Windmillin'

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Where politics and faith dance in the shadow of the windmill.

On Leaving the Frying Pan

If Roy Schmidt’s inept change of parties demonstrated anything, it was just how non-Machiavellian he actually is. By his own admission he’s  a regular guy who  very much wants to have voters remember him as he was, a conservative but not ideological, pragmatic politician. Sure he switched, but as he reminded voters, “he’s still the same old Roy.”

While in my party switch I made a poor political decision, it is becoming clear the people of Grand Rapids want to move on, and so do I. The people of Grand Rapids can expect to see me at their front door over the next few months to talk about the issues that are important to us here in this City: Jobs, protecting hardworking taxpayers, education and public safety.

Any hope of moving on, however, was crushed Friday, when Mitt Romney chose Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate.

At a tactical level, appeals to hardworking taxpayers, education and public safety are savaged by a Ryan-Romney budget that slashes the federal expenditures. Of course, Schmidt can move farther to the right and embrace the anti-poor budget with its  slashing of EITC and sharp reductions in Medicaid. And that’s the start of the impact of the Ryan proposal. As Ryan Lizza shows in his Ryan profile in The New Yorker, the federal programs that could build up a city or region — the sort that Schmidt has always championed — these are antithetical to the views of Ryan and his patron.

But the issues are more than tactical. The selection of Ryan functions as a definitional event. The positions that Romney has taken are now explicitly those of the GOP as a whole. They are branded. The only way out for centrists and moderate conservatives is a sort of disavowal (at risk of picking up a RINO label), but of couse, with the media storm, such a disavowal won’t work. At this point, one can even imagine Bing Goei giving thanks that he doesn’t have to face this challenge.

And it’s not just Schmidt. His predicament is one that Republicans of all stripes must face. While they may be known personally as men and women of a certain sensibility, the lurch to the Right by the radical faction now obligates them to defend positions that fly in face of their own commitment. Some, naturally, can eat that sandwich and smile.

Conversely, this is also the opportunity for the Democrats. A Ryan-branded party is an even better target than the know-nothing Tea Party brand of Sarah Palin. Republicans (and conservatives) at all levels now can be addressed as supporting the undoing of the social safety net and the rewarding of the already very wealthy. In a fight over principles, pragmatism loses out.

And already there are already rumblings from the pros that this brand may be a disaster.

Filed under: Elections, Politics, , , ,

Can Palin Move Michigan?

The post-convention bounce is well underway and recent polls underscore how much the race has tightened up. The recent poll by Public Policy Polling gave Obama a rather one point lead (47/46) – a tie given the 2.9% margin of error.

This post-convention bounce has certainly troubled Democrats nationally, but should Dems be worried here in the Great Lakes State?

A look under the “hood” and at local races is in order. Fortunately the survey breaks down the results by gender, race and age.

Gender. In a breakout of the poll subsets, Palin’s likeability among women (“does McCain’s selection of Palin make you more or less likely to vote for him”) matches their preference for McCain. Gender does not seem to be in immediate play, however with one in five remaining neutral, women will be a continuing object of GOP outreach.

Turn to race and age, however, and we can see the impact of Palin.

Race. African Americans understandably are strongly for the Democratic ticket, with only 9 percent expressing a preference for McCain. Nonetheless, 13 percent find Palin attractive. The extra four percent of this segment (worth one point in overall results) may reflect a reversion to mean for the African American vote –the breakthrough status of Palin validating a return to the GOP fold for moderate black conservatives. If so, this would

Age. Younger voters (age 18-29) also may seem to be in play. While 41% are for McCain, 45% look favorably. Other age cohorts’ enthusiasm for Palin remains proportionate to their support of McCain. This of course suggests that something like the youth/celebrity of the Alaskan governor is helping her. This may be more pop culture than electoral planning. At least so far.

The danger is likely that if youth energy decreases, then this pop identity takes over, and Obama loses a crucial edge. This is the threat.

So the first brush suggests that she has earned people’s attention, even in the minority community. For local races the issue gets a little more serious: how will she affect local races?
Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Elections, Michigan, , , , , , , ,

High Sticking

We like our hockey in Michigan, especially smash-mouth hockey. And this week self-identified hockey mom Gov. Sarah Palin delivered. An audience of 37 million testifies that we are not alone, plenty others like the that audience also raises the question of what exactly was she tapping?

Was it just the smash mouth politics?

Was it the thrill of watching the death-defying dare devil and the possibility of her failure? Perhaps.

Rather than fear the start of another cultural war, Democrats should recognize this conservative populism grows from the pain and anger of real economic and social loss. The very enthusiasm for Palin is a testimony to the failure of the previous eight years, as well as a desire to get some answers to the economic problems harming our communities. Whatever tactical advantage she bestows on the Republican Party, strategically, she bears witness that the Republican program for our economy does not work.

As the visceral response in the hall also showed, Palin is touching a deep chord in the party and more broadly among social conservatives. Yes, there is the matter of resentment, as Paul Krugman notes. And one can find examples throughout the conservative wing, as this comment from a conservative webzine demonstrates:

The elitism we decry is the opiate of the leftist, so sure of his towering intellect and moral arete that he presses on with every fiber of his being into the teeth of truth, vision still distorted by an economic lens that has been relegated to the scrap heap of history. It is the sneering condescension toward us “mouth breathing troglodytes” by the highly self-regarding and self-anointed custodians of what’s really best for the rest if only we were smart enough to vote for them. The sort of clueless solipsism that says things like “bitter people clinging to their guns and religion.

Not the whole story

But this sense of being put upon is not the whole story to this populism. The narrative of condescension is more meta – than anything, it organizes values and arguments and as such, uses current discontent as its fuel.

Sarah Palin is the face of a specific community – that’s the meaning of her small town. Wasilla in all its quirkiness stands in for towns we know throughout Michigan – the Eaton Rapids, Allegan, Hesperia and Hersey, and thousand more. In her they see themselves. She may be a high-stickin’ hockey momma, but for folks in such towns (and in the ‘burbs) she’s their hockey mom. Her words become cathartic. As other minorities know – even as Democrats out of power know – to hear their arguments delivered boldly is thrilling and energizing.

At last, at a national level, they get heard. The voice is no longer mediated by the slick (e.g. John Ashcroft, himself an Assemblies of God member, albeit a graduate of Yale), or by the outsider (e.g. James Dobson). This is what takes her candidacy past the politics of resentment. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Community, Michigan, , , , ,

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