a contemplative approach to politics

Archive for December, 2011

What the Media is Missing

Posted by blindspotpolitics on December 29, 2011

We all know that the main stream media is lacking in any intense discussion of policy during campaigns. Perhaps this is a sign of the encroaching stupidity of modernity sans Idiocracy. Or perhaps it’s a sign of a news market that cheers ratings and competition among networks over valued discussion. Regardless, the so called main stream media often fails to expand upon candidate’s policy ideas or discuss them at all.

The problem with not discussing policy is that potentially dangerous ideas are essentially swept under the table. Rick Perry’s recent critique of the Supreme Court is a poignant example. One of his more disturbing ideas, that the Supreme Court will be, under a Perry administration, subject to term limits, has not received the attention it deserves in the media. Maybe this is because most media sources consider Perry’s Presidential bid hopeless, but the importance of his suggestion is very important, if not at a practical level then at a theoretical level.

Perry’s suggestion is disturbing because it undermines the functionality of our democracy; harsh words, I know. The seperation of powers is a fundamental principle of our representative democracy. The courts, separated as their own branch of government and thus independent of the legislative and governing bodies, ensure a fair and progressive society (This conclusion may not be based on a strict reading of the Constitution but it is certainly based on the precedents set by courts throughout American History, see Marshall and Warren Court as prime examples of Judicial Review and social progression). Threatening the life terms of Supreme Court Justices advocated by Alexander Hamilton in Federalist 78 (see a good synopsis here), threatens the independence of the Judiciary and the whole concept of three branches of government. Simply put, life terms for Supreme Court Justices ensures that they are independent of the whims of the political climate because they have no threat of losing their job.

Yes, unlike members of Congress who must be reelected every two (House) or six (Senate) years, they do not have constituents and no one votes for them. Perry argues that this lack of accountability means that Justices can act independent of what people generally want or believe in. Almost ironically, and a little too scary and concerning to laugh at, Perry’s critique of the courts is precisely their purpose. The Supreme Court is not supposed to represent us; not directly, anyways. They are not supposed to represent what the people view is correct or what is popular to believe in. They are supposed to represent the vision of our founding fathers and the theoretical principles that are the foundation of our democracy. What maintains the supremacy of our courts is not their inherent power or their lust for even more power but the slow march of time. As time moves on it leads to the  development of societal norms and of individual notions regarding social equality. This in turn, leads to the destruction of antiquated and dangerous beliefs and thus the acceptance or at least the toleration of once marginalized groups or practices or beliefs. One hundred years ago a large plurality, if not a majority, of Americans believed Black men and women to be inferior. The march of time has changed this, pushed slowly along by decisions from the courts.

The media did report on Perry when he discussed the courts. They chided him for saying their were only eight justices and for mispronouncing Sonia Sotomayer’s name, silly mistakes indeed. A serious and well advertised analysis of Perry’s remarks about term limits are, however, absent from any major news source. I found out about it from listening to one of the recent GOP debates and the only source I found on-line that took more than a line to explain Perry’s position was at TowleRoad, a site for the gay community and gay-friendly allies. Why is this source, which is outside the mainstream, the only one seriously reporting Perry’s policy position?

Instead of discussing what Presidents say, or what they do in their personal lives, how about we focus on what they believe? How about we start focusing on the theoretical principles that frame our Candidate’s political beliefs? How about we up the level of our national discourse? We’re all adults here. The people of the United States are not children vying for entertainment–we have reality TV for that anyways–Americans want to see the Ad Hominem attacks end. Candidates should not only say what they are going to do for people, but why. Democracy isn’t arbitary. The Federalist Papers were based on theory, on the why, on the ought, not just the is or the how. Candidates often speak of their “convictions” or their “moral outlook,” yet it always seems to be framed within the context of their political accomplishments. Properly vetting a candidate must, in the future, include addressing their political justification not just their political motivation. Individual experiences can and should help frame a candidate’s political views but only in so far as the candidate links his personal views with greater theoretical justifications.


Posted in Political Discourse, Political Theory | Leave a Comment »

The Virginia Plan

Posted by blindspotpolitics on December 24, 2011

It seems that both Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry will not be appearing on the Virginia Primary ballot. Both candidates failed to obtain the necessary 10,000 signatures that the state requires. Despite this being startling, especially in regards to Gingrich who is a serious GOP nominee contender, this move by the Virginia GOP tells a lot about the state of the Perry and Gingrich campaigns. Furthermore, the move could potentially lead to some pretty dangerous consequences for the eventual GOP nominee, no matter who it is.

Perry and Gingrich are not very happy at the Virginia GOP right now, to say the least. Perry is calling for a recount of his signatures, claiming that there is no way he could have fallen short of the number. Gingrich, however, is taking a more extreme stance. Instead of simply calling for a recount, Gingrich is claiming that because he doesn’t appear on the ballot the primary system in Virginia must be broken.

Perry’s reaction, although more reasoned and logical, smells of weakness, something that is not good to have in a GOP race. Perhaps Perry is already admitting defeat, at least in this contest. His reaction is the obvious one; recount the votes! But it’s timid and something that few would expect from a campaign that is seriously struggling. Gingrich’s reaction, however, is over the top. Similar to his recent attacks of the courts, Gingrich is once again attacking systems. He’s attacking how our government functions and the apparent unfairness that results from it. Whether or not he is correct, he’s clearly pandering to the Tea Party voters on top of simply trying to get on the ballot like Perry.

The fact that neither of these guys, who have both led the GOP nominee contest this year, got on the ballot in Virginia says a lot more about the state of their campaigns than it does about their appeal to voters. The contrast to Romney and Paul is striking: Romney has essentially been campaigning for five years and thus has created a massive infrastructure, while Paul has focused on gaining grass roots support even among non-Republicans. Apparently, neither Perry nor Gingrich have either of these advantages. The lack of the latter could prove to be disastrous. People in the field are a necessary part of modern campaigns, whether collecting signatures, handing out literature, or hosting rallies. The lack of this aspect in these two candidates campaigns is concerning. Why have neither of them created these systems of support? We’ll see throughout the rest of the campaign, but this lack of boots on the ground in Virginia could be a sign of things to come for the two presidential contenders.

What makes this news embarrassing for Gingrich is that he’s from Virginia. 10,000 signatures really isn’t that much. In California, potential proposition measures must have signatures from 5% of those who voted in the last election for Governor, leading to required numbers upwards of 400,000. Granted, California is a bigger state and the situation is very different but it does provide a sense of scale. This whole debacle just leads to the question, how serious are these two candidates?

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Why is Ron Paul Winning in Iowa?

Posted by blindspotpolitics on December 24, 2011

It’s easy to use a poll to support ones political argument. Simply give an argument, find some numbers that support it, and wahlah! Your argument is now seemingly valid, defensible, and equitable. And sometimes it is. Indeed, polls are collections of statistics based on human responses. But where do these statistics come from? What do they actually mean? Herein lies the problem with blindly trusting polls.

The polls concerning Dr. Ron Paul’s recent lead in the Iowa Caucus are no exception. For the past few days, polls across the nation and the state have emphatically claimed “Paul leads.” In the Iowa State University/Iowa Gazette/KCRG poll Paul is leading 27.5% to Gingrich’s 25.3% and Romeny’s 17.5%. (see the poll here) But what do these statistics mean? Each poll asks different kinds of questions, and asks different types of people. In this poll, the latter is of primary concern. This poll claims to have asked “likely Republican caucus-goers.” Besides the obvious question of, well how the heck does one determine that?!?, the poll does not include the views of Independents and Democrats who have registered Republican in the state to vote for Paul–the supposed source of much of Paul’s grass roots organization there.

A lot has been said in the mainstream media over the importance of these polling numbers, some Republicans even claiming that if Paul wins in Iowa it undermines the whole “first in the nation” Caucus system because, according to many pundits and leaders, Ron Paul is not representative of the Republican Party across the nation. And how could he be? He has a lot of ideas and he is very heavy on policy rather than discussing politics. In fact, he makes light of discussing anything other than policy, as shown in this video.

What separates Paul from the other Republican candidates is precisely his refusal to pander to the mainstream Republican base. Paul, who ran as the Libertarian Presidential nominee in 1988, holds some pretty unique views, particularly in contrast to a Republican party ruled by the Neocons on foreign policy and the Religious Right on social policy. His most idiosyncratic views are probably the legalization of all drugs, including heroin, and ending all foreign aid, even from Israel. For a good outline of Paul’s stranger views see Politico’s “Ron Paul 2012: Six comments he needs to explain.”

Beyond the explanation of polling numbers and Paul’s contrast to mainstream Republican views remains the question Why is Ron Paul winning in Iowa? The simple answer: time. The reason he is winning Iowa is because he has had the time to explain his complex policy positions to the people there. It takes time to properly explain complex and new, if not revolutionary, political ideas. It takes even more time for voters to absorb that information, ruminate, and reach a decision.

Paul has good ideas, plain and simple. His fiscal views attractive true fiscal conservatives who have been disillusioned by the spending supported by Republicans since Bush Jr. took office, while his social opinions attract Green Party members and even Democratic Socialists who have been disillusioned by the lack of social change that Obama has so far constructed. Even more broadly, he offers some pretty straight forward answers to complex questions, such as his persistent answer to the problems in the middle east: “we marched in and we can march out.” To those that don’t agree with all of his policy positions, the straightforwardness of his politics is still heavily appealing. There is a peculiarly earnest nature to the way he describes politics that is refreshing and even comforting. Although, as I’ve admitted, some of his ideas are off-base from normal political views and perhaps even wacky, he bases everything on political theory. For Paul, nothing is arbitrary. His ability to properly explain and justify his unique policy positions in Iowa has led to his surging poll numbers. As people get to know him better it seems that he becomes more appealing. However, the questions becomes, will Paul be able to properly translate his message to potential voters as the time between primaries and caucuses decreases or will his high numbers in Iowa, which may even be deflated because Independents and Democrats have generally not been involved in the polls, be his last?

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The Politics of the Personal

Posted by blindspotpolitics on December 23, 2011

I am starting this blog to comment, very plainly, on contemporary politics. I have been interested in politics since I was very young. I worked my first campaign when I was six, going door to door to hand out literature on the soon-to-be Mayor.

As I have grown up politics has changed, or maybe, since I am older and more mature, I can now view it critically. The partisan ramble in Washington aims to define my generation. “Democrat” or “Republican” “Liberal” or “Conservative” are words that define us, or at least attempt to do so. However, I believe that one must look past these words. One must look at politics critically, not from the viewpoint of the party platform or the candidates, but from the viewpoint of one’s own morals, one’s own view of what politics is, what it should be, and how to get there.

My viewpoint regarding the individualist nature of politics in essence defines my own political views. Really, I just believe in three things: freedom, compassion, and individual responsibility. Of course, it is easier to say these words than to define them. Through my posts and the way in which I comment on politics, I hope that you will begin to understand in what manner I define these words. I’m not a Republican, nor Democrat, nor Libertarian, nor Green Party, nor Socialist. I am a me. And you should be a you.

In this blog I will attempt to critically look at current political events and trends. Although I cannot claim to be wholly objective, my commentary will merely be shaded by my own views, which I have stated above, rather than the views of any outside sources. The point of this blog is to be contemplative, not rash. As such, although perhaps reactionary at times, this blog will also attempt to incorporate multiple viewpoints, and create connections to the wider world (writers, philosophers, comedians, etc.).


Posted in Political Theory | 1 Comment »