Monday, September 15, 2008

Well, some cooler weather has blown into the Austin area overnight, and there's undoubtedly a fall-ish feel in the air today. I'm sure it will heat up and then cool down again several times before fall truly sets in, but nonethless, it's nice to get a reprieve from the heat.

I haven't blogged about McCain and Palin for awhile, but I did find a couple of interesting articles/op ed pieces about Palin in Time magazine over the last couple of days. Michael Kinsley had a piece which did a good job of debunking the myth that Sarah Palin is a true fiscal conservative or that she has shown a preference for anything other than taking as much federal tax money as she could get for Alaska, despite the fact that Alaska already has its own extremely high state revenue stream as a result of taxes placed on the oil drilled from Alaskan soil (of the 50 states, Alaska ranks number one in taxes per resident and number one in spending per resident, and its spending per resident is more than twice the national average). Palin goes on and on about saving us from dependence on foreign oil, but meanwhile, Alaskans tax the bejeezus out of oil that they sell to people in the lower 48 states, with Alaskan residents each getting a yearly check for about $2,000 from oil revenues, plus an additional $1,200 pushed through by Palin last year to take advantage of rising oil prices. Alaska ranks eighteenth in terms of the amount taxes that its citizens have to pay each year (averaging $5,434), but Alaska ranks 1st in terms of the the amount of federal funding that it receives per resident ($13, 950). In addition, although the McCain camp has ridiculed Obama for supporting a windfall profits tax on oil companies who are making record profits (a program designed to help alleviate some of the pain suffered by people who are paying exorbitant prices for gasoline that's being sold by companies which are receiving federal subsidies), Palin herself has supported a version of a windfall profits tax in order to divert more money into the Alaskan state coffers (apparently windfall profits taxes are ok when they support Alaskans, but not so good when they support the rest of us).

Anyway, all of this is just to say that it's fairly disingenuous for Palin to paint herself as a reformer who turns down federal tax dollars and constantly strives for smaller government. Palin has no problem at all turning down federal money when it supports her own constituents (and nothing helps to raise a governor's favorability ratings like handing out money to her constituents).

Another Time article that I read was by Joe Klein, and it was a bit more of an opinion/touchy feely type of article, but I think it still made some interesting (although more arguable) observations. Klein's piece was called Sarah Palin's Myth of America, and it dealt with the idea that Sarah Palin serves as a sort of symbol for much of conservative America. They see her as a white, middle class, Christian, small town working mom with children to raise and a loving husband by her side. Conservatives see her as a symbol of what America is all about, and they relate to her because she's from a small town full of the hard working people who drive our economy, help fight our wars, and who are unfailingly patriotic at all times.
But as Klein points out- the kind of America that Palin represents is mostly a creation of fantasy and nostalgia. America today is more racially diverse than ever, with whites moving closer and closer to being a minority population with each passing decade, and the hard-working people who fight our wars and drive our economy today coming not from the ranks of small town farmers or shopkeepers but from a population of suburbanites and city dwellers who often work for big corporations. More and more families involve single parent homes, and although religion continues to play a major role in American life, it often continues to do so in constantly-evolving and nontraditional ways- through practices that would seem quite unfamiliar to the Pentecostal practitioners of the church that Palin grew up in.
Anyway, conservatives see Palin as a symbol of nostalgic, small town America, but that particular America is more myth than fact. (I also kind of find something strange about people wanting to vote for a candidate just because they think a candidate is "just like me". Personally, if I run into someone who's "just like me", I might think that qualifies that person to be a drinking buddy, but probably not to be the most powerful leader in the free world. For that sort of thing I'm usually looking for someone who's smarter than me, with more education, experience, and a greater understanding of foreign and domestic affairs than I have, and most definitely with a greater understanding of the inner workings of government).

And now for my comment most likely to be described as "Steanso going out on a limb". Just going to make a bit of a wild-eyed prediction here, but bear with me: To be honest, even if the Republicans beat the Democrats in this election, I think that their days are numbered, at least in their current form (meaning, even if Obama loses this particular election, I think his candidacy signals the beginning of the end of some old-school political thought). As the population and the demographics of America continue to change, I just think that Republicanism in its current version will be unsustainable. As things stand, the Republicans have been staying viable because so many lower income and minority citizens don't vote (and, I suspect, also because of the population bulge surrounding the baby boomers- there are a disproportionate number of older people voting right now compared to the younger generation, but that's at least in some part because there's just a big, fat population group in that age range. Older people don't like change. They go for this whole American nostalgia thing that the Republicans have been pushing). But there's an ongoing, substantial rise in the minority population in this country, and as the income gap continues to grow (and more and more of our jobs continue to be outsourced), there will be more and more people who get tired of a government that is run with an eye toward benefitting the wealthiest members of our society. Eventually, unless the Republicans repackage themselves in a major way (which will be possible- fiscal conservativism always will have its place), they're just going to be overwhelmed. Nostalgia for a 1950's-style past just can't compete with the inevitablity of a much more diverse future (and I'm talking race, religion, sexual orientation, and a myriad combination of different lifestyles and family groups). We've already seen the Republicans shifting their positions on some issues (like global warming and the environment, the advisability of cutting off diplomacy with hostile nations, etc.). They're going to have to make similar adjustments in other areas in order stay viable. I think that if the Republicans survive, their party in 30 years is going to be almost unrecognizable in comparison with the Republican party of today (like I said, there will still be a place for fiscal conservativism, but some of their other policy points will probably need to change - they won't be able to just survive as the party of white, affluent, religious conservatives) .
Okay, that was some serious babbling. I'm not even sure I was even making sense there at the end, but it felt ok while I was writing it. Oh well.


Meredith said...

Holy crap....I could seriously make some long post on this. I do know your views and respect them and see where you are coming from. But as a young conservative I really kind of resent being referred to as part of a party of people who do not want change. I do want change. My days of being a Bush fan have long since been over. Just because he is a Republican in office does not mean that I want to vote in 'more of the same', to use the Obamican turn of phrase. Which is why I think McCain/Palin are the best ticket out there....and they do bring change even if it's not the kind of change my liberal friends want to see happen.

The change Obama/Biden promise to bring does not appeal to me at all, nor does it appeal to my other under-50 conservative friends...and...this may shock you, but there are MANY of us.

I have to say also that the Republican ticket has now been elected twice in a row to office, so somehow our party is surviving and has a following large enough to win the past two elections. Hopefully a third also. And it can't only be because of rich, old white people going to the polls.

I think that if the Democratic party wants to actually WIN an election again, they need to figure out how to appeal to those of us with conservative views too. For a party that claims to champion 'change' and 'diversity' they sure do exclude and throw a lot of daggers at those of us who feel more conservatively in our fiscal and social views. Maybe it's a little hypocritical of the liberals to say conservatives do not want change when they, themselves, do nothing to include those of us who have voted into office a conservative twice in a row now.

I won't even get into my views on the comments on Palin. She is doing just fine on her own without me defending her. I love how the media seems to want to find ways to trash her, though....fear will bring out the worst in people and I definitely understand their fear about her. Which should be flattering to her, to be honest.

But, despite all of my opinions above, I do see where you are coming from and your points are noted. I often get passionate about my party and have trouble trying to see 'both sides' of things, so reading your blog keeps me in touch with views outside of my own and gives me food for thought.

J.S. said...

Well, Meredith, I'm not saying that the Republicans can't change, but for starters, conservatives, by definition, are typically not prone to embracing change (Webster's dictionary defines conservatism as: a disposition in politics to preserve what is well established, specifically, a political philosophy based on traditon and social stability, preferring gradual development to more abrupt change). I think conservatives can and do, in fact, change, but they generally shy away from new ideas when they are introduced and take a long time to warm up to new concepts or new methods of approaching issues (liberals tend to embrace new ideas more quickly, but sometimes this gets them into trouble when these new ideas don't work out. On the other hand, many a "liberal loony" idea which has initially been branded as crazy by the conservatives has eventually proven to be undeniably true, and the conservatives are eventually forced to deal with these things as the issues refuse to go away -I think we've been seeing this most recently with global warming. For years people on the right blasted liberals for even believing that this phenomenon existed, but now that global warming has become more and more undeniable, the conservatives are rushing to catch up and make green energy and eco-friendly fuels a part of their campaign platform).
And, yes, the Democrats can do a better job of bringing conservatives into the fold. But both parties could stand to do a much better job of reaching across partisan lines.
And I don't think the Republican party is all old, rich white people. But I think that those people give the Republicans a voting edge (heck, I think they make up the base of the Republican party) that the Democrats don't have (and, unfortunately, I think many poor minorities are just too cynical about the system and feel to disenfranchised to vote).
Yes, there are lots of Republicans in this country. A whole lot. But the demographics of the nation are changing, and that was sort of my point. Of course, whether the voting population changes to match the actual population is a different issue (it doesn't matter what the makeup of the country is if only the Republicans get off their butts to vote). I think, though, that at some point the huge block of people in this country who don't vote is going to wake up and get involved, and this will change our country's political landscape (about 40% of the people registered to vote don't actually vote, and there's more people than that out there who don't get registered- minorities and low income earners tend to be amongst the worst as far as failing to turn out to vote. I'm not sure how all of these people will vote if we get them off their sofas, but it's my instinct to think that many of these people tend to fall into the Democrat end of the spectrum because they would benefit from many of the social programs and graduated tax systems advocated by Democrats). And yes, I will admit that there are a lot of Republicans in this country and they gave Bush two terms in office, but 1) Bush barely squeaked in during his first election (with Nader helping by splitting the vote on the left) and 2) it's pretty common for a wartime, incumbent president to get reelected, no matter how bad a job he's doing- people just get scared and don't want to change things up during a war.
Anyway, yes, I know there are a lot of you conservatives out there, but you know what? There are a lot of us crazy liberals out here, too (now if only we could get liberals to quit quarrelling with each other- the Republicans are much better at falling into line to get things done and win an election than the Democrats are).

Anyway, all of that being said, I'm actually not in favor of standing on the streetcorners and handing out free tax money to drug addicted criminals or rewarding people for not working or not trying to find work. I understand fiscal conservativism and agree with it up to a point- but I don't think we can just trust capitalism to take care of people, and I don't think it's fair for the extremely rich to continue to expand their wealth by exploiting hard working people who are treated less fairly. I actually think that universal healthcare and a universal living wage (for people working at least 40 hours a week) is more important than giving tax breaks to wealthy people so they can afford luxury items like ski boats or their second trip to Europe for the year (okay, that was admittedly a little smartass-ish, but you get my point).
Anyway, I need to shut up. This comment really got away from me.