Thursday, November 30, 2006

Populist Snobbery

"In a republic, people decline to be led by leaders who are insufferably full of themselves."

George Will, on recent statements by newly elected U.S. Senator James Webb (D-VA).

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Minimal Difference

The blogger at Back Talk, with tongue planted firmly in cheek, expresses support for raising the minimum wage because "raising the minimum wage is a complete non-issue because it doesn't help the poor, but it could be that the wage is so low that raising it a bit doesn't hurt them much either.

That actually coincides with what The Oracle has been thinking on the issue. Increases in the minimum wage can be problematic because they force employers to either raise prices or reduce costs, possibly by hiring fewer workers. Whether raising the minimum wage is inflationary or increases unemployment, the effect is felt mostly by the poor that supposedly were being helped. That being said, in this economy, it would seem that a point has been reached where the minimum wage is largely irrelevant, meaning that a sensible increase would likely have minimal impact. That being the case, political expediency might cause one to support such an increase.

Hat Tip: Instapundit

Different Kinds of Distasteful People

Michael Richards' recent racist rant revealed him to be less than reputable as a human being. Even so, when one sees the names Gloria Allred, Jesse Jackson, and Al Sharpton all mentioned in the same story, it is certain that a situation is being exploited.

In more enlightened times, bigotry such as that expressed by Richards would have resulted in some punishment along the lines of the ruining of his reputation among decent people or, given the right audience, a bloody nose. In this century, it results in an opportunistic, publicity starved celebrity attorney and like minded ranters calling for "monetary compensation." The goal is no longer either to reform Richards or to shun him: it is to get a paycheck out of the incident.

There are some movies that are not enjoyable because none of the characters is likable. Now that the unfortunate recipients of Richards' diatribe have moved to the fringes of the story, this real life plot is playing out much in the same way.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Having Loved and Lost

Whoever said "it is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all" probably never loved and lost.

The Oracle rarely comments on personal matters, but it is a holiday, so why not?

The Oracle got divorced earlier this year. Divorce is always a painful experience, but the relationship had been troubled for a long time, and ending it brought a sense of relief. It felt good to be alone, and I had no intention of getting in another serious relationship any time soon.

But, I did. At the start, we were only going to date casually -- it was nice to have someone to go out to eat or to see a movie with. But then we found that we had more interests in common than I had known with any woman I have ever met, and the thoughts of a casual relationship ended rather quickly. Our personalities and priorities in life meshed really well, and there was chemistry between us. Much of the last three months seemed like heaven on earth. Some of that was, no doubt, mere infatuation. But some of it was a very real connectedness between people who shared a great deal in common. Whether going to football or hockey games, staying at home and watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy, going to the Frist Center, going to church together, or anything else we did -- it all seemed great.

But, it has probably ended for good, and it was my fault. When it seems that divorce was a relief, one sometimes is unaware of the hurts and self-doubts that linger underneath the surface. For me, those doubts resulted in anxiety about a relationship that seemed too good to be true. And that anxiety, when expressed repeatedly, ultimately drove her away.

We had made plans for this weekend -- Thanksgiving at lunch with her children and family, then over to my brother's house to see my family; tomorrow to a friend's house for lunch and to watch football (she loves football and knows more about it than I do, which is saying considerable); tickets Saturday night to see the Rockettes; Sunday to church and then to the Titans game. Because she works strange hours, this would have been more time than we are normally able to spend together, and we were looking forward to it.

I will still today see my family -- earlier in the day than I had expected -- and for that I am thankful. But even though I will be surrounded by family that I care about, I feel alone, terribly alone. I'll be glad when this holiday weekend is over: I will be able to get back to work. And I think I will only blog about politics.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Where Will Corker's Senate Office Be?

U.S. Senators are assigned office space based on seniority, so new members get the bottom of the barrel. James Carroll tells a story about Evan Bayh's first office following his election to the Senate in 1998:

His temporary offices for six months were in the basement of the Dirksen Senate Office Building, next to where the trash was left for collection.

One day, a group of CEOs from major Indiana companies was visiting him.

"One guy finally got up his courage and said, 'Evan, who did you p*** off?' " Bayh said.

A Massive New Government Program?

U.S. Senator from California Dianne Feinstein has never had the reputation of being the brightest bulb in the rather dim chandelier that is the U.S. Senate, but she manages to display surprising levels of naivete with this explanation as to why Congress does not need oversight from an independent ethics watchdog: "If the law is clear and precise, members will follow it."

Yes, of course. Members of Congress have never been guilty of violating clear and precise laws. One supposes that Senator Feinstein could argue that any previously violated laws have lacked clarity and precision, but then one might want to ask her about her body's inability to pass a law possessing those qualities.

Feinstein then proceeds to contend that an ethics oversight committee would just be too much of an expansion and intrusion of government: "As to whether we need to create a new federal bureaucracy to enforce the rules, I would hope not.” Congress has become famous for its professed ability to regulate everything other than itself, on down to the amount of water that should be required to flush a toilet, but Feinstein seems to think that government will have finally become too large if an entity keeping an eye on congressional ethics is formed. Of course, Feinstein may have a point. The Oracle could be underestimating how massive an oversight entity would have to be in order to monitor congressional ethics violations.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Tonight's Forecast: Blizzard Approaching Hades

Local blogger Sharon Cobb and Fox News personality Bill O'Reilly agree on something. They both are advocating boycotts related to a new book by a murderer who got away with it.

The Oracle won't even call his name.

Transparent Price and Quality in Health Care

A press release from the United States Chamber of Commerce announces that the lobbying organization has joined with other business groups pressing for greater transparency in health care pricing and quality.

Quality may actually be the larger issue. While most people tend to trust their doctor, research studies reveal wide varieties in health care provided for patients with comparable conditions. In many instances, practice patterns are regional. For example, one unpublished study recently presented at a conference attended by a friend of The Oracle showed that early surgery rates for workers' compensation patients experiencing non-specific low back pain were far higher in Tennessee than any of the other study states. While the study did not indicate which practice pattern constituted optimal care, variations were so significant that it is not likely that each state's set of patients were receiving care based on best practices.

That is the reason that the use of evidence based practice guidelines is a growing emphasis in the health care and insurance industries.

Lesson Not Learned

Ed Morrissey argues, as I have, that Republicans are proving that they do not understand their election day repudiation by turning to the same leaders and types of leaders as those that ran them over the cliff. He writes correctly about the selection of Trent Lott as Senate Minority Whip over Lamar Alexander:

If Lott truly was the lesser of two evils -- and I don't think he was in this race -- then the GOP has a personnel problem that needs fixing immediately.

Veto Proof Legislatures

Karl Kurtz has the breakdown on some of the most one-sided state legislative bodies. For example, the Massachusetts legislature is 88% Democratic; Idaho is 75% Republican.

Read more here.

The Hiring of Robert Gates

For a description of how President Bush arrived at the decision to hire Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense, see Fred Barnes here.

Barnes argues that the hiring of Gates does not represent a movement by Bush toward the foreign policy realism of his his father's administration.

Getting on Both Sides of an Issue

Last year, the far left wing Presbyterian Church in the United States of America publishing house, the Presbyterian Publishing Corp., published a piece of rubbish by theologian David Ray Griffin entitled "Christian Faith and the Truth Behind 9/11." The book argues that the World Trade Center collapsed because the United States government had planted explosives.

This week the publisher repudiated the work, saying that it was "not up to [the publisher's] editorial standards" and was "spurious and based on questionable research." However, the publisher is not removing the book from print and is not taking any disciplinary action toward those responsible for the publication of a book that failed to meet "editorial standards."

Student Loans and Unintended Consequences

The Tennessean argues that Congress should act to lower interest rates paid on student loans, but that argument fails to understand the problems created by the unintended consequences of federal student loan programs.

Colleges and universities frequently maximize their own revenues by raising tuition and fees to levels that will match what students will be eligible to receive in loans. As a result, the widespread availability of student loans has had the latent effect of increasing tuition amounts and, as a result, student indebtedness.

The federal government would do better by expanding the availability of grants to academically qualified low income students, including non-traditional students, and by reducing the availability of student loans to others. Colleges and universities could then face the choice of rolling back levels of educational inflation that have far exceeded rising prices in other sectors of the economy or of seeing their campuses become much less crowded.

The Oracle admits that he has benefitted from a student loan which he is continuing to repay. Before he is accused of ingratitude, he would note that his own experience validates the above argument, as the institution from which he graduated has consistently raised tuition whenever student loan availability amounts have increased.

The Future of Health Care?

Advocates of some form of socialized medicine in the United States frequently dismiss critics who warn that such a system would result in delays in getting medical care. However, the United States already has a system of government run health care that already manifests that problem.

If any group of people deserves top notch medical care, it is American veterans. However, anyone who has spent much time around VA hospitals knows that not to be the case. A relative of The Oracle has been trying to arrange to have a cataract removed using his veterans benefits, but has been unable to schedule an appointment with an appropriate doctor.

Even worse, that same relative called the hospital last week complaining of shortness of breath and chest pain (he had multiple by-passes done nearly a decade ago). The doctor scheduled an appointment for early December and mailed him a prescription of nitroglycerin.

Clearly, changes need to be made to address the problem of ever-rising health care costs, but a turn to socialized medicine is not the answer.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Role Reversal

The Wall Street Journal provides a little history reminding us that the Democratic Party was once the party of free trade and that Republicans championed protectionism.

At that time, the Democrats were right, and one can only hope that a sufficient number will remain true to their roots.

More of the Same

Perhaps none of it will mean anything two years from now, but it would seem that the Republicans in Congress are taking a great risk by going forward with business as usual in the aftermath of their election day repudiation. The elevation of Trent Lott in the Senate, as well as today's selection of House leaders with reputations for coziness with K Street (Boehner) and pork (Blunt), would indicate that Republicans have decided that Americans will forget.

The Man Who Would Lead the House Intelligence Committee

For the background of the impeachment of Alcee Hastings, who was serving as a federal district court judge, see here. It is an ugly story and, as the story points out, it was not a partisan affair.

Principle v. Pork

That Congressman Bart Gordon is quoted in The Tennessean as committing to bring more federal pork spending into the state is not surprising, since most congressmen appear to view election as a mandate to engage in a scavenger hunt to bring home taxpayer money. However, it is inconsistent with the letter that Gordon sent me prior to the election in which he stated that the earmark and ethics reform plan that he had voted for was an improvement, but that it fell short of what is needed in order to reign in the practice. He pledged to push for stronger measures. Of course, Gordon sent that letter because I had written asking about his support for earmark reform.

Ultimately, most congressmen, both Democratic and Republican, believe they gain more by raiding taxpayer coffers for the supposed benefit of their districts than they do by standing on principle. That is the reason that the most deep rooted problems in Washington are not limited to one party or the other; they are problems prevalent in the political class as a whole.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Insolvent Meets the Bankrupt

Scrappleface offers his own unique take on the reported attempt buy U.S. Airways to purchase Delta Airlines. He suggested that cereal boxtops and green stamps will be included in the purchase offer.

Read it here.

Roger Simon Rants...

... and he does it well:

The last few days ... the reincarnation of Trent Lott, the rise of Murtha, etc., etc. ... have cemented in my mind that anyone who has the remotest confidence in either of our major political parties has cement for brains. Forget the best and the brightest. The leadership of both parties is dominated by an almost willfully constructed collection of the dull, talentless and (often enough) corrupt.

I feel his pain.

McCain on Republican Losses

Ann Althouse provides excerpts from a speech given by John McCain at the Federalist Society convention:

I am convinced that a majority of Americans still consider themselves conservatives or right of center. They still prefer common sense conservatism to the alternative. Americans had elected us to change government, and they rejected us because they believed government had changed us. We must spend the next two years reacquainting the public and ourselves with the reason we came to office in the first place: to serve a cause greater than our self-interest.

Common sense conservatives believe that the government that governs least governs best; that government should do only those things individuals cannot do for themselves, and do them efficiently. Much rides on that principle: the integrity of the government, our prosperity; and every American’s self-respect, which depends, as it always has, on one’s own decisions and actions, and cannot be provided as another government benefit....

That is exactly right.

Milton Friedman, RIP

For a number of links to good Milton Friedman information, see here.

In addition to his work in economics, Friedman was a passionate advocate on education issues, and he formed a foundation to advocate on behalf of freedom of educational opportunity for all children. That organization had an exhibit at the National Conference of State Legislatures held in Nashville back in August, and The Oracle had a chance to talk with staffers there who held Friedman in high regard both personally and professionally.

Interesting Question

James Taranto has a pointed question regarding much repeated commentary about "moderate" Democrats who helped that party win the House of Representatives:

How come Democrats who oppose abortion and same-sex marriage are "moderates," while Republicans who hold the same views are "extremists"?

Justice Denied

Good arguments can be made both for and against the justice of capitol punishment, but it is difficult, from either perspective, to disagree with George Will's assertion that "jurisprudential hairsplitting" on the issue is "repellent."

While discussing the Supreme Court's decision in California v. Belmontes, Will gets in some well deserved digs at the federal 9th circuit court. Read it here.

Editorial Understatement

Today's The Tennessean editorial on congressional ethics, with an air of profundity, concludes, "Neither [the Republican or Democratic] party has a monopoly on ethical conduct."

I wasn't aware that either party really had much market share, much less a monopoly. Nonetheless, why try for profundity when stating the obvious is so much easier and brings in the same amount of revenue?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Speaker of the House or Emperor of the Universe?

Congressman Jim Moran on Speaker to be Nancy Pelosi:

This is hardball politics … We are entering an era where when the Speaker instructs you what to do, you do it.

Lesson Not Learned

Just over one week after voters repudiated their congressional leadership -- in part out of the perception that they have forsaken their principles of limited government -- Senate Republicans told those Americans who believe in fiscal responsibility to go to hell. They selected Trent Lott as the new Senate Minority Whip.

Earlier this year Lott referred to those attempting to restrain the use of wasteful earmarks as "troublemakers." We should not forget.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Saving on Employer Health Care Costs

Health care blogger Joe Paduda notes a couple of trends in ways that large employers are seeking to reduce employee health care costs: 1) Directly contracting with medical providers instead of contracting with health plans to do so; and 2) Investing in onsite medical clinics offering a range of primary care services. As to the latter, Paduda points to Toyota as a recent innovator.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Will Wilder Retain Control?

With Republicans barely holding on to a one seat majority in the Tennessee state senate, pundits speculate that state senator Mike Williams will again vote against party and allow John Wilder to continue to hold the Lt. Governor position. Before that is done, however, perhaps both Democrats and Republicans should consider the following:

Last summer, a seemingly healthy Governor Phil Bredeson was suddenly stricken with a mysterious illness that was attributed to a tick bite. While details remained sketchy as to how sick the governor really was, the degree to which his administration and family remained tight-lipped caused speculation that it was serious. Thankfully, the governor recovered. Had he not, Lt. Governor Wilder, for whom the term coherence is an unknown concept, would have become governor.

Wilder has frequently proven to be an embarrassment both within and outside the state, and one would think that there could be partisan agreement that he should not be one heart beat from the governor's office. Unfortunately, Democrats, along with Williams, will support Wilder because he alone, for reasons that are beyond the grasp of those outside capitol hill, will be able to garner the support necessary to win with a cross over vote. Supporting him is the height of irresponsibility.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

With Whom Will Lieberman Caucus?

Ed Morrissey comments on remarks made by Joseph Lieberman on Meet the Press that he would not rule out caucusing with Republicans. While some Democrats may accuse Lieberman of disloyalty (an odd charge given their treatment of him), the fact is that this is a position that Lieberman has to take if he is to retain any influence in Washington. Lieberman is in effect warning Democrats not to freeze him out from all work on important committees in the Senate.

When Congress convenes, Lieberman will almost certainly be caucusing with the Democrats.

Lies and Statistics

Some Democrats are positing that their high percentage of the popular vote for all U.S. Senate seats this year shows that they have been given a mandate, but Tom Elia shows that the numbers largely result from the particular states holding elections during this cycle.

Hat Tip: Instapundit

Hadn't Thoght about This Banned Item

There is one item that can't be taken on an airplane now that The Oracle had not thought of: a snow globe. I had picked one up in Boston as a gift for a friend and, figuring that it would be in danger of breaking in my checked bag, tried to carry it on to my flight.

It has too much liquid. Fortunately, the security officer was nice, and because I had gotten to the airport early, the airline's staff was able to retrieve my bag so that I could pack the item. The globe survived the trip.

No Confidence Vote

Randy Wooten ran for mayor of the small town of Waldenburg, Arkansas and was recorded as getting zero votes.

His wife, a city hall employee, is reported to have discovered the tally. She asked Wooten if he had voted for himself, which he had.

The story does not say whether Wooten wondered that his wife had to ask about his vote before ascertaining that the zero might be wrong.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Veterans Day

The Oracle wishes to join countless others across the blogosphere in thanking our veterans for their service to our country. Thank you for protecting the freedoms that we all enjoy.

The Means to the End

David Asman looks at recent lessons from elections in the United States and Nicaragua and says that they teach a common lesson: "don't abandon your base."

That is not correct. The real lesson is don't abandon your principles. It is in core principles, both political and ethical, not in polling one's core voters, that one finds the vision and energy to inspire and lead.

Disgraceful Conduct by Ethics Leader

In September, Robert Parham, who's job title describes him as a leader on ethics, published an opinion piece in The Tennessean disingenuously arguing that Southern Baptists could only exorcise the demons from their racist heritage by voting for Harold Ford. I discussed his writing here. In the aftermath of the election, he castigates them for not having done so and attributes Ford's loss to racism.

The Music City Oracle did not vote for Harold Ford, but the reasons for pulling the lever for Bob Corker have nothing to do with race. As I have stated previously, if I had lived in Maryland I would have voted for Michael Steele for U.S. Senator. If I had lived in Ohio, I would have voted for Ken Blackwell for Governor.

If Parham wrote similar pieces in Maryland and Ohio, both states with a fair number of Southern Baptist residents, advocating the same approach, I will apologize. In the absence of such writings, it would seem apparent that Parham has recklessly used an important ethical and societal concern for purely partisan reasons, and that would make him a disgrace to his profession.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Winning in the Middle

Karl Kurtz of the National Conference of State Legislators reports that speakers at a meeting sponsored by that organization emphasized that "the center" was the big winner in Tuesday's elections. According to Bill Schneider of CBS News, independents broke 57-43 in favor of Democratic candidates and provided them with their election day victories.

The talk about governing from the center will concern conservatives who will think of this as a notion that would require compromises of principles, but there is a different lesson to be learned here. After six years of strategic leadership that has focused on mobilizing the base, many conservatives have forgotten how to explain their principles and positions to people on the fence. Ronald Reagan certainly did not campaign from the center, but he managed to appeal to large numbers of "Reagan Democrats."

Numerous Democrats won by appealing to independent voters based on conservative principles. Some Republicans might want to learn that art.

Steele for RNC Chair?

Ed Morrissey links to a Washington Times article suggesting that Michael Steele's name is being considered as the possible successor to Ken Mehlman as chairman of the Republican National Committee. Steele would be a fantastic choice.

Morrissey is also correct that a move into the Bush cabinet for the next two years would be a waste of Steele's considerable talents.

A Worthy Candidate

Though he did not win, Bob Krumm ran a campaign for Tennessee District 21's senate seat that showed him to be the kind of person that is needed in state government. The Oracle hopes that Krumm will successfully pursue public office in the future.

Personal circumstances prevented The Oracle from active, voluntary involvement in Krumm's campaign this year. I hope that I will be able to lend a hand the next time.

Governor Blue Gray?

Mark Rogers suggests that Lincoln Davis emerges from this election cycle as the leading candidate to be the next Democratic nominee for governor of Tennessee.

Perhaps, but won't that dust up over banning adultery come back to bite him?

An Elderly Blog

One of my favorite Tennessee bloggers, John Norris Brown of Appalachian Scribe, notes that his blog turns three years old today. Happy birthday.

A Time for War?

I'm seeing posts all over the internet that James Carville is allegedly going after Howard Dean's job and would like to replace him with Harold Ford. Did Carville really say that?

While The Oracle thinks that Dean is ultimately bad for the Democratic Party, he also understands that timing is everything. If Carville is, in fact, choosing this time to launch a campaign against Dean, he has lost his mind.

Vultures Circling

The Hill reports that K Street lobbying firms are looking over the losers in Tuesday's elections in order to identify good prospects for positions. Tennessee's Harold Ford, Jr. is said to be high on their wish list.

Read about it here.

Though it is not discussed in the article, one factor that helps to open up Ford's opportunities is the fact that Washington lobbying firms that have been oriented toward appealing to Republicans since Tom Delay instituted his K Street project will now be looking for known Democrats in order to connect with the new leadership in Congress. Ford is perhaps the most prominent Democrat who lost.

Lack of Competitive Races a Good Thing?

The stereotype of the cynical journalist does not apply to the writer of an editorial in today's The Tennessean, who must have been humming Kumbaya while writing the piece. Praising the mostly "uneventful" races for seats in the state legislature, the editorial states the following:

The legislative races, along with the governor's contest, would seem to indicate that Tennesseans are content with the work of the Tennessee lawmakers. That's a tribute to the leadership of Bredesen and the overall fiscal discipline the legislature has shown recently....

And it would appear voters feel more secure about ethics in the legislature. Corruption was a major theme in the national election picture, but the General Assembly may have put the Operation Tennessee Waltz scandal to rest politically.

Well, maybe. Perhaps the writer has forgotten that Tennesseans almost never turn out an incumbent governor, even during tumultuous times. In addition, the lack of turnover in state races probably has little to do with voter satisfaction with the work and ethics of legislators. It is more reflective of the way that legislators have successfully chosen their voters through gerrymandering and otherwise used the powers of incumbency for political advantage.

Sometimes, a lack of change at election time can be the result of satisfaction with the present leadership. However, in a democracy, the lack of competitive races and vigorous debate may often be a cause for concern, not celebration.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Speaking for before Speaking against

The Oracle dislikes this sort of thing:

Rush Limbaugh: "I no longer am going to have to carry the water for people who I don't think deserve having their water carried. Now, you might say, "Well, why have you been doing it?" Because the stakes are high. Even though the Republican Party let us down, to me they represent a far better future for my beliefs and therefore the country's than the Democrat Party and liberalism does."

Hugh Hewitt: "In the closing weeks of the campaign season, I felt like I was a lawyer who had a bad client while writing this blog. That client was the Republican Party which had broken its Contract with America from 1994 and had become unmoored from its conservative principles."

The Oracle is not opposed to taking pragmatic approaches in order to promote a desired outcome. One can pick and choose subject matter and can frame arguments in order to play up positives and minimize negatives for favored candidates. That being said, the above admissions seem self-serving, and they are a rhetorical slap in the face to their listeners and readers during the campaign who believed Limbaugh and Hewitt's arguments and evident passion and took them seriously.

The Silver Lining

George Will suggests that conservatives need not be despondent, in part because Republicans "were punished not for pursuing but for forgetting conservatism." His explanation of that, as well as the other reasons for avoiding despair, are compelling. Read them here.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Down, but Not Out

Certainly, last night was a bad one for Republicans, and no one The Oracle has read has attempted to sugarcoat it. That being said, those sky-is-falling Republicans talking as though some massive, unchangeable realignment has occurred are simply wrong. Anyone fearing such should note this remark by Mark Rose:

I have heard several reasons being attributed to the Democrats' victory, such as anti-war sentiment, anti-Bush sentiment, and anti-GOP sentiment. I have yet to hear pro-Democrat sentiment as a reason for the Democrats' win.

The American public repudiated a Republican establishment that in many ways merited repudiation. That public can be won back by principled and visionary leadership.

Banning Discrimination in Michigan

While much of the news from election day is bad, here is a bit of good news: Michigan voters voted in favor of a ban on racial and sexual discrimination. The story is reported near the bottom here.

Negative Campaigns Produce Record Numbers of Voters?

Writing for an NRO symposium providing brief post-mortems on the election, Ed Morrissey points out that an unprecedented number of voters turned out for a non-presidential election and suggests that this indicates that Democrats are beginning to match Republican voter mobilization efforts.
The high turnout also points out the fallacy of the notion that negative advertising suppresses voter turnout. This election cycle included an enormous number of entirely negative ads that didn't even mention the name of the candidate being supported. Yet, voter turn out was high for a midterm election.

Post-Mortem on the Election

The Oracle spent election night in Beantown, but has no interesting election stories to send back to the Music City, as everything that happened in this region was fairly predictable. While the loss of Lincoln Chafee in nearby Rhode Island may help cost Republicans control of the Senate, it will make no discernible difference in how actual votes turn out, since Chafee rarely voted with his party anyway. In fact, Chafee's loss may eliminate a potential complication for Republicans, as the ultimate RINO would have possessed enormous clout if a 50/50 split had induced Democrats to offer considerable rewards for Chafee to jump over to the dark side.

Nonetheless, the loss of the House of Representatives and the probable loss of the Senate will result in an onslaught of fingerpointing within the Republican Party. A certain amount of this will be overwrought, as this year's results were, in fact, fairly typical of midterm elections, which almost always turn out badly for the party of the President. It is easy to forget that 2002 was the only midterm election since World War II in which the President's party gained seats, and, in part, this year served as a correction to that historical anomaly.

Even so, critics will variously blame the war in Iraq, Washington scandals, the loss of Republican principles of limited government, and the prominence of social conservatives in the party for the defeat. In part, they will all be right, as all of those factors have contributed to Republican losses. However, at least one of these maladies may be misdiagnosed, and, if so, that misunderstanding will result in greater divisiveness than really needs to occur.

The problem with social conservatives is NOT that there is a large block of voters within the Republican Party that hold to views supportive of the rights of unborn children and of traditional views of marriage. The difficulty comes from the way that Republican leaders have gone about pandering to those voters.

Those in leadership roles for the groups of people now called social conservatives and once called the religious right tend to be overly inflexible and somewhat naive politically. For that reason, it is unfortunate that a significant part of the Republican strategy has been to cater to those leaders in order to excite their "base" so that they get to the polls. In order to do this, Republicans in Congress this past year have brought several pieces of legislation on marriage and abortion issues, even though they had no thought of actually passing the bills. As Republicans noted at the time, the only purpose was to get Democrats "on the record" as opposing the measures.

While this sort of activity cheered the hearts of conservative Christian activist leaders, it did not fool the supposed followers, much less other voting blocks, who tend to be smarter. Only political insiders care about votes to put people "on the record." Most ordinary people care about what is actually being accomplished, and the current congressional leadership did very little of substance while spending all of their time trying to reassure their own re-elections through such pandering. The purpose of election to Congress is to participate in the governance of the country, and Republican leadership did very little to actually govern.

Before throwing social conservatives under the bus (though much of their leadership deserves it), other groups within the Republican Party should realize that many of the Democratic gains did not come from new candidates spouting the lines. It came from people who ran as conservative Democrats. It will be interesting to see how their constituents will respond if they do not vote as they ran.

To the extent that this election holds a message for Republicans, it should be this: regardless of the type of Republican subset that you represent, you will not retain power if you lose your soul. Through overconfidence in the power of government (both at home and abroad), excessive expansion of the role and spending of government, corruption in the halls of government, and failures to actually do the work of government, Republicans appeared to many voters to have lost their souls.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Breadth of Political Vision

Kate O'Beirne says that Republican House of Representative seats lost in states such as Pennsylvania and Connecticut will be difficult to win back in two years. That is true as far as it goes, but it also shows the deficiencies of Republican strategists who focus on "mobilizing the base." Anyone that looked at an electoral map in 1964 would have never predicted the outcomes in 1972, 1980, or 1984. If Republicans, including conservative Republicans, wish to regain momentum, they must regain a vision for taking the battleground of ideas to every corner of the country.

Be Informed or Stay Home

Several years ago on the Sunday before election day, the late David Brinkley closed his program by repeating the bromide that everyone had a duty to vote. He then remarked that he disagreed. Brinkley said that anyone who to that time had not bothered to learn about the candidates or the issues should stay at home and leave the voting to those who had done so.

Brinkley was right. The right to vote is an important one, but there is no virtue in going to a polling place, standing in line, and pulling a few levers. A functioning democracy really needs an informed citizenry. Those who know nothing about this election beyond what they have seen in the flood of negative ads pouring in from all sides would do the country a favor by staying home.

Monday, November 06, 2006

It's Not Bragging if Its True

In August, Roger Abramson made some predictions regarding the statewide races that are looking pretty good on election eve.

Abramson, while prescient, I think also illustrates a point about all of the webspace expended on polls throughout the month of September, when the Ford star appeared to be rising. Unless precipitated by some major event significant enough that it can't be countered or forgotten by election day, fluctuations in September polls don't mean any more than a kiss from one's sister.

And, because The Oracle believes that society can place some limitations on who may marry, a kiss from one's sister doesn't mean much.

Republicans Hold Senate?

National Review's John J. Miller, who has been providing weekly updates on the status of U.S. Senate races nationwide, predicts that Democrats will pick up 4 states (Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island), thus just missing their goal of taking control of the Senate. Virginia will provide the early test as to whether that prediction will hold.

Regarding the Tennessee race, Miller comments as follows:

Democratic congressman Harold Ford Jr. deserves a prize for running a very effective campaign as a faux conservative and making this race interesting, but his reward won't be a seat in the Senate. This race has been much closer than Republicans would have liked, but at this point they'll be happy merely to secure a victory, no matter what the margin. CORKER WINS -- REPUBLICAN RETENTION

Sunday, November 05, 2006

A Black Senator?

In an exercise of thinly disuised cheerleading, The Tennessean staff writer Bonna de la Cruz suggests that Tuesday's election will determine whether Tennessee "is ready to send a black man to the U.S. Senate."

It will tell us no such thing.

Undoubtedly, some will vote against Ford because he is black, others will vote for him because of race. However, the election will ultimately be decided by the block of voters who will pull a lever based on their perceptions of the candidate's positions, experience and character.

Is The Oracle ready to elect a black man to the U.S. Senate? Well, if he lived in Maryland, he would vote for Michael Steele. In Tennessee, for reasons having nothing to do with race, the decision will be otherwise.

Friday, November 03, 2006

This Is What Answering Machines Were Made to Screen For

Far more annoying than all of the political advertisements airing on television is the never ending parade of automated phone calls. Given the amount of money spent on this sort of advertising, I suppose someone has decided it is effective, but I can't imagine that it is. The calls are annoying, and I don't recall ever listening to more than 10 seconds of one. It seems bizarre to me that anyone is going to decide to vote for candidate X based on having received one of these calls.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Going Out on a Limb

It may be that the most important race this election season is the one for the U.S. Senate seat from Maryland. The Oracle says that if Michael Steele wins that race, he will one day be President of the United States.

Remember that you read it here first.

Talent Pork-Busted

When the political blog of the Kansas City Star asked Missouri's U.S. Senate candidates their views on earmarks, Republican Jim Talent defended the practice, while Democrat Claire McCaskill called for spending restraint.

If Republicans lose the Senate, many will blame Iraq, others will point the finger at social conservatives who allegedly pushed the party to the right (though one might notice that in Tennessee Harold Ford is trying to win by trying to pass himself off as a social conservative). While those have been factors, one should not estimate the detrimental impact of Republican leaders who have lost their belief in limited government.

If You Don't Study, You Might Become the Junior Senator from Mass.

Regardless of how John Kerry ultimately explains away his foolish remarks made at Pasadena Community College, Democrats may finally be recognizing a long established pattern: whenever Kerry opens his mouth, President Bush's approval ratings go up 5 points.

If not for Kerry's leaden tongue, Bush might now be in the single digits. If the Senator is not on Karl Rove's payroll, he should be.

In addition, while The Oracle is prone respectfully to defer to the experience of those who have served in the nation's military, he has tired of Kerry's persistant recourse to his military background in an effort to shield himself from any kind of blunder, perceived or otherwise, that he commits. One wishes that he would simply affirm or aver his positions and statements without this constant effort to use his military experience as a weapon to demand that any critics shut up.