Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

Posts Tagged ‘Conservatives’

UK Election Analysis: Expectations vs. Reality

Posted by sanityinjection on June 9, 2017

Yesterday’s UK parliamentary elections are being spun in the media as a disastrous result for Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May, despite the face that the Tories remain by far the largest party in Parliament, losing 13 seats from their pre-election tally of 331. To understand what is really going on here, let’s look at the the difference between expectations and reality.

Elections are increasingly viewed not so much by the significance of the actual result, but by the difference between the result and what was expected going into the election. These expectations are themselves the product of media reporting and polling, which vary wildly in the accuracy of their predictions. In the case of this recent election, the Conservatives were originally expected to increase their majority, given the perceived unpopularity of Labour and its leader Jeremy Corbyn. Against this expectation, losing any number of seats seems like a failure for May and the Tories. They no longer have an absolute majority in the Commons, although May should be able to count on the support of the small DUP party of Northern Ireland to create a very slim majority. (It is also important to note that Northern Ireland’s Sinn Fein party refuses to actually take up their seats in Parliament, which reduces the practical number of votes on the opposition side.)

In reality, then, May will be operating in an environment similar to what has often prevailed in the US – a very narrow parliamentary majority in which a few defectors can derail the government’s initiatives. This forces the government to obtain at least some support among opposition MPs in order to get things done. It’s harder to pass legislation, but what does get passed usually ends up being better for having broader support. So the “disaster” for the Conservatives is really just business as usual in the US and many other countries.

Now, it’s certainly true that the result is a setback for May, particularly because the results suggest not so much a repudiation by the voters of Conservative values, but of May and her leadership team. A number of her ministers were among those who lost their seats, even while the Tories increased their percentage of the vote among working-class Britons. May is widely perceived to have run a poor campaign, alienating both older and younger voters with poorly explained social policy proposals. Meanwhile, Corbyn comes out as a winner despite his party still being in the minority. Not only did his leadership improve rather than worsen Labour’s numbers, he was particularly effective in motivating Labour turnout among students and young people. The results should bolster his position as Labour’s leader which had previously been on very shaky ground.

One bright spot for the Tories is in Scotland, where the party has been effectively reborn with its best showing since 1983. The Tories, as well as Labour and the Liberal Democrats, gained at the expense of the previous dominant Scottish National Party. The SNP’s leader, Nicola Sturgeon, had been calling for a second referendum on Scottish independence, and will now probably have to shelve those plans for the time being.

A number of writers seem determined to try to interpret the results as being a referendum on Brexit. In fact, most voters seem to have been more concerned with domestic economic and social issues, understanding that whether “hard” or “soft”, some form of Brexit is now inevitable regardless of who resides at No. 10. It is also interesting that the recent terror attacks in Manchester and London do not seem to have greatly affected the results one way or another. My personal sense is that the typical gain that the “law and order” Conservatives would normally get among some voters was offset by the alternate view that the Tory government, being already in power, is responsible for not doing enough to prevent the attacks.

Speculation about Theresa May being unseated as Tory Leader and Prime Minister is probably extremely premature. This is not because May is beloved or will easily be forgiven by the party for the perceived election failure. Rather, there simply is no obvious choice to replace her, nor is there a significant ideological divide within the party from which a challenger could draw strength. Instead, May will have to make her leadership style more inclusive and put more effort into keeping her MPs happy.

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Why do conservatives oppose higher taxes and expansion of government programs?

Posted by sanityinjection on March 25, 2010

Most people who are generally familiar with American politics understand that people who call themselves “conservatives” generally oppose higher taxes and expansion of government services (“big government”). However, I’m willing to bet that many people do not really understand *why* conservatives oppose these things. The average person may understand at some level that conservatives are not simply greedy, selfish people who are trying to weasel out of paying their fair share. But with this smear constantly being repeated to them by the Left and their media lackeys, and without an alternative explanation readily available, the stereotype becomes pervasive.

In fact, the conservative positions stand on a solid foundation of economics, common sense and even fairness. I commend to your attention this essay by Hal Gershowitz and Stephen Porter. Although lengthy, it explains in a clear and logical way many key conservative ideas on economics and government, including:

  • Why raising taxes creates a socialist system in which the rich pay far *more* than their fair share to subsidize everyone else
  • Why expanding entitlement programs such as subsidized health care is financially irresponsible
  • How the role of the federal government has inflated to take over things that local governments used to provide and that individuals and charities used to be responsible for
  • Americans are increasingly encouraged to view their life goals as “rights” to be provided by someone else (the government) rather than things we ourselves should work to achieve

The authors conclude by rhetorically asking: “Are you a morally bad person if you do not want to shoulder an ever-increasing government appetite to provide more and more benefits to a segment of the population who view these benefits as if they are birthrights?”

You can only get so many eggs out of the golden goose. If America continues to demand more and more from the top 10 percent – the people who really drive our econ0my – at what point will they get fed up and, like Ayn Rand’s John Galt, simply quit or move overseas?

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Public policy primer: The theory of collateral damage

Posted by sanityinjection on March 2, 2010

“Collateral damage” is a military term applied when an action results in damage suffered by persons or things other than the intended target.  It’s a useful and easy to understand phrase which I propose to apply to the realm of public policy. I argue that one of the major reasons that government initiatives fail is that their creators fail to anticipate “collateral damage”.

Lemme ‘splain. Let’s say you are a politician with a public policy goal – maybe extending health insurance coverage to more people, or creating more jobs to bring down unemployment. As a politican you also have a secondary or even primary goal of good PR – it is even more important that you appear to be doing something about the problem than that you actually solve it. This creates a desire to move as quickly as possible, and that in turn leads to a tendency to fail to anticipate the “collateral damage”, or unintended consequences of the primary action. Almost nothing that government does is going to be without side effects.

For example, the collateral damage of a military build-up – however justifiable in terms of national security – is usually an increase in the deficit. That may not be a reason not to do the build-up, but it certainly should be taken into account and minimized as much as possible. The collateral damage of raising the minimum wage might be an increase in unemployment, as companies that have to pay higher wages compensate by hiring fewer workers. This incremental effect should be analyzed and used to calibrate an increase that is neither too little to help or so high that it causes harm.

The bigger and more complicated a government initiative, the more instances of collateral damage it’s likely to create, and you reach a point where that damage is collectively worse than the benefit you hoped to gain. This is one of the reasons why conservatives tend to reflexively view the expansion in size and scope of any government program as a bad thing. In far too many cases, the end result is that you are actually worse off in big-picture terms than you would have been had you done nothing at all. But the politicians get their photo-ops and press releases and can boast about the good they’re doing while ignoring the bad side effects.

Of course, not every consequence can always be fully anticipated. And some collateral damage is predicted and controlled for, but government, and especially Washington, could do a far better job than they do, with resulting benefits for the people they are elected to serve.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

What does NY-23 mean for the GOP?

Posted by sanityinjection on November 2, 2009

All the buzz in political circles today is about something called “NY-23”. That’s the abbreviation for the 23rd Congressional District of New York State. The reason for the hubbub is that the official GOP candidate in the race, Dede Scozzafava, has dropped out after conservatives surged to support third-party Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman – who doesn’t even live in the district. Hoffman is now likely to beat the Democrat candidate and win the seat, but some on both sides of the aisle are suggesting that this heralds the radicalization of the GOP and the end of moderates in the party.

As usual, the case is being overstated. First of all, Scozzafava had been handpicked by the local GOP county chairs and voters probably resented the echo of 19th century backroom politics. Second, Scozzafava wasn’t just a moderate Republican who could appeal to Democrats and independents. She was in the mold of Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, and Lincoln Chafee – far to the left of most Republicans in her district on both social *and* economic issues. In other words, in the GOP, you can be soft on abortion, or you can be soft on government spending, but you can’t be soft on both. Otherwise, why on earth are you a Republican at all?

If Hoffman’s coup really signalled the end of moderate influence in the GOP, that would be cause for concern. But as usual, the media and the political talking heads are reading too much into one event simply because it’s the only game in town. It was a far bigger coup in 1964 when Barry Goldwater captured the Republican nomination for President, and we were told that the moderate wing of the GOP was finished then too.  And certainly a conservative movement did spring from that, culminating in Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrich. But let’s not forget that Gerald Ford defeated Reagan for the nomination in 1976, and George Bush Sr. fended off a right-wing challenge from Pat Robertson in 1988. Bob Dole in 1996 and John McCain in 2008 were not the most conservative candidates either. So spare me the funeral dirges for the moderate wing of the GOP just yet.

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Obama nominates Sotomayor for Supreme Court: First thoughts

Posted by sanityinjection on May 26, 2009

It is tempting to rush to judgment concerning President Obama’s first Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor. Judge Sotomayor has a fairly extensive judicial record which is already being mined by the media for juicy tidbits.

However, there is a reason that the Senate holds confirmation hearings. Judge Sotomayor should be afforded the opportunity to participate, through her statements,  in the public re-definition of herself as a jurist that accompanies every Supreme Court nomination. So, like the Senate GOP, I am going to refrain from taking a position until I’ve heard more from the judge herself.

I will make a few comments, though. The first is that as a general rule, I think the President should be entitled to the benefit of the doubt when it comes to his nominees – for the Court, the Cabinet, or any position. A difference in political ideology should not be sufficient grounds to oppose a Presidential nominee. Sotomayor is unquestionably a liberal. Well, duh. Did you think Obama was going to appoint a conservative? If he were to withdraw Sotomayor’s nomination for any reason, his second choice is not going to resemble Antonin Scalia. So it would be silly for the GOP to oppose Sotomayor simply because she’s a liberal. Nor does Sotomayor’s record suggest that she votes in a knee-jerk or thoughtless fashion. In fact, she’s rather known for aggressive questioning of appellants.

Of course, the judicial record I mentioned above contains a number of controversial items that I would argue are legitimate areas of concern. For example, Sotomayor is on record as stating that the Second Amendment only applies to the federal government and not to the several states. That argument, generalized to cover the other Amendments in the Bill of Rights, would allow states to abrogate rights such as free speech and freedom of religion if their state constitutions allow it. Thus, I will be eager to hear how Sotomayor chooses to put this portion of her record in context when it comes up during the hearings, as it surely will.

However, one must keep in mind the political context of this nomination. Assuming no major bombshells arise to derail the nomination, Obama can count on the votes of most Democratic Senators and one or two Republicans, who do not care to vote against her because she is (pick one) liberal, female, or Hispanic. This means that no matter how long the blustering goes on, Sotomayor is likely to be confirmed. Conservatives will have to gauge whether it is worth making a stink over Sotomayor’s record and risk being painted as racist or sexist for opposing her.  The GOP may choose to save its ammo for a later fight when Obama nominates John Paul Stevens’ successor. Also, the hearings will probably take place over the summer when fewer Americans are paying attention to politics. So there’s less to be gained by grandstanding by either side.

At the end of the day, I believe that unless a Presidential nominee proves to be seriously flawed in qualifications or character, we should defer to the President’s preferences, whether that President is a Republican or a Democrat. (I have not forgotten the political assassination of Judge Robert Bork, one of the most qualified individuals ever nominated to the Court, by Democrats on purely ideological grounds.) The question is whether Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings will magnify today’s concerns to prove to be such flaws, or not. Like political junkies everywhere, I will eagerly await the answer.

But the outcome of this should be important to all Americans. Not because Sotomayor is female (not the first or even second woman on the Court) or Hispanic (a first, but there’s always going to be another first – first Albanian-American, first disabled person, etc. – when does it stop being the primary method of viewing people?), but because the nine members of the Supreme Court are among the most powerful people on earth – as powerful as the President in their collective ability to make decisions that affect the lives of ordinary Americans – think Dred Scott, Brown v. Board of Education, and Roe v. Wade, just for starters. What that means is that we should all hope for a nominee who takes the responsibility of being a Supreme Court Justice with the greatest of seriousness, and who will use her or his legal experience and understanding of the Constitution to make decisions based on the body of American law, not to advance a particular political agenda, but rather to hold any and all political agendas subject to the same scrutiny and standards. Liberals dissatisfied with the Court up until now have felt that the majority of the Justices have not done so; if that is the case (and I don’t agree that it is), replacing a partisan activist Court with another one swinging in the opposite direction is not a victory for the rule of law, only an Orwellian swap between the oppressors and the oppressed (Read 1984!)

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Boston Globe defends conservatives???

Posted by sanityinjection on April 27, 2009

This is a red-letter day, folks. The Boston Globe, the only surviving official organ of the Soviet Communist Party, actually has an op-ed today criticizing Homeland Security for their report implying that conservatives and returning veterans are dangerous extremists. “Conservatives have a right to be angry,” says the Globe.  First time this storied paper has ever acknowledged conservatives have any sort of rights.

Of course, given that the Globe is facing an imminent shutdown by its parent company, the New York Times, this could a parting shot  reflecting the real opinion of an op-ed editor who will be out of a job soon. Or it could be a play for support from the Right in the paper’s hour of desperate need, though the idea that conservatives would overlook decades of malice because of one nice column is laughable.

Still, rare events are worthy of notice, whatever their cause may be!

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Are liberals more intelligent than conservatives?

Posted by sanityinjection on March 26, 2009

In the northeastern US where I live, there prevails a general certainty among the liberal intelligentsia that liberals are, both individually and collectively, more intelligent than conservatives. The general image conjured of a conservative involves a white male with a brow ridge, red flannel shirt, pickup truck with gun rack, a Bible that he cites but has not read (and may not be able to read), and who violently despises anyone different from himself.

In fairness, there are places where that stereotype may not be far from the truth, though the great northeastern cities are not likely candidates. Nevertheless, even liberals who can move beyond that stereotype are convinced that conservatives just aren’t as smart or well-educated as they are – otherwise, they’d be enlightened and become liberals.

Thus, it is with this outlook in mind that I feel obligated to present the following object lesson as an invitation for liberals afflicted with this mindset to reconsider:

fail owned pwned pictures

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , | 5 Comments »

Liberals vs. Conservatives: Charity contest

Posted by sanityinjection on December 22, 2008

Liberal columnist Nicholas Kristof discovers in the NYT that conservatives give more to charity than liberals do:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/21/opinion/21kristof.html?_r=1&ref=opinion

He breaks down several variables including the impact of religious giving and giving to organizations that don’t have a big impact on the truly less fortunate. He also points out that conservatives volunteer more and give blood more often.

In fairness, conservatives *should* be more charitable in principle. If we believe that it is not the government’s job to look after the less fortunate, it is up to us to provide a non-governmental solution, and that means charities and volunteerism. Liberals can argue that they support raising taxes on themselves to support government programs for the poor and disadvantaged.

I like Kristof’s call for a good-natured competition between liberals and conservatives to see who can do more for the less fortunate. During hard economic times, charity becomes all the more important. Although we may be having a harder time ourselves, there is always somebody in worse shape.

This year, I made a point to give more to charity than I have in the past. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to do even better next year. I hope you will, too.

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Conservativism, civil rights, and racial policy

Posted by sanityinjection on June 30, 2008

Your Sanity Injection returns from hiatus with a true gem of a column.  It can be very hard for those of us born after 1960 to understand how mainstream conservatives could have so strongly opposed the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which nowadays is viewed by all but the most radical fringe as one of the great achievements in the history of American public policy.

The author of this brilliant piece, William Voegeli, uses the writings and thought of the late conservative icon William F. Buckley as a vehicle to examine the attitude of conservativism as a whole to civil rights and racial policy in America.  Voegeli’s criticism of the conservative movement stings  because, unlike political partisans, he takes the time to aim it precisely: Conservatives were on the wrong side of history not because their concerns about Federal power trampling states’ rights were a mask for underlying racism, as liberals then and now have accused, but because they utterly failed to offer an alternative solution that would have secured the civil rights of black Americans, and were, in the final analysis, content to do nothing about a problem that was far more important in the daily lives of millions than constitutional questions of government jurisdiction.

However, Voegeli goes on to show how this failure destroyed the credibility of conservatives on racial policy issues going forward, pointing out that conservative criticisms of forced busing and affirmative action went unheeded for this reason, to the detriment of the country as a whole.

Be forewarned, this is a long essay and clearly written for the intellectual reader. It is, however, extremely well written, strikingly insightful, and eminently worth taking the time to read. I commend it both to liberals who truly believe that conservatives are racists as well as to conservatives who cannot understand why they think so:

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2008/06/civil_rights_the_conservative.html

 

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