Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"Those People"

One last thought, for a while. This is a thought that bled over from facebook. A "friend" from there posted a link to an article by Paul Krugman in the New York Times that I thought was terribly unfair. I won't go over the whole thing, but the part that stuck in my craw was that Krugman characterized anyone who was opposed to letting the 2001 Bush tax cuts expire as someone who would rather the poor starve than the top 2% of evil rich plutocrats lose their precious tax cuts. I pointed out that most of us (yes, us) who want the cuts to stay do so because we actually think that taxes going up during a deep recession is economically very bad. Arguments can be made on both sides as to whether that economic assumption is true or not, but to have a Nobel-prize-winning economist so baldly misstate the motives of those who disagree with him seemed to me the very definition of partisan hackery.

But here's where it got interesting. There were over 700 comments on the NYT article, and in the first 3 pages (after which I gave up), about 90% of them amounted to readers cheering Krugman for speaking the plain, obvious truth. And my comment on my friend's status was greeted with similar sentiments. It took a great deal of explaining for many folks (probably not near all) who saw the thread to conclude that I was neither stupid nor evil. Meanwhile, I was bummed that so many people on the "other side" could be so "blind."

This is repeated all over--read the comments on Hot Air or other conservative blogs and you'll get the reverse. We all think we're right (well, of course we do--if we thought we were wrong, we'd change our minds). And we surround ourselves with folks who agree with us. It reminds me of the story of Pauline Kael, a NYT columnist who reacted to the 1972 election results with, "How can Nixon have won? Nobody I know voted for him!" (Nixon had won 49 states and a huge popular-vote landslide.)

The older and more mellow I get, the more I'm willing to at least consider the possibility that I might be wrong. (Well, I consider the possibility, and then reject it...) This isn't just true of politics, it's true of church stuff, and finance stuff, and professional stuff. One of my ongoing resolutions is to try to at least extend a presumption of good faith to those who disagree with me.

I'm Really Glad Obama Won

What? But Larry, you're supposed to be my token arch-conservative friend! Why?

Glad you asked. First of all, contrary to popular opinion, I really don't dislike President Obama that much. I disagree with a great many of his policies (which is to be expected, since he's liberal and I'm conservative). But he's not a slimeball like Clinton (whose policies, btw, were more to my liking). And I have tired of the "I hate the president" game that we've been playing in this country since the Clinton years. One of my first reasons for being glad Obama won is that he kept us from going Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have liked Hillary's policies any better, and that would have only prolonged that particular drama. She also would likely have been a somewhat better player at the political game, which in the end means that his victory possibly hastens the next cycle when "my side" is ascendant.

Secondly, I'm really glad we elected our first black president. Truth be told, I almost voted for him just for that reason. He was going to win anyway, and it would have been nice to be a part of that great moment in US history. Yes, I would rather our first black president have been a conservative. I'd vote for Thomas Sowell in a heartbeat. (I was an enthusiastic supporter of a Colin Powell candidacy in 1996.) But as a kid born less than a year after Martin Luther King's assassination, who has personal experience of the lessening of racism in the 70s, 80s, 90s, and now, I'm happy about this.

Third, I'm happy because now there gets to be a genuine debate over small-government conservatism (whether you call it libertarianism, or Tea Party-ism, or whatever). If John McCain had been elected, there would not be Tea Parties. When George W. Bush was president, I hated the fact that he spent money like a drunken sailor. I have told a generation of students that he was not a fiscal conservative. But I held my nose and supported him, right up until the end, because he at least gave us Justices Roberts and Alito, and because he didn't throw in the towel on the War on Terror. And despite his (numerous) shortcomings, I have never wished that we had John Kerry as a wartime president. The same thing would have been true of a President McCain. I would have tied myself in knots trying to be happy with half a loaf--and so would most of the right. His fiscal policies would not be much different than Obama's, except maybe in scale. Finally, the frustrated small-government folks have emerged. This is good for the country in the long run.

Along the same lines, a President McCain's foreign policy would likely be near-identical to Obama's (especially in Iraq and Afghanistan). But McCain would be the target of a 24-7 drumbeat of negativity for it. We'd still be hearing daily body counts on CNN, folks would be lamenting the fact that Gitmo is still open from the rooftops, and probably Cindy Sheehan would have her own talk show. But with Obama in office, (most of) the left has taken joint-ownership of this difficult situation. Obviously, with him in office, Guantanamo is a harder issue than it once looked like. The troop withdrawal from Iraq begun under Bush continues at the exact same pace, but it gets applause rather than jeers. And it is possible for the same people who opposed both the Iraq surge and General Petreaus to now embrace both him, and a similar surge in Afghanistan. That's also good for the country.

Finally, a little perspective. There have been many comparisons of our current national doldrums with the "malaise" of the 1970s under Jimmy Carter. The end result of that was Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush, all of whom (yes, including Clinton) embraced center-right governance of one sort or another. There are many, many adults who have never actually held a job during a serious recession before. The vast majority of people under about 45 have no experience with unchecked liberal governance. I am confident enough in the strength of my positions to believe that good ideas will win out in the end. I feel strongly that in the near future, the electorate will begin making choices I like a lot better. And of course, I also believe that THAT is good for the country.

Long Time No Blog

Yeah, I know. I've written a good bit on friends' facebook pages, but very little blogging. I'm going to try to do better. I've actually got a couple of thoughts I'd like to try out on whoever is still reading.