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29 June 2009

A Portly Politico Two-Minute Update: Effective Health Care Plan - Larry Kudlow

I just read an excellent piece by economist Larry Kudlow discussing an alternative to President Barack Obama's disastrous socialized health care plan. You can read his article for more details (link at the end of this post).

Kudlow makes two major arguments in this piece. First, he lays out in brief a cost-effective way to provide affordable health care to the tens of millions of Americans who legitimately need it (he also points out that several million Americans who qualify for Medicaid simply haven't signed up for it yet). Second, he points out the disastrous consequences government-run health care, arguing that people spend their own money the most wisely.

It's a classic point straight out of Milton Friedman. Imagine if you are given $1000 that belongs to someone else and are told to spend that money for the anonymous person. How would you spend that money, knowing that it was given to you without doing anything to deserve it and knowing that you will never have to face the mystery money-giver in person? You might be able to invest it, but chances are you're going to squander a good bit of it.

Now imagine it's your own $1000. You had to work for it. You know exactly what you can and cannot do with that money. You know your own needs and desires better than anyone else. Chances are you're going to spend that $1000 pretty efficiently. Yeah, you might "waste" it on something you don't need, but at least you had a say in the matter, right?

As Kudlow witheringly points out, the Democratic Party wants to control the American health care system, plain and simple. He offers a viable alternative to socialized health care, an alternative that won't break the bank, will cost a fraction of Obama's current plan, and, most importantly, will provide health care benefits to the Americans who actually need it. The only reason the Democrats would object to such a reasonable alternative is because they don't really care about the uninsured in the first place. They just want the government to have more power and more influence.

Conservatives do care. We aren't just monsters who want to leave the uninsured, well, uninsured. Our health care system is in pretty bad shape financially and health care has become prohibitively expensive for those who lack insurance. I myself have been screwed over by high health care costs, as my last job did not provide a group health plan. Buying health insurance privately is ridiculously expensive, and cheap plans have high deductibles and basically cover catastrophic events.

Conservatives aren't opposed to change. We just oppose change that is going to lead to government largesse, inefficiency, and monopoly.

Transformers 2: Conservatives in Disguise?

Earlier today I saw Michael Bay's highly-anticipated (and critically-panned) Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen. Prior to seeing the movie, I had no intention of writing a blog about it. Although films are occasional inspirations for my essays (see my article about the lack of strong African-American fathers, which I wrote after seeing Boyz n the Hood), I never imagined that Transformers 2 would be the subject of one of my blog entries because I don't write straight-up reviews. Honestly, I figured it would be exactly what it is: a steady stream of explosions, robots, and mass destruction.

What I didn't count on was that it would only be what I expected 99% of the time. That other 1% is the focus of this essay. Like the first Transformers film, Transformers 2 spent a great deal of time covering the U.S. military and its interactions with and against the various transforming automatons. Generally speaking, the soldiers are characterized as normal and basically decent--they want to do what is best for their country and they want to protect the weak and innocent, but they will follow the civilian authority of the Constitution.

In Transformers 2, however, I noticed a more overt, though still very, very subtle, endorsement of conservative politics--or, at the very least, a critique of modern liberalism. I don't want to read too much into this (well, actually, I do), but there are several moments during the movie when the misinformed meddler, the entity trying to put the kibosh on the Autobot-military alliance, is a mealy-mouthed government bean-counter who sees the Autobots as an alien menace that constitutes a risk to national security. Now, sure, action movies are overflowing with literal-minded government stooges and opportunistic politicians who are always putting up a wall of red tape that is harder to break than the concrete bunker our hero just crashed through on his motorcycle. The key difference in Transformers 2, however, is that the government stooge in question is acting under direct orders from the president, who is explicitly identified as... Barack Obama (one news report states that "President Obama has been relocated" to a bunker somewhere in the Midwest).

Not evidence enough? At one point, this pencil-pusher makes a point straight out of the Obama foreign policy playbook: let's try to negotiate with the bad guys. Maybe we can talk out our differences and everyone can live in peace. When the bureaucratic boob said that, I almost fell out of my seat. I don't know if Michael Bay or the writers of Transformers 2 were intentionally making this point, but for this chubby conservative the implications were loud and clear: Obama and other liberals who demand negotiations before resorting to force against overtly hostile, dangerous opponents are fatally off base and out-of-touch. The president's puppet makes the point that the United States should not be involved in the civil war of an alien race in the first place, but that doesn't change the fact that it is anyway. The United States, the filmmakers seem to be suggesting, has a responsibility to aid the Autobots against the new Decepticon menace, whether it likes that obligation or not, and the proposed policies of Obama and other liberals in foreign relations are potentially devastating.

Besides a subtle endorsement of a neoconservative foreign policy--or at least a more realistic approach to foreign threats--Transformers 2 is, as I have mentioned, heavily pro-military. The film depicts soldiers as law- and order-abiding citizens who, even if they don't like it, abide by civilian authority. This is a refreshing change from the usual Hollywood fare, which casts soldiers in the light of threats to democracy and as right-wing gun nuts who want nothing more than to seize control of the government themselves. While we should have a healthy wariness of the military as a potentially repressive arm of the federal government--a wariness that dates back to colonial America and that is most evident in the writings of Thomas Jefferson--Transformers 2 makes it clear that the U.S. military is a military of dedicated civilian volunteers who value and fight for freedom. They are not professionals who ride roughshod over the freedoms of others, be they Americans or foreigners. In fact, the U.S. military works closely with several Middle Eastern governments in the film, including the Egyptian and Jordanian militaries. In one scene, when a Jordanian helicopter is grounded by a Decepticon, American soldiers aid the fallen foreigners. This is not the unilateral, oppressive, quagmired military we hear so much about in the media; this is a dynamic, humane force made up of regular, freedom-loving Americans.

This brings me to one final point, a point I've been mulling over for awhile. We are constantly told that wars are started by the elite and fought by the poor; that wars are little more than opportunistic struggles or, even worse, the effect of some perceived slight or random occurrence; that war is rarely right or even necessary. In different times and in different places, many of these assumptions were true. Wars in the past were started by absolute monarchs or power-hungry tyrants, while they were fought by loyal vassals or downtrodden peasants.

In the United States, however, this is not the case. We live in a society where the people, at least in theory and, cynics aside, very much in practice, have a say in the functioning of government. Whatever slogan-spouting liberals will tell you, their bumper-sticker philosophy is severely flawed and misinformed. If the United States goes to war against a hostile power or terrorist group, it is because the people have given their approval. Foreign policy is, admittedly, concentrated in the executive branch of the government, which means that the president and the Secretary of State have a great deal of influence in deciding its direction. Any president hoping to keep his office, however, is going to be careful in how he deals with foreign policy.

Therefore, the traditional criticisms levelled against war are at best incomplete and at worst obsolete, at least when applied to the United States. There is still a great deal of debate about whether or not the United States should be the world's police officer; regardless, wars are not foisted on unwitting dupes by a greedy elite in America.

This claim is a bold one, but I stand by it. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would not have been fought and would not have endured so long without significant support from the American people. Now that support is beginning to wane, serious questions are being asked about America's future role in those countries, but we are seeing a huge amount of popular outpouring for the people of Iran, who are currently struggling against their sham of a government. President Obama's "let's-talk-it-out" approach to foreign policy is not enough when facing a regime of authoritarian thugs.

A Portly Politico Two-Minute Update: Backstabbing Bauer

In light of Governor Mark Sanford's recently revealed affair, it seems that long-time Sanford rival Lieutenant Governor Andre Bauer is seeking to oust the wayward libertarian from office.

More commentary to come. For now, I'm off to see Transformers 2.

25 June 2009

The Most Eventful Week Ever

Wow... what a week to take a vacation. This week has been one of the most eventful in recent history. It seems that everyday--honestly, every hour--some major event or turning point takes place. And, naturally, this is the week that I am lax in my updates.

Monday and Tuesday I was in Florence, South Carolina, where I was supposed to be getting things packed for my eventual move out of there. Instead, I spent most of both of those days listening to WJMX News Talk 970 AM while playing Pac-Man Championship Edition and Hexic on my XBox 360. It was actually an enlightening odyssey--I learned about Curtis Sliwa and the Guardian Angels thanks to his mildly obnoxious show--and I was kept up-to-date with the major issues of the day.

So here, in a brief, annotated list, are what I consider to be the major events of this past week (in no particular order):

1.) The Health Care debate

As you can probably guess, I am opposed to government-run health care for a variety of reasons. Regardless of whether or not it's a good thing (and I don't think it is, even though I openly cede that health insurance is way too expensive), it's simply not the government's responsibility to run the health industry anymore than it should run the financial or automotive industries. I don't know what the solution is, but it's definitely not government-owned and -operated health care.

2.) The Iranian Revolution (2009)

There has been a huge amount of discussion about this issue, most of it circulating around President Obama's rather cautious and lukewarm way of addressing the revolution taking place in Iran right now. While I don't agree entirely with the way the President has handled things, I can definitely see the wisdom in his "wait-and-see" approach, unlike most conservative commentators. I do think Obama should have given moral and verbal support to Iranian protesters sooner and more decisively, but it's an immensely complicated situation. Then again, as Newt Gingrich pointed out, when former President Ronald Reagan gave his support for the Polish Solidarity movement in the 1980s, it significantly and markedly improved the morale of those fighting against the Soviet Union. Words can be extremely powerful. Obama knows this better than most anyone else. I just wish he had used them a bit more forcefully for something that really matters.

3.) The Waxman-Markey Bill - A.K.A. "Crap 'n' No-More-Trade"

I have to be honest--I have no idea why this ridiculous energy bill is called "cap-and-trade." I should probably do more reading on the issue, but I know a bad idea when I see one.

Look--I'm not saying that global warming (or cooling) isn't happening. I'm not saying that we should go out and trash the environment and dump toxic waste into rivers. We as a society decide what is an acceptable level of pollution and we have to manage our resources wisely.

But think about it this way: there is, by no means, a concensus on global warming. Also, global warming and cooling have occured naturally for thousands of years. For example, around the year 1000, much of Northern Europe was coming out of a small-scale Ice Age that led to gradual warming and improved crop production. In fact, the increase of crop production allowed for the growth of an urban, merchant class, which very slowly led to capitalism.

If global warming did something that great, maybe we should consider it in a more positive light. The Arctic Ocean is becoming the next geopolitical playground. The opening of the Arctic will create some conflict and some new headaches, especially because Russia is involved, but it will also give access to untapped natural resources, namely oil and natural gas. And those National Geographic nuts will have tons of barely-explored ocean to photograph.

And, again, no one is even sure if global warming is happening. Slick green advertising and feel-good carbon offsets have many fooled, and panicky scientists and former vice-presidents can't wait to tell us how quickly Manhattan is going to be submerged beneath the Atlantic Ocean, but we've been hearing alarmists predict doom for decades. The only difference is that now it's finally become fashionable. The intersection between the environmental movement and pop culture would be pretty fascinating to consider, but I won't go into it here.

That's all to say that we probably shouldn't be doubling the price of energy to fight against something that is perfectly natural and might not be happening, anyway. But, you know.

This bit of news really disappointed. All weekend and earlier this week I had been hearing about Governor Sanford's mysterious disappearance. As you all know, I am a huge fan of South Carolina's governor and have followed his political career with a great deal of interest. So at first I was willing to give our wayward governor the benefit of the doubt. I initially suspected that he had gone to blow off some steam after experiencing a tough session of the legislature and heaps of national scrutiny. In fact, I figured the only reason that anyone even noticed is because he's caught so much flak lately for his resistance to the federal government's stimulus money--a step I still applaud, especially in light of the fact that the States are losing more and more of their power in our federal system. Anyway, it was a dumb move not to tell anyone where he was going, but, hey--this is South Carolina. If someone doesn't go on a spontaneous camping trip it's odd.

Then we found out he went to Argentina. Oh, okay--our governor is gallavanting down Mexico way without telling anyone or leaving anybody in charge. The press is going to have a field day with that. So imagine my shock when my older brother sent me a snarky e-mail with one of the governor's lurid (and clumsy) love e-mails to his spicey señorita.

Naturally, there's a lot of speculation about what the governor is going to do. Is he going to resign? And, naturally, the liberal news media is slobbering more than they do over Obama about the whole affair (pardon my wording), pointing out with disgusting glee the fact that Sanford argued that former President Bill Clinton should have been impeached on moral grounds in addition to the rather small crime of lying to the American people and committing perjury.

But I'm not going to defend Sanford. What he did is absolutely wrong and I do feel betrayed. Sanford is exactly the kind of politician America needs right now, the kind of politician who can and will stand up against overweening government control. But we need our leaders in the fight against federal oppression to be legitimate, upstanding leaders. They can't be flawless, because they aren't, you know, Jesus, but they need to refrain from fooling around while married or from taking kick-backs or any number of things that always seem to seduce politicians.

Honestly, I don't know what to think. I still completely agree with Sanford's political and economic philosophy. In this case, his personal actions actually don't have any bearing on those ideals. At the same time, the honorable--if foolish--thing to do would be to step down as governor. But I'm a realist--while that might be the best move ideologically and morally, it would be disastrous in the larger scheme of state and national politics. Sanford might lose a great deal of his moral legitimacy, but his political credibility, at least when it comes to balancing a budget, is still untarnished. After his term is up, though, that should be it.

Ultimately, Sanford came clean and never explicitly lied to the people of South Carolina, although one could certainly make the argument that he implicitly mislead us by maintaining his public persona as a family man and loving husband. He did not lie on the stand or before a grand jury. It's a small detail, I know, and I am not making any excuses for his behavior. I lost a hero today.

5.) Michael Jackson Died

This event was what prompted me finally to write this overview of the week's happenings. I found out about this around 8:45 tonight. The sad thing is, I was more shocked and dismayed by this news than I was about Mark Sanford's infidelity. That probably says something negative about where our priorities lie as a nation (or, more accurately, where my priorities lie as a person), but maybe not. Michael Jackson made millions of people happy--and he made millions--and that's pretty significant.

It's weird, though, because I'm not a huge Michael Jackson fan. Yet I had a more visceral and emotional reaction to his death than I did to Brad Delp's, the former lead singer of one of my favorite bands of all time, Boston. Boston was one of those bands that has autobiographical significance for me, as I really got into the group during my transformative years--college. D. Rowland and I listened to "Billie Jean" while getting ready for church in the morning, which was one of those random and odd college rituals, but it was never like Thriller was the soundtrack to my life. I probably spent more time philosophizing internally while listening to "More Than a Feeling" than any other song in existance (and it's a little sad that such an overplayed AOR hit was one of the most important songs in my life). Heck, I've probably listened to Kansas's Leftoverture more hours than I have to all of Michael Jackson's discography combined.

So it's kind of weird that I was so schocked, but I think I know why: Michael Jackson was a cultural force unto himself. His death is like the death of Elvis or John Lennon. It almost marks the end of an era. In many ways, Jackson is the last great superstar. Think about it--who else alive right now was more influential, or even well-known? There are no more rock stars. Michael Jackson was the last great performer. Oh, sure, Taylor Swift is cute and popular right now. The guys from Def Leppard are still doing stuff, and they sold a ton of records (see also: Taylor Swift). But Michael Jackson was special in a way that I can't articulate. I'm sure Chuck Klosterman will have something to say, so I'll leave it to him.

That, in a nutshell, is the week in review. I will try to make up for some lost time this weekend with some original material as well as some great articles D. Rowland submitted--like the African-American legislator who proposed a bill outlawing all flavored cigarettes... except menthols.

Only in America.

19 June 2009

Vacation Time! (Part One)

Hey everybody!

In about an hour I will be leaving for beautiful Cornelius, North Carolina, to visit my good friend D. Rowland at his palatial pond side home. Therefore, new posts this weekend will be infrequent at best.

Just wanted to give everyone a heads-up. Have a great weekend!

18 June 2009

New Poll

Hey everyone.

To the right you should see a brief poll about our current First Lady, Michelle Obama. The poll will be open until 1 July 2009. Please take a moment to vote, as I will be using this highly unscientific data to write a blog entry.

Thanks again and enjoy!

A Portly Politico Two-Minute Update: Sir, Yes, Sir!

Now, I'm not the type of conservative who spends all of his time nit-picking over ever verbal faux-pas that a politician makes--after all, I did support George W. Bush--but my good friend D. Rowland sent me a link to a news item that I can't resist sharing: Senator Barbara Boxer got her shorts in a wad when a brigadier general addressed her as "ma'am" instead of "senator."

It's obvious from a short YouTube clip that Boxer was already fed up with this guy, Brigadier General Michael Walsh, probably because he's a.) in the military and b.) because he has something to do with the rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Katrina.

This incident is barely worth noting, other than as another example of a liberal elite reveling in her power--and striking an insincere pose as some kind of feminist. I have nothing but respect for female politicians (see my recent post on Nikki Haley of Bamberg, South Carolina), but this time Boxer has just made a spectacle of herself.

Note: This post is being made a few hours after it was written due to Internet connection difficulties. Please let me know if you have any additional updates.

A Portly Politico Two-Minute Update: Mark Sanford on Sean Hannity; President Obama=FDR or Peanut Farmer?

Last night South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford appeared on Hannity, Sean Hannity's nightly program (some of us remember when it was Hannity and Colmes, and even though Alan Colmes was usually wrong--and pretty much admitted it--it was nice having a balance of points of view), to discuss the stimulus money the South Carolina Supreme Court is forcing him to accept. He also talked about the state of the nation and even fielded a few questions about a possible presidential run in 2012. At this point, unfortunately, it seems that Sanford will return to the Lowcountry and to the world of business after his term ends in 2010.

Of course, as much as I admire Sanford, he is unlikely to be a viable presidential candidate, at least not right now. Sadly, his commitment to limited government and fiscal responsibility traditionally do not fare well in American politics since the Second World War. He may be picked up as a vice-presidential candidate on a future Republican ticket, especially because of his status as a prominent Southern politician, but this seems unlikely, too.

Then again, if government spending continues to get out of hand--and if the American people continue to express their displeasure with it--we could see a dramatic shift in Americans' attitudes toward the role of the government in the economy. I don't think this about-face is terribly likely, but it is possible. President Barack Obama could be end up being more Jimmy Carter than Franklin Roosevelt, although I'm afraid that's pretty unlikely, too, even if their approaches to foreign policy are essentially the same. Regardless, if something like this did happen, Mark Sanford would be a logical choice for a presidential run in 2012.

One last thought: has anyone else noticed that Obama is always compared or contrasted against past presidents? Sitting presidents are usually held up against their predecessors or past presidents with similar philosophical and political leanings, but it seems that these comparisons are made between Obama and past presidents more than other presidents. George W. Bush, love him or hate him, was rarely compared to past presidents, either Republican or Democratic. He was always judged on his own merits. Obama is constantly compared to, most frequently and depending on your side, FDR or Jimmy Carter (although Kevin Baker compared him quite favorably--and then quite unfavorably--to Herbert Hoover).

I'm willing to cede that maybe this is the case because Obama is the new kid on the block, but it's more likely because we don't really know that much about him. Sometimes I wonder if he knows much about himself. I know it's horribly cliched to question the curret President's motivation, but it's something that needs to be done for every president. Obama, however, has defied classification, which is both brilliant and disturbing: brilliant, because he made himself all things to most people; disturbing, because he ran the slickest advertising campaign in contemporary American history. People "bought" Obama like an uninformed teenager at a used car lot--they chose the shiniest package but didn't check the air in the tires or the quality of the engine.

And so there is a desperate need to pigeonhole Obama, and the next best equivalent is either as a well-intentioned failure (Carter) or a manipulative pragmatist (FDR). Of course, Sanford is the 21st-century Barry Goldwater, and we all know how that worked out for the Senator from Arizona. Sanford, a legitimately committed politician who is willing to make unpopular but necessary decisions, is almost always going to lose out to slippery conmen who relentlessly push their own agenda. That in a nutshell is what's wrong with American politics today.

17 June 2009

A Porty Politico Two-Minute Update: A New Hope

I was pleasantly surprised to read about a fresh new face in South Carolina politics, gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley, a State Representative from Bamberg. The daughter of immigrants, Haley appears to be the philosophical heiress-apparent to Governor Mark Sanford's brand of fiscal conservatism. While it's still pretty early in the game--the next gubernatorial election isn't until 2 November 2010--Haley looks to be a promising candidate for supporters of Sanford's commitment to limited government and political responsibility.

Again, it's too early for The Portly Politico to give its support to any one candidate, but I will certainly have my eye on Haley's candidacy over the next seventeen months. Hopefully she will be spared the ire that is so often heaped upon conservative female politicians by the liberal news media (see also: Sarah Palin).

For more information on State Representative Haley, check out this excellent write-up by Moe Lane at "Speaking with Nikki Haley - (R-CAN, SC-GOV)."

16 June 2009

The "Real" Aiken

For some time now, I've had an idea for a short book that takes a look at the City of Aiken, South Carolina, from the perspective of someone who a.) grew up in the town and b.) is not a Northerner or tourist. Most books written about Aiken tend to cater to Aiken's tourists or to people who have an idealized vision of Aiken as a quaint little town. They focus on Aiken's many historic landmarks and public events, such as Hopeland Gardens or Aiken's Makin', the annual craft festival, which are all important parts of what makes Aiken such a unique place.

These books are excellent for their market--people visiting Aiken or people who are new to the area (the two are essentially one in the same; the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce reports that most visitors to the Chamber are those looking to move to Aiken). Being a town that relies heavily on tourism--restaurants in Aiken receive about 60% of their business from tourists annually--this situation simply makes sense. Aiken is also a Southern town with a large, non-native population. I don't have exact numbers, but Aiken attracts a large number of Northerners--we call them "transplants" around here--every year, either as retirees or as engineers who work at the Savannah River Site. Tourists and transplants come or move to Aiken because they want it to be a quaint, adorable Southern town, a la Mayberry, so the books they purchase about Aiken reflect this desire. It's economics, plain and simple.

While these books offer a fine introduction to Aiken, however, they also ignore a great deal of what makes Aiken such an interesting place. Yes, Aiken is a wonderful place to live (or to retire, as the case may be), but it's not just great for trendy local restaurants or award-winning golf courses. Aiken is a living, breathing community that embodies the best--and sometimes the worst--of the New South.

Therefore, I've been knocking around the idea of a book that would explore, through extensive oral interviews and background research into Aiken's history, the multifaceted, complicated nature of Aiken. Aiken is not just a city of wealthy Northern retirees or prominent Southern business leaders and politicians. It is a town with a striking range of socio-economic conditions, races, philosophies, religions, and creeds. I wouldn't say it's some kind of multicultural mecca--most everyone is white, middle-class, and Republican--but it's more varied and alive than its retirement community status would suggest.

Also, it's dangerous to assume that Aiken is just a haven for Northern retirees and engineers. One group in Aiken that has come to wield significant influence is the so-called Smart Growth organization, which would more aptly be titled "No Growth." Smart Growth proponents claim they want Aiken to grow, well, more intelligently, but there's very little hard evidence of how they want to achieve that goal. However, it has become apparent that many supporters of Smart Growth are recent immigrants to Aiken from above the Mason-Dixon who want to shut the door behind them. They want to keep Aiken exactly as they have found it.

Here is where these white-washed depictions of Aiken become problematic, if not out-and-out dangerous: they encourage newcomers to view Aiken as a town caught in an ideaized stasis, simultaneously ignoring the fact that Aiken is a living, growing community of small businesses, growing families, and hard workers. I hope, should I ever undertake my work on the "real" Aiken, that I can demonstrate that Aiken is not just a huge retirement community, but that it is in fact a growing, evolving town that needs the flexibility and cooperation of its citizens to expand.

Aiken can still be a great place to live and vacation, but we need to remember that many Aikenites are still trying to make a living, and aren't just sagging a few balls before they kick the bucket.

14 June 2009

Rustics Have Opinions, Too

I've noticed something about the American Left, specifically those members who claim to be "cultured": they share a distrust and even hatred for rural Americans. They constantly mock the values, feelings, and politics of this oft-derided constituency, framing them as stereotypical "rednecks" or "good ol' boys" who spend most of their time polishing their guns drunk while watching NASCAR.

Let's face it: stereotypes exist for a reason. Think of any offensive stereotype and there's a kernel of truth to it. But that doesn't mean we should go around judging people based on those stereotypes. Liberals are making that point all the time, and in this case they're actually right. As usual, though, they fall back into their old, hypocritical ways when it comes to rural Americans. It's "hate speech" if someone insinuates that an Asian is good at math, but it's perfectly acceptable to laugh at someone who's only skin pigmentation is on the back of his neck.

I'm not saying that having a sense of humor is wrong. Maybe white guys really aren't as cool as black dudes when they drive. Dave Chappelle had tons of great material and Boondocks deals with race relations in the United States today better than any other show out there. I want to make it clear that I have nothing against humor. By laughing at stereotypes, we rob them of their power, rather than adding to it.

The same holds true for "rednecks" or "white trash" or whatever label one uses. If it weren't, Jeff Foxworthy would be out of a job. The problem arises, however, when we start to marginalize those Americans because of the stereotypes that exist. Such marginalization of African Americans, for example, would be roundly denounced by the left, and rightfully so. Unfortunately, liberals often celebrate when such marginalization is applied to the rural white American.

In an otherwise excellent article in Harper's Magazine entitled "Barak Hoover Obama: The Best and the Brightest Blow it Again," Kevin Baker indulges in this marginalization to a sickening extent [Note--at the time of this writing, the full text of the article is only available to Harper's subscribers]. The bulk of the article draws historical parallels between Presidents Herbert Hoover and Barack Obama. Baker's research is impeccable and his understanding of an oft-maligned (and extremely intelligent) former president is refreshing. He implicitly challenges the more common "Obama-is-to-Roosevelt-as-Bush-is-to-Hoover" analogy and draws some pessimistic conclusions about Obama's approach to passing many of his long-promised, radically liberal reforms.

A large part of Baker's argument is that President Obama is proceeding with excessive caution and is relying too heavily on Congress to enact the changes he seeks for the nation (naturally, many conservatives would argue that the opposite is true, but suffice it to say that Baker is approaching Obama's proposed reforms from the point of view of a liberal supporter--he actually thinks that cap-and-trade is a good thing). Baker maintains that congressional Democrats from states with small populations like Montana are stepping up after years of quiet service to challenge many of Obama's efforts.

The language Baker uses to describe these representatives and senators is thick with disrespect. He talks about their states as filled with tumbleweeds and ignorance. He implicitly challenges the notion that these congressmen--and by extension their constituents--have no place in contemporary American politics and that they should be brushed aside and ignored, all because they're impeding Ossiah's democratic-socialist vision. This viewpoint is shared implicitly and explicitly by most liberals and leftists. The thinking is that because these states have small populations--and don't have a good place to get sushi or gourmet coffee--they don't deserve to have a place in the American political system (not to mention the fact that Baker is encouraging Obama to squelch dissent and open discussion, supposed bedrocks of modern liberalism).

What's most disturbing about this reasoning is that it is anathema to the very structural philosophy of the United States Constitution. The Constitution clearly sets out to create a structure that gives states with large populations more power in the House of Representatives, while allowing states with small populations to maintain an equal footing in the Senate. The same theory exists behind the Electoral College. If our system was not balanced in this way, New York and California would always pick the next president and would exert a dangerous amount of control over national politics (with only conservative Texas able to balance things out a bit). Regional interests do not necessarily coincide with national interests, and what's good for New York may not be good, and may even be bad, for Iowa.

Yet liberals consistently ignore this inconvenient truth and view it as a stumbling block to their pet projects, whatever they might be. At the risk of sounding like a blowhard conservative talk show host, leftists in America today have no respect for the Constitution except when it is politically advantageous or convenient. Now, I am willing to admit that there are plenty of conservatives who probably treat the Constitution in the same way, but they are much, much harder to find. This disrespect cannot endure for long, regardless of the side.

Therefore, I applaud what these rural Democrats are doing. Maybe they are dusty old relics of the party, but that's for the Democrats to sort out themselves, and that should not invalidate what these men have to say. Maybe most of them are blowhards and are simply seizing their moment to be in the spotlight or to play to their base, but some of them have useful objections and suggestions. I don't want to give liberals any additional aid, but it seems to me that they could use all the help they can get in the more rural parts of the country. Taking the interests of rural Democrats more seriously would be a great start.

Kevin Baker and his ilk live in a world of trendy green advertising and mocha lattes. They have no respect for hard working rural Americans--oh, heck, we'll call them "rednecks"--who help make this country into the wonderful tapestry of ideas and cultures it is today.

Besides, who wants to watch Jeff Gordon race in a Prius?

Sanford Piece Published

Hey everyone.

It's been quite awhile since my last post. I promise more regular posting! I am in the process of looking for work, so if you have any leads, let me know. Of course, this means my time for writing is somewhat diminished, but I'm going to make a conscious effort to write more often over the next few weeks.

Also, I have an update that I should have posted a month ago: my piece on Mark Sanford was finally published! When I decided to post the letter in April, I assumed that it would not be published, as a few weeks had already passesd at that point. However, the letter was finally published on 17 May 2009 (the Aiken Standard's website mistakenly says that it was printed on 16 May in the URL) and has received positive response--for the most part. Governor Mark Sanford even wrote a letter thanking me for my piece.