February 2008 Archives

Top This

Vote 0 Votes

I'm back from paradise... can anyone think of a job I could get in Cancun?

Solymar Cancun Condos managed by Hermick

Also, Kelley, I saw your challenge about what I would tell my 15 year old self. I''m thinking on it and will respond soon.

Jim Wallis and Greg Boyd

Vote 0 Votes

Jim Wallis of Sojourners is going to be at the Oak Park Borders tonight. Eric invited me to come and then told me to search for Wallis' debate with Greg Boyd about the role of the Christian Church in politics. I've been listening to it most of the afternoon. It's definitely worth your time.

Jim Wallis and Greg Boyd at Bethel University

Response: I was originally biased toward Boyd's position... but after listening to the debate, I don't think their stances are incompatible. Boyd is correct in emphasizing that our first loyalty/effort should be to building the Kingdom of God. Boyd however has never said it is wrong to participate in politics. Wallis believes that Christians have a responsibility to dictate the political climate, but he doesn't mandate a vote for a particular party or candidate... and condemns those who say that if you don't support candidate/issue X, then you aren't a Christian. Boyd claims Wallis' is aiming at the wrong Bullseye because he insists Christians should work to further Kingdom aims in politics, and Boyd claims that Kingdom actions are not a necessary result of that. Boyd claims thats if we aim for kingdom actions, then stressing the biblical political issues will naturally follow.

Two things stick out after listening to this... and they're both from Wallis because I've already heard Boyd on these. First, Wallis says all politicians walk around with their finger to the wind, so it's not about changing whose finger is in the wind, but rather changing the wind. Thus, if the Church forces politicians to address poverty and social injustice, then the desired changes will come about more surely than if you select the right politician. The second moment came when Wallis is talking about being at Notre Dame during an election.

Student A: "4,000 people died today because of abortion, how can we vote on any other issue?" to which Student B replies, "9,000 people died today because of HIV/AIDS" to which Student C replies, "30,000 children died today because of needless hunger and poverty." Wallis says that after an hour and a half, the room of students concluded that no candidate had a consistent ethics of life platform... and that's what we end up with - forcing us to choose between imperfect candidates... but we have to make the best choices we can.

Lucky Penny... or idol?

Vote 0 Votes

I'm watching American Idol right now. It turns out the show is pretty easy to watch and blog at the same time. So, I'll put down an idea that went through my head today.

What is a lucky penny, or a rabbits foot, or some random memento? The thought came about because John McCain is a very superstitious person and talks about his lucky penny on the stump. In fact, a quick google turns up this article about McCain's superstitions.

[McCain] keeps on his person a lucky compass, a lucky feather, a lucky penny and, at times, a lucky rock.

I think these items could be construed as idols if McCain actually puts his trust in them... and I don't understand the point of carrying around so much jetsam if he doesn't. I have a few mementos that I keep to remind me of things. I put no faith or trust in them, so there's clearly no idolatry involved... and I might not even notice if they went missing.

When McCain once misplaced his feather, there was momentary panic in the campaign, until his wife found it in one of his suits. When the compass went missing once, McCain assigned his political director to hunt it down.

Hmm... A final thought. Two weeks ago at my Perspectives class, our speaker made a one off remark that "there is a demon behind every idol." He also said, "Demon possession occurs much more frequently when idol worship is involved."

I'm not presenting conclusions. I'm not even sure I'm ready to embrace the logical conclusion of my thoughts above... but it's interesting food for thought.

p.s. I can't believe they cut that politician kid on Idol... he totally should have made the top 24. Also, 'The Australian Guy' is named Michael Johns. He'll place second or third in this competition. You can mark that down.

Veep Speculation

Vote 0 Votes

I love politics, and so as you can imagine I've been watching my fair share of CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News of late. I really dislike most talking heads, I don't like shrill debates, so I generally tune out commentary when there's no news going on, but when we have elections each week and tectonic shifts in voter opinion almost daily, it's tough to tune out the pundits.

With Mitt Romney pulling out of the race this week, John McCain is virtually assured of being the Republican nominee. That is, in my opinion, good news. It's also been over the strident objections of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Dr. Laura, James Dobson, Rick Santorum, and dozens of other 'conservative standard bearers.'

As an 'apunditry' political animal, this is great news from my position. The aforementioned pundits are so far disconnected from the reality of American sentiment, I can think of few better endorsements than Rush Limbaugh's declaration that he would rather vote for Hillary Clinton than John McCain.

Seriously, think about it. If you're disenchanted with the current direction of the country, but not sure you want to embrace the near socialist positions being touted by Hillary and Barack, what could be more comforting than knowing you're sticking it to Rush and Hannity.

So, let's turn our attention to Vice Presidential speculation. I think the answer to this question should be much more than a knee-jerk reaction of picking Mike Huckabee.

John McCain's voting bloc Strengths: Foreign Policy voters, moderate voters, experience voters, moderate immigration approach appeals to hispanics, moderate approach to environment, fiscal conservatives on expenditures, and mavericks.

John McCain's Weaknesses: Trouble with conservative base, abortion voters, marriage voters, anti-immigration voters, is not a 'regional' candidate, strength is in traditionally democratic states. He's also old.

Path to victory: Remember that the General Election is won via the electoral college. Unless there is a dynamic realignment in voting trends, McCain must win almost all of the states that Bush won in 2004 and 2000. McCain's strength in independents could also be his biggest weakness in the electoral college. It isn't enough to win more votes in traditionally Democratic states, he has to win the states themselves. With the country deeply unhappy with Bush, it is difficult to imagine a Republican shift in the blue states. (The main scenario that comes to mind is if there were a terrorist attack and the country realigned voting priorities.)

Electoral Math In 2000, George W. Bush won by five electoral votes. From Wikipedia, a listing of the closest 12 states, the % margin of victory, and the number of electoral votes in parentheses.

1. Florida, <0.0092%, (25), Bush
2. New Mexico, 0.06%, (5), Gore
3. Wisconsin, 0.22%, (11), Gore
4. Iowa, 0.31%, (7), Gore
5. Oregon, 0.44%, (7), Gore
6. New Hampshire, 1.27%, (4), Bush
7. Minnesota, 2.40%, (10), Gore
8. Missouri, 3.34%, (11), Bush
9. Ohio, 3.51%, (21), Bush
10. Nevada, 3.55%, (4), Bush
11. Tennessee, 3.86%, (11), Bush
12. Pennsylvania, 4.17%, (23), Gore

Four years later, Bush won by 35 electoral votes. Here's a list of the states that were within 5%, their electoral votes, and who won.

1. Wisconsin, Kerry, 0.38%, (10)
2. Iowa, Bush, 0.67%, (7)
3. New Mexico, Bush, 0.79%, (5)
4. New Hampshire, Kerry, 1.37% (4)
5. Ohio, Bush, 2.11%, (20)
6. Pennsylvania, Kerry, 2.50%, (21)
7. Nevada, Bush, 2.59%, (5)
8. Michigan, Kerry, 3.42%, (17)
9. Minnesota, Kerry, 3.48%, (10)
10. Oregon, Kerry, 4.16%, (7)
11. Colorado, Bush, 4.67%, (9)

The states that switched between the elections were: New Mexico (5) and Iowa (7) became red, (Dem 2000, Rep 2004) and New Hampshire (4) became blue (Rep 2000, Dem 2004). Thats +8 to Red in the states voting... and +27 to Red states due to demographic shifts (the Electoral College was redistributed following the 2000 census.)

If we use 2004 as a template, John McCain can lose 34 electoral votes and still win the White House. McCain's challenge of course is to somehow manage to limit the damage of the last four years to only 34 electors.

Let's hypothesize that all else equal, the national electorate has uniformly shifted 4% to the Democrats, how would that affect final math? Iowa, New Mexico, Ohio, and Nevada all become blue states, that's 37 electors, resulting in another alarmingly close election like 2000, but the Democrats come out on top by three or four votes, rather than the Republicans.

The 'road map' for McCain thus becomes a little clearer. He must limit the national shift to about 4% (no easy task considering the harm Bush has done to Republican sentiment), and he must win at least one of the states that is now 'in play' for the Democrats, while retaining the rest of Bush's 2004 wins (again, easier said than done).

Traditionally, when a Candidate needs to shore up voters in a region or a state, the easiest method is to select a native son from that state as your running mate. With Ohio being the largest 'prize' of the four, you might expect McCain to pick the most popular Ohio Republican and be done with it, but that's an inherently defensive move.

Rather than focusing on not losing a state, McCain should try to focus on winning a new state. If he could capture a large Democratic state, it changes the math significantly. What if there were a state with 21 electoral votes that had been close 4 years ago. If McCain could somehow steal that state, he would still win, even without retaining any of the four '4%' states.

The state is, of course, Pennsylvania. PA was one of the three hotly contested 'swing states' in 2004 (Florida and Ohio, the others), and the only one that went blue in 2004. Would a Pennsylvanian VP be able to stem the tide for McCain? I have no idea... but I'd venture to guess it might. Who would this person be? Surely not elderly Arlen Specter (one of the few Republican Senators more disliked by his own party than McCain), and probably not Rick Santorum (a conservative's conservative who has been quite vocal about his disdain for McCain). The name that comes to my mind is former Governor and Secretary of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge. To my understanding, he's well liked in Pennsylvania, and despite efforts in the national media to smear his reputation, I think he's still well respected nationally. He also has the gubernatorial experience that the general punditry believes is needed to balance the ticket with Senator McCain. Oh, and he's been a McCain supporter for quite some time.

Although he's probably the best running mate from an electoral college perspective, Ridge provides challenges of his own. Probably the most difficult is that he is pro-choice, and McCain is already dealing with some discontent over the issue. (McCain refuses to speak against fellow Arizonan, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. This angers pro-life advocates because she was a pro-choice justice on the Supreme Court.) This issue alone is enough to open up a McCain Ridge ticket to opposition from the right wing of the party.

Perhaps this opposition is enough to force McCain to pass over Ridge, but I haven't really heard a name out there that makes more sense to me.

Mitt Romney: McCain and Romney just don't like each other. I don't think McCain would go for it, but it would appease the pundits and probably secure the Republican base. However, it fails to do much on the electoral map. The Republicans won't win Massachusetts or Michigan, they will win Utah. The only state I really see it affecting might be Nevada.

Mike Huckabee: Huckabee's a nice guy. He's a governor (like Ridge and Romney), he's even a Christian... but if you're looking for a southern conservative Christian governor, you could pick one a lot less likely to be repugnant to independent voters. Huckabee really sealed his own fate when he said he wanted to change the constitution to mimic the Bible. This kind of statement scares a lot of people... myself included.

Condoleezza Rice: She's female and black, the perfect response to a ticket that will likely include Hillary and/or Barack. That's also about the extent of her appeal, I think. Yes, I like her a lot, but her expertise is in foreign policy, which McCain has covered. I expect McCain might ask her to stay as Secretary of State... but just because she's a black woman doesn't seem like a good enough reason to put her on the ticket... and McCain would have to come up with a really compelling reason why she would be the right #2 so as to avoid generating a backlash from people who will claim she's only on the ticket because of those two reasons. Colin Powell also fits into this same argument.

Charlie Crist the governor of Florida is a logical choice for the same reason that Tom Ridge is. He's a Republican governor of a swing state. The problem is that Crist has only been Governor for a year, and was Attorney General of Florida for four years before that. The better choice would be Jeb Bush, the two-term Republican Governor of Florida... Jeb's only problem is that his last name is Bush. Putting his name on the ticket would be like dangling a red cape in front of a Democratic bull... just as repugnant as a Clinton on the ticket for Democrats. I myself am tired of Bushes and Clintons.

Elizabeth Dole: Senator Dole's name has come up a few times. She's got quite the resume. She's female, and she would bring the Republican base with her, while not inciting much reaction from the Democrats... or the national electorate. Lizzy Dole is a safe choice, but electorally she brings nothing to the ticket... and she's a Dole. Again, I'm tired of all the family politics in this country.

J.C. Watts: The former Oklahoma congressman might make the ticket. He seems to have a lot of strengths that would compliment McCain. For one, he's a southern baptist minister, but not defined by the term, as Huckabee is. Watts is also a fiscal conservative that scores high marks among the party base. He's also black... and therein lies the problem. He's the only elected black republican with any kind of national stature, and thus his name comes up. He was a four term congressman, but he's otherwise undistinguished. Putting him on the ticket would seem to underscore the Republicans' lack of diversity, rather than emphasizing it. Like Condi Rice, McCain would need a very compelling reason to put him on the ticket, other than 'because he's black'... and that reason is certainly not found in the electoral math.

Mark Sanford The South Carolina Governor is a popular pick among the party base. In fact, if the decision were made without regard to electoral implications, Sanford might be the pick. He was first elected to the House in 1994. He kept his promise to stay only three terms and left in 2000. He ran for South Carolina Governor in 2002, and won re-election in 2006. In a recent op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal, Pat Toomey, the president of the "Club for Greed Growth" wrote:

If there is a governor anywhere in America who has demonstrated a commitment to economic conservatism, it is Mr. Sanford. The mild-mannered former congressman has been willing to wage spending fights even against members of his own party. Facing an inherited $155 million deficit, Mr. Sanford vetoed 106 spending items. When the Republican legislature over-rode all but one of his vetoes, he carried two pigs into the Capitol, one named Pork the other Barrel.

Mr. Sanford also pushed through property and small-business tax cuts. As a member of Congress, Mr. Sanford was a reliable opponent of legislation expanding the size of government, and a supporter of personal accounts for Social Security before it was politically acceptable. He was also a champion of school choice.

This sounds like a guy after McCain's own heart. (McCain is a fierce anti pork-barreller himself.) As a white man from South Carolina, he's certainly not going to contribute anything demographically or electorally, but if he pleases the base, that could go a long way to holding the 4% line for McCain... now all they need is five more electoral votes. Where's that Governor Ridge when you need him?

Ash Wednesday

Vote 0 Votes

It's Ash Wednesday today, and several of my co-workers are catholic. This caused me to end up with a hamburger for lunch rather than a juicy turkey sandwich. Boo Hoo.

Yesterday was "Super Tuesday," a primary election for 22 states. I awoke early to cast my ballot. The polling place was only two blocks from my place, which was convenient. The election judges were bickering, so much so that when I heard that an election worker had been arrested for battery because she punched another election judge, I wondered if it was my precinct. It wasn't. Welcome to Chicago, I guess.

It was also weird last night watching the returns. I had the local news on and realized that all the candidate parties were within a few blocks of my condo. I almost went down to McCain headquarters... but I didn't want to stand around all night, especially since the candidate wouldn't be there.

Barack Obama was in Chicago last night. He gave a speech at the Hyatt. I wish I had gone over there. He's a phenomenal speaker, and despite our divergent political opinions, I wouldn't mind it if he ended up being President.

As short time readers know, I'm a McCain supporter this year, so I'm starting to form opinions about what's best for him. It's tough for me because I know he would stand a better chance of beating Hillary Clinton than he would Barack, but as an insurance policy, I'd rather have an Obama/McCain election. However, Barack's got more charisma in his nose than McCain has in his entirety.

In other news, the cat names have been finalized. There is Joy Lacey Clarke and Curious George Clarke. They go by Joy and George. Joy likes my shoe laces. George is curious. Very complicated. They are seven months old.