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2008 Presidential Election: the GOP in Search of Itself

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Ever since reading Theodore H. White‘s America in search of itself: The making of the President, 1956-1980, I have considered it the definitive study of the election of 1980. Not only does that celebrated political journalist study the seminal results of that year’s presidential election, but he also looks at its historical context, reviewing the presidential elections for the preceding 24 years, noting particularly the transformation of American politics from 1960-1979.

After my party has decided its presidential nominee for next year’s election, a similarly gifted political journalist may well write a study of the transformation of the Republican Party, The GOP in Search of Itself: The Making of the Republican Presidential Nominee 1988-2008. For it seems that after the incumbent president’s failure to promote (or even articulate) a consistent conservative domestic policy, our party is struggling to find the unifying message it had in the 1980s, occasionally in the 1990s and briefly in the current decade (but then primarily on foreign policy).

While my man Rudy Giuliani has consistently led in the polls for nearly a year, he has never topped 40% and, for the better part of the year, averaged just under 30% of the vote (in the RealClearPolitics average of polls). With former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee’s recent surge and Texas Congressman Ron Paul’s financial prowess, this race appears quite fluid, with at least six serious candidates (those mentioned and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson and Arizona Senator John McCain).

Huckabee can clearly attribute his surge to the “power social conservatives continue to wield in Republican politics.” (Hat tip to John (AverageGayJoe) for alerting me to that article.) While others may see evangelicals as dominating the party, the fact that Huckabee has yet to break 25% in any national poll suggests that they represent no more than a quarter of the party.

The enthusiasm for Ron Paul stems in part from his strong anti-war stand, but I believe his commitment to fiscal discipline has been the primary impetus for his success. People are fed up with the ballooning size of the federal government. And of the candidates, Paul best articulates the vision Ronald Reagan had of a smaller government. That is, despite the domestic policies of the current administration, there still exists a strong voice in the GOP for “less taxation, less regulation, a better economic system.

From everything I’ve read (e.g., this) about Huckabee, he seems to favor quite the opposite, more taxation, more regulation and more convoluted economic system. The only thing he seems to have in common with Ronald Reagan is the (R) after his name — and the enthusiasm his candidacy generates among evangelicals.

Each of these two (Huckabee and Paul) represents significant constituencies in the GOP. But, neither could unite the party, Paul because his foreign policy is not in tune with that of a supermajority of Republicans while Huckabee’s social conservatism (combined with fiscal liberalism) puts off many suburban voters.

Back in the 1980s, evangelicals were far more libertarian than they are today. They might have rallied to someone like Paul if he had more conservative views on national defense and international relations. (The social conservative shift began with Pat Robertson’s run for the White House in 1988. He may have lost the contest for the Republican nomination, but he did gain an understanding of the political process and an appreciation of how social conservatives could influence the GOP.)

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How to Suddenly Feel Rich(er)

Posted by GayPatriotWest at 4:54 am - December 17, 2007.
Filed under: Friendship,Synchronicity

Last week, after I had deposited a check and paid some bills, I tallied my recent payments and found that I was a little behind for the month. Well, I figured I’ll just be a little more careful for the balance of the year. I wasn’t in that much of a hole. But, as I looked at that final sum, I wondered how I could have fallen short when I had just put some money in the bank, not much, but enough to more than cover that apparent deficit.

I didn’t think much of it for a while, but then decided to check my math. It turns out that instead of adding the total amount of those checks ($216), I had subtracted them. Then, I redid my calculations, adding where I should have subtracted and came out $432 ahead of my previous total.

Probably because I had accepted (albeit briefly) the lesser amount, I suddenly felt richer. I wouldn’t have to scrimp on the holiday gifts I had yet to buy for friends and family members. That evening, I went out that night to Barnes & Noble — and with a coupon in hand where I saw something that I knew one of my closest friends would like, but cost a good deal more than I had intended to spend. Well, feeling flush, I got it for her.

And I’m still ahead of where I had feared I might be financially just a few hours previously.

It’s kind of weird to think that had I not made the mistake I might not have bought the gift I did for my friend even though I could have afforded it. It’s just that bracing myself for a smaller balance had made me realize how much money I really did have.

Maybe there was some other force at work that day. Whatever it is, I’m grateful for the error and will soon find out if my friend is as well.

On familiar faces, Marcel Proust and Hollywood

Have you ever had one of those moments when you see someone you just know you’ve met before yet you couldn’t put a name to the face?

I had such an experience tonight when out to dinner with two friends. At the restaurant, I saw this guy I was certain I had met when I was in DC. it seemed my friend Pete (not his real name) had introduced us. Then, I thought maybe we had met at a Jewish group, and he knew Pete.

But, I wasn’t sure.

It reminded me of the time, shortly after I moved to LA when I was walking through Beverly Hills and saw another familiar face. I was all but certain this guy and I had gone to law school together. Just as I was about to say, “I haven’t seen you since law school,” I realized that this guy wasn’t a classmate. He was Christian Slater whom I’d first seen in a flick right before I set off for law school.

It struck me that in LA, sometimes when someone looks familiar, it could just be someone we had seen in a movie, on TV (even in a commercial).

I didn’t say anything to this guy for fear of embarrassing myself, in case he was an actor. (Now that I think about it he did kind of look like that guy in the Verizon commercials.)

I ponder yet again the way our memory works. And remember Marcel Proust. When the narrator of In Search of Lost Time dips a madeleine (a pastry) into his cup of tea, he recalled doing the same thing as a child. That act released a flood of memories which became that great novel. This guy’s image today didn’t unleash a flood of memories, but it did trouble me that I couldn’t remember where I had met him (or seen him).

Sometimes when I do see a familiar face which I can’t place, I find that when I learn the guy’s (or gal’s) name, it’s like Proust dipping the madeleine into the tea. While it doesn’t bring back my entire childhood to me, the name usually helps me remember how I’d met the person to whom it belongs. And a few things about him as well.

Since I didn’t get a name tonight, I thought I’d do a post. It is an intriguing thing our memory, why we remember certain things at certain times. How learning a name a name can help us remember all we know about a person. And how one simple act can lead to one of the greatest modern novels.

- B. Daniel Blatt (GayPatriotWest@aol.com)