Tag Archives: john mccain

A Little Conservative Wisdom

5 Dec

Two HotheadsDaniel Larison vents the kind of moral outrage I like in my foreign policy.

After the last decade of unnecessary and disastrous warfare, the idea that U.S. foreign policy needs more “moral fervor” in the form of a greater willingness to plunge into new conflicts, including Syria, is madness. Our foreign policy might benefit from some genuine moral fervor, but moralistic rhetoric in foreign policy debate is always little more than a cover for claiming the right to dictate political outcomes in other countries, to inflict massive damage on other nations with no regard for the costs or consequences, and to rationalize whatever misdeeds and crimes our government happens to commit along the way.

A little less “interventionism”, a lot less attitude.

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What We Need Is A Little More Gridlock

27 Nov

I’m not even going to speculate why Senator John McCain continues to block the nomination of Susan Rice for Secretary of State. Ultimately, I have a blogging interest against those reasons being anything related to foreign policy, and everything to do with domestic politics, either partisan zeal or the composition of the Senate.  I just like Josh Busby’s schematical summary of the various foreign policy baronies.

Susan Rice has been one of the Obama Administration’s more ardent interventionists on Libya, Syria, and Darfur. Like McCain, Rice is willing to use military force to prevent atrocities and defend American interests. Liberal internationalists like Rice actually has views more in tune with neocons like McCain than they do with realists like John Kerry. Where realists are quite conservative about the prospects for using force in defense of the country’s values, both liberal internationalists and neocons are optimistic about the ability to remake the world in the image of the United States. That is what makes them both liberal. Indeed, neoconservative is a misnomer. They really should have been called liberal nationalists. Where they differ from liberal internationalists is on means. Liberal internationalists prefer multilateral instruments to address foreign policy problems whereas neocons prefer national ones.

I’m nominally a “liberal internationalist”, so Rice’s nomination is not welcome. Yet, as Busby also argues, Rice’s presence in the executive Cabinet might put fuel into the “liberal nationalist” juggernaut. “Rice appears more interventionist than the president himself, so she might actually be a check on voices like Vice President Biden who might be more hesitant to support interventions for humanitarian purposes.” But, a little gridlock is good, especially in foreign policy, where leaders should do less. Senator Kerry would accomplish that more directly, but Rice’s experience at the United Nations would be an interesting departure for foreign policy where domestic policy trumps international experience. And, it would infuriate the crackpots who think the UN is out to control the US.

Young Bloods and Ground Games

8 Nov

Andrew Gelman asks “what really happened” on November 4, but the graphs raise more questions than they answer. Gelman calls it a “national partisan swing”. Perhaps, a feeble “step towards realignment” is a better guess.



Greg Mankiw thinks the GOP alienated younger voters on social issues, not the economic ones. Matthew Yglesias notes that ethnic “minorities” did it for Obama.

Barack Obama won 96% of African Americans, 68% of Latinos, 64% of Asians, and 44% of whites. In 2004, Kerry won 89% of African Americans, 55% of Latinos, 56% of Asians, and 41% of whites. So Obama gained the most among ethnic minorities.

The Obama ground game hoovered up the young voters, but what attracted the richer folk is probably just as interesting. But, something else Mankiw suggests leads me to believe the old 90s coalition of libertarianism plus social liberalism is not dead.

In this election, the young left the Republican party in droves.

Why? I am not enough of a political scientist to be sure, but recent conversations I have had with some Harvard undergrads have led me to a conjecture: It was largely noneconomic issues. These particular students told me they preferred the lower tax, more limited government, freer trade views of McCain, but they were voting for Obama on the basis of foreign policy and especially social issues like abortion. The choice of a social conservative like Palin as veep really turned them off McCain.

One Harvard Dem takes exception.

I would go further and suggest that the “liberaltarianism” Mankiw’s reaching for is basically a yuppie fantasy, a silly and impractical ideology which exists nowhere — except silly and impractical places like Cambridge.

It’ll take a long time before the elite media can admit it, and the right wing never will, but redistributionism is popular; we just saw a resounding affirmation of that, after Republicans called Obama a SOCIALIST!! at the top of their lungs and, surprise, Obama won anyway. (Don’t even get me started on “limited government and free trade,” which are not exactly big-ticket vote-movers either, DLCism notwithstanding.) Point is: people who think that kids these days are predominantly libertarian are probably spending way too much time writing textbooks.

But, that could just be the party line.

Kevin Drum bets on the other half of the combo.

Four years ago the big post-election meme was a warning that Democrats needed to get more socially conservative, but that didn’t happen and they won anyway. Social liberalism is actually (surprise!) pretty popular.

On the other hand, there’s certainly a place in America for an economically conservative party. Republicans have gone overboard on this during the past decade, but they might be able to get by with only a modest course correction on this score. The financial meltdown won’t last forever, after all. On social issues, though, they’re doomed if they continue to hitch their future to the hard edged conservatism of their evangelical base. They’ve mostly won the battle on guns, but on issues like abortion, stem cells, gay rights, immigration, and the environment (which most people view as a lifestyle issue, not an economic issue) I don’t see how they survive if they don’t moderate their positions fairly dramatically. The GOP is in danger of permanently losing an entire cohort of the electorate if they continue to be perceived as a party in thrall to xenophobes, bluenoses, and tent revival preachers. They created James Dobson; now they need to tame him.

It all depends on which disjunct is more important to the voter athe time of any given election, I assume. So, again, back to the figures we should go. There’s four years to figure this out.

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