More freshly-minted thoughts – actually, getting a little musty since the election was awhile ago.
[PS: I've made a strong resolution to post much more frequently in 2011 -- a larger number of shorter observations, interspersed with the longer essays. I'll be grateful if you'll check in from time to time, even if you don't receive a notification that there's anything new up. Many thanks. -- Steve.]
It’s Not the Economy, Other than Secondarily.
I have seen polls where voters said that the economy was their main concern.
I partly believe this. When the pundits talk about the economy, they focus on jobs.
Jobs are important. Real important. If you don’t have one, then jobs are the most important thing.
But most people have jobs. And most people are not extremely fearful that they will lose their jobs. More people than usual, these days, but still a long way from most. I don’t mean to be snotty about this. I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose one’s job because of economic conditions. (Heaven forbid one is also incompetent.)
I think that when most people say they are concerned about the economy, I think they mean they are concerned about what our political leaders on the federal, state, and local levels have done and are doing to it, and that it will be extremely difficult to undo. That is, they’re not worried about the current dip – they’ve seen dips followed by booms – they’re worried about the rest of their lives, worried that after years of spending and required future spending by both Republican and Democratic administrations (with the current administration the champeen), the damage will be long-lasting and hard to undo. Deficit spending, spending on nothing, spending on (certain) public employee unions for poor service, corrupt spending, spending to create and enforce niggly regulations, pork spending, earmark spending – and only a little of it actually classifiable as economically productive. So, so much of it is paying bureaucrats to do nothing more than move it around, something markets do so much better and cheaper and with less injury to freedom.
Not my intention to mount a defense of markets versus a command economy, as if they needed one. My point here is that this election was about more than short-term joblessness, to the extent it was about the economy at all. In spite of everything, the public is optimistic. The government has screwed up the economy, by commission (spending) and omission (failure to curb financial sector wrongdoing). They can tell the government to fix it. They just took the first step.
The Peckerwood Factor.
It wasn’t a Republican sweep. There’s not much accounting for California, which continues its descent into economic lunacy. And parts of the Eastern seaboard, they can’t be helped either.
But there were some other losers. Joe Miller in Alaska. Christine O’Donnell in Delaware.
Thereby hangs the danger of the Tea Party. When the population rises, there are lots and lots of slots to fill. Some of the candidates to whom the population turns are going to be peckerwoods, just like some to whom they turned in 2008 were, to put the matter kindly, more liberal than voters cared to see as they swept out the Republicans in that wave of revulsion.
(When I use the term “peckerwood,” I mean a style of conservatism that is reactionary, extremely ideological, and almost aggressively ignorant. Your peckerwoods may vote sensibly, but their manner and rhetoric is, after awhile, offputting and offensive and guaranteed to lose the center that the Republicans need. I do not use it in the 19th and early 20th century sense of poor southern whites.)
The Republicans need to keep charge of these types. I don’t have any prescriptions on how that can be accomplished. Not all – I’d say probably only a few – Tea Party-supported candidates are peckerwoods. But they tend to be loud and to draw attention to themselves and paint responsible Republicans with their broad brush.
Beware the peckerwood.
Who Will Lead?
In November many of us got a lot of what we wanted.
The Republicans considerably increased the size of their tent in 2010. Who will emerge to lead the party to 2012? Who will step forward to avoid screwing this up?
At this writing, there are no breakaway front runners. An off-the-cuff survey:
Sarah Palin: No. I’m sure I’ll be writing more as time goes by, but let me say it straight out – she is not smart enough. And there’s the odd family life, Bristol making Billy Carter look respectable. I’m not entirely sure Palin wasn’t born in Kenya. I’m tired of flaky exotics in the White House or near it.
John Boehner: Prematurely orange. I don’t know what to think about his lachrymose tendencies. I know the guy has come up from a hard life, and that’s terrific. But I’ve never heard a public utterance of his that stayed with me. He seemed to think the first two years of the Obama presidency were about lack of transparency. Not impressive.
Michael Steele: Every team needs some really, really good black guys. I’m not sure any team can win these days without excellent black guys. Well, I gotta tell you, the Democrats’ black guy is totally kicking the Republicans’ black guy’s ass. What a mediocrity – I can’t believe the party hasn’t shown him the door. You never see him as a spokesman anymore, and he’s compromised by his profligacy in office. I think the country has really grown up – we’re confident enough in our judgment, independent of race, to kick black guys out of leadership positions in both parties. (I hope.)
Newt Gingrich: Really smart, really good debater, real knowledgeable, extremely sound on the issues, but hopelessly compromised by his seamy mistreatment of his (former) wife and his condescending manner (former professor, like we need another one of those). He should have Michael Steele’s job. He could be a party leader, just not a national leader.
John McCain: No. His maverick act was always a sham and was exposed in the campaign. And let’s face it, he’s old and seems older than he is.
Bobby Jindal: Not this time. Needs some seasoning before the cameras and some serious sartorial advice. Otherwise, really like the guy.
Tim Pawlenty: The guy gets a lot of attention, but so far I’ve found him pretty Lamar-Alexanderish. Smart but in love with his press clippings.
Rudy Giuliani: A guy who runs as bad a campaign as he ran (or allowed to be run for him) in 2008 has not exhibited a model for national leadership. Having said that, I still like the guy and believe there’s a role for him. But he has to hook up with some professional campaign management that won’t tell him to hide out in Florida for two months while every other candidate is on the news every day.
Mitt Romney: Strong, but he’s going to have to deal with the crisis of Romneycare in Massachusetts. He should say something like: "I can't believe how incredibly stupid I was, and I've like absolutely totally learned my lesson, and don't you want a president who learns from his mistakes?" I don’t think the Mormon thing is a big electoral problem. Is it? Don’t have a feel for it. He needs to get out front on some current issues, though. He’s not going to look good riding Boehner’s coattails. Maybe he’s trying not to peak.
Chris Christie: Look out. A term or two under his impressive belt and he could be a guy. A mountain of common sense.
. . . the Cool Hot Center.