Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Trouble for Reid

This new poll could give some hope to Nevada Republicans:

The poll by Denver-based Vitale & Associates was conducted July 29-30 and showed that 48 percent of respondents favored [Nevada GOP chairperson Sue] Lowden to 42 percent for Reid. Ten percent were undecided. The margin of error was plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

Of the 510 poll respondents, 44 percent identified themselves as Democrats, 38 percent as Republicans, 15 percent as independent or non-partisan, and 3 percent declined to state an affiliation.

42% is a rough number for an incumbent. His favorability rating is under 40% in this poll. Another rough number. Two questions: Will Lowden run? How would other GOP candidates fare?

Details, Details

From today's New York Times article on the reform of the White House's health-care rhetoric:
“We all had a good sense that some of this was going to take place,” said Brad Woodhouse, the communications director for the Democratic National Committee. “To be fair, I think we were probably a little surprised — just a little — at the use of swastikas and the comparisons to Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich that even Rush Limbaugh has fanned the flames on. And we were a little surprised at the mob mentality.” (Mr. Woodhouse’s use of the phrase “mob mentality” was itself part of the Democratic effort to paint opponents speaking out against the plan as part of an unruly but organized effort.)
This use of "mob mentality" also seems to tie into a wider effort to paint criticisms of the plan as illegitimate and a threat to deliberative democracy. Hence, the calling of these opponents members of a "fifth column," the weird almost-comparison of opponents to the Ku Klux Klan, the suggestion that these protests are somehow un-American.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Civil Poison

Steven Pearlstein has an at least somewhat understandable expression of sentiment here:
Health reform is a test of whether this country can function once again as a civil society -- whether we can trust ourselves to embrace the big, important changes that require everyone to give up something in order to make everyone better off.
It seems to me one of the key components of debate in a civil society is a kind of openness, honesty, and tolerance, especially in discussing important issues.

So what to make of the rest of Pearlstein's raging Washington Post, in which he attacks Republicans as "political terrorists"?

The recent attacks by Republican leaders and their ideological fellow-travelers on the effort to reform the health-care system have been so misleading, so disingenuous, that they could only spring from a cynical effort to gain partisan political advantage. By poisoning the political well, they've given up any pretense of being the loyal opposition. They've become political terrorists, willing to say or do anything to prevent the country from reaching a consensus on one of its most serious domestic problems.

There are lots of valid criticisms that can be made against the health reform plans moving through Congress -- I've made a few myself. But there is no credible way to look at what has been proposed by the president or any congressional committee and conclude that these will result in a government takeover of the health-care system. That is a flat-out lie whose only purpose is to scare the public and stop political conversation.

Again, Barney Frank, Jan Schakowsky, and a host of others have said many times that a so-called "public option" would be a vehicle to get to single-payer health-care system. The president wants to work toward a single-payer system; many of the architects of the Democratic proposals on health-care want a single-payer system and support a public option. Are they lying in order to scare the public and stop political conversation?

Controlling all or nearly all of the health-care financing for the nation (as could be very likely under a single-payer system) would certainly give the government a huge amount of control over the US's health-care system. That's one of the premises of Orszagism: centralized bureaucrats could determine the most efficient modes of treatment, cutting costs and improving care.

To raise doubts about the means and ends of a given public policy, to urge citizens to get involved in the debate about policy---that is terrorism? Calling people "political terrorists" for advancing this argument (for daring to repeat the words of supporters of a public option) poisons the well of public debate. That kind of rhetorical venom eats away at the foundation necessary for the maintenance of a civil society.

Over on the left, Brendan Nyhan has sharp rebuke for Pearlstein:

These are ugly words. Pearlstein is right to decry the misinformation that has been directed at the President's health care plan, but the GOP's efforts to defeat the plan are in no way disloyal or equivalent to terrorism. Party competition -- which often produces various forms of ugly behavior -- is an intrinsic feature of democratic politics in a free society. Opposition parties are in no way obligated to help the country reach a consensus on health care or any other issue. If Pearlstein wishes to condemn the tactics used by Republicans, there are variety of more constructive ways to do so.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

5 Reasons Why the GOP Should Beg Mike Castle to Run for US Senate

Delaware's only House member, Mike Castle (R), served two terms as governor and has represented his state in Congress since 1993. Castle is now involved in an extended will-he-or-won't-he dance about whether he'll run for Joe Biden's old Senate seat in 2010. Though Castle has been regarded as one of the most "moderate" members of the House GOP (for example, he was one of the few Republican representatives to vote in favor of the cap-and-trade bill), here are five reasons (in no particular order) why Republican leadership and even grassroots members of the right should be wishing and hoping that Castle runs for US Senate:
1. He can win: Polls show Castle with 20+-point lead over likely Democratic challenger Beau Biden. No poll shows any other Republican candidate with numbers like that; indeed, most polls don't even bother polling on another Republican name---Castle is far and away the most prominent member of the Delaware GOP.

2. He has won before: Castle has been winning statewide races in Delaware since 1981. He is the epitome of a proven candidate. If the people of Delaware are comfortable enough with Castle to keep electing him to the US House (since Delaware has only a single representative, the US House race is statewide), they are surely open to electing him to the Senate.

3. It's a long way to 51: Senate Republicans are down to 40 seats. 2010 looks like there will be some challenging races for seats currently held by Republicans. In order to regain their filibustering power, Republicans need not only to defend all their presently-held seats but also score some pick-ups. If they want to inch back to majority status, Republicans need all the help they can get. Now is not the time for ideological purity.

4. Republicans should stay a national brand: Republicans currently hold 0 of the 14 Senate seats available in the Mid-Atlantic region; they hold only 3 of the 12 seats available in New England. If it wants to maintain its long-term viability, the Republican party cannot afford to write off whole regions of the country. Electing Castle to the Senate would be one step toward reducing that regional deficit.

5. Castle brings numerous political advantages: Castle has a reputation for being a competent, clean-government kind of guy. This is exactly the kind of public image that Republicans need to cultivate. On matters of policy, Castle would certainly be more congenial to the right than a leftish Democrat would be, even if Castle's record on a number of issues is fairly checkered. For example, Castle did vote against the stimulus bill (unlike Arlen Specter), and he has raised doubts about the implications of many of President Obama's policies.