Friday, November 14, 2008

"Bipartisan Capital"

I have my first guest-post up at Upturned Earth, and it re-explores a lot of the ground I covered in my "Myth of the Moderate" post. The inspiration for the post is the way in which the Administration-to-be has been less than encouraging on the very issues upon which so many relatively prominent libertarians, conservatives, and disaffected Republicans found Obama appealing.

The post is pretty well summed-up with this 'graph:

Now, in the case of scuttling investigations into potentially criminal abuses by the Bush Administration, it would again be bad politics. Why? Far from being a precious waste of “bipartisan capital,” it is these very potential abuses that, more than anything, led Republicans and disaffected former Republicans to vote for Obama. I am, after all, quite certain that Republicans and disaffected former Republicans who voted for Obama did not do so because they favored his health care plan or his support of the bailout, to name a few. Instead, they voted for Obama over fundamental issues of executive power and excessive war-making. To thus
talk about risking “bipartisan political capital” by investigating Bush-era abuses of power is to ignore the base upon which Obama received whatever “bipartisan political capital” he obtained in the first place.

Please read the whole thing here. And, while you're at it, add Upturned Earth to your RSS feeds.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Can Federalism Be the Seat of the Stool?

Writing at Culture11, John has a post that serves as an almost-perfect springboard for my guest-blogging at his usual homepage beginning tomorrow, where I am hoping to put forward some lengthy thoughts about secessionism, federalism, and individual liberty.

Regular readers of mine will be well aware of my argument that the so-called "Three-Legged Stool" of the Republican coalition has become philosophically incoherent to the point that it no longer has a common theme that serves to bind all elements of that traditional stool. For about the last year, I've been arguing that the only logical result was that libertarians no longer have enough in common with Republicans to be part of the Republican Coalition, to the point that the Dem Coalition will eventually be (though is not yet) more palatable to libertarians than the Republicans. Simultaneously, the Republican Party will be better off, electorally, without libertarians because this would allow them to present a more coherent worldview centered on something akin National Greatness Conservatism, which is entirely consistent with two of the three legs of the stool, and which could accommodate fiscally liberal, socially conservative "working class" voters. Various forms of this argument seem to be becoming something of a conventional wisdom within the libertarian blogosphere over the last few weeks.

John, generally speaking, disagrees with this assessment, arguing that even if GOP economic arguments must move slightly to the left towards the Grand New Party arguments of Reihan Salam and Ross Douthat, those arguments are relatively compatible with libertarianism. Underlying his disagreement, I might add, is the assumption that Republican willingness to invade foreign countries will of necessity fade (as long as this does not fade, there is no hope for libertarians to remain or return to the fold). I think this assumption is unlikely to come to pass, but even if it does, the dominance of religious conservatives on the national level is just too much to overcome. At best, I think this leaves libertarians as something of political free agents. And while Salam and Douthat may have good policy proposals palatable to libertarians, those proposals are far too specific to form the "seat" of a diverse political coalition. Instead, they are best seen as a way of bringing new voters into the GOP coalition without altering the coalition's "seat" (whatever that may be).

In any event, John's post today at Culture11 looks at the numerous remaining successful Republican governors and finds a long-overlooked potential "seat": federalism. He argues, correctly, I think, that the relative success of Republican governors does not provide a blueprint for success on the national level, as is the conventional wisdom. Instead, he says, the success (or lack of failure) of Republican governors is much more an endorsement of federalism, noting that Republican governors are extremely diverse from an ideological standpoint. By emphasizing federalism over all else on the national level, the Republican Party can accommodate any number of viewpoints. John then says "Presenting themselves, not as a single-minded party with an inflexible platform and no place for disagreement, but rather as a group that is focused on enabling local governance and a consequent sensitivity to regional particularities, can help Republicans to overcome their internal conflicts without having to throw the dissenters overboard."

I think, insofar as this goes, John is fundamentally right. While federalism as contemplated by the Constitution is far from perfect and too susceptible to local majoritarianism,* the local flexibility it permits can accommodate a diverse number of conceptions of freedom and liberty. The problem, as he acknowledges, is that uniting around federalism would require Republican conservatives "abandoning the attempt to make federal policy decisive on issues like abortion, marriage, drug policy, and euthanasia." For libertarians, of course, this is probably a feature rather than a bug, and I think John does a good job arguing why this would actually be good for social conservatives as well. In this sense, then, John has I think identified a viable "seat" to put the Three-Legged Stool back together. (But see Joe Carter's response, which raises a bunch of issues that I will probably address in my post at Upturned Earth on my proposal for improving federalism).

But after the last eight years of Terry Schiavo, medical marijuana raids, and attempts to prevent assisted suicide laws, I simply don't think federalism is a philosophy around which social conservatives are willing to rally any more....even if it is probably in their best interest in the long-run.

*Much of this can be alleviated through rigorous and expansive enforcement of the 14th Amendment, at least from a libertarian perspective - I don't think social conservatives would be too keen on that solution, though.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Proud Mary Keep on Burning

First, I want to announce that effective Thursday, I will have the privilege of being one of several guest-bloggers for the always-outstanding John Schwenkler at Upturned Earth. I am, to say the least, excited at the opportunity of reaching John's substantially wider audience. I will try to cross-post a good chunk of my work over there at this site, but I would encourage my readers to comment at the Upturned Earth posting, where there is guaranteed to be substantially more conversation. My co-guest bloggers will include JL Wall, blogger and Culture11 contributor, William Randolph Brafford of williamwrites, and Nathan Origer of Nathan contra Mundi. We will be joined by Kyle Erickson, a PoliSci grad student at Georgetown, who will no doubt keep me honest with all my cockamamie political theories.

And while I'm here, now is as good a time as any to recommend some outstanding posts from our own blogroll that I've been meaning to write about.

First, if you're not reading Wirkman Virkkala, then I don't know what to tell you. There is no one more intellectually challenging or with a more independent voice on the internets. At least not that I've run into. You can start with his take on Roderik Long's take on a left-libertarian coalition.

Good friend Kip points out something truly evil in the Progressive blogosphere that puts a little bit of a crux into the idea of a left-libertarian coalition.

The Whited Sepulchre on why we could have done much, much worse than Barack Obama.

Social Service for Feral Children documents the thirty conspiracy theories of the 2008 elections.

Turning to the political Left...

I meant to note awhile ago that longtime PE commenter (and polite gadfly?) Dynamic finally has his own site. Dynamic is always good for an interesting, good faith debate.

Last but by no means least, good friend Kyle, now semi-semi-retired from poliblogging, writes about "No Drama Obama." He argues, accurately I think, that Obama will not govern as a Progressive ideologue but rather will take a considered, deliberative approach to decisionmaking.