-- away from fiscal responsibility toward the full suite of gamblers' rationalization.
-- from waste-not belief in efficiency to wastrel slovenliness
-- from home-first skepticism to international meddlesomeness and adventurism
-- from belief in the rational and palpable to mystical arm-waving
-- from a grounding in science and pragmatism to utter disdain for fact driven reason
And so on....
We know that many of our neighbors are uncomfortable with the outcomes. While the GOP core circles the wagons, they are losing many citizens who still retain a glimmer of rationality and fealty to a Goldwater style of conservative values. These people need to be our focus. Because Their overall influence will be far greater than any other converts. Only, in order to "convert" them back into Americans, we must learn to speak to them from the perspective of the older conservatism. One still worthy of some respect. An opposing viewpoint worth arguing-with. Even listening-to.
==Bring them back==
Drag folks - especially ostriches - to watch Obama’s big recent foreign policy speech. Watch it yourself. He talks about how Marshall, Acheson, Truman etc created an over arching strategy to save the world, out of the hopeless nadir of World War II. Unlike almost anybody else, Obama actually notices that the “Marshall Plan” was only a narrow part of this grand strategy. This speech went a long way toward closing my own small “gap” re Obama. This man has a grasp of the important basics.
If your ostrich claims to be too busy, start them off with this handy chart. Invite them to guess how things also fall out regarding other measurements of a country’s actual success. Do Americans start more small businesses under Republicans or Democrats? Get better return on their retirement funds? File for more patents? What about inflation? Crime rates? In fact, invite them to find more than one criterion under which we are better ruled by the GOP... except tax rates for the rich and CEO compensation rates for monopolies.
Of course the grand-daddy ostrich site -- for anyone truly dedicated to transforming a decent conservative Republican back into a decent (still somewhat )American -- remains my own Ostrich Manifesto.
One of the best articles I have seen, aiming some light into the deeper drives of Barack Obama, would be “Barack by the books,” by Laura Miller, which appeared recently on Salon. The article dives into Obama’s memoir, "Dreams From My Father," focusing not only on his complex journey, raised in mostly-white society by white grandparents, but impelled to explore also the culture and needs of America’s other half. What Miller does, instead, is inspect the list of authors who Obama claims as influences, during his period of intellectual growth at Occidental College, Columbia and Harvard, and while working to organize communities in Illinois.
Among the books about the process of improving society that influenced Obama were Reinhold Niebuhr's "Moral Man and Immoral Society: A Study in Ethics." Both Niebhur and another author, Saul Alinsky, were men who practiced the art of self criticism and self-reinvention. Both preached wariness toward what I have called the drug high of self-righteous romanticism, and instead emphasized the power of pragmatic incrementalism... the very thing that Barack Obama appears to represent and iconify, wherever he stands and speaks.
”Alinsky was a self-described radical and Niebuhr was a devout Christian but neither man was an idealist. Both tended to see morality as a kind of cover story used by groups who, in Niebuhr's words, "take for themselves whatever their power can command." That doesn't mean that these two men believed that nobody had the ability or will to change the world for the better. However, anyone who attempts to do so better be ready to get his hands dirty. So when we turn to the book Obama has most recently cited as a major influence, Doris Kearns Goodwin's "Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln," it's not the Lincoln of popular American myth -- the secular saint and martyr -- we find praised there. It's Lincoln the wily politician, who was not above carefully hedging his public positions and who prided himself on cajoling his opponents to his side.”
In "The Audacity of Hope," Obama states: "I think my party can be smug, detached and dogmatic at times. I believe in the free market, competition and entrepreneurship, and think no small number of government programs don't work as advertised ... I think America has more often been a force for good than for ill in the world; I carry few illusions about our enemies, and revere the courage and competence of our military. I reject a politics that is based solely on racial identity, gender identity, sexual orientation, or victimhood generally. I think much of what ails the inner city involves a breakdown in culture that will not be cured by money alone, and that our values and spiritual life matter at least as much as our GDP."
Dare an ostrich to call the author of that paragraph their enemy. Above all, even if that was packaged FOR conservatives, doesn’t it mean something that he would know how? Or think it worth the effort?
==The Audacity of Listening==
Another article I found both enlightening and mature was from Gail Collins, a new and promising columnist for the New York Times. “The Audacity of Listening” talks about how Obama the Pragmatist may infuriate purists, by actually meaning by what he said about moving past the outdated politics of left-vs-right. But that is precisely the sort of person he has always claimed to be.
On the other hand, Russ Daggatt says: ”Last week, Max Bergmann had a piece on The Huffington Post entitled, “.The Week That Should Have Ended McCain’s Hopes ” It listed just a week’s worth of examples of the train wreck that the McCain campaign has become. Of course, the media has a financial interest in the campaign being a “dead-heat” or a “real horserace” – that is much better for ratings. It seems impossible for McCain to commit a “gaffe” no matter what manner of erroneous or contradictory nonsense comes out of his mouth (because a “gaffe”, by definition, is something that the media pundits pounce upon – which cannot happen to McCain).
“Back in February, McCain said he would balance the budget in his first term. Then, in April when he proposed a series of costly tax cuts for corporations and high earners, he abandoned that pledge and said he would balance the budget by the end of his second term (assuming he can live that long). Then, on , the McCain campaign reversed itself again and reaffirmed that he would, indeed, balance the budget in his first term. That was followed by an immediate “clarification” from McCain’s top economic advisor saying the commitment was to balance the budget by the end of a second McCain term. This is all absurd. McCain has proposed to extend all of Bush’s tax cuts and add a bunch of other tax cuts for the rich, like lowering the maximum corporate tax rate from 35% to 25%. According to the non-partisan , McCain’s tax cuts would add $4 TRILLION dollars to the federal deficit over 10 years. And that’s not including McCain’s proposed spending increases.
“The McCain campaign has not explained how it would balance the budget while subtracting $4 TRILLION in revenue. As a means of balancing the budget, McCain has said he would veto all Congressional “earmarks”. But in the current fiscal year all Congressional “earmarks” total only $18 Billion (down 23% since Republicans lost control of Congress).”
A final pair of ostrich slugs... about how the divide is not so much “Red vs Blue” but a struggle between those who feel that we need smart leaders and those who feel it is cute and smart to be dumb.
And... repeat over and over again. Halliburton has moved its headquarters and re-registered itself as a company based and owned in Dubai... (repeat)...
==On Global Competitiveness==
• Create 250 Science/Technology Charter Schools. At present count, American universities graduate 60,000 engineers annually, while China produces 200,000 and India 100,000.
• Universal Broadband by 2012. The United States has fallen behind South Korea, Japan and several European nations in household connection to the Internet.
• Health Insurance for All Dislocated Workers and Portable Pensions. 46% of workers who lose their jobs also lose their health insurance. Congress has created a labyrinth of provisions meant to spur savings by maintaining 16 separate incentives.
• Revive Trade Enforcement and Open Markets. While the Clinton administration filed 66 cases with the World Trade Organization to defend American jobs against unfair trading practices, the Bush administration has filed only 19, even as foreign nations have filed 46 cases against the United States.
• Global Environmental Organization. Environmental policy is the gap in the world's international institutions. Especially with a climate-change agreement on the horizon, the world needs an institution comparable to the UN, World Trade Organization, International Labor Organization, IMF and World Bank capable of serving as the central venue for negotiating and implementing international environmental agreements.
Another way to help US competitiveness -- AND help poor people overseas -- will be to push hard for labor-exploiting nations to adopt and enforce laws that meet international standards regarding child labor, unionization, health and safety and environmental protection.
I do not hold it against my dear friend, the brilliant economic analyst and investment consultant John Mauldin, that he defends some members of the present U.S. administration. After all, loyalty, gratitude and friendship are among the highest of all human traits. Nevertheless, there comes a time to realize that a disaster is in the works, and that the hands presently at the tiller are proving, well, less than capable of steering a 21st Century ship of state. Moreover, John has shown that he is no ostrich, burying his head. Recently, he cited the following passage from HCM Market Letter, by Michael E. Lewitt, and I’d like to share it with you:
“At this point, the domestic economic picture can only be described as ominous. Energy prices have risen from dangerously high to prohibitively high. Housing prices are continuing to drop at alarming rates in many sections of the country. Banks remain reluctant to lend either to individuals or corporations for virtually any type of transaction. And our political and business elites remain a prosper of Hollow Men who continue to whistle past the graveyard as their limousines chauffeur them home each night to their gated mansions.... (P)olicy failures led us into our current difficulties. Inadequate financial regulation allowed unfettered securitization and leverage to push the system to the brink of collapse. A complete failure to fashion a responsible energy policy has led to skyrocketing gasoline prices. The damage inflicted on investors, consumers and businesses by these failures were avoidable. Instead, the political and financial elite placed their own short-term interests ahead of the long-term interests of everybody else, and the results are plain to see: burgeoning inflation, choked credit markets, and a deteriorating physical, moral and cultural climate. The only way to improve things is to identify what ails us and then initiate systemic reform. But systems cannot change unless the individuals who manage and participate in them are willing to change.”
What does all of the above show? That there definitely are some capitalists who have noticed how much things have gone awry. We need to drop our stereotypes and create a new coalition of the decent and the smart and the accountable. And that can include fellows in Brooks Brothers suits.