Saturday, July 17, 2004

Rebel Yell?

I think the Conservative wing of American politics is on the verge of a severe identity crisis, very similar to what the Liberals went through about 15 years ago. At the moment, far from being a coherent whole, the Republican party is split into at least four different factions:
1) The Rockefellers: As I blogged before, this group is close to being an endangered species. They lost the original GOP civil war to Ronald Reagan and the more fundamentalist right in the 1980s. The Rockefellers are fiscally conservative, but socially moderate. Their numbers are steadily decreasing as they are the polar opposite of the current predominant GOP group, the Fundamentalists.
2) The Fundamentalists: This group is currently in control of the GOP leadership. It is very socially conservative, but unlike traditional Republicans it is far less concerned with fiscal moderation. The Fundamentalists sprang out of the populists in the south and west that used to vote predominantly Democratic. This group was economically akin to the Democrats in terms of spending, but far to its right on social issues. While the type of spending the Fundamentalists prefer is very different than that of the populists (being more focused on the rich and corporations), the character of the populism movement is still present in their support for giant farm subsidies and pork projects.
3) The Traditionalists: This group is economically and socially quite conservative. Personified by Senators John McCain and Chuck Hagel, it is the most recent group to display friction with the GOP leadership. Unlike the Rockefellers and Libertarians, it still has a reasonably strong following, and has gained the advantage recently by being seen as "straight-talkers." If a viable challenge does break out to the Fundamentalists, it will probably come from this group, with support from the remaining Rockefellers.
4) The Libertarians: Traditionally, this group has been the most isolated from GOP power circles, representing "extreme Rockefellers" in a sense. Many Libertarians are faced with an identity crisis at the moment, as the Democratic party (with its new found love-affair with fiscal discpline) is closer to their views on both social and economic policy. Unless the Republican party changes course soon, they could bolt en masse.

And if that wasn't enough, three of these four groups are internally divided on the merits of Neo-Conservatism vs. Isolationism (the Libertarians are pretty solidly isolationist, with the exception of a strong support of free trade)!

At the moment, the Republican party is still united behind President Bush (though we've seen chinks in that armor, McCain and the Rockefellers have started to find their voice again to protest certain Bush policies). If President Bush wins this election, the Fundamentalists will have enough of a mandate to maintain control of the Republican party. If he loses though, then a vicious internal party spate could develop.

The New York Times had an interesting article on the growing fissures within the Conservative movement.

Friday, July 16, 2004

What is Non-Partisanship?

Some Republican groups seem to have a trouble figuring out that one can be an honest conservative without engaging in vicious partisanship. From GOP USA (on the merits of various pro-Bush KETCHUP brands of all things!):
Attempting to address the specific charge by Bush Country Ketchup that it did not support Bush or Republicans, Oliver offered the paradoxical answer that he wanted W Ketchup to "be Republican but not partisan, having a positive message all Americans could agree on."

Paradoxical? It makes perfect sense to me, especially considering how many baseline conservative principles (Federalism, Small Government, Fiscal Discpline, etc) the Bush administration has ignored or demolished.

Now, you may think its a bit silly to be drawing conclusions about GOP mentalities from a debate on ketchup. But I ask you, which party is making Ketchup a valid point of partisan contention? Who's silly now?

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

FMA Fails in Senate

The US Senate just voted 48-50 on a procedural motion to bring the Federal Marriage Amendment to a vote. Though virtually all Republicans and Democrats agreed the bill had no chance of achieving the super-majority needed for passage, the symbolic denial of a majority to those who wish to encode discrimination into our constitution is significant.

Though I support gay marriage in general and thus would oppose any law or statute designed to bar it, the FMA should be abhorrent even to conservatives. At the very least, the amendment should restrict itself to federal definition and federal courts, leaving the ultimate decision on what marriage is to the individual states. That would be consistent with Conservative notions of federalism and states rights, as well as allowing the people to decide how their community wants to view this sacred contract. But the FMA, by imposing its dogma on both the federal government AND the states, violates these tenets and showcases the hypocrisy of the modern Republican party.

Republicans who voted against the cloture motion:
John McCain (AZ), Ben Nighthorse Campbell (CO), John Sunnunu (NH), Susan Collins (ME), Olympia Snowe (ME), and Lincoln Chaffee (RI). Independent Jim Jeffords (VT) also voted against the motion.
Democrats who voted for the cloture motion:
Ben Nelson (NE), Zell Miller (GA), Robert Byrd (WV)

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

PA hit with $116 Million Dollar Judgment

The US District Court for the state of Rhode Island just came down with a ruling in Estate of Ungar ex rel. Strachman v. Palestinean Authority. Finding the PA and PLO default, they ordered a $116 million dollar judgment to the estate and heirs of Mr. Ungar, an American citizen who was killed in a suicide bombing in Israel. A nice counterpoint to the ICJ ruling, I think.

Relevant Case Code is Title 18 USC Part I Chapter 113b Sec. 2333(a):
Any national of the United States injured in his or her person, property, or business by reason of an act of international terrorism, or his or her estate, survivors, or heirs, may sue therefor in any appropriate district court of the United States and shall recover threefold the damages he or she sustains and the cost of the suit, including attorney's fees.

The full opinion can be found here, though its virtually all about jurisdiction.

Division of Labor

Its amazing, and somewhat frustrating, that all the best arguments on the European/American division of labor have come AFTER I graduated. Anyway, from The New Republic, 7/13/04, Economist writer Robert Lane Greene writes:
...Britain intervened recently in Sierra Leone, and France sent troops to the Ivory Coast. Both were missions in former colonies with little strategic importance, but in which ugly humanitarian crises called out for intervention. With U.S. forces stretched thin in the rest of the world--and a domestic population leery of using the army for "social work"--these are not the type of interventions America would be inclined to take on.
A division of labor makes sense for both America and Europe. America will certainly continue to do the heavy war-fighting. After all, it's inconceivable that Europe would have to fight against a serious military power without any American help, a fact that Chirac does not seem to appreciate. Meanwhile, Europe can lead in small regional crises in the Balkans and in their ex-colonies (which, after all, take up most of the world). Europe can also do most of the "softer"--but far from easy--tasks like peacekeeping. Even Europe's smaller countries can make themselves helpful by developing divisions with special skills, such as Norway's mine-clearing and mountain experts, or the Czech Republic's mobile biological and chemical weapons detection units. With Europe and America both needing each other and both able to help, no one has to feel taken advantage of, or ignored.

Happy hunting everyone!

Monday, July 12, 2004

ICJ Ruling on the Israeli Fence

After much searching, I finally found the ICJ ruling on the Israeli fence. The National Review gives a brief synopsis about why the ruling is simply absurd. However, this quote particularly struck me:
The Court considers that the military exigencies contemplated by these texts [the 4th Geneva Convention and the 1907 Hague Regulations] may be invoked in occupied territories even after the general close of the military operations that led to their occupation. However, on the material before it, the Court is not convinced that the destructions carried out contrary to the prohibition in Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention were rendered absolutely necessary by military operations.

What exactly would convince them of the "absolute necessity" of Israel's military situation? Maybe a couple 100 more suicide bombings will have them come to their senses.
(A link to the whole opinion can be found here
A side note: Am I the only one amused to hear that the opinion in the case was written by a Chinese Justice? Because its not like the Chinese have ever experimented with putting up a big wall to keep out invaders and barbarians.

Tom DeLay is Corrupt...Nobody Surprised

Breaking News! The Washington Post reports that Tom DeLay is corrupt! Tommorow: Bill Clinton Revealed to Be Attracted to Women!

Sunday, July 11, 2004

GOP Moderates

The American Prospect's latest article on the centrist wing of the Republican party has given me the opportunity to reflect on the state of GOP moderates.

The steady decline in so-called Rockefeller Republicans, dedicated to fiscal discipline but openminded on social issues has been one of the defining characteristics of recent political history. The Republican base has shifted away from upscale, northeastern suburbia and into the deep south and west, a region whose bread and butter is social issues, not economic ones. What economic desires they do have tend to come in the form of pork barrel spending and military bases, all which the GOP has adopted whole-heartedly at the expense of budgetary restraint. Virtually all of the GOPs moderates come from Northeastern states that are considered Democratic locks for the presidency (Sens. Snowe and Collins from Maine, Chaffee from Rhode Island, Rep. Shays from Connecticut, Gov. Pataki from New York). I won't go so far to say this is BAD for the Republican party; I mean, the fact remains that the majority of their voters are red-meat conservatives now rather than the Rockefeller tribe, and that should determine where the party goes. At the same time, one has to wonder how long the beleaguered moderates can last in a party beholden to its fundamentalists.

My home congressional district, which is overwhelmingly Democrat, was represented for 16 years by Connie Morella, probably the most liberal republican in the house, until she was ousted by Chris Van Hollen in 2002. I knew she was in trouble when the primary argument given by her supporters in favor of keeping her ran along of the lines of "Who do you think will have more influence: A first term backbencher in the minority party, or a 8 term veteran?" The sad thing was, I think that it was honestly a push, because I knew that the GOP leadership in the house couldn't care less about its moderate wing. To Tom Delay, there isn't a difference between Morella and Van Hollen, despite the nominal party affiliations.

The GOP is teetering on the edge of disaster. If it loses this election, there will be a bitter civil war between the party leadership and the "new moderates" (such as John McCain of Arizona and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska) dissatisfied with the fundamentalist social and reckless economic policies that have come to represent the Republican party (tellingly, none of these "new moderates" would be considered anything close to moderate under the old standard). My dream scenario is that disaffected Republicans and Blue-Dog Democrats all follow Jim Jeffords footsteps and bolt to create a new party in the center. Can anyone imagine the havoc a McCain/Lieberman ticket would have on this election?