Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Mitt's turn?

Mitt Romney has been pretty quiet, but as Yahoo! reports he has been very busy.

BOSTON – Mitt Romney doesn't have a job for the first time in his adult life. That hardly means he's not working. In ways both subtle and overt, the 2008 Republican presidential contender, former Massachusetts governor, one-time Olympics chief and high-flying businessman is building toward a 2012 White House campaign by judiciously engaging and disengaging with the national debate.

On Tuesday, he's in Chicago to speak at a fundraiser for a prospective state treasurer candidate. On Wednesday, he's in Washington to headline a fundraiser for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. On Thursday, he's again the keynote speaker at a fundraising dinner for Republicans in New York City.

After that, he's heading back to his oceanfront home in La Jolla, Calif., to continue writing newspaper columns and a political book. Based on the '60s tome "The American Challenge" by Frenchman Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber, it will be aimed at shaking American economic and political complacency, he said.

Romney's also supervising the sale of houses he owns in Massachusetts and Utah, the type of excess real estate that brought ridicule to John McCain last fall. And his political action committee is seeding money to candidates across the country.

Romney may find himself in the coveted but dangerous spot of "front runner" for an election almost four years away. That is dangerous because there is a lot of ground to cover, but if he plays his hand right

Here are some of the factors in his favor (these are my thoughts, so I may be wrong about some of this stuff):

  1. There is no one who has emerged post election as the conservative voice, other than Rush Limbaugh who clearly is not going to be our nominee. I think Governor Palin could have been that voice, but she is so crippled from the campaign and her mishandling that she is probably going to have a hard time overcoming the media image that has been painted. Tim Pawlenty of MN is a possibility but no one outside of some political wonk types knows who he is. Bobbie Jindal is intriguing, but he fumbled his first major spotlight event in the Republican response, but he has plenty of time left to fix that. I don't see Huckabee being the answer.
  2. He is a businessman, a stark contrast to our current President who has no experience in the real world.
  3. He already has a grassroots organization in place in many of the early primary states, which is key to getting an early victory in the primaries.
  4. He has, as the article mentions, the best chance to bring together the fractured factions in the GOP, the social-religious conservatives and the old school, fiscal conservative of National Review.
  5. Perhaps most importantly to me, he was extremely gracious in defeat and did a lot to help McCain's doomed campaign. He showed a lot of character and class in defeat, and that should win him a lot of support. A gracious loser is still a loser, but he showed that he is committed to the cause.

Of course he still has some issues to deal with

  1. Christian conservatives are still going to look with suspicion at a mormon. I think after four years of Obama, we may be willing to swallow hard and vote for a mormon (for my litany of thoughts on Mitt Romney, click here)
  2. His reputation as a flip-flopper on conservative issues may still be a problem, but he has shown that he is committed to the cause over the course of the last year, so that may be going away.
  3. As a businessman, he is going to have to deal with the media and administration vilification of corporate America. Coupled with a likely minor economic recovery in spite of Obama's policies, he may have a tough fight ahead of him.
Based on his behavior after he lost in the primaries and that he has stuck to his guns, Mitt may be a more palatable choice in the future. Not an ideal one, but someone who might be able to beat Barack Obama. That may seem overly pragmatic, but we really cannot afford a second term of Obama. Look what he has done so far, and think what an emboldened Obama would do as a lame duck in a second term. We have a long way to go, but 2012 is going to be a very important election for the future course of this country and instead of wallowing in self-pity and defeat, conservatives need to be holding an open audition for the leadership of the movement.

Monday, March 30, 2009

What is the arsenal of liberty?

Quite simply, it is a citizenry that is informed and capable of critical thought. As a people we are by and large woefully ignorant. That isn’t to say we are without any knowledge. Lots of people can tell you about sports or who is on American Idol or all manner of information about topics banal and inane. But when it comes to matters of politics or economics, you get glassy stares because as a people we are not exposed to these issues or told that it is important. The two great pillars that preserve our system of government are found in the 1st and 2nd amendment. A populace that is informed and able to express themselves through the free exchange of ideas, coupled with a populace that is armed, places a vital check on the power of the government by those agreeing to be governed. We have dealt for decades with attacks on the 2nd Amendment but the greater threat today is on the 1st. Not because free speech is being restricted (yet). Rather it is because we have nothing to speak about. Let me clarify: we have lots of talk about but nothing of any substance.

There are two primary culprits for this state we are in: the education system and the current American family model.

Our public education system ceased being about education long before I got to school. Schools have become glorified day-care. The public education system resembles the Lord of the Flies with the kids running the establishment. Violent students are kept in the system because they have been diagnosed with some sort of malady or disability. “Gifted” students are plucked out of the system and given special opportunities. The average kid is left to slog through year after year of wasted time, indifferent instruction, rote memorization designed to produce a desired result on a standardized test. This is not the fault of the average teacher but instead is the result of a system that is not designed not for education but compliance. I am growing more convinced that the school system is designed to produce ignorant and indifferent worker drones, drones who will do what they are told and be pliable so long as they are kept entertained.

That includes our vaunted university system. Our universities are not about critical thought, exploring ideas, placing competing positions forward in the public square to be defended. They are about uniformity in ideology. That was true even a decade and a half ago when I was in college. The overwhelming majority of students just sat in their seats, took notes and parroted back what the prof wanted to hear. In the last half century, the university system has become a place where students are to be indoctrinated into a particular stream of politically correct though. Any whack-job leftist, no matter how discredited, can get a rousing ovation at a university. A conservative shows up and the open minded left protests their very presence on the holy ground of campus and often stages disruptive or outright violent protests. Little wonder that Johnny cannot read nor can he think even with a sheepskin in hand.

In the American family model of 2008, presuming we even have a mother and father in the home which is a big presumption, the standard model is that both parents work at least part-time outside of the home. Kids are shipped off to various institution and activities to keep them busy: day-care, schools, sports, groups. Children are kept absent or busy as much as possible. There is minimal family interaction by design. Kids are absent most of the day and when they are home they are either doing the hours of homework that should have been done during the day or they are sequestered in their rooms with a myriad of electronic media to entertain them. Parents have little impact on their worldview, which is precisely the way it is designed.

An ignorant and placated citizenry is a necessary ingredient of tyranny. On the flip side, a well-informed and attentive citizenry has been the bane of tyrants throughout history. We are devolving from a society that cherished liberty and extolled the virtues of achievement into a society of covetousness. We punish and vilify the achievers in our society and yet we wonder why our economy is in the tank, why investments are fleeing overseas where a worker in India will do the same work as a worker in Michigan because the Indian worker appreciates having a job without the accompanying sense of entitlement.

My goal is not to browbeat others with the force of my arguments. I am not even that interested in convincing people of the rightness of my arguments as much as I am in getting people to think. My hope is to present ideas, to challenge assumptions, to encourage people (especially me!) to think. Someone with the opposite political beliefs who has obviously taken the time to think through them is far less annoying to me than someone, conservative or liberal, who has never bothered to think through why they believe what they believe. So let us reason together.

Sunday, March 29, 2009