Politics: March 2008 Archives

Conservative blogger and lawyer historian Clayton Cramer is running for the Idaho State Senate, challenging a moderate-to-liberal Republican incumbent, whom Cramer believes is out of step with his district:

...[T]he incumbent received a C rating from NRA at the last election, and introduced a bill to add "sexual orientation and gender identity" to the state's employment discrimination law. The biggest town in my district is an Air Force base; the second biggest town has a mandatory gun ownership law.

Cramer is a bearded blogger and has been told that he has to shave it off. While Idahoans may have beards, they don't vote for candidates who do. I've been told that in Oklahoma a beard will cost a candidate 4% of the vote. (A mustache by itself is worse -- 6%.) A fellow Idahoan has determined that bearded men are underrepresented in the legislature:

So, of a total of 80 male legislators, only five have beards, equaling 6.25% of the Male Legislators. I'd say that greater that a good 10-12% of men around these parts have beards.... So, I think we can say that the beard is a detriment.

I think Cramer should leave the beard on. Of course, I ran twice for office with a hairy face and lost both times, so take that advice for what it's worth.

Cramer points out that Bill Sali got himself elected to Congress from Idaho with a beard (actually a Van Dyck, by the looks of it).

Of course, there's a rather famous Idaho politician whose long career was helped considerably by a beard of a different sort....

UPDATE: Mr. Cramer writes to say, "I am a historian. Calling me a lawyer--doesn't that qualify as defamation of character?" Happily, since he's not a lawyer, he can't sue me easily! (I fixed it anyway.)

A blast of fresh Arctic air: Alaska's Republican Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell has filed to challenge ethically-challenged Republican Congressman Don Young, and he has the backing of Republican Gov. Sarah Palin:

"The days of unquestioning loyalty are gone," Parnell said a few hours later after filing candidacy paperwork. "It's time for principled leadership."

Gov. Sarah Palin escorted Parnell into the Division of Elections office and immediately endorsed him over Young, who has held the office for 35 years. She gave no thought to the protocol of an endorsement months before the August primary, she said.

"When something's right, it's right," she said. "There's no time like the present to state your case and speak candidly about what you believe in. And I believe in his candidacy."

(Via McGehee.)

MORE: Last October, NR's David Freddoso called on the National Republican Congressional Committee (headed by Oklahoma's Tom Cole) to be ruthless in casting off the bad apples in the Republican orchard:

Republicans need an ethical Housecleaning if they are ever to return to the majority again. This will require strong leadership and creativity. The real question is just how ruthless the reputedly non-confrontational Boehner can be when his legacy is on the line. Boehner will show his mettle by how he deals with two members currently under serious ethical clouds: Reps. Don Young (R., Alaska) and John Doolittle (R., Calif.).

Freddoso goes on to point out that failure to dump these ethical liabilities not only costs credibility, it costs the party cold cash. $9 million was spent in the 2006 cycle to try to save the sorry hides of Don Sherwood (Pa., "tried to choke his mistress"), Bob Ney (Ohio, now in Federal prison), Charles Taylor (N.C.), Curt Weldon (Pa., "federal raids just before the 2006 election"), and Mark Foley (Fla., creepy IM chats with a male page). That's 11 percent of the committee's independent expenditures wasted on lost causes.

We so often think of conservatism and liberalism in terms of a collection of disconnected policies, or we mistake the two competing ideologies for the two political parties that are respectively identified with them, that we forget the heart of the matter. What truly distinguishes conservatism from liberalism is the way each understands human nature. An ideology will succeed -- produce liberty and peace and prosperity -- to the degree that it correctly understands and accounts for human nature.

Like ideology, drama will succeed to the degree that it correctly understands and accounts for human nature. The better a playwright is at observing the way people respond to challenges and frustrations, the abler he is at drawing the audience into his play.

So there's this playwright, David Mamet. His job is to be an observer of the human condition. The more accurate an observer he is, the more his plays strike a chord with his audience. What he learned as an observer of humanity is that conservatism's core assumptions about human nature are right, and liberalism's assumptions are all wrong. In an essay in the Village Voice (of all places), Mamet goes back to first principles and works outward from those to come to some very conservative conclusions.

Here is an excerpt (slightly expurgated), but you really must read the whole thing:

And, I wondered, how could I have spent decades thinking that I thought everything was always wrong at the same time that I thought I thought that people were basically good at heart? Which was it? I began to question what I actually thought and found that I do not think that people are basically good at heart; indeed, that view of human nature has both prompted and informed my writing for the last 40 years. I think that people, in circumstances of stress, can behave like swine, and that this, indeed, is not only a fit subject, but the only subject, of drama.

I'd observed that lust, greed, envy, sloth, and their pals are giving the world a good run for its money, but that nonetheless, people in general seem to get from day to day; and that we in the United States get from day to day under rather wonderful and privileged circumstances--that we are not and never have been the villains that some of the world and some of our citizens make us out to be, but that we are a confection of normal (greedy, lustful, duplicitous, corrupt, inspired--in short, human) individuals living under a spectacularly effective compact called the Constitution, and lucky to get it.

For the Constitution, rather than suggesting that all behave in a godlike manner, recognizes that, to the contrary, people are swine and will take any opportunity to subvert any agreement in order to pursue what they consider to be their proper interests.

To that end, the Constitution separates the power of the state into those three branches which are for most of us (I include myself) the only thing we remember from 12 years of schooling.

The Constitution, written by men with some experience of actual government, assumes that the chief executive will work to be king, the Parliament will scheme to sell off the silverware, and the judiciary will consider itself Olympian and do everything it can to much improve (destroy) the work of the other two branches. So the Constitution pits them against each other, in the attempt not to achieve stasis, but rather to allow for the constant corrections necessary to prevent one branch from getting too much power for too long.

Rather brilliant. For, in the abstract, we may envision an Olympian perfection of perfect beings in Washington doing the business of their employers, the people, but any of us who has ever been at a zoning meeting with our property at stake is aware of the urge to cut through all the pernicious bulls**t and go straight to firearms....

Whatever you think about his broader point, you must admit the man understands zoning.

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Robert N. Going says it's time to get back to our roots:

Let's grow up, Conservatives! The reason the Republican Party is slipping away from us is that they and we have drifted from our roots. With the passing of the Founding Father, William F. Buckley, Jr., now would be a good time to review where we have been and where we should go.

As a starting point, he gives us the Sharon Statement, adopted in 1960 as the founding document of Young Americans for Freedom. It outlines in 12 short paragraphs a creed that upholds the indivisibility of economic and political liberty, the limited purposes and competencies of government, the Constitutional division of powers, the market economy and its essential role in freedom and prosperity, the importance of national sovereignty to liberty, and the necessity of opposing and defeating threats to liberty in the world.

If you were to compose a similar summary of conservatism today, what else would it include? The Sharon Statement was written before the judicial activism of the Warren Court and its successors, before LBJ's massive Great Society expansion of government, before Roe v. Wade. A similar statement written just 15 years later likely would have addressed those matters explicitly, although the principles are already present in the statement.

In more recent years, we've seen the rise of the wheeler dealers, a more Republican-friendly kind of government expansion which uses earmarks and special tax treatment and eminent domain to pick winners and losers in the free market. Given that the Republican Party is the major party most closely aligned with conservatism, conservatives need to denounce this kind of misuse of government power as clearly as possible.

Going says he intends these next few months to look back and look forward. The reflections of someone who was involved in the movement from its earliest years will be worth reading.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Politics category from March 2008.

Politics: February 2008 is the previous archive.

Politics: April 2008 is the next archive.

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