Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Thoughts after Election Day

So, the Democrats won both houses of Congress, a majority of the governerships, and Rumsfeld's head on a platter. Happy days are here, right? A new golden age of peace, prosperity and virtuous government is upon us at last, right? We'll see. In 1994, when the GOP swept both houses of Congress, I was still an active Democrat, but I wasn't terribly sorry about the results of that election. I thought it would do some good for the Democrats to be a minority again and spend some time in the political wilderness. I thought the GOP might actually make some needed reforms and do some good. And in a few small cases like welfare reform, I thought they did. But whatever change they brought was pretty far from the bold promises of the "Contract with America" (which, you might remember, included term limits for members of Congress). I vividly remember John Kasich telling a reporter, who asked in 1997 why the Republicans hadn't eliminated hundreds of useless federal programs like they'd promised, "You just don't get it. The jig is up around here when it comes to cutting the budget." Apparently the spirit of reform that had brought them to power two years earlier evaporated quickly once they were in the majority. My cynicism about our two-party system deepened, and when George W. Bush "won" the presidency in 2000, I made this prediction to some of my close friends, Republican and Democrat alike: even if he served for a full eight years, we would still have a Marxist tax code, social security, estate taxes and abortion when he left office. I said it to my Democratic friends to put their minds at ease, and I said it to my Republican friends as a cynical statement of just how far I believed Bush would really push his "conservative" agenda. And I stand by that prediction. Aside from his consistently conservative social-religious views, there was (and still is) little that is genuinely conservative about this president, or about most Republicans these days. The fact is, whatever spirit of reform occasionally grips one of our two major parties, it always evaporates quickly once they're in power. Despite some sincere people on both sides of the aisle, neither of these two parties has a serious, lasting interest in any kind of meaningful reform. Above all else, they are interested in seizing and maintaining power. With a system that effectively shuts out third parties and thus healthy competition, they have no compelling reason to change, so this cycle continues every decade or so. Now the pendulum has swung back in the Democrats' favor... for a time. We'll see how long it lasts and how much good they actually do. My expectations are pretty low, considering the sorry act they're following. If they could at least provide some restraint on federal spending and a recklessly interventionist foreign policy, I would be grateful. But I'm not holding my breath.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Thoughts on Election Day

I have no interesting predictions to make about the outcome of today's election. I tried to vote but couldn't because I forgot to register within the 30-day window (I recently moved to a new county). Doh. At first I was disappointed, but my straight Libertarian protest vote wouldn't have helped elect a single person to office anyway. As angry as I am at the GOP's rampant betrayal of real conservative values like fiscal responsibility and prudent foreign policy, I just can't bring myself to be an enabler for a stagnant, intellectually bankrupt two-party system. If the Democrats win the House and/or Senate today, it won't be because they captured the public's imagination with better ideas. As is almost always the case, the one party out of power will win because the electorate eventually got too disgusted with the (only other) party in power. Boy, what an inspiring system. As long as the American public doesn't have to grapple with any new ideas... that's the important thing. And speaking of new ideas, I've been thinking more and more about a suggestion floating around out there that we move Election Day to Veterans Day. I like it, for a number of important symbolic reasons, but with the qualification that I would like it to be on Veterans Day weekend. If you want to maximize voter participation, it makes a hell of a lot more sense (to me, anyway) to hold elections on a Saturday than it does on a Tuesday.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Old-school conservatives speak out

This weekend on "Foreign Exchange," Fareed Zakaria interviewed Andrew Sullivan, the author of the new book, The Conservative Soul: How We Lost it, How to Get it Back. Sullivan's unorthodox advice for Tuesday's election? Vote Democratic. Meanwhile, Fareed has an excellent article in Newsweek about rethinking our strategy in Iraq, and George Will derides Cheney and the war in Iraq in general. Whether you agree with them or not, it's refreshing to see "old-school conservative realists speaking out." It's just a shame it took them so long.