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J. Hohn

Wow, shoulda proofed the comment below before posting (typos).

J. Hohn

I didn't intend to assert that the Left is indistinguishable from the Democratic party in all manners. For one, the would involve identifying clearly lines of demarcation on what is essentially a continuous spectrum. Hard to do- and impossible to conclusively argue.

But I think it's safe to say that the parties have both moved Leftward in recent decades. There were once Republicans that opposed Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and many other "entitlements." Those voices are now considered far Right, not part of the main of Republicans. After all, no major Republican candidate for national office has talked of ending these programs, or argued that they are inappropriate. Instead, they stipulate the legitimacy of them.

Likewise for Romneycare/HeritageFundCare if you want to call Obamacare/ACA that. The argument in Republican circles used to complete deregulation or partial deregulation. Now it's nibbling around the edges and "reforming" some regulations. Modern Republicans stupulate the legitimacy of a welfare state. They content with Democrats not about legitimacy, but about how much welfare state we will have. I conclude for these and other reasons that Republicans have shifted leftward.

Democrats have shifted leftward was well. Examples include the dearth of pro-life Democrats (there used to be many), and the dramatic growth of government in Democrat-controlled states (and the attendant sea of red ink in states like CA, NJ, NY, IL, MI, etc). Are there modern Democrats that support traditional marriage definitions? More importantly, are members of this small subgroup given any role in crafting the platform?

For a group that espouses diversity so much, I finder remarkably little diversity within the modern Democrat party. They have essentially purged the pro-life, non-Union, traditionalists from their ranks. Either that or the those moderate Democrats have self-selected. Show me the modern equivalent of Sam Nunn, the Democrat most identified with a big strong military (and big budgets for it); I don't think such a modern Democrat exists.

Anyway, I'm sympathetic to the civil liberty concerns you mention that several of those on the Left have. I share them. As that Gotye parody says, "I'm not sure a Nobel Peace Prize winner should have a kill list."

I also think it's time to abandon the phony "war on drugs." All it's doing is sending more Mexicans our way as people flee the warzone that is modern Mexico. Legalize them and the price drops, meaning so do petty crime (used to fund drugs), prostitution (used to fund drugs), STDs will go down as well (addicts can afford cleaner needles and such, and fewer addicts are hooking). Prohibition (a very PROGRESSIVE idea, for the record) was a huge failure. Why would we expect Prohibition 2.0 to work?

Once in this country pure opium was widely available and legal. We seem to have survived that.

I'm becoming more Libertarian as I see the Republicans seem to prefer to argue not that the problem with government is that it controls too much of our lives. No, they seem to argue that the problem with government is that they don't control it.



Obama is a very strange President, I agree. He is not very effective at using the bully pulpit, as they call it, to argue for his positions. I'm not sure why this is the case, since we know he is a very capable speaker. But he hangs back a lot. I don't know why.

You are right that he does have a very liberal record on abortion, and since that is one of the few issues where the U.S. is to the left of most of the rest of the world, that's significant. However, his liberalism on guns really only stands out in the American context, and of course he has not attempted to pass any new gun bans, and scarcely ever talks about the issue, either in campaign season or otherwise.

I strongly disagree with the suggestion that the Democratic party and the left are indistinguishable. The health care law that was passed was first a Republican idea. Even if it was never endorsed by the GOP as a whole, the concept is pretty far from what a socialist would want to see. LIkewise, the Democrats have largely supported the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and have supported the ramping up of the security state in general.

The leftists that I know are highly critical of Obama's positions, not just his performance: They view the health care reform bill as a giveaway to insurance companies rather than a genuine attempt at universal health care. They view Dodd/Frank as toothless. They view Obama's record on civil liberties in a very negative light. They are opposed to his strengthening of the executive branch as it relates to the right to assassinate anyone anywhere, and the right to engage in military action without congressional assent. His record on the war on drugs is similarly uninspiring.

I voted for the Green Party not because I thought Obama was not a strong enough advocate for my positions but rather because I don't think he shares my values or my priorities. Of course as you know I prefer him over Romney but I don't think the differences between them were big enough to justify my voting for him, especially on the issues that matter the most to me.

I suppose the areas where he's definitely on the left side of the spectrum would be abortion and gay marriage, although his position on the latter is increasingly becoming the centrist view, which is why he "evolved" to that point earlier this year.

J. Hohn

Is Obama a Leftist? It's tough to prove one way or the other.

You are correct that much of his behavior in office has been consistent with what any garden-variety Democrat would have done. The obvious question begged, is whether those two positions are mutually exclusive. Is it a given that being far left and being 'garden variety Democrat" are different things? I would submit that in several ways, the Democrats have subsumed what was previously considered a far left position.

Still, there are ways in which Obama stands out. For one, he was ranked as the *most* Liberal of all Senators. Within the American L/R spectrum, that's pretty far Left, even if the American spectrum is decidedly narrower than the global L/R political specturm.

Obama opposed protection for infants that survived botched abortions. He voted to have them denied all medical care. Not to open the abortion can of worms, but the point here is that this is outside the Democrat mainstream. Abortion in the 3rd trimester is far less popularly supported than 1st and 2nd trimester abortion; partial-birth abortion even less popularly supported. Denying any medical care to a child already born in the course of a botched abortion is beyond the Democrat mainstream and into Peter Singer territory. That's not 'garden variety' Democrat as far as I can tell.

I believe Obama is also one of the more ardent gun control advocates within his party. There are many Democrats that hail from more rural areas that do not follow this line. Since there are Democrats on both sides of that issue, Obama's positions place him firmly on the Left within his own party.

With these notable exceptions, I would agree that generally Obama is within the typical Democrat range. But this can just as much mean that Democrats are far Left. The problem is that these are all terms of art, and staking out a marker defining them is inherently difficult. The meanings are evergreen.

You hint on a really solid point about Obama being bad at redistributing wealth. One thing about Obama that stands out to me is that he's not very effective at achieving even the things he wishes for. ACA only happened because Sen Reid and Speaker Pelosi did all the hard work. The Obama admin appeared to sit back and waited for them to deliver ACA.

He could have achieved a LOT of his wish list if he had been more effective in 2008-2009. ACA was all he got (that, and I suppose the end of DADT was also an accomplishment of his). Cap and Trade died.

I believe Obama is an ideologue, just an inept and weak one. He talks big, but won't act big. Remember how he first told the Latinos that he didn't have the authority to implement his amnesty-by-exectutive order, only the do the very thing a year later? He was hedging, hesistant. An ideologue with a strong command of the bully pulpit wouldn't ask for permission the first time. Instead, he would do something like try FDR's court-packing scheme. He would act and make someone tell him no.

By my lights, the criticism Obama gets from his Left flank is not because he doesn't hold the beliefs of the Left, it's because he's been a pretty weak leader in delivering for them.


My views on Obama are complicated. It often seems to me that Republicans mistake him for a leftist, when in reality he's pretty much a garden-variety Democrat, especially on domestic issues. The health care reform bill was far more "moderate" than what, say, Clinton proposed in 1993. If Obama is a wealth redistributor, he's really bad at it. Basically, Republicans think Obama holds the kind of views that people like me hold.

I don't expect much from a second term. I think winning this election was mostly about ensuring that his legislation from his first term goes into effect and is not repealed. Unless the unforeseen happens I don't think you are going to see another stimulus. I don't think you are going to see an end to the drug war or a less aggressive foreign policy. What I think you will see is some kind of "grand bargain" if Obama and Boehner can peel off enough votes to raise taxes on the rich in order to get Democratic support for a mild entitlement reform.

My great fear with Romney was that, if he became president, he would easily pass through the tax cuts portion of his plan without ever getting agreement on what deductions should be eliminated or what programs should be cut.

I really think the right has misinterpreted Obama all along. He's not an ideologue. His approach to most issues is pretty pragmatic, which is why the left became so disillusioned during his first term. Republican rhetoric seems to be focused on stoking anger against a president who does not exist, which may be part of the reason why Republican attacks against him never gained as much traction as they otherwise might. There is a critique to be made of his presidency, but Republicans aren't making it.

J. Hohn

I'll admit that it seems both sides are being a little funny on the math.

There are not enough rich people available to sustain the kind of welfare state the more liberal folks want to see-- something along the model of a European-style social democracy.

Where the Right seems to miss the boat is this idea that tax cuts are some kind of panacea of magical economic goodness. This is why they seem to think you can cut taxes AND crank up spending, because we all know that you just do what Norquist wants and the economy heals itself, right?

The evidence suggest that sometimes tax cuts can grow revenue, but not often is it true. It's one thing to cut the top tax bracket from 90% of the Eisenhower years to something like 70% or 50%. But once the rate is already down to 35% or so, it seems HIGHLY specious to assert that the rich are going to magically spend a bunch more if we further cut their taxes.

The Laffer curve is probably real. It makes sense: at 0% the gov't collects no revenue, and at 100% the gov't collects no revenue because people won't produce. Thus, there is some theoretical tax rate between 0% and 100% that maximizes gov't revenue. If you are above that ideal and cut taxes, you should get more revenue. If you are below that idea, you'd get less revenue.

This is a big area where my fellow Republicans miss the boat on tax policy. I'd prefer the focus be shifted to tax simplification rather fine-tuning. The average American spends about $1.30 to send $1 to the IRS. It seems we might be able to bring in more revenue to the gov't at the same burden to the taxpayer if we just simplified it.

I really like the FairTax proposal. It's the best all-around proposal I've come across, and it's based heavily on Milton Friedman's "negative income tax" idea.

On the race angle, I'm thankful that you think only SOME of us are racists;) No doubt there are still racists on both sides; I would argue that someone who voted FOR Obama *only* because of his race is a racist. A racist is someone who can see only race-- it matters not whether they judge that race superior or inferior. For example, the racism of the Nazis was not just judging Jews inferior, but of judging so-called Aryans superior.

The Republicans are in a sticky spot vis-a-vis Latinos. That's a longer topic than I can broach here, but you are correct in your assessment that what the Republicans are doing now isn't working to endear them to Latinos.

I also think you are right about there not being a huge difference overall between Obama and Romney going forward. Romney wouldn't have singlehandedly fixed things and Obama will not singlehandedly ruin them.

The Democrats who are talking today about a permanent majority remind me of the arrogance of republicans ca 2004 after Bush was narrowly re-elected. They took that election as some kind of mandate to continue spending like drunken sailors and invading whichever country drew the short straw. Then we got the 2nd Bush term, which was a disaster for America, for Bush, and for Republicans. 2004 re-election was a mandate to overhaul social security? Ummm, not so much.

I like the idea of a SS reform/overhaul-- but that doesn't mean I would take a re-election as mandate to do so. Just like people didn't initial elect Obama to do ACA, but seem to not care so much anymore.

I'm predicting that at some point Obama will misread his mandate and go too far and catalyze the swinging of the pendulum back the other way yet again as the electorate gets tired of that particular flavor of poor governance and wants the other flavor back. He strikes me as the kind of idealogue that, in his reach to re-make America, ends up with a tarnished legacy of failure.

I'm glad we had our first Black President. I just wish that the honor would have gone to someone who deserved it-- someone with bona fides beyond mere political appeal and shrewdness.


Both sides are guilty of economic innumeracy. Democrats want to tell everyone that they can have all the social programs that they want so long as we raise taxes on the rich. I don't think that's possible, which is why I favor raising taxes across the board. I also favor entitlement reform, but probably not in the same way you do.

Republicans seem to want to tell everyone that we can balance the budget even while cutting taxes and increasing spending on the military. I don't agree. I think that the "tax cuts grow revenue" argument is a myth and I think that if you want to balance the budget, you have to do many things at once: you have to cut spending in some areas, you have to raise more revenues, you have to grow the economy so the tax base grows wider. This is not easy to do given the global economic situation. I doubt very much that either party will be willing to give up something meaningful. I'm also not sure if reticence to do these things right now is necessarily bad. Austerity will be needed at some point, but you can see from the British example that if you do it in the teeth of a weak economic recovery you can quickly plunge yourself right back into recession and actually make the deficit problem worse.

My outlook on the U.S. changed very little as a result of this election. I mean, move the dials a couple of percentage points in the other direction and Romney would be president. So we're still basically in a 50/50 situation. We're exactly where we were one week ago, give or take a couple seats in the House and the Senate.

I don't think the vast majority of Republicans are racist. I think that if they want to stay competitive in the future they need to think harder about how they talk about race and about how they can appeal to minorities. It needs to go beyond high profile minority Republicans like Marco Rubio or Herman Cain. It needs to go towards the way the party communicates to non-whites and also the policies they support. There are a lot of aspects of the Republican platform that are appealing to minority communities, especially Latinos. For all the things he screwed up this is something that Bush was pretty good at, so we know that the GOP is capable of change. Liberals who are talking today about a permanent Democratic majority are deluding themselves.

J. Hohn

David, I agree with many of your points. Don't tell anyone.

I don't necessarily see the election as a referendum on entitlements per se. What I see is that there is little to no will to constrain spending, and entitlements are the bulk of spending. It matters not whether that entitlement is Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, or even a "tax expenditure" like tax loopholes for oil companies and green energy. ALL of them represent a net loss of tax dollars. NONE of them seem to be on the chopping block with the current divided gov't. I dare say a Romney presidency would be not much differnent in that regard. If there's any bipartisanship in Washington, it's that they both LOVE TO SPEND!

So it's a referendum on entitlements only in the sense that no one is going to step up and say "cut MY program first!" It's NIMBY on steroids.

How is it that this vast government cannot survive with even a 5% across the board cut? Even 2%?

I'm not saying that most people voted for Obama because he's going to play Robin Hood for them. Clearly, the number of wealthy supporters he has were not deterred by the prospect of higher taxation, so I don't necessarily ascribe narrow self-interest to each Obama supporter.

What I do ascribe to vast swaths of Obama supporters is economic innumeracy.

Anyway, I'm not sure welfare was being used to intentionally stoke racial division, but doubtless each person had their own paradigm of what a "welfare" person is, and it varies by locale.

With SO MANY people now getting some kind of benefit, there's no stigma anymore. I'm getting GI Bill benefits to assist with grad school expenses, yet I'm a vocal opponent of 'being on the dole." Hypocrisy? I think not, because I'd be OK with those benefits being taken away from me. But it could be considered hypocrisy. I suppose one could try the 'gov't promised me' argument, but any promise from Congress is only a claim. Congress can rewrite the terms unilaterally at any moment-- there is no contract.

Once every single one of us is dependent upon a grant, a tax credit, a pension, gov't "insurance", something like that then we find ourselves where we are: priving Bastiat right.

"Government is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else."


Also, I did not vote for Obama (I voted for the Green Party), but I know a lot of people who did. Not one of them voted for a wealth transfer for themselves. There are many people who do believe in government social programs not because they personally benefit from them, but rather because they think it is best for society as a whole. I want to see universal health care not because I need health care (I'm already covered), but rather because I think providing health care to everyone should be a top priority of government. I'd be in favor of raising taxes not only on the rich, but on the middle class as well. I'd be in favor of raising taxes on myself.

You are on the right side of the spectrum, I am on the left. We have different views about what the role of government should be, but neither one of us is basing our decisions on our own personal self-interest. We both care about the country as a whole; we both care about society. We have very different ideas about how best to achieve our goals, but our differences are not about who is greedier or lazier or anything like that.


I think the answer is that a generation or two ago people made an effort to use the welfare issue in order to intensify racial divisions within the country. "Welfare" became code for something along the lines of "government taking money from people like me and giving it to people not like me." That's where you then get the cognitive disconnect on the real meaning of "welfare." Government welfare includes food stamps and unemployment benefits, but it also includes tax breaks and Medicare and so forth. It includes things that are very popular politically.

All that said, I'm not sure that your assumptions about why people voted for Obama are correct. Sure, there are people who voted for him because they think he's going to give them "stuff," but that's not, I don't think, an accurate description for why most people voted for him. People do want to see taxes raised on the wealthy in order to help close the deficit, but that kind of "wealth transfer" is nothing new in American politics. Indeed, anyone who is not for a flat tax is in favor of some kind of "wealth transfer" like that. It just becomes a question of degrees. And remember, Republicans and the Romney campaign also went after Obama for CUTTING Medicare. My point here is that a lot of people who voted for Romney are very much in favor of keeping Medicare the way it is. I was surprised by the fact that after Romney picked Ryan as his running mate, they basically scuttled his whole budget plan for the duration of the campaign.

IMO, the reason Romney lost this race was the Latino vote. The GOP coalition simply is unworkable without Latinos. And they lost the Latino vote so badly primarily because their messaging was terrible. Everything from the Sotomayor confirmation hearings to the immigration issue was bungled by GOP leaders. I think what you are going to see happen very quickly now is that the GOP is going to get on board with some kind of immigration reform. Get that done, soften your rhetoric around racial issues, and you will see the GOP share of Latinos (and eventually, African Americans) increase to the point where the party will no longer have to direct all its efforts towards white voters.

My point with all this is that I think it is a mistake to see this election as a referendum on entitlements. Maybe if Romney had centered his campaign around the Ryan budget (and stuck with it) you could see this in that way. But Romney was very vague on entitlements throughout the campaign. Let's wait and see what happens with the fiscal cliff before we reach any conclusions about where the country is with regard to welfare.

J. Hohn

I admit that some of my fears have been made more acute by the recent electoral results, but they are not new. I haven't only recently feared for the future of our Republic.

I see several things that I just can't explain rationally. Signs at Tea Party rallies that say things like "Keep the government out of my Medicare!" Come again?

So many folks who vote republican and complain about all 'those lazy welfare types' are, in fact, "those lazy welfare types" in many cases. The problem is that Medicare, Medicaid, Unemployment, etc are not considered on the dole!

Because no one seems to equate gov't benefit with welfare, we have a rather odd situation where people are against "welfare" but keep voting for more and more of it because it is not recognized as such. Unemployment is 'insurance.' Medicare/Medicaid is 'insurance.' Social Security is a 'pension.'Food Stamps aren't even 'welfare' anymore-- it's just "EBT"-- swipe the card and off you go with your taxpayer-funded beer, cigs, etc.

What do we do when 51% of the people realize they can use their votes to steal from the 49%? I'm not saying we shouldn't have public goods and that the presence of a couple free riders defeats the justification for public goods and services, but it's now going beyond that. It's getting to where people are voting themselves direct wealth transfers.

Once you stipulate that you have a right to your neighbor's property, there's no principled basis on which to limit that right-- it's all arbitrary. If you have the right to $200 of his wealth, why not $300? If you have the right to food, is it 1000 calories/day or 3000? Beans and Rice or filet mignon? If there is a right to food, then someone has to provide that-- there MUST be an attendant right to take from someone else. The gov't cannot give what does not first take.

That's where I'm at on this. Maybe I need to blog out the welfare thing and see if I can process it more coherently.


Hi Justin,

I don't think you should get so down on America. Or rather, I don't think this last election should change your opinion of America. Fact is, criminals have been getting reelected to Congress for a very, very long time. With districts gerrymandered the way they are, there are many seats in Congress that are basically untouchable. You could nominate Pol Pot and he'd win as either a Republican or Democrat if he was in a safe district. Sometimes I think the only races where people hold their politicians to higher standards are governors, senators, and presidents (and even then, not always).

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