This is my attempt at blogging. I'm still learning about the blogging world, and this is my own personal study hall.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Argh! The Tea Party, Limited Government, and States' Rights. Or: What happened to the freakin' Constitution?

Wendy Kaminer writes in the Atlantic that the Tea Party does not live up to its purported ideals of limited government. No kidding? Who knew?

Unfortunately, in making her point, she very badly falls into the trap of the Tea Partiers' (and Reagan-Bush II-Cheney Republicans') definitions of the terms she is trying to pry out of their hands.

Read the article, and (I hope) you'll understand what I mean.

Here's my take on it, as I wrote in the comments:

"Only a minority of libertarians (some of whom can be found at the CATO Institute) are consistent in their commitment to individual freedom and an unregulated marketplace."

Why does it have to be all or nothing in order to be consistent? Federal intervention in the market can be defined (and manifested) in different ways. Regulation is NOT the same thing as corporate welfare or takeovers of whole industries. Setting fair-play rules when corporations run by elites affect the lives of individuals in all 50 states is not necessarily anti-Federalist (at least not as far over the line as bailouts or corporate takeovers). And government recognition of marriage - at all - is as anti-Federalist as government restriction on some marriages. As a fundamentally religious institution, marriage ought not be dealt with by the federal government at all. If the government wants to promote higher birth-rates and finds it better for children to grow up in a family environment, then let's have tax policies that favor family units over non-family models of child-rearing, and let's have a political debate over what defines a "family". But let the government stay out of defining marriage altogether.

There needs to be a serious debate about what role the federal government has in a society that is supposed to be made up of "the several States", as our Constitution refers to them over and over. Simultaneously, and not necessarily independently, there needs to be a serious, renewed debate about States' rights, what that means, what the limitations are, and what the limitations are on the federal government's reach into states' affairs.

And, hello? Doesn't anyone ever read the 9th or 10th amendments? Or do they get confused by the 7th, gloss over the 8th ("Yeah, Cruel and Unusual Punishment is bad; I get that") and then quit?

Just as a follow-up point, it turns out that Christine O'Donnell doesn't know what the Constitution says. There's a shocker.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Is this a normal election year?

I don't know. Everyone is saying this is the year of the Republican Party. The conventional wisdom is that the Democrats aren't excited and won't turn out, and that the Tea Party is "fired up and ready to go". Over the last few election cycles, though, I've been seeing a trend: conventional wisdom is not what it used to be. We've seen exit-polling that has been at odds with election returns. We've seen wild shifts in polling results. Some have even claimed that we've even seen political pundits with an agenda determine, by sheer dint of their insistence that a close election went the way they wanted it to, the accepted version of the final election results.

Even the venerated election forecaster Nate Silver of fame is going along with the conventional wisdom this year. I know this is a swing year, and that the Democrats, especially freshmen in conservative districts, are likely lose seats. But I have not yet been convinced that this election cycle is going to follow traditional patterns. Even though 538 has an incredibly accurate track record when it comes to forecasting results, Silver is still using, fundamentally, traditional models to reach their conclusions. Yes, he is using new ways to analyze those models, which is what has led to some very different and surprisingly accurate predictions as compared to everyone else, but in the end everyone is weighing polling data that is based on interviews with registered voters.

In this election, the polling data, I feel, is incomplete. There is no way to predict - at this point - how disappointed liberals will act (or not act) on Election Day. The "enthusiasm gap" is real, but how it will manifest itself in the election is, I think, still up in the air. If the liberal base of the Democratic Party is really upset, they would be hurting their own interests by sitting at home or voting for an uber-liberal, third-party candidate. After the Newt Gingrich years, the 2000 election and the Bush years, I'm not so sure they would do that to themselves.

Of course, if people don't feel compelled to act in their own self interest, which is typical of the American electorate, the traditional models will likely be proven correct, and everyone who has been hoping for a revival of the youth vote, of sorts, will be left wondering how they could have gotten all excited in one election and then stayed home in what is essentially the follow-up.