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Jay Lake
Date: 2008-04-24 05:05
Subject: [politics] McCain and Bush
Security: Public
Music:the air conditioner hum, it goes mmmmmm..
I've been thinking about the McCain campaign, and what it means to run in the shadow of eight years of Bush 43. Consider Bush 41, running essentially as four more years of Reaganism. I never liked Ronald Reagan worth a damn, in fact my reactions to him were a big portion of the formation of my political opinions, but I don't have a lot of trouble seeing why conservatives in America considered him a hero both then and now. When Reagan left office, his approval ratings were 64%1.

Here's McCain, running on the heels of Bush 43, who currently tracks an approval rating lower than Nixon's, 28% as of 4/202 (some polls do show higher, though not substantially so). I'm trying to sort out what conservatives and Republicans can point to as the successes of eight years of GOP rule, six of them in complete control of all three branches of government.
  • Tax cuts
  • Reduction of entitlement programs
  • Easing of burdensome regulations
  • Protection of American business and political interests through denying international interference such as the Kyoto Agreement
  • Extensions of American business and political interests through trade policy
  • Maintaining and extending a conservative majority in the Supreme Court
  • Expanding conservative presence on the lower courts
  • Increased immigration enforcement
  • Ongoing defense of Second Amendment rights
  • Protection of family values and religious freedoms
  • Muscular foreign policy projecting American interests overseas
  • Liberation of Iraq
  • Removal of the Iraqi WMD threat
  • Aggressive combating of terrorism
  • Overthrow of the Taliban
  • Marginalization of al-Qaeda
  • Containment of North Korean and Iranian nuclear ambitions

Insofar as I can tell, these seem to be the things conservatives view as successes.

Several of these items are flatly counterfactual, and almost all of them are childishly easy to argue against from an objective standpoint. Even if they are all true, so what? The middle and lower class are not better off financially than they were eight years ago, the economy is as troubled as it's been since the Depression, the dollar is at record lows, oil is at record highs, our security and military posture is fantastically strained.

What's McCain's value proposition in election 2008? What does the GOP brand stand for now? Four more years of the same? Or are conservatives reduced to voting as I have voted for most of my life, for the lesser of the evils?

1. See http://uspolitics.about.com/od/polls/l/bl_historical_approval.htm. It's ironic to note that Reagan's end-of-term approval ratings are slightly less than Bill Clinton's end of term ratings.

2. See http://www.pollingreport.com/BushJob.htm.
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User: theresamather
Date: 2008-04-24 14:47 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Living in a very red state, I can tell you that the majority of Utah Repubs blame the "Demoncrat libtards" for every problem that exists, or else just deny that the problems even exist. Enviros caused the gas price hikes by preventing drilling, the enviros spiked the cost of food because of promoting ethanol. The libs forced outsourcing with their evil unions and demands for benefits. I could go on and on, but you get the general idea. Right now they see the upcoming election as a race toward communism through socialist liberals, peppered with the accusation of McCain being a Manchurian candidate or "communist light" now and then. The red scare is back, at least in Utah. I don't think blue staters realize how utterly hated they still are by red staters, and all the blame for every problem is traced to blue state policy. They revile FDR as the destroyer of America via social programs.
This election will not be decided on issues. Barry cannot even convince his elderly Christian mother that Obama is not a secret Muslim. Lapel pins of flags, hands over hearts during the pledge and rumor mongering forwards will decide this election.
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User: barry_short
Date: 2008-04-24 15:18 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I think you're selling the Bush accomplishments short.

We've heard for years that the reason we have a problem with immigration is that people come here for jobs. Bush has led a two-pronged attack, first by exporting jobs that pay decently and second by devaluing our currency. As the dollar and peso get closer and closer to parity, there's little incentive to go north across the border for work.

Secondly, think how this administration has made us feel good about ourselves. The Presidency used to seem a daunting job, one that required intensive study and long hours, that called for a superior intellectual capacity. Now there's hardly anyone left who can't look at the record of George Bush and say, "Good God, my aunt Mabel could do better than that!" We saw this in action earlier in the campaign, when both parties opening slate of candidates included people barely smart enough to tie their own shoes (admittedly putting them a step up on the current resident) yet still firm in the belief they were capable of running the country.
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User: chessdev
Date: 2008-04-24 16:18 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
We've heard for years that the reason we have a problem with immigration is that people come here for jobs. Bush has led a two-pronged attack, first by exporting jobs that pay decently and second by devaluing our currency. As the dollar and peso get closer and closer to parity, there's little incentive to go north across the border for work.

+2 for humor -- beautiful!!
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A large duck
User: burger_eater
Date: 2008-04-24 16:17 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
The GOP doesn't really run on policy. They run on rhetoric.

You know how to spend your own money better than the government does.

You shouldn't have to give your tax money to people who won't go to work.

You don't need the government interfering with your life and your business.

They don't need accomplishments to appeal to voters, just this sort of appealing rhetoric.
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User: ericjamesstone
Date: 2008-04-24 19:36 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Jay, if you're going to knock conservatives for believing counterfactuals, it's best to avoid promulgating them yourself:

> the economy is as troubled as it's been since the Depression

In 1982 (which, if I know my history, was sometime after the Depression), the unemployment rate averaged 9.7%. It's currently a bit over 5%. Inflation in 1982 averaged 6.16%. It's currently around 4%. In 1982, real GDP contracted 2%. Today, we're not even sure if there's been any contraction yet.

Tell me, from an objective standpoint, how the economy is more troubled than it was in 1982.

As for your larger point, to some extent you're right: conservatives like me will be voting for the lesser of two evils this fall. (Please note that I'm being metaphoric here, as I don't believe McCain is actually evil just because I have policy disagreements with him.)

But in another sense, you're wrong. I strongly believe that, despite the fact there have been mistakes in the handling of the war in Iraq, we must persevere and win. Since that's John McCain's position on possibly the most important issue of the day, I don't have to choose the lesser of two evils; I'm choosing what I believe to be an actual good. That good comes with some baggage I don't like, but overall McCain's good outweighs his bad, in my opinion.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2008-04-25 01:40 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
A perfectly fair answer. (And I apologize, on re-reading I loaded the question a bit.) We don't agree on the Iraq War, but that's not exactly news to either of us, nor does it keep us from talking about our opinions.

My comment about the economy has more to do with the state of the financial system (banking/investments) and the dollar than with unemployment or inflation. I remember "stagflation", and the late Carter interest rates. As I understand the current situation (and let me be the first to say that I am *not* a trained economic thinker, or even a gifted amateur) the systemic issues are far more profound than they have been in post-Depression history.
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User: ericjamesstone
Date: 2008-04-26 18:18 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
OK, now that you've clarified what you meant regarding the economy, I'll admit I don't know enough about the systemic issues involved to agree or disagree.
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User: biomekanic
Date: 2008-04-25 00:16 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Jay, you might want to read Mark Ame's Going Postal: Rage, Murder, and Rebellion: From Reagan's Workplaces to Clinton's Columbine and Beyond.

He compares the slave rebellions of the South with the current work place and school shootings. Interesting read, but not what I would call cheerful.
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