Politics: June 2004 Archives

The Right Nation


This past week National Review Online featured five excerpts from a new book by British authors about the distinctives of American conservatism -- The Right Nation by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge. The authors are respectively the U.S. editor and Washington correspondent for the Economist.

From the fourth excerpt, "Right from the Beginning":

The life span of the American conservative movement is comparatively short. The life span of America's exceptional conservatism, on the other hand, stretches back to the country's birth. The United States has always had conservative instincts: suspicion of state power, enthusiasm about business and deep religiosity. But for most of its history America has been so comfortable with its innate conservatism that it has had no need of a political movement to articulate conservatism's principles or harass its enemies.

The article goes on to discuss the moderation of America's revolutionaries and to explain why the US has never had a potent socialist movement. And there's this interesting note illustrating that America isn't such a young country:

Galileo was offered a chair at Harvard University, which was founded in 1636, before Charles I had his head cut off.

Here's a comment that misses the mark, somewhat:

But because they conceive of themselves as a new nation, Americans don't feel any need to make a cult of newness in the way that some Britons and French do. They have not disfigured the center of Washington with aggressively new buildings, as modernists have felt the need to update London.

I'm not sure if they mean downtown Washington or the Mall. A couple of the Smithsonian Museums are aggressively modern. And a major battle in the War on Poverty involved the destruction of the old buildings where poor people lived and made a living and replacing them with modernist housing projects. (The places for these people to make a living were not replaced.) But in the authors' defense, the impulse to destroy came mainly from political elites enamored with European socialist solutions, not from ordinary Americans.

The other articles in the series are:

The Right Nation
A Different Conservatism
The Right Rules
Right Roots
Faith, Fortune, and the Frontier

A few more interesting quotes:

  • "Not only has America produced a far more potent conservative movement than anything available in other rich countries; America as a whole is a more conservative place."
  • "In no other country is the Right defined so much by values rather than class. The best predictor of whether a white American votes Republican is not his or her income but how often he or she goes to church.... Yet despite the importance of values, America has failed to produce a xenophobic "far Right" on anything like the same scale as Europe has. The closest equivalent to a European hard-Rightist is Pat Buchanan, and his political fortunes have waned rather than waxed.... In Colorado Springs, conservatives see immigrants mostly as potential recruits, rather than as diluters of the national spirit.

This week we say farewell to a man whose bold leadership reshaped our nation and the world. We mourn with his family at his passing, but it is also fitting to celebrate a long life well lived and recall happy memories. Many of us were inspired by Ronald Reagan to become actively involved in politics.

There's going to be an informal gathering tonight at 7:30 in Tulsa at Paddy's Irish Restaurant and Pub to toast the life and accomplishments of President Ronald Reagan. You're invited to join us -- bring along a favorite Reagan quote or anecdote to share. If you've got memorabilia from his campaigns or his administration, bring that along, too. We won't be doing a formal program, just sharing memories.

Paddy's is on the northwest corner of 81st & Memorial.

Over at the Volokh Conspiracy, Gail Heriot challenges the notion that the initiative petition process has been subverted for the benefit of powerful special interests. She cites a soon-to-be-published article analyzing the subversion hypothesis:

It seems that there are real differences in the fiscal policies of initiative and non-initiative states. Initiative states spend less than non-initiative states. Initiative states concentrate more of their spending at the local level. And initiative states raise a greater portion of their revenue through fees rather than through taxes. The subversion hypothesis, however, gets no support from Matsusaka's research. In each case, the initiative states move public policy in a direction that it consistent rather than inconsistent with popular will. Voters tend to want their state governments to spend less money, etc. Hence, instead of subverting the true popular will, the initiative process appears to be giving that popular will a means with which to influence public policy.

I think that is certainly true here in Oklahoma. Initiatives are not often used -- most of the ballot questions we get are referenda from the legislature, required in order to approve constitutional amendments. Only 366 initiative petitions have even been submitted since statehood, and many if not most of those have been ruled legally or numerically insufficient. There appear to have been fewer than 10 over the last 10 years, and it looks like about half never made it to the ballot.

But initiatives gave us term limits, a ban on cockfighting, and set the bar higher for tax hikes -- all issues with popular support, where there was insufficient political will or clout to accomplish them in the legislature. One somewhat recent initiative was clearly the work of a special interest group -- that was the petition to legalize casino gambling, which went before the voters in February 1998. The original sponsors of the drive lost interest once it was on the ballot and it lost by a three to one margin. If, say, a company tried to use an initiative petition to give itself an indirect advantage over the competition, voters would pretty quickly see through the effort. The company would find it a lot more cost effective to lobby 149 legislators than a million voters.

Club for Growth blog


The Club for Growth, which has endorsed Tom Coburn for Senate, has a blog, which I found through a trackback from ScrappleFace's obit for President Reagan.

The Club's blog has an entry about Citizens Against Government Waste's 2003 ratings of members of Congress. Tulsa's Congressman John Sullivan had the highest 2003 ranking of Oklahoma's U.S. House delegation. His lifetime rating of 83 is just behind Ernest Istook's 84. The House as a body got a 50 rating for 2003 -- in 19 of 38 votes "the taxpayers won."

The Club for Growth blog also has an entry with links to photos and audio clips of Ronald Reagan.

Sometimes you find the best insights in the comments on the best blogs. Found this comment on Samizdata, in response to this challenge from a British reader: "Is the US Constitution such a sacred cow that you lot in the US will be shocked at someone in the UK who questions its utility?"

It isn't that we mindlessly revere our constitution, or the utility of any written constitution. It's the particulars of our constitution that we treasure. Ours was basically written by a bunch of crabby, cynical, argumentative political junkies, dilettantes, cafe intellectuals, rabble-rousers and gentlemen farmers who disliked and distrusted government and people who seek power. There's some stupid stuff in there (it's been a while since we worried about having troops billetted in our homes), but it's held up remarkably well because it's not about particulars, it's about human nature. The checks and balances thing, for example, is a blueprint for pitting groups of vain ambitious men against each other in the hopes that none of them get much done.

How often do people who dislike government get to build one?

We began to disobey it before the ink was dry. So, as you point out, it's hardly an ironclad defense of liberty. But it helps. It's significant that when they want to break free of its restraints, our public figures are still compelled to pretend to see something in it that isn't there, and write heavily-footnoted rulings about how the thing that isn't there really is if you squint and turn your head on one side.

Posted by S. Weasel at June 2, 2004 11:37 PM

Spot on. "It's not about particulars, it's about human nature," is reminiscent of the conservative proverb, "Human nature has no history."

(That last bit about "the thing that isn't there really is if you squint" makes me think of conservative Presbyterian arguments for infant baptism, but, as with the judges and the Constitution, at least they feel obliged to pay their respects to the original authoritative document.)

Swinging the states


Politics! Maps!! A new web toy from the folks at Opinion Journal gives you a clickable map to develop your own electoral college scenarios of the upcoming election. A click on a state rotates it from the Republican to the Democrat to the undecided column. (Alas, they insist on coloring Republican states red and Democrat states blue, following USA Today's 2000 county map, despite the fact that red, as the color of the socialist parties throughout the western world, properly belongs to the Democrats.) A shift-click on a state shows you the percentage outcomes for the last six presidential elections. You can use any of the last six elections as your starting point, or use their default, putting high-margin-of-victory states in one column or the other, and leaving the rest for you to sort out.

For more insight, you might want to read Slate's series on the swing states, which just began with a look at bellwether Missouri. See also Best of the Web Today from Thursday with a roundup of recent polls and Friday's edition, with the latest bookmakers' odds.

Larry Sabato has an interesting analysis, based on 2000 results plus trends apparent from mid-term elections.

There's a realistic scenario that could leave us deadlocked. (Click the image below to see the map.) If Kerry wins everything north of the Mason Dixon line, plus West Virginia, the upper Midwest (Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan, Illinois), the west coast and Hawaii, plus New Mexico and Bush wins everything else, it's a 269-269 tie.

If there's a tie and we have no faithless electors, it goes to the House of Representatives as a state-by-state vote. If the current House makeup holds, Bush gets the votes of 29 states: AL, AK, AZ, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, LA, MI, MO, MT, NE, NV, NH, NM, NC, OH, OK, PA, SC, UT, WY.

Four states are even-steven: MN, MS, TX, WI. Texas could go either way, as the new redistricting created several incumbent vs. incumbent battles. And several states have a one-congressman difference that could swing the other way. Note that several states are unlikely wins for Bush at the top of the ticket, but are heavily Republican in the Congressional delegation.

(My state-by-state evaluation of the partisan balance of each House delegation was done in a hurry, with info from Politics1 which features lists of likely candidates for each federal and state race, links to newspapers in each state, and images of buttons from campaigns past. (Oklahoma's entry has a picture of the Bud Wilkinson for Senate button. An article in Oklahoma Monthly suggested that if Bud hadn't run down the Rural Electric Administration during his campaign, he would have won that Senate race and would have been positioned to be Nixon's VP and ultimately President.)

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Politics category from June 2004.

Politics: May 2004 is the previous archive.

Politics: July 2004 is the next archive.

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