Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Party Politics

There was some interesting discussion going on in the previous post about parties, straight-ticket voting, etc., that got me thinking.  It’s good fodder for an open thread, which you’ll find below, and I hope you’ll enjoy.  Of course, you’ll have to read through all of my crap first, so in defense of parties, let me just give everyone my take on things.

I'm a Democrat.  What little money I donate goes to Democrats, I only volunteer for Democrats, and in a past life, I was paid decent sums of money by Democrats to help them lose elections.  Most of the time, I vote Democratic.  But notice I said most.

Parties are important for a couple of reasons.  First of all, they're supposed to provide a pre-existing means of support for candidates.  This usually works better for the R's than the D's.  

Second, we have to face facts.  Most voters know more (or at least think they know more) about where a party stands than an individual candidate, and most voters don't go to the trouble to determine for themselves where a candidate stands on the issues.  Having the label next to a candidate's name does give a voter a clue about where that candidate is, ideologically.  And until voters start doing more research and get more involved in the process, which is unlikely anytime soon, party labeling is a convenient way to make sure that a voter who believes in issue X votes for a candidate that, at least, on paper, also does.  For what it’s worth, it’s usually a tool to help a voter who hasn’t done their homework make a reasonably informed choice.

Most importantly to me, party identification is important because it represents an encoded set of beliefs (you can think of it as the party's platform, although I think it goes deeper than that) to which you subscribe.  It's interesting that in conversations I have with friends who are as dissatisfied as I am with the Democratic Party, one phrase as been coming up more and more often - "core Democratic principles."

Now, I'm not going to be egotistical enough to say that I, and I alone, should be able to define those core Democratic principles for everyone else in my party, but I'd imagine that most of the disagreement within the Democratic Party is about how we manifest those principles in campaigns and in government, rather than on what those principles actually are.

To return from digression land, here's my take.  You choose to identify with a party because it represents a close approximation of beliefs that you already hold.  That doesn't mean that you can't or shouldn't work within the party to make it an even closer approximation.  It doesn't mean that everyone out there should party identify or else.  And it definitely doesn't mean that you should vote a straight ticket every two years.  

Here's the central point of this whole rambling post.  If you identify with a party, great.  I certainly do, and I imagine the majority of our regular posters here do as well.  But when I see a Democrat that doesn't represent what I think are those "core Democratic principles," then I don't vote for him or her.

By the way, in case anyone's interested, if I don't vote Democratic, I usually vote Libertarian, if there's a Libertarian candidate running against a Democrat I don't like.

Open thread time:  Notice that I talked about core Democratic principles without enumerating them.  Here's your open thread fodder.  Take your party of choice and list a few of what you think are its core principles.  This should spark some interesting debate.


Jmac said...

In a nutshell ...

Republicans view a society where less government influence is better, allowing individuals to have more freedom over their choices and decisions in life.

FWIW, I don't think they've done a bang-up job in this department.

Democrats view a society where government can be an positive agent for change (as much as it can be in a free market economy) where it serves as a great equalizer.

FWIW, I think they've had good intentions, but have struggled to deliver the goods and articulate a clear vision.

hillary said...

Republicans view a society where less government influence is better, allowing individuals to have more freedom over their choices and decisions in life.

I thought this was Libertarians. Are we gonna make a distinction there or not?

Dawg Corleone said...

I believe that every year for the rest of my life gov't will get bigger and more intrusive, and that my individual liberties will be minimized proportionally (note: I'm not talking about the infantile freedoms espoused by liberals--my "right" to use dirty words or to ingest harmful substances; I mean the big ones--my right to, for instance, spend and invest my money as I see fit).

I believe Republicans feel badly about this dimunation of freedom. I believe Democrats celebrate it. Thus, I believe my liberties will be eroded at a slower pace under Republicans than under Democrats.

I further believe that I might live longer, because I believe Republicans are more serious about protecting our collective asses than are Democrats. I first came to believe this during the Cold War, when Dems dove under the covers the moment Reagan stopped playing footsie with the Soviets.

I was able to (mostly) forgive the Dems for being totally wrong during the Cold War, because the Cold War threat was largely theoretical: "Here's what the Soviets might do..."

I can't dismiss Dems being wrong about the Terror threat, because there's nothing theoretical there: we have 3,000 fewer neighbors than we did 4 years ago.

Republicans want to find terrorists and kill them; Dems, as nearly as I can tell, have devised a terror war strategem of keeping terror detainees cozy and comfortable and impeaching George Bush.

Dems also want to give more and more of my tax dollars to crack whores and to Senator Robert Byrd; Republicans want to let me and the rich folks who do all the hiring in this country keep as many tax dollars as possible.

I believe the GOP is right on the big issues of our time, and I believe Dems are (mostly) wrong. That's why I'm a Republican.

Jmac said...

Not only is that one of the most grossly inrresponsible statements I've ever read in my entire life, I'm almost partially surprised you don't fall down more Corleone. It reveals a most simplistic view of politics, history and world dynamics.

You think the GOP is 'right' on the big issues of our time and Dems are 'wrong?' The GOP was right on civil rights, women's suffrage, World War II, etc. and etc. ... and the Democrats were wrong? Really? If you truly feel this way, then it reveals a lot about your character, your prejudices and your view of your fellow man.

To suggest Democrats celebrate 'eroding civil liberties' is absurd on the highest level. And it's patently false in the light of what this particular administration has done with regard to civil liberties (be sure to watch those overseas calls from now on). This administration has craved more executive power at the expense of the populace more than any other administration since Richard Nixon (and, gosh, what party was he a member of?).

But it's futile to play the who's worst game. This administration, I believe, is a deviation from traditional GOP ideology. It is news to me, however, that Democrats will eventually curtail where I can shop and how much money I can invest. I must sincerely thank you in all of your wisdom for telling what my party aims to do.

The Cold War? Come on. This is one of the most indefensible positions you hold. Do you know who developed the strategy of containment which made the Cold War winnable? A Democrat in Harry Truman. And Democrats like John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson drew hard lines in the sand, just as their Republican counterparts did.

Reagan? He played his role, but he only happened to be president when the Soviet economy collapsed. The invasion of Afghanistan, coupled with its food crisis, ultimately did in communism ... not President Reagan riding in on a white horse.

Dawg Corleone said...

I love the liberal revisionism re Reagan and the Cold War: while it was happening, it (a) wasn't happening, and (b)we were on the wrong side of it. As soon as the wall came down, it became (a) it would have happened anyway and (b) we helped. Nobody's buying it. Fact is, every President from Truman to Carter preached containment. Reagan said: to hell with that, let's beat the bastards. And he did, without firing a shot, no thanks to the Comsymps on the Left. I was alive and voting then; I remember.

Actually, you make my point for me. Where are the FDRs, Trumans, and JFKs today? Joe Lieberman? He can't get arrested in today's Democratic Party.

I love JFK. He cut taxes and fought Communists. My kind of Democrat.

JFK: "Bear any burden, oppose any foe, etc..."

Today's Democrat: "We should've left Saddam in power!"

JFK and RFK would tap your phone in a heartbeat if they thought you were a threat: ask Coretta Scott King (oops. Too late). Today's Dems want to make sure al Qaeda gets all the cell phone privacy it wants.

You are right: Dems were on the right side of the civil rights debate. And if you want to keep banging that drum, be my guest. But we've moved on. I'm not a racist and I don't plan on becoming one, and I frankly resent the lectures.

When I say Reps are right on the big issues, I mean today's big issues: terror and taxes. I want less of both; I know the Dems want more taxes and I don't think they want to do much of anything to make sure we have less terror.

gap said...

President Reagan and Afghanistan were factors in the demise of the Soviet Union, but the main factor was Gorbechav. Unlike previous rulers, he had a more liberal view towards economics and human rights (liberal by soviet standards). Unlike his predecessors, his reluctance to ruthlessly crush his opposition, i.e. roll in the tanks, was the cause of the downfall of communism in the Soviet Union.

As to the point of the thread, I believe Republicans have lost all of their credibility in relation to fiscal policy and have gone out of controll with spending. Republicans pay lip service to limited government while shifting their entire focus to polarizing social issues that take attention away from their shortcomings. They claim to support individual freedoms but are selective in the application of individual rights.

Democrats are no more fiscally reponsible than Republicans but at least aren't hypocritical about it. Democrats get some props for supporting people's rights on social issues but tend to view these rights in terms of group membership and not in terms of individuals.

The most attractive party to me is the Libertarian party who allow maximum rights for individuals but who's platform presents it's own set of problems. Being cynical by nature, I believe that if Libertarians gained power they would probalbly balls thing up just as bad as any other party.

Maintaining distance from party affiliation enables me to more clearly judge individual issues and candidates on their own merit. However, this is jusy my opinion.

Dawg Corleone said...

And if you're serious about letting me invest my own money, can I keep my Social Security "contributions?"

Ned said...

Corleone - you can't have a war on terror and low taxes at the same time. One has to give so we can afford the other.

Clinton gave us a nice surplus and then Bush decided to give that money back to the voters and then decided to spend like crazy and fuel a huge expansion of government. Your team is doing the exact opposite of what you want them to do and you still can't call them on it.

Saddam wasn't a threat and you know it. He had no weapons and no intention to attack the United States. He was contained and we were all safer for it. Now we have 2000+ dead and Bin Laden is still out there making tapes. Our deficit is also growing at record levels and our government is as inefficient and imcompetent as it has ever been.

Is there anything the republicans have done since Bush came into office that you don't agree with?

gap said...

"dems also want to give more and more of my tax money to crack whores and Robert C. Byrd."

What about Sen. Ted Stevens R-Alaska. Thanks to Stevens, Alaska recieves more Federal Pork than any state in the union despite it's minimal population. Republicans want your money for their spending programs just as much as Dems do.

As for Republicans being right on the the issue of terror, they have done a good job preventing another attack in this country. Unfortunately, it has been at the expense of our civil rights and liberties. As cliche as it sounds, when we give up our rights in order to fight terrorists, they have effectively accomplished their goal.

Dawg Corleone said...

I don't agree with not going after Syria yet.

I don't agree with not taking out the President of Iran--yet.

I don't agree with not lining up squarely behind the idea of a national retail sales tax to replace the current Tax On Accomplishment system.

I don't agree with not telling New Orleans residents they should've gotten their welfare asses out of the way of the hurricane.

So yes, there's a lot I don't agree with.

Re taxes and war on terror: you can do both. you get more tax money when you lower tax rates. JFK knew it. Reagan knew it (look it up: tax revenues went up after the Reagan tax cuts; spending went up higher, hence the deficit increases).

Jmac said...

With regard to where are the JFKs and RFKs and FDRs ... I ask the same thing. I'm not one to pull punches when I criticize my own party. The ideas and principles, however, remain the same.

And Joe Lieberman is someone you like because he is, more or less, a conservative. His economic philosophies are very out-of-whack with the Democratic party, but you'll find several people in the party (at the national level and state levels) who share his vision of national security (Bill Richardson and Joe Biden are two of them). Trumping out Joe Lieberman as a what a Democrat should be is silly. Did Jim Jeffords represent your Republican views? Probably not, because he is, more or less, a liberal.

As an aside, I love the JFK tax-cutting analogy that Republicans trump out these days. He, rightfully, cut the tax rate for the richest Americans from an absurdly high rate to a rate that was still absurdly high, just not as high. To say that he's a tax-cutter like today's Republicans is a stretch.

And you say 'revision' and I say 'understanding.' I think gap hit the nail on the head with regard to the collapse of the Soviet Union - a liberal leader like Gorbachev was more open to reform than any of his hard-line predecessors. Coupled with the country's food crisis, its military debacle in Afghanistan and the inherent flaws in communism, the whole country fell apart and a democratic Russia arose. To say Reagan is solely responsible for that reveals such a lack of understanding of the actual Cold War, it's staggering.

And what spin are you putting forth concerning Democrats saying we weren't on the right side of the Cold War? Just because you think it up in your head doesn't mean it's a valid point which rebuts mine.

I know this may be hard - but actually do some thinking and analysis about today's current events. Don't sit there and think Democrats don't want to protect America by not tapping phones. Democrats, and most Republicans, support tapping phones of suspected terrorists - but they also respect the rule of law. And that means following the approved channels to get a warrant (which, as has been noted, can be done in under half an hour). Consolidating executive power and giving the president a blank check, however, is not doing anything to make America more secure.

And, why is it that the War on Iraq is the only litmus test Republicans seem to have this day when it comes to national security? Is it because the entire country got behind the invasion of Aghanistan and the hunt for bin Ladin? Is it easier to polarize people by trumping out this card?

Truth be told, the jury is out on Iraq. Much work has to be done there in order to make it a stable country, so don't count me among people who want to withdraw our troops as soon as possible. Furthermore, I supported the invasion of Iraq (reluctantly), but it is impossible to argue the invasion was justified.

Is Saddam a bad man? Absolutely, and he deserves whatever he gets. But so is Kim Jong Il ... and I don't see us saddling up to get him. So are several warlords in Africa, but we aren't deploying troops there. So is Hamas, which has just won a ruling majority in Palestine, but we are talking about 'working' with them.

If you wanna go get 'em ... hell, I'm all for it. I've advocated a stronger presence in Africa for the longest time, and I fault President Clinton the most for getting out of Somalia too soon. Hell, I'm probably one of the most hawkish Democrats you'll ever meet. But I'm also cautious with my judgement and analysis of the situations. Things aren't that simple.

So if you simply equate 'national security' with 'going after 'em' then I think you're sadly mistaken on what national security really is.

Jmac said...

tax revenues went up after the Reagan tax cuts

It wasn't the natural cyclical forces of the economy that did this ... you know, the ones Republicans like to trump out to discredit the economy under Bill Clinton?

Publius said...

Good discussion so far, although we seem to be trying to define the other party (whatever party that may be depending on our individual political proclivities) rather than trying to define the ideals of the party we associate with, if any.

No problem though, I ain't the thought police.

In the interests of saying something nice about the other party, I'd mention that there is one piece of Bush policy that I wholeheartedly agree with. Free box o' nothing to anyone who can guess what it is. (GAP cannot participate in this one, because I was talking about it with him yesterday.)

hillary said...

Support of valuable and extremely cute scottish terrier lobby?

Anonymous said...

Guest worker program? Amnesty? More nuke power?

hillary said...

Member of Murricans for Brush Clearing?

Dawg Corleone said...


The terrorists' goal isn't to take away my freedom. The goal is to take away my life.

They want me, my family, and my neighbors dead--the more the better.

Bush authorizing a warrantless listening session on al Qaeda phone call hurts me not one iota, nor does it detract from one ounce of my liberty, and it might save my life.

The President who wouldn't do what W is doing on that front would deserve to be impeached.

hillary said...

The terrorists' goal isn't to take away my freedom. The goal is to take away my life.

Um, not that I should be bringing this up at all, esp at quarter til on a Friday, but isn't their goal to achieve their goals? Like getting the U.S. out of the Middle East? And whatnot. Their goal isn't to make you dead. That's more the means than the aim. No?

DoubleDawgDareYa said...

But they're the ones who get to say whether they're only listening to al-Qaeda or not. So essentially they're saying "trust us." Well, forgive me if I can't, given this administration's track record.

DoubleDawgDareYa said...

I'm pretty sure I know which policy Publius agrees with, but I'm gonna have to recuse myself from the box o' nothing contest, cause I'm pretty sure we talked about it too.

gap said...


I understand that Bush authorizing listening to terrorist's phone calls does not hurt you. However, like DoubleDawg said, who is to say they are only listening to Al-Qaeda, and who is to define "terrorist". Trusting our government to only listen to terrorists is a big mistake. Once they have the power it will most certainly be abused. Perhaps they will decide that anyone with an opinion different from the administration is a "domestic threat" i.e. "terrorist."

Federal RICO laws are a prime example of this abuse. When enacted, their narrow purpose was to prosecute leaders of organized crime. Now the law is used to go after individuals and any business or undesireable group the government happens to be targeting and doesn't have enough evidence to prosecute the normal way. It was used unsuccesfully in the 80's to prosecute Sonny Barger and the Hells Angels.

Entrusting the Government with sweeping powers during war time and expecting them to give up those powers in peacetime is a mistake. Payroll deductions were enacted during WWII in order to give the Govt. more money to fight the war with the promise that everything would go back to normal in peacetime. Of course we still have payroll deductions today.

Ignoring this assualt on individual freedom with an "It doesn't apply to me" attitude is wrong.

Dawg Corleone said...

And expecting we can ever fight a war without adversely impacting innocents is also wrong. Lincoln most certainly imprisoned innocents, as did Wilson and FDR.

I don't demand or expect perfection. But to say that since we can't be perfect we shouldn't make an effort is to relieve one's self of responsibility. You don't live your life that way; we shouldn't try to fight a war that way. Understand that mistakes will be made; work to mitigate and correct them and move on.

RandomThoughts said...

Core Principles:

It seems to me that R's believe in giving more to big business and letting it trickle down to the workers, believing that big business will do this in a fair and equitable way. D's on the other hand seem to feel that assistance should go directly to the ones who need it. This costs more money to administer than the R's approach and, in fact, may not leave any more of the pie for the actual worker than the R's approach. But it DOES take that money out of the deep pockets and put it into worker's pockets in the form of assistance and in the form of more jobs administrating the funds.

This, to me is the definitive difference in their principles: R's want to give to the big business owners and let them take care of the little people workers; D's don't feel that workers should have to depend on the largess of big business to take care of them but should receive what assistance they need directly.

Maybe this is simplistic but it sums it up for me pretty well.

I'm a Realist said...

As I've mentioned before, Dems and Reps are cut from the same cloth. They are all derivatives of the Whig party of the early 1800's. You can break down politics today into the Whig derivatives (Democrats and Republicans) and the Constitutionalists (Libertarians). Obviously the Whigs dominate the landscape, thanks in no small part to President Lincoln. He changed the ideals of the government from protecting the rights of the individuals to attempting to acheive equality for all individuals (and in Lincoln's day, this did not mean equality of the races). He basically instituted the egalitarian system we have today.

As far as the destruction of our liberties, Lincoln was the original. He imprisoned any who opposed his views, he suspended the writ of habeus corpus, he disrupted the free election process by military force, and he assumed sole authority as the executive above either of the other branches of the government or the Constitution (Does any of this sound familiar in today's politics?). So when you fear Bush's (or whomever is next) assumption of complete dictatorial power, your fears are indeed warranted, because it's already happened in our history once.

As far as party distinctions, Dems are for spending government money for the poor and the rich. Reps are for spending government money for the rich. They are equally non-concerned with rights of the people, as they each have specific issues that they use to trample the Bill of Rights.

As for the spending, Dems (mostly...like Jmac) want to use the federally acquired funds to benefit the greater public - specifically the poor. The problem is that for the past 200 years of our country's existence such federally funded "public good" or "internal improvement" subsidies have failed at acheiving their intended goals. The idea is that more money is required and more government is required and both skyrocket out of control to the tune of an enormous tax burden upon the middle class.

Republicans are wary of these problems, but they want tax cuts for the rich, because if the rich get richer, it seems like everyone is really getting richer. This does not alleviate the burden on the middle class, nor does it shore up the problems with the "public improvement" programs that are wasting money by the bucketloads.

The end result is really over miniscule differences in opinion, which do nothing to remedy the real problems that the bulk of this country faces.

Libertarians, on the other hand, want free trade and an isolationist foreign policy. They encourage the freedom to do as you please and the freedom of the states to govern their people without the burden of federal mandates or the federal tax burden. I would argue that the majority of rational, informed people would really be Libertarians, but they get caught up in the anti-Republican ideals of the Democrats or the anti-Democrat ideals of the Republicans. If they would just stop to see that neither side is on their side, they could make a switch to the side of freedom and liberty for all.

Ed Vaughan said...

The Greens are the only political party that places human beings and the planet they must live together on above the profit motive. Better then that party, though, is populist non-partisan politics.

Dawg Corleone said...

The profit motive has freed more people, fed more people, medicated more people, and educated more people than any other force in human history. Profit is good.

If you don't believe it, look at the places where there are lots of profits (ie America) and at the places where there almost no profits (ie just about any place in Africa). Then tell me where you'd choose to live.

Profits are the problem; profits aren't the solution. And to the degree that Greens are anti-profit, I'm anti-Green.

Dawg Corleone said...

And, of course, I typed that last paragraph backwards (though some would say I made a Freudian slip...)

Publius said...

And the lion and the lamb shall lay down together. And Publius and Dawg Corleone will agree on something.

But when you're right, you're right. To paraphrase Churchill, capitalism is the worst economic system there is, save all the others. Of course, Churchill was talking about democracy, but to me, democracy and capitalism go hand-in-hand.

Profit is good, corporations, for the most part, are good. They provide jobs, jobs provide income, income provides revenue, and revenue provides all those social programs that conservatives like DC hate and neo-New Dealers like yours truly love. And those programs provide help for the people who can't get jobs. It's a cycle, I reckon.

That's not to say that corporations don't require oversight and some measure of regulation, which, I suspect is where Dawg and I are going to disagree, but c'est la vie.

Interesting note: If y'all remember our post last week about the Molly Ivins column, you might also remember that I cited a Pew Center poll. One of the really interesting questions in that poll is this: "Most corporations make a fair and reasonable amount of profit." (Or something similar, I'm not quoting directly.)

I agree with that. Fact is, since I'm digressing, that most corporations do, and if you want a good example of the US Code working more or less efficiently, look no farther than antitrust. There's always room for improvement (for instance, the treble damage rule), but for the most part, we do a pretty good job of ensuring the opportunity to make a profit while protecting the social welfare.

Rule number something-or-'nother of economics. Individuals enter the market to maximize utility, corporations enter the market to maximize profit, government enters the market to maximize social welfare. (Meaning "wellbeing" not the Welfare program.) When all three work at a decent level of efficiency and in tandem, you've got a strong capitalist economy.