Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Take Two and Call Me in the Morning

It seems that Mitt Romney followed the doctor's advice very well on Tuesday.  Romney was able to successfully fend off a primary challenge in Michigan by the increasingly erratic Rick Santorum, former Senator from Pennsylvania, as well as cruise to a huge victory in Arizona last night.  Even though it appears that Romney and Santorum will each receive 15 delegates in Michigan, the fact that Romney won the popular vote, albeit by only 3 points, has squashed any discussion of late entrants into the race for now.  A win is a win and to the victor go the spoils.  Romney will be able to control the news narrative as we head toward Super Tuesday and its ten contests in just six days.  Romney is currently favored to win half of them, including delegate rich states like Virginia (only Ron Paul is on the ballot with him) and Massachusetts.  Romney should also easily win Vermont.  Idaho has a fairly good sized Mormon population that will help Romney in that state's caucuses.  Alaska is probably up for grabs.  Ohio will be the big question for the Romney campaign, and probably where the candidate will focus his attention for the next week.  The rest of the contests are either in rural states or the south, where the environment will be far more welcoming for both Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich.  Newt should win Georgia and he and Santorum will pick up a fair share of delegates in the rest of the states.

Super Tuesday will not settle the nomination for the GOP but it will probably make it all but inevitable for Mitt Romney.  After last night he has at least 145 delegates compared to Santorum's 82 (if all unbound delegates from Colorado and Minnesota are awarded to him).  Ohio will be the harbinger of things to come.  I expect Mitt Romney to win Ohio, probably in much the same fashion as he did Michigan.  One reason for that is Rick Santorum's inability to craft a clear, concise, and concrete message to voters.  He suffers greatly from his need to pander to social conservatives by making outlandish claims about Dutch euthanasia, wanting to 'throw up' when hearing JFK talk about the separation of church and state, calling the president a 'snob' who wants all kids to attend college so they can be spiritually destroyed and 'indoctrinated' into Obama's 'phony theology.'  Instead of focusing on his economic policies (Santorum makes a lot of sense when he does so) he wanders down rabbit trails and says things that make him seem naive, if not downright crazy.  In addition, Santorum, like Gingrich, appears to have no real campaign in the normal sense of the word.  It is a fly-by-night seat-of your-pants operation that doesn't know what the next move should be.  I have tried contacting all four campaigns with invitations to speak in Mississippi and received relatively quick responses from two of them (Romney's camp has indicated a willingness if he visits Mississippi, Paul declined).  Not a word from Santorum or Gingrich.  Mitt Romney has, if anything, demonstrated to us once again that nominations are won by well-organized, well-funded campaigns backed by the established party elite.  It's Romney's turn and the GOP will do what it always does and nominate the guy whose turn it is.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Has the Day of Reckoning Arrived for the GOP?

Today is an important day for Willard 'Mitt' Romney and the GOP.  The direction the party takes from here may well be decided today.  Republican voters go to the polls to cast their ballots in the GOP presidential preference primaries in both Arizona and Michigan.  The first of these, Arizona, seems to be solidly in the Romney column.  That's important for his campaign because it is a 'winner take all' state meaning Romney will get all of the delegates there even if he wins by just a single vote.  Arizona has violated Republican National Committee (RNC) rules by holding its primary prior to Super Tuesday (March 6) and by awarding all its delegates to the winner of the popular vote.  These violations cost Arizona half its seats at the Republican Convention in Tampa this summer.  Thus, Romney will likely pick up all 29 that are available.  Get the details here.

Michigan, on the other hand, also violated RNC rules by holding an early primary but is awarding two delegates to the winner in each of its 14 congressional districts, plus dividing the two statewide delegates between the top two vote getters.  This means Romney will get at least 1 delegate in MI whether he wins or loses.  A blowout victory in the state could net Romney 29 delegates from MI but a narrow win or loss could result in Rick Santorum securing more delegates from Michigan.  Santorum could lose the statewide vote but win 8 congressional districts and pick up 17 delegates to Romney's 13.  Would this be considered a loss for the Romney campaign?

The media and 'anonymous' Republicans in the establishment have hinted that a Romney loss in Michigan would set the party searching for a different candidate, including presumably, drafting a 'dark horse' candidate at the convention in August.  It has happened before (James K. Polk in 1844, Benjamin Harrison in 1888) but not in the modern age of primary politics.  I think it unlikely to happen this year either.

The bigger question, I think, is why does the party see a Santorum nomination as toxic to the party's hopes of unseating President Obama in November?  Is this a tacit admission that the party is out of touch with most Americans on the social issues he advocates?

Regardless of the outcome today we likely will not know what it really means until November. If Romney wins today and ultimately becomes the nominee and then loses to Obama in November it will give rise to the purists who want it to be the party of family values and purity.  If Santorum wins and gets blown out by Obama in the fall, the establishment will be strengthened in its conviction that the best Republican nominee is not a far right conservative but one who is slightly right of center and it will be time to shed the blood of the purists.  So, while today will be important to at least one of the prospective GOP nominees, the day of reckoning will really come in November.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Romney: Wrong for Detroit, Wrong for America

It's time to admit what has been painfully clear to many Americans for a long time:  Willard 'Mitt' Romney is a terrible candidate to be President of the United States.  No, it isn't because he's not qualified.  I believe he has as much, if not more qualification to be president than any of the other GOP hopefuls and perhaps even our current president, though if three years of on the job experience doesn't qualify someone I don't know what does.  And it's not because Willard is unlikable, either.  I think he's probably a swell guy to hang out with at the country club, sipping vermouth and chatting about everything he's done to save businesses, the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002, and Massachusetts.  No, those things are all good accomplishments and he should be applauded for whatever role he played in them.

The problem for Willard Romney is that he is a stranger to the truth.  He has apparently never made its acquaintance.  Even after it has been demonstrated time and time again that if Presidents Bush and Obama had followed Gov. Romney's advice the only automobiles manufactured in the U.S. today would be Japanese and German automobiles made in Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi.  Michigan would be a barren wasteland with plenty of trees at the right height but no automobile companies.  Beyond the job losses for the hated United Auto Workers would have been the suppliers to the industry, the truck drivers who deliver the vehicles, the restaurants that serve the workers, and so on and on.  It would have been the largest collapse in American history and Willard Romney advocated that the U.S. Government just stand by and watch it happen.

Over and over on the campaign trail he has talked about letting GM and Chrysler go through a 'managed bankruptcy' financed by private capital.  Nice in theory, but impossible in the economic conditions of 2008-09, as economist Steven Rattner discussed in the NY Times on Friday.  There simply was no private capital available.  The result would have been the liquidation of GM, Chrysler, and perhaps Ford (who didn't accept government loans but would have experienced supply disruptions that might have paralyzed the company).

It's one thing to be wrong about an issue at a time when foresight is limited.  If 2008 had been a normal recession perhaps Romney's approach would have been the right one to take.  But it wasn't and both President Bush and President Obama deserve credit for recognizing that fact when few others did.  It is entirely another thing to double down and insist that a prior position was correct when hindsight demonstrates it was clearly wrong.  A healthy and profitable U.S. auto industry (GM turned it's largest profit in history in 2011) shows that Romney was wrong then and continues to be wrong today.  President Bush recently affirmed that he made the right decision and he'd do it again.  Just one more reason Willard Romney is wrong for America.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Just a Regular Willard

Mitt Romney has tried hard to identify with the average guy.  He really has.  From his claim that the $350,000+ he earned from giving speeches in 2010 wasn't 'much money' to his statement that he isn't concerned about the 'very poor' or the 'rich', Willard 'Mitt' Romney has tried to portray himself as just a regular guy named Willard.  Therein lies a lot of the reason he's still running for the Republican nomination instead of having already secured it.  He keeps trying to portray himself as something other than what he is.  He is a man of wealth from a family of wealth and has lived in world of wealth his whole life.  There is nothing wrong with that.  In America, we celebrate and want to emulate those who are successful and wealthy.  It is very rare when one of them tries to make the claim that he is just one of the guys.  Some wealthy folks might be able to pull that off.  Warren Buffett comes to mind.  While I've never met him, the interviews I've seen with him make him seem very down to earth and able to identify with the day to day struggles of the middle class.  Not so for the GOP's regular Willard.  Take this statement from his 'major economic speech' in which he promoted a plan that will raise taxes on poor people and those with college age kids yesterday in Detroit:
“I love this country. I actually love this state. This feels good being back in Michigan. Um, you know the trees are the right height. The, uh, the streets are just right. I like the fact that most of the cars I see are Detroit-made automobiles. I drive a Mustang and a Chevy pickup truck. Ann drives a couple of Cadillacs, actually.”
The trees are the right height?  Huh?  Do average people walk around looking at the trees and commenting on their height?  Or the style of the streets?  Do they have four cars for two people, including two Cadillacs?  I don't and I suspect that most regular folk don't either.  This isn't the first time Willard Romney has commented about the height of the trees in Michigan.  He mentioned it in a stump speech a week ago prompting Larry Sabato to muse whether Romney would comment on the proper height of cacti if he wins the Arizona primary on Tuesday.  Perhaps he lost Iowa because he failed to appreciate the proper height of the corn stalks.

Romney will likely win the Michigan primary on Tuesday as he should.  He is the best candidate remaining among a very weak (and weird) Republican field.  Personally, I would have preferred Jon Huntsman, an intelligent, reasonable conservative who was unwilling to pander to the lunatics on the right but he had the audacity to serve his country faithfully under THIS Democratic president, which is tantamount to treason.  A Republican member of Congress who visited my class recently told me this privately and Huntsman said it himself on Morning Joe last week.

While I believe Romney will win Michigan and Arizona, it will likely be a result of outspending his opponents.  Rather, because his Super PAC outspent his opponents in advertising.  Michigan is still likely to be close, though, as the spending differences are much less than in Florida.  As of February 24, Romney groups have spent about twice as much as Santorum groups.  

Whatever the outcome, Willard Romney is not your average Joe.  He should stop pretending to be.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Is Rick Santorum Actually Insane?

I've tried to like Rick Santorum, I really have.  I actually agree with him on many of the moral issues he espouses, though that doesn't mean I believe they should be the focus of public policy, especially since I am a firm believer in the separation of church and state.  But now I am beginning to think he has actually gone crazy.  And not in a good way.  In a previous post I mentioned his incoherent and inaccurate rant about euthanasia in the Netherlands.  Now, it seems, Santorum sees demonic forces at work in encouraging kids to get a college education.  He says,

“I understand why Barack Obama wants to send every kid to college, because of their indoctrination mills, absolutely … The indoctrination that is going on at the university level is a harm to our country.”  He claimed that “62 percent of kids who go into college with a faith commitment leave without it,” but declined to cite a source for the figure. And he floated the idea of requiring that universities that receive public funds have “intellectual diversity” on campus.
Terrific.  Affirmative action for conservatives!   Oh wait, there already exists a great deal of 'intellectual diversity' on college campuses.  I think he means that science departments should hire faculty who bury their heads in the sand and deny global warming instead of following the evidence.  Religion departments should hire only those who believe the Bible to be the inspired Word of God.  Political Science departments should hire nothing but fiscal and social conservatives.  And so on.  

Granted, many universities are populated largely by liberals, though I think, and research tends to support the idea, that much of that is a result of self-selection rather than academic bias.  Basically, conservatives choose more lucrative careers.  Most university faculty don't make a lot of money, particularly in the first six years.  Of course, there is wide variation from state to state and between disciplines.  A full professor in liberal arts might top out at $80k after a dozen years or so while business or science faculty could do significantly better.  But I digress.

As a faculty member at an R1 research institution for the past 3+ years I have yet to see any evidence of the so-called 'indoctrination' or war on student faith that Senator Santorum seems to think exists.  Apart from the fact that Santorum provides no documentation for his claim I would argue that if kids are losing their faith in college that isn't the college's fault, it is the parents and the church's fault.  I've run into many students of faith and I have seen their faith become stronger, not weaker, during their years in college.  I myself went to college as an agnostic and left as a Christian.  That's not to say that education won't challenge what one believes.  If it doesn't, it isn't worth pursuing.  What good is an education system that simply confirms what someone already believes is true?  That isn't education, it's a confirmation.  You can go to church for that.  And you should.

But if you want a brighter future then you should go to college, get a solid education, and enter society as a productive, taxpaying, well-educated citizen.  It has been proven time and time again that there is NO substitute for a good education to help people move out of the ranks of the impoverished and into the ranks of the productive.  It also shows that students who come in with conservative values leave with conservative values and vice-versa.  Apparently the 'indoctrination mills' are doing a terrible job indoctrinating kids.  Perhaps conservatives think universities function as 'indoctrination mills' because many conservatives believe the goal of pedagogy IS to indoctrinate kids into a conservative worldview, not simply provide them with the tools to be able to think for themselves.  If so, they should just tune into the Rush Limbaugh show and stay out of the classroom.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Why Rick Santorum MUST Win the GOP Nomination

The time has come once and for all to drag all the dirty, rotting, decayed skeletons out of the closet of the new conservative movement.  It is comprised of lots and lots of crazy people who believe an awful lot of crazy things.  From accusing Barack Obama being a manchurian candidate ineligible to serve as president to being a secret muslim who has declared war on religious freedom to being a right-wing Nazi, movement conservatives have literally lost their minds.  Remember Michele Bachmann? The former candidate for the Republican nomination who famously attributed mental retardation to vaccinating children against deadly diseases?  Movement conservative.  Newt Gingrich, current candidate for the GOP nomination, who famously declared that you can't understand Barack Obama until you understand his 'Kenyan anti-colonial mentality'?  Movement conservative.  Or how about the group in Kentucky with the creation museum featuring dinosaurs with saddles on their backs?  Clearly Adam and Eve rode those behemoths to get around.  Movement conservatives.

That brings me to the latest and greatest movement conservative, GOP frontrunner Rick Santorum.  At a speech before the Missouri primary in February he said,

"In the Netherlands, people wear different bracelets if they are elderly. And the bracelet is: ‘Do not euthanize me.’ Because they have voluntary euthanasia in the Netherlands but half of the people who are euthanized — ten percent of all deaths in the Netherlands — half of those people are euthanized involuntarily at hospitals because they are older and sick. And so elderly people in the Netherlands don’t go to the hospital. They go to another country, because they are afraid, because of budget purposes, they will not come out of that hospital if they go in there with sickness."

The only problem with Santorum's statement?  It isn't even remotely true according to this research.  Nevertheless, crazy people salivate and applaud when he (or any other movement conservative) repeats this kind of nonsense.  The Republican Party used to be a party comprised of sane, rational people who simply had a different vision of how to make America great.  It was the party of Lincoln and the party of Theodore Roosevelt.  It was the party of Dwight D. Eisenhower.  No longer.  Those great men would have nothing to with today's GOP and its movement conservatives.   Of course, they'd likely have nothing to do with those Republicans In Name Only (RINOs) either.  That's not to say all conservatives are crazy or all Republicans either (there is a difference, the two are not synonymous), just that the GOP tolerates and encourages the extremely crazy ones in a way that no other party does.  Democrats, with the possible exception of Maxine Waters, disavow the left-wing nuts openly.  The GOP caters to them through Fox News and talk radio.  It gives them op-ed space in the Wall Street Journal.  So it's about time they actually nominate one of them.  Let the fruit of the poisonous tree be displayed in the bright sunlight for all of America to see.   The mainstream media has to expose this movement for all Americans to see what it actually is.  Truly insane.