Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Guest Post: More on the Debates

Since I don't have time for a long post today I wanted to make sure, if you didn't happen to see it, this great comment on the blog. It includes some great insight into the upcoming debate as well as how Obama should handle the issue of the surge. I can say, with almost certainty, that it was placed by a friend I once heard described by a neutral party as "erudite as shit." I have edited the formatting.
-Vox Populi

Obama scored better and more often than did McCain -- not only at the level of intellect and policy -- but also of stature. Hopefully Biden can do the same thing on Thursday.

Biden will be faced with something of the opposite of the challenge that Obama faced on Friday: while people were looking to see if Obama, despite his limited time in elected office, was "ready" to be president and he needed to come off as down to Earth (as opposed to being an aloof elitist (a la Gore or Adlai Stevenson)), everyone knows that Biden knows the ins and outs of both Washington and foreign policy the difficulty will be whether he can convey that vast wealth of knowledge while maintaining a respectful tone toward Palin. Regardless of whether you think Palin deserves to be talked down to (I, for one, think she does), Biden needs to resist the temptation or risk eliciting sympathy for Palin. As this blog mentioned previously, Palin is someone people relate to and see pieces of themselves in. The average person does not know the ins and outs of foreign policy but likely still considers himself or herself capable of making (and expressing) foreign policy decisions--perhaps by listening to their gut and being sure never to blink. If Biden's attacks seem too mean spirited or smack of a know-it-all smugness, those who like Palin may sense that their own intelligence and judgment is being impugned as well and thus might respond negatively.

On a completely different note, I must say that while I thought Obama generally acquitted himself nicely I was surprised by his answer on the surge in Iraq. Obviously this was a point where McCain felt particularly confident and where he could really press Obama and try to score some points by noting the differences in their respective stances on the surge. Obama answered McCain by trying to draw a distinction between a strategy and a tactic, a line of argument that in my view was ill-conceived. Rather than argue about the differences between a successful tactic in service of a failed strategy, I thought he should have opted for an answer that I thought he had used rather successfully in the debates during the democratic primaries. The argument ran something like this: Our military, is of course, the strongest in the world and given the right number of troops and the right military equipment they can achieve any military objective that it would be prudent for us to ask of them. But the problem in Iraq has moved beyond military objectives. What we have in Iraq is a social problem, not a military one. So of course the surge worked, it was a military objective carried out successfully by our brave men and women who are the best soldiers in the world. But that does not change the fact that the Iraq government has failed to meet all of its social and political deadlines. The government of Iraq this year is running at a huge surplus [I think its around 80 billion dollars, if i remember correctly], while American tax payers are paying millions of dollars a day and America's children are putting their lives at risk everyday. With the military objectives of this war largely complete its time for us to turn over the country to men and women of Iraq and to the government that they elected and to bring our sons and daughters home.

Just my two cents.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Arguing With Conservatives Part II: Minimum Wage

Since it's a relatively slow news day so far I thought I'd return to another episode in arguing with conservatives. And I know what you are thinking, is it fair to beat them when they are down? After all, hasn't the recent financial crisis already shown that traditional laisez-faire economics won't work? The answer is yes and yes because politicians and the public have short-term memories. For example, remember when everyone was so upset about the media coverage of Bristol Palin? Well, now it appears that McCain campaign is praying she'll get married and that the media will cover it.

We know that the failure of unregulated finance won't mean the end of Republican calls for deregulation, so it's worth taking a look at another popular conservative argument: that minimum wage hurts the economy. In fact, conservatives often go so far as to say that minimum wage actually hurts workers. The argument is very simple, and at first blush, it can almost make sense: they argue that a lower wage means that more workers will be employed. Furthermore, conservatives argue that a free market leaves workers open to choose a different job -- and thus the minimum wage actually encourages a lower wage for workers. Even further, and contradictorily, you'll hear conservatives argue that a higher wage could prove disastrous for the economy.

The argument against a minimum wage -- and a living wage -- has several simple and obvious flaws that I'll look at in turn. First, cutting or abolishing the minimum wage flies in the face of the hard evidence that is American history. We know that there was a time when Americans did not have the protection of labor laws -- and what did we have? Answer: twelve year olds working in coal mines. Thus, while conservatives can point to a hypothetical scenario in which workers suffer, we can point to a real world scenario in which workers suffer in the absence of a minimum wage. Along these lines, we also know that the minimum wage has consistently gone up in this country and that hasn't spelled doom for anyone -- not the workers, and certainly not the people holding the ultimate wealth.

And here are the problems with arguing that a lower minimum wage means more workers employed. First, people can't survive on minimum wage as it is -- so a lower minimum wage is a moot point in terms of any benefit it brings individual workers. Second, there's no guarantee that cheaper labor translates to higher production. Simple hypothetical: if a company can only sell 100 widgets, and it takes 10 workers to produce those widgets, a reduction in the cost of labor will not mean more widgets produced. In fact, all it will means is an increase in the profit of the company owner. Furthermore, an increase in a minimum wage, unlike a decrease, has the effect of increasing demand. Thus, increasing the minimum wage would conceivably lead to greater production and thus the employment of more workers -- not the other way around.

The one concern I do have with wage arguments is the very real problem of losing American jobs overseas. I'm not against the free market -- I'm against the unregulated free market. Thus, if it's more efficient for some jobs to move overeas, then the answer isn't in the form of a $25 billion loan to the auto industry. Instead, we should take that money and put it towards education, job training, and new industries (like clean energy) that have the potential for producing jobs. Unfortunately, that's not politicaly possible -- but special interests are a whole other topic that plague both parties -- and something I'll address in a later post.

And finally, the last hypocrisy: Republicans think the only factor in the economy is giving people money to spend. They say we do that by giving huge tax cuts to the wealthy. Well, why not give that money to working people would would be far more likely to spend it? The answer: once again, the minimum wage argument may not really be about the economy at all -- it's about keeping the wealthy and their money where it is.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Thoughts on the Debate

I wish Obama wouldn't start sentences with "John is right . . ." or some variation thereof. That's going to be a commercial for McCain if it isn't already. Nothing stops Obama from starting his sentences with "where I disagree with Senator McCain is . . ." However, it's certainly better than McCain's repeated and condescending use of "what Obama doesn't understand . . ." My friend Julia points out the interesting hypocrisy in this McCain tactic -- they want to label Obama an intellectual elitist -- but at the same time he doesn't understand foreign policy. Apparently, understanding foreign policy doesn't take a brain it takes gut instinct -- as in when Obama mocked the current President for "looking into the eyes" of Putin and McCain responds with "I have looked into his eyes and I saw three letters -- K-G-B."

It's like Stephen Colbert says: "Do you know you have more nerve endings in your gut than you have in your head? You can look it up. Now, I know some of you are going to say, 'I did look it up, and that's not true.' That's 'cause you looked it up in a book. Next time, look it up in your gut. I did. My gut tells me that's how our nervous system works."

Apparently McCain measures foreign policy like Stephen Colbert pretending to be an idiot. And what is it, exactly, that McCain thinks Obama doesn't understand? George Lakoff talks about how conservatives are drawn to the "strict father" model of the world. It seems McCain thinks we are the world's parent -- he describes Russia as "out of line" and thinks we need to punish countries who don't agree with us like they are petulant children. Unfortunatley, however, we aren't the world's parent and diplomacy, as Obama understands, often requires some nuance. However, I did like one aspect of McCain's proposals and that was the never-before seen "League of Democracies." I imagine, since we already have NATO and the EU, that the League of Democracies differs in that it includes Batman and the Green Lantern.

It was also interesting to see McCain gun for the Jewish vote. I think he dropped the "existential threat to Israel" line about 500 times. It's not surprising to see McCain use this tactict since his unflinching miltarism in support of Israel is also the source of Lieberman's dedication. Hopefully "the Great Schlep" has an effect and Jewish voters -- who like to criticize the right for one issue voting on abortion -- don't do the same thing with Israel.

Just as interesting as the things that were in the debate were the things that weren't. For example, McCain never said "middle class" and Obama is already slamming McCain for this. Seems like a winning tactic to me.

Another big part of every debate is body language -- people blame Gore for walking behind Bush in a debate (trying to show he was taller, I think) and coming off like a loser while Bush chuckled good-naturedly. Well, McCain certainly played the part of the grumpy old man (smirking, scoffing, refusing to look at Obama) -- and its making news. McCain's grumpiness will definitely help Obama. A few months ago an article in Slate talked about how Bugs Bunny (calm, cool politician) beats Daffy Duck (the angry politician). It's an interesting framework that certainly works for the elections that I can remember.

And what else wasn't there? McCain's VP. After the debate, Biden was all over the networks hyping Obama and Palin was nohwere to be found. This follows the recent trend of conservatives becomingly increasingly nervous about Palin's nomination. Kathleen Parker at the National Review writes an article about how bad Palin is, labelling her candidacy the "Palin Problem" and calling for her to step down and George Will, along with other conservatives, is getting sick of the anti-illectual bent of the Republican party. I think it's telling that Tina Fey's impersonation of Palin is so funny and yet she doesn't even have to change Palin's words half the time. There's a fine line between fear and hilarity -- if Palin doesn't get elected the good news is it will go down as the funniest VP pick of all time.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Addendum: Hamiltonian Thinkers

David Brooks writes an article praising John McCain -- perhaps in fearful reaction to the McCain camp's war on the media -- or perhaps out of genuine respect. He describes all the qualities I used to associate with McCain -- integrity, humility, toughness, and a body that appears to be made out of raw sourdough. Okay, I added that last one. But still -- the fact remains that this election has done a lot to change that perception. Although, it's also fair to note that Obama has been plenty unfair in his ads as well lately.

Brooks concludes, praising McCain: "If McCain is elected, he will retain his instinct for the hard challenge. With that Greatest Generation style of his, he will run the least partisan administration in recent times. He is not a sophisticated conceptual thinker, but he is a good judge of character. He is not an organized administrator, but he has become a practiced legislative craftsman. He is, above all — and this is completely impossible to convey in the midst of a campaign — a serious man prone to serious things."

That sounds great but here's the problem: McCain isn't running to be leader of the Autobots. Facing hard challenges and judge of character may work for Optimus Prime, but the last 8 years have shown us the danger in having a president who is "not an organized administrator" or a "sophisticated conceptual thinker." The financial mess is case in point: Paulson wants to close his eyes and throw a lot of money at the problem, while more conceptual thinkers (yes, I'm citing Paul Krugman yet again) see the issues as slightly more complicated.

Obama, I trust. Why? He's a conceptual thinker. How do I know this? Because unlike every other political candidate in history, when he gave his March 2008 speech on the economy, he appeared to favor Alexander Hamilton over Thomas Jefferson. Politicians love to quote Jefferson, but Jefferson was an agrarian populist who thought the country would be nothing but a bunch of libertarian farmers. Hamilton, on the other hand, was the genius behind the structuring of the American economy. As Obama explained: "The great task before our founders was putting into practice the ideal that government could simultaneously serve liberty and advance the common good. For Alexander Hamilton, the young secretary of the treasury, that task was bound to the vigor of the American economy. Hamilton had a strong belief in the power of the market, but he balanced that belief with a conviction that human enterprise, and I quote, "may be beneficially stimulated by prudent aids and encouragements on the part of the government." Government, he believed, had an important role to play in advancing our common prosperity. So he nationalized the state Revolutionary War debts, weaving together the economies of the states and creating an American system of credit and capital markets. And he encouraged manufacturing and infrastructure, so products could be moved to market. Hamilton met fierce opposition from Thomas Jefferson, who worried that this brand of capitalism would favor the interests of the few over the many. Jefferson preferred an agrarian economy, because he believed that it would give individual landowners freedom and that this freedom would nurture our democratic institutions."

In fact, a historical perspective may help illuminate a lot about this election. I'm trying to get a man we call "the Lifetime Learner" to write a special piece on this topic. The Lifetime Learner is a guy who read several books on each President (that's right, even Millar Fillmore) just to be able to say with conviction that Bush was the worst ever. I think the verdict was that he narrowly beat out Zachary Taylor.

Anyway, I'm going to see if I can get a guest post for you this weekend along with the regular posts. I hope the debate comes off tonight and proves that Obama is the Hamilton to McCain's Jefferson when it comes to conceptual thinking. As for populism, however, I'm hoping Obama can play that message as well.

Quick Post: Palin Not That Bright

Have you seen the Katie Couric interview? Rather frightening. I used to just worry that Palin was an end-of-times, anti-gay marriage, pro life extremist -- now I'm worried because it also appears she's not that bright. The good news is I don't think she possesses the kind of good ol' boy simple-mindedness that people love in Bush. When Bush speaks, the content is masked by the fact that he's always smirking and confident. Thus, to a lot of people, Bush appears to be in command of the situation. Palin, on the other hand, stumbles over simple questions in a bizarre, start and stop form in which she constantly switches tenses. It is precisely Palin's use of the English language (or lack thereof) that makes this parody in the New Yorker so good.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Big Government Myth

The recent financial turmoil has made it very easy to see the fallacy in the argument that the unrestrained free market is the ultimate cure-all for all ills. As Thomas Friedman wrote recently, "If it weren’t for the government bailing out Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and A.I.G., and rescuing people from Hurricane Ike and pumping tons of liquidity into the banking system, our economy would be a shambles." He went on to add -- never missing a chance to allude to his pop-political science books -- that "[i]n this age of globalization, government matters more than ever. Smart, fiscally strong governments are the ones best able to empower their people to compete and win." All this before the recent financial institution collapses, which, as Paul Krugman explains, are setting us up for even greater financial disaster if the government fails to act.

Friedman goes on to explain that "George W. Bush never once — not one time — challenged Americans to do anything hard, let alone great. The next president is not going to have that luxury. He will have to ask everyone to do something hard." In other words, as others have pointed out before, while Republicans love to talk about sacrifice when it comes to the military and more specifically John McCain's war record, they don't want to talk about sacrifice when it comes to taxes and the economy. The need for a bailout must be hard for Republicans to swallow because their philosophy is an attractive lie that they are used to selling the American people: you can have your cake in eat it, too. In other words, we don't have to pay taxes, especially the wealthy, and that's really what works out for the best for everyone. As we are seeing -- turns out that's not quite the case -- we do have to sacrifice in the form of taxes in order to have a government that can both protect citizens and help to grease the bearings of the financial economy.

But this, of course, isn't the most infuriating lie about big government that Republicans have propogated. What I want to know is, where did the popular "get the government out our lives" refrain come from? This is the true myth of big government. First, let's keep in mind that it's the Republicans who, for the last couple decades, have been the ones to outspend the Democrats. But more importantly, what are people talking about when they complain about big government? I don't hear anyone complaining about having roads, I'm pretty sure people like having food and drugs that aren't tainted, and now people sure wish the government had more closely regulated the home and financial markets. The big government myth is just that -- a myth. Republicans have given people a useful frame for justifying their views: "I'm not selfish for not wanting to pay taxes to help people, I just want government out of life -- Now please watch out as I drive on a federal highway in my Suburban to the market to purchase federally regulated food and drugs that I know are safe."

Obama undertsands that there needs to be a relationship between government and the market. He also undertsands that we can't have our cake and eat it, too. In fact, a speech he gave back in March -- which a commentator on this blog alerted me to -- proves this point. I'll be posting more on that later. Until then, let's hope Obama makes the right move and tells McCain that if what he wants to do is focus on the economy than they should make that the topic of tonight's debate.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

"Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated"

While there are many variations of the famous phrase attributed to Mark Twain, it clearly applies to the way I, and a lot of other bloggers, felt about the Obama campaign after the election. The Palin infatutation, along with Obama's lack of an effective attack, made a lot of people feel like Obama was doomed to failure. Christopher Hitchens, over at Slate, even went so far as to write an article titled "Is Obama Another Dukakis?Why is Obama so vapid, hesitant, and gutless?"

Fortunately, new polls show Obama has regained a lead. It's not commanding, but it's enough to help everyone breathe a little. In fact, it looks like some states which had long looked out of reach, such as Florida, are now very much in play for the Obama campaign. Also in the good news department, in turns out that when you factor in cellphone only users into polls -- people who tend to be younger and lean Obama -- then Obama's lead grows even further.

Despite the mockery of the Democratic nervousness, I think we are entitled to a little bit of paranoia. After all, it wasn't too long ago that our current President won the election by a disputed number of votes after several ballots went missing and number of elderly Jewish voters were tricked into voting for Pat Buchanan. Plus, as Hitchens does point out, Democratic candidates do have the annoying habit of going on the attack less than Republicans. Is it because they are less effective politicans or because they are more principled? I think it's both.

I'll tell you another reason Democrats should be upset -- we stand to lose a lot more than Republicans in the coming election. What do the Republicans lose in a Democratic administration? The rich lose money and the right wing Christians continue unaffected -- maybe Supreme Court appointments cause them to lose on abortion and gay marriage -- but personally they are unaffected. Democrats, on the other hand, have to watch people they empathize with suffer. Democrats have to watch people go without healthcare, go without good public education, see personal liberties trampled, and people will actually personally lose the freedom to marry whom they want or decide what to do with their bodies. Democrats can be angry and sad -- Republicans just angry.

So hopefully next time McCain hits hard with attacks -- and it is going to come in the form of attacks linking Obama to black radicals -- there won't be a need to panic. It's disgusting and an attempt to play on racist American fears, but it may approve effective. However, when that happens we can be more hopeful that Obama will find a way to get back on top again -- here' s hoping they are saving attacks ads on the Keating Five for the final stretch.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

How Americans Vote

Returning to Sam Harris's column, I love his point that Americans expect and want expertise in all walks of life -- just not the presidency. When it comes to doctors and lawyers and airplane pilots, people want experts in charge. Yet, somehow, when it comes to running the largest and most powerful nation on Earth, Americans want someone decidedly un-elite -- they want someone just like them.

Why is this? A lot of things explain this phenomena and, unfortunately, religion is partly to blame. Not religion itself, that is, but it's effect on American civil society. It seems to me that Americans vote for their president as if they are electing a religious leader. Think about it: Americans talk about whether or not the candidate can relate to them and whether or not the candidate shares their values. Those are the ways people judge their pastors, priests and Rabbis, but not how we should judge a technocrat. This helps explain why some people were upset over the Monica Lewinsky hoopla -- the sexual mores of the president are irrelevant to his job, but not so for a religious leader.

Who cares if Obama can relate to me? I'd vote for an alien-made robot if it could plan and run a burgeoning economy, implement universal healthcare, and end the War in Iraq. The news is making a big deal out of the fact that a huge percentage of Americans think Obama is Muslim. Isn't the bigger issue that people think his religion matters?

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Simple View, A Republican View

A few people have pointed me to Sam Harris's excellent piece in Newsweek that that details exactly why Palin is so frightening a candidate. The truly scary part comes not just when Harris attacks the electorate for liking Palin for her mediocrity, but when he muses on the implications of her rapture-ready world view as well as her complete lack of hesistancy when asked if she was ready for the Presidency. In those decisions, we also see the simple worldview that is also shared by Bush and McCain: they see the world in black and white. We are the good guys, they are the bad guys -- whether it's Russia, Al Qaeda, Iran, or Americans who disagree with them. It's the same view they take on the economy -- it's very simplistic -- all we have to do is cut taxes and not regulate and it all works out. Well, as current events constantly remind us, this simplistic world view doesn't comport to the facts -- not in politics and not in economics.

Take, for example, both Palin and McCain's bellicose statements on Russia. Lost amid all their aggressive posturing was the more noteworthy fact that it was the EU who brokered the ceasefire. Yep, good old fashioned, measured diplomacy won the day -- not a verbal game of Cowboys and Indians.

So the question remains, can Obama convince the electorate that this simple worldview won't fly? I think his new ad hits it right on the money. The ad manages to link both McCain and Bush, as well as the deregulation of the banking industry, to McCain's proposed deregulation of the healthcare industry. The ad is perfectly fair and it will be successful for a number of reasons -- including my belief -- that it embraces the Republican tactic of using fear to win. Now, maybe that's a very cynical view, but I'll take it over a simple one.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Weekend Vacation: Back on Monday

I'm going away for the weekend but will resume posting on Monday. Hopefully when I get back Obama will be up 10 points. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Free Market Myth

I love the NY Times headline "Bush Emerges After Days of Financial Crisis." It's like he's not even running the country anymore. Oh wait, he never was.

Well, that was too easy -- so let's move on to something seemingly more challenging: the conservative argument that the free market can cure all. You'd think after the recent spate of financial crises, the Republicans would cede a little on this front -- but instead they criticize the bailouts. There's plenty out there right now about the current AIG disaster so I want to talk about the regulation of the economy.

Conservatives think that the best strategy is to let the market take care of everything -- it's more efficient that way -- whether it's health or education (vouchers) -- competition is the end-all be-all solution. Unfortunatley, it's a simplistic way of thinking and it's simple to see why. First of all, just because there is demand for a product doesn't mean the government produces it. For example, I've always wanted a computer which doubled as a toaster -- demand satisfied. But nonetheless, the market doesn't produce it. It's like public education or roads in the inner city. There's a demand -- but without the sufficient potential for profitability the market won't provide.

Here's another problem: asymmetrical information. This is what allows the CEOs of companies like Enron to take advantage of their employees and the market.

How do we solve these problems? Regulation. The market can provide the incentive to produce goods for which their isn't sufficient demand. And, in the case of CEOs taking advantage of asymmetric information, regulation can make the market more efficient -- not less.

And for all the conservative talk about the woes of big government, a recent study found that over the last several decades the economy has actually faired better under Democratic presidents than under Republican presidents. The study isn't perfect, but it certainly casts further doubt on the Republican claim that more regulation leads to a worse economy. The only thing the Republicans did "better" on? Slightly lower taxes.

Finally, if regulation is the answer, than this brings me back to my original post on this blog. If McCain is elected and puts one more conservative justice on the court, we can say good bye to any chance at meaningful national legislation aimed at reform. Now that Obama is back in the lead, maybe we won't have to worry.

A Little on Fundraising

A recent BBC article paints a nice picture of the fundraising of both Barack Obama and John McCain. So far, Obama has managed to both massively out-fundraise McCain but also out-spend him. Although, it helps that McCain can use his wife's plane. Thus, although you hear a lot of people repeat that it's great news Obama has raised more than McCain, I'm concerned it won't actually translate into an advantage in the next two months.
And, of course, the donation record cuts against the Obama is elitist argument. In fact, the one area that trully separates the candidates is the fact that Obama has significantly outgained McCain when it comes to donations of $200 and under. In fact, this may also reenforce the hope that Obama campaign is able to triumph in November due to a stronger outreach program that involves registering more voters.

Last, but least, the donations record reflects that fact that while McCain may be many things, he certainly isn't an outside reformer (leads in oil donations) and the finance industry hasn't embraced him either (which you would think is a Republican stronghold): "John McCain is only significantly ahead on donations from retired people and from the oil and gas industries. In all almost every other area, Barack Obama is either on roughly level terms or ahead, even in those where the Republicans would expect to be strong, such as real estate, business and finance."

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Speaking of the News and Hypocrisy

Shouldn't there be a ban on conservatives ever claiming an investigation is politically motivated? The Kenneth Starr report was commissioned to investigate Whitewater and instead ended up as an investigation of the president's private sexual encounters -- or as erotic story fodder -- or both depending on how much you enjoyed reading it. Anyway, history hasn't stopped the Republicans from making this exact claim in regards to the Sara Palin investigation: http://edition.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/09/15/palin.investigation/index.html?eref=rss_topstories.

Also worth noting: CNN titled the article "Palin aide says Obama backers politicizing Alaska investigation." First of all, how is that news? Isn't the news that she is being investigated? There's no reason the news should be what a Palin aide says about the investigation. Once again, the article demonstrates what I was posted about a few days ago: the myth of the liberal media and the absence of investigative journalism.

If you call someone a liar and keep repeating it . . .

Joseph Goebbels said "If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it." The quote is famous because it's both terrifying and true. And you don't need to look to Nazi Germany for confirmation -- as recently as two years ago (before we stopped paying attention to the debate over WMDs), half of America still believed that we found WMDs in Iraq.

Republicans inherently understand this. When they labeled Obama a celebrity and kept repeating it, political commentators were surprised at the effectiveness of the attack. However, it makes sense: as long as they kept saying, people started to believe it was true.

Now Joseph Romm writes a post on The Huffington Post with which I couldn't agree with more. He argues that the winning strategy for the Obama camp is to label McCain a liar (albeit with the more catchy slogan of "honor requires honesty") and keep repeating it. He points out that this has the added benefit of not only branding McCain a liar, but also making people less susceptible to future attacks from the McCain camp.

My only question is: why has it taken Democrats this long to label a Republican a liar. Yes, McCain's lies have been particularly egregious -- but let's be honest -- the entire conservative platform is built upon a lie. The idea that the best thing for poor people in this country would be to give huge tax cuts to the wealthy, and not to provide them with more funding for education or health insurance, is as ridiculous a claim as any McCain has made during his campaign. It's absolutely absurd -- but it's the foundation of the Republican party's claim that it represents all of America (and not just the wealthy).

That's why I appreciate honest Republicans -- I can, to a certain degree, respect someone who admits they don't want to fund public education or healthcare because they think those things fall to individual responsbility. However, that's not what the Republican party claims when it campaigns for office. If the Republican party were actually honest it could never be elected. So yes, McCain is a liar and branding him as such will be the winning strategy for the Obama campaign, but let's not forget that he's lying about more than Obama's character. The Republican economic platform -- the basis of traditional conservatism -- is itself a lie.

Monday, September 15, 2008

In God We Trust

I want to share with you an excerpt from an Atlantic article from a couple years ago that has really informed my view on religion in American politics:

"As you may already know, one of America's two political parties is extremely religious. Sixty-one percent of this party's voters say they pray daily or more often. An astounding 92 percent of them believe in life after death. And there's a hard-core subgroup in this party of super-religious Christian zealots. Very conservative on gay marriage, half of the members of this subgroup believe Bush uses too little religious rhetoric, and 51 percent of them believe God gave Israel to the Jews and that its existence fulfills the prophecy about the second coming of Jesus."

The group they are talking about are Democrats; the hard-core subgroup is African-American Democrats. (Incidentally, the entire article is a must read for anyone interested in religion's dominance in the world and politics.)

These surprising stats about the Democratic party point to the problem in blaming religion for the conservatism of American politics -- the issue isn't really religion (turns out we are all super religious) -- the problem is the religious right. Okay, that may be obvious, but I think it's important to distinguish that the rise of the Republican party is not due to religion -- it's due to a certain type of religion.

And here's my question: why do extreme religious views go hand in hand with Republican political views? If you think about it, there's no reason that people who believe in low income tax rates should be the same people who believe that there should be a ban against gay marriage. You often hear that the difference between progressives and conservatives is that the former believe it's all about equality and the latter believe it's all about freedom. Thus the same people who support low income tax (freedom) support gun ownership (freedom) -- but why does freedom get thrown out the window when it comes to gay marriage or abortion?

This leads me to two thoughts, neither of which may be correct or popular -- but they do follow from the paradox posed by the religious right's political views. First, it could be simply that the religious right votes based on moral issues and considers economic/social issues secondary. If so, this is a strange morality. They see gay marriage and abortion as moral issues, but don't see universal healthcare and education as moral issues. The logic is inherently flawed but it's possible. This also raises the unpopular theory I've expressed previously -- maybe the Democrats should consider giving up on abortion -- and let it be a state rights issue. It sounds awful, but are we willing to give up the abortion debate to win every election? Personally , I'm not. But I am willing to sacrifice creationism. If small town Kansas schools wants to be ridiculous and teach a curriculum that makes them the laughingstock of every respectable college in the nation, maybe it's worth sacrificing that issue so that the Democrats can win every election. Just a thought.

Now for the other possibility -- it could be that those in the religious right genuinely hold conflicting beliefs -- they oppose freedom when it comes to gay marriage and are for freedom when it comes to paying taxes and owning guns. In that case, what can we blame? Is it group think? Psychology? I'm not sure -- perhaps you can help me figure it out.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Arguing with Conservatives Part I: Income Tax

Now that I've posted a basic summary of McCain and Obama's tax plans below, it's worth taking a look at the arguments that typically support higher versus lower taxes. I once had a camp counselor tell me that if you ever want to win an argument all you have to do is say "Frankly, that sounds like something [insert name of your favorite Fascist leader] would say." Now, while this may be fun, it's not necessarily the most effective way to beat Republicans in arguments.

What about income tax? You often hear Republicans make several arguments about why taxes should be lower. The main arguments they make come in several forms and I'll address two of them: 1) It's better for the economy/trickle down economics, 2) It's a waste of money because the government is inefficient, and 3) it's not fair.

1) Lower taxes are not better for the economy
The best argument I've ever heard for higher income tax comes from my friend Josh. He simply asks people to name a country with a lower income tax in which they'd rather live. It's short, sweet, and to the point -- I recommend you try it. After Europe and Canada are knocked off there aren't too many countries you'd find American's willing to live in. What this clearly illustrates is that there is no evidence for linking low income tax with a wealthier country or high income tax with a poor country. In fact, it appears that with the exception of the United States, the wealthiest countries in the world all have exceptionally high income tax levels and lower levels of income inequality. Even in our own country we can see the correllation. During Clinton's presidency, when income tax was higher, the economy was stronger and income inequality was lower. Under Bush, with lower income tax (primarily on the wealthy), the economy was weaker and income inequality was greater. This makes sense if we think about it. People with lower incomes are likely to spend the extra money they have, whereas for the wealthy the money isn't as likely to go back into the domestic economy. The other argument that's never made sense to me is the argument that people will stop working as the income tax gets higher. Even at 70%, a wealthy person would still take home more money for every dollar they own. The incentive doesn't disappear.

2) The government is not inefficient.
Okay, well, maybe it is -- but this is really just a smokescreen. The bottom line is: if you care about progressive goals (public education, healthcare, the environment) you are willing to accept some inefficiency. The government is a giant bureaucracy, there's no denying that it mayb be inefficient at times. But do we get rid of the DMV because it has long lines? No, of course not -- we value having our driving regulated. Thus, when a conservative says they don't want higher taxes because the government is inefficient, what they are really saying is that they don't value social welfare. Sure, maybe they do in an abstract sense -- with the exception of extreme libertarians most conservatives would be for public education and universal healthcare if it didn't cost them anything. But the fact is, social welfare costs and I'm willing to pay a little so that children in this country can have healthcare. Conservaties are not willing to make these payments -- not because government is "inefficient" -- but because they don't value social welfare.

Obama and McCain on Taxes

Above is a graph that compare's changes in your taxes under McCain's and Obama's tax plans. It's easy to see that McCain's claim that Obama wants raise taxes on the middle class is a lie. In fact, it turns out that for a full 60% of taxpayers Obama will actually lower taxes more than McCain. Only for the very wealthy does Obama's tax plan differ sharply. Unless you make more than $600,000 a year, you won't pay any more under Obama's plan. Plus, everyone making over $2.9 million gets the same tax increase.

Two interesting things to note at about the proposed tax plans. First, Obama's tax plan isn't that progressive. He wants to roll back Bush's tax cuts and then cut for the middle class -- returning tax levels to what they were under Reagan. That's right -- the country is so conservative at this point that the progressive candidate of change wants to tax the country at Reagan levels.
Second, Alan Greenspan recently said that country can't afford McCain's proposed tax cut. See: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26689925/. Of course, he added that a reduction in spending -- significant cuts in programs -- could possibly make up for the deficit. This perfectly comports with my theory that the conservatives would love nothing more than to drive the country into debt, forcing it to cut valuable social programs. However, it does go right to the heart of the Republican claim that Republicans are the party of fiscal responsibility.
So can the Democrats take on the title of the fiscally responsible party? It could be time to take this phrase from the Republicans. Democrats can talk about how Republicans mortgaged American financial security with their reckless tax cuts for the uber-wealthy. We were supposed to have a surplus by now when Clinton left -- think what that money could do to help those suffering from the current economic malaise.

Sign of hope?

There had been concerns that Obama was lagging behind in spending but it turns out that Obama raised $66 million in August -- the campaign's biggest month yet. The funny thing is that I saw this reported in the BBC: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7615449.stm.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Media Bias Myth

You hear people on the right bash the "liberal media" all the time, but where's the evidence for this? As far as I can tell, the New York Times leans left, Fox News leans fascist, and the rest of the major news outlets lean incompetent. For example, the headline on CNN.com after Sara Palin's interview with Charles Gibson was "Palin takes tough stance on Russia." See: http://edition.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/09/11/palin.abc/index.html. The article makes no mention of the fact that Palin didn't know what the "Bush doctrine" was, or that she calls the attack "unprovoked" when it probably wasn't. (Incidentally, this is something most major media has ignored or only mentioned in passing. A friend who attended last week's International Court of Justice hearings -- Georgia v. Russia -- told me that the Georgia pretty much acknowledged this, starting every other sentence with "it's not about who fired the first shot." One more addition: I doubt Palin has heard of the ICJ and doubt McCain thinks it should exist.).

Even the NY Times article which talked about the interview was titled "In First Big Interview, Palin Says 'I'm ready.'" While the article does acknowledge that Palin struggled during the interview at times, it lets her off the hook pretty easy. You would think that the real news from this interview, and hence the healdines would reflect this, is that a woman who very well could be the next Vice President, let alone President, stumbled through basic questions on foreign policy: "At times visibly nervous, at others appearing to hew so closely to prepared answers that she used the exact same phrases repeatedly, Ms. Palin most visibly stumbled when she was asked by Mr. Gibson if she agreed with the Bush doctrine."

Ultimately, the media is as unbiased as reality TV, because it is reality TV. Reality TV is the popular entertainment of the day and the news has adopted its style. Pick any article on CNN.com or MSNBC and read it -- every story on the election has this format: McCain said x, Obama camp replied y, and McCain replied z. There's no investigative reporting -- the news doesn't tell us -- x was a lie and y was misleading. People can't get the news from the news anymore -- to do that you have to read the New Yorker -- or the Economist -- I don't care if has a conservative bent -- it just has to be journalism that involves investigative journalism and not what CNN has become: reality TV.

And this is why I'm not surprised that false and misleading McCain ads have been so successful. In the absence of investigative reporting, the election comes down to which side tells better lies. That's it. And so far, the Republicans have done a better job.

A Political Pin

This one comes courtesy of my Uncle:

Friday, September 12, 2008

I Heart Huckabee

I may agree with 0% of his policies, but I respect him more than I do John McCain. After my last post explaining how McCain has sold out on his principles, it's nice to see that Huckabee is calling for a "return to the issues." I first suspected he might be slightly more principled than the presumptive candidate when he was interviewed on the Daily Show last week. John Stewart pointed out that Huckabee, unlike other cheering Republicans, did not look happy at the repeated insults hurled at the Obama: http://www.thedailyshow.com/video/index.jhtml?videoId=184098&title=mike-huckabee. Huckabee avoided answering the question and I think that leaves little doubt about how he feels -- especially in light of his new criticism of the recent GOP smear campaign: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/the-trail/2008/09/11/huckabee_calls_on_mccain-palin.html. The problem for Huckabee is that he concludes that "it is a mistake to think that our Republican ideas somehow can't compete with the Democrats." Well, the McCain campaign realizes it is. They can't talk about tax cuts tax cuts tax cuts, the end all and be all of Republican policy, because that's been the core of the Bush economic plan for the last 8 years and it clearly hasn't worked. In fact, I think we remember when Clinton raised taxes the economy did better.

In future posts I'll answer Huckabee's challenge and attempt to explain in detail why Republican policy can't compete.

Why Obama is a Wire Fan and McCain Is Not

Back in January, when Obama was still campaigning against Hillary Clinton, he made some news by telling a group of Las Vegas area reporters that not only did he watch the Wire, but Omar was his favorite character. For those of you who haven't seen the Wire, I'm not about to ruin anything, but you should still stop reading immediately and go watch season one. As for Obama, he was quick to explain that although Omar was his favorite character, it was "not an endorsement." He talks about it briefly here: http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2008/jan/14/obama-gloves-off/. Now, Omar has his faults -- he's a stick-up artist who robs drug dealers. But, as Omar points out, he never points a gun at a citizen. As Omar explains part of the way through season one, "a man has to have a code." And that is key to what makes Omar such a great character -- despite the circumstances this man lives with, he has a code.

I'm pretty sure McCain wouldn't like Omar. And not just because his conservatism may prevent him from emphathizing with the character's hard life. No, what has become obvious in the last couple weeks is that McCain does not live by a code. The man we once thought was a "good soldier" is running a shameful campaign. Paul Krugman explains the McCain lies well in his recent op-ed: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/12/opinion/12krugman.html?_r=1&ref=opinion&oref=slogin. McCain is juking stats worse than the corrupt police chiefs and politicians of the Wire's Baltimore.

Krugman also hits on another danger that I wanted to talk about: what the Bush campaign taught us is that the morality that govern a campaign doesn't end when the campaign ends. The Bush campaign ran on a platform of lies, about taxes, about Bush, and about Kerry's military record. It's a morality that believes the ends justify the means, and that might makes right. Krugman is right that the McCain campaign's lies are currently bigger and the prospects for a more Machiavellian administration are even scarier.

Which brings me to the Obama attack ads, which have ended with something along the lines of "McCain, more of the same." Well, that's not scary enough. Conservatives play the politics of fear, whether it's terrorism or claiming Obama is unknown -- it's all about fear. And Republican ads play on that fear -- Obama wants to teach sex to Kindergartners and Obama is a pack of wolves chasing after Palin! Unfortunately, the ads have been effective -- at least for now, the politics of fear works. And we can't simply say "but the Democrats are too principled for that." The Dems have attack ads too -- they just haven't been that effective. And here's the rub: I think the Obama ads simply aren't scary enough. People can survive "more of the same" even if they want better. But a McCain presidency is shaping up to look even worse -- it's time that message started to come across. NOT more of the same -- but towards something more sinister I haven't been able to readily define just yet.

Krugman arrives at his conclusion while just discussing the McCain campaign's lies -- he leaves out talk of the man himself. This is the guy who once called the Christian right "agents of intolerance" but picked Sarah Palin as his running mate.

Maybe it's time for Obama to embrace Omar more fully and be willing to go on the attack (which is apparently what the campaign may be doing: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/12/us/politics/12obama.html?hp). As Omar says, "it's all in the game."

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Republican Party: Party of the Wealthy

You often hear liberals complain about the fact that there are so many people in red states who should be voting Democrat but don't. They're right, but the truth is actually a little more complicated. The reason is that just as many poor people in red states as blue states vote Democrat as vote Republican. In fact, even for middle class voters, there isn't that much of a difference. So what makes the red states red and the blue states blue? The answer, as in all things, is money. The rich in the red states vote Republican and the rich in the blue states vote blue. For a breakdown of how the last election would have looked and some graphs that explain this phenomena, see: http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2007/10/rich-state-poor.html.

This raises the interesting point of whether the issue of appealing to middle-class white voters is overblown. Looks like Obama may benefite more if he figures out how to appeal to upper-middle-class voters.

We can even paint the picture in greater detail courtesy of a recent NY Times article: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/07/magazine/07Inequality-t.html. It turns out that the greater the income inequality in a city, the more likely it is be Democratic. David Frum explains it better than I can: "Measured by money income, Washington qualifies as one of the most unequal cities in the United States. Yet these two very different halves of a single city do share at least one thing. They vote the same way: Democratic. And in this, we are not alone. As a general rule, the more unequal a place is, the more Democratic; the more equal, the more Republican. The gap between rich and poor in Washington is nearly twice as great as in strongly Republican Charlotte, N.C.; and more than twice as great as in Republican-leaning Phoenix, Fort Worth, Indianapolis and Anaheim."

I am tempted to confuse cause with correllation. In other words, do people who live in income diverse areas vote Republican, or do people who hold Republican values move to areas with less income inequality?

The answer is a little of both, but I want to argue that it may be that exposure to income inequality teaches people to vote more progressively. I'll make a historical argument: look no further than The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Historians have argued that the welfare state arose in Britain when poor children from London were sent outside the city, during the Blitz, to live with wealthy country families. The rich were completely unaware of, and had never been exposed to, the poverty of the city's poor. Once aware, the powerful now backed the rise of the welfare state which began after the end of the war.

Remembering 9/11

9/11 is a day for mourning and for remembrance -- but it should also be a time for reflection.
Today, of all days, I think it's important to look at our political landscape as we remember an event that has in large part shaped the political landscape for the last seven years. Memorial ceremonies are going on across the country: http://edition.cnn.com/2008/US/09/11/911.day/index.html

Can Obama Pull a Bush 2000?

Right now, it looks like Obama may very well lose the popular vote but win the election. Take a look at Pollster.com, a website that has both the national election and each state broken down according to recent polls. In the national election, it looks like McCain leads Obama by 1.5 points. Meanwhile, 98 electorate votes remain tossups, and Obama is likely to get 243 electorate votes whereas McCain is likely to get 197. Now, 270 votes are needed to win the electoral college. Thus, if Obama can pick up 27 votes from the toss up states he'll win. Currently, he's projected to do just that. He's leading by a couple points in both Michigan and Ohio -- which would give Obama 37 of the toss up votes and the necessary votes needed to win. So, if the election were held today, Obama might well pull a Bush in 2000 and lose the popular vote but win the electoral college.


People Want to Feel Good -- And Why Obama's Race is an Issue

When I look at politics, the key in how people vote seems to me that people want to feel good and they want to feel good about themselves. In the beginning, the Obama campaign tapped into this feeling by giving people a sense of the hope and change that they wanted. I think they have lost part of that lately. But the key to this insight, that people want to feel good about themselves, informs how the Dems can attack both the GOP and Sarah Palin.

It's an insight which may seem obvious, but I think it isn't talked about often enough and it also explains a lot of what happens in races and what can be done. That said, I want to point out that when I look at attack ads, etc., I'm looking from a pragmatic standpoint. I wish it wasn't what won elections but it is. If what mattered was policy, then Obama would be ahead by 10 points like the Dems are nationally. In a future post I'll explain why I think the nation votes the way it does and what can be done to change that -- to make the race actually about issues.

First, as for the GOP. I see a slight problem in the Democrat strategy of attacking the GOP for their bad policies -- and that's because people voted for them. People don't like to be wrong, so the Dems need to make an important distinction: the issue isn't that GOP policies are the wrong policies but rather that the GOP lied. In other words, the theme should be the GOP told you they would make you wealthier and safer but they were lying. You weren't wrong to believe them then -- but you'd be wrong to believe them now. I think this could be more of the problem than what David Brooks writes about in his op-ed -- he sees the issue as being that Obama has become too conservative in his campaign decisions -- calling for policy change instead of regime change. (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/09/opinion/09brooks.html?_r=1&oref=slogin).

This brings us to Palin. I don't think people are so excited about her because they actually think "wow, I see myself in her, and I should be President." Rather, I think people identify with her and think "wow, I see myself in her, that makes me feel really good about myself." Thus, the problem with attacking Palin isn't the fact that she's a woman or that she's currently popular. The problem is that people feel personally attacked -- even the bridge to nowhere reversal or firing her brother is irrelevant at this point -- people will shrug those issues off. People do not want someone attacked who makes them feel good about themselves. Thus, the key to attacking Palin is to make sure people realize she's not like them -- first she has to be different, then she can be attacked.

This is the issue with Obama's skin color. To a large number of Americans, he's already different enough. And I don't think it's simply that people won't vote for Obama because he's African American -- as Jacob Weisberg writes (http://www.slate.com/id/2198397/). Certainly, those people out there exist. But also, I think a lot of people are more willing to accept attacks against Obama because it does not affect their own sense of personal worth. This is the key to the Republican label of Obama as elitist -- which is ridiculous and something I will address in a later post. By establishing Obama as different, it no longer reflects on people's own sense of self worth when Obama is put down.

So what is the key to attacking Palin (and McCain, for that matter)? I think first they have to be perceived as different -- then they can be attacked. Let's set up Palin as a crazy Alaskan separatist. Make her seem foreign and different to middle Americans -- I think it can be done -- then she can be attacked. Otherwise, don't attack her. This should be easier with McCain, who doesn't even know how many homes he owns. And don't forget, the Republicans used the same strategy last year when they attacked Kerry for being a "playboy" and had that great picture of him windsurfing. First they set him up with the "see, he's not like us" and then they can Swiftboat him.

In the meantime, I hope that admidst the message of how bad this economy is, the Obama campaign doesn't lose sight of the other important message: making people feel good.

A Palin Attack Ad Should Be:

Ryan Lizza writes in this week's New Yorker about Lyda Green, the President of the Alaska Senate. Three things worth noting about Green: she's a woman, she's a Republican, and she despises Palin. Could this be a safe attack ad for the Dems and could they make it happen? Why not an add simply showing this Republican woman saying she does not feel Palin is ready for the Vice Presidency? To read the article:

Or . . . will this play into the new GOP ad depicting wolves chasing Palin (mentioned on the NY Times blog http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/09/10/mccain-ad-the-wolves-are-out-against-palin/?scp=1&sq=palin%20wolves&st=cse). Now, the amazing thing isn't just the wolves. In fact, wolves have been featured in previous campaigns. Stop me if I'm wrong, but I think there was at least one Reagan ad featuring wolves. The interesting thing is that the GOP has been crying "sexist" at every Dem attack, and now they release an ad depicting Palin as a victim. Doesn't sound post-feminist to me -- but maybe I'm sounding sexist so I'll get off the topic.

Are these attack ads unfair? Hard to say when the McCain campaign is able to stoop to unprecedented lows. Although the "celeb" add made headlines, the McCain commercial released last month which depicted Obama as the antichrist was far more offensive. Read about it at http://www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,1830590,00.html. I wish I were making this up.

This is the most important election in a generation and no one is talking about why

I decided to start this blog for a lot of reasons -- but one of those reasons is that this election is incredibly important for one huge reason that no one is talking about it. Don't get me wrong, there are lots of issues at stake here -- concrete issues -- like the implementation of universal healthcare or the differences between Obama and McCain's tax plans. There are also more ephemeral, or perhaps esoteric, issues at stake -- like Obama's notion of regime change versus the GOP's recently adopted theme of change. But all these discussions miss the point. This election is important because of the Supreme Court. But again, it's not why you think. I'm not talking about Roe v. Wade -- although that is important too. I'm talking about the Switch in Time that Saved Nine.

In 1937 President Roosevelt had been attempting to drag the country out of the Great Depression with New Deal legislation. These federal laws, which we take for granted now, were seen by the court as radical at the time. In a series of decisions, the Supreme Court struck down federal law on the grounds that they violated the liberty of contract enshrined in the 5th Amendment. For example, the Supreme Court had ruled in Adkins v. General Hospital that the federal government could not enact a minimum wage law. Thus, on March 9, 1937, in his fireside chat, FDR announced a bill that would, when all was said and done, allow him to add six more justices to the Court. In what has become known as the "Switch in Time that Saved Nine," Justice Roberts suddenly switched from the conservative wing of the court to the liberal wing of the court in West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish, overruling Adkins, and upholding a Washington state minimum wage law.

So what does this 1937 decision have to do with today's election? Well, the conservative wing of today's court, especially justices Scalia and Thomas, want to return the Court to pre-1937 jurisprudence. They are fundamentalist libertarians -- they believe in freedom of contract above all other rights, except when it conflicts with their own values. This is not my liberal take on the court, the justices admit as much in their holdings.

Although technically West Coast Parrish remains the law of the land, the Rehnquist court began to erode its holding in a number of decisions striking down federal legislation on the basis of the commerce clause. For example, in U.S. v. Lopez, the court struck down a law banning handguns in school zones on the grounds that it violated the commerce clause. The last time a court struck down a federal law on the basis of the commerce clause -- before the Switch in Time that Saved Nine.

Unfortunately, the conservative court isn't always consistent either. In decisions dealing with Oregon's marijuana laws, Scalia and the conservative justices voted the laws were okay. In abortion cases, the conservative justices have ruled that the federal law in question did not violate the commerce clause. Thus, liberals can't hope that a conservative court will simply rule for state rights and allow Californians or Hawaiians or New Yorkers to enact progressive legislation while other states do away with minimum wage laws.

Justice Stevens is 88 years old. Justice Ginsburg is 75. Unfortunately, they cannot sit on the court forever. If McCain is elected the danger is not that he simply puts someone on the Court who is willing to overturn Roe v. Wade. The danger is that he puts on a jurist who shares Scalia and Thomas's (and to an extent Alito's and Roberts') fundamentalist views of the Constitution. Like it or not, a court which consisted of just one more justice in their favor would have the power and the desire to bring the country to pre 1937 -- to Great Depression era -- law and jurisprudence.

We can survive four years of a Republican presidency -- we survived 8 years of Bush. What we cannot survive is 20 to 30 years (or more) of a federal government handicapped to the extent that it cannot enact any federal legislation -- unless it comports with the conservative justices' mores -- that means anti-abortion laws and anti-marijuana laws are in -- but gun control laws and social welfare laws are out. And again, because it's the court we are talking about, not just a president, this is an election where if the progressives lose, they lose for the next 30 years -- not just the next four.

The danger is real and no one is talking about it.