Thursday, September 04, 2008

Finally! Political Ideology I Can Agree With

No. This will not be about Sarah Palin's speech. But I am going to try very hard for this to be last political post before November. I just won't be able to help it then. Oh, and it is another long one.

After the 2000 election, it was plain to see that part of Al Gore's problem was that he simply promised too many things to too many people. His campaign promises began to look fairly ridiculous. While accusing the Republicans of serving, primarily, a single special interest group--big business; the Dems simultaneously have about 50 tiny special interests groups! Some of who are old-school bread and butter (farmers, union workers, minorities, etc.), and others who are newer to the Party (environmentalists, homosexuals, feminists, etc.) The problem is that the goals of these many special interest groups are not always compatible with one another, making it nearly impossible for the Democrats to have a cohesive strategy or approach. I was reading an article the other day about the current governor of Colorado and changes taking place in the Democratic Party. He is a pro-life Democrat.

That is NOT a typo.

In fact, his stick-to-it stance as a Catholic nearly cost him the election. I am not going to go on in any detail here about his policies or how much I like this guy, etc. (No doubt such talk would win me much criticism from my highly conservative family-in-law mostly living in Colorado. I'm not here to pick a fight, contrary to popular belief.) I am, however, going to talk about the Colorado electorate as defined by Governor Ritter and his pollster. I'll paraphrase.

Dividing the electorate into five groups, Ritter says that 20% of Coloradans are the "very liberal" base of the party. You know, the hippie feminist down the street who wouldn't vote Republican under pain of death. He called the next 16%, for lack of a better term, the "Fox News Conservatives." These are conservatives like Rush Limbaugh (and other talking heads), Rudy Guliani, and Dick Cheney who are conservative because of their powerful belief in a small government. These are your cut most taxes and services guys. They would privatize everything except for military and law enforcement. Just as the first group will NEVER vote Republican, the second group will NEVER vote Democrat, nor will they compromise. Their ideologies, regardless of what actually works, will never be compatible.

Ritter refers to the next 13% as the "moral conservatives." Some of these folks overlap the second group in their beliefs about limited government, but mostly their platform is about issues they view as moral, not political. For these folks, abortion, gun control and gay marriage especially, are the deal breakers. This group got George Bush elected, twice, and won Iowa for Mike Huckabee. They are a powerful minority, but there is a general populace frustration with them, too. In 2004, the Republican-controlled Colorado congress, in the face of a billion dollar budget shortfall, spent a huge chunk of the session arguing an amendment banning gay marriage and a statue requiring schools to say the Pledge each morning. A year later, the voters spoke and returned control of the legislature to the Democrats, which leads us to our last two groups.

That leaves more than HALF of the electorate left over. Ritter calls these are the "government pragmatists" and the "moral pragmatists." The GP's tend to be pro-choice and neutral about gay marriage, "they just want to make sure government works, but they are not liberals, and they don't think the government should be increasing. It should spend your tax dollar prudently and wisely." So what of the last group?

This 14% sliver is my group. These are people who DO have issues with gay marriage and abortion, but "at the same time, they don't want those issues to bog down the government's ability to deliver appropriate functions." And this group believes that the government does play a role in providing certain social services. This group recognizes, that for all its inefficiencies, there are things that people will only do if the government intervenes: fund shelters, school programs, business regulations. . . . .

Governor Ritter believes that he was elected because he was able to make significant in-roads in BOTH of these last two categories, but particularly the MP's. He also believes that this is the direction the Dems will have to go in order to sustain voter turn out: they are going to have to stop clinging so tenaciously to their issues of abortion rights, gun control and gay marriage or they will implode. They also have to stop trying so hard to get voters in the South (who are shifting toward being moral conservatives) and focus more to the West where the electorate looks a lot like Colorado's, with Utah being the obvious exception.

This is the place where Mr. Obama is making his in-roads as well. The evidence that this constituency is here to stay? Mrs. Clinton did NOT get the nomination. She is an old-school Democrat. Still, the transition will be slow. As the Democratic party gets younger, "greener" and more educated, where will those who don't fit this mold go? My grandmother, a farmers widow, has always been a staunch Democrat. But she has also always liked John McCain. This year, as she looks at her ballot, I think she is going to identify much more strongly with the candidate from the party she dislikes more than a young Black man from Illinois.

So what do I think about the issues?

1--I believe in equal opportunity, not equal employment. For this reason, I believe that government money for social programs should be pumped into the front end: Head Start, ESL classes and one-on-one help for ALL children in early grades, Baby Your Baby type programs (especially for poor or very young mothers), Free and reduced school lunch, free health care for children . . . . you name it: if it is for kids and has any kind of a positive track record, I say "fund it." These programs are all cheaper than prison and the other socials costs that come from dysfunctional citizens. And don't forget, our youngest struggling kids didn't choose to be the way they are. If not helped, they are practically guaranteed to repeat the mistakes of their parents.

2--I believe that church plays a role in society, but I also believe that the idea of separating church and state is the thing that protects our freedom to choose where we worship. This makes me leery of any publicly funded program that gives money to churches. Particularly when it comes to church-run schools. I'm coming around on the faith-based initiatives, but I think that there needs to be very careful oversight about the use of these monies. I am very against churches speaking out on political issues and candidates. Moral issues are different. Churches have an obligation to speak up there, but must still be very careful about raising money, setting up PACs etc.

3-- I believe that a woman "chooses" when she decides to have un-protected sex. If she DIDN'T decide to have unprotected sex (i.e., rape and incest) then she should still have a choice. I believe that the life of a mother, particularly one with children, takes precedent over the life of a fetus if it comes to a "life of the mother" issue. I think this is entirely between her and God and her family. Nobody can judge such a difficult decision. However, my anti-abortion stance is closely coupled to #4, which is not at all Republican.

4--I believe in sex education that goes beyond abstinence only. If schools are going to spend valuable time to teach it, then they need to teach what works. It is up to parents to filter that information in light of their own moral values. If the government wants nothing more than abstinence, they should pull ALL funding and not teach it at all--leave the entire subject up to parents.

5--I favor tax cuts for small corporations (not big ones, particularly those that get rid of American jobs) as well as nationalized health care to benefit companies too small to purchase reasonably affordable plans. America was built on the backs of small businesses. Our economy will collapse if we don't re-enthrone this model. If jobs are lost by movement overseas, large corporations have an obligation to re-train their workers and give them options. More American-made products probably will NOT lower prices. But ask yourself, seriously, how much more cheap junk from China do I need? Do we save money with lower prices? Or do we just purchase more? Is an ever-expanding GNP really possible? Are there other evidences of economic stability and growth?

6--Public education must be a very well-funded and locally controlled enterprise if it is to succeed. And if it doesn't succeed? We will revert to a dark time when only those with means and influence got a decent education. We are nearly the only country in the world who even attempts to educate a majority of our population until age 18. Teachers need to be well educated, decently paid, but mostly they need a student-teacher ratio that does not exceed 15:1 in regular classrooms. Our test scores could be turned around in a decade if any class over twenty students had two full time teachers--a mentor teacher and a training teacher. After teachers trained for a certain number of years (or positive recommendations), they could be promoted to mentor teachers at a greater pay scale. Again, school is cheaper than prison. And way cheaper than seeing our entire economy shipped overseas.

7--Energy policy must be driven by science and not by politicians. Markets have a role here too, but the attitude of the populace will reflect the leadership. The regulations may have to be passed (i.e. higher emissions standards) before companies will act in a responsible manner.

8--Health insurance should be for catastrophes, or hospital stays or chronic illnesses. Other medical issues (particularly maintenance) should be paid for out-of-pocket at prices much lower prices than now with an emphasis on PA's, RN's and CNM's handling most routine care. Immunizations should cost nothing.

9--Owning guns for personal, recreational use should not be incompatible with regulations designed to keeps guns away from criminals. Distinctions in the law can be made between assault weapons and hunting rifles so that our cities don't devolve into war zones.

10--God has defined marriage. If same-sex marriages are to be stricken down, however, laws allowing for couple's rights in de facto marriages should also be overturned. The second will never happen, however, because the VAST majority of people don't really believe there is anything wrong with sex before marriage, or if they do, they see it as fairly minor on the list of sins. Ultimately, I think this will come down to a civil rights issue. Except for a very small percentage of people who actually believe in abstinence before marriage, not just in principle, but in practice, most people do not see sexual behavior as a choice. They see it as a need to be met. This is significant because public opinion now is generally that homosexuality is a choice, though that idea is shifting. Personally, I believe that sexual attraction/orientation is a combination of genes and environment, but except in rare cases of genetic abnormality, sexual behavior is always a choice.

11--Any student with the grades and the desire and the ambition should have opportunity to go to college or trade school. Loans should be reasonable and at low interest rates. Tuition should be affordable. If college costs way too much for ordinary middle class folks and all of the industrial jobs have been sent to China, where will our children work?

12--Welfare should be a stopgap measure between where a person is now and where they hope to be a short time from now. Welfare should focus on what the needs of the children (health care, food, safety) are and job-training for parents. Welfare should not be funded from social security funds (which tax should be reduced and untouched, or mandated into 401K type plans for each worker), but separately. I think all welfare money should have careful oversight and that people should never PLAN to use welfare. Though I am sure I'll get really vilified for saying it, I think it is a form of dishonesty to plan a pregnancy knowing that it will be paid for whole or in part by a government program. There is faith, and then there is just expecting other people to pick up the tab.

People who run for office should talk about their own plans, goals, and ideologies. If they mention other candidates at all, it should be to show contrast and not just to criticize. Mrs. Palin was a bit heavy handed last night, I thought (like bringing up a quote said months ago that a candidate has apologized ad naseum for). But then, others said the same about Mr. Obama last week. I guess, when all is said and done, you just see what you want to see. KimBlue said that much of what we observe is based on our own pre-conceived filter. At this point, there are probably not that many people who will be swayed one way or the other by anything the candidates say. I suppose that people engaged in the process will listen carefully for the things they want to hear and the one who says the most of those things gets our vote.

Policies, even the best-intentioned ones, however, can never help people who do not want to help themselves. But perhaps good policies can help give people incentives to help themselves.


amyjane said...

Have you seen/read the book called "Not Keeping Up With Our Parents?" It's brand new and I think the author is Nan Mooney. I think you would like her ideas about a lot of these issues.
Thanks for the food for thought. Although I hardly dare say it, I too get fairly worked up over the whole reliance on Medicaid to have five kids while husband is in medical school. etc. I think my issue is that while we barely make more than many of those families, we have to pay for our own health insurance and then each kid is costing us three thousand bucks in deducts and copays. I get a little miffed over the free ride method of childbearing because it seems unfair in the long run.

Sherry said...

We are the same person!

Although, I tend to be a little more in favor of faith-based initiative programs than you, I think. I wrote a research paper about faith-based initiative at college. To be technical, I wrote two papers: the first for, the second against. All in all I sided in favor with heavy oversight.

I've been thinking of a post in my head all about how ridiculous abstinence-only education in schools is.

Kimberly Bluestocking said...

I'm a moral conservative who wishes she were a moral pragmatist. That's not a happy place to be this election. Hopefully you are right about the trend toward a more "moral" Democratic party.

History would support that move - more than once a party or candidate has totally de-clawed their adversary by embracing the best (or most popular) parts of the opponent's platform. It leaves the opponent with no leg to stand on. Shrewd move, and in this case I think it would do our country good. If nothing else, it would require to Republicans to bring something more to the table.

Incidentally, I agree with many of your points, especially #3. It drives me nuts that many people defend abortion in the name of choice, when with rare exceptions women who seek abortions already made a choice and refuse to accept the consequences (as you say, most of our society views sex as a need instead of a choice, whether they admit it or not).

On the other hand, when pro-life groups try to pass laws with no exceptions for rape, maternal health, etc., they're just shooting themselves in the foot. A law like that, in addition to being draconian, is just asking to be thrown out in court.

Good grief - until this year I never imagined I could rant so much about politics. Which reminds me, I finally added a big comment to my little post this afternoon. Sorry about the confusion.

Ashlee said...

(This is a compliment.) We have the mess of politics today because people like you are too normal/wholesome/principled to run for office. It's too bad that mankind allows itself to be blinded by ambition and corrupted by power so easily. (Queen Bee also responded to your comment.)

Christie said...

Definitely food for thought. I'm always impressed with your political commentary. First, because you say what you think despite receiveing flak from family members, let alone blog readers. And second, because you obviously give a lot of thought to what's best for our country. For someone who loves simplicity, that task often overwhelms me.

Ashlee's comment is interesting. Do you think you'll ever run for political office. I've entertained the notion, but worry that my red-haired heritage might keep me from keeping my cool. Despite what I wrote in patient report #7, I have a hard time acting and then living peacefully with the outcome. When I think I'm right, I want others to think so too. (Sigh.)

Scully said...

I would totally vote for you, or anyone running on that platform.

My problem with the whole US political process is that there is no longer room for reasoned discussion. It has been boiled down to sound bites that are repeated ad nauseum. Additionally, regardless of what a candidate says they will do, they are completely dependent on other politicians w/ other agendas and constituencies. So promises are likely to be broken or not come to fruition unless constituencies are unanimous on an issue. Add in the bitterness between the two parties and the lack of any sort of powerful third party and it seems that reasonable people will never be heard and voters will be stuck voting for the lessor of two evils. And I say this as someone who likes Senator Obama.

Yankee Girl said...

I am with you completely. I loved that article in The New Yorker! I too wish that politicians would focus more on themselves and less on the other candidates.

Suburban Hippie said...


N8Ma said...

Amen and Amen!