Friday, September 5, 2008

McCain-Palin And What Conservatism Means

A friend who was a fellow Huckabee supporter left a few comments about McCain and Palin. The first few raised questions about McCain playing more to the right, so as to lose the Independent and conservative Democrat support he once enjoyed, and also questioning Palin’s record on “values” issues. I have heard these sorts of remarks before, usually from the Democratic left. Actually, though sometimes I wish he would and still hope he will, McCain has not recanted on any of his supposedly moderate positions that defy conservative orthodoxy, save for offshore drilling, and I doubt the doubling of gas prices is incidental to that. He has always expressed a pro-life disposition. He has always been one of the biggest spending hawks in The Senate, even confronting his own party and if Republicans retook Congress, I don’t think that would stop. And, he has NEVER supported a tax-increase. Some report his support for continuing the “Bush” tax-cuts, since he originally voted against them. As he often explains, he voted against the tax cuts because despite his warnings, they were not offset with spending cuts.

Anyone who really starkly regards his support for continuing a lowered tax rates, as a turnabout from his insistence on spending cuts at the beginning, has a very unrefined view of economics, as most Democrats do, assuming they are sincere. At bottom, economic principles and incentives are about human nature. Taxes and spending should both be cut, but to discontinue a tax reduction is to support what will be a tax increase and the related reactions of human nature. Evidence of the psychological component of human nature is that Bull Clinton increased tax increases while pursuing free trade and other reforms that managed to maintain the positive outlook and healthy economy that many conservatives would have expected to be injured.

I have also seen questions from the left about Palin having cut ostensibly good (when they are passed, aren’t they all?) But, a seemingly worthy objective f a program is no guard whatsoever against wasteful and inefficient consumption of resources. For a large example, any true student of The Constitution understands that national defense is a primary responsibility of the federal government. Yet anyone over forty who has paid attention recalls stories of outlandish expenses on defense department items. John McCain was a third-generation member of the military in his family (his sons are a 4th generation) and a defense hawk. Yet he has opposed unnecessarily extravagant defense spending. Many decades ago, General Eisenhower who saw the Word War ii victory, warned against the growth and appetite of the “military-industrial complex.”

Whether an ostensive objective is worthwhile or not, we are after all, talking about federal government bureaucracies, about which conservatives are rightly guarded. Coming from a social conservative, these expressed concerns sound like an expression of the reported expanded agenda of social conservatives these days. We can debate which interest the federal government should pursue and how those interests might be effectively addressed. But, it’s never wise to be unwatchful of ANY government program. And, to fall into the popular culture measure of concern and expression for a nominal cause based on the number or percentage of dollars spent is a critical mistake, Based on what I’ve seen, I’m more inclined to see Palin having worked to squeeze waste of taxpayers’ dollars, wherever possible, the ostensive cause notwithstanding. I’m sorry, but to ascribe indifference to an individual based on prudence in investments is a misguided and crude way to view things, however popular it may be.

A third comment more directly raised a feeling of discomfort with Sarah Palin. In fact, I saw a very positive report today, from one polling organization. But regardless, here’s the comment and response:

“Weren't you just a bit disturbed by Palin's speech last night, and the almost total lack of addressing issues? Obama listed the issues out, cited facts that pointed to the problem, and offered a solution to each one. Palin resorted to attacks, defensiveness, and left me wondering if she even believes there are problems with the economy, or the war, or if she lives in the same world we do. I was disappointed, not only with the content, but with the resorting to attacks, which is almost an admission that you don't have anything to talk about.”

I certainly wouldn't describe myself as "disturbed" about Sarah Palin's speech. Although, I would have been happy if she could have made persuasive points while perhaps being a tad less "tart." But, generally, I am very taken with her.

I'd like to clarify what you are thinking, and let me clarify myself.

A visceral reaction might wonder if you only differ with Obama on social issues, as of course do I. But, I want to be clear about on what things I agree with Obama. Interpret rhetoric how you will. But, in terms of policy I agree with Obama on precisely NOTHING.

I frequently have to engage accusations or insinuations that I am a "one issue voter," because I think the respect and protection of human life is a primary value of a civil society. It isn’t ONLY about dead babies, which historically God has always dealt with. But, a society that behaves with disregard for this primary value is infected with a "Sickness unto Death," as Kierkegaard described the more general human existential condition. Civility is driving on cruise control on the path to social destruction: conscience is in a decline that will be manifest in myriad expressions of social conduct.

But because I see abortion as an extreme and paradigmatic expression of social illness, does not mean that I am a "one issue voter." As I have repeatedly explained, I have been conservative as long as I have been conscious. Politics does not matter to me ONLY because abortion offends me. You are my age: I did not just come to conservatism because of Roe v. Wade and the social activism that was injected into the Reagan campaign.

People talk about social, economic, and defense conservatives. I was conservative before "social" conservatism existed. At bottom, it has to do with my convictions about human nature and practical treatment of it.

NOW, a popular caricature of conservatism is that it implies hostility or indifference to other human beings. Also given human nature, there naturally ARE people like that. But, that has NOTHING to do with conservative philosophy. That's why I felt so strongly about Huckabee: he emphatically expressed the opposite idea, while at the same time acknowledging those elements of human nature that made him become a Republican in the first place.

More specifically, if I believed that the prescriptions advocated by the left would actually help people, I would favor them. But, it isn't adequate to say that I don't believe that. I KNOW that the underlying propositions are false and the programs themselves are not only unhelpful, they are destructive. AND, THEY ARE MOST DESTRUCTIVE TO THE PEOPLE THEY PRESUME TO HELP!

On one end, they dampen the initiative for improving one's own life circumstance. On the other end, they constrict opportunity in the society in general. It's a double-whammy. This imperishable idea that we are going to help those without by taxing those with is, to use a more innocuous word, twaddle. You will never punish successful people by taxing them 5, 10, or even 50 percent more. The very wealthy will not miss one glass of wine, one luxury car, or one world-traveling vacation. No, what dies is the money that is invested into the economy that opens new opportunities for those less fortunate. Envy is not good for the soul OR FOR THE BODY! The world was created that way.

So, it doesn't matter what Obama lists or talks about or advocates. NONE OF IT WILL HELP! I don't know the man, personally, so I can't and should say what he thinks. But logically, I can say that if he believes what he says, he has breathed deeply of an academic unreality: it's foolishness. And obviously, if he DOESN'T believe what he's saying, he is a fraud and a manipulator: a charlatan.

Honestly, I still wish Huckabee were the nominee and HE had picked Palin. But, John McCain is not without compassion. His is just not as meticulous a mind. However, in the executive branch for the next four years, McCain-Palin may go farthest in undermining extravagance and corruption in Washington. We need to abandon the misguided impulses and construct new and positive ones.

I was also glad that Romney was not selected. In his latest incarnation, he plays that caricature of the aggravated conservative. We need a positive conservative like Huckabee. If Palin isn't already, I think with age she can become that.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

yessiree, i am pumped. i was going to vote for "the change we need," but now i am voting the straight republican ticket so that sherriff mccain and deputy palin can run those corrupt, hypocritical, big-spending, big-talking, wide-stancing republicans out of town on a rail by sundown...
palin proved she means business as mayor when she tried to fire the librarian who refused to ban the perverted books in the Wasilla library. she'll be a great VP, ready to step in and take over the day, the Good Lord willing, that mccain's ticker stops ticking...

Larry said...

anon:

The "experience" matter is way overstated. Biden has tons of excperience...in BEING WRONG!

Sort of like history, what matters is not so muc the names, but understanding the lessons of human nature and how to engage people. In that respect, Palin is plainly more qualified than Obama and even more than Biden if he's being honest. Franklt I incline to question that. Surely he understands human nature better than his record suggests, in which case he is mostly politically posturing. In that case I would expect that he might not be as bad as his record would suggest.

By the way, McCain-Palin will be the "change we need as we have never had in my lifetime.

Lee said...

I do disagree with Obama on social issues, at least, on the ones that get talked about the most. But having been frustrated by the almost casual lack of attention paid to them during the Bush administration, after anticipating action once the "excuse" that Democrats in congress were holding things up was eliminated, leads me to believe that social issues are not the real priority of either party. If you look at McCain's actual voting record on pro-life issues, his chief vote has been "absent, not voting."

So here's the dilemna. First of all, the Bush tax cuts only reduced, by a fraction of a percent overall, the tax liability of Americans and only to the US treasury. But they had a price. The money has to come from somewhere. States are not allowed to deficit spend like the federal government, so taxes cut by Bush were passed along to mainly middle class taxpayers anyway in the form of state taxes and "fees," which are also taxes. In Texas, for example, since Bush as governor had already cut the corporate tax by 3%, counties, road and bridge districts, fire protection districts and school districts were forced to raise their tax rates and appraisals (the max per year for 6 years) to make up for the federal cuts. In short, while those earning their income through stock dividends and investments at more than $100,000 per year saw their tax liability shrink, middle class "me" saw my tax liability increase by more than $3,500 from 2000 to 2008. So I have to at least give some consideration to Obama when he says he will cut the overall tax liability of middle class wage earners, families earning less than $100K. If McCain plans to continue the Bush method, which is what it sounds like, then I'd rather turn that opportunity down. I can't afford it.

An issue which has recently come to light for me is health care. In August, for the first time in 25 years, I underwent an extensive hospitalization and surgery. Anticipating this at some point in my life, I have maintained excellent health insurance coverage. When Clinton left office in 2000, my premium, at age 42, was $287 per month which bought almost full coverage--out of pocket and deductible of $1,000, prescription coverage with $4, $8 and $20 co-pays, office visits of $15, specialists at $30 and $10K in life insurance. Now, less coverage costs me $725 a month and there are some gaps in coverage which required consultation with insurance while I was in the hospital regarding procedures. The premiums will go up again this month. And looking over the bill, which was more than $100K for 14 days and a minor surgery, I cannot imagine how someone who has no insurance would have access to decent health care. So once again, I must, for my own financial health, at least pay some attention to what Obama is saying on this issue, because McCain isn't saying much of anything. I must, like a lot of other voters, weight whether or not I think he might actually reform health care and whether his reforms are the answer to the problem, because there definitely is a problem and a corporate-run, profit generating health care system is obviously not working.

There is also this to consider. Even if McCain is still "the Maverick," and Palin is his "sidekick hockey mom," how are they going to rid the federal government of all of the "corrupt, hypocritical, big spending, big talking, wide-stancing Republicans" and their cronies? Few people disagree that change is desperately needed. The Karl Rove's and Dick Cheney's need to catch the fastest plane or train out of DC and be banned from ever returning. But in determining who is the best candidate for that job, McCain is a member of the same party, and doesn't seem to see everything clearly. Whether or not Obama will crack that whip hard enough is still a guess, but McCain voted with Bush 90% of the time, relies on some of his cronies for advice, and generally went along with a lot of their worst moves "for the sake of party unity" and to win the nomination. Can he be trusted to boot some rears that need to be booted?

So the question comes down to whether or not I consider an increased tax liability, inflationary costs for consumer goods, and limited access to health care as sacrifices worth the possibility that McCain might appoint a couple of somewhat conservative justices to the Supreme Court and use his bully pulpit, or do I do something I have never done before, and, with no real guarantees but at least with some hope, simply vote my pocketbook?

And with our electoral system, will it really make a difference, since it doesn't look like the state of Texas will be in play?

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