Thursday, January 20, 2005

Inaugural Doggerel, With Thanks to George W. Bush and Rudyard Kipling

“Dubya Bush,” in the style of “Gunga Din”

You may talk of your “blue states”
When you eat your gourmet plates
And you sip on wines from California’s valleys.
But when all hell’s broken loose,
And villains try to cook your goose,
You’ll thank God when each “red state” soldier rallies.
Now, post-Cold War and post-Clinton
Our learned class paid scant attention
And assumed that trade would make the whole world love you.
When this wretched myth was dashed
As four hijacked airplanes crashed
We found a finer chief commander in old “Dubya.”

It was “Bush! Bush! Bush!
You spoiled usurper, Bush!
Dynasty! Recount!
Make the cowboy Pres. dismount!
For America is saddled with this Bush!”

The English Dubya spoke
Would easily provoke
An opposition seething as it hated.
The Senator’s son Gore
Whom the Left had backed before
Would never say “misunderestimated.”
The ship of state they feared capsized
And we’d all be Texanized
As George lassoed Yankees with his Bible Belt.
For all the scripture and tax cuts
Must have proven he was nuts,
But the Left needed no proof for what it felt.

It was “Bush! Bush! Bush!
The brainless heir, George Bush!
I’d sooner move to Canada
Or start up my own intifada
Than grant a word of praise to Dubya Bush!”

His appointments were diverse,
But this only made it worse.
Rivals screamed advisers had all true control,
And they strove to make it known
That the force behind the throne
Was someone else, but disagreed about which soul.
Was Bush a John Ashcroft fanatic,
Or like Kissinger, pragmatic?
Henry’s protégés filled the administration:
Cheney, Rice and Powell
Still made progressives howl;
And neocons drew further salivation.

It was “Bush! Bush! Bush!
You right-wing throwback, Bush!
Are you Nixon? Are you Reagan?
Artful Dodger to Rove’s Fagin?
You uncivilized Republican, George Bush!”

I shan’t forget the day
When the false peace went away
And jihadists killed by thousands in one hour.
And as my anti-Bush friends cried
I knew why the victims died:
For years, we’d been a lazy superpower.
We near-forgot the whole Cold War,
With conflicts orphaned by the score,
And First Worlders talked of subsidies and glamour
While old threats had converged
And the new terror had surged
As the rust grew on the sickle and the hammer.

It was “Bush! Bush! Bush!
You insane crusader, Bush!
Is your new war a huge put on?
Shouldn’t we all just Move On?
Can’t we be more European, Dubya Bush?”

And while the left-wing cursed
Our decline had been reversed.
Bush’s White House led America, reborn.
Soon we put the world on notice
That according to our POTUS
Rogue states were very worthy of our scorn.
Bush was not without his flaws,
But he was balanced by our laws
And he knew terror was an act of total war:
That for all the “non-state actors”
And the “background social factors”
Our armed force alone would even up the score.

I voted “Bush! Bush! Bush!”
The Dems gave me a bad primary
Where I could not vote contrary.
But the Bush Doctrine’s visionary:
You’re a better man than Kerry, Dubya Bush!

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

One Week After

George Bush's re-election was confirmed seven mornings ago by a modest but considerable margin of roughly three and a half million votes or three percentage points. Now there is a great deal of hand-wringing over the extent of Bush's mandate. Republicans and conservatives are gloating while Democrats and progressives are panicking. One almost gets the impression that neither side anticipated that there would be a winner and a loser. How else can one explain hysteria over a fairly narrow 51%-48% divide (both nationally and in Ohio) as if it were an unforseen landslide? Even the poetically populist Bill Moyers and his successor David Brancaccio reminded their TV audiences that each candidate won 43%-45% of the total votes in the combined states won by his opponent. Talk of mass emigration, partition, secession and civil war is more than a bit exaggerated.

I have already written that the noisy sexual moralism of this year's campaign was a powerful force, but also mostly a senior citizen voting trend. Institutional homophobia is the prevailing wisdom of the dying generation; the same elders, however, also have the highest voter turnout. Youth-oriented "Rock the Vote" campaigning, despite a lot of sentimental hopes, does not yield a high enough rate to overwhelm the senior citizen ballots. It never has, contrary to the myth that MTV helped Bill Clinton to unseat George H.W. Bush in 1992, and it probably never will. There are different predominant temperaments across age groups, and in the age of birth control the older ones outnumber the younger ones. Ultimately, banning gay marriage was not the chief means of Bush's re-election. It might be the case, on the other hand, that the push for gay marriage in the last year was the reason for the hastened victory of backlash votes against the same in eleven states.

Putting aside the demographics of anti-homosexuality, the Democrats under Senator Kerry were beaten somewhat badly. David Brooks argues that the myth of the deterministic "values" vote obscures a more startling development: namely, Bush won a higher share of votes in the bulk of the Democrat/Kerry majority states than he had in 2000. The President improved his performance in New York, in Connecticut and even in Kerry's home state of Massachusetts.

Bush's "minority presidency" is no more. Bill Clinton, remember, had two "minority administrations" and won the first because of Ross Perot's effect on the GOP vote in 1992. Despite Republican control of Congress, he barely eked out a plurality re-election in 1996. Perhaps the two wins obscured the Democrats' increasing vulnerability throughout the 1990s. By contrast, the 2004 incumbent who was ostensibly the "most polarizing national figure" in the history of everything has now won over a raw majority of the country. Many of Bush's newer supporters, like myself, preferred his Republican war strategy to the Democrats'. I cannot emphasize this issue enough, for it is the reason that I held my nose and forgave Bush's right-wing cultural politics.

The Democratic Party, by contrast, spent most of the last four years with a rudderless foreign policy. As the opposition party, it had no need for consensus. Perhaps the most polarized was the divide between an increasingly anti-war grassroots base and an initially pro-war leadership. The national Democrats gave near-unanimous support to operations against the Taliban and al-Qaeda. (The exception, Rep. Barbara Lee, won easy re-election last week.) The war in Iraq broke that consensus, and put hawkish party elites in conflict with an increasingly dovish rank-and-file.

The Democrats' dilemma, then and now, was whether or not to oppose the escalation of war against terrorists and rogue states. The Kerry/Edwards ticket was an attempt to bridge the gap: two nominees who once supported a wider war, then grew displeased with the administration conducting it. It was not enough to win the country, and not enough to win my vote.

The defeated party may now wish to pursue a more determined anti-war course, perhaps along the lines of Senator George McGovern's failed 1972 candidacy. Being out of power, the Democrats have little incentive to applaud the policies of those who have the responsibility of exercising it. Radicals to the Left of the Democrats may soon despair even further. I often worry that the stripe of campus/cosmopolitan Marxists may turn to violence like their Baby Boom predecessors. Let us sincerely hope they do not.

In any case, the Democrats are in a dire strait: during wartime, they are torn in two. It would take a great deal to overcome anti-war sentiment in the party. If the fight against Islamic fascism remains popular in general--as I suspect it will--then the Republicans will be the ones running the show. Moderates who might disagree on other issues will continue supporting the GOP for the sake of triumph in battle.

For the Democrats to win back the White House, they would have to do so with a more pro-war candidate. Indeed, a generation of geostrategic thinking tinged by the New Left would need to be discarded. The more progressive wing of the party would have to trade aspirations of restoring social democracy for Third Way centrism and a larger military budget.

If the residual strength of a dovish left-wing requires that the Democrats stand for twentieth century entitlement programs and the Vietnam Syndrome, then they will be the permanent minority. In that situation, the party would risk splitting between semi-Greens and centrists. A winner-take-all system makes this more unlikely, but one cannot rule it out. My guess is that the left-wing party would be the smaller one, while a larger centrist one might siphon-off considerable moderate Republican support and split the GOP. Unfortunately, the middle-of-the-road majority party is usually just a fantasy. During larger realignments, one might rule temporarily before the third party switches sides. For example, in 1968 Nixon won as a centrist against the Democrats and right-wing Southerner George Wallace; soon the splinter voters became Republicans.

Now, presuming that the Democrats are about to make a hard Left turn, and that the puritan Republicans are disproportionately elderly, I cautiously predict that GOP moderates will become more powerful over time. In the next few years, I suspect Bush will try to maximize the number and extent of conservative reforms. The four Republican U.S. Senate seats from Maine and Pennsylvania might prove susceptible to Democratic contenders, while a fifth held by Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island might go the way of Jim Jeffords' and leave the party. The Senate is the first place where the GOP could lose its current monopoly, and there the moderates would be the most vulnerable. The House of Representatives' districts are gerrymandered to the point of perversity, foretelling little change before the next national census. In presidential contests, however, I see an enduring Democratic weakness and a likely Republican strength.

A more rabid Democratic Party in 2008 and after will give the Republicans the opportunity to keep power with comparative centrism. McCain, Giuliani and Schwarzenegger have already bedazzled many swing voters and moderate Democrats, and they are the key to future victory. Bush has many fine qualities, but an inflexible social conservatism (aside from being objectionable in its own right) cannot have a great longevity in a cosmopolitan U.S. society. Wartime emergency and a weak challenger can give a culturally half-reactionary administration a very broad base of support. A more lasting strategy requires pragmatism, compromise and modernization. Considering the Republican moderates have greater popularity than Democrat counterparts like Joe Lieberman and the now-retiring Dick Gephardt, I think the former will ascend in coming years.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Feeling Not So Gay?

The great, big U.S. election is over and my blog has been silent for a week. Like many people across the political spectrum, I felt an exhausted relief after a winner was announced.

I'll begin with the caveat that some have said that the election was not really determined by gay rights and the backlash against them. "Moral values" was the top criterion for an estimated twenty-one million Bush voters, leaving about thirty-eight million others. Bush won Ohio by around three points in 2000, and did so again; the heterosexual marriage initiative in that state had the support of one third of Democrats as well as most Republicans. This was more or less true in most places. An earlier California referendum banning gay marriage passed with sixty-one percent, as is typical of "blue states." In "red states," such laws pass with seventy percent. Vive la difference?

The Democrats should not abandon gay rights, but no one should be suprised that there was a backlash. The fact that courts and local governments were the only effective bodies that could support gay marriage underscores that overwhelming numbers of voters opposed it. State and federal executives and legislatures have no popular backing in favor of extending marriage rights, and we all knew that going in to this election.

According to gay Massachussetts' US Rep. Barney Frank, it was not so much a question of "closeting" these reforms as it was a question of timing and strategy, i.e., would it have killed my mayor Gavin Newsom to wait until 2005? Or for civil unionism to have been used piecemeal toward marriage? (Notice how Bush said states should determine civil union laws right before the election? Even if he was being insincere, that's a startling cosmetic concession.)

Considering how much the SF Greens and more immoderate Dems hate the guy, Newsom pushed for same sex marriage licenses in order to guard his own Left flank as much as anything else. True, as a West Coast liberal it was only natural for him to oppose Bush's plans to ban the same, and as a politician to for him to take a stand against the President's goal. Could Newsom have just sued California first, rather than using the city and county against the state and then litigating as a second choice? (I'll leave aside the slippery slope of usurping authority: what if some right-wing township copies Newsom and puts creationism in the public school curriculum? Is ideological mutiny a good trend in government?) Although Newsom took a brave stand for civil rights--on the correct side of history, and all that--he may have helped to mobilize the measure's currently more numerous opponents. A brilliant tactic to undercut Newsom's local rivals might have been a great disservice to the party nationally, perhaps even to the cause as well.

On a happier note, the opposition to gay rights is predominant among the elderly and attracts only a minority among the young. It is "only" a matter of time, but that means also that it is truly a matter of time. It is one thing to support gay rights because they are correct; it is quite another to assume that doing so will suddenly win over large numbers of people who view gays with antipathy. If anything, that's just stupidity about strategy.

The Democrats supported desegregation and civil rights in the 1948 presidential platform but they and the non-partisan movement could not pass a bloody law until 1964. Times changed, and the blessed court intervened along the way in 1954.

The future of gay rights will go the same way: state by state, court by court, before reaching a critical (i.e., federal) mass. As a moderate Republican who supports gay marriage, I expect to see inroads through the courts in the more liberal states. I expect the whole process will take a decade or two. Furthermore, fence-sitters will be more comfortable in the short term with granting gay couples marriage rights under a different name. This is a shame, but also an opportunity to push for civil unions far and wide as a major step. Pretending that it will happen much more quickly because we the young are so enlightened is vanity: not only self-deceptive, but electorally self-destructive.

Which leads to my general observation on recent elections: if one is progressive enough to have even flirted with liking Nader (without voting for him), OR to have assumed that America would applaud San Franciscan daring from coast to coast with no obstacles, then one is in no position to judge "what is needed to win" in national politics.

Thank You, Citizen Journal

William Lalor's new website was very kind to republish my assessment of pre-election advise from "The Nation". Much oliged. According to "San Francisco Chronicle" columnist the Night Cabbie, my piece was "okay." Huurah for my very first instance of faint but public praise from a genuine Hearst Company employee.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

SF Television Newscaster Howler

Belva Davis of KRON Channel 4 in San Francisco just said that those little states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida--with twenty, twenty-one and twenty-seven electoral votes, respectively--do not sound big to Califiornians. We have fifty-five electoral votes, and are therefore oh-so-important. Her fellow panelists chuckled in agreement.

If the Golden State has one eighth of the country's people, and therefore one eighth of the country's problems, it might also have one eighth of the country's narcissism. When the fourth largest state strikes a major local broadcaster as relatively small potatoes, Northern California's chattering classes are exhibiting a psychological problem.

Stop Carole Migden, Vote Felder

Crooked and high-handed Carole Migden should not be elected to State Senate District 3.
If you don't believe me, here's a story from "San Francisco Chronicle" columnists Phil Matier and Andrew Ross. She treats democracy like her personal servant and will not acknowledge her opponent, Andrew Felder. San Francisco, Marin and Sonoma counties, please support the socially liberal Republican instead of the machine candidate who did not bother to respect the public in her campaign.

How Creepy is Ira Ruskin's State Assembly Campaign? A Liberal Democrat in Palo Alto Reports

Andy Bayer hates George Bush and honestly believes that John Kerry and the left-wing of the Democratic Party will be America's salvation. Even Bayer has been put off by stealth-campaigning in southern San Mateo County on behalf of shoddy Democrat Ira Ruskin's run for State Assembly. A former Redwood City official with no endorsements from a single newspaper--but plenty from the political machine--Ruskin is one of few Bay Area contenders who faces a challenge from a liberal Republican. Steve Poizner, by contrast, impressed both the "San Jose Mercury News" and the usually partisan "San Francisco Chronicle." People of State Assembly District 21, I implore you: JOIN STEVE.

What About Congressional Races in California?

A fancy lad asked me how straight-ticket Republican voting in fifty-three congressional races--the most in any state in this nation--could be centrist.

That's fair question, and my brief answer: every district is a safe district and the majority delegation is Democrat. Selecting the GOP would be relatively indeterminate in most of the races statewide, which will be won or lost by large margins; the net result will still be a Republican minority delegation to the House.

Some of the seats so safe, in fact, that there might not be an opposition candidate. We all remember an important childhood lesson: safety first.

Jim Sparkman, Thank You Again

ChronWatch has republished my story on Claudia Bermudez and her challenge to semi-traitor Rep. Barbara Lee. Thank you again, Jim Sparkman, for giving my work a forum.

Somebody Please vote Bill Jones for U.S. Senate.

Please? Pretty please? Senator Barbara Boxer did not even know that the United States had enemeis prior to 2001--even though she chair a subcommittee on counter-terrorism.

Bill Jones, unfortunately, never gathered much steam or purchased a television ad; and Boxer's campaign finances dwarfed his.

Let's put her out of business, or at least give her a zesty....protest vote.

I would rather be represented by an incompetent campaigner than an incompetent U.S. Senator.

Speaking as a California Centrist.....

I advise voting straight-ticket Republican in all state and federal races. Bush is not going to win this state, so if you are a moderate who does not like Kerry, why give the bastard a graveyard ballot? This goes for still-undecided (or really, unexcited) swing voters in all of the "blue" states. Do not give the contemporary parody of John F. Kennedy a free pass if the Republicans are not going to win your state anyway.

Regarding California, save our legislature. Enough is enough.

Slate snapshot predicts a dead heat

As of 2:30 AM Eastern Time, Slate's electoral college index forsees a presidential tie. (Okay, then it retracts the same suggestion.) How miserable a thought, but at least it would be over quickly in the House of Representaives.

Thank You, CaliforniaRepublic.org

The very good people at CaliforniaRepublic.org have posted my endorsement profile of Congressional candidate Jennifer DePalma and State Senate-hopeful Andrew Felder. Thank you, my fellow not-so-vast right-wing co-conspirators.

Intimidation Tactics Against Republicans at San Francisco State University

My colleague Lee Kaplan has a new story about the harassment of student Republicans at San Francisco State University. Does anybody know why the radical Left is so pathological on college campuses and/or in the Bay Area? Some day a local youth is going to start the next Weather Underground or Symbionese Liberation Army and inflict some real (if amateur) damage. When the Man comes for them, I will appplaud.

Defeat Rep. Barbara Lee, and Elect Claudia Bermudez

Claudia Bermudez is a fighter. Although the underdog, she has raised the strongest Republican opposition to Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland, CA) that the incumbent has ever seen. “The time is come for someone as fearless as me to run against her,” said the challenger in an interview with the author.

For Bermudez, challenging a powerful leftist is nothing new. Neither is iconoclasm. “My father fought the communists in the mountains of Nicaragua, so I can certainly fight a communist here wearing high heels,” as she told the Oakland Tribune. Daughter of slain Contra co-founder Enrique Bermudez, she muses that her tenacious conservatism might be in her DNA. A longtime resident of the left-leaning Bay Area, she added “I can’t see myself living anyplace else.” She was an outspoken in college, also. “When my professors were Marxist, I never hid the fact that I was a conservative,” and she does not intend to do so now.

After leaving Nicaragua in her youth, Bermudez lived for a time in Mexico under the Institutional Revolutionary Party’s pseudo-democratic oligarchy before arriving in San Francisco’s Mission District. During the tumultuous rise of the New Left in that neighborhood, she and her family stood apart. “It wasn’t easy, let me tell you. First people became my friends. Then they became my enemies.” With her father’s background as a military officer and his upbringing as an old (i.e., pre-Sandinista) Managua gentleman, Claudia nurtured a conservative ethos in an unfriendly time and place.

She was a traditionalist and anti-communist surrounded by revolutionary fellow travelers and occasionally shocking violence. At the height of the 1960s unrest, Bermudez saw a National Guard tank deployed on 24th Street while a race riot was being quelled. On a visceral, emotional level she felt that it was “improper to be ungrateful” toward the United States and “didn’t feel compelled” by radicalism. “I knew I was lucky to be here and didn’t feel I needed to be angry.” She considered the Leftist movement as both unnecessarily vitriolic and also as the ironically privileged beneficiaries of American freedom and abundance.

Locally, the MEChA-allied Brown Berets were all the rage with young Chicanos who sought to emulate groups like the Black Panthers. Their rhetoric was a Marxist and separatist blend concentrated on the image of the American Southwest and California as “occupied Aztlan,” the ancestral lands forsaken by the medieval Aztecs when they moved south to conquer pre-Hispanic Central Mexico. While the Left sported a paramilitary chic, the officer’s daughter starched her blouses. A cousin lost an eye while serving in Vietnam, but neither he nor Claudia Bermudez’s family turned against the war effort. “I didn’t get on that bandwagon of blaming America first.”

Eventually, Enrique Bermudez was more afraid of international terrorism than tense American domestic politics. As the 1960s rebellion ebbed in the United States, another one escalated in Nicaragua. In the age of Cuban contacts with U.S. groups like the Panthers, the Weather Underground and the Venceremos Brigade, Castro’s imitators surged across Latin America. The Nicaraguan Marxists donned the mantle of the long-dead nationalist warlord Augusto Cesar Sandino, calling themselves the Sandinista National Liberation Front. For eighteen years, the FSLN fought the dynastic Somoza presidents and the Guardia Nacional, in which Enrique Bermudez was eventually a Colonel. He was fearful of contacts between foreign communists and their American sympathizers. Particularly after the Sandinistas seized power in 1979, Claudia’s father feared that she might be the target of kidnapping or assassination.

For over a decade, Enrique Bermudez helped to coordinate a broad opposition as the pro-Soviet Sandinista government grew more authoritarian. The resistance quickly linked dispossessed peasants, oppressed indigenous tribes and conservative Nicaraguans together with former anti-Somoza FSLN allies and members. It was known informally as the Contra movement, short for “contrarevolucion,” but officially called the National Democratic Force.

The Nicaraguan Civil War reminds Claudia Bermudez of the war in Iraq today. “How many times in the 1980s did I hear it wasn’t working?” Despite accusations of corruption and the mass media’s dire predictions of a permanent Third World quagmire, U.S. assistance helped a determined, diverse and democratic coalition to overcome well-armed and well-organized opponents. “Today the turbas,” street enforcers of the old Sandinista regime, “are driving taxis.” Bermudez predicts a similar future for the Islamist and Ba’athist insurgents in Iraq.

In both conflicts, she has viewed the struggles as dangerous but necessary. Back in Managua, her father Enrique was assassinated in 1991 shortly after the defeat of the FSLN by the Contra-allied democratic opposition. Presently, she has a brother serving in Iraq who will soon be joined by a cousin. Bermudez says that she prays they survive the hazards of war in the Middle East, but will not waver from the goal of victory. Between the American forces and the emerging Iraqi military, she expects that a persistent U.S. effort can defeat the anti-democratic terrorists. The worried tone of mass media coverage about Iraq only reminds her of the premature and mistaken pessimism the press gave to Contras. Considering the outcome of the Nicaraguan struggle, Bermudez is also confident that her politics will ultimately triumph again.

Today, Claudia Bermudez confronts a left-liberal incumbent who is also a veteran of the local Bay Area political environment. Rep. Lee and many of her supporters organized regional opposition to the U.S.-Contra alliance. In Bermudez’s mind, their rhetoric against America’s role as a superpower has changed very little since her arrival decades ago.

The incumbent Lee is a formidable opponent with a decades-old base of power. Barbara Lee spent many years as chief of staff to Oakland Rep. Ron Dellums. Elected to the Berkeley City Council in 1967 and Congress in 1970, Dellums acted as a bridge between the left-wing of the Democratic Party and the Black Panthers and other revolutionaries. By the mid-80s, the Congressman was a spokesman for the anti-containment opposition during the late Cold War. The Sandinistas and the short-lived Marxist government of Grenada were particular favorites of his, and Lee served as one of his envoys to the latter before its overthrow by the U.S. invasion of October, 1983. As an opponent of Reagan’s goals with a secure seat on the House Armed Services Committee, Dellums was an early foe of the Contras and the Bermudez family.

Having left his staff to serve eight years in the California legislature, Lee won Dellums’ District 9 seat in a 1998 special election after the Congressman’s sudden retirement during his political prime at age sixty-two. She also inherited Dellums’ staff and the donors’ list he developed over three decades. “Now that I’m a candidate, I know that donors’ lists are more valuable than gold,” Bermudez laughed.

To Claudia Bermudez, Barbara Lee continues injecting the embittered extremism of Ron Dellums into the House of Representatives. With a seat that is generally considered very safe, the current Congresswoman votes to the Left of her entire party as a matter of habit, according to the challenger. The lack of a credible competitor has allowed Lee to float to re-election against GOP candidates that Bermudez calls “sacrificial lambs.”

After the September 11, 2001 attacks, Lee was the only member of Congress to oppose declaring war on terrorists in general and in particular the invasion of Afghanistan. Even the usually pacifist Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who co-chairs the Progressive Caucus with Lee, voted for the fight against the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Rep. Ellen Tauscher, a moderate Democrat from neighboring District 10, was outraged and had even threatened to run against Lee at one point.

Claudia Bermudez was horrified that the East Bay GOP activists had not seized the moment two years ago, missing a grand opportunity to challenge Lee. “Had I known the extent of the disarray in the party, I would have run in 2002.” Her own campaign has been far more vigorous, having raised more money this year than seven-term Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles). “Go to OpenSecrets.org, you can see it for yourself!”

Earlier in the year, Bermudez won over supportive volunteers through meet-ups organized on-line. This initial strategy has dovetailed with relentless outreach to the community. Chiding Republicans for passively ignoring disaffected potential voters, she has targeted moderate Democrats who might be alienated by Lee’s more extreme leftism, particularly socially conservative persons of color. “I don’t have anything against Democrats….This is a competition between individuals….If I were to win, it would speak volumes about how people really feel,” showing a split between a radical “loud minority versus a patriotic silent majority.” Bermudez added that the Bay Area has been her true home for decades.

Although herself a social conservative, she has allied with local Log Cabin Republicans who, like her, prioritize national security, the economy and education. “I will not become distracted by wedge issues,” stated Bermudez, instead emphasizing her core agenda. Lee strikes her as a relatively irresponsible foot-dragger in the war on terrorism. Many Bay Area progressives like Rep. Lee, by contrast, have denounced many security measures as Orwellian intrusions rather than vital components of defense. In Bermudez judgment, this is especially egregious considering District 9’s latent vulnerability to attack, particularly at the Port of Oakland.

On domestic issues, Bermudez believes that the economic stimulus provided by tax relief has already begun to hoist the United States out of recession. She hopes to preserve the opportunity for macroeconomic growth by making the tax cuts permanent and allowing enterprising investment. As the successful CEO of SeniorJobShop.com, the first online employment service for persons over fifty, Bermudez is especially sensitive to taxes and regulations that impede small businesses. Lee, on the other hand, supports repeal of the Bush tax cuts on behalf of more generous government entitlements.

While Rep. Lee proposes larger federal spending on education, Bermudez cites the state’s takeover of the ailing Oakland Unified School District and argues that taxpayers need to hold failing schools accountable. The challenger supports the No Child Left Behind Act as a worthwhile first step in this national project, while acknowledging that the law may prove to need some amendment. Lee, like many Democrats, disagrees with Bush’s legislation.

There is little doubt that Rep. Barbara Lee entered this election cycle at a great advantage. Whatever the outcome Tuesday, Claudia Bermudez has nevertheless shown that an outspoken challenger can compete for even the safest seat. “If she doesn’t beat Lee this year, Claudia will do it in 2006,” added Leo Lacayo, an enthusiastic ally from the Republican National Hispanic Assembly. Even if she loses, Bermudez represents a major outreach effort to rebuild the GOP in the Bay Area.

Another Past Nader Voter Turns to George W. Bush

In addition to my mother and my comrade Cinnamon Stillwell, I have now found a third individual who previously voted for Ralph Nader but now casts a ballot for George W. Bush: Texan Philosophy Professor Keith Burgess-Jackson, writing for TechCentralStation.com.

Could this represent a trend? Might there be a large share of ex-left-wing voters who have become closeted war supporters? If the three of them could become Bush Doctrinaire after a Green episode, how many more? Come out, come out, wherever you are. Take what's in your soul and visit the poll.

Two Wonderful Republican Candidates in San Francisco: Jennifer DePalma for Congress and Andrew Felder for State Senate

In an election year when Democrats and Republicans are considered polarized, local GOP candidates in San Francisco represent a moderate alternative to partisan extremes.

District 3 State Senate-hopeful Andrew Felder is a self-described Schwarzenegger Republican who is socially liberal and fiscally center-right. Jennifer DePalma is a GOP libertarian running against House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in Congressional District 8. Both Republican candidates defy the puritanical party stereotypes and offer a competitive vision of politics to voters.

DePalma’s opponent Pelosi and Felder’s opponent Carole Migden appear falsely centrist to local San Francisco Democrats who are accustomed to a more radical opposition. In truth, Pelosi’s succession to the head of the party Congressional delegation represented a sharp nationwide move Left away from fourteen years of Rep. Dick Gephardt’s more moderate leadership. Former State Assemblywoman Migden was part of the Democrats’ decades-long domination in the legislature. Since 1966, the California party’s excesses have motivated voters to elect Capitol-taming Republican governors seven times from Reagan to the recall as the public attempts to check irresponsible progressive deficits. Gerrymandered safe-districts have usually allowed the more partisan legislators to keep their seats in Sacramento and Washington.

To challenge these confining boundaries, the California Republicans have reinvigorated their drive to support centrists under new chairman Duf Sundheim. After Arnold Schwarzenegger’s smashing 2003 gubernatorial victory, the GOP has launched a new wave of challenges all over the Bay Area. “It did give me hope,” says DePalma. “We can get the economic messages across to people.” South Bay entrepreneur Steve Poizner may become the District 21 State Assemblyman, while East Bay businesswoman and activist Claudia Bermudez has given Oakland’s Rep. Barbara Lee unforeseen competition. They and their San Francisco counterparts are bringing the Republicans back to Northern California, and moderates back into the party.

Attorney Jennifer DePalma bristles at the accusation that Republicans are all identical, much less that they are exclusively wrong. She is pro-choice, favors legal gay marriage, and criticizes the USA PATRIOT Act as excessive. Although the Pittsburgh native had an internship with Pennsylvania’s arch-conservative U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, DePalma always agreed more with her home state’s other Senator, the socially liberal Arlen Specter. A free market advocate, she also regularly takes pro bono cases in her spare time.

She emphasizes her libertarian principles. As a research analyst at Washington’s Cato Institute, the movement’s foremost think-tank, DePalma investigated privacy issues and the information technology industry. These issues, she argues, are not abstract for San Francisco voters who are struggling to rebuild after the dot-com bust. The burden on recuperating investment and employment would be much greater if Bush’s tax cuts were repealed, as Nancy Pelosi wishes. “She doesn’t have an understanding of how small businesses help our economy,” DePalma argues.

Incumbent Pelosi’s voting record is also one of preferring expensive federal services and opposing tax credits that allow citizens to choose the same benefits on an open market. To DePalma and the Republicans, the latter strategy allows a mixture of egalitarian subsidy with free enterprise rather than an unaccountable government bureaucracy. The Democrats have declared Bush’s “compassionate conservatism” to have disappeared, despite the Republican’s historic expansion of Medicare. The sitting president’s use of commercial mechanisms, rather than centralized statist control, drove Pelosi and party into a rage. When mixed with clichés about evangelicalism and global strategy coming in the GOP, the House Minority leader usually coasts back to Washington, D.C. every two years. It is beneath Pelosi to recognize the fact that her opponent DePalma is a cautious pragmatist regarding war and a social libertarian.

As a powerful Congresswoman in a safe district, however, she is inert to acknowledging voters and competitors. “She never debated in a general election,” laments DePalma. In 2002, even New York Times liberal columnist Bill Keller denounced Pelosi for her egregious fundraising and having become distant from the electorate. By keeping her challengers invisible, Pelosi denies the San Franciscan public a clear view of the moderate politics of her local Republican opponents. Even on classic non-ideological pork-barreling, DePalma judges the incumbent a relative failure. Projects like the rehabilitation of the Bayview Hunter’s Point Naval shipyard are “undernourished. She’s letting them linger,” and the city is paying the price. GOP centrists like DePalma offer the viable alternative at San Francisco’s polls, and are struggling to improve their outreach efforts.

In his race for State Senate, mergers and acquisitions consultant Andrew Felder has been making exactly this sort of successful inroads for the local Republicans. Like DePalma, he breaks from his national party’s consensus on heterosexual marriage activism and abortion. He, too, faces an entrenched San Francisco machine politician who does not acknowledge competition (and in his race, one who does not even have a website). Lesbian progressive Carole Migden treats her current job on the Board of Equalization as a “parking space” between term limits, complete with a $41,000 Cadillac purchased at public expense.

Whenever she is not enjoying the spoils of pseudo-competitive office, “she is the epitome of the type of extremist ideologue that has ruined the state’s finances,” added Felder. Migden’s State Assembly voting record on critical business and tax issues was consistently wrong, and as Chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee she was directly responsible for the spendthrift frenzy during the 1990s boom whose obligations created the $38 billion Californian budget deficit debacle by 2002.

Felder’s drive to hold Migden accountable has been picking up steam. After winning the endorsement of the San Rafael Chamber of Commerce, five local newspapers lined up to support him as well, including The Santa Rosa Press Democrat, The Marin Independent-Journal, and The San Francisco Examiner. Despite very modest campaign resources, he is raising an unprecedented challenge. Get out the Bay Area vote for Jennifer DePalma, Andrew Felder and the centrist Republican opposition.

Monday, November 01, 2004

How Could I Forget My Extended Family?

In a recent post celebrating my mother's birthday and my parents' thirtieth wedding anniversary, I did not give much attention to my large, loving extended family, leaving one maternal uncle especially disappointed.

Joe is the sixth of nine children; Mom was the second. He was one of my playful relatives who made family visits in my own childhood a lot of fun. He served twenty years as a career US Army nurse, and was deployed in Desert Storm. Worrying about him in that war led my mother into a pacifist and isolationist period for a decade before she reversed course after the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Since retiring from the military, Uncle Joe has continued working in medicine and performed volunteer healthcare work in Bangladesh. He is a fine man who proved to me: that one can find happiness after a somewhat troubled period; that my mother's family has a lot of joyous smart-asses in it; and that the same ultra-conservative family that called John Kennedy "that BOLSHEVIK" can be surprisingly forgiving to wayward relatives.

There are many, many more in my parents' clans, but I could not easily take the time to describe them all. My mother's eight siblings alone (not to mention their spouses or my cousins, or in-laws) are a wonderful bunch with a wide range of insights and experiences. My father's three brothers and their families are no slouches, either.

So here is a message of love and appreciation to all on the Balling and Yungbluth sides of my relations. I am sorry if it is necessarily brief, but Uncle Joe was right that my parents' union brough in all of the extended kin, too, and I treasure all of you.

Now I have to study all of California's inane ballot initiatives. Between state, regional and local I have thirty-two proposed laws to digest. Some of you feel my pain.

"Who Can Save The Universe?"

In a 1968 film by French director Roger Vadim, the answer was "Barbarella, Queen of the Galaxy" as portrayed by Jane Fonda at her most ravishing. CaliforniaRepbulic.org offers this "psychedella" satire. Be sure to notice who has taken the place of loinclothed Pygar ("an angel does not make love; an angel is love") in the background.

"It is to safeguard democracy in America"? Electoral delusions from "The Nation"

The oldest progressive weekly in the United States has pronounced that this year's presidential election will decide the fate of constitutional democracy in its entirety. Just in case their partisan anti-Bush hysteria was too subtle, this story was the only item on the cover of "The Nation" endorsements issue. If it was not enough for them to judge the Republicans as enemies of consensual sovereignty, rather than just advocates of rival policies, the editors worry that the Democrats might not save the country. "Kerry's election would not necessarily save, and Bush's election would not necessarily destroy, democratic government in the United States."

On Friday, "The Nation" editor-in-chief Katrina vanden Heuvel appeared on "Charlie Rose" with her magazine colleagues Jonathan Schell and Katha Pollitt where the trio made the same argument. They remarked at some length about the Lessons of a disembodied History, particularly those regarding war: and their Manhattanite ignorance showed itself in full force.

Schell and vanden Heuvel pondered that all military occupations are unwinnable failures. Clearly they are ignoring South Korea the European Union, home of two dozen nations that were mostly war-ruined banana republics sixty years ago. The United States has had enormous garrisons in both places for over half a century, and in the interim those unlikely lands have prospered and democratized. Perhaps "The Nation" would like us to discount the nation-building under Amerian occupation which succeeds.

On the other hand, they might be as politically blind as columnist Pollitt. During last week's "Charlie Rose" panel, she contrasted the current global war with Islamic fascists against the Vietnam war which was "discrete" and limited to Southeast Asia. She is wrong on every level. The Soviet Union supported Ho Chi Minh's communists before the Second World War, adding an international dimension rather early. From 1949 until 1975 North Vietnam received enormous direct military aid from Mao's China. The war in Indochina was the last USSR-PRC joint venture on behalf of world revolution.

Meanwhile in the Western Hemisphere, a swarm of First World and Third World guerrilla terrorists fancied themselves as the regional strike forces in solidarity with the Viet Cong and Castro's Cuba. They included the Black Panthers, Symbionese Liberation Army and Weather Underground in the United States to the Uruguayan Tupamoros and Central American "focalists." In Europe, the trend encompassed the Maoist Direct Action in France, the Red Army Fraction (a.k.a. the Baader-Meinhof Gang) in Germany and the Red Brigades in Italy as well as Marxist-separatist terror militias like the Provisional Irish Repbulican Army/Sinn Fein, the Basque ETA and their counterparts in Corsica. Although Moscow, Hanoi and Havana gave direct assistance to these groups, the Soviet Bloc never helped them to realize the full destructive potential reached by al-Qaeda. Nevertheless, the Cold War was still global during the Vietnam conflict. A wave of communist parties seized power in the 1970s, from the Caribbean and Africa to Afghanistan and Indochina. The Reagan Doctrine, anathema to "The Nation" in the 1980s, reversed the tide and helped to win the worldwide struggle.

Katha Pollitt, however, is known for her bad judgment. In an embarassing move, the New York leftist wrote about how she did not want her daugther to display the American flag after the September 11, 2001 attacks. She fits in at "The Nation," a magazine which has made poor predictions ever since it met the Bolshevik Revolution with optimism in 1917. EIC vanden Heuvel's husband and occasional contributor Stephen F. Cohen has made career in the 1970s and 1980s claiming that Western anti-communists had misunderstood the Soviet Union by using derogatory terms like "totalitarian." Since the 1990s, Cohen has lamented the social conditions in the new Russia, but given his inability to predict the USSR's weakness, he might also be underestimating the post-Stalinist developments.

In any event, "The Nation" embodies a snide Manhattan progressive attitude, the sort that imagines that the borough has no relationship to the United States until the next federal election. At times the attitude is mockingly secessionist regarding the mainland republic, as if New York City would function better as a second Puerto Rico or a North American Singapore. At campaign time, all of a sudden the mood in question switches to a continental imperialism: you inland states who are Not Like Us must do What We New Yorkers Say. Two Yale-educated Mahnattan attorneys--people of privilege who ought to know better--made the same display to me last summer. One of them, deaf to my statement that I would be voting for Bush, then told me that I should be campaigning for Kerry in Ohio. In an unwitting anticpation of "The Nation" the other lawyer, her husband, explained to their son that George Bush was a totalitarian and that John Kerry believed in democracy. This sub-O'Reilly anti-intellectualism is not the conventional image of the New York left-liberal professional class, but there you have it.

Even if one concedes that there have been some government abuses of civil liberties in the current war--as in all wars--is it beyond "The Nation" staff to consult History for further Lessons? Franklin D. Roosevelt imprisoned Japanese Americans en masse, and constitutional government did not collapse as a result of his 1944 re-election. Woodrow Wilson's administration was even harder on doves and ethnic Germans during the First World War. Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican president, put Marlyand under martial law during the Civil War. American democracy has survived all of these graver temporary abridgments of the constitution, and the courts are already challenging the much smaller ones today.

Of course, in 1863 New Yorkers rose in violent rebellion against the Union's war effort. The anti-draft riots are an unfortunate reminder that a supposedly forward-thinking and cosmopolitan city has many residents who are prone to self-obsession during monumental fights against slavery and oligarchy. So it was then, so it is now.

Thanks Again, ChronWatch.com

Cheers to the Bay Area's foremost dissident website for republishing my reflections on moving from Gore in 2000 to Bush this year.

San Francisco Ex-Naderite for Bush

My local neoconservative cyber-colleague Cinnamon Stillwell reveals that she voted for Ralph Nader in 2000. Some people thought I had made a severe shift from Bush-hating militaristic Democrat four years ago to the Bush-Doctrinaire moderate Republican they know and fear today. Cinnamon's post-September 11, 2001 conversion to GOP hawk is a more dramatic tale than mine and at twice the pace. Once upon a time, I read Che Guevara for inspiration, but even then I voted for Bill Clinton over Bob Dole. Having declined to write-in Nader in 1996, I missed my chance for good. Four years later I had long since lost any potential ideological interest in the Greens, to say nothing of the Marxists. It just proves, once again, that we Bushites are many, varied and sometimes even liberal.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

A Note for My Parents

My mother and father celebrated their thirtieth wedding anniversary yesterday, and today is Mom's birthday. It might be ungentlemanly to put her in an unladylike predicament by revealing her age, so I'll put it somewhere between six and sixty. Back in 1974, she had demanded to be married before her next birthday. In his classic manner--which I have inherited--my father put it off until the last possible minute. I am the product of their union in every respect, including politically.

Dad comes from a small Appalachian community in Central Pennsylvania. Eldest son of a Republican family in a failing coal mining town, he became a moderate liberal in college and has stayed that way ever since. As fas as I know, throughout his life my father has adhered to firm Lutheran beliefs, although not so strictly as to have prevented inter-marrriage with a Catholic. After medical school, he volunteered for a tour in Vietnam and returned home a war opponent in 1969. While stationed at Bethesda, Maryland he soon doubled as a volunteer doctor for the wave of D.C. anti-war rallies led by veterans.

Sound like anyone else we know? Yeah, but my father has actual integrity. He never liked Marxists, never joined the militant New Left, and never even joined the counter-culture. In fact, he despised the ignorant hippie horde at the Washington demonstrations, morons who required his emergency medical attention not because of clashes with police, but rather broken glass embedded in bare feet, drug abuse, and so on.

In the thirty-five years since then, Dad has never fully forgiven the counter-culture but also never voted for a Republican. It is an unlikely mix, one sustained by his quietly religious principles and skeptical intellect. This year, he is torn between former virtual comrade John Kerry (they never met, but overlapped) and simply abstaining from a vote for president. My father opposes wars that he feels inexorably turn into Third World quagmires, but also never fell for any romanticized, despotic "liberators," either. He helped to cure my Marxist cycle with good, solid liberalism from "The Atlantic Monthly" and "The New Republic." Despite a reserved personal style, he is no conservative.

While my father has spent his entire adult life as a citizen of the Center-Left, my mother has almost always been on the religious Right. Roman Catholic daughter of a Brooklyn Irishwoman and a Euro-mutt South Dakotan farm boy, she grew up in the shadow of Omaha's Boys' Town orphanage where Grandpa taught vocational classes. She accepted the rite of confirmation before the watershed Second Vatican Council reforms. Under these circumstances, it is no surprise that she emerged a devout member of the Church. Not so devout, of course, that she could not marry a Protestant thirty years ago yesterday. At the time it was more of a shock to their elders.

If my mother has been an impassioned Catholic for most of her life--there may have been a brief lapse in mass attendance during early adulthood--she has never wavered at all from right-wing bombast. Better said, she might waver from one or the other, the Right or bombast, but never from both. In 1960, when others in the Church cheered "their boy" Kennedy, Mom and her family lined up behind Nixon. Her parents were downright offended at their priest's suggestion that they owed a Democrat their loyalty simply because he was also a Catholic. Despite JFK's hardened anti-communism, Mom still refers to him as "that BOLSHEVIK" from time to time.

When I was finally attracted to neoconservatism, I discovered a surprise: the intellectual Right was nothing like my mother. Among other things, the scholars are almost all pessimists (particularly about innately imperfect human character), while Mom is a right-wing optimist, even a religious utopian. For years, I was in revolt against her conservatism, which I imagined as representative of the whole. It turned out to be quite the opposite, and that Russell Kirk and William Buckley had a grim view of people, more like mine than hers.

She has always been opinionated but also iconoclastic: no one is spared from her moralistic probe, not even the Church. Among other things, she finds the Catholic hierarchy deplorably soft on the Irish Republican Army, and not because she secretly likes the regime of the British or the Ulster Scots. As a physician, she also prays that the papacy allow contraception. Abortion, on the other hand, is something she equates with slavery and genocide. She dislikes the Left, but has expended her love affair with Right-wing talk radio. She has no love for Israel, but wonders how rich, old Palestinian politicians can send peasant children to explode themselves. Shouldn't the geriatrics like Arafat, having lived long enough lives in devotion to nationalism, be the ones who self-detonate? Ah, but that would jeapordize their hold on power, so they are better served by cynically mobilizing suicide bombers who are young and impoverished. Mom has got a point.

She has only voted for one Democratic presidential candidate, but not a moderate. George McGovern received her support for being a native of South Dakota. An ardent Clinton-hater, she abandoned George H.W. Bush in 1992 for Ross Perot, and still preferred the latter to Bob Dole in 1996. Through it all, Clinton was a faux-populist yuppie "Slickster," a "Dogpatch governor," and (like President Kennedy) "that BOLSHEVIK!" Yes, the labels are somewhat mutually exclusive. Despite voting for hard Right candidates in Republican primaries (like Alan Keyes, currently failing against Barack Obama in Illinois' US Senate race), Mom voted for Ralph Nader in 2000. This year, she will be making a triumphant(?) return to the GOP and cast a ballot for Bush. It will be the first election when she and I have supported the same politician. How odd.

She has an Irish religiosity, but a Great Plains populist distaste for elitism, consumerism and pretentious mannerisms. Mom might be a suburban Republican, but she would never want to be anywhere near a country club. Neither would my father. Both of my parents are, in some sense, rural people who emigrated to the cities; despite joining the upper middle class, they have humble, rustic temperaments. Thank heavens they did not name me "Taylor" or "Bailey" and partake in some trendy idiocy; their aversion to keeping up with the Joneses is something I am grateful for in hindsight.

I could thank them for so many things, from giving me a sharp mind, a strong conscience and a loud mouth to proving that a two-income medical family can be both affluent and ascetic. I could thank them for reminding me why I would never want to be a physician. I could thank them for my sister, my colorful extended family, and my education. Mostly, I just want to congratulate them on the annual October 26-27 double celebration.

Happy anniversary, I love you both, and happy birthday, Mom.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Zell Miller, the South, and the Emerging Democratic Misery

Although discussing him may seem “so two months ago,” controversial Georgia Democrat Zell Miller draws attention to a major development in American politics: his party’s divorce from the South. I just finished his most recent book, "A National Party No More: the Conscience of a Conservative Democrat," published late last year. It is a slight but thoughtful memoir of Southern politics from the New Deal to the present. Both Miller’s growling speech at the Republican National Convention and most of his public comments in the last year offer a shorter and less eloquent account of the same ideas.

Miller’s narrative ranges from firsthand anecdotes to historical comparisons and electoral analysis, all written in a quaint mixture of back-country folksy phrasing and hard-headed political insight. Far from being an unlettered hick, the Senator has now written seven books, including a musicological study. The fact that his Madison Square Garden address left progressives cold underscores the accuracy of the Senator and the importance of the larger phenomena in national politics that he represents. The book and speeches themselves are not likely to become classics, but they are fine reminders of a continuing realignment on a grand scale. This year’s election has seemed too close for me to call, and the deeper reasons for this near-total polarization will remain forceful whichever party wins.

Miller has made left-liberals like author Ruy Teixeira thankful that the aged, angry hillbilly no longer liked their party. Many found the Senator’s recent about face regarding the Democrats in general and John Kerry in particular latently opportunistic. No one, however, can deny Zell Miller’s following comment from early in the book:
Once upon a time, the most successful Democratic
leader of them all, FDR, looked south and said,
“I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad
and ill-nourished.” Today our national Democratic
leaders look south and say, “I see one-third of a
nation and it can go to hell.”
Whatever one’s opinion of the matter, the Democrats were once based in the American South and have now all but lost the region. Even John Edwards was given the party’s nomination for Vice-President so that he might appeal to swing voters up North; the Carolinian would have been vulnerable had he run for re-election as Senator.

The Sun Belt has the most rapid population and economic growth in the country: at last, the former Confederacy and the Mountain Time Zone are being built up and filled in. A generation or two ago, these regions were more thinly-peopled and essentially underdeveloped at their most remote spots. As the Southeast slips through the Democrats’ fingers, they are losing an enormous swath of the rising economy while inheriting a great deal of rust-belt urban decay in the Midwest, the Northeast and even in Northern California’s East Bay. As one of many cities that shed inhabitants, Cleveland’s population is half of what it was in the 1970s and its suburbs have stagnated. The Bay Area grows, but has shed its large-scale industry and suffers a regional recession in the wake of the dot-com bust. Southern and Southwestern sprawl, by contrast, is now advancing despite the national economic setbacks, and taking a soaring portion of the census in the process.

It is bad enough that a regional deadlock has become so pronounced. It is even worse for the Democrats that they have inherited regions in comparative decline. In their 2002 book "The Emerging Democratic Majority" and elsewhere, Ruy Teixeira and his co-author John B. Judis have made the astute, cheery observation that the Democrats new East Coast-West Coast-“Third Coast” bloc is built on “ideopolises.” These cities and suburbs are buoyed by the information economy, and are plentiful enough that they see a potential progressive renaissance on a large scale. The open-ended possibility of technological growth gives the ideopolis its biggest chances for economic, and therefore demographic and electoral, preeminence.

Last spring in "The American Prospect," the same Teixeira, however, co-wrote a rejoinder to ex-Republican Kevin Phillips’ worry that Democrats will not have sufficient centrist credentials in 2004 to appeal to the moderate South and thus key conservative swing voters in other regions. Phillips, the author of 1969’s "The Emerging Republican Majority" and architect of Nixon’s “Southern Strategy,” now advocated a mostly “Northern Strategy” for the Democrats, but with a qualifier. Both priority-region strategies required sufficient moderation to capture additional states in the secondary region as well: as his Republicans once carried several Northern states, now the Democrats would need to carry some of the more modernized Southern ones. Whatever chances for future growth might be, the party now needs to win back social conservatives with modest incomes and not just moderate “ideopolitans” below the Mason-Dixon Line.

No worry, Teixeira answered, the Democrats should eschew the South and target depressed postindustrial states like Ohio. Focusing on rotting regions rather than rising ones, as it were, is the exact opposite of the allied "ideopolitan" strategy. Teixeira had failed to see the South as early as his analysis of the 1994 Congressional GOP landslide, which for all its demographic acumen had no comments on regionalism; likewise his analysis of the 1996 elections. Yet it is he, along with Judis, who argues that there is an “emerging Democratic majority.” Their central thesis forecasts the growth of Democratic constituencies (ideopolitans and ethnic minorities), and the demographic decline of Republican ones (rustic whites) by sometime in the middle twenty-first century. The prevailing present just delays the inevitable reversal.

In the last decade, however, the Republican Congressional majority has become all but unbreakable. The bicameral Democratic hegemony of the early Clinton administration was propped up considerably by Southern conservatives in the party. A large share of the GOP’s captured seats in 1994 overturned these “Yellow Dog” Democrats, continuing a trend dating back to mid-century. Teixeira had made the same emerging Left predictions prior to the 2000 census and subsequent redistricting: but Republicans still hold the majority anchored in the rising South and West. Their rule is intact and their strongest regions are projected to keep growing and hold ever more seats in the House of Representatives. It may be a long time until the Sun Belt becomes incrementally “Yankified” from within by one ideopolis or another. What’s more, the near-future South may claim an ever larger share of the national wealth generated by the “ideopolitan” economy, a crucial point made by Miller’s "A National Party No More."

Much of Zell Miller’s book recounts his solid credentials as liberal Democrat at the state level, both before and after his admittedly reactionary, allegedly insincere and failed 1964 campaign for office on a platform against desegregation. Born to a loyal partisan family and raised under the developmental wonders of the New Deal, reconciled to civil rights after his mid-1960s defeat, as a state politician Miller partnered with black Democrats by the early 1970s and fought the Georgia’s slide to the Republicans. He served in the state legislature, several bureaucracies, as longtime lieutenant governor and eventually successful governor. Over thirty years, the state’s population and economy throve, a transformation made largely without the GOP in charge. In the process, Miller and the party kept their power intact through a combination of modest social programs and a reluctance to tilt particularly far to the Left with the national Democrats. Indeed, Miller makes the striking point that only the party’s Southerners have won the White House since 1964: Texan populist Lyndon Johnson, his evangelical former state government colleague Jimmy Carter, and Democratic Leadership Council champion Bill Clinton.

Despite charges that the all-but-retired Miller—-his terms ends this year and he is not seeking re-election—-is an opportunist hoping for an appointment should Bush win this year, I judge the story differently. When the Democratic Governor Roy Barnes called Miller out of retirement to fill the late Republican U.S. Senator Paul Coverdell’s term, there was no premeditation of a partisan crossover. The stalwart Miller had proven that he was securely part of the Center-Left in a conservative state, but upon arriving in Washington, D.C. as a Senator found himself on the right-wing of the nation’s progressive party. Considering the near-complete takeover of the South by the Republicans, Miller is only a representative of a massive regional trend. Even his “conservative conscience” turning against abortion, allegedly upon seeing his great-grandchildren, can be explained through crude demographics. He is not only a former U.S. Marine drill sergeant from Georgia's mountains but also seventy-two years old.

With exceptions, however, I would argue that Zell Miller’s defection does not just represent a cranky upcountry geriatric who feels out of place in the urbanizing present and yearns nostalgically for a rural past. He was once a part of "the Vital Center," which is now split somewhat more severely to the Left and Right. This is not, however, exclusively a Southern predicament. A corollary to Miller is that the Republican Party has lost its former base in the Northeast; Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords and Rhode Island’s Lincoln Chafee could offer mirror-image disenchantment about the GOP as their colleague from Georgia. White collar moderates and blue collar conservatives are adrift without their former Rockefeller Republican and Roosevelt Democrat champions.

The conservative commentator Christopher Caldwell captured this problem more tellingly than Zell Miller and even more damningly than Ruy Teixeira in a 1998 "Atlantic Monthly" article called “The Southern Captivity of the GOP.” Whatever your opinion, I urge you to read this prescient and overlooked piece. Caldwell argues that the two major parties spent the 20th century trading constituencies. Almost to a state, the Republicans dominate the old Southern and Western Democrat (and Populist) strongholds and the anti-urban resentment politics therein. Likewise, the Democrats now have the Pacific, Great Lakes and Northeastern advantage once held by Teddy Roosevelt’s progressive Republicans. In Caldwell’s emphasis, the change came in the 1960s, but others have pointed out that the New Deal coalition was in danger of losing the South long before. Strom Thurmond’s Dixiecrat and Henry Wallace’s Progressive splinter candidacies, after all, were in the 1948 presidential race. In any event, it has happened. In a more recent column, Caldwell also pondered if Miller’s RNC speech would energize supererogatory majorities in the right-wing Sun Belt. That is entirely possible; what is striking is that many of these same states had remained conservative Democrat cantons until very recently. Now the bottom has fallen out of not just the FDR coalition, but even the William Jennings Bryan one the preceded it from the 1890s to the 1910s.

The reason that Massachusetts progressive Kerry and Texan right-winger Bush are fighting so bitterly over the centrists now is that both parties have abandoned them for so long. Counting entire regions as safe districts, the 2004 campaign focused on at first one-third, and now one-fifth or fewer of the states: the only ones where neither Democrats nor Republicans have easy dominance. Drunk on the support of the militant New Rich, the left-liberals and religious capitalists lost their focus on the socioeconomic and ideological middle. Despite being the wrong leaders for the job, both candidates are now attempting to over-compensate for their respective lack of centrism.

Only the return of conservative Democrats and liberal Republicans would bring nationwide moderation. Otherwise, region by region, state by state, district by gerrymandered district, the country is perched for a near future of uncompetitive elections won by candidates who are polarized on everything except a generic commitment to the Third Way. Micro-targeting swing voters in swing states with wedge issues will pass for “centrism” on a national scale. Worse still, both the indignantly right-wing South and West and the elitist “Tri-Coastal” ideopolises are becoming large enough to keep a firm hold on their respective parties. The suburban Midwest might be the only places left for them to compete.

If the more conservative regions of the country are growing the most rapidly precisely because they are the most conservative (attracting the disillusioned from elsewhere, inviting new business developments, etc.), then the Republicans who gave Miller the podium can give themselves a round of applause. If nothing else, they have captured the demographic zeitgeist. The Democrats have become too snobbish regarding “flyover country,” and the GOP can reap a bountiful harvest in the booming interior. They can only do so, however, up to a point. If Christopher Caldwell is correct, the Republicans are in peril of becoming too immoderate, too rustic and too resentful of the cosmopolitan “Tri-Coast.” The only hope for the Center-Right is if the continued growth of the South and West brings a diversity that tempers the rural and evangelical streak in party. From Phoenix to Atlanta, we will see if the ideopolis can flourish in a moderate Republican manner.

Against this grain, I hope for the return of liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats. Considering the successes of Schwarzenegger and Giuliani, I see some prospect for the former: GOP moderates who are still distinct from the party fugitives Jeffords and Chafee. Despite Bill Clinton’s successes, however, I feel that Southern Democrats may be losing their chances in the short term. Gore could not even win his home state of Tennessee in 2000. Prolonged and unchecked Republican hegemony in the Sun Belt could provoke an eventual conservative Democrat backlash, making the region bipartisan again. In the same manner, the liberal Republicans have won against the odds in “Tri-Coastal” states when voters have rejected generational Democratic dominance. Only this fighting spirit can make our states and localities competitively bipartisan. Otherwise, whichever side has the majority, the nation will be bipartisan through inert regional blocs. I do not look fondly on a long future of choosing between snide Bostonians and hard-headed West Texans for president. Under those circumstances, it is anybody’s guess which party’s worst elitism can find an emerging majority.

What a shame. Moderation and competition are what keep the parties honest, not polarization and emerging generation-long majorities. Beneath the cerebral hillbilly rage, Zell Miller knows the same thing. What a shame also that he comes across better toward his book’s small audience than the masses watching his RNC address.