While Watching the Debate

Good evening everyone.

I’m writing this post as I watch the second presidential debate, which, as you likely know, is taking place in Nashville, TN. For those who haven’t been there, the campus of Belmont is a beautiful place and I recommend visiting it if you get the chance.

As the debate grinds on, I wanted to just share my initial impressions as they come up. These are more my raw thoughts rather than a polished discussion. Did anything particular stand out to you?

9:20 Although the debate has only been going on for about twenty minutes so far, John McCain has mentioned three times, so far, the idea of having the government buy up and renegotiate bad mortgage loans. What a terrible and unconstitutional idea. Does anyone support such a plan? Do you want to pay for this scheme?

9:25 Unlike McCain, I do not like the ideas of Lieberman, Kennedy, or Feingold.

9:27 As we all know, Obama wants socialized medicine and education. Huzzah!

9:28 An important point early in the campaign was McCain’s plan to eliminate excess government and spending. He should talk more about these issues as opposed to spending more of our money.

9:37 McCain doesn’t want tax breaks for the wealthy? Doesn’t sound like a typical Republican idea. Reaganomics anyone?

9:43 McCain going on about global warming and climate change. Although I support nuclear power as he does (though for different reasons), I worry that his environmental plans will require increased government regulation.

9:49 We need offshore oil drilling to help ease our oil troubles. McCain is right.

9:54 McCain should continue to hammer Obama on the issue of healthcare (though he should avoid jokes because too few of his are funny.)

9:56 Obama says healthcare is a right, but we all know who he thinks should pay for this “right”. Are not our rights God given? You know, stuff like liberty, free speech, free association and the like? Pretty sure healthcare doesn’t qualify as a right.

10:21 Obama thinks that we need to rebuild the economies of the former Soviet Republics? Great idea! Even if it was constitutional, I’m sure our weak economy can support it.

10:27 A league of Democracies? Thank you Woodrow Wilson! Nothing warms my heart like mortgaging our national sovereignty.

Toward the end there, I guess you notice that I didn’t make too many comments. Starting about 10:00, the main thought running through my head was, “when will this be over?” Oh well. I’m sure that we will all be waiting “eagerly” for the next one.

Checking the Bellwether Forecast

For those who have followed politics over the years, you might be familiar with the famous phrase “as goes Ohio, so goes the nation.” For those who are not, it is a reference to the presidential elections. Ohio is considered a bellwether state, which means that whoever wins the popular vote in Ohio will win the general election nationwide. Generally this maxim has held true. Since 1896, only twice has a candidate won Ohio but lost the election. However, since 1964, no candidate has won the presidency without capturing Ohio. Although Ohio does possess a significant number of electoral votes, 20 at the present, sheer numbers alone do not account for this trend. Illinois, Pennsylvania, New York, Florida, Texas, and the massive California all outrank Ohio in population and thus electoral votes. None of these states match the consistency with which Ohio sides with the winner. Something else must be at work here. Saving that particular reasoning for another day, nevertheless, for this election, winning Ohio is not as nearly important as it has been in the past. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the winner of one state will determine this election. Which is it? Why, our very own, Virginia.

If you are like me, you scan the polls every couple of days to see how the national trends are going. As usual, most states are not battlegrounds. Unless some sort of meltdown occurs, Obama will win California, New York, Illinois, and Massachusetts, to name a few, while McCain will win Texas and a vast majority of rest of the south. Virginia is different this time. Rasmussen Reports has had Virginia in the “toss up” column since June. But Joshua, you might say, no Democratic Presidential Candidate has won here since 1964, what makes you think Virginia can go Democratic? Consider recent trends. We’ve had two back-to-back Democrat governors now and we have one (soon to be two) Democratic Senator(s). Even the state senate has fallen. As is typical, I would expect that northern Virginia and most of the cities in the state (with the exception of Virginia Beach) will go to Obama while the counties and rural areas will go to McCain. The battle lines are clearly drawn. The real trick will be to see which side mobilizes their supporters more effectively and in greater number. Who will win Virginia? With a month still to go, I cannot say. But I can say that the McCain camp desperately needs to win Virginia as his Republican counterparts have done in the past. Although Virginia will almost certainly predict the winner, I can foresee the possibility of Obama losing Virginia and still winning the election. For McCain, however, I do not honestly believe he can win without us. I don’t believe that any other swing state can make that claim. Therefore, if you wish to know the outcome of the Presidential election, you only need to feel the pulse of our own commonwealth.

Fear Politics

From my experiences at the local GOP Headquarters, my suspicions about the presidential race have been confirmed once more. This election is about fear, pure and simple. I feel as if I’ve fallen into the world of Machiavelli’s The Prince. If you will recall, Machiavelli teaches that in order for a leader to be successful he needs to inspire either love or fear. Let me examine the McCain side of things. I think that we can agree that most Republicans don’t truly love McCain. They may respect him, they may like him, but very few actually love him. Now by love him, I mean that they greatly want to see McCain in office (as opposed to any other Republican) and are willing to give of their time and money to see him succeed. Therefore, he has to resort to the other path to success, fear. Now using fear in our quasi-democratic system is a good deal different than in Machiavelli’s time. Rather than a leader inspiring fear among his subjects, in our society, fear is used as a tool to demonize one’s opponent. Think about it. Have you heard more arguments in favor of John McCain or those against Barack Obama? How about when Hillary was the presumptive Democratic nominee? Do you not recall her labeled as the “most liberal” and people making the wild claim that he or she “would vote for the devil himself before they voted for Hillary Clinton”? Now that Senator Obama is the Democratic choice he is the most liberal all of a sudden. As mentioned, I heard an interesting comment recently at the Republican HQ. One person asked about my level of involvement in this race. I stated that I spent a lot of effort back in 2006, and would likely not spend much of my time this year. She said that I should get more involved because, I kid you not, “this could be last chance you have to vote.” Obviously she was implying that if Obama won, either our system of elections would be removed and replaced with a dictatorship or the United States would cease to be by 2012. This kind of fear politics is pathetic. Odds are very low that either candidate will destroy the country, although it is true, they both will likely chip away our liberties and continue to unconstitutionally expand our government. I hope that you have not given into this fear baiting.

Although I would argue that more people “love” Obama than McCain, I don’t think either have huge positives. Obama claims to represent hope and change compared to the Bush administration, but really he is an empty suit liberal. McCain tries to play himself as a conservative, but he is a moderate to liberal Republican politician who doesn’t really seem to grasp fully the proper role of government. As has been common in recent contests, they both resort to the fear tactic. Obama will surrender to the terrorists. McCain will give us a century of war. Obama is inexperienced. McCain is a career politician. Obama is worse than Hillary. McCain is four more years of Bush. Obama will kill our unborn children. McCain will take away women’s right to choose. Find the positive statements in this campaign if you can because they will be few and far between. Its not what is so great about either McCain or Obama, but rather what is so awful about his opponent and what terrible things will transpire if he gets into office. The best slogan for each campaign is “at least I’m not that guy”. If only we had decent candidates, we could avoid this year of fear.

None of the Above

Well it is time for me to give my thoughts on the Presidential Race. As you know, I have been an avid supporter of Congressman Ron Paul of Texas. As you might also know, a couple of days ago Ron Paul gave a speech arguing that the public should not support either Republican John McCain nor Democrat Barack Obama. He is right (well…sort of). Conservatives, like myself, have been, at best, lukewarm about the candidacy of Senator McCain. Few, if any of us honestly believe that he is a conservative. Instead he embraces many big government solutions, which are unacceptable philosophically or constitutionally. When endorsing John McCain RPV Chairman Jeff Frederick called him a maverick. Well, guess what, Mr. Chairman? I don’t want a maverick, I don’t want a liberal, and I don’t want a moderate! I want a constitutional conservative. A number of local conservatives have recently thrown their support to McCain as a result of his choice for vice-president, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. For example, at our local city/county GOP gathering, the county chairman stated that although he knew that many of us did not care for McCain, we should vote for him in 2008 so that we can vote for Palin in 2012 or 2016. It is a sad reflection that more people are excited about Palin than McCain. I have never voted for a presidential candidate based solely upon his vice presidential choice. From what I’ve learned thus far, although I think Palin would be an acceptable conservative, John McCain is not. Also, McCain is running for president, Palin is not. The vice presidency is worth very little. Therefore, as a principled conservative, I must reject the McCain/Palin ticket. I highly recommend listening to Jack Hunter’s commentary on the subject of McCain/Palin found here.

But Joshua, you might say, John McCain is a conservative. He is solidly pro-life and is against pork barrel spending. Although both are conservative stances, those viewpoints alone do not make him a conservative. Need proof? Consider his position on illegal immigration and his support for amnesty. How about his support for big government solutions in “solving” global warming? Then there is the whole McCain/Feingold issue. Do you honestly believe that this bill does not violate the 1st Amendment? Remember that McCain voted against the Bush tax cuts and supports the death tax. He also advocates a very interventionist foreign policy. It amazes me greatly that so many so called conservatives derided Bill Clinton’s efforts to be the world policeman and nation builder but so readily embraced the exact same policies under our current Republican administration. You should expect more war and nation building under a McCain presidency. Oh goody! For these reasons and others, one can see that McCain does have conservative tendencies, but is far from a conservative.

When it comes to comparing John McCain to Obama, some conservatives argue that we should vote for John McCain because he is the lesser of two evils. If you buy this line, you must accept the fatal flaw in this line of thinking, which is that voting for McCain is still evil, just not as much. I’ll choose no evil, thank you very much. Others say that we should vote for Obama in order to teach the GOP the lesson that they cannot nominate non-conservatives and hope to win. Although I don’t want liberal Republicans, I cannot support liberal Democrats either. Liberal under either party is still liberal. Another option is to stay home and not vote, but I believe that to not vote is a failure of one’s civic duty. What’s a conservative to do?

As for myself, I plan to vote for a third party candidate. Naysayers will claim that voting third party is throwing your vote away, but it is far better to support a cause with which you agree even though it will almost certainly lose than to support a winning cause you despise. No doubt some fellow Republicans will brand me a traitor, but principles are far more important than party. After all, without principles what is the point of the party? My line of thinking is far closer to the stated goals of the Republican Party than Senator McCain’s. Besides, with two prior exceptions, I have always voted Republican. These two variations occurred when Republican candidates betrayed or forgot about their conservative constituents, the 2002 Senate Race (Warner) and the 2004 Presidential race (Bush). In both cases I did not so much vote for another candidate, but rather against the Republican one. I should mention that I did not vote for either of the two Democrats (Warner or Kerry), as I felt they were not worthy of my vote. Maybe one day I’ll find a conservative Democrat running against a liberal Republican. Like they have in some states, if they offered a “none of the above” option, it would get my support.

If you saw the interview yesterday, Ron Paul mentioned that Americans should vote for a candidate who supports four key principles. These principles are ending interventionism and militarism in foreign policy, restoring privacy in part through getting rid of the Patriot Act, eliminating the national debt, and abolishing the Federal Reserve. Therefore, he could realistically encourage voters to vote for Bob Barr (Libertarian), Chuck Baldwin (Constitution), Cynthia McKinney (Green), or Ralph Nader (Independent). Ron Paul is only partially right here. Although they all apparently endorse these principles, I could not in good conscious support either McKinney or Nader. Until and unless these two embrace the ideals of the 10th Amendment and a limited federal government, they are as unacceptable as McCain and Obama. Instead, they support proposals like reparations and national health insurance. Therefore, the true choice for conservatives is between Barr and Baldwin.

I wish that I could support the Republican ticket this year, I really do. To stand in opposition puts me at odds with a number of friends and associates. You see those McCain signs that say “country first”, but it misses the greater issue. Without putting principles first, neither country nor party holds nearly the same worth. I am a conservative first and also a Republican as long as they hold the same values that I cherish. Let us hope that the party nominates a solid conservative in 2012. When they do, I’ll be the first to sing the praises. Until that day, we must not allow ourselves to be taken for granted any longer.

Is John McCain a Conservative?

Author’s note: This post was written on March 30, 2008 and originally posted as is on the VCAP blog. Please see “What Happened to VCAP?” regarding its reposting.

This morning while reading the paper, I came across a letter to the editor from a Mr. Corbo. Presuming that this is the same Mr. Corbo that I know (and please pardon me if it is not), he wrote how he, as a conservative, would not be supporting or voting for John McCain in the general election. Now the Mr. Corbo that I know is a good man and put in many volunteer hours on behalf of Senator Allen’s reelection attempt in 2006, so that is why the name popped out at me when I saw it.

Let me start out by saying that I am fairly certain that as conservatives, Senator McCain was likely not our first, second, or even third, choice for the Republican nomination early in the process. Perhaps it was Mike Huckabee, or Fred Thompson, or Mitt Romney, or Duncan Hunter, or for a select few of us, Ron Paul, but not John McCain. But, leaving history in the past, here we are with John McCain as the Republican nominee and either Hillary or Barack on the Democratic side. As a result, some conservatives have embraced McCain, while others (like Mr. Corbo) have rejected him.

When it comes to voting, you should bear in mind that there are several different types of conservatives. First, we have the single-issue conservative. This conservative values one or two issues as key and will not vote for a candidate who does not agree on that particular policy. Second is the grocery list conservative who considers a handful of issues to be important and if a candidate agrees with most of these positions, he or she will get that voter’s support. Third, we have the strict Republican conservative who will always (or almost always) vote for the Republican candidate regardless of any specific issue positions.

Unfortunately in Mr. Corbo’s letter he does not address the specific issue or issues that make him unable to support Senator McCain. Should he happen to read this post, I would greatly encourage him to write back and express his particular grievances, not because I wish to debate him, but rather to seek understanding. There are several legitimate reservations I think some conservatives could make about John McCain, such as illegal immigration and campaign finance reform, and therefore it would be very helpful to know his particular reasoning.

Lastly, if you are a conservative who supports Senator McCain, feel free to comment as to why you support him, or if you are a conservative who opposes him, reply with reasoning likewise. If conservatives who think like Mr. Corbo make up a small percentage of the vote, then the Senator and his campaign would take little note, and I would project the election will go relatively well for him. However, if many are planning to dump the Senator, then it will be very tough for him to win, especially here in the Commonwealth. So if you are a fan for Senator McCain, or you despise him, respond here on VCAP’s blog this blog and let your voice be heard.

Update #1: The Mr. Corbo in question was the same person as the George Allen volunteer.

Update #2: Last weekend I attended a conference in Front Royal with about twenty-five other political activists. At one point, we were asked in a secret ballot, “Is John McCain a Conservative?” The result was a unanimous no.

Update #3: Despite my renewed efforts, still no word as to what happened to VCAP.

Jib Jab’s “Time for Some Campaignin'”

Although you’ve likely seen it already, I want to direct your attention to the latest political short by the folks at Jib Jab called “Time for Some Campaignin’”.  If you haven’t watched it yet, or don’t remember it, I direct you to www.jibjab.com.  Once you’ve done so, I wanted to give my two cents on this amusing piece.  I can wait.

While you’re gone, I’ll be busy whistling an off key tune…

…So you’re back then?  You’ve seen it now?  Good.

The clip opens with George Bush and Dick Cheney departing the White House while lamenting their legacy of “war, recession, and bad mortgage loans”.  The question is, in twenty years or more how will historians, and, more importantly, the general public view the Presidency of George W. Bush?  Obviously right now the vast majority have a negative opinion.  Like it was said during the Clinton years, “it’s the economy stupid!”  Unfortunately in general, people will tolerate a lot of poor and unconstitutional governance assuming the economy is doing well.  Right now our economy has been rather weak and coupled with a heavily devalued dollar, there is uncertainty and underemployment.  In addition, so many people these days believe that the conflict in Iraq was a mistake.  If these factors hold steady, it will certainly spell trouble for Republicans at the ballot box in November.

Next, it moves on to John McCain, Hillary, and Barack Obama.  The Bush sound-alike calls McCain “liberally prone” which isn’t very far from the truth.  Be it the issue of illegal immigration, McCain-Feingold, or his big government environmentalism, conservatives do have a good number of complaints against McCain.  Hillary, on the other hand, is painted as a power hungry politician who will resort to just about any tactic to win.  Although she failed to win the nomination, one has to wonder how much of the dirt she found against Obama will resurface in the general election.  You should remember that Michael Dukakis’s Willie Horton was first brought to the national attention by one of his primary opponents, Al Gore.  I think it is very likely that should Obama not win, Hillary will make another stab at the presidency in 2012.  Notice the Communist-looking campaign sign she carries.

The clip then switches again to McCain portraying him as a very heavy-handed militarist.  It also suggests that he is too old to be president and that he would likely become incapacitated while in office.  This viewpoint is not uncommon, as I have heard listeners call in to radio talk shows claiming the caller will not vote for McCain due to his age.  I think that this is a very weak argument as issues should be far more important that age.  If age does indeed become a campaign issue though, McCain should redouble his efforts to find a suitable Vice President/replacement.

Then comes Barack Obama. I think it is quite funny that he is shown in a Disneyesque nature scene continually spouting the nondescript rhetoric of change. Although he says he wants change, what sort of change does he want? Certainly his kind of change would not make any kind of conservative happy. His caricature is little more than an empty suit.

The folks at Jib Jab next make a few digs at political campaigns saying that in order to get elected, politicians will “promise you anything you wanna hear”. Some citizens vote for pork and more social programs and say to hell with the costs, consequences, and the Constitution. It is also true that spending for federal elections in this country, especially for the presidency, have ballooned to astronomical levels. I think both conservatives and liberals alike can agree that so much of this gross amount of spending could be allocated to far better purposes.

Lastly, I wanted to mention Jib Jab’s plug to put you in many of their pieces. I think this is a neat idea that should cause significant additional interest. Honestly, who can say no to someone who sounds like Arnold Schwarzenegger commanding you to “click it NAOUGHW!” I know that I, for one, couldn’t resist.

Overall, I think that Jib Jab has captured a humorous and telling criticism of politics in this country. I’m pleased to say that both their production values and their substance have made great strides since their 2004 Bush/Kerry episode. I may not agree with everything they offer, but they do make it entertaining to watch. I hope you enjoyed it too.

Winning the Veep-stakes

Since the conclusion of the Presidential Primary process, questions have been circulating regarding choices for Vice President. Although I personally think the idea is not very important (other than setting up someone for a future presidential run), apparently some people alter their vote based upon a running mate. Therefore, I thought I should give my $.02.

The John McCain/Republican Ticket
Many conservatives feel that John McCain is not nearly conservative enough to carry the banner. That is his greatest weakness. Be it the environment, immigration, or political free speech, they feel that something is missing there. Therefore, he should select a running mate who is seen as strong on one, or, ideally, all of these issues.

Although I have never thought of it until a few seconds ago, what about Rep. Tancredo? I know that Tancredo doesn’t really care much for McCain, but when I think of fighting illegal immigration, Tancredo towers above just about everyone. I suppose Massachusetts Mitt wouldn’t be a bad choice either (though I still believe he would have had a better chance of winning the general election than McCain). Although historically unlikely, if Romney could pull Mass into the GOP column, it would force the Dems to spend resources in one of their “safe states”. Other folks have suggested Gov. Bobby Jindal from Louisiana. Although he is, in my mind, more conservative than McCain, and far younger, the problem with him as VP is two-fold. First, and most important is the fact that he has stated he doesn’t want the position. The second is that as the northeast trends Democratic, the South trends Republican. If McCain wants a southerner in order to pick up votes in the South, it shows a serious problem for him. If he can’t win the south with minimal effort, he should pack it in now and salute the new President Barack Obama. Personally, although I know others suggest Huckabee, need I remind you that he is not a fiscal conservative, and frankly he is a scary reminder of what the GOP could become.
Bottom Line: McCain needs to reach out to wary Conservatives if he wants to win.

The Obama/Democratic Ticket
One thing that amazes me about the Obama ticket is his paper-thin experience. Back in 2000, if you recall, George Bush was lambasted for his lack of experience and gravitas. Apparently this time around experience doesn’t matter. Obviously if a long-term veteran of politics like Clinton can’t knock off Obama, experience will be a relative non-issue. Therefore I think Obama’s best bet is to pick up another newcomer and work the change angle for all its worth.

Personally, I think picking up someone like freshman Senator Jim Webb is a great idea. Granted he won his seat with the slimmest of margins, but he is portrayed as an independent voice who is always fighting for some cause or belief. If Obama is able to keep the commonwealth in play, it will force McCain to spend his capital in a state that hasn’t gone to a Democrat since 1964. Clinton, on the other hand, would be a terrible idea. She polls very high negatives and I think would likely cause Obama to lose votes. A dream ticket? Yeah, it would be…for the GOP. Biden’s too old and brings little to the table. Richardson would be ok and might help with the ever-expanding Hispanic vote.
Bottom line: If Obama makes inroads into the South he will win.

Agree or disagree? Post your thought, predictions, and recommendations here!