Monday, June 23, 2008

Why Republicans Should Not Attack a War Veteran Candidate

Review of "Taking the Hill" by Patrick J. Murphy

Patrick Murphy has written his autobiography. This book details how a street fighting kid from Northeast Philadelphia wound up teaching at West Point, serving in the Iraq War, and getting elected to Congress, all by age 33.

Patrick Murphy graduated from Widener Law School in Harrisburg and joined the JAG Corps. He also became one of the few JAG lawyers to also complete paratrooper training. Indeed, he was the first attorney to complete 82nd Airborne Division training in two decades. Then he found himself one of the youngest professors at West Point, where he also wrote a column entitled “Murphy’s Law” for the official Military Academy newspaper.

While serving in the JAG Corps, Murphy was the Command Judge Advocate for a district that ranged from Sarajevo to Hungary. He then was assigned to Iraq where he served as both an attorney and as a soldier on patrol. As a military attorney, he handled the very sensitive subject of Iraqi legal claims. As a soldier, he led patrols into dangerous zones, taking on pistol fire.

Murphy witnessed war and military practices and he emerged from these experiences with strong opinions. He finds the dismissal of gays from the military to be very counterproductive, especially since there is a shortage of troops. He finds it dangerous to the remaining troops that 3,500 troops, including 50 Arab language interpreters, have been dismissed at a time when the remaining troops are being overly stretched in what they need to do.

Murphy is upset over the use of private contractors in Iraq are paid as much as $150,000 a year tax free for tasks such as gardening and sorting mail when privates in combat earn $15,000 a year. There are about as many private contractors in Iraq as there are troops. He was further upset that these contractors fell outside the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which meant they could not be prosecuted for just about anything they did wrong in Iraq, including killing civilians. When Murphy was elected to Congress, he proposed the Iraq Accountability Act that called for better oversight and scrutiny of how our money is spent on contractors and to eliminate the fraud and waste he saw in this system.

Murphy was frustrated as seeing how the military failed to provide body armor to troops. 80% of Marines who died in Iraq could have lived had they worn such armor. He was further startled to see that vehicles lacked proper protection against mines and even after years of this being pointed out, only 6,000 vehicles were properly provide with the correct protective attachments. He is upset that this is a war where standing by existing slow delivery contracts with suppliers takes priority over rapid production of what troops require. He notes how our country could build 57,000 tanks, 109,000 airplanes, and 31,000 beach landing vehicles in a matter of months during World War II. He compares that to our inability to come close to that level of productivity today.

Bureaucracy upset Murphy. He noted how over fifty soldiers had applied for U.S. citizenship before being sent to duty in Iraq. They were then denied citizenship because the law requires them to be in America for processing their application.

The largest mistake Murphy observed was dismantling the Iraqi army. This army should have been brought as an ally against insurgents. We have spent much time and afford trying to rebuild this army. Many of the newly hired soldiers lack equipment, uniforms, discipline, and training and have proven incapable to follow orders and fight, according to Murphy. When the army was abolished, Iraqi soldiers suddenly became unemployed. Many became upset at America and many needed employment. Some of these unemployed soldiers developed sympathy or found employment with insurgents and became the enemy, Murphy argues.

The stress on the war on soldiers also upset Murphy. Some soldiers have been called back for historic high rates of tours, up to four tours, and have faced more days of combat than was faced by soldiers in previous wars. They have left their families behind and the divorce rate for soldiers is at a historic high. When they return home, they often return with injuries and severe stress and will need much long term care.

Murphy decided to run for Congress. He did so with a lifetime savings of $322 and not a single dollar for his campaign. He ran against an incumbent Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick who had won his previous election by 12 percentage points and held a 57% favorable rating. He ran a risky but successful campaign strategy. He spent all the money he first raised on early TV advertising. When various Republican operatives attempted to attack him, even claiming he had never been a combat veteran and had never been a prosecutor, the attacks failed to stick because Murphy had established his identify with voters prior to the scurrilous attacks. In time, his district was determined to be a close race, and he raised $2.4 million versus Fitzpatrick’s raising almost $3 million and the National Republican Congressional Campaign spending another $3.6 million. Murphy won by 1,518 votes, or by 0.6 percentage points.

This is a fascinating autobiography of a young politician who has packed a lot into his life. Students of political science, Pennsylvania political history, and the Iraq War will all find this a useful book to read.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Reason Why the Republican Party's Days are Numbered

The following are notes adapted from the book "Millennial Makeover" by Morley Winograd and Michael D. Hais:
Each generation has a general behavioral pattern reflected in its reactions to the generations before it and its upbringing by parents that affects its own political leanings. Each generation dominates political elections for approximately 22 years until its preferences usually are overshadowed by the political leanings of the following generation. There is first an “idealist” generation followed by a “reactive” generation. There is then a “civic” generation, followed by an “adaptive” generation. It must be noted that many of these generations overlap each other, although in differing strengths as the younger generation gains in influence in each subsequent election. Every 88 to 89 years, there is a political realignment. The realignment usually occurs along with a technological change where the political party that responds best to using a new technology to reach voters obtains an electoral advantage.

The four types of generations tend to have certain characteristics onto each such generation. These similarities are as follows::

The “idealist” generation is the generation that introduces new ideas.
A “reactive” generation follows, having grown up with idealistic and permissive parents. They tend to react by becoming more pragmatic. They also are prone to risk taking and being entrepreneurial. The contrary reaction to the previous generation often creates a political realignment.
The “civic” generation tends to see the problems that emerge from the risk taking and ambitions of their parents and tends to seek solutions to problems and supports creating institutions that solve problems.
An “adaptive” generation follows. They are more apt to have had overprotective, civic-minded parents. The adapters react by seeking to reduce risks, conform to society, and seek compromises. This often creates a political realignment.

The first political era of 1788 to 1824 was of a new country and political parties were becoming defined. The Democrat-Republican Party won six elections and a candidate professing to belong to no political party won four elections.

The second political era lasted from 1826 through 1856. During this period, Democrats won 6 of the 8, or 75%, of the Presidential elections. This was an idealist generation realignment.
Realignment elections tend to see an increase in the participation in politics. In 1824, 51% of the voting age voted compared to 66% in 1828.
Southern state voters tended to be idealists for an agrarian society and were predominately Democratic. New England state voters tended to be idealists for an industrial society and were predominately Republican.
Income disparities tend to increase during idealist periods. During this period, the gap between rich and poor in incomes continuously increased until the 1850s.
Social and racial unrest is more of an issue during this type of era. The anti-immigration American or Know Nothing Party elected 51 House members in 1854. The issue of slavery tore the nation apart.

The third political era lasted from 1860 through 1892. During this period, the Republicans won 7 of 9, or 78%, of the Presidential elections. This was a civic generation realignment.
The Civil War was a major catalyst for this realignment. The use of the telegraph changed the nature of newspapers and how the reported politics. This allowed the Lincoln and Douglas debates to be written for voters across the country to read. Lincoln and the Republicans gained more from this new technology. This period also saw an increase in the number of newspapers that openly supported positions of one political party over the other.
Realignment elections tend to see an increase in the participation in politics. In 1852, 70% of the voting age voted compared to 81% in 1860.
This civic minded generation supported its political institutions, as the same political party that controlled the Presidency also controlled the majority in Congress in 12 of 18 Congresses from 1860 to 1895.
The disparity in incomes between rich and poor lessened during this period. The post Civil War period accomplished some of this by reducing the wealth of southern plantation owners.
The Civil War would address much of the social and racial unrest from the previous period.
Major government programs tend to be created during civic periods. During this period, the Homestead Act, the Morrill Land Grand Act, and the Pacific Railway Act leading to population shifts to the western part of the country were created.

The fourth political era lasted from 1892 through 1928. During this period, the Republicans won 7 of 9, or 78%, of the Presidential elections. This was an idealist generation realignment.
The Great Depression of 1893 was a major catalyst for this realignment.
Realignment elections tend to see an increase in the participation in politics. In 1892, 75% of the voting age voted compared to 79% in 1896.
Democratic leader William Jennings Bryan’s attack on Republican leading economic institutions drew several previous Republican-leaning states in the Plains and Rocky Mountains into voting more Democrat, yet much of the rest of the more adaptive voters in the rest of the country supported these institutions and tended to vote Republican.
Income disparities tend to increase during idealist periods. The gap in wealth between the rich and poor reached its greatest historic amounts from 1896 through the following three decades.
Social unrest is more of an issue during this type of era. Many racial and ethnic conflicts were noted to have occurred during this period.
The introduction of political leaflets changed the nature of politics during this period. The McKinley campaign of 1896 was the first to successfully use and distribute campaign pamphlets, canvass voters, and use get out the vote efforts.

The fifth political era lasted from 1932 through 1964. During this period, Democrats won 7 of 9, or 78%, of the Presidential elections. This was a civic generation alignment.
The Depression of 1929 was a major catalyst for this realignment.
The use of radio and television changed the nature of politics during this era. President Roosevelt became noted for his “fireside chats” to the public over radio. John Kennedy’s better use of television as a campaign tool helped elect him President in 1960.
Realignment elections tend to see an increase in the participation in politics. In 1924, 46% of the voting age voted compared to 53% in 1932 and 57% in 1936.
This civic minded generation supported its political institutions, as the same political party had the majority in both chambers of Congress in 15 of 19 Congresses from 1933 through 1969.
Major government programs tend to be created during civic periods. During this period, the New Deal programs and the Great Society programs, such as social security and Medicare, were created to solve the economic problems facing the country. This also tended to make blue collar voters vote for Democrats while white collar voters who were less apt to support these programs tended vote for Republicans.
The disparity in incomes between rich and poor lessened during this period. Many of the programs mentioned prior helped achieve this,
The New Deal and early civil rights measures addressed much of the social and racial unrest from the previous period.

The sixth political era lasted from 1968 through 2004. During this period, the Republicans won seven of 10, or 70%, or the Presidential elections. This was an idealist generation realignment.
The civil rights movement was a major factor in this realignment. Many Democratic leaning states in the South and West that were less favorable to the civil rights movement favored mostly by Democratic leaders began voting more for Republicans.
Idealists tend to favor issues over parties. It is noted there was an increase in ticket splitting voting during this generation, from about one third of voters splitting their tickets in 1960 to two thirds in 1972.
Income disparities tend to increase during idealist periods. This disparity grew during this period to where, in 2001, the wealthiest 1% in America held 40% of our nation’s wealth and the top one fifth wealthiest people hold 90% of the nation’s wealth.
Social unrest is more of an issue during this type of era. Many urban riots, which were happened in greater number in 1968, occurred during this period.

We are now entering the seventh political era with the Millennial generation emerging as the future controlling generation. Each generation has always been larger in numbers than the previous generation, and this generation will be no exception. This should be an adaptive generation that will outnumber the reactive Generation Xers.
The use of the Internet will change the nature of politics. Millennials are twice as likely to obtain their news over the Internet than by reading a newspaper. Candidates will use the Internet to advance themselves, and to hurt their opponents, as noted how George Allen’s campaign for Senator was severely harmed after his use of a racial word was put on YouTube.
80% of Millennials over age 14 have a personal profile on an Internet social networking page and three fourths of them update their sites at least once a week. Political candidates already are reaching voters on these social networks.
43% of Millennials old enough to register to vote have registered as Democrats compared to 31% who have registered as Republicans.

This generation should be more supportive of government institutions. Previous idealist generations tend not to produce many new government programs, and the most recent seven Presidents not only have not created any major new programs yet most sought to reduce the role of the government. Polling data of the Millennial generation indicates they tend to support institutions, including government. 66% of Millennials surveyed state they support increasing the size of government and creating more services, compared to 39% of the rest of the population surveyed who agreed with this. 64% of Millennials surveyed disagreed with a statement that the Federal government is wasteful and inefficient, compared to 58% of the rest of the population who disagreed with that statement. Millennials supported the government even in war, as Millennials were the generation that most supported going to war in Iraq, with 60% of Millennials who initially supported the war in Iraq.
This generation will likely be more prone to deal with issues of wealth disparity. As they tend to support existing institutions, they are more apt to support these institutions in efforts to reduce wealth disparities. 73% of Millennials surveyed state that government should help those who can’t help themselves, compared to 68% of the rest of the population. 59% of Millennials surveyed state taking care of the needy should occur even it increases the national debt, compared to 54% of the rest of the population. 73% of Millennials state they support national health insurance even if it means increasing taxes, compared to 66% of the rest of the country.
This generation seeks to handle racial and social unrest. 52% of Millennials surveyed display positive attitudes towards immigrants compared to 39% of the rest of the population surveyed. 65% of Millennials surveyed oppose building a fence along the Mexican border compared to 48% of the rest of the population surveyed.
This generation will be less persuaded by Christian Coalition type organizations. 19% of Millennials describe themselves as agnostic or atheist, compared to 15% of Generation Xers, 10% of Baby Boomers, and 5% of those belonging to the GI and Silent Generations.
This generation appears to be the most gender neutral generation in history and it is predicted the women’s rights movement will decrease in prominence. Gay rights should increase as 61% of Millennials surveyed support gay marriage.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Newt Gingrich's Formula for Political Success

Newt Gingrich believes that the vast majority of Americans are on general agreement on most major political issues. The problem he sees is the two political parties represent opposite views on the extreme ends of opinions. He believes many Democrats focus on what they see is wrong with government and many Republicans focus on their philosophy that government should be reduced. He instead argues that the discussions should be on how to make government more efficient. He sees Democrats as unable to do this because they are beholden to union and bureaucratic interests whose interests would be harmed by efficiency efforts. He sees Republicans as unable to do this because they focus primarily on cutting government without considering making government more efficient once it has been cut.

Reagan cut programs but failed to create a permanent culture where the cuts were made to operate efficiently and permanently. The Republican Party lacked a commitment to maintaining long term government cuts and keeping taxes low. Instead, George H.W. Bush raised taxes two years after Reagan left office. Gingrich argues that Republicans need create a permanent goal of achieving smaller, more efficient government with lower taxes.

Gingrich warns that candidates and elected official rely too much on what political consultants and pollsters tell them is the more politically viable course of action rather than acting according to what is the most proper course of action. This is especially bad, according to Gingrich, because these short term policy decisions fail to consider creating the proper long term, in not necessarily the most popular, policies.

Republicans pander too much to their activist base, which often has extreme positions. This fails to connect with the larger body of voters. He argues that the Republican Party would be successful if it became the permanent pro-good government, pro-limited government political party.

Republicans should attack Democrats who advocate raising taxes because doing so will make us less competitive in the global market, Gingrich advises. The U.S. needs to focus on increasing productivity and increasing income to make our nation more able to compete against other foreign producers. Gingrich believes Republicans can win on making lower taxes an economic development argument.

In sum, Gingrich argues “the solution we want will have our values as their base, our vision for the future as a goal, and evidence (metrics) as our standard for measuring our progress.”