Friday, April 15, 2011

The One About Moderation Being Mediocrity.

I shall start, as I should almost any time I speak, by saying I wish to offend nobody.  If you fall within the "moderate" group I am about to malign, I apologize.  It is not personal.  I realize this likely won't be a popular post with some....get over it.

I will state my main point right off the bat.  Political moderation (by which I mean the political ideals moderates hold) is hurting America more than anything else and the "respect" given to moderates is overblown and dangerous.

It's simple really.  Just because something is pragmatic, possible, and a compromise between two opposing sides...does not mean it is the right thing to do.

It truly bothers me that those who call themselves moderates are automatically given a stamp of approval and looked at as those who have the wisdom to guide us.  This is simply not the case.  What moderation does is hold us back from completely curing problems or creating progress.  The fact is, a great amount of really good policies, no matter which side of the aisle, are politically to the left or right.  Just being "in the middle" does not mean something is a good idea.

Look, I get it.  Politics is the art of the possible and moderate, pragmatic ideas are what can pass.  I am certainly not lobbying for continued bickering or blind disagreement between the left and the right. However, this moderate approach makes for very watered down legislation that rarely gets us where we need to go.

Now, I'm not attempting to insult those in the middle.  What I would argue is that those in the middle are there for reasons that tend to lead to bad policy.  In my experience, most of those who identify as somewhere in the middle tend to fall in two camps: those who have given up on the political process, and those who are uninformed (there are of course exceptions).

I completely understand being disillusioned and discouraged about the political process.  It's dirty, childish and seems to never get anywhere with no change in sight.  I've almost been there myself (voted for Nader once...shhhh).  However, these are not the kind of people who I want making policy, or deciding who gets to make policy.

Now, I also classified a portion of moderates as ill informed or ignorant about the issues. I stand behind this statement as does Newsweek. Newsweek recently conducted a poll, albeit not a very scientific poll, of different political stances showing that as people from each side of the aisle got closer to self-identifying as "in the middle" they knew less and less about American government and history.  This isn't to say moderates are dumber, of course they aren't, but it is to say they are apathetic and less informed (again, there are exceptions, I realize these are generalizations).

Those who tend to study, those who inform themselves, those who are passionate about what our problems are and the solutions to those problems...tend to be impassioned enough to choose a side.

I happen to be a liberal, so I think liberal policies tend to be better ideas. There are conservatives, and they happen to think conservative policies are better ideas.  In some instances I am correct and in some instances conservatives are correct.  The result of compromise isn't correct merely because it is a compromise.

Obamacare (I hate calling it that because the bill looks nothing like what he wanted) was a compromise and yes it will cover many more Americans but it will likely do so at great expense.  Had a liberal policy, such as single-payer been adopted, it would have covered everyone and cut per capita health care costs by about two-thirds.  That would have been far superior than the moderate compromise of Obamacare.  

::Scratches head trying to think of conservative version of the above::

Alright, I'll give this one a try.  I happen to be conservative on the problem of illegal immigration.  I think an amnesty program, including earned amnesty, is a bad idea.  We tried it in 1986 when President Reagan compromised and agreed to a blanket amnesty with stepped up efforts at border patrol.  Obviously, this did not work.  A better plan likely would have entailed strict enforcement of illegal immigrant employment laws.  Once you dry up the illegal jobs there is no reason for illegal immigrants to come here.  This would also reward immigrants coming legally.  This policy, I feel, would have been better...but through the art of compromise, we got a watered down version that did little to fix the problem putting it off for another day.

Of course I realize that sometimes a compromise does turn out to be the best policy.  For instance, I believe gun control would be best left to each state to determine what is appropriate for their constituents.  I don't believe guns should be banned altogether (some people hunt and some towns have a very small police force).  I also don't believe guns should be available everywhere (banning guns in NYC would be a wonderful idea, they serve no legitimate purpose).  Here, in my opinion, a compromise is the best answer.  However, not because it is a compromise, but because it seems like the best policy.

This leads me to a finer point I'd like to make.  I believe there is a distinct difference between a "moderate" and an "independent".  A moderate wishes to compromise.  He/she wants to take both sides of a policy proposal and somehow combine them so we get some mix of both worlds.  I believe this leads to mediocre policy and only puts off the problem for a later time and a ballsier legislator who will likely never show up.

On the other hand an independent analyses the problem, chooses the policy that will best cure the problem while disregarding whether the proposal came from the party they tend to agree with.  This is the exact kind of person I want making policy.  This is how problems are solved. Moderation isn't the answer, political independence is.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

On Ineptitude.

You know those days/nights when you realize you haven't grown as much as you thought you have or that you are not nearly as strong as you had recently been perceiving yourself?  Yeah, fuck those. The last couple of nights, particularly between the hours of midnight and 10 am, have been a clusterfuck-my-head-up-fest of epic proportions.

I'm sadly not as able to handle certain aspects of my life, in particular my past, as I want to be and it's beginning to effect my future and that's disappointing.

For the record, here's a list of adjectives I'd currently use to describe myself:
  • immature
  • pathetic
  • confused
  • small
  • fucking stupid
  • self destructive
  • handsome (gotta be one in there)
  • fucking confused
So there's that.

I rarely have people in my life who fully understand my very special blend of insane herbs and spices or the reasoning behind it that befuddles even me.  Nobody currently in my life has ever gotten there. In fact, there is likely only one person who has ever fully been able to walk the fall corn maze of my mind and come out the other side. Perhaps if I go sit on a half wall by Madison or the swings they'll be there to help me?  Probably not.

2011 may be that rebuilding year that I need to go through on my own. Do things by hand, building everything back from the ground up. All wonderful and clich├ęd metaphors....they have to have lasted so long for a reason, right?  

Here's hopin.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Um, which room is liberals anonymous in?

The Tree has not been political in a while.  It had a run of a year or so where it was dedicated solely to politics.  Several posts a day, covering the news of the day or just some pet project of mine.  It was good...but it was it stopped.  I had decided to make this a very non-political personal blog because A) I didn't feel like being "controversial" and B) if you know me, you know I like writing about myself.  But, I suppose since politics is important to me, it should play a small role in my personal blog.

So, I will write three political posts over the next week starting with this one.  I will begin by saying I'm sure someone, somewhere, possibly (probably) even someone I know and like we'll think I'm an idiot, will be insulted or offended, or disagree completely.  That's fine.  Just know that for people I know and like, I don't personally judge a person based on their politics even if I think they are wrong.  If you feel I've villainized you or your beliefs, I apologize, but I still like you so don't hold it against me.  If I don't know or like you, then I don't care if I hurt your feelings, so that's cool too.

This first post will be on defining liberalism.  I'm not talking about classic political science liberalism for all you poli-sci majors...I'm talking about modern era big D Democratic party side liberalism and what it still is or at least should be.

I too often see mischaracterizations of liberals and modern liberal politics.  It happens on both sides of the aisle, but mostly (and understandably) on the right.  Basically, anything that is liberal in this Fox-news, post Woodstock, stuck in Vietnam War, tea-party having, paradigm shifted political considered "far-left" even by those who consider themselves "moderate".

You want to know who I consider to be mainstream liberal?  Nancy Pelosi.  That is a mainstream, died-in-the-wool, not too far left, not too close to the middle...liberal.  Also, she has the largest balls in the Democratic party.

I can see my "moderate" and right-wring brethren sighing now but just listen for crying out loud.  I'll make the case and show you.

An example of a far left, progressive liberal is Dennis Kucinich.  An example of a moderate Democrat is Harry Reid.  An example of a mainstream liberal is Nancy Pelosi.  The reason why is simple...the policies they would support.

I'm going  have a hypothetical "debate" in my head where these three are on the stage and I ask them to raise their hands for the policies they support.  The purpose is to show you the left wing political spectrum.

If I asked anyone who supports registration of guns, keeping social security public, and supporting a progressive tax system (all fairly moderate positions, pretty much pre-requisites for the left side of the aisle) you would more than likely get all three to raise their hands.

If I asked whoever supports the idea of single-payer health care (medicare for all), returning to Clinton era tax rates, (3 percent difference I believe), and supporting gay marriage/women's right to choose (all mainstream liberal political policies that you find in just about every single other first world, purely capitalist, industrialized, western nation) to raise their hands, you would get Kucinich and Pelosi on all. However, you likely lose Reid on single payer, and possibly lose him on gay marriage and some women's rights.  I believe he'd support the Clinton taxes.

If I asked whoever supports cutting the military budget by 50%, treating all capital gains as regular income, returning to tax rates of the 40's through the 70's (top marginal tax rate ranging from about 70% to 90%, it's now about 35%), or breaking up large banks who are "too big to fail" (all very progressive policies that are to the left of mainstream) to raise their hands, you would get a gleeful Kucinich on each one, you would not get Reid on a single one, and you might be able to get Pelosi on the capital gains, but likely no others.

See what happened there?  As the policies slide on the scale to the left you quickly lose Reid, slowly lose Pelosi and never lose Kucinich.  This is the actual political scale of liberalism...not what the media and those who consider themselves moderate or republican would likely lead you to believe. Pelosi, and mainstream liberalism IS NOT far left.  They hold basic liberal beliefs, that most other capitalist nations practice, that are in no way fringe politics.  They hold some beliefs towards the middle, some beliefs towards progressivism...but are mostly somewhere in between.  That's me!  You might call "liberals" the "moderates" of left wing politics, lying somewhere in between progressives and moderate Democrats.

Ever since there losses on civil rights and the embarrassment of the Vietnam War the right wing of American politics has done an absolutely astounding and admirable job shifting the political scale to the right. Now, as you'll see in a later post, things that were once Republican policies (the public option was originally Nixon's idea) are now considered liberal and things that were once so far right as to be considered fringe politics (Patriot act anyone?), are now the beliefs held by virtually every nationally elected/campaigning Republican leader.

My point isn't to villainize those beliefs or for that matter Republicans. If you hold them in good faith, more power to you.  What I take umbrage with is how I am labeled or regarded in this spectrum.  If someone asks me what I am politically I begrudgingly call myself a liberal because I'd say 80% of what I believe falls in line with where Pelosi is, so it's just easier.  I do support some progressive policies (capital gains, breaking up banks), some "moderate" policies (Clinton era tax rates) and yes, even some Republican policies (federalist gun policies, immigration, criminal justice), but by and large, I fall in line with mainstream liberalism.   But when I do say I'm a liberal, or explain what policies I support, I'm painted as far left or extreme somehow.  I do not like this, especially considering it is completely wrong.

I understand different parts of the country feel different ways about things and that it's hard to see from a very liberal district or a very conservative district that this definition of mainstream liberalism is accurate.  If I said this to my own brother (him being to the left of Kucinich) he'd yell at me.  If I told this to some of you who are more conservative, you'd yell at me.  I get it.  That's fine.  But if you just take a step back, turn off Bill-O and Wolf Blitzer, and look at the full spectrum, you'll see it.