It’s not good news, but it’s less bad news than we thought.

As I have said, if the economy starts to improve from now till November, things might go better for the Democrats in the midterm elections than people are predicting. And, just based on gut-instinct, I feel like the business cycle is starting to swing away from the “bust” and more towards… well, not a “boom” exactly, but something less like a bust.

This is an idea which many people who are “Independents” subscribe to. Indeed, the Republican party’s efforts to influence them notwithstanding, the Tea Partiers seem to feel this way. “The Republicans and Democrats are the same–they don’t represent us.” they might say.

It’s an extremely tempting idea for someone like me. I used to be a staunch, party-line, hardcore Republican. If George W. Bush did it, it was good, I thought; and the focus of all my political discourse was keeping those damn Democrats out of office. This ended around 2004, when I sort of understood that the whole Iraq War thing really wasn’t working out like Bush had said it would.

Once you quit being a rabid partisan, though, it becomes hard to just go join the other side outright. Once you realize that your side didn’t have all the answers, it becomes very hard to fall back into believing some other side has all the answers. I think all independents feel instinctively that it is incredibly unlikely that everything one party proposes is good, and all the other party proposes is bad, and the only reason there is any debate is because of the bad party’s propaganda. This is the scenario that you must buy into to be a partisan.

There seem two ways of dealing with the realization that Republicans vs. Democrats is not Absolute Good vs. Absolute Evil. Way 1 is to become an aggressive “centrist”. These are people who are not happy unless we have achieved “bipartisanship” on absolutely every bill, and that Republicans and Democrats working together can build a better future through compromise. Their philosophy is that the best solution to any problem must lie somewhere “in the middle” halfway between the Republican plan and the Democrat plan.

These Centrists are extremely useful to Rabid Partisans. Let’s say a Democrat proposes something that is “too far to the Left”. The Centrists will urge him to cooperate and make it “more centrist’. This is useful to Rabid Partisans in the Republican party, because they can say: “So-and-so the Centrist said ‘this idea is too radical’. And we know he’s not a Rabid Partisan like us, because in the past he told us our plans were ‘too radical.'”

Then there a lot of people who pursue Way 2, which is basically to say that Republicans and Democrats are the same, and neither represent the People. The argument here is basically that both Parties are so dreadfully corrupt that it would be best to get rid of them and start over. The people who feel this way generally seem to identify themselves as “Libertarians”, though other parties pop up now and then.

 The biggest problem with this dislike of both parties is that it seems to attract a lot of conspiracy theory people for some reason. Once it occurs to you that neither party is wholly representative of what you want; it isn’t too much of stretch to start wondering just how far their willing to go to maintain their power. This crowd is also probably making something of a mistake in assuming that everybody in the Republican and Democratic parties actually is a Rabid Partisan. Most of them actually aren’t; it’s just that the Rabid Partisans are the most vocal, the most visible, and have more power than is probably safe.

That being said, I can definitely understand the allure of being in with the cynical people. It’s easy to see that the political system has flaws that make both of the parties gravitate towards certain behavior. On a more primitive level, it’s always fun to be rebelling against The System. The cynical/disillusioned folks are correct in their assessment that the parties are in fact very much conditioned by a Washington-insider mentality that is not entirely to the people’s benefit, but what they do not realize is that it is not by some cruel accident that the system works this way. It evolved over time that the two parties behave the way they do.

The Centrists are correct in that they don’t condemn both parties’ ideas as wrong. Where they go astray, I think, is in assuming that on each and every issue, the best solution is to be found at the exact middle. There is no middle on many of the issues that separate the parties; particularly abortion and homosexual rights issues. On other issues, especially economic and environmental ones, there may in fact be a middle; but the Rabid Partisans do their best to obfuscate it and brand their way as the only way.

It’s easy, then, to become disillusioned with both parties and decide that neither represents what you want. That’s true. But it’s not because the people who run parties are simply uncaring bastards. (Though they probably are.) It’s because to have the wherewithal to actually run a campaign, a degree of teamwork is necessary; and therefore parties must make their platforms appeal to broad swaths of the country. Platforms are based on aggregates of opinion that nobody totally agrees with except for Rabid Partisans, who only agree with it because it has the seal of their party on it.

I’ve always felt like the cynical “neither party works for me” attitude had something slightly wrong with it, and I think I might understand it: It’s not practical, in a country this large and diverse, to actually make a political party that is simultaneously large enough to compete in a meaningful way and appeal to my own personal world view. So, even if we could break up the political establishment and disperse the rabid Partisans to the asylums they belong in, the system as we know it today would necessarily reappear in much the same form after a relatively short time.

Gene Schwimmer thinks so:

“Barack Obama is a one-term president. If present trends continue, the next president will be a Republican. Mitt Romney, Scott Brown, your Aunt Petunia.

Or Sarah Palin. Whoever the Republicans nominate in 2012 becomes president in 2013. And that’s the key word: “Republicans.” Whoever the Republicans nominate.”

In my opinion, this is absolutely not true. There are very, very few Republicans who can defeat Obama that I know of. Mitt Romney hasn’t got a chance. However, it might comfort Schwimmer to hear that Sarah Palin has by far the best shot at defeating Obama. (Scott Brown also has a slim shot, but I don’t think he’s conservative enough for the base.)

Obama is a two-term President unless the economy stays at this level of unemployment or worse and  Palin gets the Republican nomination. As I see it, if the economy is still bad and Obama is up against Romney or someone like that, Obama’s charisma will enable him to make everyone forget about real issues. Likewise, if the economy improves much at all (as I expect it to) and Palin is the nominee, Obama and Palin will cancel out each other’s charisma, and Obama’s edge in experience will enable him to win.

So say scientists

To be fair, other scientists say that the world is, in fact, warming. I assume we’ll only know for sure when a) we are all burned alive or b) we all freeze to death.

I’ve always been sort of conflicted about the whole global warming/climate change/whatever debate. On the one hand, it always seemed slightly hysterical and a little too perfect in how well it suited the leftist worldview. On the other hand, common sense suggests that more humans engaging in new kinds of activities is bound to produce some of sort of change in the overall climate. Of course, part of the problem is that I’m not a climate scientist. 

Personally, I’ve been operating on the assumption that human activity affects the climate in ways that are variable and hard to measure, and that it’s a huge oversimplification to call it “warming”. The leftists say that this is a bad thing, and use it as an excuse to push for various changes in society; some of which are relevant, and others which are not. Because it is impossible to tell which is which, conservatives dismiss the entire issue as a hoax so they don’t have to deal with it. The upshot is that one side says human activity is very, very bad for the planet and should be minimized, and one side that says it has no effect.

FYI, my suspicion is that some country will ultimately figure out how to manipulate human activity (more precisely, chemical emissions) in such a way as to control the climate. Whichever country does this will basically rule the world. I suspect that most climate research is actually dedicated to figuring out the relationship between human activity and climate; so as to be the first country to harness this power.  (But remember, I’m not a climate scientist.)

…is what the Republicans say the Democrats are.

First of all, why is this news? The Republicans always say that. Second, while his policies seem to be weaker, Obama’s track record against Jihadism compares favorably with George W. Bush’s and Bill Clinton’s after their respective first years in office. 

I’ll agree his position on torture seems naive, and his foolish decision not to fire Napolitano immediately after the December 25th failed attack ought to be ridiculed. But these apparent flaws cannot negate his success in objective terms. The arguments against trying terrorists in civilian court are, in my opinion, fairly weak. 

As of this moment, the case against Obama himself as weak on terror is basically a joke. Now, the case against the Democrats in Congress, particularly Harry Reid, is a much better one. Reid is a weak person by nature, and his infamous assertion that the Iraq war was “lost” is one that should haunt him. 

The Democrats overall philosophy intuitively seems to be weaker, but that is not backed up by the data.

For that matter, what was something memorable that somebody said at a SOTU address?

Yeah, I can’t think of any either.

So, Obama certainly hasn’t got much in the way expectations to beat. I recommend he keep it short–about twenty minutes should do it–and make it consist solely of listing his accomplishments of the past year, and wind down by repeating a memorable catchphrase, such as: “Yes, we did.” There needs to be much fist-shaking and voice-raising while saying this phrase.

Arrogant? Yes. Divisive? Yes. But complete confidence in himself is what he needs to project. Obama is charismatic enough to talk people into agreeing with him if he seems sure of what he’s saying.

He won’t do this, I’m sure. He’ll probably try something bipartisan and conciliatory. Something like: “Well, this year sucked, and I know you’re all unhappy about it. In the coming year, I’ll reach across the aisle to work with Republicans and Democrats in the House and the Senate to pass bipartisan yadda yadda yadda.”

Oh, well.

Today the Supreme Court ruled that businesses and unions can spend their own money on political ads endorsing or opposing a candidate. This raises a question I have long wondered about: how effective are political ads?

Do you really base who you are going to vote for on what ads on TV say? If  there are a lot of people who are that gullible, the Nation is doomed no matter what the Supreme Court rules on this issue. Seriously, I can barely remember any ads from the last Presidential campaign. And I’m fairly confident that my decision was not swayed by them one way or another.

I can’t speak for most people on this issue. And let’s face it; if you’ve brainwashed someone correctly, they’ll swear up and down they were not brainwashed. So I can’t be sure the ads didn’t affect me. 

A friend of mine was telling me that the real danger here is that corporations will disguise the ads to look like authentic news broadcasts–like is sometimes done in infomercials. This will confuse people into believing they’re watching a unbiased newscast that’s saying “Candidate X eats babies.”

I don’t buy it. The only people stupid enough to fall for that are probably already watching their favorite propaganda network (Fox news or MSNBC) anyway. Their votes are locked in. The swing voters aren’t, for the most part, dumb enough to be tricked like that.

This little item deserves a bit more attention, I think. First of all, I must admit I have a personal bias against Giuliani because, quite frankly, I am biased against jerks. The man is barely even a Republican in terms of his actual political policies (he used to be a Democrat, in fact) yet he has been using some of the worst elements of the Republican party to gain power for himself. That’s my opinion of him. 

But, his personal character aside, what’s actually interesting about this is that it seems to be part of a concerted effort to absolve Bush from blame for negligence in allowing 9/11 to happen.

The theory behind this goes like this: everybody makes a claim. They make it a lot. The claim will be analyzed, and, often, proven false; but that is irrelevant. The important thing is, if you get enough people saying it, someone who is utterly uninformed will hear it, and assume it’s true because he hasn’t got time to research it in depth. 

Like I said in my previous post, this isn’t the first time prominent people try to hammer home a stock line. I remember a montage on Rush Limbaugh’s show that illustrated this technique perfectly. This sort of thing goes on all the time in politics, and once you know about it, it becomes incredibly obvious. (Remember how every speech at the ’08 Democratic convention pointed out the similarities between McCain and Bush?)

That said, I don’t know if anyone has ever attempted revisionist history on this scale. I know the USSR infamously cropped pictures of people who’d displeased Stalin after they were executed, but this is something else entirely. 

What I wonder is:

1. Who is making this concerted effort?

2. Could it work? Will people really start to forget who was President on 9/11?

To be continued…