Presidential Election of 2012

It’s Not Cooperation with Evil If One Side is Not Evil

Mark Gordon at Vox Nova explains why he is voting for neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney.

For my part, I won’t be voting for either Obama or Romney because both promise to pursue policies that violate my understanding of fundamental Catholic teaching. To invest my democratic franchise in either would, in my opinion, be an abrogation of my first responsibility, which is to to witness to the Gospel in all its dimensions. For me, there can be no disjunction between the two. To permit any other allegiance, identity, issue or ideology to trump the Gospel – even temporarily or provisionally – is, again in my opinion – a form of idolatry. Christian discipleship must be marked first of all by an unyielding evangelical integrity: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness …” (Matthew 6:6). And just as I would hope not to choose a “lesser” evil in my personal or business life, neither can I do so as a citizen. As I’ve often written here, when you choose the lesser of two evils, you still get evil. Christians shouldn’t be in the business of choosing evil.

Such is his right, and if he genuinely believes that voting for either candidate would involve cooperation with evil, then the choice is understandable and perhaps commendable. The problem with Mark’s analysis is that only one candidate affirms positions that are clearly in opposition to dogmatic Church teaching. Continue reading

When the Believers Lose Their Faith In The Religion Of Big Government

President Barack Obama’s debate performances could never equal the expectations of the secular faithful. Many on the far left envisioned an American society where religion was about as important to the populace and politically influential as it is in Sweden. The land of the midnight sun has been a great hope to liberals ever since religion began to erode there in the 1950s and abortion became commonplace in the 1960s. Governor Michael Dukakis famously poured over Sweden’s great Welfare state enterprise to see what he might learn, which of course led to his electoral demise in 1988.

With all of his rhetorical skills, President Obama could never make Americans have a come to Pierre Trudeau, Willy Brandt, Jose Luis Zapatero (pick your favorite Western Democratic Socialist) moment like many Americans have a Come to Jesus moment over failings in their lives. Instead of realizing that not everyone can be suckered into buying Big Government swampland, the Left has taken their frustrations out on the President. If only he were talking more about rising and falling oceans and making them believe we are the ones we have been waiting for; the Left attacks the messenger and not the message.

Frank Rich, the New York Times columnist laments about this in a long New York magazine  article. The writer for the Old Gray Lady states the Americans are somehow too dumb to become like Europeans and surrender their lives to government and not God. He sees little hope and concludes the Tea Party will always prevail in the American persona rather than government control. Talk about a brain trust, can you imagine the anti-religious nuggets thrown around the water cooler when Bill Keller, the former New York Times editor was present. You may recall Keller infamously dubbed himself a “Collapsed Catholic,” fortunately reported to us by former Newsweek Religion Editor Kenneth Woodward, who is not Catholic and hardly a friend of conservatives, but a principled man who couldn’t take any more of the Times’ hypocrisy directed at the Church. I would strongly suggest you read this The New York magazine article for if conservatives mouthed these same thoughts about minorities instead of suburbanites and rural residents, we would be blacklisted.

In my just released book, The Catholic Tide Continues to Turn, I note how the Left turned on Al Smith (the first Catholic standard bearer) after he formed the Liberty League in the mid and late 1930s and told Americans he could no longer support President Roosevelt. This startling development occurred after a number of questionable instances came to light including the Supreme Court Packing Case and the Roosevelt 1938 purge of Conservative Democrats. By 1940 unemployment was still at 14% and if had not been for World War II who knows how long unemployment would have remained in double digits. Continue reading

The Subtle Art of Political Advertising

Back in graduate school a professor of mine discussed the 1984 campaign. One of the national nightly news telecasts (I believe it was ABC) ran a segment basically running down the Reagan economy. It was one of those voiceover features that had a lot of stock footage of Reagan in various places: the Rockies, Mount Rushmore, and other locations featuring Reagan speaking. It was meant to be a devastating piece, but one of the members of Reagan’s campaign team called ABC afterwards and thanked them for the feature. Why? Because the visuals were all of Reagan in these fabulous settings, and in a visual world what appears on screen often trumps the content of the spoken word behind it.

That all crossed my mind when I saw this Barack Obama ad attacking Mitt Romney. Watch this video with the sound down first:

The content of course is absurd. “Partisan experts on our payroll say that Mitt Romney will raise taxes on the middle class to pay for the tax cut for the rich he’s not proposing.” Whatever. It’s par for the course for the Obama administration, and it’s an attack that is resonating less and less each day.

What struck me were the visuals. It shows an authoritative Mitt Romney at the debate. He’s talking in what appears to be a very passionate and confident manner. Meanwhile, President Obama is nodding along with his head down. It just seems like such a bizarre image to portray to the electorate. It’s an almost submissive, timid looking Obama being lectured by Mitt Romney. Considering how people drown out the content of these ads, it’s a visual that essentially reaffirms the post-debate sentiment that Mitt Romney took Barack Obama to school. No matter what was actually said in the ad, the voter is left with a visual image of a beaten-looking president being shown up by an energetic challenger.

Obama may have had a very successful fundraising month, but he might want to reconsider how is money is being used.

Update: Just saw this from Aaron Goldstein where he also ponders why Obama keeps running ads that seem to help Romney.

Negativity About Negativity

We’re roughly 4,231 months into the 2012 presidential campaign, or so it seems. Even if you live in a very secure red or blue state (like me), you’ve probably already been subjected to an endless barrage of television ads if you live within about 300 miles of a swing state. And if you live in Richmond, the capital of the battleground state of Virginia, some 4,504 ads have already run (this one’s not an exaggeration), and exactly zero of them have been positive. That’s right, 4,504 out of the 4,504 ads run thus far in the market have been attack ads.

Such information usually inspires people to bellyache about negative campaigning. For instance, this past weekend I talked to my relatively apolitical brother, who said that a politician would instantly become a mass favorite by just being the first guy to run a positive campaign detailing what he was going to do, and forgoing the attacks on his opponent. I just smiled, nodded, and kept smoking the cigar he had generously given me.

I find the criticism of negative campaigning to be overwrought for three reasons. First of all, as Jim Geraghty mentions, they are simply more effective than positive ads. As he says, “if positive ads worked, campaigns would use them more frequently.” People like to complain about them, but attack ads do have an impact. I don’t know if we can accurately measure how persuasive they are, but campaigns would stop running them if they had any indication that they were ineffective.

Second, are “positive” ads any more bearable? No thirty second television spot is going to convey a tremendous amount of information. While we might roll our eyes as soon as the ominous music rolls while some low-voiced narrator explains why Mitt Romney likes to torture small animals and wants your grandmother to die in the street, the fluffy “Hi, I’m Joe McGenericcandidate, and I like puppies” ads are somehow even worse. Nine times out of ten, positive ads are nothing more than the candidate or his surrogates spouting generic nonsense that conveys almost no substantive information. Moreover, in a culture where people increasingly watch television shows through their DVRs specifically so that they can skip the commercials, we generally find all ads to be annoying. So who cares whether the tone of the political advertisement is positive or negative – they’re all equally insufferable. At least the negative ads are more likely to be somewhat funny and entertaining.

Finally, any person who bases their vote even partly due to political advertising should be banned from the polling booth. The first thing that should happen when a registered voter appears at the judges table  - after flashing photographic identification – is them being asked if they only decided their vote after watching a thirty second television advertisement. If they answer yes, or if they answer no but it’s clear that they’re lying – and we can get people there who can tell when people are lying to them – then they should be politely escorted out of the building. If after several decades of campaigning you still can’t decide who to vote for, and you finally just wave your arms and say “I guess I’ll vote for the guy who says the other guy wants to murder my children in their sleep,” then you really should have no right to vote. I wouldn’t feel much better about this voter if he instead said “I guess I’ll vote for the guy who promises abortions for some and miniature American flags for everyone else.” Political advertising is geared towards dumb people and the politically ignorant (not a mutually exclusive group, necessarily). I really don’t care if the message being conveyed to them is negative or positive. The fact that any political advertising actually sways the electorate is depressing in its own right.

A Few Thoughts About Last Night

As was tweeted by a few individuals, it is remarkable that a conservative, Catholic, Republican – who largely rejects JFK’s sentiments on religion in the public square to boot – won primaries in Alabama and Mississippi.  It’s also becoming evident that exit polling means squat with regards to Rick Santorum.

Mitt Romney continues to be the weakest front-runner imaginable.  It was funny to listen to John Batchelor and his parade of insiders smugly dismiss Santorum’s victories and chat away about the inevitability of Romney’s nomination while Santorum was winning two southern states in which Romney finished third.  Yes, Romney still has an edge, and with victories in American Samoa and Hawaii Santorum’s delegate edge last night was minimal.  But Romney has far from sealed the deal.

Speaking of Romney, his gaggle of supporters truly marked themselves by their utter gracelessness in defeat.  As Mark Levin said, Romney supporters are quickly becoming as obnoxious as Ron Paul supporters.  It’s true that partisans of all of the candidates can be particularly blind to their own candidate’s faults and to exaggerate the foibles of the others, but Romney supporters in all corners of the internet have been particularly bitter and have done little to actually sway others to their side.  What might explain this phenomenon is that unlike the others, Romney voters aren’t particularly enamored with their candidate and are instead motivated by either dislike of the other candidates and/or fear that any other candidate would lose the general election.  So they don’t really have any convincing arguments to make on behalf of Romney, but instead they kick and stomp their feet every time Romney fails to win a primary.  I would suggest that calling those of us who don’t vote for Romney a bunch of hayseed hicks, and suggesting that social cons be banished from consideration this election might just not be a winning strategy.  Just saying.

As for Newt, there is absolutely no compelling reason for him to stay in this race.  He won his home state, the state neighboring his home state, and has otherwise been a distant consideration save for the states he lost last night in the south.  Rick Santorum already had a slight lead in Louisiana, and I think that last night’s victories just about clinches the state for him (though that’s a rather dangerous prediction considering the wildness of this primary season thus far).  That being said, his reasoning for staying in is not all that outrageous.  He suggested that he didn’t want Romney to concentrate all of his fire on Santorum, something I said not that long ago.  And while he has no realistic shot to win the nomination before or even during the Republican convention – is a brokered convention really going to nominate the guy with the third most delegates coming in? – he might be able to prevent Romney from securing the necessary number of delegates, and that seems to be his primary goal.  After all, not all of his supporters will switch to Santorum.  By staying in the race he is hurting Santorum, but he’s also hurting Romney by picking off a few delegates.  Take away Gingrich from last night, and both Santorum and Romney would have won more delegates.  That would have inched Romney closer to the nomination.

On the other hand, I don’t suppose Gingrich contributors are going to be all that enthused to continue propping up a candidate who has no intention of actually winning, and is instead motivated by nothing more than spite.  Also, as was discussed last night, even if Romney fails to secure the precious 1,044 delegates by the time Tampa rolls around, he’ll still be the favorite at a brokered convention if he is significantly ahead of Santorum.  There is no magical candidate that will emerge from the ashes of a brokered convention.  It’s either going to be Romney or it’s going to be Santorum.  Every delegate that Santorum doesn’t win from here until the convention is just as good as a delegate for Romney under a brokered convention scenario.  If Santorum remains fairly close in the delegate count while neither candidate has the necessary majority, then Gingrich can play kingmaker at the convention.  He would be well-advised to drop out sooner than later if he wants to achieve his twin objection of derailing Romney and having a hand in deciding the eventual nominee.

It is Time to Get Rid of Most Campaign Finance Laws

One of the big items today is news that the Romney campaign is bleeding cash.  Considering his all out assault first on Newt Gingrich, and now Rick Santorum, this comes as no surprise.  Yet while Romney spends more in a day than Santorum spent through most of the campaign thus far (only a slight exaggeration, I think), Santorum continues continues to poll ahead of Romney nationally and is neck-and-neck in Romney’s home state.  Of course Romney still has plenty in reserve thanks largely to his Super PAC.  Even Newt Gingrich’s fledgling campaign is still alive thanks to the generosity of one supporter funding a pro-Newt Super PAC.

These Super PACs have come under fire.  They are the indirect result of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, a law which itself amended the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), a law meant to restrict the amount of money that individuals could donate to individual candidates.  FECA created a two-tiered structure that basically divided federal contributions into two categories: hard money and soft money.  Professional sports fans probably recognize the terms as related to soft and hard caps, and it’s really the same concept. Under FECA individuals could only contribute $1,000 to a candidate per election cycle.  Yet there were no restrictions placed on “soft money,” meaning contributions to party committees.  This was the original end-run around campaign finance law.  Under the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA), or McCain-Feingold, individual contribution maxes to candidates were raised, but soft money contributions were phased out.  This, in turn, gave rise to other organizations, mainly 527s, which were able to raise unlimited amounts of money to air issue advocacy ads against candidates.  These various organizations are not technically affiliated with any candidate, and it is a violation of campaign finance law for candidates to collaborate in any way with these groups.

So is it time for another set of reforms?  Indeed it is.  And the reform is simple: repeal all these ridiculous (and arguably unconstitutional) provisions, and allow individuals to contribute whatever amount of money they want directly to candidates.

Continue reading

Newt Fading

I wanted to followup on Don’s post from yesterday about National Review urging Gingrich to exit the race.  As I said in the comments, I owe NRO a slight mea culpa.  I thought that by including Santorum (and Huntsman) with Romney as the candidates they thought worthy of the nomination they were merely blowing smoke.  Yet they have given Santorum fairly favorable coverage, so much so that angry Romney fanboys like Old Fan think that NR is in the tank for Santorum.  I still think the hatchet piece on Gingrich was out of line, so I’m not totally ready to forgive them for that.

As for the actual meat of their suggestion, there is much merit to it.  There have been nine primaries and caucuses thus far.  Gingrich was the landslide winner in South Carolina, but has otherwise done terribly.  He’s finished a distant second twice, and has barely hovered around ten percent in the other contests.  Right now one poll has Gingrich in fourth place behind Ron Paul, and other polls show a clear trend towards Rick Santorum as the favorite among the anti-Romneys.  Now, polls have shifted mightily throughout the campaign season, so Gingrich shouldn’t head for the exits quite yet.  But poor showings in Arizona and Michigan should just about do it for Newt.  Considering the fact that the bulk of his supporters will likely flock to Santorum (where as Santorum supporters are evenly split between Romney and Newt as their backup choices), and that Newt is much more favorably disposed to Santorum than Romney, I would imagine that Newt will not stay in the race if he has another pair of fourth place finishes.

That being said, if National Review wants Gingrich out of the race the last thing it should have done is publish an editorial making this feeling public.  Republican primary voters in general, and Gingrich supporters in particular have, to a large extent, been driven by spite.  It’s practically impossible to read a screed written by a Gingrich supporter that doesn’t mention the “Establishment” once or a dozen times.  Throw in the fact that National Review is already reviled with a special kind of intensity in camp Gingrich – and with good reason – and I can envision Gingrich supporters doubling down.  Newt himself has shown that he is prone to fits of spite, so National Review may have just guaranteed that Newt will stay in the race longer than intended.  In fact I’d submit that if National Review wanted Newt out of the race the best thing it could do is endorse the man.

Unelectable

Santorum 45, Obama 44 according to Rasmussen.

Doesn’t exactly sound like Johnson-Goldwater to me.

I should add, by the way, that it’s just a snapshot of the current mood, and by no means indicative that Santorum would have a free and easy path to a general election victory.  It does show that the grave concerns about Santorum’s ultimate electability are overwrought to say the least.

So, to sum up, Santorum polls better than Gingrich against Obama, is more conservative than Gingrich, and has certainly far less personal baggage than Gingrich.  For those of you still clinging to Gingrich as the anti-Romney of your choice, why?

The Only Conservative Left

The 2012 presidential election cycle is truly one of the most depressing things to behold.  Neither of the top two candidates in the Republican field are particularly appealing, and the incumbent President has made Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan look like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.  Meanwhile, for all the bluster about the Establishment choosing our candidates (a charge not wholly without merit), conservatives have done themselves no favors by engaging in ridiculous character assassinations of any candidate who is not one hundred pure and good – meaning all the candidates.  Meanwhile, superficial bluster about being a conservative is taken more seriously than actual conservative governing records in big states.

To top it all off, the only conservative left in the race is barely gaining any traction, even when dismantling his opponent in exchanges such as this.

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That was far from the only highlight for Santorum.  While Newt and Mitt were busy tearing each other apart for every perceived slight, Rick brought some common sense into the debate.

I don’t think Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich have helped themselves with their terse exchanges on illegal immigration and Fannie & Freddie.

Apparently, Rick Santorum didn’t think so either. He said there was nothing wrong with Newt using his knowledge of Congress to help advise companies and then said there was nothing wrong with Romney making money. Santorum then implored Mitt and Newt, “Leave that alone and focus on the issues,” to strong applause.

Ah, but Senator Santorum is unelectable, according to the all the wise pundits.  There’s no way he could possibly be more electable than the guy who was once portrayed as the “Gingrich who stole Chrismas,” and who has a 2:1 unfavorable to favorable gap in the polls.  And he’s certainly not as electable as the guy who is so darn appealing that Republicans are climbing over themselves to pick anyone else but him to be the nominee, and who has an electoral record that makes the Detroit Lions look like a juggernaut.  Santorum lost his last election by 18 points, and as we all know someone that unpopular can’t ever recover.  No, we need to nominate the guy who left office with a 34% favorability rating, and who didn’t lose his bid at re-election because he didn’t even bother, knowing he was going to get destroyed.  Failing that, we can nominate the guy whose own caucus ran him out of Washington, DC.

But Santorum is unelectable.

We also know Santorum is also unelectable because he holds social views outside of the mainstream.  For instance, Santorum has this notion that marriage is an institution for one man and one woman.  This is such an insane notion that it is only shared by a majority of the American population and the current occupant of the White House.  You see, the problem with Santorum is that, unlike President Obama, he really means it.  As was discussed a couple of weeks ago at Creative Minority Report, Santorum is actually sincere in his beliefs.  So while he might hold policy positions that are identical with the rest of the field, he is the one being mocked because, well, he actually believes what he is saying.

One of the things that occurred to me recently that only augmented my political depression is that Gingrich does hold one electoral advantage over Santorum.  The fact that Gingrich is a twice-divorced man with a checkered past while Santorum is a faithfully married man and father of seven means that independents won’t fear Gingrich as much on social issues.  That’s right – actually being a man of unquestioned personal morality is an electoral disadvantage, because that just makes you seem all the more scaaaaaary.  Thank goodness our elections are decided by the sorts of people who think it’s just creepy that other people think that all life is precious, even lives conceived during rape.

So excuse me if I sit this dance out.

Update:  Great piece by Daniel Allott that discusses “Santorum Derangement Syndrome” and the problems that sincere politicians face.  H/t: Dale Price.

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