Friday, November 25, 2005

Let's Talk About McCain

Happy day after thanksgiving, everyone! On this day when most Americans are relentlessly urged to start thinking one month ahead (a.k.a. Christmas shopping), I want to think about THREE YEARS ahead: Election 2008. I just read a thoughtful piece by Ari Berman in The Nation that talks about one potential GOP nominee who is just itching to be President: John McCain.

Many Democrats are now debating about our own nominee (to Hilary or not to Hilary? I say "no")...but what about the Republicans? While Berman points out how much of an uphill fight McCain will face in the GOP primary, I think it is quite possible that he will seem the only viable nominee with moderate appeal and thus a chance of winning, given the continuing downward slide of the Bush Administration. So, I would argue, it is worthwhile to discuss ahead of time how progressives might respond to a McCain nomination.

I think Berman makes a lot of good points about how far-right McCain really is on many issues despite his maverick image. (For a more spirited attack on McCain, see's Matt Stoller on "The McCain Scam", with a follow-up here.) On the other hand, McCain's commitment to campaign finance reform does seem genuine, and he at least stands against torture (scary how that is even an issue!) He would certainly not be as bad as Bush II (but then, who would be?) Yet it is hard to imagine that a McCain presidency would reverse many of the awful directions in which Bush & Cheney have taken this country, given his expressed support for so many of their positions. I wonder what readers of this blog think about how progressives should respond to a potential McCain nomination?

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Sunday Sermon

Take a look at Robert Jensen's sermon from last Sunday. I've mentioned before on this site that Jensen is one of my favorite political writers. Although not a professing Christian, he was invited to give the Sunday sermon at a sympathetic Presbyterian church in Austin, Texas, where he lives. The result is a fascinating manifesto that links together political and social action, religion, and some hard-hitting reflections about science and technology.

As a person interested in all three of those realms, I was glad to come across Jensen's sermon. (Thanks to my Mom for e-mailing it to me!) His apocalyptic vision of our current predicament is reminiscent of world-systems scholar Immanuel Wallerstein's perspective that we have now entered a time of great crisis and uncertainty in the world. I realize that, to my fellow historians, this probably will seem quite suspicious (having been proclaimed many times before!), but I wonder if we look at the historical record with an open mind, will we not see that many of the larger structures (cultural, social, economic, environmental) that hold the modern world together are indeed coming under tremendous stress? We need people like Jensen to remind us of the bigger picture.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Back to the Issue of Voting Trends: Realignment Time?

I've noticed a fair amount of on-line buzz about the possibility of a historic realignment among voters in the upcoming election cycles. The basic premise is that Democrats and progressives should respond to the increasing disaffection with the Bush Administration. Part of this is simply stressing that Bush is a Republican and that his corruption and bad governance are facilitated by a Republican-controlled Congress.

More deeply, the realignment talk puts us squarely back into the terrain of ambivalent_maybe's lengthy posts of a few weeks back on U.S. voting trends. For an interesting perspective, scroll down the Democrats sub-section of the blog to see Scott Shields's article, "Cracking the Conservative Base," which itself links to an article in a conservative magazine that is worried about just that possibility.

Two segments of the Pew Center's political typology of particular interest to Shields and the conservatives he quotes are the Social Conservatives and Pro-Government Conservatives. According to the excerpt from the conservative magazine quoted on that blog, the Republican Party is "dependent for its power on supermajorities of the white working class vote, and a party whose constituents are surprisingly comfortable with bad-but-popular liberal ideas like raising the minimum wage, expanding clumsy environmental regulations, or hiking taxes on the wealthy to fund a health care entitlement." Since I happen to think those ideas are good, not bad, I am heartened by the possibility of a large segment of Republican base that may be more ready to switch voting allegiance.

Also, as a committed Christian, I am perhaps more optimistic than might be some more secular progressives about the possibility of winning over working-class Christian voters with appeals to economic and social justice. To be sure, there are some social conservatives whose strong interest in what to me are scapegoating moral issues such as abortion and gay rights will keep them wary of any realignment in voting behavior. However, I believe there are also some who would participate in a re-energized progressive politics around issues relating to, for example, protecting our children against the forces of corporate commercialization, or making sure that we can provide for health care and disaster relief for poor and working-class people.

The main caution I have about all this relignment talk is that the success of the Democratic Party in elections not be conflated with good policy. If Democrats try to appeal to social conservatives by rushing to the perceived center on various issues, they will never be able to win over the hard-core anti-abortion and anti-gay crowd (to whom the Republicans can seemingly always out-pander) and may once again in DLC-style adopt "centrist" pro-business positions on economic issues that will virtually guarantee that disaffected Republican voters either not vote at all or keep voting GOP. The promise of a politics of realignment should lie in articulating a core of progressive policy ideals, such as those that guided the Democratic Party starting with FDR, and can thus potentially hold allegiance for decades, not just one election cycle. Moreover, for someone like me who is sympathetic to "third party" (Green, etc.) arguments and positions, it is important that any relignment bring into power a progressively-energized Democratic Party, not simply a cautious imitation of the Republicans that will give in to the status quo as far as how corporate interests influence American politics--as we saw during the Clinton years. Let us pursue a realignment that is both robust over time and visionary-progressive in its substance.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Accountability for Bush & Cheney?

As those of us who oppose the Bush Administration (an increasing number, it seems!) celebrate the success of Democrats in yesterday's off-year elections, we must remember that there is still a very, very long road ahead of us. As part of the effort to keep the focus on holding Bush, Cheney, and Co. accountable, my favorite '04 presidential candidate, Dennis Kucinich, is doing his part by leading a resolution of inquiry into the fabricated intelligence that was used to justify war in Iraq. (For Kucinich's most recent floor speech on the issue, look here.) Also, I'm glad to see that Harry Reid and other Democratic Party leaders are finally showing some spine, such as by demanding that Bush make a pledge not to pardon any top administration officials (Libby, possibly Rove) who are convicted of felonies in connection with the investigation of the Plame leak.