they are now.

This brings me back to Randy Kelly. In the story, he says that his "turning point" as it were came when he saw an "I Hate Bush" bumper sticker on a car, and he realized that the politics of hate must stop. This is indeed laughable, as Republicans started the politics of hatred with their never-ending Clinton obsession. Who can forget Rush Limbaugh calling a teenage Chelsea Clinton the "White House dog?" Or Ann Coulter arguing that Democrats are the Spawn of Satan (as she did in the column that was axed by USA Today), or saying that liberals are guilty of treason, or wishing that Timothy McVeigh had blown up the New York Times too? Visit some of the bigger conservative web sites, like Free Republic, Lucianne.com, or Little Green Footballs, and you will see a wrath directed at liberals and Democrats that is psychopathic, such as constant references to "Hitlery Clinton". That's not to say that the left has no crazy people, but I can think of only one website that is even comparable, Democratic Underground, and as I never visit there I can't say what it is truly like. I think that if you compared these sites side by side, though, it would be clear who has more hatred.

Kelly also said that he thinks it is unwise to change leaders during a war, but if Bush has a plan for extricating the U.S. from Iraq, I would like to see it. Iraq has become a mess, caused by the very people who are in the current administration, who seriously botched pre-war planning by ignoring any reports that were less than rosy. Apparently, if people screw up, it is bad to replace them because it would interrupt their continuing to screw up. Well, isn't that the point?

Finally, Kelly said that Kerry would jeopardize the economic expansion that we are experiencing. First, the "expansion" is far from being just that; economic indicators are mixed, and this country still isn't creating nearly as many jobs as are necessary. Second, as the mayor of a large city, Kelly should know what the Republican answer is to everything: cut taxes and spending, no matter what. Saint Paul, like almost all cities in Minnesota, has lost Local Government Aid funding as a result of Republican budget priorities. No, Bush is not responsible for the state budget, but it isn't as if the federal budget is any better. It is inconceivable to argue that city finances would be better under Republicans than Democrats, especially if you are talking about urban core cities.

Obviously, I'm no fan of Bush and I don't think very highly of Kelly's endorsement of him. However, what bears closer attention is that Kelly gives no policy reasons to throw his support behind Bush. His reasons are more along the lines of "I feel bad about what Kerry will do and good about what Bush will do" instead of being able to point to specific candidate policies and proposals that he either supports or opposes. Gut feelings about a politician's character are a part of the electoral process, but I would argue that actual policies are more important.

To me, the fact that Kelly can't point to specific Bush proposals that he supports isn't very surprising, because I am hard pressed to understand what the Republican party stands for these days other than continual tax cuts. Conservatives used to be the party of balanced budgets, but this has been thrown out the window. The party of limited government found that the most important thing the legislature had to deal with this year was a constitutional amendment on gay marriage. Reasoned policy differences have turned into social wedge issues that are designed to simply get voters to the polling places. It's a sad state of affairs.

For me, the ideal is this: a back and forth where one party tries some things, then the other party does so, then back again, always balanced around the center, no one party running things for too long. I think this is the best way to get policies and programs that actually work. However, this balance has been askew for quite some time. Republicans these days aren't terribly interested in using government effectively to better the populace. They are for cutting taxes, spending money on their supporters, cutting funding for everything else, running up huge deficits, and using social wedge issues to whip their voting base into a frenzy. As it has been pointed out, they aren't very interested in governing, they just want to rule. Our country isn't served by this dynamic.

My religious upbringing taught me to value the community, to help our neighbors, to seek justice and liberty, and that the common good needs to be protected. I think that the government has a role in all of this, providing a helping hand to people to better themselves (but always expecting something in return so it's not a handout), getting involved where the market fails (because the free market is good for many things but not everything), and ensuring that we all can enjoy basically rights and responsibilities. Right now, these beliefs would put me in the Democratic party. I don't know what beliefs would put me in the Republican party aside from tax cuts at all times no matter what the cost. That is really too bad. It would be nice to have a real conservative party again.


At 9:23 PM, August 02, 2004, Blogger Patrick said...

Economic expansion? What is Kelly referring to?

Maybe the fact that Minnesota's economy is creating jobs. But wait -- they're only up to pre-Bush levels. Hey, it only took three and a half years to get back to the starting line.

Or maybe he's talking about our falling unemployment rate. After all, it's lower than it was a year ago! Problem is, it's still higher than it was when Bush came into office. And the last Dem president we had gave us real unemployment drops.

Well, maybe Kelly was thinking of the increase in personal incomes. Or housing values. Or exports. Of course, growth in those areas slowed significantly once Bush took office.

I'm out of ideas. Just what the hell was Kelly referring to?

Heh. Maybe he was just scared by Bush's terror threats. From four years ago. (See Drudge, NYT tomorrow).

At 8:35 AM, August 03, 2004, Blogger CrispyShot said...

I agree with DJ - what's Kelly thinking?

OT - surely I'm not the first Catholic school graduate to point out the "Fraters Libertas" is bad Latin? "Fratres Libertatis," maybe, but the name reminds me of that bit in Monty Python's "Life of Brian" where the Roman soldiers force Brian to fix the grammar in his "The Roman people, they go, the house" graffiti.

At 1:31 PM, August 04, 2004, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you think there is trouble at some conservative blogs, take a look at some liberal blogs like Democratic Underground, where republicans are repugs or repukes, and Reagan is Ray-gun and, Bush is called every foul thing possible.

At 5:15 PM, August 04, 2004, Blogger MN Politics Guru said...

I'm pretty sure I did mention DU, didn't I? And is calling Reagan "Ray-Gun" really comparable to Hitlery? I don't think so.

I appreciate traffic from mngop.com, but please read my posts a little more closely before commenting, or else you may end up looking silly. ;)

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