The tasting menu of politics has a new option

I love a good price fixe tasting menu. At a good restaurant, I don’t need many choices. I want to know what the chef thinks is his/her best, and I want to eat it. It helps that I love food, and am not in any way a picky eater, so these kinds of menus make me happy. For others, these menus are a nightmare. Sometimes they have an appetizer that sounds good, but nothing on the main courses, and other times there’s a good sounding main course, but the appetizers all sound awful. For many, this is a perfect metaphor for politicians.

Although the menu metaphor is all mine, I can’t take credit for this morning’s realization, it comes entirely from my lovely wife. For a long time, I have known many people who considered themselves fiscally conservative and socially liberal. Last spring, the conservative Cato Institute released a report arguing that this type of thinking was on the rise. This sentiment is found in Gallup polling also, with people more likely to say that they are liberal on social issues than fiscal issues, and more likely to self-identify as conservative on fiscal issues than on social issues. For many people, this left them having to pick one or the other, because most candidates didn’t offer that combination they sought. Candidates were either liberal (fiscally and socially) or conservative (fiscally and socially), and people were left feeling like no candidate represented them very well. Living in a state like New York, this seems to be the majority of GOP voters that I know personally. Those who think that gay marriage is probably fine, civil rights are important, death penalty is not a good idea, and they might even be pro-choice (at least to some degree), but they want lower taxes and less spending on things they deem wasteful, and have a philosophical aversion to government taking from them to give to others against their will. For them, they’ve voted republican and swallowed the bitter pill of social conservativism* (see note on my usage) in order to get the desired fiscal conservativism. There are other voters who might benefit from a fiscal liberal, but they vote conservative, likely because they are aligned with the social issues, and were willing to accept the fiscal conservativism, or even found ways to rationalize it (it’s just fair, keep government off all our backs, I might be a millionaire one day, etc). Having spent some time at Catholic schools, I have friends that fit this mold too. Some who consider themselves consistently pro-life, which, for them means being anti-abortion, but also anti-death penalty, pro-social welfare programs, pro-immigration. For many of these voters, they voted republican because of the abortion issue, but longed for a candidate who would be more aligned with them on the social issues that they believe fit better with their Catholic values. In all of these cases, for a long time, we’ve had conflicted voters who needed to sacrifice one thing to get the other, and had to pick which was more important. Then, for many of them, along came Trump.

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Trump: should our behavior only be as good as the worst around us?

The story about the exchange between Michelle Fields (a former Breitbart News reporter) and Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski has finally reached the mainstream media. This has been a pretty crazy story, and I think the real story is about how Breitbart News handled the situation (firing Fields, seemingly to maintain their blatantly supportive stance toward Trump), which may or may not become a bigger part of the coverage. Either way, I’m happy that this is all getting some attention, and something this morning on the Today Show was enough to get me to dust off my keyboard and post something here for the first time in more than two weeks.

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I need to be nicer to others, and respect their beliefs more

Yes, this post is about me, and written to me. I am putting something in writing as a reminder of how I want to see the world, and as a reminder about respecting differences in opinion. I need to be clear, this is about opinion, not facts. I will still judge people who completely ignore factual information, like the approximate age of the earth, the DNA that we have in common with bacteria, the (sort of) recent rise in global temperatures, etc. Those are facts and, as the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, “everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”

But which candidate you or I like, which person makes you laugh or makes you cry, which person you love or don’t love, which god you believe or don’t believe in…those are not factual decisions. Personally, I don’t believe those are things we have all that much control over. Sure, we can look for information to make us dislike somebody we used to like, so the act of trying to dislike somebody may produce the evidence needed to make that change. But, for the most part, I think we have initial reactions to things for many different reasons, and I think it’s counterproductive, and divisive to say things like, “these people are idiots for liking [fill in the blank].” Saying things like, “you don’t really like [fill in the blank], do you?” fly in the face of appreciating that people are different, and like different things.

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What separates parts of the GOP from democrats?

I don’t like Laura Ingraham very much, but she wrote a piece recently about the GOP and Trump that has some real insight, and perhaps even some common ground.
“I do not see how you can ask the working-class people of this country to support a collection of policies that have failed them over and over and over.”
I completely agree. I do wonder what policies she would support to help the working-class. Give more support to unions who fight for better working environments and better pay for the working class? Give more support to regulations that make the workplace safer for workers, at the expense of the company? Support increases in minimum wage laws so the working poor can rely on their salaries instead of shifting the burden to food stamps? I somehow don’t think Ingraham and I would agree on how to fix these problems, but I’m still happy to hear that she thinks it’s a problem. Like my earlier post about responding to government failure and the logic in the response to it, I’m left wondering exactly how she wants to solve this problem, and why she doesn’t support the same things somebody like me does.

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We didn’t start the fire…or did we?

Jeb Bush has dropped out of the GOP primary, leaving behind Ohio Governor John Kasich as the last of the more “establishment” choices in the GOP primary. Some might say that Rubio is “establishment,” but he’s not your typical GOP presidential candidate — maybe more like the typical candidate than Trump or Cruz is, but a young Senator like Rubio doesn’t fit the stereotypical image of the GOP standard bearer like Bush, Dole, McCain, or Romney. It’s a different year indeed. George Will wrote a piece not too long ago accusing Trump of damaging the GOP. I can see Will’s point, and I sympathize with him, but I don’t think that Trump’s message would resonate if the support for it didn’t already exist. I think Trump is revealing something that already exists in the party, but I don’t think he deserves credit for actually causing the damage. I think that rests on the heads of the party itself, particularly in the way they’ve acted over the past seven years. Let’s go deeper.

Continue reading “We didn’t start the fire…or did we?”