Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Grumpamoose on Election 2008

Since I have not gotten the feedback I hoped for from my request for topics for this week's "Grumpamoose on...?" series, I guess I will supply the first topic. As I explained when I announced the series, these will be written as a stream of consciousness manner, so I apologize for any incoherence in advance.

When I started (or re-started) this blog again in 2007, I intended to avoid politics as much as possible. In spite of that, I have had several thoughts running through my head since Governor Huckabee won the Iowa Caucus last week. Now for the record I want to be clear - I do not support his candidacy, and likely will not vote for him in the Texas Primary in March, unless both of my preferred candidates are no longer in the race. Not that Texas has a likely primary voice, since traditionally the candidates are already selected by the first of March, which is another rant for another time. In the event that neither of my two preferred candidates are still alive on the GOP side, I will not vote for Huckabee, but will sit out the primary altogether - or go to the Democratic one and see how I can muck up the works, primarily speaking.

Specifically I continue to be super annoyed, and increasingly hostile toward, the GOP NY-DC Elites, due to the continuing derision of him and to a lesser extent, his supporters in Iowa and potential ones elsewhere. It is because of the way the NRO crowd in particular belittled Iowa's significance in this election cycle that I found a small measure of glee that Huckabee won, if for no other reason than I am sick of their elitism and disdain toward lower middle class social conservatives. Now I know the NROniks and Townhall folks are going to say what hostility? But when is the last time you read anything from Larry Kudlow, Andrew Stuttaford, Lisa Schiffren, Rich Lowry, Hugh Hewitt, Bill Kristol, Kathryn Lopez, Jim Geraghty and so forth, that acknowledges that, while by most historical measures the economy is doing well, the fact is that there are millions of Americans to whom the benefits of this economy are not flowing. Who of national prominence, other than Rod Dreher, acknowledge the damage to local, mainly lower and middle class neighborhoods that is aggravated, if not caused by, uncontrolled illegal immigration? What little I have seen written on this either denies that there are significant numbers who are not benefiting, rather than questioning and re-thinking the policies that are potentially exacerbating the challenges that many Americans face. There is little acknowledgment that significantly rising fuel and food prices are problems for large numbers of Americans. Inflation - what inflation? they say, conveniently ignoring that the Federal inflation stats leave out food and fuel costs, and retail sales numbers do not reflect the changing proportion devoted to fuel viz a viz other consumer goods. I would love to buy a hybrid car, but I cannot afford one, since corn ethanol demand has made my food more expensive.

Or in the case for those of us for whom abortion or illegal immigration, or health insurance issues, are a big deal, when we see that the GOP Congress has had 10+years to do something about these issues that the Congress has within their power to do, but haven't done so (like strip the Federal Courts of jurisdiction, and send the abortion question back to the 50 states where it belongs per the 10th Amendment). In the case of abortion, where has it been acknowledged that many social conservatives have finally started to realize that the pro-life stances of many of the GOP elected office may be only "purported", and these office holders have no intention of ever doing anything about it at the federal level?

What the Elites at NRO and other "conservative" bloggers have ignored or downplayed is this - Governor Huckabee has tapped into this stream of middle class/social conservative concerns and while his track record is mixed, and his policy proposals are somewhat wacky - he is the only candidate who publicly acknowledges that there is a lower and middle class, and that their concerns deserve as much if not more consideration as those of the bankers and stock market folks when making and re-making Federal domestic policy. Mitt Romney isn't getting this, Rudy Guiliani isn't, and John McCain isn't, and the NRO/East Coast/Anti Social Conservatives sure as hell don't get it. Mike Huckabee's policy prescriptions would again be of mixed benefit to the middle classes. For example, anyone who honestly believes that the Fair Tax would not result in double taxation and/or expects that the costs of goods would come down to offset the embedded taxes on income, is naive at best. Congress has shown no willingness to reduce spending in any degree, so the idea that the Federal Leviathan would not jump at the opportunity to add to the tax slavery burden if given the opportunity is asinine to the extreme. As is the idea that business executives would reduce their prices to reflect the lower income taxes rather than pocket the sudden windfall as profits to drive up the stock prices for the shareholders. If you honestly believe these things will happen, I would like to know what you are smoking.

Huckabee may be an excellent example of style over substance, but there is a reason why he is resonating, and I think here his background as a pastor gives him a leg up - a pastor knows "normal" people. He spends time with them, and their concerns often are his concerns as well. Mitt Romney, John McCain, and Mayor Guiliani , and I daresay the NRO/Hugh Hewitt/Club for Growth crowd, likely don't know many people outside their circle - not in the way that a pastor would. This in no way reflects on their character, but I doubt very highly that many of Mr Romney's close friends and associates make less than $200, 000, and I doubt he himself has rarely if ever earned much less that that, adjusted for 2008 dollars. The concerns of the middle and working class America are foreign to him, as they are to the vast majority of the GOP Elites. And since they are foreign, they are dismissed or ignored. Whereas Governor Huckabee, perhaps Fred Thompson, since as an actor he has everyday experiences with non-elite working folks (makeup artists, camera operators, etc), can relate to the middle class - to the average American. What the GOP elites do not seem to get is that there is much more to the Republican Party than the Club for Growth. The economic conservatives may have the money, but the social conservatives/middle class has the grassroots manpower and enthusiasm - BOTH are needed for victory. And since both groups are needed, why in the hell are Econ-cons spewing such animosity? I know I know, they expect that Social Conservatives will at the end of the day suck it up and, like good little boys and girls, vote for whichever Republican the elites throw up. Funny how this only seems to go one way. God forbid the Econ-con elites ever have to suck it up and get behind an actual honest to goodness Social Conservative.

As long as Huckabee is the only candidate who is speaking to the middle class instead of just the investor class, and at least acknowledging their legitimate concerns, this large fissure in the GOP coalition will continue to grow. Unless the NRO crowd and the candidates themselves get off their high horses and start seriously addressing the middle class, and both acknowledging and addressing the legitimate concerns of the many other conservatives that do not live and work along I-95 corridor, come November, say hello to President Obama or Clinton.