Archive for the ‘John McCain’ Tag

What next for the Republican Party?

The Republican Party, to which I belong, received a solid—albeit not catastrophic—defeat in Tuesday’s elections.  The Washington Post‘s conservative columnist George F. Will has an excellent editorial putting GOP losses in perspective:

As this is being written, Republicans seem to have lost a total of 55 House and 11 Senate seats in the past two elections. These are the worst Republican results in consecutive elections since the Depression-era elections of 1930 and 1932 (153 and 22), which presaged exile from the presidency until 1953. If, as seems likely at this writing, in January congressional Republicans have 177 representatives and 44 senators, they will be weaker than at any time since after the 1976 elections, when they were outnumbered in the House 292 to 143 and the Senate 61 to 38.

Still, the Republican Party retains a remarkably strong pulse, considering that McCain’s often chaotic campaign earned 46 percent of the popular vote while tacking into terrible winds. Conservatives can take some solace from the fact that four years after Goldwater won just 38.5 percent of the popular vote, a Republican president was elected.

Does anyone really think the donkey is a better mascot than the elephant?  Seriously?

Does anyone really think the donkey is a better mascot than the elephant? Seriously?

However, Will hits on an important way in which 2008 was worse than 1964 for Republicans and conservatives (who are, even now, not necessarily the same thing).  While McCain’s loss was not as huge as Barry Goldwater’s 1964 loss—in which he won 16 fewer states and 122 fewer electoral votes than McCain seems to have won—the Republican Party has some problems.  “Tuesday’s trouncing was more dispiriting for conservatives. Goldwater’s loss was constructive; it invigorated his party by reorienting it ideologically. McCain’s loss was sterile, containing no seeds of intellectual rebirth.”  The Grand Old Party must immediately begin some very deliberate soul searching to figure out what sort of party it wants to be.

It appears that the three-legged stool of supporters that Ronald Reagan most perfectly united—social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, and foreign policy hawks—can no longer be assumed for Republicans.  The issues that social conservatives care about, sometimes to the exclusion of other issues, appeal to a diminishing number of moderates and independents, though I say that with less certainty than I would have if California’s Proposition 8 had been defeated.  And voters rightly distrust Republicans right now; during the past eight years, the national debt has almost doubled and U.S. standing in the world has plummeted to lows not seen in decades.  Our party controlled the white house during that time and Congress for most of it, so what excuses do we have?

Slate has some interesting short essays by Republican and conservative thinkers about what the party needs to and can do in the next few years to shape itself back up.  Jim Manzi, a contributor to National Review, writes the following:

Most conservatives who propose a return to “Reagan conservatism” don’t understand either the motivations or structure of the Reagan economic revolution. The 1970s were a period of economic crisis for America as it emerged from global supremacy to a new world of real economic competition. The Reagan economic strategy for meeting this challenge was sound money plus deregulation, broadly defined. It succeeded, but it exacerbated a number of pre-existing trends that began or accelerated in the ’70s that tended to increase inequality.

International competition is now vastly more severe than it was 30 years ago. The economic rise of the Asian heartland is the fundamental geostrategic fact of the current era. In aggregate, America is rich and economically successful but increasingly unequal, with a stagnating middle class. If we give up the market-based reforms that allow us to prosper, we will lose by eventually allowing international competitors to defeat us. But if we let inequality grow unchecked, we will lose by eventually hollowing out the middle class and threatening social cohesion. This rock-and-a-hard-place problem, not some happy talk about the end of history, is what “globalization” means for the United States.

Seen in this light, the challenge in front of conservatives is clear: How do we continue to increase the market orientation of the American economy while helping more Americans to participate in it more equally?

Indeed.  It is not enough to simply create more wealth if it all goes to those who already have ridiculous amounts of it.  It’s about meeting society’s needs through, among other things, the creation of wealth.  If we can’t figure out how to accomplish this we’re in for a long time in the wilderness as a party.  We also need to rethink our relationship with the world.  China is not the Soviet Union.  Al Qaeda is not the Soviet Union.  The European Union is not what it was thirty years ago.  We can’t just apply Reagan’s policies to today’s world; those policies were designed for the world as it was then, not now.  But the principles are the same.  What do we need to do now to increase economic performance, while helping the environment?  What do we need to do now to promote freedom abroad and to counter international aggression?

We’re out of power right now, so we’ve got time to think about these issues.  How much time depends on us.

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Some trivia on presidents and President-Elect Obama

Well, Senator Barack Obama is now President-Elect Barack Obama, albeit unofficially until the electoral votes are counted in a joint session of Congress on January 6th.  Obama will be the second U.S. President from Illinois; the first, of course, being Abraham Lincoln.  But here is some useless presidential trivia that you may not know.

He is also the first president to be elected from outside the Sun Belt since John Kennedy in 1960.  (Note that Michigander Gerald Ford was appointed, not elected.)   When he assumes office at noon on 20 January 2009 he will be 47 years, 5 months, and 16 days old; that will make him the fifth youngest person to become president, after Theodore Roosevelt (42 years, 10 months, 18 days); John F. Kennedy (43 years, 7 months, 22 days); Bill Clinton (46 years, 5 months, 1 day); and Ulysses S. Grant (46 years, 10 months, 5 days).  He is the fourth youngest person elected to the presidency, since Teddy Roosevelt, as Vice President, took office upon the death of President William McKinley.

Perhaps surprisingly, Obama is just the third sitting U.S. Senator to be elected president.  The other two were Warren Harding and John Kennedy.  Thirteen other presidents had previously served as a U.S. Senator, but not immediately preceeding their becoming president.

Obama is the first Democrat to win a majority of the popular vote in 32 years; the last one to do so was Jimmy Carter, who won 50.08% of the popular vote in 1976.  (Due in part to the participation of Ross Perot, Clinton received only 43% and 49.24% of the popular vote in his two winning campaigns.  Though Al Gore won the popular vote in 2000, he also didn’t get an absolute majority, securing only 48.4% of the vote, due to Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan being in the race.)

Had John McCain won, he would have been the second U.S. President to have spent time as a prisoner of war; the first was Andrew Jackson.  McCain, who is from the Sun Belt state of Arizona, would have been the oldest president to assume office, beating out Ronald Reagan by over two years.

Watch football on Monday to see who’ll win election on Tuesday

Everyone who thinks that the election is important should pay close attention to tomorrow’s Monday Night Football game, when the 6-2 Washington Redskins host the 5-2 Pittsburgh Steelers.  If Washington wins, John McCain is looking at an upset victory.  But if Pittsburgh prevails, Obama could be in for a big night.  Why?  Well, as my fellow Washington Redskins fans have probably heard, it is claimed that the result of our beloved franchise’s last home game before a presidential election presages the result of that election.  That is, when the Redskins win their final pre-election home game the incumbent, or his party, retains control of the White House; and when the Redskins lose so does the incumbent, or his party’s nominee.

I am a Redskins fan who has endorsed Barack Obama, which could lead to a state of dissonance tomorrow.  Fortunately (or unfortunately), the legend about the Redskins being proficient presidential predictors is not quite true—but it used to be.

If the Chicago Daily Tribune had watched the Redskins beat the New York Yanks, 59-21, they'd have never run that headline!

If the Chicago Daily Tribune had watched the Redskins beat the New York Yanks, 59-21, they wouldn't have misreported the 1948 results.

Snopes has the facts:  Since 1936, the Redskins first have correctly predicted, via the method described above, 17 out of 18 presidential elections—a success rate of 94.4%, which ain’t bad.  (Note that this counts the correct “prediction” in 1936 when the Redskins played in Boston and ignores the incorrect “prediction” in 1932 when they played in Boston as the Braves.  Apparently, it’s the Redskins part, not the Washington part, that’s important here.)  The one that they got wrong?  It was the last election; the Green Bay Packers beat the Redskins, which should have meant defeat for George W. Bush as well, but John Kerry was the one who went on to lose.

Of course, this whole thing is all coincidence—there’s no plausible causal mechanism in place and, given all the thousands of things that could be correlated with anything else, it’d be surprising not to find one that, due to happenstance, just happens to do so.  Therefore, I’ll have no trouble pulling for Washington tomorrow.  Hail to the Redskins!

Thoughts on progressive taxation, redistributing wealth

Here is a quick, multiple choice, quiz.  First, consider the following quote:

The subjects of every state ought to contribute towards the support of the government, as nearly as possible, in proportion to their respective abilities; that is, in proportion to the revenue which they respectively enjoy under the protection of the state.

Now, who said that?

(A) Karl Marx
(B) Vladimir Lenin
(C) John Maynard Keynes
(D) Adam Smith

I’ll get to the answer shortly. I bring it up due to recent discussions on the “redistribution of wealth” in the context of the imminent presidential election.  Specifically, John McCain criticizing Barack Obama for wanting to “spread the wealth around” and such.  But, as a recent Slate article points out,

Government redistributes wealth to some extent by its very existence, since it’s impractical for citizens to pay for or benefit from it in equal proportion, even if that were desirable. So long as you have a system of taxation and a spending on public goods like education and roads, some people will do better in the bargain than others.

The same article points out that McCain himself supports all sorts of programs that unquestionably distribute wealth, including inter alia Social Security, Medicare, and the Earned Income Tax Credit.  And he opposed President Bush’s 2001 tax cuts on the grounds that they unfairly favored the rich.  (He has since changed his mind.)  And then there’s McCain’s hero, Theodore Roosevelt, who said this:

We grudge no man a fortune in civil life if it is honorably obtained and well used. It is not even enough that it should have been gained without doing damage to the community. We should permit it to be gained only so long as the gaining represents benefit to the community. … The really big fortune, the swollen fortune, by the mere fact of its size, acquires qualities which differentiate it in kind as well as in degree from what is possessed by men of relatively small means. Therefore, I believe in a graduated income tax on big fortunes, and … a graduated inheritance tax on big fortunes, properly safeguarded against evasion, and increasing rapidly in amount with the size of the estate.

Slate argues, in another article, that McCain should either stop calling Teddy Roosevelt his hero or should stop calling Obama a Socialist. T. R., after all, supported the 16th Amendment which authorized progressive income taxes.  That first Slate piece then critiques claims that, while McCain’s redistributive policies are okay, Obama’s are far different and go too far.  But if you’ve read that article you already know that.

McCain might call this man a Socialist for wanting to redistribute the wealth of nations

McCain might call this man a Socialist for wanting to redistribute the wealth of nations

And you also know the answer to the question which lead off this post.  So, who did say that people “ought to contribute towards the support of the government, as nearly as possible, in proportion to their respective abilities”?  Was it Karl Marx?  Or Lenin? Hopefully you didn’t guess either of them; they weren’t very big on any sort of private revenue at all, let alone protecting it with the state, whose existence Marx disdained.  So it must have been Keynes, right?  Nope.  The correct answer is (D) Adam Smith. The quote is straight from The Wealth of NationsBook V, Chapter II, Part 2 to be precise.  If, like me, you own the Modern Library edition you’ll find it on page 888.  I was pleased to see that I’d underlined that particular passage when I had last read the work.

Anyway, arguments against progressive taxation have long seemed a bit inconsistent to me.  Bill Gates must pay at least tens of thousands of times as much as I do in income taxes. But does he get tens of thousands of times more use out of the Interstate Highway System?  Does the U.S. Army protect his freedoms a million times more than they do mine?  Sure, he’s got more property to protect, but we’d both be about equally upset if the Canadians invaded and destroyed our homes.   So, unless you want a poll tax, where everyone pays the same dollar figure regardless of income, or to have everything based on user fees, you are in favor of redistributing wealth.  But, don’t worry, you’re in good company.

Palin a drag on McCain, going rogue & planning for 2012

This blog’s criticisms of Sarah Palin as a Vice Presidential candidate are well-known to its readers,so I won’t swell the record here with those points again.  For them, see here, here, and here.  Suffice it to say, her selection by McCain played a role in the decisions of a number of conservatives who have endorsed Obama, myself included—and add Reagan advisor Ken Adelman to the list too—along with decisions by many other solid Republicans who won’t be supporting the GOP ticket, including my Congressman and Colin Powell.  Her addition to the ticket was pretty clearly a cynically executed political maneuver by John McCain, not one that put country first.

"Wait, what do you mean when you say that you're 'looking out for #1'?  Do you mean me...or yourself?"

McCain: "Wait, what do you mean when you say that you're 'looking out for #1'? Do you mean me...or yourself?"

Now he appears to be paying the price for the decision.  A recent poll shows that voter’s biggest concern with the Republican ticket is Palin’s perceived lack of qualifications.  Another poll indicates that 59% of voters think that she is not qualified to be Vice President.  If accurate, then at most 41% of Americans think that she is qualified (it’s probably lower due to respondants who gave no opinion).  That indicates to me that probably almost everyone who’s not voting for McCain finds her unqualified.

Now, with McCain’s slim chances of pulling off a victory declining each day, one of his campaign aides has said that Palin is “going rogue.”  She has been critisizing McCain’s campaign, saying they should have kept competing in Michigan and should stop using “irritating” robocalls to reach voters, even as the campaign was defending their use.  A second campaign insider said that Palin seemed to be looking out for her own interests more than those of the campaign.

She is a diva. She takes no advice from anyone. … She does not have any relationships of trust with any of us, her family or anyone else. Also, she is playing for her own future and sees herself as the next leader of the party. Remember: Divas trust only unto themselves, as they see themselves as the beginning and end of all wisdom.

Possibly the words of displaced insiders on a campaign that’s behind big with just days to go.  There is a history of tension between the #1 and #2 people on a ticket and their respective staffs.

Hopefully, Palin will still be seeing plenty of this flag after January 20th, and not just because it's a pretty good one

Hopefully, Palin will still be seeing plenty of this flag after January 20th, and not just because it's a pretty good one.

But these are also possibly real insights from people who are positioned to know what’s going on behind the scenes.  Palin does appear to be positioning herself for a run in 2012 “if” she and McCain don’t win on Tuesday; when asked if she’d just return to Alaska if Obama wins she said “Absolutely not. I think that if I were to give up and wave a white flag of surrender against some of the political shots that we’ve taken … I’m not doing this for naught.”  She has also publicly broken with McCain over a federal marriage amendment, something that McCain opposes (he wants states to decide) but that Palin’s most likely constituency, social conservatives, absolutely love.  These are not things that garner the type of attention that a guy needing a huge upset, come-from-behind victory needs to have in the week before the election.

She is clearly now a liability, not the asset she seemed to be in the days after her selection.  A number of sources are now speculating about what might have been if McCain had selected another running mate.  The guy that I would have liked to see, Tom Ridge, recently said in an interview that “I think the dynamics would be different in Pennsylvania [if I were the Vice Presidential nominee]. … I think we’d be foolish not to admit it publicly.”  Ridge, the campaign’s national co-chairman, admitted that McCain “had several good choices and I was one of them.”  (He later backpedaled saying he was “taken out of context” and that “Governor Palin will make a great Vice President” and, oh yeah, they’re going to win Pennsylvania too.)

Ridge was a popular Governor of Pennsylvania and has at least twenty times as much experience as Palin, most of it “executive experience.”  McCain would be extremely competetive in Pennsylvania (21 electoral votes) right now if he’d picked Ridge, and would probably be ahead in Florida (27 votes) and Ohio (20 votes) as well. The biggest reason that he wasn’t picked is that social conservatives in the party would probably have objected to someone who is pro-choice being on the ticket.

I hereby propose an amnesty for any and all conservatives and Republicans who have previously endorsed or supported Sarah Palin’s selection as the GOP vice presidential nominee.  Simply admit that she is, after further consideration, not the best possible pick and that you wish that McCain had selected someone else.  Do this by midnight Monday and no questions will be asked.  This doesn’t even require you to vote against McCain, just admit that Palin is not helping the ticket and shouldn’t have been selected.  You can do so in a reply to this post if you’d like.  And, whoever wins on Tuesday, let’s try to pull back together to keep our party from getting screwed up for next time, okay?

Obama targetting Arizona

Arizona's flag is quite good.  But don't worry, I'm sure there'll soon be news from a state with a sucky flag.

Arizona has a good flag. But don't worry, I'm sure there'll be news from a state with a lame one soon.

CNN indicates that Barack Obama is going to air ads in John McCain’s home state of Arizona.  They say that Arizona would be a key swing state if not for the fact that McCain is from there; the Republican only leads 49–45 with 6 percent undecided.  McCain’s residency and his long representation of the state in the Congress is probably worth at least 4 points; the state would probably be looking bluish, like neighboring New Mexico and Colorado if the GOP had nominated someone else.

Intrade speculators think it is 4.35 times more likely that McCain will win Arizona than that Obama will do so.  However, they may not have had time to factor in Obama’s latest decision into the pricing.  In any event, Obama’s only goal probably isn’t to win Arizona’s 10 electoral votes, though I’m sure he wouldn’t mind them.  He’ll probably consider the expenditure worth it if it simply creates the impression that McCain is embattled and struggling even to win his home turf.  Hmm.  It seems to be working.

Readers may recall that Democrat Al Gore lost his home state of Tennessee in 2000; had he won it, he’d have been president.

My presidential endorsement: Barack Obama

With five days before the election, I have decided to come out and endorse a presidential candidate. During the Republican primaries, I endorsed, voted for, and contributed financially to John McCain—moves that I do not regret, as I think he was the best candidate in the GOP field. However, further developments have convinced me that he is not the best man to lead our country at this point in history. I am crossing party lines and endorsing Barack Obama for the Presidency of the United States.

I hereby endorse this man to be the next President of the United States of America

I hereby endorse this man to be the next President of the United States of America

This move will, undoubtedly, surprise and puzzle a number of my friends, family members, and associates, who, if they know anything of my politics, know me as a life-long Republican and a self-identifying conservative, so I will briefly state the reasons for my decision.

First, Obama is, like Kennedy, a tax-cutting Democrat.  According to the non-partisan Tax Policy Center, Obama would cut taxes by $2.9 trillion over the 2009-2018 period.

The Obama plan would reduce taxes for low- and moderate-income families, but raise them significantly for high-bracket taxpayers. By 2012, middle-income taxpayers would see their after-tax income rise by about 5 percent, or nearly $2,200 annually. Those in the top 1 percent would face a $19,000 average tax increase—a 1.5 percent reduction in after-tax income.

McCain’s tax cuts would be about 30% larger but are targeted differently, mainly assisting those already wealthy and, undoubtedly, contributing to further economic inequality, which is already approaching all-time highs.

Unfortunately, both of them would lead to bigger deficits, but Obama is the slightly less reckless of the two.   The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the nation’s debt will increase by $2.3 trillion by 2018 under current laws. The Tax Policy Center estimates that Obama’s tax package would add $3.5 trillion to the total, while McCain’s proposals would add $5 trillion. That is, McCain would add 25% more to the national debt than would Obama. That is not conservative.

Arguments that the wealthy will stop working as hard and stop investing in their businesses if their taxes go up need to be addressed.  Those arguments, while they may seem intuitively right to many conservatives, do not hold up. Right now the top marginal tax rate is near its all-time historic low, set in the 1920s—just before the great depression hit. In the 1990s the top right was higher than it is now—and the economy did quite well. It also did just fine from 1950–1963 when the highest rate was a whopping 91% (note: not a typo).  The wealthy will be just fine under Barack Obama, just as they’d be fine under almost any president.  They can pay a bit more in taxes so that lower- and middle-income people don’t need to sacrifice saving for retirement, college, childcare, health care, et cetera. The wealthiest people, however, usually end up sacrificing what can reasonably be called luxuries. Taxing the richest people now will lead to fewer poor people in the future, which is good for everyone—including the rich.

Additionally, I think Obama would be the better man to handle our nation’s foreign policy.  While McCain has more experience in the field, he is fundamentally hawkish, and I tend to be dovish.   In my view, while McCain is not likely to get the country involved in another armed conflict he is considerably more likely to do so than Obama, and less is much less likely to be able to build international support and an international coalition to share the military and financial burdens of any such action.  Many of the great issues of our day—terrorism, climate change, trade—cannot be effectively handled at the level of the individual nation-state; they must be handled at the international level.  And I think Obama would have more clout and could get more done on that front than McCain.

One specific area where I think McCain is wrong is in his refusal to conduct even low-level talks with Iran and North Korea, both dangerous countries. During the Cold War we never broke off relations with the Soviet Union; Kennedy and Reagan, to of the best Cold Warriors, talked with the Russians constantly.  As a side note: people often object here that we’re not going to change Ahmadinejad’s mind about anything. That’s almost certainly correct. However, the point of negotiating is not to show the other guy how right you are and have him admit the error of his ways.We didn’t convince Khrushchev or Gorbachev that our system was better than theirs. But the contact helped to relieve tensions and lead to useful diplomatic breakthroughs which quite possibly helped avert more bloodshed than occurred during the Cold War.

Lastly, like most Americans, I find Sarah Palin to be significantly under-qualified to be Vice President, let alone President of the United States if anything happens to McCain (a 72-year old cancer survivor).  According to actuaries, there is approximately a 10% chance that McCain would not be able to serve out 4 years in the White House.  With Palin as Vice President, that would be disatrous in my view.  That McCain would put the country in such a position for political reasons—and I firmly believe she was selected only to get votes, not for governing ability—gives me great concerns for his approach to the presidency and how he will govern.

See also my blog posts discussing Obama being endorsed by the New York Times and by several notable conservatives.  Check out Republican Congressional candidate Joel Haugen’s endorsement.  And take a look at this blog post which details how the country seems to do better during Democratic presidencies than Republican ones on a number of conservative metrics.

He is not my ideal candidate and I have a number of disagreements with him, but for all of the above reasons and more, this blog is endorsing Barack Obama for president.  God bless America.

New York Times adds Obama to long list of presidential candidates they’ve endorsed

In a move that I’m sure will surprise absolutely no one, the New York Times has endorsed Barack Obama for president.

Mr. Obama has met challenge after challenge, growing as a leader and putting real flesh on his early promises of hope and change. He has shown a cool head and sound judgment. We believe he has the will and the ability to forge the broad political consensus that is essential to finding solutions to this nation’s problems.

The editors also praise Obama for promising to “restore a climate in which workers are able to organize unions if they wish,” a probable reference to the very undemocratic card check system, which I blogged about critically here and here. The measure in question would reduce worker’s ability to decide whether or not to unionize and it has garnered opposition from both conservatives and liberals.

They take McCain to task for wanting to make permanent the tax cuts for higher earners that he previously said were fiscally irresponsible, “and while he talks about keeping taxes low for everyone, his proposed cuts would overwhelmingly benefit the top 1 percent of Americans while digging the country into a deeper fiscal hole.” While they credit McCain, who they said was the best Republican candidate during the primaries, with taking tough positions on climate change and other previous issues, they have some harsh criticism:

Senator John McCain of Arizona has retreated farther and farther to the fringe of American politics, running a campaign on partisan division, class warfare and even hints of racism. His policies and worldview are mired in the past. His choice of a running mate so evidently unfit for the office was a final act of opportunism and bad judgment that eclipsed the accomplishments of 26 years in Congress.

This blog has been a critic of Sarah Palin’s selection and considers it a gimmick by McCain, a decision calculated to secure the votes of social conservatives, not to promote good government. That she could become president if something happens to McCain is troubling; what his willingness to take that risk says about his governing style is more troubling. It is the opinion of this blog that Governor Palin’s inclusion on the ticket is a significant reason to question McCain’s suitability to be president.

The Times provided historical context and information on all of their previous presidential endorsements, back to Abraham Lincoln in 1860; they provide pdf files of the actual editorials. The reason that no one, I trust, was surprised by their endorsement of Obama is that the paper hasn’t supported a Republican candidate since Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 and 1956.

The New York Times endorsed this man over FDR.  Had he won, he'd have been the only president besides Millard Fillmore with double Ls in both his first and last name.

The New York Times endorsed this man over FDR. Had he won, he'd have been the only president besides Millard Fillmore with double Ls in both his first and last name.

Interestingly, the New York Times endorsed Thomas Dewey, governor of New York, over Harry Truman in 1948. Fortunately, they didn’t run with the headline “Dewey Defeats Truman!” as some other papers did. They also supported Wendell Willkie over Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1940, though they endorsed FDR in his other three bids. On account of the Willkie endorsement, Grover Cleveland is the only candidate that the paper has endorsed three consecutive times. Given the term limits which now exist and the difficulty of running again after you’ve lost an election, it is unlikely that the paper will endorse another candidate three consecutive times.

Since supporting Woodrow Wilson in 1912, the paper has supported the Democratic candidate 21 out of 25 times, though their first six endorsements all went to Republicans (who all subsequently won).

More on the undemocratic card check system

USA Today published an op-ed yesterday (“Our view on labor laws: No way to form a union“) opposing the euphemistically named “Employee Free Choice Act,” which, in Orwellian fashion, actually takes away employees’ free choice.  They rightly characterize the measure, which Obama supports and McCain opposes, misguided.

Currently, when union organizers get 30% of a company’s workers to sign unionization cards a democratic election is organized and held where all employees can vote by secret ballot on whether or not they want to unionize.  Union leaders and the employer get to campaign for the votes of the workers, who can try to persuade each other.  Everyone gets to be heard.  Under this law, however, if 50% of a company’s employees can be persuaded to sign cards a union will automatically be organized.

Cajoled choice is more like it. The proposed change would give unions and pro-union employees more incentive to use peer pressure, or worse, to persuade reluctant workers to sign their cards. And without elections, workers who weren’t contacted by union organizers would have no say in the final outcome.

The L.A. Times also editorialized against the law, back in 2007 when it was passed by the House:

Unions once supported the secret ballot for organization elections. They were right then and are wrong now. Unions have every right to a fair hearing, and the National Labor Relations Board should be more vigilant about attempts by employers to game the system. In the end, however, whether to unionize is up to the workers. A secret ballot ensures that their choice will be a free one.

But don’t just take their word for it.  George McGovern, a long time friend of labor rights, is opposed to the measure and appears in a television ad against it, as I recently blogged.  This measure is undemocratic; it is about increasing the power of labor leaders, not workers.

Conservatives for… Barack Obama?

Some notable conservatives are endorsing this guy

Some notable conservatives are endorsing this guy

A story in the October 20th issue of Time Magazine (“You. A Voter’s Guide” by Jackson Dykman. pp. 61-69) it is revealed that 20% of conservatives are supporting Barack Obama for president. One out of five. Only 6% of liberals are supporting John McCain (one out of 17). Just who are these conservatives?

One of them is Wick Allison, the former publisher of National Review, the premier conservative political magazine in the country. Allison was a Barry Goldwater supporter in 1964 and was a invited to serve on the board of National Review by its founder William F. Buckley. In a recent endorsement, “A Conservative for Obama,” he says “the more I listen to and read about ‘the most liberal member of the U.S. Senate,’ the more I like him. Barack Obama strikes a chord with me like no political figure since Ronald Reagan.” He writes:

Conservatism to me is less a political philosophy than a stance, a recognition of the fallibility of man and of man’s institutions. Conservatives respect the past not for its antiquity but because it represents, as G.K. Chesterton said, the democracy of the dead; it gives the benefit of the doubt to customs and laws tried and tested in the crucible of time. Conservatives are skeptical of abstract theories and utopian schemes, doubtful that government is wiser than its citizens, and always ready to test any political program against actual results.

But today it is so-called conservatives who are cemented to political programs when they clearly don’t work. The Bush tax cuts—a solution for which there was no real problem and which he refused to end even when the nation went to war—led to huge deficit spending and a $3 trillion growth in the federal debt. Facing this, John McCain pumps his “conservative” credentials by proposing even bigger tax cuts. Meanwhile, a movement that once fought for limited government has presided over the greatest growth of government in our history. That is not conservatism; it is profligacy using conservatism as a mask.

He finds Obama “a thoughtful, pragmatic, and prudent man,” someone who will “be a realist” and who has “actually read the Federalist Papers.”

I think it says something that a conservative Republican who was William F. Buckley’s protégé is supporting Obama in this contest. If this is so, then a fortiori it says something that William F. Buckley’s son is also endorsing Barack Obama. Christopher Buckley, who is a successful writer and commentator in his own right, says “for the first time in my life, I’ll be pulling the Democratic lever in November.” In his endorsement, “Sorry Dad, I’m Voting for Obama,” he describes how he’s known McCain since 1982 and supported himi in the primaries.

But that was—sigh—then. John McCain has changed. He said, famously, apropos the Republican debacle post-1994, “We came to Washington to change it, and Washington changed us.” This campaign has changed John McCain. It has made him inauthentic. A once-first class temperament has become irascible and snarly; his positions change, and lack coherence; he makes unrealistic promises, such as balancing the federal budget “by the end of my first term.” Who, really, believes that? Then there was the self-dramatizing and feckless suspension of his campaign over the financial crisis. His ninth-inning attack ads are mean-spirited and pointless. And finally, not to belabor it, there was the Palin nomination. What on earth can he have been thinking?

Buckley opines that Obama, contra McCain, has a first-class temperament and a first-class intellect.  He has, however, several criticisms of the Democratic candidate and is far from thinking he’ll be a perfect president.

Though Buckley’s endorsement did not come in the pages of National Review, he decided to resign from the publication, for which he was writing a regular column, after it received a significant, albeit not enormous, number of protests from readers.  I highly commend both his article and Wick Allison’s to my fellow conservatives.