Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Coach "GOP" Sal

I mentioned in my last post that my friend Philip has blogrolled me as "Coach GOP Sal" because I blogged on some conservative topics. He offered to change it, but I demurred. Still, I thought it might be worthwhile to blog about why I tend to ally with the GOP (Grand Old Party, for the acronym-challenged, AKA the Republicans). I want to first offer a couple of disclaimers: first, I'm NOT a registered Republican. It just so happens that I voted for a Democrat for mayor just a couple of weeks ago. I've also voted Dem for several state offices, and even once for US Senator. But in my voting lifetime (since '88), I have yet to vote for a Democrat for President. That's not to say I couldn't, but that has never been even a close call thus far. Secondly, I'm not really a Republican as much as I am a conservative. Which is why if the GOP nominates a liberal, like Rudy Giuliani, my loyalty slips a good bit. That said, and this has been the case at least since '88, if the other choice is even worse, what's a body to do? Finally, I firmly reject cartoonish stereotypes--of both parties. Yes, "my" party has some fat-cat northern businesspeople, plus some percentage of gap-toothed rednecks. But that's the fringe, and don't represent me. Likewise, I recognize that not every Democrat is a borderline communist who thinks America is the source of evil in the world and considers abortion a sacrament. Those bozos are out there, but my differences with the Dems lie not in that straw man. If anything, I'd like to think I'm reasonably thoughtful, and that I fight fair.

OK. So what does it mean to be "conservative" nowadays? Well, for starters, I'm a Reagan Republican, not a William Howard Taft or James Blaine, or even a Nelson Rockefeller Republican. You may remember that Reagan used to be a Democrat himself (voted 4 times for FDR, as I recall, and I think once for Truman). What I want to "conserve" includes most of the "safety net" of the New Deal, as well as the Civil Rights gains of the 50s and 60s. But as the Gipper himself said, "I didn't leave the Democrats. The party left me." Since 1968 or so, the muscular defense policy of the Truman and JFK Democrats has given way to the peace-at-any-price weakness of George McGovern, Jimmy Carter, and their successors. One of the legs that holds up my conservatism is peace through strength. I find that more in the Republican party (since '80 or even since Ike) than in the Democrats since the 60s.

The next thing--actually, an even bigger thing, for me--is my faith. Now don't get me wrong--I'm not going to be one of those people who claims that one cannot be simultaneously a Christian and a social liberal. Many of my Christian friends have made their peace with that, and I respect them. Nor do I buy the argument that the "Christian Right" in a political sense speaks for every evangelical. But despite those allowances, the fact remains that up until the 1970s, most southern evangelicals found their home among the Democrats. The 1960s and Roe v. Wade changed that somewhat, and Reagan's embrace of anti-abortion religious people in 1980 sealed the deal. Now, a key part of being "red state" is being pro-life. And that's a bedrock issue for me. I will entertain discussion on exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother--which together account for maybe 2-3% of all abortions. I'm not an absolutist. I'll even take incremental change in the right direction--the partial-birth abortion ban, parental notification. Shucks, if we could even go back to the original ruling in Roe which allowed only first-term abortion, that would be a good move. But in my view, a fetus is a baby, and killing it is WRONG. Despite lip service from the Democrats about "safe, legal, and rare," the fact is that the Supreme Court has upheld that "health of the mother" exceptions include anything the pregnant woman and her abortionist decide, and mainstream Dems have stood firmly against even the most reasonable restrictions. Their refusal to even let a pro-lifer speak at their '92 convention shows how limited the options on that side are. I just can't go there.

Moreover, on the "socio-con" or "theo-con" side, the increasing allegiance between people of faith and the Republicans has led, or at least contributed, to what I think is even further erosion of respect for religion and its practicioners by the Democrats. Their world-view is already more secular and relativistic, but there is, in some quarters among their elites, barely-veiled hostility to those of us who believe in a creator and absolute morality. I think I can sympathize with how some minorities must feel about the Republicans... "my" side may take me for granted and only pay me lip service, but the other guys pay me no attention at all unless it's in the form of an attack. And hand in hand with that is my biggest issue--the judiciary. If I want to see my world-view prevail over time, I believe that the Constitution needs to be interpreted as the framers wrote it, not seen through the lens of late-20th-century social engineering. And since judges serve life terms, I've gotta vote for the party that at least PRETENDS to respect my world-view. As much as old George W. Bush may have fallen out of my good graces in the last couple of years, it has never, never occurred to me that I'd be happier if John Kerry had named the last two Supreme Court justices.

Last, and also least in my mind, is economics. As I have blogged about extensively in the past, I am FAR from a "party of the rich" Republican. I have the utmost sympathy for the "working poor," for the stretched-too-thin "middle class" (of which I am a member), and those who need help. To the extent that it would actually work, I would welcome more equality of resources across the board. However, I generally believe that 1960s-70s style welfare doesn't work. And in general, what little economic history I know leads me to believe that supply-side (low tax) economic theory does work. Also (maybe it's the touch of Calvinism in my formerly-Presbyterian upbringing), I tend to have a rather low view of human nature. So, sadly, I don't think that, in most cases, taking from those who work and earn and distributing it to those who don't works all that well, either. Insetad, I think it fosters a culture of entitlement and dependency which in the end is more damaging to the very people that the good-hearted liberals are trying to help.

So, there you are. A committed Christian from the south who is pro-life, favors a strong defense, judicial originalism, and low-tax, pro-growth economics. If that makes me "Coach GOP Sal," fine. But let the GOP beware--I'm only with them, so long as they are with me. I could have voted for Truman. At the turn of the century, I would have been a Teddy Roosevelt Progressive. And if ever there's a party realignment where some old or new party best represents my views, I'll jump in a heartbeat. Don't think it can happen? Ask a Whig!

Monday, November 26, 2007

So, Who's Going to be President?

I've stayed away from politics for a while (ever since I realized that my entry on Philip Murphy's blogroll halfway around the world read "Coach GOP Sal"), but it seems that with primary season bearing down on us, it's time for a little prognostication. Now, I teach US History and Civics for a living, so, while not an "expert" pundit, I like to think I at least understand the process in a little context. Let's get one thing out of the way--Hillary Clinton WILL be the Democrat nominee. I like Obama better, and one poll shows him leading (but within the margin of error) in Iowa, and he's got Oprah on his side. But Hillary leads by too much in too many places to not have the delegates she needs by convention time. Period. On the GOP side, only two men have plausible paths to the nomination: Romney and Giuliani. Right now in Republican circles, it's Rudy vs. everybody else--but Romney leads the pack to become the "anti-Rudy." And since Romney has the capacity to win or finish high in Iowa, New Hampshire, Michigan, and SC, it's quite possible that he could be in a position to be the only serious non-Rudy candidate on Super Tuesday. Even if Thompson or Huckabee (or even McCain) catch fire early, none of them have the resources to simultaneously campaign in all the Feb 5 primaries. At that point, it comes down to whether social conservatives (read: pro-lifers) hold their nose and believe (a) Romney's recent conversion to conservatism or (b) Rudy's pledge to appoint only strict constructionist judges. And more importantly, to which one looks more electable compared to Hillary. My best guess is it will wind up being Romney, but I admit to that being a complete hunch. Whichever it is, neither puts enough blue states in play to make a big dent in Hillary's electoral base, so we're looking at another very close election. I keep thinking, though (and this is only based on anecdotal evidence from a couple of my lib friends, so it's not quite scientific), that there is some segment, even of the blue-state population, who just won't vote rather than vote for Hillary (some on Bill issues, some on honesty, some because of her vote for the war). That's combined with the 40%+ of voters who hate her guts. One poll even showed Ron Paul getting 48% against her! So her negatives make it interesting. In the end, though, one thing's for sure. Our next president will be a shrewd politician from a blue state who is at odds with some portion of his or her party's base, in a tight one. And (for now) that's all I'm gonna predict.

Gamecock Season Wrap-Up

Looks like the USC football season is over. There's still a slim chance we could get invited to some very tiny bowl as a technically-eligible 6-6 team that travels well, but conventional wisdom says that's unlikley with up to 10 SEC teams already bowl-eligible. So, what's the unvarnished outcome?

Well, for starters, we ain't where we want to be yet. 3-5 in conference and a loss to Clemson is ugly, and there's no use trying to put lipstick on a pig. However, there are a few bright spots. First, we're in the hunt in the SEC East. That was our main goal this season. Can't say we won anything, but on the last day of the season, a team we took to overtime (Tennessee) clinched the East title over a top-10 team we beat (Georgia) by beating another previously top-10 team we beat (Kentucky). If that's not close, I don't know what is. At least it's a step toward where we want to be. Secondly, we're pretty competitive with Clemson. Again, I know we lost. And you can argue that it should have been worse, considering the mistakes we made. But not only did we beat the 2.5 point spread, we came down to a last-second field goal against a team that will likely win 10 games this year. And finally, (although as a Gamecock fan it DOES get old saying this) we should be better next year. Our defense was pretty good before the injuries kicked in. We'll get back Jasper Brinkley and a healthy Captain Munnerlyn next season, plus some of those big freshmen will have experience. We lose Casper, Cory Boyd, and Blake Mitchell. Jasper, Mike Davis, and either Smelley or Garcia should fill those gaps without significant drop-off, and that great recruiting class we had last year should get a year older and better, and hopefully will be joined by a few others who can see promises of significant playing time in Columbia.

Of course, there's bad news, too. Some folks said we had the 2nd-toughest schedule in the country this year. And lets face it--there are some teams going to BCS bowls this year who couldn't have gone unscathed through Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, and Arkansas this season. Shucks, LSU is likely the best team in the country, and they couldn't run the table in the SEC. It's not like that's going to get easier anytime soon. Luckily, a few of the teams we play will lose some key players, but we'll still have to face Tim Tebow again next year. And in the SEC East, you can have a top-10 recruiting class and still lose ground. So it's an uphill climb.

All told, though, I'm not badly disappointed. The only game I wish we could have back was Vandy. We really should have won that one. A bounce here or there and we could have possibly gotten UT or Clemson, or both. Didn't, but could have. I'll take it... and look forward, as always, to next season.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Time Passes (and shoots, and scores!)

Ah, Thanksgiving. My favorite holiday of the year. I love the food, the fellowship, and the last gasp of stress-free breath before launching headlong into the Christmas season. I'm also a soft touch when it comes to tradition. One of the traditions in our family the past several years has been that after a HUGE dinner at my favorite Aunt's, my oldest son, David, goes outside and shoots baskets in their driveway. About the time I have completely filled up on dessert, he'll show up wanting me to play with him. Usually, there's the added attraction of mixing it up with my brother-in-law and my nephew; we'll play two-on-two in every possible combination. This year, both of them were sick at home. That left one-on-one. And therein lies the rub. You see, when the boy was younger, I could whip him with ease. Then came the time when I'd take it easy on him, but still win. Now, though, he's a starting guard on the 8th grade B-team, and the only advantage I have is 5 inches and 40 pounds. And the longer we play, the more difficult it becomes to press that advantage. I don't take it easy anymore--it's all-out, throwing elbows, playing my best defense... and in my head, a clock is ticking. If I can't beat him inside of about 20 minutes, he'll step back and drain jumpers on me as I get slower and slower due to his main advantage--25 years. This year, we played dead even for the first 20 minutes. Then--swish, swish. Boy wins by two. There is a certain amount of pride I feel in knowing that my kid is growing up, and is better than I'll ever be. I felt the same pride when I coached the kid who erased my school record in the 100 meters. Oh, forget it. Who am I kidding? He loves beating me--because he hates to lose. Guess who's side of the gene pool that comes from? I'm getting better at faking nonchalance at getting beaten by teenagers. But at the end of the day, it's one more "L" on the win-loss record of life. Pretty soon, him beating me will be a new tradition. Happy holidays, all!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Neat Freaks

Some people are slobs--neither neat nor clean. Occasionally, two slobs marry and proceed to live in disorganized filth. More often than not, a slob marries his or or her opposite so they have something to "talk" about for the next 50 years. But for the rest of us, there are, I think, very few people who are both neat AND clean. You're either clean but not neat or neat but not clean. Again, opposites attract, so sometimes you'll have a "clean" marry a "neat" and they will either (a) complement each other, or (b) kill each other. I am definitely a "neat but not clean" type. Don't get me wrong--I don't mean that I neglect basic hygiene or anything, but I'm the type who is bugged by an unmade bed but not particularly bothered by unchanged sheets. A layer of dust on my desk--no problem. Piles of paper on my desk--a crisis. I think that if I could simply arrange for all dirt to have properly squared-off corners, dirt wouldn't bother me at all. Dirt just bothers me because it contributes to an overall feeling of "untidy." This, by the way, is something in my gene pool. My mom is a shelf-and-cubbyhole person, my sister is a daytimer-and-list person. It's a blessing, and a curse.

Strangely, I married someone who is equally a neat freak. So when we get time together, one of the things we do for fun and satisfaction is de-clutter. In the past week we have attacked all three of our children's bedrooms, with a vengeance. We didn't just "straighten up." We brought a backhoe. Hefty bags full of miscellaneous "stuff" found its way to the trash, or goodwill, or consignment (to the tune of $73! Yippee!). Yes, we also used the vacuum, and half a box of swiffers. But be very clear--the cleaning was secondary. This was all about NEAT! Sadly, our kids will now begin to trash those rooms again immediately. But that gives us something to do again several months from now. If you're not a neat person, you don't know what you're missing!

Monday, November 19, 2007


Well, the week is here, so it's time for just a little trash talk. However, it's hard to talk much trash when your team has lost 4 in a row. I'm not even going to go out on the usual limb and promise a Gamecock victory--for all I know, Clemson may even be the better team. But here's a little reality check for all my Tiger-fan buddies. Clemson may be the most underrated team in the nation, or not. But the fact remains that the best team they have defeated all year is Wake Forest. Don't get me wrong, this isn't the bad Wake of the '80s. But it's not exactly Georgia, either. If you're a Clemson fan, ask yourself this--if your last three games had been vs. Tennessee, Arkansas, and Florida, do you really think you'd be on this same bandwagon? And for all the USC fans who are feeling glum, ask the reverse--if we had played Duke, Maryland, and Central Michigan, don't you think we'd have 8 or 9 wins by now? No matter who wins on Saturday (and of course I hope it's my guys), the cold hard fact remains that the best team in the ACC this year wouldn't be a factor in the SEC, and might not even be a factor in the SEC East. Good luck to both--may the best team win!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Bumper Stumper

So a week ago I'm in traffic, poking along. And I notice that the car in front of me is basically held together with about 40 bumper stickers. The hatchback, the glass, the bumper... covered. And every sticker was liberal. There was a "re-elect Gore." "Impeach Bush." "Wage Peace." "Save the Earth." "Love your mother (Gaia)." "This progressive VOTES!" And of course, the ubiquitous 1960s peace symbol, maybe with a dove. And it dawned on me--the corresponding conservative car doesn't exist. Now, there may be a single sticker, maybe even two. Maybe a "W: The President" or a leftover "Bush-Cheney '04." There may even be a "suppport the troops." And I'll grant you that pretty much any Dale Earnhardt #3 sticker should count as a red-state symbol (or Calvin peeing on a chevy logo). But I wonder, why don't conservatives engage in the bumper sticker arms race? A friend suggests that maybe it's because they don't want to get sticky stuff all over the Mercedes. Maybe it's because the "silent majority" really prefers silence. Who knows?