Free Markets, Free People
A video that claims “the government is the only thing we all belong too” is being disowned by the Obama Campaign, saying it was a video produced by the host city committee and not the DNC.
But, of course, it carries a Democratic National Convention banner in the lower left corner (another case of incompetence or refusing to be held accountable).
However I’m not so much concerned with who did it than I am with the implication of the message. It serves as a reminder of the premise under which most of the left works.
I don’t belong to any government. Government is my employee. It works for me. It is supposed to do my bidding in a democratic system, and not the other way around.
Now I’m sure that there are those who will listen to this and claim that the speaker is talking about a unity of effort or the uniting effect of government. I.e. regardless of party or ideology we all work under the same government.
But that’s not what he said. “Belong” has a very specific meaning. While talking about why the meme “you didn’t build that” isn’t going away, Rachel Larimore tells us why:
Many moons ago, I spent a couple of years in a fiction-writing program at a local university. I never finished the novel I aspired to write, but I did learn some valuable lessons. The most important: “It doesn’t matter what you meant. What matters is what you conveyed.” In the context of class, that meant when we were sharing our work and listening to feedback, we couldn’t butt in and say that we’d meant something else. We needed to take ourselves out of our own head and try to understand what our readers had heard.
What was conveyed was a message that, to me, is anti-liberty. Sorry to blunt about it, but it reflects a belonging that I reject. I’m not an American because of my government. I don’t belong to any group because of my government. My government exits at my forbearance. It exists solely to serve mine and other American’s needs.
And while we might disagree on is what those needs are and how much government is necessary, I don’t “belong” to the government in any sense whatsoever?
But what this short segment highlights is the very large philosophical gulf that exists between those who believe in individualism and those who are statists. The statement is a statement that glorifies the state while attempting to lump all of us as collectively “owned” by it. Whether or not that’s what the speaker meant, it is what he said and conveyed by using the word “belong”.
It might not be such a big deal if it wasn’t so obviously the usually unspoken belief of so many on the left. What we’re going to see in Charlotte is a celebration of big government and that sort of “belonging”.
I want no part of it.
Wisconsin is a great example of special interest constituency politics. I’m not talking about politics that focus on the constituents in your district or state if you’re an elected representative or senator. I’m talking about special-interest constituents who provide you money and backing when you seek election or reelection – whether from your district or not.
That’s pretty much what is going on in Wisconsin boils down too. Wisconsin’s Republican Governor, Scott Walker has proposed a number of ways to “repair” the budget. In summary, those aimed at public service unions place limits on their existing power:
It would require most public workers to pay half their pension costs – typically 5.8% of pay for state workers – and at least 12% of their health care costs. It applies to most state and local employees but does not apply to police, firefighters and state troopers, who would continue to bargain for their benefits.
Except for police, firefighters and troopers, raises would be limited to inflation unless a bigger increase was approved in a referendum. The non-law enforcement unions would lose their rights to bargain over anything but wages, would have to hold annual elections to keep their organizations intact and would lose the ability to have union dues deducted from state paychecks.
Apparently such limits are simply outrageous. Unions hold annual elections? Public workers pay more toward their pensions and health care costs? And, of course, the bargaining “rights” curtailed in everything but wages?
So that’s prompted an astroturf campaign which has involved organizations outside Wisconsin, to include the White House. The one thing public sector unions can do effectively it seems is “flash mobs”. Reports of advertisements in Illinois aimed at recruiting activists for protests in Wisconsin were common.
The Democratic National Committee also has involved themselves in the local fight.
The Democratic National Committee’s Organizing for America arm — the remnant of the 2008 Obama campaign — is playing an active role in organizing protests against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s attempt to strip most public employees of collective bargaining rights.
OfA Wisconsin’s field efforts include filling buses and building turnout for the rallies this week in Madison, organizing 15 rapid response phone banks urging supporters to call their state legislators, and working on planning and producing rallies, a Democratic Party official in Washington said.
So anyone who thinks this is all “spontaneous” might want to buy a clue.
Meanwhile, all the Democratic state senators in Wisconsin have run off to Rockford, Ill to avoid having to do their jobs. You see, Republicans hold a majority, but are one short of a quorum needed to pass legislation. So without the Democrats, the Senate is unable to act on legislation. Democrats have issued a “list of demands”:
“We demand that the provisions that completely eliminate the ability of workers… to negotiate on a fair basis with their employers be removed from the budget repair bill and any other future budget,” Miller said.
He also demanded legislative oversight on changes to the state’s medical programs, which are targeted for changes in the bill. The bill would also require union members to contribute to their health care and pensions.
My guess is there’s some negotiating room there, but if I were the governor I’d tell Dems that there’ll be no talk about their demands until they act like adults and show back up in the capital ready to do their jobs. And Governor Walker has laid out the alternative fairly clearly:
Walker said the only alternative would be layoffs of 10,000 to 12,000 state and local employees.
Of course, without a quorum, that isn’t the strongest hand in the world. But what Democrats are doing sure seems like a childish tantrum in my eyes. Republicans may not have a quorum and state government may grind to a halt because of it, but I doubt that voters are going to blame members of the GOP for that.
All of this has spawned the usual misinformation as charges and counter-charges fly. Ed Schultz provides an example of a completely false statement about the controversy according to Politifact Wisconsin. Said Shultz:
Under changes being debated, state employees in Wisconsin "who earn $30,000, $40,000, $50,000 a year might have 20 percent of their income just disappear overnight."
Not true. Although state employees would have to pay a higher percentage for their benefits (in the 6 to 11% range) none are looking at “20 percent of their income disappear[ing] over night”.
Unions have been losing favor in the eyes of the American public for years, with a fairly sharp downturn in their popularity in 2007. Since then their favorability rating has stayed about the same, but unfavorable numbers continue to build:
Americans’ attitudes about labor unions changed only slightly over the past year, following a sharp downturn between early 2007 and early 2010. Currently, 45% say they have a favorable opinion about labor unions, while nearly as many (41%) say they have an unfavorable opinion.
In January 2007, 58% said they had a favorable opinion of unions; 31% had an unfavorable opinion.
Tantrums like this, astroturfing and the plain old uncivil behavior aren’t going to help their case. Ann Althouse has some examples of the latter. It appears that Adolph Hitler has made a comeback among the left in Wisconsin. Civility is only a requirement for those on the right, apparently. The left – well it’s the left and any insult and comparison, no matter how outrageous, is perfectly fine. Godwin’s law is in effect in Wisconsin.
I think Wisconsin is only the beginning of these sorts of spectacles and fights. Entrenched bureaucracies and unions aren’t going to give up their power easily and go quietly in the night. How they conduct themselves in this sort of fight will be important though. The point, one assumes, is to bring visibility to their arguments and persuade the public to back them. If that’s the case, I don’t think the way the Wisconsin protesters (and legislators) are prosecuting their case will be held up as a model to be emulated.
Cuts are coming – whether made willingly or forced by reality. There’s no escaping that. Gov. Walker is trying to get ahead of that curve.
Human nature says no one wants to see their ox gored, regardless of reality’s demands. But in a battle for public opinion, acting like children, calling people Nazis and importing out-of-state protesters in what is really a local fight doesn’t seem to be the best way to get the public on your side.
The consensus among election experts is the 2010 midterm elections are most likely to see Democrats lose seats in both the House and Senate. The question, of course, is how many? And, will they lose enough seats for the Republicans to take control of the House and/or Senate?
Dealing with the Senate first, the answer is “no”. The most likely number of seats picked up by the GOP is 7. That would give them 48 and a very strong minority. That may end up being better, in this case, than a majority. Certainly 48 will give them the power to stop just about anything in the Senate, and, if they so desire, pass legislation only with their amendments attached.
In the House, Republicans need 39 seats to take control. They’ll most likely pick up between 32 and 39. Even if they don’t hit that magic 39, they’ll have a much stronger minority that will have to be reckoned with by Pelosi and company to get anything done there.
You know it’s going to be bad for Democrats, because Joe Biden is sure it won’t be.
What that all means is even if the GOP doesn’t have control of Congress after the midterms (and many argue – to include myself – that perhaps they’re better off not having control), they will have a considerably stronger hand then now in the national legislature.
Which brings us to the emerging campaign strategies of each party. On the GOP side, it appears that Republicans want to “nationalize” the elections. I.e. they want to make the midterms a referendum on the Obama administration. You’ll be seeing they tying everything back to the first 2 years of the Obama presidency, the economy, the oil spill and the out-of-control spending. I don’t think it will be hard to sell.
Given the precedent set under the Bush administration when Democrats successfully made all elections referendums on the presidency, it has become accepted by voters that party equals president and they act in concert. Hence the way you punish the president and his party is to turn out members of Congress that represent that party – or variations on that theme.
Given that, the Democrats will obviously attempt to counter the GOPs strategy by keeping things “local” if possible. How well that will work, given the tumultuous two years of the Obama presidency and the fact it is Congress under Democratic leadership which has passed deeply unpopular legislation, is anyone’s guess. Mine is it won’t work very well. Votes for health care and stimulus, for instance, will be key “national” topics with which GOP candidates will hit incumbent Democrats.
Which then leaves Democrats trying to fashion a Get Out The Vote (GOTV) strategy which they hope will re-create their 2008 electoral victory.
To avoid such losses, the Democratic National Committee has committed to spending tens of millions of dollars to re-create (or come somewhere near re-creating) the 2008 election model, in which Democrats relied heavily on higher-than-normal turnout from young people and strong support from African American and Hispanic voters.
They’re talking turnout here, not percentages – for instance, African-Americans have always voted in the 90% area for Democrats. The percentage they need in this election is 90% of African-Americans showing up at the polls. Same with Hispanic and young voters.
And that is the job the DNC plans on giving Obama in the lead up to the November vote.
The likelihood of that happening, however, is not especially good. We’ve been chronicling the “enthusiasm gap” for months. The far left is let down. Independent voters are disenchanted and the right is very enthusiastic about “change” again.
Funding is also drying up for Democrats. The latest big donors to drop Democrats are from Wall Street – a traditional well-spring of funding for the party.
The bottom line here is the stars seem to be lining up for the GOP in the midterms, barring any unforeseen event which might mitigate their advantage. The question will be have you had enough of hope and change as a billboard in NE Minnesota presently asks. Conventional wisdom says the answer will be a pretty resounding “yes”. The only question is how much they want to change the status quo.
The videos of what are described as “angry” townhalls around the country keep pouring in. Here’s one from Green Bay, WI.
Of course there are tons of others.
The Democrats and the left have answered the protests by claiming that they’re nothing more than “right-wing extremists” under the control of powerful interest groups. Thus the charge of “astro-turfing”.
These accusations by the DNC seem to ignore the Tea Party movement’s origins which was, on inspection, a true grass-roots movement (and one that has taken both Democrats and Republicans to task for their profligate spending). Notice too that they include the “birthers” in their vid to underline their “extremist” claim.
The White House, instead of trying to calm the waters, has chosen employ Saul Alinsky against the protesters:
A key part of the developing strategy: ridicule the opposition — and portray those who disrupt meetings with loud chants and signs as part of the same ilk of people who showed up at campaign rallies for John McCain and Sarah Palin right after the 2008 Republican National Convention.
So this turns into a propaganda war. The left will be attempting to turn public opinion against the protesters by portraying them a certain way.
Patronizing opponents is a tried and true tradition in Washington, and Democrats have used the tactic with success. They ridiculed the hundreds of thousands of conservatives who protested the stimulus package as “tea baggers.”
But Republicans are just as responsible for the perception. The folks who tend to show up at protest events tend to be to the right of the mean in the party. And, as the spread of the birther movement demonstrates, not a small chunk of these Republicans are reactionaries. The challenge for the White House and Democrats is that they find a way to separate genuinely anxious conservatives who ask good questions — even if those questions are provided by conservative groups — and the crazies who tend to pack town hall meetings.
Of course, most reasonable people would suggest, upon reflection, that if this was an “astro-turfed” movement, those who are paying for it would have much tighter control and avoid the obviously unhelpful signage and any connection with the birther movement. That’s obviously not the case.
So the right and Republicans have the momentum, at least for now, but it isn’t clear if they have an advantage for the reasons stated.
The challenge for Republicans is to prevent the media from labeling everyone who attends a meeting with a Democratic lawmaker and who calls him or herself a conservative as a crazy person. Some polling suggests that the percentage of Republicans who don’t know whether President Obama was born in the United States is fairly high, although it is hard to say how much of that confusion stems from ignorance or from a generally jaundiced, perhaps racist, view of the President.
A range of smaller, ideologically conservative interest groups are organizing the protests. Finding pockets of activist-oriented arch-conservatives in places like Texas, Missouri and Indiana is easy, especially if the set goal is to defeat Obama-care, which is being sold to these people as the approach of government-run health care, something that these folks have been worried about for years. Add to the mix a desire to hand the progressive President and his agenda a decisive defeat.
And there’s an interesting question about pushing back on the left – where are its activists and organizations?
The more troublesome question for Democratic strategists is why the major Democratic groups, including Organizing for America, the labor unions, Health Care for America Now, seem to be flatfooted and unable to match the much smaller conservative organizing capacity in these critical districts. One answer is that the media pays attention to the loudest voices, which are coming from the right. The other is that organizing around major — even popular — reforms of existing institutions is tough. The Democrats don’t have a single bill right now, and the elite left is worried about what’s not in the cards — a public plan — and is therefore fairly unenthusiastic. If the liberal elite isn’t enthusiastic, the liberal base — less knowledgeable — will be as well.
And of course, there’s the media – which, it seems, leans mostly toward helping the administration. For instance, the conclusion of the article from which I’ve been quoting from Mark Ambinder at The Atlantic:
To focus minds, Democrats are coordinating TV and radio ad blitzes, including the biggest expenditures by the Democratic National Committee to date. President Obama, his cabinet and his vice president will be ubiquitous. Quickly responding to disinformation will be a key goal, an administration official said, pointing to this morning’s release of a video from Linda Douglass, a former television and print reporter who serves as a key White House health care adviser, which rebutted a misleading video posted on the Drudge Report.
Linda Douglass “rebutted” nothing. She made a bunch of claims she’d have difficulty substantiating. But that is how it is being reported. The implication is that what is coming from the right is “disinformation” and the only true source of factual information is the White House.
I think we all know that dog won’t hunt.
But this should be a very, very interesting August.
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