Saturday, November 28, 2015

One more thing

The goals of pro-choice and pro-life people are essentially the same. We both want to limit the amount of abortions that occur. Attacking facilities that provide services to women, blocking contraceptives for women, and the further stigmatization of those who have abortions does not assist in this goal. If you want to limit the number of abortions, the goal should be to limit the number of unwanted pregnancies and to help with adoptions to make them easier, quicker, and cheaper for parents to adopt. You limit unwanted pregnancies by providing contraceptive services for everyone at a reduced rate or for free. Further, more advanced versions of contraception, such as IUD's, should be cheaper for the consumer to be able to get them. IUD's have one of the highest rates of success in preventing someone from being pregnant. Beyond that, they can be removed as needed if she decides to get pregnant later on. Plan B and other emergency contraceptives should be allowed to be sold over the counter without an age requirement or parental consent.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Weighing your vote

On November 17, 2015 Representative Michael McCaul introduced HR 4038 American SAFE Act of 2015.  The bill would effectively halt the current Syria refugee program while implementing a new system for background checks for Syrian refugees.  The new program would require background checks conducted by the FBI in addition to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  In addition, the head of the FBI, DHS, and Director of National Intelligence would have to certify that they personally believe that the refugee is not a threat to national security before the refugee is admitted into the United States.  I'm sure that there are nuances in the law that I am missing and someone can happily point them out in the comments and I'll add them to the post, if they feel it is necessary.  The next day, my Congressman, Representative Brad Ashford co-sponsored the bill.  He was the only Democrat who co-sponsored the bill.  When it came up to vote, he joined 46 other Democrats in voting for the bill.

I like Ashford as a candidate and a Congressman.  I have some friends who worked on his campaign.  He was able to unseat the incumbent Republican in 2014 which was pretty impressive.  If I was registered to vote in my current district instead of casting my absentee ballot in California, he would have gotten my vote.  All of that being said, I wasn't surprised that he was a co-sponsor of the bill but I was still disappointed when I found out.  It's not the last straw for me with him, not by a long shot but I know that some progressives in the area have already had their issues with him and this is just another thing on their checklist of why they won't support him as a candidate in 2016.

On Saturday, Louisiana voters decided to elected John Bel Edwards as Governor over Republican Senator David Vitter.  Edwards campaigned his ass off on the scandal surrounding Vitter about hiring prostitutes while he was in Washington, D.C.  He also promised to accept the federal expansion of Medicaid.  This was highly important coming just weeks after Matt Bevin won the gubernatorial election in Kentucky, in part, because he promised to reject the Medicaid expansion in defiance to Steve Beshear.  Some progressives were elated at the idea of Edwards becoming the new Governor of Louisiana because of the expansion of Medicaid.  While others were disappointed because of his opposition to abortion and gun control.

We understand, hopefully, that not all politicians are perfect.  They are not perfectly matched to our desires of what they should be.  You know what, we're not perfect, either.  We hold people to impossible standards and then are disappointed when they don't meet them and we look for ways out.  This is human nature.

All we can do is try to use our voices to make sure that the politicians who disappoint are held accountable.  The problem is that in politics, it is a zero sum game.  With the current duopoly of the political system by the Democratic and Republican Party, a third party vote is the equivalent of a crush on a co-worker when you are in a committed relationship, an idealization that will never actually come to fruition.  If you gin up support for your preferred third party candidate, you end up hurting the chances of someone who agrees with you, let's say 60-~98% of the time.  And in the end, the person that you are voting for in the third-party vote, you only end up agreeing about ~50% of the time, anyway, but it's the damn principle of the thing.

Your other option, which is the preferred option by myself and others, is to vote against the candidate in the primary election.  In an ideal world, you vote for the person who most represents your view in every election.  This means that in the primary election, if you are a progressive, you vote for the most progressive candidate and then in the general election, you continue to vote for the most progressive candidate even if they disagreed with you on a certain issue.  And it sucks.  I understand.  I live in a pretty conservative district, I keep hoping for true progressives to run in the election but it never ends up happening.

Let's take Ashford, for an example.  He voted for the Keystone XL Pipeline.  He's voted for halting the Syrian refugee program.  At what point should I continue to believe that he is the right candidate for me or for any progressive?  Well, if you have these issues in mind and that he is voting contrary to your beliefs, you may look towards his other votes or co-sponsorships of bills.  And hey, maybe, you find something there that you like.  He doesn't support the normal pro-life legislation so there's that to hang your hat on.  Then you remember that any candidate running in this district will support the same bills Ashford does but DOES support the pro-life legislation.  So maybe that's enough for you.  Unfortunately, it's not very exciting.  You would want someone to primary Ashford to cast your vote for the more progressive candidate hoping to get your message across.  But in the end, when he wins the primary, you hold your nose and vote for him in the general.

At what point do you end up not supporting the candidate in the general?  In my opinion, the only time comes when they support the same bills in every meaningful fashion.  In the Ashford example, maybe you're pro-life and all the other things that Ashford is that generic Republican candidate x is.  Maybe they are the exact same person or maybe you just don't agree with the differences that Ashford holds over Republican candidate x.  I guess, it's possible.  At that point, it would be wise to vote for the other candidate.  Vote for the candidate that most closely resembles your views on all facets of policy that you find meaningful.  Policy always trumps personal grudges.

Before we reach the primaries for next year, I'll be unveiling my legislative scorecard for this Congressional session.  I will also be endorsing candidates for the, first time ever.  I'm hoping that this helps in decision-making.  I will be as transparent, as possible.  I will be showing what my policy goals for each arena and where the candidates fall.  I'm hoping that the project doesn't take too much of my time but we'll see.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Hart and Talent

Be prepared for probably at least 10 posts on Gary Hart.

I've been reading All the Truth is Out which is largely about the week that Gary Hart's affair went public and the ramifications of his downfall.  There is perhaps no politician that I identify with more than Gary Hart at a personal level.  Perhaps that is why the book has become somewhat of an obsession for me, along with What it Takes.  He comes off as a self-obsessed asshole who hates himself almost as much as he hates everyone else.  Which, to be fair, he probably is.  And to be fairer, I definitely am.  Beyond that, his tics, his style of speaking, his lack of confidence in himself, his stubborness, his unwillingness to listen to others for advice, all of these things remind me of myself.  I despair, profoundly.

Those on the left hate him because he probably did more to usher in the Democratic Leadership Council than any other person beyond Bill Clinton.  He pissed off labor unions because, I'm guessing, he still held a grudge for the AFL-CIO for endorsing Richard Nixon instead of George McGovern.  You know what? That was a stupid decision for the AFL-CIO and I still think to a degree that Hart was justified in harboring this anger.

Those on the right hate him because he authored reports from 1999-2001 arguing that the biggest threat for the 21st century would be stateless terrorists and then, of course, George W. Bush and his administration ignored the report to little or no consequences.  Then he rejected the notion that the Iraqi war should be supported by Democrats or Americans for that matter.  He argued that this would further destabilize the region and not actually go after the problem of terrorists.  Of course, they're mostly upset that he couldn't keep it in his pants long enough to become the nominee and have this scandal unfold in the middle of the general election.  Of course George H.W. Bush won 1988 pretty handily, so it's mostly water under the bridge now.

I say all this to bring up the point of this post.  Hart talks to Matt Bai, the author of this book, and talks about his despair over losing the Dem nomination.  But moreso, the problem that Hart expressed is that he knew he would be a great President if he could get elected his way.  He failed and in his own words admits in a memo soon after the affair that he despairs profoundly.

Hart relays his greatest despair about not winning the nomination and does it with his traditional style of bringing up theology and is able to hit on the biggest fear that I have and what causes me the greatest anxiety of my life.

To paraphrase Gary Hart and the Bible, we have the parable of the talents.

Jesus tells the story of the master going on a trip. And he gives the three servants talents, a talent being a form of money. And to one he gave ten talents, to one he gave five, and to one he gave one. And he said, ‘You are to be the stewards of these talents. And manage them wisely for me.’ “He comes back from the trip and he asks all of the three servants how they managed the money that he’d given them. The ten-talent man had invested it and made some money. The five-talent man had wisely invested. But the one-talent man was afraid to lose it, and he buried it, and he just had the one talent to give back. And the master condemned him and said, ‘You are not a faithful servant, because you didn’t use your talents wisely.

And to quote Matt Bai and Gary Hart giving words to my fears and anxieties:

“Well, this haunts me,” Hart said, looking directly at me in the darkness, his eyes brimming and red. “Because I think you are given certain talents. And you are judged by how you use those talents. And to the degree I believe in some kind of hereafter or transmigration of the soul, I will be judged by how I did or did not use the talents that I was given. And I don’t think I’ve used them very well.”

And I don't think I have either.