In which an older and wiser yet terminally earnest former liberal struggles to come to grips with the cynicism, hatred, and paranoia that plague both sides of the American political spectrum. "Can we all get along?"
"The use of force alone is but temporary. It may subdue for a moment; but it does not remove the necessity of subduing again: and a nation is not governed, which is perpetually to be conquered."
Edmund Burke, 2nd speech on conciliation with America, Mar. 22, 1775 (Bartlett's 16th ed., p. 331)
Mrs. Powel: "Well, Dr. Franklin, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?"
Benjamin Franklin: "A republic, if you can keep it."
After Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Sept. 18, 1787. (Bartlett's 16th ed.)
"As long as the reason of man continues fallible, and he is at liberty to exercise it, different opinions will be formed. As long as the connection subsists between his reason and his self-love, his opinions and his passions will have a reciprocal influence on each other, and the former will be objects to which the latter will attach themselves."
James Madison ("Publius"), The Federalist Papers No. 10 (1787)
"Of the three forms of sovereignty [autocracy, aristocracy, and democracy], democracy, in the truest sense of the word, is necessarily a despotism because it establishes an executive power through which all the citizens may make decisions about (and indeed against) the individual without his consent..."
Immanuel Kant, Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch (1795)
"To act successfully, that is, according to the rules of the political art, is political wisdom. To know with despair that the political act is inevitably evil, and to act nevertheless, is moral courage. To choose among several expedient actions the least evil one is moral judgment. In the combination of political wisdom, moral courage, and moral judgment, man reconciles his political nature with his moral destiny."
Hans Morgenthau, Scientific Man vs. Power Politics (1946), p. 203
"Thus, whenever a concrete threat to peace develops, war is opposed not by a world public opinion but by the public opinions of those nations whose interests are threatened by that war."
Hans Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations 6th ed., rev. by Kenneth Thompson (1985), p. 288
"The texture of international politics remains highly constant, patterns recur, and events repeat themselves endlessly."
Kenneth Waltz, Theory of International Politics (1979), p. 66
"Men wiser and more learned than I have discerned in history a plot, a rhythm, a predetermined pattern. These harmonies are concealed from me. I can see only one emergency following upon another as wave follows upon wave, only one great fact with respect to which, since it is unique, there can be no generalizations, only one safe rule for the historian: that he should recognize in the development of human destinies the play of the contingent and the unforeseen."
H. A. L. Fisher, History of Europe (1935), p. vii [Oxford Dictionary of Modern Quotations (1991), p. 80]
"Most of the change we think we see in life is due to truths being in and out of favour."
Robert Frost, 'Black Cottage' North of Boston (1914), [Oxford Dictionary of Modern Quotations (1991), p. 86]
"My thoughts encompass divinity, therefore divinity is. The divinity that my thoughts encompass is associated with the order that arises out of chaos... As we expand our knowledge of this realm, we ... see it in terms of one sublime order that awaits full realization."
Louis J. Halle, Out of Chaos (1977), p. 646
"Here, then, is the complexity, the fascination, and the tragedy of all political life. Politics are made up of two elements -- utopia and reality -- belonging to two different planes which can never meet."
E. H. Carr, The Twenty Years' Crisis, 1919-1939 2nd ed. (1946), p. 93.
"My biggest blunder in life was attempt to seek common ground with Keynesians, based on the naive thought that by putting my ideas in Keynesian language that I would make any dent on the Keynesians."
Milton Friedman, New York Times, July 4, 1999
"War made the state and the state made war."
Charles Tilly, The Formation of National States in Western Europe (1975), p. 42
"Americans like to mock Kuwaitis as rich and pampered and lazy and decadent, which is exactly what the rest of the world says about Americans. Actually, we shouldn't mock Kuwait at all. It represents the hopes and dreams of Americans of all political persuasions. For liberals, it's a generous welfare state with guaranteed employment and a huge government bureaucracy. For conservatives, it's a country with no taxes and plenty of cheap maids who aren't allowed to vote."
Peter Carlson, "Castles in the Sand," Washington Post Magazine Jan. 14, 1996, p. 32-33
"[Bill Clinton's] greatest strength is his insincerity... I've decided Bill Clinton is at his most genuine when he's the most phony... We know he doesn't mean what he says."
Newsweek reporter Howard Fineman, in a speech in Indiana quoted by Howard Kurtz, Washington Post Apr. 27, 1996
"Whatever one thinks of Bill Clinton, his opponents [*] must be thwarted. They are enemies of democracy and of the Constitution that insures its possibility. We long ago lost the luxury of choosing our allies. This is war."
* (referred to elsewhere in this piece as "mad dogs bent on political annihilation")
Eric Alterman, "Democracy Disappears" The Nation, Jan. 11-18, 1998
"There are no enemies in science, professor. Only phenomena to study."
From the movie The Thing, 1951 (a Cold War sci-fi allegory)
Julia Roberts: "Can you prove any of this?"
Mel Gibson: "No... A good conspiracy is unprovable. If you can prove it, someone must have screwed up somewhere along the way."
From the movie Conspiracy Theory
THE 16 WORDS: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
Pres. George W. Bush, State of the Union address, Jan. 2003
As Campaign 2014 winds down and voters make up their minds, Republicans are poised to make big gains in the Senate, probably enough to retake a majority of seats in that chamber. They currently have 45 seats, while the Democrats have 53 and count on two independents to vote with them, so the Republicans need a net gain of six seats. If it's a 50-50 tie, Vice President Joe Biden would cast the deciding vote. But if the Republicans do win, will it translate into any meaningful policy change in Washington, or will it merely lead to even more stalemated, dysfunctional government? Fortunately for the Republicans, voters seem deeply upset with President Obama and the Democrats, and memories of the infamous government shutdown last year seem to have faded.
Ed Gillespie visits Staunton
The reason I highlighted the phrase "Winning Right" is because that is the title of a book which I have that was written by the Republican candidate for U.S Senate in Virginia, Ed Gillespie -- Winning Right: Campaign Politics and Conservative Policies (2006). I managed to get myself to Mrs. Rowe's Restaurant [on Monday]* afternoon to see Gillespie speak to party members. It was the first time I had been to any kind of political event since the first of March. If nothing else, I was hoping to get him to sign his book for me, and in that at least I succeeded.
Ed Gillespie greets Republicans at Mrs. Rowe's Restaurant in Staunton [on Monday]* afternoon. Among those in this photo are Zanette Hahn, Georgia Long, Del. Steve Landes, Del. Dickie Bell, Larry Roller, Howard Zahn, and Carl Tate.
Ed Gillespie, with his wife Cathy and daughter (Carrie or Mollie?), speaking at Mrs. Rowe's.
At [yesterday's]* event, I met two local Republican leaders for the first time: Georgia Long, the recently-elected chair of the Augusta Republican Committee, and Marshall Pattie, a member of the Board of Supervisors who plans to run for the State Senate seat currently held by Emmett Hanger.
In some ways, Gillespie is an ideal Senate candidate. He has a tremendous amount of experience in politics, having served as Republican National Chairman from July 2003 to January 2005. (I met his successor, Ken Mehlman, at a local campaign event in October 2005.) Gillespie understands how Washington works, and he is pragmatic enough to make deals when necessary.
Gillespie's downside is related to his upside: as an old Washington hand, he is vulnerable to charges of being part of the cronyism that makes our government hostage to special interests. Ironically, incumbent Senator Mark Warner has tried to exploit that factor, claiming that Gillespie's work as a lobbyist for the defunct Enron Corporation reflects on Gillespie. But as Gillespie makes clear in his book Winning Right (pages 160-162), he had nothing at all to do with Enron's bookkeeping. When the Senate Government Reform Committee issued its report on the Enron scandal, Gillespie "was barely mentioned."
Another vulnerability of Gillespie is that he once advocated using the tax code to gain univeral health care coverage (pages 245-246). It was very close to the individual insurance mandate which is the essential feature of Obamacare (and Romneycare in Massachusetts) that has caused so much controversy. He has since retreated from that position, and now pledges to vote to repeal Obamacare if elected. Good.
Overall, Gillespie's strengths far outweigh his weaknesses. The incumbent Senator Mark Warner claims to be an independent voice seeking bipartisan solutions, but that it not how the signature accomplishment of the Democratic Party -- Obamacare -- was adopted. It was rammed down our throat, via an irregular "reconciliation" process, with not a single Republican vote. I saw Senator Warner at a meeting with local businessmen in September 2010, and he had a difficult time trying to explain his support for Obamacare. He needs to be held accountable for that monstrosity.
Other key Senate races
In Sunday's Washington Post, Dan Balz observed that "Obama, the focal point for Republican criticism, was on the campaign trail but avoiding states with the most contested Senate races." It's quite a dilemma for Democrats, who are awkwardly distancing themselves from the President, and in so doing, make themselves look like unprincipled cowards.
In Kentucky, incumbent Mitch McConnell seems assured of a victory against Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, whose once-promising campaign has fizzled. Her biggest sin was claiming to forget whether she voted for Barack Obama for president. Ouch! McConnell, who faced a Tea Party challenge in the primaries, is not the most appealing candidate out there, but he is sensible and right on most of the issues.
In South Dakota, the threat of Independent (and former Republican Senator) Larry Pressler has diminished, and Governor Mike Rounds (Republican) is expected to win by a comfortable margin. Pressler served in the House and then the Senate from the 1970s through the 1990s, and earned a reputation as a squeaky-clean maverick. He was the only member of Congress who flatly turned down the offer of a bribe from FBI undercover agents in the Abscam scandal of 1980.
In Kansas, dull establishment incumbent Senator Pat Roberts struggled to fend off a Tea Party challenger in the primary elections last summer, and now he is coping with an Independent candidate named Greg Orman. He has not committed himself, so if he in fact wins, he could end up caucusing with either side. The Democrats were permitted to remove their candidate's name from the ballot, in hopes of helping Orson defeat Robertson. That one is too close to call.
In Iowa, Joni Ernst has taken a lead over [Bruce] Braley in the polls. Her TV ad in which she boasts of castrating hogs while growing up on a farm, as a useful skill to deal with all the "pork barrel" spending, is amusing. "Make 'em squeal," she cheerfully says at the end. (youtube.com)
In North Carolina, incumbent Kay Hagan was expected to win easily, but her Republican challenger Thom Tillis (currently the state House Speaker) has been closing the gap.
In Colorado, Democrat incumbent Senator Mark Udall has run a mediocre campaign, while challenger, Rep. Cory Gardner, has made it a neck-and-neck race. A Colorado reporter with whom I used to work on the high school newspaper, Lynn Bartels, was recently featured on the Rachel Maddow show (MSNBC.com), discussing the Udall-Gardner race. Lynn has earned high renown in her career as a journalist, and I'm proud to have known her.
Because of state laws requiring a majority, runoff elections are expected in Louisiana, where incumbent Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu is fighting for her political life, and perhaps Georgia. So we may not know whether the Republicans will have a majority in the Senate for a few more weeks.
Political earthquake aftershocks
In the first of the two political "earthquakes" that struck Virginia last June, when State Senator Phil Puckett announced his resignation, it appeared that the Republicans were the ones playing hardball. (The other "earthquake" was when Dave Brat defeated then-Rep. Eric Cantor in the GOP primary election.) Then last month the Washington Post revealed that Governor McAuliffe (or at least his office) was engaging in negotiations of their own. More recently, we have learned that Senator Mark Warner himself was involved in trying to make a deal with Puckett, strongly suggesting improper use of a Federal office. The Gillespie campaign has rightly zeroed in on this glaring misdeed, and we'll see as the votes are counted this evening whether enough voters are paying attention to make a difference in the election.
As I mentioned on Facebook, I am not exactly an enthusiastic supporter of the Republican Party these days. All too often, the otherwise sensible "mainstream" leaders have allowed themselves to be taken in by right-wing "grass-roots" activists who are sometimes lacking in basic political sense. And as anyone who follows politics closely knows, those "grass-roots" folks are often just pawns being used by certain powerful individuals who are trying to steer the party. Eventually, most people will realize what has been going on, but in the mean time we're likely to see a lot more clamor and disruption within the party organization. It's a real shame.
But I see those problems as only indirectly related to the races for the House and Senate. I'm wary of certain hot-headed populists leading the party astray (another government shutdown?), but for now I'm confident that a Republican victory today will be a big step in the right direction.
* I finished this post after midnight on November 4, hence the confusion over today/yesterday in the original post, which has now been corrected.