The Liberal Agenda and Conservative Answers
Liberals are obviously quite happy about the Supreme’s Court most recent decision regarding DOMA and gay marriage. But, they realize also that the Court did not go as far as they had hoped. As one website described it, they could pop a good bottle of California Riessling, but no Dom Perignon yet. In short, what they wished for and really want is a federal declaration of a right to same sex marriage. But, this is only one item on the wish list.
All things start with health care. With the employer mandate now put off until 2015- after the midterm elections in an obvious political ploy- the Obama administration may have thought they defused the situation and removed a talking point from the GOP and conservatives. But the delay belies the problem with the ACA from the start best exemplified by the Pelosi greatest line of the health care debate: “We have to pass it first to see what’s in it.” Max Baucus of Montana, a Democrat who helped co-write the law, knew what was in it (or he actually read it soon after passage) and declared it a “train wreck” waiting to happen. If Obamacare has a friend like Max Baucus, then the GOP doesn’t have to say or do too much.
The president of the United States, Valerie Jarrett, has told us not to worry, that it is full steam ahead. The delay is because they want to get it right. What Jarrett and company do not understand is that there is no upside to this law as far as the employer OR the individual mandate go. “Getting it right” is not going to alleviate the burdens on businesses and meaningful, full-time, long-term job growth in the country. There will be burdens whether implemented on January 1st, 2014 or 2015. Considering that the law was passed in March of 2010, it is now more than three years later. That is more than three years “to get it right” which would indicate that the technocrats in this administration are not what they are cracked up to be, or the entire scheme will never “get it right.”
Realizing that the ACA has problems, no true liberal would argue that the law be scrapped. That would be admitting failure which, to a liberal, is a sin far worse than ruining an economy. The best they can do is slap one of those smiley face emoticons on the issue and say the best is yet to come…again. However, some liberals have been grumbling of late because Obamacare is like a happy compromise where they got 65% of what they wanted, but the real goal is a single-payer government run health system a la any European country or Canada.
CONSERVATIVE ANSWER: Without a doubt, the decision to delay the employer mandate represents a great “We told you so” moment in history. However, instead of sitting back and gloating, it is imperative to put the foot to the pedal here and keep the heat on. Votes to repeal Obamacare in the House are an almost regular point of order with the same results. Why not pressure Harry Reid to at least put it to a vote in the Senate? In exchange for some administration appointee nomination votes, conservatives get an Obamacare repeal vote in the Senate to put some Senators on record, especially incumbents facing reelection in 2014. Surely, the Gang of Eight can negotiate something in this area. The fact is that Obamacare and health care reform in general has a greater effect on the American economy than immigration reform and touches more lives and wallets. Secondly, the GOP must have a plan for replacing Obamacare that is clearly articulated and that does not skirt the edges. For example, touting tort reform is all well and good but addresses at most 2% of the cause of inflation in health care. A program based on affordable choice for everyone that at least covers catastrophic illness is a huge start. Naturally, there should be a safety net for the absolutely truly needy. There are solutions out there to address the problems in health care that DO NOT entail a government take over and the massive regulation and taxation that Obamacare represents. If a liberal and dysfunctional state like New Jersey can lower car insurance rates for its residents, the federal government can do the same in health care.
Number two on their agenda is the war on drugs. Unfortunately, liberals see this as a government war on classes of people, namely blacks. One analyst, Michelle Alexander, likens drug laws and the mass incarceration of blacks to Jim Crow. That is a bit over the top and a bit racist. Of course, their solution to the inner city drug epidemic and gang violence is to initiate another War on Poverty. In this scene, little black kids swimming in some federally funded urban pool somehow magically reduces drug use.
CONSERVATIVE ANSWER: Get out in front on this issue. One of the first things the GOP and conservatives can do is declassify marijuana as a Schedule I drug which asserts there is no medicinal use, which everyone knows to be false. Every study I have seen is that taxing marijuana like tobacco will really not raise the revenue that some assert. However, the big savings are in law enforcement and incarceration costs. Thus, in the end, it would be a net gain and law enforcement dollars can be more wisely spent. They can then go after the truly bad drugs like heroin or cocaine and many of the dangerous designer drugs. Further, removing marijuana from Schedule I will also allow states to regualte in this area without fearing the heavy hand of Obama’s DEA and Justice Department who has gone after medical marijuana in states that allow it with a greater vengeance than Bush ever did. It can expose the hypocrisy of Holder who claims that they are only enforcing federal law while selectively not enforcing immigration laws. The GOP needs to own this issue like they owned civil rights in the 1960s.
Third on their list is voting rights. Boo hoo, Section 4 of the VRA was struck down by the Supreme Court. To a liberal, any conservative political victory must be because of voter suppression. Of course, they are ignorant of the reality of things since they generally live in the world of the hypothetical. States that have voter ID laws, for example, have higher minority voter registration, voter turnout and political office holders than states without voter ID laws. Their solution is to take the Court at their word and revamp the Section 4 formulas and then enforce Section 5 with respect to covered jurisdictions. They are betting that Republicans will not go along and they want to put GOP Senators on record in an effort to illustrate their “racism.”
CONSERVATIVE ANSWER: Call their bluff and open up a debate about civil rights heading into the 2014 midterm elections. They claim that the Court attack on the VRA will actually increase minority voter registration as a backlash which would kind of show the hypocrisy of their voter suppression arguments. But, the GOP must move carefully in this area to ensure that the formulas are absolutely justified (think long debate and hearings to keep it in the spotlight) and make sure that areas currently not covered ARE covered. Liberals need to see that alleged voter suppression works both ways and that racism knows no geographical boundaries and that Black Panthers holding weapons outside a polling station is voter suppression also.
Fourth, climate change, Obama’s apparent 2nd term legacy agenda item. We all know who his 1st term legacy item- Obamacare- is faring now. Al Gore is egging Obama on having failed to convince Americans that this is a major problem requiring drastic and immediate legislative action. Leaving aside the science for a moment, it behooves liberals to explain why despite increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, global temperatures have stagnated for the past 16 years. Further, US emissions have declined drastically over the years. The scientific answer is simple- the United States has no control over the other 96% of global carbon dioxide emissions.
CONSERVATIVE ANSWER: Benign ignorance. A recent Gallup poll placed global warming #21 on a list of worries of Americans among 21 items. Let Obama give his “the sky is falling” speeches and let him dither on the subject much like he did with health care when jobs were the number one worry of Americans in 2009-2010. But, ignorance does not mean allowing him to get his way. He can have a war on coal because he has irrevocably lost coal-producing states causing a Democratic Senator to refer to his plan as “stupid” (Joe Manchin of West Virginia). Instead, Congress needs to reign in the EPA and remove a powerful Executive branch tool. Relentlessly tying Obama policies to economic damage will lead to a groundswell of opposition even in non-coal producing states because people with utility bills in every state that does not produce coal will feel the pinch in their wallets.
Fifth, reproductive rights, or the great abortion debate. Roe v. Wade may be the law of the land, but liberals need to come to grips that Casey v. Planned Parenthood is also the law of the land. This is not a concerted conservative war on women. In fact, it is rather demeaning to all women to believe that “reproductive rights” and views on abortion define a woman. Many liberal websites have sort of grasped the reality and realize that they have to take their fight to the state level because that is where they rightfully believe the battle is situated.
CONSERVATIVE ANSWER: First, turn the phrase “war on women” back on liberals. Show that it is they who are sexist by pigeon-holing women based on their views on abortion. Second, accept Roe v. Wade and stop efforts to have that decision overturned. It hasn’t happened and it isn’t going to happen. On the current Supreme Court, there are perhaps three voices to overturn that decision and that is it (Scalia, Thomas and possibly Alito). What liberals fear in this area is a Republican president appointing a Kennedy replacement. Third, chances are that voters know the conservative credentials of candidates in this area. The candidates have to deftly avoid the liberal “gotcha” questions and when you introduce rape into the mix, you are throwing gasoline on the fire. Instead, continue the efforts at the state level to defend life not based on such “Roeian” ideas like “viability” and “trimesters.” Fourth, there may have to be a trade off where the GOP supports insurance coverage for contraception PROVIDED it does not infringe on religious freedom. In a war on women versus a war on religion, chances are religion will win.
Sixth, income inequality. Admittedly, this is a problem that has the potential to be a huge wedge issue in the future. As Alan Greenspan explains in his excellent book “The Age of Turbulence.” the broadening income gap between the haves and the have nots only leads to populist politicians (like Elizabeth Warren) who are more interested in the short term rather than the long term. They have a tendency to pass “feel good” legislation. However, the liberal answer is basically unionization.
CONSERVATIVE ANSWER: The answer is not unionization; the answer is educational reform. Instead of indoctrinating school children into some liberal mindset, we need to get back to basics where the truly productive- school districts, individual schools, students and teachers- are rewarded. We need to give every parent the choice of schooling that the affluent 1% take for granted by virtue of their address or their wealth. To provide informed choice for parents, there must be school accountability that is made public. There must be the realization that what may work in one area may not work elsewhere and that those choices of reforms that work have to be made at the state level. A one-size-fits-all mentality is a recipe for failure. We must realize that not every student is a potential nuclear physicist, doctor or engineer and that we will always need carpenters, electricians and plumbers. Stressing educational reforms that are cost effective, productive and that provide choice will do more to alleviate income inequality than unionization. Additionally, income inequality is caused to a great degree by the fact that wages are stagnant while a bigger bite of a pay check is taken by health care benefits, gasoline purchases and the like. Control these strains on the pay check and you can at least the arrest the problem of income inequality.
Seventh, same sex marriage. While liberals won on the DOMA question, the more important and bigger questions were left unanswered. As the dust settles and people actually read the decision, liberal celebration is now more tempered. If you read Kennedy’s decision, there is a wide opening for a federalism argument AGAINST same sex marriage. Perhaps not too distant in the future the Supreme Court will address the issue head on, but conservatives should not deal in hypothetical situations.
CONSERVATIVE ANSWER: While a majority of Americans may support same sex marriage, the distribution of believers is not evenly distributed. It is insulting to say that people in Alabama or Utah feel the same way about gay marriage as the people in Rhode Island or California. Instead, this has to be phrased not as a civil rights issue, but as a state powers issue. Traditionally and historically, marriage have been the sole province of states. There is no federal marriage license. If it was not for a complex federal tax and benefit system, this would not even be a problem in the first place. Conservatives can accept the DOMA decision under this premise since it is a nod to states to define marriage as they see fit and the federal government will respect that state’s decision with respect to marriage. The Privileges and Immunities Clause is NOT implicated here where one state has to grant benefits for a gay marriage performed in another state. Stress that this is a state-level issue and needs to stay there.
Eighth- the national security state: Naturally, liberals will place this squarely at the feet not of Obama, but George W. Bush. The fact is that these NSA actions have most likely thwarted more terrorist acts than they have created civil rights violations. That being said, Obama has doubled down on their enforcement and taken them to new heights up to and including a legal justification for drone strikes on American soil.
CONSERVATIVE ANSWER: National security concerns and government actions will always have civil liberty concerns. This is nothing new (think: Alien and Sedition Acts). However, a kindly reminder that it is Democrats and their antecedent (the Federalists) who have been the biggest transgressors against civil liberties is never a losing proposition (Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Barack Obama). That being said, there has to be a happy compromise here where Obama is forced to go after the true transgressors against national security. Chasing some low level NSA 29-year-old around the world is not only futile, but makes Obama look silly and petty. Snowden revealed what everyone with a firing synapse intuitively believed anyway. Regarding Guantanamo, plow that prison into the sea and see if the Cubans, or anybody else, picks up that scum. Let it be known that when it comes to secrecy and hiding behind the shield of national security makes Obama look like George W. Bush on steroids.
Ninth, immigration reform. There is consensus that the immigration system is broken on both sides and that it needs reform. The fear on the Right is that the current Senate legislation will be a rehash of the 1986 “reforms.” Some of it is based on demographic reality and fear by Republicans that they are losing the growing Hispanic vote.
CONSERVATIVE ANSWER: Realize any meaningful reform will have to address the illegal immigrants already living here. If and when the American economy picks up, a low-paying job here will still be more lucrative for a Mexican than a job in Mexico. Therefore, before any “paths to citizenship” or “amnesties” are granted, border security is important. The House legislation must have, at the very least, some triggering mechanism(s) before these other programs go into effect. One overlooked fact in the border security problem is the assertion that we have to secure our southern border and that much is true. But, equally important, Mexico needs to secure their northern border. Selective fencing to create choke points and more patrols- drones, aerial, human- are also needed and that requires action, not rhetoric. As we draw down troops in Afghanistan, why not station them along the border to assist ICE? A 3-year, portable guest worker visa program predicated on economic need, not family reunification, is a must. At one time we had such a system that worked- the Becerra program- which created cyclical immigration of low-skill workers. Finally, legal status to work via E-Verify is a must along with workplace enforcement and stiffer penalties for violations.
Last, gun control. Liberals have not given up on this issue and with the next Newtown, their cry will be louder. Unfortunately, there will be a next Newtown because there are that many nuts walking around out there. But, do we indict an estimated 53 million gun owners for the lone sins of some nut case?
CONSERVATIVE ANSWER: With the recently proposed federal gun control laws going down in flames, it is doubtful that Democrats will want to resurrect the issue any time soon. Still, there are pockets of liberalism when it comes to gun control laws, like New York and Colorado. The efforts to recall Democratic state senators in Colorado is admirable and a very valuable tool. Assuming they are recalled, it would illustrate that gun ownership takes greater priority over union rights, as in the recall efforts in Wisconsin. With no stomach to reopen the federal gun control debate, the obvious battle is at the state level. It is ironic that as legal gun ownership has increased in this country, the violent crime rate involving firearms has decreased. That is a fact, much like global warming, that liberals cannot quite answer. Statistics are a powerful weapon if properly used and in the gun control debate, conservatives have those statistics on their side. But like other areas, let’s get slightly ahead of the issue by amending the HPPA laws and keeping guns out of the hands of those with mental or emotional problems while simultaneously funding programs to address the issue.