Accountability; or, Don’t Vote Republican

Both the empirical study of politics and political philosophy have identified two competing models of voting. People sometimes engage in issue/ideological voting, in which they evaluate the competing candidates’ or parties’ stands on the major political debates of the day and vote in favor of whoever is closest to what they believe to be right. Alternatively, people can engage in approval voting, in which they evaluate the job performance of the politician or party currently in power, voting in favor of that party if things are going well and in favor of the opposition if things are going badly. Both models of voting have important roles to play in keeping a democratic political regime on track. Without issue voting, popular views on what policy ought to be really never enter into the policy-making debate. Without approval voting, parties and politicians face no consequences for misbehavior.

This post is an argument that, in 2006, Mormons ought to engage in approval voting and work to remove Republicans from political office — regardless of whether the Democrats seem to be better or worse on the issues.

If issue voting predominates in a country, to the point that approval voting really has no ability to create turnover in the government, then politicians have no incentive to avoid corruption and misbehavior. For example, during the Cold War, politics in Italy was organized around a profound divide between supporters and opponents of Communism. At least in part because this issue divide was deep enough to effectively prevent approval voting, corruption became an endemic problem. The Christian Democratic party, with a rotating cast of allies, was in power almost continuously until 1992. During that period, the party constructed an intricate and pervasive system of bribes and corruption, channeling vast portions of the national wealth into the hands of party leaders and supporters. Not until the end of the Cold War, when the issue divide regarding Communism effectively collapsed, was this system of corruption investigated and prosecuted. The next national elections, dominated perhaps by approval voting, permanently destroyed the Christian Democratic monopoly on national governing power.

As Latter-day Saints, we have every reason to suppose that, in the absense of approval voting, every country will experience a similar fate: tarnished government, corruption, abuse. Consider, in this context, the famous text from Doctrine and Covenants 121: 39.

We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.

Approval voting provides a check on this tendency; self-interested politicians who want to remain in office will be forced to refrain from extremes of corruption, abuse, and other forms of unrighteous dominion — because they know that engaging in such behavior will result in their expulsion from office. If, on the other hand, issue or ideological voting totally predominates over approval voting, then politicians will have no incentive not to exercise their dominion unrighteously; they know that, by choosing the right positions on the issues, they are guaranteed a return to power in the next elections.

The perennial First Presidency letter on the church’s political neutrality endorses both issue and approval voting, but it places special emphasis on approval voting:

We urge Church members to study the issues and candidates carefully and prayerfully and then vote for those they believe will most nearly carry out their ideas of good government. Latter-day Saints are under special obligation to seek out and then uphold leaders who will act with integrity and are “wise,” “good,” and “honest” (see Doctrine and Covenants 98:10).

More fundamentally, approval voting is profoundly compatible with fundamental Mormon thought on agency. We believe that agency is only meaningful if the actions that people choose have consequences. When consequences are stripped away, choice becomes meaningless and empty. If we emphasize issue voting to the extent that we would never vote against the party closest to us on the debates of the day, no matter how much misbehavior that party engaged in, we are — beyond all of the negative consequences for American democracy sketched above — stripping our political representatives of a central component of their agency. With agency, with political office, must come accountability.

Since the Republicans assumed unified control of our national government, we have gone through: corruption scandals involving businessmen personally close to the president, lobbyists intimately interconnected with the Republican congressional leadership, and directly involving some of the top leaders of the legislative Republican party; erosions of our constitutional protections, including habeus corpus and the protection from unreasonable search and seizure; a gradual legitimization of evil acts of torture, to the point that the horrific deeds of Abu Ghraib, which shocked the world in 2004, are now mostly official U.S. policy; the initiation of a war of choice in Iraq, which was so badly executed that we are now losing it, and as a consequence our security agencies have warned that the risk of terrorism has increased; a decision to neither negotiate with nor put military or economic pressure on North Korea, with the consequence that it is now a nuclear power; a total collapse of our fiscal equilibrium, such that we as a nation are once again spending trillions of dollars that we don’t have; and, most recently, the discovery that the Republican congressional leadership chose to cover up, and as a consequence facilitate, the sexual harrassment of teenagers by a congressman.

These are not left-right issues. Rather, this is a list of failures; America is not well served by any of them. These decisions violate the principles that make America America. If behavior this spectacularly bad does not result in government turnover, then American democracy is broken. There is no longer any real incentive for politicians to refrain from misbehavior if such a cavalcade of mayhem doesn’t even result in a loss of governing power.

A vote for a Democrat this year isn’t really a vote in favor of a policy; the Democrats haven’t layed out much of an agenda. Instead, it is a vote against corruption and bad government. By contrast, a vote for a Republican is a vote in favor of enabling the worst temptations of unrighteous dominion. For these reasons, I believe that all U.S. Mormons have a duty to work to unseat the Republican congress in this year’s elections — whether those Mormons are liberal, conservative, libertarian, socialist, or anything else in their personal politics.

Many readers will know that my personal politics are toward the left in ideological terms. They may therefore be suspicious of my motives in writing this post. I am not, of course, an impartial observer. But I believe that the argument above has force in its own right. Indeed, I imagine that, in mirror-image circumstances, I would be persuaded by such an argument to vote for Republicans. However, I acknowledge that my personal opinions inevitably color my perceptions. In discussing this call to political accountability, I hope that we can take this fact for granted and instead focus on the argument itself.

Comments

  1. Haha. Well, this ought to be good.

  2. I disagree with your notion of blanket removal of all Republicans. It seems to me that I have a responsibility to examine my particular race at hand, not consider a clarion call against a particular party.

    If my incumbent Republican Congressman has had no part in any sort of “corruption”, as you call it, I’m supposed to vote against him anyway?

    What if I suspect a Democratic incumbent of corruption? Am I supposed to vote for him for the good of the Democratic control of Congress?

    You make the mistake of modern politics in assuming that we are supposed to treat each race not as an individual race but as a national referendum. That’s not how our system of government was laid out. To be honest, your proposal, no matter to whom you give your loyalty, is a perversion of the intent of the foundation of the election process.

  3. J. Nelson-Seawright: Mormons ought to engage in approval voting and work to remove Republicans from political office — regardless of whether the Democrats seem to be better or worse on the issues.

    Sets the perfect tone for an essay that extorts personal political prejudices of no lasting significance out of otherwise bland church policy statements.

  4. JamesP,
    A “perversion of the intent of the foundation of the election process”? And what, pray tell, was the intent of such foundation?

    JNS,
    It seems (from anecdotal evidence–I don’t have any studies or anything) that people are more likely to engage in your approval voting by not voting (and, in fact, the Democrats (according to the NPR Foley stories) are hoping that’s what disgusted Republicans do); while I can see benefits to approval voting, I think abstaining is a bad thing. How do you convince people to vote against their party rather than simply not vote?

  5. I think voting party for whatever reason is almost always wrong. For instance I think my local representative is extremely good. Why should I vote against him simply because some of the Republican leadership are complete idiots?

    More significantly I don’t see either party being particularly good. As South Park put it, what kind of choice is it to have to choose between two turds?

    My business partner and I were discussing this the other day. I actually hope the Republican party overall loses a lot of seats so that they start to reform themselves. But then I hope the Democratic party loses a lot of seats so they start to reform themselves. (Actually one would have thought that after a few years of significant loses the Democrats would have figured out their problems – but they seem forever destined to grasp defeat from the jaws of victory)

    Anyway I think whatever party wins next month will be in a world of hurt a few years from now.

  6. I should add that while I really really like the two party system in theory, events of the last 15 years have made me think we need multiple parties with a runoff system. I think that’s the only way we can protest politicians yet still vote in such a way that we get the lesser or many evils in office.

  7. sam,

    There is a reason the ballot isn’t laid out in straight-ticket party fashion. You vote for candidates, not parties. Whether that is reality or idealism, to me it matters not. That is the way elections are.

    And, as someone who is teetering on the fence as to which direction to cast my ballot in November (ie, the exact kind of person JNS hopes to influence), the post went a long way in making me skeptical of voting Democrat just to get the other party out of power, rather than the opposite.

  8. In a two party system, would it not make sence to exercise mostly approval voting during the primaries, and issue voting during the general election.

    I also think many people used your reasoning about 6 years ago and used approval voting, which may have been what lead to republican control of the House, Senate, and presidency.

  9. Perhaps a misunderstanding on my part, but this

    Alternatively, people can engage in approval voting, in which they evaluate the job performance of the politician or party currently in power, voting in favor of that party if things are going well and in favor of the opposition if things are going badly.

    is an unfamiliar interpretation of “approval voting,” which I take to mean, in a nutshell, voting for as many candidates as you like.

    What you describe sounds as much like protest voting as anyting.

  10. Not to agree or disagree with the post, but in a basic threadjack, can anyone really say what the parties stand for anyway? I am politically inept, I admit that freely, but voting party doesn’t seem to be any guarantee on any given issue. Each individual in the party has there own interpretation of what it means to be in that party, their own understanding of what the party ought to be doing and their own ideas of who ought to be doing it. I guess I’m saying I’d love to see the Democrat and Republican Church Handbook of Instructions. Or the Liberal and Conservative ones for that matter.

  11. As you acknowledged, it is hard, given the source, to take this more seriously than the realtor who proclaims month in and out that it’s a great time to buy right now. Yet there you are singing the praises of Berlusconi. Amazing.

    I mostly agree with you. The main political divide is simply between who is in power and who isn’t, and the Republicans show too many symptoms of having been in power too long, so there would be value in them losing the House. “Throw the bums out” is a usually valid sentiment where politicians are concerned.

    Also, this is the first time I’ve seem the Democrats current nullity raised as a point in their favor.

  12. It’d be nice if we could have confidence that the party that we would replace the Republicans with would do a better job. I don’t. Added to the fact that I distrust Democrats and Republicans equally is the fact that Democrats in general are more to the left on economic issues and are more liberal on social issues (abortion, gay marriage, affirmative action, etc.), than Republicans in general, both of which are points against the Democrats in my view, and the balance tips towards Republicans. So, sorry RT, I’m not going to put Democrats in power. And, you know what? I still feel like a good Mormon. And I think you’re doing the good Mormon thing by voting your conscience, even if your vote is different from mine.

  13. Clark,

    The case for voting against your rep would be that you know he is going to vote to leave the Republicans in control of the House. You may or may not find that compelling, but that is one vote you can count on him making.

    Jason,

    You wish to make a case against Republicans while ignoring the Dems, and considering the state of the Democratic party this is understandable. But I think it is naive to claim that the Dems are irrelevant. Suppose, for example, that I think there is a 50-50 shot at another Supreme Court vacancy in the next couple years. Frankly, I’d put up with Republican mismanagement (as opposed to Democratic mismanagement) if it meant I got another quality justice (as I define them) for 30 years. Especially since at least half your list of mismanagement looks to me like political issues as much as anything. I know that a quality justice is not what I’ll get if the Senate goes Democrat. So now tell me again why I am supposed to ignore the Democrats when I vote?

    John,

    “Also, this is the first time I’ve seem the Democrats current nullity raised as a point in their favor.”

    indeed

    “it is hard, given the source, to take this more seriously than the realtor who proclaims month in and out that it’s a great time to buy right now.”

    Indeed again. I really am trying to imagine Jason voting Republican. Really, I am.

  14. Mark Butler says:

    In a representative government, I think it is ironic that voters punish their representatives both for giving them what they want, and for not giving them what they want.

    From my perspective the number one problem with the Republicans right now is they have sold out their principles on the proper role and extent of government. Now I am not happy about that, but on the other hand they are just delivering what the electorate is asking for (not only asking but practically demanding) on the Santa Claus theory of government.

    Now I could change my vote to those who think the Santa Claus theory of government is a badge of honor instead of an unfortunate necessity, but the reality is we get the government we deserve. Instead of blaming everything on the politicians, perhaps we should examine the plausibility of the demands we make upon them. The error is not in Washington, it is in ourselves.

  15. You’ve given nothing to those of us who can’t stand either or any party as a party. I can’t vote against Republicans without voting for Democrats, or vice versa. Voting for anyone else cannot possibly enter into approval politics because it has no effect on removing whoever currently disgusts me most.

  16. Frank, I don’t think that a sufficient reason. Rather I think everyone should make sure they vote for honest people. I say that because (a) I don’t think the Democrats are any better – if anything they are as bad or worse and (b) the only way to improve either party is to replace corruption with good people. There are good people in both parties and that’s what we ought focus on.

  17. JamesP and Clark, I think you’re probably wrong about voting candidate-by-candidate, rather than by party. The reason is that the party with the largest number of elected candidates forms the leadership of the Congress. Even if your Republican candidate is honest, by voting for her, you’re also voting for retaining Dennis Hastert as Speaker — and therefore approving the cover-up of Mark Foley’s sexual harrassment, in addition to other misbehavior. Unless you honestly believe that your representative will vote to change the Congressional leadership, and thereby express a lack of party loyalty.

    samdb, you’ve raised a serious concern; often, scandals simply result in abstention. For the individuals involved, that means a disengagement from democracy. That’s the reason I’ve argued in favor of actively choosing against scandal, rather than abstaining. I don’t know if the argument will work. You’re probably right that many people will simply decide to stay home instead of affirmatively exercising their democratic right to reject unrighteous dominion.

    JamesP, I don’t understand how this post could have swayed you against Democrats. Could you explain?

    Eric Nielsen, people probably did partially do approval voting against the Democrats in 1994, although the evidence is pretty weak for 2000. General public perceptions of the corruption and incompetence of Congress, in surveys right now, seem to be at about the same level that they were before the turnover in 1994. Is our system still capable of generating alternation in power when politicians abuse office — as was the case of the entrenched Democratic Congressional majority of the late 1980s and early 1990s? I suppose we’ll see.

    Peter, approval voting is also the name for a specific electoral institution, which is what you have in mind. But it’s also a term used for one mode of making electoral judgments — the usage I’ve adopted here. Another prominent term for my approval voting is retrospective voting.

    John, yeah, I loves me some Berlusconi!!! No, but I can understand how he rose to power… Just as I can understand why the Republicans took Congress in 1994. That’s the point.

    Tom, I agree that you’re a good Mormon by voting your conscience. My argument is that I think your conscience ought to be more concerned about the consequences of cementing in power a group of people who have proven themselves to be willing to take advantage of their office and to make poor decisions. Regardless of your other concerns, taking the Republicans out of power in this election (even if they’re put back in two years) sends a message to all American politicians that they’d better behave themselves. Leaving the Republicans in power, by contrast, sends the message that misbehavior doesn’t matter.

  18. Clark,

    That’s fair, I just wanted to point out that there is at least some reason why you’d want to kick out a decent rep because their party stank. If for example, I saw a Democrat I wanted to vote for, the thought of the Dems in charge of the House would give me pause.

    Of course, don’t you live in Utah County? Our elections ended with the primary.

  19. Steve Evans says:

    Nothing says Friday like a good political scuffle.

    The principle is tempting: we’ve given the Republicans a stewardship of sorts, now let’s size up how they’ve done and consider whether they have earned the right of continued leadership.

    Fundamentally, though, I agree with Clark: I am not sure the Dems are any better, and I believe that the fundamental answer is to cut out the bad and replace it with the good. To the extent that people cling too fast to party affiliations, removing the Republicans wholesale may be the only way to accomplish this task.

  20. And, once the Republicans are tossed out on their ears, we can turn to the equally important labor of tossing out the Democrats too.

    The fact is that their are corrupt politicians of all stripes, and easy access to power and mone are great tempations that many cannot withstand. To suggest, however, that the return of a whole lot of virtuous Democrats to the halls of power in Washington will usher in a Millenial era of honest government, wise decisions and fiscal responsibility, is arrant nonsense.

  21. Damn. How did that “their” sneak in where a “there” was required? And “mone” for “money”?

    Kobo no fude mo shippai!

  22. Mark B., you must have been giddy from last night’s NLCS masterpiece.

  23. Where Napoleon when we need a big “SWEET!”?

  24. endlessnegotiation says:

    As JNS points out we need to return to power the likes of Dan Rostenkowski and James Trafficant. After all, when Democrats run the show they rarely commit felonies.

  25. endlessnegotiation says:

    And Dems would never think to reelct a man six times who had confessed to having sex with a 17 year old page.

  26. endlessnegotiation says:

    And Dems would never enter a war of chioce like Vietnam.

  27. and republicans would never spam a blog with repeated trollish comments, endlessnegotiation.

  28. endlessnegotiation says:

    This is one of the silliest posts I’ve ever read on two fronts. First the claims made against Republicans in the sixth paragraph, as Frank points out, are specious at best. Second, anyone with even the most fundamental understanding of the US political system should know that approval voting does little more than undermine the individual’s own interest. Our government operates under a winner-take all philosophy so by voting for the party that is most dissimilar to one’s personal values that person is undermining the ability of government to share those values.

  29. I refuse to believe anyone finds the arguments in this post persuasive, regardless of their party affiliation.

  30. RT: My argument is that I think your conscience ought to be more concerned about the consequences of cementing in power a group of people who have proven themselves to be willing to take advantage of their office and to make poor decisions. Regardless of your other concerns, taking the Republicans out of power in this election (even if they’re put back in two years) sends a message to all American politicians that they’d better behave themselves. Leaving the Republicans in power, by contrast, sends the message that misbehavior doesn’t matter.

    We can’t punish the Republicans without rewarding the Democrats, which would have it’s own set of consequences. If we reward the Democrats we send the message that we are OK with socialism and liberalism, as well as their own past and current poor government (and we all know they’re not done being stupid). I’m as interested in sending the message that I don’t want Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi in power and that I don’t want another Breyer or Ginsburg on the Supreme Court as I am in sending the message that I think George W. Bush did a bad job and Foley is a perv. So, to sum up, I am concerned, as you suggest I should be, about giving power to “a group of people who have proven themselves to be willing to take advantage of their office and to make poor decisions.” But if we are to vote against the party that’s doing a bad job, I’m afraid we’ll be changing parties fairly regularly. You’re asking me to put the Democrats in charge so I can punish them in the not-to-distant future. No thanks. I’ll just vote for whomever I fell will represent me best.

    I wish some viable third-party candidates that I would feel comfortable voting for would emerge so I could stick it to both parties.

  31. I think it is about time for a real revolution in America….

  32. Here is a list of representatives who supported term limits in 1994. Foley and Ney are the only ones who have contrived, each in his own way, to honor those 12-year old pledges.

    Charles Bass, NH-02
    Steve Chabot, OH-01
    Tom Davis, VA-11
    Mark Foley, FL-16
    Rodney Frelinghuysen, NJ-11
    Gil Gutknecht, MN-01
    Doc Hastings, WA-04
    J.D. Hayworth, AZ-08
    John Hostettler, IN-09
    Walter Jones, NC-03
    Sue Kelly, NY-19
    Ray LaHood, IL-18
    Tom Latham, IA-04
    Steven LaTourette, OH-14
    Sue Myrick, NC-09
    Robert Ney, OH-18
    Charlie Norwood, GA-09
    George Radanovich, CA-19
    John Shadegg, AZ-03
    Mac Thornberry, TX-13
    Todd Tiahrt, KS-04
    Dave Weldon, FL-15
    Jerry Weller, IL-11
    Ed Whitfield, KY-01
    Roger Wicker, MS-01

  33. endlessnegotiation, Frank didn’t ever make an argument that the charges against the Republicans are specious. He just argued that conservative Supreme Court justices are more important to him. (Justices are appointed by the legislature and the executive; no lefties would be foisted on us by alternating power this fall.)

    Furthermore, the claim isn’t that Democrats are bastions of virtue. Rather, I’m arguing that our only choice to promote virtue is to create consequences for vice. Total commitment to ideological voting, as demonstrated by many in this thread, creates a license for vice.

    Finally, you’re completely wrong that approval voting undermines individuals’ interests — unless bad government has no impact on our interests. But corruption, inept and losing wars, nuclear North Koreas and so forth do have a negative impact on all of our interests. In that case, there’s a trade-off between ideological representation and approval voting. If this year’s string of catastrophes aren’t enough to throw that trade-off toward approval voting, then we are truly irrational.

  34. -regardless of whether the Democrats seem to be better or worse on the issues.

    Your post reminded me that this is the platform Democrats are campaigning on. Not a platform of ideas, real change, real solutions. One of “the other guys are scum, so put us in power.”

    I have no desire to affiliate myself with or cast my vote for a party that wishes to court me in such a way.

    That’s why your post swayed me against Democrats.

    It’s my sincere hope that the Democratic party, in spite of the mountain of opportunity given them in this and the last election to take back control, loses BIG, continues to crumble under the weight of its absent agenda and paves the way for a legitimate third party.

    Not gonna happen, but I can dream…

  35. JamesP, so JNS’s post is what did it for you, huh? Before this, you were even-handed about politics, not preferring either party?

    Moving on…

  36. Democrats do actually have ideas, but they are being drowned out by the rhetoric of war and appeasement. Kinda hard to hear other options when you only see blood in your vision.

  37. So, the association of the Republican party with personal moral values continues to run deep in the Bloggernacle. No amount of corruption, covering up sex scandals, ruining the reputation of our country in the world, runaway government spending and abrogating our constitutional rights will disabuse these readers of that connection. Because let’s remember what the real job of our elected representatives is – seeing to it that the federal government makes sure that no abortions occur. As long as they prostrate themselves before this idol, who cares how many soldiers they send to their deaths to no good end, innocent people they torture, or ordinary Americans they spy on?

    If you want to vote for “family values” – keep voting Republican of course! What other policies could possibly matter?

    Of course Democrats will abuse their power after they’ve had it for awhile. That’s why we get to vote every two years.

    If there was ever a time when new ideas are needed in our government it is now, just as it was when the Republicans had the new ideas in 1994.

  38. A way to avoid rewarding Republicans or Democrats is split government. For those who prefer less of what the government does, gridlock is a good thing. I considered supporting Kerry for that reason; he would have been a weak president with an opposing Congress. But I wanted a couple abortion-hating Catholics on the court bench more. One more would be nice, so I don’t want Republicans to lose the Senate yet, and that’s not really in play anyhow. Turnover in the House is an option, though, that would split power. It may be the only available option; if the Democrats are really going to run Senator Clinton in 2008, then the Republicans can put up whoever they want and he’ll still win, so they will.

  39. Steve,

    I’d reply, but apparently you’ve moved on, so I guess my thoughts don’t really make a difference.

    I love when people think they have a clue what’s going on inside my head.

  40. “Total commitment to ideological voting, as demonstrated by many in this thread, creates a license for vice.”

    Why? This is like arguing that a vote for a Republican who you believe to be honest is exactly the same as a vote for Tom Delay or Mark Foley? If your representative has been shown to be corrupt, why would you keep voting for him or her, even as an ideologue? Nobody is going to vote for pedophiles or the exceedingly corrupt just because they belong to your party?

  41. HP/JDC, the problem is that voting for an honest Republican is exactly a vote to keep the current Republican Congressional leadership in office. That’s the leadership that brought us the Foley coverup, and that enabled DeLay for more than a decade. Voting for a Republican, no matter her name, is voting for Hastert and his leadership team — just like voting for a Democratic elector in the Electoral College is voting for the Democratic presidential candidate.

  42. At this point in time, the only practical political choice is to follow counsel to

    seek out and then uphold leaders who will act with integrity and are “wise,” “good,” and “honest”

    While this seems to preclude supporting the current majority party, the Democrat agenda to simply tar over anything Republican does nothing to forward this goal. This is simply a choice of deciding which liars I hate least. It promotes rancor and discord. To me it is obvious that this cometh of evil.

    I have decided to abandon support for either majority party and vote for independent or reform candidates. Most of my choices will be Consitution Party candidates. Take a look at them, as an alternative to either Dems or Repubs. Most of the candidates seem motivated by a desire to follow the above mentioned specifications. Might be an effective way to stage a peaceful revolution.

  43. lief,
    Democrats started the Iraq war, too. And they helped pass the Patriot Act. Are we to reward them for their blunders? Are we so sure that we would be better off today if Democrats had been in power for the past six years? I’m not convinced that we would be.

    Also, I don’t see anybody here arguing that abortion is the only thing that matters.

  44. Its interesting to me that 2 generations ago it seems that many LDS were New Deal style Dems. All of my family was including the wifes family. Now almost nobody under 70 in my extended family including the inlaws are dems. Will this change or will the 75-80% repub voting in the church continue?

    Not sure what will happen this election but it seems that the dems are a bit better then even money on capturing at least one chamber if not both.

    Question: Would a democratic President visit Pres H’s funeral or give him a Presidential medal of freedom? I doubt it based on the voting patterns.

    I am not buying this post. It seems to me its simply a reflection of the admitted biases of the author. I wonder what kind of uproar a simlar post in favor of the repubs would cause in the bloggernacle.

  45. Not necessarily. An honest Republican would seek to remove the corrupt from power whether or not. I am pretty sure that Hastert is not going to survive this and, in part, I believe that the Republican leadership are going to sacrifice Hastert in an attempt to put the scandal behind them (as they eventually did with Delay to try and get Abramoff behind them). It is bad politics for any group to leave the obviously corrupt or incompetent in charge.

  46. By the way. Count me as a disgruntled conservative. I am unhappy with the spending. Budget deficits are declining but the budget could be balanced right now if not for all the excessive spending.

    In my view the repubs got entrenched and starting acting like 1970’s Dems. earmark this earmark that. Power tends to corrupt and incumbents like to keep their districts happy with lots of fed funding for projects.

    Losing the Senate would be scary though. The only good Bush has done in his second term is appoint justices that skew conservative. Losing the senate would result in a massive fight over the next SC appointee.

  47. HP/JDC, Hastert may fall — but there will be minimal turnover in the core leadership group. Unless there’s turnover in partisan control. That’s just the way these things go: one or two faces change, but the team as a whole doesn’t change unless the party loses power.

  48. bbell, if Mormons were electorally available, then Democratic presidents would court us. And 1970s Democrats have nothing on the current Republicans; the current deficits dwarf anything from the 1970s, even in percentage terms. The only comparison is with the 1980s — a set of deficits that belong to the Democrats and to the Reagan White House, which persistently proposed budgets with massive deficits.

  49. Tom,

    Democrats do all kinds of bad things, and some of the same bad things that Republicans do. At this point in time, I think they are the only option to bring about a beneficial change in some of the bad directions our country is going.

    It is irelevant whether we would have been better served by them over the past 6 years, only whether at this time, in these circumstances, should they take the helm for two years or should we stay the course?

    And, it seems to me that a lot of the posters have said that they vote for the candidate who best matches their idea of “family values” – regardless of any other factors.

  50. Here’s the part of my comment directly related to this post:

    I will not vote to reelect my Republican congressman not out of any egregious act on his part, but because of his glaring sin of omission in rubber-stamping the policies of the current administration and allowing the executive branch to expand its power beyond its constitutional bounds. That he is only one of many Republican rubber-stamp congressmen to do so does not diminish his complicity. He has failed me as a constituent in that regard, to the extent that any pork he brings back to my district won’t begin to atone for it.


    My slightly threadjacking screed:

    The idea that the democrats don’t have a platform is just a silly regurgitation of a desperate GOP talking point. You can even guess the URL:

    http://democrats.org/agenda.html

    (And what a shoddy defense that is to say that dems don’t have a platform so I’ll vote for bad republicants: I’d prefer the devil I know rather than the devil I haven’t bothered to Google.)

    What is the Republican “platform” that would be retained if the Republicans stay in power? What would one say that one believes in by voting Republican?

    Small government?
    Bush II beat out the runner-up, Reagan, in the competition to expand the federal government.

    Fiscal conservatism?
    Do I even need to address that one?

    Social conservativism/religious values?

    Anyone still under the delusion the current administration cares about social issues should read the new book by David Kuo, a social conservative who worked in Bush’s office of faith-based initiatives. Rove calls the religious right “crazies.” But he knows how to leverage them. That’s why you get “faith-based initiatives” before the election and no funding for said initiatives after the election.

    What’s left?

  51. By the way, let me note the counterpoint to my statement, in the post, that, “I am not, of course, an impartial observer.” It’s this: you are not an impartial observer, either, whoever you are. If there are perceptual biases that color my vision, then there are also biases that cloud yours. If you disagree with my biases, then you should listen especially hard to my argument — because it doesn’t reflect your biases. If I’m wrong, it must be because the Republican leadership didn’t do the things I mentioned; if it did those things, and you want to excuse them, you should think long and hard about why.

  52. Also, I think one of JNS’s points needs re-emphasis:

    A vote cast against Republicans in the name of honest government would be a deterrant to corruption on both sides of the aisle in the future. I mean, do you think there’s some pervy Dem congressman thinking he can send pr0no IMs to pages just because Foley was from the other party?

    Likewise, I fear that the reelection of George Bush II had the opposite effect: it sent a message to future presidential aspirants on both sides of the aisle that snappy cliches and Pavlovian talking points are what gets one elected, rather than competence.

  53. Jeremy: “What’s left?”

    Alito and Roberts.

  54. It is tough to see your opponent has an agenda when you don’t wish to see if your opponent indeed has an agenda, or when you don’t really care if your opponent has an agenda to begin with.

  55. Dan, Im with you on the revolution.

    What if everyone just switches their party affiliation to Independent and votes accordingly? That would send a message to all of congress that we are fed up. There seems to be a good indie candidate in almost every state.

    And the voting for people who match your values…well good luck with that. Your going to be disappointed…cause those people are much more loyal to their party and the special interests who paid for their campaign then you, and when the big issues come up for vote they are going to do what the party and lobbyists tell them to do.

  56. J Nelson,

    I do not think a democratic pres candidate could court us. In order to do so he/she would have to offend the west coast and east coast elites over SSM, Abortion etc.

    Dems just are not a match for LDS voters under current political conditions. LDS vote like white evangelicals. Dems used to be a lot more competitive amongst the LDS but that all changed with a leftward tilt starting in the late 1960’s. The party that all my relatives voted for and believed in of JFK, FDR and Truman is gone in the dustbin of History.

    Did you see the current budget Deficit? Its pretty small on a percentage basis. I agree that Reagan and O’Neill really created some deficits. Unlike Clinton and Gingrich who actually were running surpluses for a while.

  57. Ditto #54. Its all about the Supremes. They hold the switch on real power. esp on cultural issues

  58. JNS,
    The sad fact is most of America is engaging in approval voting by staying home each November. Confidence in our government fell through the floor with Watergate and is constantly sinking through each election years mud slinging festival.

    You truly do list some atrocious accomplishments of the Republicans. I think it is truly telling that in spite of this, voting for the other side is still totally without appeal.

    I live in Missouri a state smack in the middle of a competitive senatorial race that both parties are pouring money into like it went out of style. I am happy to vote Jim Talent out but the fact is everything I have seen of his opponent screams power mad truth twister.

  59. Wow, Frank and bbell. I’m curious: just how bad would it have to get before another conservative SCJ wouldn’t be worth it to you? Just to keep things simple, let’s talk in round numbers here: disgraced/convicted congressmen and their enablers, in dozens; debt, in trillions; disillusioned U.S. Generals, in number of stars; U.S. soldiers, in thousands; Iraqi civilian deaths, in hundreds of thousands.

    I’m just curious as to what the muck-per-supreme-court-justice exchange rate is these days. Seems like they’re getting pretty expensive!

  60. bbell, other than in comparison with the 1980s, the Bush-era deficits have been historically high in percentage terms.

    Doc, I think your focus is too local — your vote affects turnover not just in your own state but also in Congressional leadership. That kind of turnover promotes accountability.

  61. I am a passionate obsever of national politics and have the following observations in caps.

    Since the Republicans assumed unified control of our national government, we have gone through: corruption scandals involving businessmen personally close to the president FALSE, lobbyists intimately interconnected with the Republican congressional leadership TRUE, and directly involving some of the top leaders of the legislative Republican partyTRUE; erosions of our constitutional protectionsFALSE, including habeus corpus and the protection from unreasonable search and seizureFALSE; a gradual legitimization of evil acts of tortureFALSE, to the point that the horrific deeds of Abu Ghraib, which shocked the world in 2004, are now mostly official U.S. policyFALSE; the initiation of a war of choice in IraqTRUE, which was so badly executed that we are now losing itTRUE, and as a consequence our security agencies have warned that the risk of terrorism has increasedTRUE; a decision to neither negotiate with nor put military or economic pressure on North KoreaFALSE, with the consequence that it is now a nuclear powerMAYBE; a total collapse of our fiscal equilibriumFALSE, such that we as a nation are once again spending trillions of dollars that we don’t havePARTIALLY TRUE AND PARTIALLY FALSE; and, most recently, the discovery that the Republican congressional leadership chose to cover up, and as a consequence facilitate, the sexual harrassment of teenagers by a congressmanFALSE.

  62. bbell,

    As to your first FALSE (re businessmen close to Bush): Ken Lay; Abramoff (new WH visits recently discovered); Norquist (emerging).

    As to your FALSE regarding North Korea: I would alter the original statement as well, but not in a way that would bolster your case. We did impose economic pressure–four days after Bush promised no embargos: a crass attempt to provoke and lend plausibility to neocon strategy.

    The rest of your FALSEs are all arguable points, at the very least, and not simply dismissable with a single stroke of the all-caps key.

  63. Oh, I left one “corruption scandals involving businessmen personally close to the president” off the list: Cheney.

  64. bbell,

    erosions of our constitutional protectionsFALSE, including habeus corpus and the protection from unreasonable search and seizureFALSE;

    Actually true. The Constitution does indeed protect Habeas Corpus. Take a look at Article II.

    a gradual legitimization of evil acts of tortureFALSE, to the point that the horrific deeds of Abu Ghraib, which shocked the world in 2004, are now mostly official U.S. policyFALSE;

    alas, unfortunately, true, not false.

    a decision to neither negotiate with nor put military or economic pressure on North KoreaFALSE,

    we’ve not negotiated with North Korea, nor have we put any military pressure on them. In fact, before last Sunday’s nuclear test, name me what sanctions Bush has placed on North Korea these past six years.

    most recently, the discovery that the Republican congressional leadership chose to cover up, and as a consequence facilitate, the sexual harrassment of teenagers by a congressmanFALSE.

    The investigation continues and the evidence leads to a Republican coverup, even to the point of Karl Rove calling Foley and encouraging him to run for re-election or face the consequence of not getting the phat job on K-street!

  65. Hey, why don’t we keep voting Republicans in until all other parties become extinct? Yeah! Then there’d be no party-line agendas to sift through.

  66. I am a democrat. If the presidency and both houses of Congress were in the hands of my party, and had a record that was very disappointing to me, I would not hesitate to vote for the other party in mid-term elections. This would at a minimum “wake up” my party that it needed to “clean up” its act (and be accountable to another branch), without turning the entire reins of Government to a party that I did not like.

    I do like Bush’s appointments to the Supreme Court, by and large (one of the few points of praise I can offer to this Administration). However, putting the Senate into democratic hands would not mean Bush would be forced to nominate left wing idealogues. It would mean that his nominees would need to be less strident than a republican Senate might permit, but they could certainly continue to be to the right of center.

  67. Jeremy,

    I sympathize with the “throw the bums out” mentality. I think it would be great if we could get competitive House races somehow.

    But it sounds like your arguments are actually mostly about foreign policy. Since I disagree with your view of that, it should not be surprising that I end up weighing the costs of my Supreme Court nominees differently.

  68. Frank,

    I don’t consider U.S. soldier death rate a foreign policy issue, but very much a domestic one. And regardless, the list of domestic disasters is comparably long: FEMA, NCLB, wage growth, DHS…

  69. Jeremy, let me get this straight. You think that none of those things you mention are at all political issues with two sides to them? You think that they are all so evil/wrong that just by saying the words it becomes obvious that one should vote out Republicans?

    Nah. A war is not just a death rate. Wage growth or its lack is not simply the result of legislation. FEMA, well, I don’t even know if FEMA should exist in the first place. You get the idea.

  70. Jeremy, let me get this straight. You think that none of those things you mention are at all political issues with two sides to them? You think that they are all so evil/wrong that just by saying the words it becomes obvious that one should vote out Republicans?

    I was using those items as shorthand for a number of missteps in recent years (Katrina response, DHS cronyism and pork, etc.) for which democrats can take little blame since they were not in control of any branch of government.

  71. Even if your Republican candidate is honest, by voting for her, you’re also voting for retaining Dennis Hastert as Speaker — and therefore approving the cover-up of Mark Foley’s sexual harrassment, in addition to other misbehavior.

    And if you vote Democratic you’re voting for Nancy Pelosi and all her baggage.

    If you follow your logic really one should just stay home since both parties are equally horrible.

  72. To clarify, I’d have more faith in Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats had they done something about Gerry Studds who did more than Foley with a Page actually having sex with him. Yet he continued to serve for 13 more years. One can point to current Republican Bob Ney who was just convicted of bribery. But then we can equally point to “let’s keep it in the freezer” William Jefferson who was busted earlier this year and Jim Traficant busted a few years earlier for the same thing.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’ve no love for Dennis Hastert and think he ought step down immediately. I was tremendously upset when he won the election for speaker in place of the Republican reformers. But if you think Pelosi will be any better than Hastert I think you’re being terribly naive.

    The only solution is to throw out the corrupt and put in place honest reformers. And the only way to do that is to vote for the person and not the party. Otherwise the corrupt will always win.

  73. Clark, you say, “If you follow your logic really one should just stay home since both parties are equally horrible.”

    If you think that’s true, then you should perhaps cast a pure protest vote: a blank ballot or a third party. But I think you’re disregarding the demonstration effect; if politicians learn that voters deprive them of power for bad behavior, it gives them an incentive to avoid bad behavior. It’s not for nothing that the scandals don’t usually start right after a transfer of power.

  74. Whoops. Accidentally hit enter. I was going to say that, like Hastert, Pelosi demanded that the FBI return the evidence of William Jefferson’s bribes that he kept in his office freezer.

    I can but say a pox on both their houses. It’ll take a lot to convince me at this stage one is better than the other. At least in ’94 after years of Democratic corruption the Republic reformers offered clear policies they’d do to reform things. What have the Democrats offered? Specifically the Democratic leadership in congress. I see no evidence that they’d reform much but would be just as much about corruptions and pork.

  75. But I think you’re disregarding the demonstration effect; if politicians learn that voters deprive them of power for bad behavior, it gives them an incentive to avoid bad behavior

    Not at all. I am embracing that by saying we ought vote for the individual because on a party level both parties are equally bad.

  76. Clark, the party in power counts on the fact that most voters don’t hold their individual congressperson responsible for the corruption and misbehavior of the party as a whole. That’s why Congress so rarely changes hands, even when it is profoundly unpopular. Individualistic voting gives power to the current leadership.

  77. Jeremy,

    All well and good, but Supreme Court cases have short names too. One weighs the pros and cons of Kelo vs. FEMA or Michigan vs. NCLB. And then one decides. It is not at all strightforward which issues matter more. Especially since Justices last 30 years but I’ll get another shot at an election in two.

  78. Clark, you clearly lack class consciousness. You’d make a lousy Marxist.

  79. Frank, what does class consciousness have to do with anything? Which is the pro-corruption class?

  80. Frank, let me help you: FEMA shouldn’t exist in the first place. Everything else you’ve said above is exactly right.

    JNS, of course it matters what the Democrats would do instead. They have a platform, of course, that they implement if we gave them power. Imagine the alternative to the Republicans was the American Communist Party. (Not to get your hopes up, but let me explain.) Of course I’d accept a Republican party much worse than this one before I’d reward the Commies with the reins of power.

    And to see if you take your own argument serious, do you really think all Americans should have voted against Democratic representatives for, say, the thirty years from 1964 to 1994?

  81. Matt, the Democrats aren’t the Communists at all; their program is different but not sharply. Neither party’s program will destroy America’s core values in the next two years; that’s one reason why this is such a good year for approval voting.

    Another reason is that the recent misbehavior of government is so extreme. Not every Congress or every electoral cycle involves so many catastrophes as this one. That’s the fallacy in your question, “do you really think all Americans should have voted against Democratic representatives for, say, the thirty years from 1964 to 1994?” My answer would be that Americans probably missed out on some valid moments for approval voting because of an excess of ideology. But certainly not every year. It isn’t a matter of always vote out the incumbents. It’s a matter of vote out the incumbents when they spectacularly misbehave. The Republicans have done. Let’s vote them out.

  82. Well I was promised to be off moderation about now, so here goes: This is a pretty naive post from someone who normally posts intelligent stuff. And deficits in war time, what’s new about that? Domestic spending is certainly out of control, but the Dems would be far worse (with a Dem Pres in 2009). And how many Dems have said they’ll cut off funding for the war? Give me a break regarding one party being morally superior to another. We have two parties of big government with different priorities. Face it, if Clinton were prosecuting this war in this same inept way, you guys would be silent.
    Personal scandals only impact the votes of the feeble minded. Foley is gone, get over it. Hey, isn’t that Dem with the $90K in the freezer still around?
    The worse thing for the Republicans would be if the Dems don’t capture the House. That defeat, in this perfect storm year for them, would force them to reform into a viable party again.

  83. Jason,

    Clark wants to vote based on the individual. You want to vote based on the group. Clearly, Clark fails to understand the importance of the group (or the class). Voila, he lacks class consciousness! Of course, this stems from my belief that one should always take the opportunity to mention class consciousness in a mocking way.

    Matt,

    “FEMA shouldn’t exist in the first place.” I was tempted to say this but really didn’t want to talk about it.

    Oh, your last question is persona non grata. Jason doesn’t want to talk about how he should vote, he wants to talk about how you should vote :).

  84. “Neither party’s program will destroy America’s core values in the next two years; that’s one reason why this is such a good year for approval voting.”

    This implicitly cedes Matt’s point, that the comparison is important. You are claiming that the two aren’t far enough apart for that to be the voting issue, but this is something to be proven by comparing the groups.

    “My answer would be that Americans probably missed out on some valid moments for approval voting because of an excess of ideology.”

    I was wrong, I guess you are willing to talk about how you’d vote! So from this, I should infer that if we went back to 1994 the current you would be voting for the Republicans? That’d be fun to watch. What about the Democrats in California now? They are pretty dang corrupt. Do you vote Republican? :)

  85. Steve, read the post. I never said the Democrats are better; I said that punishment for misbehavior creates the right incentives for both parties.

    Frank, it seems you don’t really know what class consciousness means. But you should at least know that the congressional leadership is probably far more powerful than the rank-and-file members. It’d be irrational to disregard that fact in voting, as Clark proposes.

    I don’t live in California anymore. Instead, I live in Illinois. I’m strongly considering voting against the governor, and for the Republican challenger, exactly because of corruption.

  86. “Frank, it seems you don’t really know what class consciousness means.”

    I bet I do. Steve tells me I’m really smart.

    “I’m strongly considering voting against the governor, and for the Republican challenger, exactly because of corruption.”

    Well be sure to let us know what you decide. It should be a n interesting follow-up. Of course, is it _his_ corruption that has you affected? That would be somewhat different than party based corruption and quite in line with Clark’s view about voting based on the individual.

  87. Nope, the corruption of the party machine here.

    If you know what class consciousness means, you’ll realize that it has nothing to do with thinking about the consequences of your vote for the organization of the Congressional leadership. So, well, I’m hereby accusing you of a failed joke! (Take that!)

  88. Jason, I’m very sorry, but the guy who did not know “third-wave patriarchy” was a joke is not really in the best position to know what is funny.

    I’m not going to try to explain it to you (that would just be painful) but I’ll give you a hint; the first rule in economics humor is:

    1. Marxism is always funny. Always.

  89. Oh, and I guess you’ve got a point on the Illinois thing. I mean, Chicago political corruption almost defines the genre, right?

  90. Steve Evans says:

    “Steve tells me I’m really smart.”

    Smart for an economist, Frank.

  91. Okay, so here’s a joke to keep you laughing through the weekend: Frank’s a Marxist.

    Look, I know you were joking — and it just isn’t funny. It’s like MadLibs; replace any word with class consciousness, wow, I’m laughing. Likewise, your joke in #90 is personally somewhat offensive.

  92. JNS,

    So long as the Democrats platform is worse than the Republican platform, I’ll have to balance the Republican’s corruption against the Democratic corruption, and determine if that outweighs the differences in the platforms.

    You say the Democrats platform is almost as good as the Republicans. I say the Democrats are just as corrupt. If DemPlat D. Advantage: Republicans.

    The best way for Democrats to beat Republicans is to abandon most of their platform. Publicly committing themselves to bad ideas is a terrible handicap.

  93. Oops, my “greater than” and “less than” signs were swallowed by the software. A logical equation with mathematical signs proceeded my conclusion Advantage: Republicans.

  94. But you should at least know that the congressional leadership is probably far more powerful than the rank-and-file members. It’d be irrational to disregard that fact in voting, as Clark proposes.

    However what decides leadership is individual congress members. And the only way to change leadership isn’t to simply vote against the party but to ensure that both parties have honest members. By merely voting party the way you suggest we’ll merely switch corruption every few years since nothing you are arguing for affects individual honest individuals.

    Put succinctly you’re missing the forest for the trees. (Or perhaps more accurately vice versa)

  95. Steve Evans says:

    Matt, speaking hypothetically: would you rather have a corrupt regime that passes the platform you want, or an honest regime that doesn’t?

  96. Matt, you’re missing the most important effect of a vote against corruption: the demonstration effect to politicians of all political stripes. Turning the Republicans out of office because of corruption will demonstrate to both Republicans and Democrats that corruption has a cost. In other words, alternation in power will reduce the future sum of corruption from BOTH parties. This isn’t just about choosing between the alternatives we’re currently offered. It’s about taking a chance to exercise our power to reshape the political arena by changing incentives. Right now, corruption carries little cost; we could and should change that.

    The misbehavior in this congress has been so extreme that almost any weighting rule other than a corner solution allocating ALL decision-making leverage to ideology would produce substantial pressures in favor of a vote against Republicans. Your comments simply suggest that you’re a pure ideologue. That’s good for getting your ideas represented, but it enables corruption and misbehavior.

  97. Clark, you’re disregarding how Congress as an institution works. Changes in leadership teams within parties in Congress really only happen in the wake of defeats. Failing to defeat the Republicans, even if it involves electing one really honest Republican, all but ensures the return of the current governing team.

    The D&C quote is another point you’re missing. We can’t elect good people; almost ANYONE given the chance to do anything it wants will exercise unrighteous dominion. The only way to avoid that is to change the institutional environment to reduce chances for corruption. Approval voting on the party level does that; individual voting doesn’t.

  98. Professor Harold Hill says:

    I agree with JNS (and disagree with Clark) that simply trying to vote for “good” or “honest” people is the wrong way to go.

    If people vote based on party, then elections will mostly be about policy issues. If we vote based on our highly flawed hunches about who’s a “good person,” then elections will mostly be about meaningless platitudes, negative campaigning, and pork barrel spending.

    Besides, being honest might be overrated. I don’t think Bush invaded Iraq because he’s dishonest or corrupt, I think he did it because he has an unrealistic view of what he could accomplish there.

  99. Frank: no, the first rule of economics humor is that there is no economics humor. (You know, like Fight Club).

    I’m curious: what, in the minds of all the “dems are just as bad” folks out there, is the democratic platform? The right tries very hard to speak of such things only in caricature. Honestly, a member of my ward found out I was a democrat the other day, and it took an incredible amount of effort on my part to convince her that no, neither I nor Nancy Pelosi intend to consult with NAMBLA on school curriculum, and no, I don’t think abortion is a good thing, etc, etc.

    What evidence is there, besides clumsy “tax and spend” rhetoric, that dems would be spendthrifts like the republicans are? What evidence is there that dems would abide the amount of corruption that has existed in the GOP? Is anybody trying to protect or defend Jefferson like the GOP has for DeLay, Foley, Hastert, Ney, etc.?

    And I assure you, if Clinton were running this war like Bush is, or had started it under false pretenses like Bush did, dems would be pissed.

    C’mon, guys. You know you’ve mastered the art of building straw men when they start talking back to you.

  100. Oh, I forgot Libby, Weldon, Cunningham, Chocola, Harris, Allen, Allen, Allen…

    Seriously, when does the list stop being fodder for the Daily Show and start being a red flag for conservative voters?

  101. No, I cannot see the point in debating about whether Democrats or Republicans are worse. They both stink, with few notable individual exceptions.

    Their party platforms are a joke, constructs of fluff and lies calculated to offend nobody, thus also serving nobody. Once elected they all tend to ignore the platform anyway and go on catering to lobbies and money-wielding special interests. As most of them ignore their constituents. These do not represent me, and they could care less about my interests — until it comes election time.

    It all boils down to arguing about which worthless party you lend your support to. They’re all so steeped in self-serving lies that it would take a miracle to discern the truth.

    True inspiration from God is what we need to reform our political system. Anything else is just further compromise with the destroyer.

  102. Jeremy, let me second your claim that, “if Clinton were running this war like Bush is, or had started it under false pretenses like Bush did, dems would be pissed.” I remember during the Bosnia war that many Democrats, including most of the folks at The Nation and other bastions of the traditional Democratic left, were furious about Clinton’s decision to go to war. Likewise about bombing the pharmaceutical factory in the Sudan.

    Neither of those decisions was as clearly problematic as the handling of the war in Iraq has been, either.

  103. Warning: sarcasm alert.

    If we are speaking about voting for (or against) parties because of their platforms, I am not sure why so many social conservatives would be opposed to the American Communist Party’s winning the elections. My understanding is that the Communists virtually eliminated prostitution, adultery, pornography and drug abuse in China before capitalism reinvaded the country (and now all of those are beginning to run rampant again).

    For that matter, perhaps we would be better served by a radical Islamist government, the platform of which would be relatively consistent with that of our religious right–no sex outside of marriage, homosexuality and same sex marriage prohibited, no alcohol, no drugs, no pornography (and probably not even PG-13 movies), no immodestly dressed women or men, and not even abortion. Moreover, such a government would not coddle criminals–justice would be swift and sure (same would be true under a Communist government)–no need to worry about ACLU-types trying to protect accused terrorists. No need to worry about the legislature and courts usurping the powers of the executive. The President could go to war with whomever and whenever he (and it would probably continue to be a he) pleases–just as the Framers intended.

    The more I think about, the more I wonder why the religious right is so frightened of Islam (perhaps it is the plural marriage issue).).

  104. Steve, to answer your corruption vs platform success tradeoff, it would depend. A zero-corruption policy would be a non-starter, of course, so I, like everyone else, would accept some corruption if it meant the success of my platform, and would refuse the Nazi platform no matter how honest they were. So like I said to Jason, it’s a balancing test.

    Jason, the problem with your theory is that it supposes that politicians know why they’re being voted in and out. Voting is a blunt instrument. It’s impossible for them to determine that from a binary outcome made by thousands of people, each voting for a different reason. If I voted Democrat for congress, for example, the candidates wouldn’t know if it was because I liked the guy’s emigration policy, thought he’d rein in President Bush, thought his opponent was corrupt, or because I thought his opponent was a great guy but his party needs to learn a message.

    Clinton acted as though he had a mandate, for example, and tried to enact his policies, despite getting only 42% of the vote, because he thought people were voting *for* him, and not against Perot and Bush 41. There was no way for voters to vote against Bush and Perot without making Clinton think he was an icon who could handle the help.

  105. DavidH, you’ll be pleased to know that for some of the reasons you mention, the church frequently coordinates their lobbying work at the UN with Moslem nations.

  106. Steve Evans says:

    “I, like everyone else, would accept some corruption if it meant the success of my platform”

    well, you have done, so I guess that much is true. The basic problem as I see it is that you cannot bifurcate the corruption and the platform and pretend that one is not tied to the other, both in terms of platform feasibility and content…

  107. Matt, you’re missing the most important effect of a vote against corruption: the demonstration effect to politicians of all political stripes. Turning the Republicans out of office because of corruption will demonstrate to both Republicans and Democrats that corruption has a cost

    Could you demonstrate how that would be the message the politicians would take? A lot hinges on that and I simply don’t believe it in the least. I did believe it in the ’90s until I saw how Republicans acted towards reform.

    Today we have Democrats who appear to be as corrupt as Republicans and are making no plans for reform. They only put a slight amount of rhetoric on it unlike ’94 when there was actual content related to reform. Please explain why we should see what you see as a clearly communicated message would work. All I see happening is swapping one bunch of corrupt leaders for an other.

    In opposition I can see how electing honest representatives will have an effect.

    If the Republicans lose, as I expect they will, I just don’t see them believing it was due to corruption or pork or losing their principles. I wish they would, but I don’t see it. I think they’ll blame Bush, the Iraq war and Democratic dirty tricks.

  108. What evidence is there, besides clumsy “tax and spend” rhetoric, that dems would be spendthrifts like the republicans are? What evidence is there that dems would abide the amount of corruption that has existed in the GOP? Is anybody trying to protect or defend Jefferson like the GOP has for DeLay, Foley, Hastert, Ney, etc.?

    Past experience?

    Seriously, did you miss the 70’s and 80’s?

    As for Jefferson, once again, did you see what Pelosi said about the FBI search?

    As for DeLay and company, have you looked up on Harry Reid’s “connections?”

    From what I can see the only difference between corruption is that as in power Republicans had more power and thus more people affected. Were the tables reverse I see no reason to think things would have been different.

    If you disagree point me to some content (i.e. not fluffy rhetoric) that points otherwise. Where is the Democratic equivalent of the Contract With America?

    As for being spendthrifts, have you see who is dominating the rhetoric in the Democratic party? It sure isn’t more economic centrists like Bill Clinton.

    The best one can say is that the best thing to keep spending down is divided government.

  109. If people vote based on party, then elections will mostly be about policy issues

    If people vote based on party it will turn into a battle of labels. Most people simply don’t vote based upon clear conceptions of issues. The whole strength of Rush Limbaugh was to vote based upon party. Real policy disputes were effaced and in its place became caricatures and labeling. Politics became treated as a sporting event.

    Seriously, anyone who thinks voting along party lines forgets two things. (1) how do party platforms change? Individuals with different perspectives. Look at how radically George Bush shifted the effective policy position of the Republican party. (2) By turning everything into a pure duality one promotes the false dichotomy fallacy into the only possible discourse politically. There can be no nuance.

  110. Clark,

    Seriously, did you miss the 70’s and 80’s?

    Pick any year in those two decades, the one with the most egregious corruption on the part of democrats, and put it side by side with the last twelve months, and let’s see where we stand.

    As for Jefferson, once again, did you see what Pelosi said about the FBI search?

    Let me refresh your memory: leaders of both parties, inlcuding Pelosi, Frist, and Hastert, expressed objections to the manner in which the search was executed. See here . On the other hand, Jefferson, while (quite implausibly) maintaining his innocence, angrily blamed Pelosi for his ouster from the W&M committee by the dem caucus.

    As for DeLay and company, have you looked up on Harry Reid’s “connections?”

    Please, elaborate. John Solomon of AP has been trying valiantly to dig up some dirt on Reid, and each time he’s come up with duds. The boxing tix that he didn’t pay for (because it would have been against the law for him to do so), the land sale that he reported erroneously (that is, erring in the direction of procedurally incorrect over-reporting), etc. etc. That you’d put Reid up as being as corrupt as DeLay is laughable.

    As for being spendthrifts, have you see who is dominating the rhetoric in the Democratic party? It sure isn’t more economic centrists like Bill Clinton.

    I’m not sure who or what you’re referring to. There are certainly calls to pull back Bush’s tax cuts for the rich — but in the interest of budget-balancing, not program expansion. It’s a fiscally conservative position. “Tax and spend” is just a nasty way of saying “pay as you go,” rather than “Borrow from China and Spend,” which is the current GOP M.O.

  111. Professor Harold Hill says:

    Clark, I’m not saying you should blindly vote for the same party every time. Like JNS, I’m saying you should throw the ruling party out if they screw up too much, or if they change in a way you don’t like. That’s why I and many other conservatives (at least on the internet) are planning to vote for deomocrats this time around, even though we may well return to the republicans eventually.

    Party is probably the most important thing you can reliably know about a candidate, therefore you should weigh it heavily. You don’t really know who’s honest, and anyway the honesty of an individual member will have much less impact than which party is in power.

  112. (Don’t listen to the Professor. Next thing you know he’ll be billing you for band uniforms…)

  113. Conservatives are right that there are plenty of liberal crooks. However, empirically it is clear that the current House Republicans are the most corrupt caucus in a long time. Moreover, the K street project was a strategic choice, not just the crime of a rogue member.

    If the issue were only Foley’s sex abuse then I agree that all one has to do is to vote for his opponent. If the issue is more systematic, such as the K street project, then one has to hold the Republican leadership accountable.

    One of the most important votes that Representatives cast is the vote for leadership. Voters cannot expect Republican candidates to support Nancy Pelosi but we have to demand opposition to Hastert and Boehner. Where have the incumbents been when Tom DeLay was abusing his power?

    Voters need to hold candidates accountable who fail to take responsibility for party leaders.

  114. #25 Endlessnegotiation, actually the Rostenkowski and Traffficant cases are good examples of J’s theory.

    You might remember that Democratic voters embraced a Republican so that they could punish Rostenkowski. They were accountability voters.

    In the case of Trafficant, Dick Gebhardt recruited a primary challenger to remove the crook from Congress.

    Of course, it would have been better if there had not been crooks in the first place. But that’s wishful thinking that the founding fathers discounted.

    James Madison was quite clear. The American constitutional system assumes that the people who govern us are no angels. Rather the system gives people who are more virtuous than devils the opportunity to hold the powerful accountable.

    It seems to me that Democrats ultimately rose to the challenge in the cases that concern you. May be, we can say the same of Republicans after this election.

  115. I am a Democrat candidate, and I hope that we end up with a Democrat majority nationally and in our state, but I have said many times that straight ticket voting should be abolished. It is very important to cast an informed vote for each candidate, not a blind endorsement of a party.

  116. Did y’all see that Brittney and Kevin had another baby boy?

  117. I think we should adopt a David Cup approach to House and Senate races — where each party ranks their candidates top to bottom and forces their 1s to face off, their 2s, etc.

    I would love to see a House race between Hastert and Pelosi. Then accountability would mean that you might vote Republican.

  118. How does one find comfort in a group who can’t define what “is” is.
    As one who observes from a distance, I am amazed at what the Republicans have not achieved while in control of both houses of Congress. To say that I had higher expectations of them would be a vast understatement, but to suggest that voting for the Democrats would send a message is bogus, in my mind. You can’t clean up a cesspool with large contributors to the mess. Gotta love Ted Kennedy et al.
    A vote for an independent who didn’t follow party lines, was not corrupted by outside influences, who knew and understood the separation of powers, and the responsibility of elected officials, would send a stronger message.
    But then again, how would you get those individuals to run?

  119. Since the Republicans assumed unified control of our national government, we have gone through: corruption scandals involving businessmen personally close to the president, lobbyists intimately interconnected with the Republican congressional leadership, and directly involving some of the top leaders of the legislative Republican partya gradual legitimization of evil acts of torture, to the point that the horrific deeds of Abu Ghraib, which shocked the world in 2004, are now mostly official U.S. policy;

    Please! Abu Graib is not official US policy, or anything close to it!

    the initiation of a war of choice in Iraq, which was so badly executed that we are now losing it, and as a consequence our security agencies have warned that the risk of terrorism has increased;

    I agree that the war was a bad idea. I am whole-heartedly against it, but I don’t think the risk of terrorism on the home front has increased because of it. If you are refering to IEDs in Iraq, that is gorrilla warfare targeting soldiers, hardly terrorism.

    a decision to neither negotiate with nor put military or economic pressure on North Korea, with the consequence that it is now a nuclear power;

    You clearly know only what you choose to read and like to believe on this issue. People very close to me work with PONI –Project on Nuclear Issues (google it if you wish) It has been known for years–under different administrations that we really had/have nothing we could possibly do to persuade N Korea–and the same goes for Iran. If you really think you are smarter on this than the non-partisan people who work very hard on these issues–for years, then you will be dissappointed in any administration. There are already economic limits on N Korea. You are against an Iraq war–but suggest military pressure on N Korea? Truly this is absurd!

    a total collapse of our fiscal equilibrium, such that we as a nation are once again spending trillions of dollars that we don’t have
    non-backupable rhetoric;

    and, most recently, the discovery that the Republican congressional leadership chose to cover up, and as a consequence facilitate, the sexual harrassment of teenagers by a congressman.
    Yep! HUGE problem–and I am convinced that not only staffers knew about it–and that democrats knew at least a year ago too–but waited to spring it now. I don’t get why you are merely calling it harrassment.

    Full disclosure,
    I am a Republican who will be only voting for non-republicans in the house and senate this year–probably Barbara Boxer and Nancy Pelosi. I am disgusted by the whole torture thing–and by the Folley case. But will still be voting for Arnold and Tim McClintock in CA–and some other republicans and some democrats.
    When you right stuff like this, it almost makes you sound like the democrat version of Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage. Don’t go mindlessly finding/placing blame where it doesn’t belong–just to justify one party and villify the other.

  120. Mami said:

    “…but I don’t think the risk of terrorism on the home front has increased because of it.”

    You may not think so, but the National Intelligence Estimate made it very clear. I have to think the collective opinion of 16 intelligence agencies carries some weight on the issue. Al Queda didn’t have a presence in Iraq before. Now Iraq is its best recruiting tool. What this administration and the republican-controlled legislative branch refuse to acknowledge is that Al Queda WANTS us to stay in Iraq, as long as possible. Not only does our own NIE say that Iraq is helping the terrorists, the TERRORISTS say so.

  121. My days of taking the bloggernacle seriously are definitely coming to a middle.

    I am truly tired of those who want to define my Mormon duty for me. To all an sundry, be it known henceforth and forever that it is absolutly not your job to even attempt to define my Mormon duty to me, and doing so will be implicit acceptance of my ridicule and contempt until I get tired of ridiculing and contempting you.

    Attempts based on Mormon Cultural rules will likely be responded to with invitations to kiss my pasty pale body part, as I hold Mormon Culture in suspicion at best, and deep contempt at worst.

    Attempts based in “this is what God wants you to do” will be responded to with a request for ID. If it can not be established that you have a right to receive revelation on my behalf, then you might get an invitation to kiss something as well, with a strong chorus of “Who do you think you are” and I’m not talking about the song of the same name.

    It is not and will not be my Mormon duty to vote the way you want me to just because you want me to. That you have intertwined Mormonism of your understanding with your political philosophy as you understand it is your problem, and kindly keep it to yourself. If you can’t do that, showing the gall to try to impose your beliefs-of-the-moment on me just because I’m Mormon is just amazingly stupid.

    If you do this again, I will begin discussing something about your parents and smelling of elderberry.

  122. Larry (#120), that’s the saddest part of this whole mess. Politicians who are honest and thoughtful are less and less likely to run.

    The one strength of the American system over the Canadian parliamentary system I grew up with is precisely the independence of the members of congress. They regularly go against the speaker’s wishes.

    Hellmut (#115) However, empirically it is clear that the current House Republicans are the most corrupt caucus in a long time.

    Yeah, in at least 12 years. I’d dispute whether the current congress even holds a candle to the congress from the late 70’s through the early 90’s though.

    Don’t get me wrong though. The Republicans deserve to loose. What’s so sad is that the Democrats don’t deserve to win. At least in ’94 the Republicans had ideas on reform, even if most weren’t implemented. I said it once and I’ll say it again. Where’s the Democratic version of the Contract with America? Instead we have them running on the “we’re not Republican ticket” which to me sounds a lot like “more of the same…”

  123. Blain, just to be clear, I can’t — and have never tried — to impose anything on you. I’ve discussed my beliefs. Are you really claiming that I don’t have the right to say what I believe?

  124. Mark Butler says:

    I agree with James, an explicit option on the ballot for straight ticket voting is a perversion. I think it would be a good idea to take the party identification off the ballot completely. Then voters would actually have to learn about each candidate and (horrors!) remember their names.

  125. Let me refresh your memory: leaders of both parties, inlcuding Pelosi, Frist, and Hastert, expressed objections to the manner in which the search was executed.

    That’s my point. Both parties are corrupt and worried mostly about their power.

    Pick any year in those two decades, the one with the most egregious corruption on the part of democrats, and put it side by side with the last twelve months, and let’s see where we stand.

    Well, we could do 1980 and Abscam.

  126. Until there is actual casualties on the home front, I will be VERY sceptical of increased danger. It doesn’t matter to me what the NIE said or believes. I FEEL safer, I don’t see anything that proves I am NOT safer. Why? Many thought there was another terrorist attack in NYC, only to learn it was a tragic domestic accident. Large and serious plots are discovered and taken care of. There hasn’t even been any small terrorist acivities happen since 911. By all evidence things are working.

    “Al Queda WANTS us to stay in Iraq, as long as possible.”

    And so do I, so that Al Queda remains in Iraq as well. As long as we are there the only thing on their minds is Iraq. At least we now know where the terrorists ARE more than we did before. American soldiers might be dying, but that is what they are for in the end – to kill and to die. I believe that as soon as we leave Iraq that the United States will no longer be safe. Numbers don’t mean as much to me (no matter how many recruits) as successes. Terrorists can trump their recruiting statistics all they want, but ultimately they have accomplished nothing other than get themselves and other Mulsims killed – with the occasional GI.

    As to the actual discussion. Sorry for you, but I predict Republicans are going to remain in all three branches of government – although it might be close to even numbers. Polling aside, all information I have gotten from Independants and Republicans is that people are not persuaded to change parties for the reasons you say they should.

    Idealogy has become intrenched more than all those “noble people” sentiments you have given. That is the way BOTH parties have talked to death, and so that is what people see as the most important. You can’t change the other voter’s horse in the middle of the race. As for me, I agree with the idealogy importance myself. Voting Democrat *might* send a message, but in the end I feel it would shoot my “idealogy” foot. Now, if Republicans started acting and talking more like Liberals and Democrats act and talk more like Conservatives (and that happens at the same time) then the Democrats might have my vote. It doesn’t happen, so I will stick with the Repubs who I at least know have a platform closer to my own views.

  127. Clark:

    Yes, leaders of both parties were worried about their power, but not in the way you suggest: they were worried about undue executive power over the justice department, and rightly so. Pelosi was concerned not because Jefferson got caught, but because the search was executing in such a way that challenged legal precedent.

    Jettboy:

    “It doesn’t matter to me what the NIE said or believes. I FEEL safer.”

    How can you type that without having an Orwellian shiver go up your spine?! I hate to break it to you, but the Colbert Report is satire. “FEELING” safer is a result of propaganda, not policy. 16 intelligence agencies say “because of what we’re doing right now, Al Queda is getting stronger,” and that makes you feel safer. I just don’t get it. We’re not “keeping them all busy” in Iraq. They’re running free in Afghanistan, and certainly congregating elsewhere, and laughing their @$$es off at the silly things we do to “FEEL” safer (like banning shampoo bottles from airplanes).

    “I don’t see anything that proves I am NOT safer.”

    C’mon. That’s the argument my 8 year old uses when I tell him to wear his bicycle helmet or buckle his seatbelt.

    “There hasn’t even been any small terrorist acivities happen since 911. By all evidence things are working.”

    The anthrax deaths? The Madrid bombing? The London bombing?

  128. Clark:

    1980 and Abscam. Admittedly, a vintage year for corrupt democrats. Still, crook for crook, that wouldn’t even measure up to the Abramoff scandal alone. Maybe on par with Cunningham?

  129. Clark,

    You are right on the independence of congressional members over members of parliament, but you will be pleased to note that Harper is trying to implement a change whereby the gov’t can only be defeated on certain bills. This in hope of giving members more independence to vote their conscience w/o being forced to vote party line.

    The real problem in politics is that rhetoric is more important than substance.
    In those areas where substance is used (i.e. Europe), we find the substance is related more to Naziism than freedom.

    The Contract With America was substance. Unfortunately, it got blind sided by Washington culture. In the end, public anger has to reach a crescendo before a majority of those guys will begin to listen. Sad but true.

  130. I think I explained why I feel safer. There hasn’t been anything happen in a very long time. I am not talking propaganda. I am talking observation. Even your 8 year old deserves an explanation. That might be nothing more than – well let me tell all the people I know who died because of not wearing seat belts. At least you did try to make an explanation along those lines.

    Here is why I don’t buy it. I am an Americentrist. What you describe is happening in Europe and the Middle East. Well, in the United States I feel much safer because it hasn’t happened over here or Canada, or even South America. As your 8 year old said, and I agree, still haven’t seen anything to prove I am NOT safer. Just because you or other “high and Mighty” say something doesn’t make it so. In fact, from what I see things have actually improved over in Europe after they started cracking down on “shampoo,” putting all Muslims to question and other things you seem so insistant doesn’t work. The Middle East is a different story. However, like I said, as long as we keep them busy over there they won’t have enough time to be busy other places.

  131. The explanation that I give to my eigtht year old is that his perspective is limited, that the dangers aren’t readily apparent to him, that if he’s in an accident he probably won’t see it coming (that is, the moment before it happens, he’ll probably “FEEL” safe) and that experts who know about safety say that there are dangers and that if he wears a helmet it will protect him in case there’s an accident.

    I suppose the parallel here is that the NIE, the experts who know about (global) safety, say that Iraq is making us less safe. Since I’m more concerned about BEING safe than FEELING safe, I have to trust them.

    That you find my eight-year-old’s logic so appealing makes it difficult to know where to take this discussion. Because he doesn’t believe the “high and mighty” safety people either, just like you’re dismissive of the NIE. (Seriously, have you seen Colbert? ARE YOU Colbert?)

    And you don’t seem to get my point. Iraq is not containing the terrorists, it’s breeding the terrorists, increasing the likelihood that they’ll threaten us again, regardless of how safe you “feel.” But if you want to just tune out the facts, close your eyes, and think of your happy place, whatever.

  132. Frank,

    You repeatedly invoke the issue of Supreme Court justices. But given the political questions of _this_ election, that seems like a real red herring.

    Most of the discussions about the upcoming elections deal with the House. (Because the House is close to balance; because Republican reps are perceived as vulnerable; and so on.) No one is talking about the Senate; everyone is talking about the House. (Indeed your own comments, when they’re not talking about SC justices, repeatedly mention the question of the political composition of the House).

    But frankly, Frank, the question of which House Representative to vote for (as opposed to which Senator) has absolutely zero effect on Supreme Court nominations. The House could be 100% Dem, and Bush (or a Republican successor) could still appoint Justices at will, as long as the Senate was controlled by Republicans. Justices are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate; the House plays no role in the process.

  133. Thank you for your oh so wonderful telling me what to do Jeremy. Intersting enough, I thought that “question authority” was a Liberal sancrasanct policy. That you would question my questioning them is rather, well, questionable. Oh, I forgot, with Liberals its question authority if you don’t agree with them. I think it is ironic that the very institutions that apparently screwed up with Iraq intelligence on WMDs are suddenly so correct on their assesment of terrorists. Give me a break. Should I trust them or should I not? If I should trust them now, then why not then?

    And I know that Iraq has become a place for breeding terrorists. However, I believe it equally contains them. I don’t think Iraq created terrorists anyway. It simply gives them an excuse to show their true colors sooner than a more careful stratagist would want.

  134. One last thought before I bow out that I think illustrates the naivete of simply voting against one party rather than for policies or individuals. That’s how George Bush got elected.

  135. Oh, and for the record, I don’t think anything this year approaches 1980 in terms of corruption.

  136. Jettboy: “Thank you for your oh so wonderful telling me what to do Jeremy”

    Jettboy, Jeremy’s not the only one who would like to tell you what to do. You’re clearly in over your head here, with some very specious logic and outrageously inhuman comments. Spelling and grammar mistakes I can forgive, however inane; I do blog with J. Stapley, after all. But your arguments that Iraq somehow contains terrorism or that soldiers exist to be killed or that the world is safer (intelligence reports notwithstanding) are all ridiculous.

    You’re indignant that people are talking down to you and dismissing your points out-of-hand; that is because you seem remarkably uneducated, and no one here is responsible for your ignorance. I would advise you to leave well enough alone.

  137. Brad Kramer says:

    I should begin by disclaiming the fact that I am a bleeding-heart, gun-hating, tree-hugging, cut-the-military, tax-and-spend liberal. I pretty much fit all the crass, liberal stereotypes on a number of different levels–excepting my very moderate stance on a few issues like abortion, public expression of religion, etc.

    I am a big fan of RT and usually enjoy his posts. And, on some level, I think he’s making some relevant points here. The problem is with his presentation. You can’t say, on the one hand, that people should vote against republicans for reasons of power abuse and corruption as opposed to platform and policy preference and then move into a laundry list of problems that does not distinguish problems caused by corruption from problems that result from subjectively identified “bad” policy. I think invading Iraq was horrible policy, but I’m personally doubtful that there is much of a connection between the decision to invade and the degree of corruption in the republican party. I personally think that corruption can account for the (mis)conduct of the war–no-bid contracts, privatization of oil production as a pre-requisite for elections, misleading the public about the degree of violence, etc–much more than it can account for ideological approaches to foreign policy.

    I think it’s fair to suggest that people who normally like republicans because of their policies might want to consider voting against them on principle because they have allowed power to corrupt them and have failed to deliver on substantive policy issues that conservatives value. But the burden is then on you to demonstrate 1) that x, y, and z are inconsistent with the values for which your target audience normally supports republicans and 2) that said are in fact the results of corruption. Furthermore, it must be demonstrated that voting democrat and the resulting democratic victories will be interpreted by the losing republicans not as a mandate for democratic policies but as a referendum on republican corruption and nothing more. I’m doubtful, given the stridently partisan atmosphere of which RT’s post is a clear example, that republicans voting democrat would actually have that effect. I think it’s much more realistic to expect voters who want to send a message about corrupt conservative politicians without abandoning conservative ideals to vote for independent or third-party candidates–constitution party, reform, libertarian, whatever–than to vote democrat.

    I personally would not vote republican if the roles were reversed–even if I believed that the corruption was systemic to the party. I could not justify to myself the support for a platform and policies with which I overwhelmingly disagree. I’d vote Green or even American Socialist before doing that.

    An aside; I do agree that the SC justices and the Fed Chair apointees are high marks for this administration. I think Roberts is an ideal CJ–that is, if a conservative president gets to appoint one. I must admit, however, that I’m not particularly impressed with Alito. For me, the consolation for Bush’s victory in ’04 was that Michael McConnell would end up on the bench (in my opinion, casting aside ideological differences, the most qualified jurist in the country).

  138. I don’t think it was too long ago that Republicans and Democrats tacitly agreed on certain core things – that keeping up the illusion of American power is what kept us safe and free, that economic innovation and doing enough good in the world to keep the moral high ground was the source of that power, and that careful negotiation between nations is always beneficial for both of them. Ronald Reagan may have been a Republican idealogue – but in agreeing to sit down and talk with the “evil” USSR (imagine what the current president would have done) he used American power constructively.

    The current batch of Republicans are burdened with the many problems outlined above. But more important that any of those, they have ignored the unwritten rules for America’s participation in the world that have kept our country free and safe since the end of World War I.

    Our actions in Iraq have occured in a context devoid of international diplomacy or consensus. We refuse to talk with anybody George Bush thinks is against us. We have shown the world that basic human rights and the standards of treatment we helped establish in the wake of WWII don’t apply to us. We have redefined the very meaning of freedom.

    Sure, the Democrats are just as corrupt and ineffective as the current House when given the reins. But would they have been so quick to offer up every last shred of American goodwill on the altar on anti-terrorism?

    To the extent the Democrats have a healthy respect for diplomacy, an understanding of America’s place in the world, and a desire to better understand our enemies rather than ignoring or lashing out at them, they will have this Republican’s vote this year.

  139. I agree with Clark that the corruption in Congress today doesn’t appear to be all that unusual. Abscam, the Congressional banking scandals of the early 1990’s, Abramoff, Foley, there doesn’t appear to be a largely Democratic or Republican aspect to Congressional corruption over time.

  140. HP/JDC,

    I’ll agree that corruption is a bipartisan tendency, but that general recognition doesn’t really give due regard to the remarkable and overwhelmingly Republican scandals of the last couple of years. Also, as someone else mentioned earlier, the K street project wasn’t just a few republicans falling to temptation: it was an extensive, deliberate, and long-term political strategy on the part of the republican house leadership. In other words, it was a conscious attempt to institutionalize corruption as a matter of political course.

  141. I am not uncertain if the Democrats had control of the house if they would not be found by the republican minority full of corruption also.They sure had a hey day when Clinton was in office.

    Can’t we just all agree that both parties are corrupt–politics are pretty corrupt, or corrupting, or both–and get on with our lives?

  142. Jeremy,
    You are not going to convince me that one of the two major parties is inherently more corrupt than the other. I am on record as being a third party voter and most of the reason I did it had to do with disgust regarding both major parties. Both parties when in power attempt to work the system to see that they remain in power. I can’t say that I like it, but I find it highly unlikely that it is going to change (politicians knowing a good thing when they see it).

  143. HP/JDC,

    I never said “inherently.” Just, as of late, empirically.

    It really gets back to JNS’s original post: the party in power has been corrupted by that power, and voting against them will not only counter that corruption, but (at least for a time) discourage or at the very least delay subsequent corruption. In other words, rewarding either party with reelection after a period of widespread corruption rewards not just that party, but corrupt politics in general. It so happens that right now, the GOP is in power and is crippled by corruption–and the scrutiny that corruption has brought would put the dems on notice if they gain power in November.

  144. Mami, whether or not the Democrats had a “hey day” when Clinton was in office, they were in the minority for six of the eight years.

  145. Jeremy

    Economists as fight club might actually be a really good way to look at it.

    Kaimi,

    I actually thought I put something like your comment in one of my comments, but I guess I deleted it when I was editing. So I’m glad you made the point clear. I brought up the Supreme Court in the discussion to show:

    1. Jason an example of why ideology of both Parties matters for this election, not just the party in power.

    2. To point out to Jeremy that his “Bush Administration=all that is evil” analysis was missing something.

    I certainly am not under the impression that SC nominees have to go through the House!

  146. Bill-
    I meant to say that the Republicans had a heyday finding lots of scandal when Clinton was in office. It appears that for the past couple of decades at least, the minority has found lots of ways to convict the majority. Perhaps the majority simply does not do this because they are secure in their stronghold at the moment–being that the white house or the congress or the senate. But I do not think there is sufficient evidence by either party to convict the other of being innately corrupt, and maintain that they themselves are innocent.

  147. NoelHausler says:

    I have been watching the Daily Show on YourTube.com with the various debates and discussions Jon Stewart has. It seems Americans have what to those of us in the UK and Australia a reverant attitude towards your President no matter what he does. Jon Stewart has been able to show just through the replaying of various clips the contradictions made by the Administration. The Foley affair was a classic. How come when someone gets caught they are suddenly going in rehab, they were abused by a Priest blah blah….. Americans have become involved in a war that started with lies. I watch Newshour here in Australia and often at the end they list those who died that week etc. Young men, 20s 30s no chance of a life dead for some cause that future historians may question.

  148. Alan Wolfe wrote an interesting article entitled:

    Why Conservatives Can’t Govern

    His premise is that the Republicans were always best-off playing the role of “loyal opposition,” but that their core ideology – anti-federal government – makes them unsuited to run “big government.” How can you run properly, something you never believed in to begin with?

    To quote some of the juicier portions of the article:

    If government is necessary, bad government, at least for conservatives, is inevitable, and conservatives have been exceptionally good at showing just how bad it can be. Hence the truth revealed by the Bush years: Bad government–indeed, bloated, inefficient, corrupt, and unfair government–is the only kind of conservative government there is. Conservatives cannot govern well for the same reason that vegetarians cannot prepare a world-class boeuf bourguignon: If you believe that what you are called upon to do is wrong, you are not likely to do it very well.

    On Katrina and FEMA:

    Long before Katrina destroyed New Orleans, Allbaugh and Brown were busy destroying FEMA: privatizing many of the agency’s programs, shifting attention away from disaster management, and shedding no tears as scores of agency staff left in dismay. Human beings cannot prevent natural disasters, but they can prevent man-made ones. Not the Bush administration. Its ideological hostility toward government all but guaranteed that the physical damage inflicted by a hurricane would be exacerbated by the human damage caused by incompetence.

    On Iraq:

    So long as conservatives denigrate government while relying on government to achieve their objectives, Rumsfeld’s vision of how to fight wars is the only kind of conservative foreign policy one can have. His low-balling of troop estimates in Iraq was the foreign policy equivalent of libertarian economics: relying on government while refusing to pay for it. His hostility toward Iraqi reconstruction resonated with those skeptical of rebuilding New Orleans. His disdain for Colin Powell’s State Department mirrored Joe McCarthy’s for Dean Acheson’s. Only a tried-and-true conservative could ever have come up with the idea of turning the management of Iraqi police forces over to private firms to the extent that Rumsfeld did, with catastrophic results for the Iraqis themselves. While it is difficult to label someone who plans a war an isolationist, Rumsfeld’s hostility toward America’s historic allies represented a contemporary version of unilateralism, which has always been isolationism’s first cousin. The neoconservatives wanted to draft hugely expensive undertakings onto a party with an isolationist past. The Secretary of Defense wanted to draft on to the same political party a distant war, but with the promise of being cheap and avoiding the loss of American lives. It is not difficult to conclude which one would win in today’s conservative environment.

    The basic problem with Conservativism:

    There are ways out of the conservative dilemma. American conservatives could, for example, take away from the Bush years the lesson that they must change their ideology if they are ever again to make the Republican Party a serious party of governance. This is not beyond the realm of possibility. Conservatives in the American past–not only Hamilton and Marshall, but Daniel Webster and Henry Clay–were in favor of a strong government capable of meeting national objectives. There exists, moreover, a modernizing version of conservatism in contemporary Europe, where conservatives recognize the inevitability of government but try to tailor its objectives and improve its competence. Call this “big government conservatism” if you wish, but it would have little in common with that term as President Bush’s critics use it to attack him and his administration. This would not be a conservatism that used government to pay off friends and punish enemies but one that sought to use government to stabilize society and avoid periodic crises.

    Admittedly, not much evidence exists in America today that conservatives are prepared to move in such a direction. If anything, they seem to have reinforced and strengthened their determination to govern as incompetently and unfairly as they can. The fact that they will leave behind a public sector in roughly the same condition that strip miners leave hillsides would cause nothing but pain to yesterday’s patricians, for whom ideals such as responsibility and soundness were watchwords. But today’s conservatives have no problem passing on the costs of their present madness to future generations. Governing well would require them to use the bully-pulpit of office to educate and uplift their base. But since contemporary conservatives get their political energy from angry voices of rage and revenge, they will always blame others for the failures built into their ideology. That is why conservatism so rarely makes for a good governance party. As far as conservatives are concerned, it is always someone else’s government, one reason they can be so indifferent to their own mismanagement.

    I don’t really oppose a Republican President as a healthy check on government (just not our current Republican President). Neither am I particularly concerned about a some of our states becoming proving grounds for new Republican ideas under powerful conservative oversight. But I absolutely do not want the Republicans in control of our national Congress. Time to vote them out and let them be the “party of opposition” they were always meant to be.

  149. Fantastic article, Seth. Thanks.

  150. Heavenly Father help us all if the likes of Nancy Pelosi, John Conyers and Barney Frank are able to become the Chairs of important committees like Intelligence, defense etc. Not that I think that the invasion and removal of Saddam was a good idea – I think it was a horrible decision – I am with Gen Scowcroft on this one. However, I am not at all impressed that the events at Abu Gharib amounted to ‘Torture”, and unlike liberals, I dont believe that our Constitution is a suicide pact.
    Islamic terrorism is a vicious and serious problem, and anyone who thinks that our society will survive if we have to fight by the Marquis of Queensberry’s rules, is living in a fool’s paradise.

  151. Dan, nobody thinks the constitution is a suicide pact. On the other hand, the acts at Abu Ghraib certainly did meet the definition of torture under international law, and also in the view of noted conservatives including John McCain, John Warner, and others. Is it a good moral idea for us to betray our own values in this fight? I think you need to read the Book of Mormon again if you say it is.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Over at By Common Consent there is a post suggesting that we not vote Republican for the midterm elections. [...]

  2. [...] J. Nelson Seawright of the By Common Consent blog(a LDS group blog) makes a great case for approval voting, and with the upcoming election I encourage you to check it out.  In short he says that as Latter-Day saint,we should be voting not to vote parties that we may agree with, but instead to get rid of corrupt politicians. Consider, in this context, the famous text from Doctrine and Covenants 121: 39. We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion. [...]

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