Gawker makes a less-than-correlation

Usually when hacks passing themselves off as journalists attempt to tie two unrelated trends together they at least…attempt to tie them together. Gawker today stooped to a new low in advocacy scribbling with this story:

CEO Pay Rises in Tandem With Food Stamp EnrollmentIn 2012, the median overall pay of corporate CEOs rose 8%, to $9.7 million. The value of CEO salaries, stock options, bonuses, and perks all rose in 2012, in most cases by double digit percentages.The median wages of middle class workers rose by quite a bit less. Between 2008 and 2012, enrollment in the US government’s food stamp program rose by 70%. It is expected to rise again this year. “The biggest factor behind the upward march of food stamps is a sluggish job market and a rising poverty rate.”

The desired reaction is, of course, “THOSE EVIL CEOs! Making their evil moneys while people suffer!” And that is technically true – CEOs do make money at the same time that other people make less money. However, Gawker here doesn’t even bother relating the two with any statistically causation or even correlation. It’s less well founded than post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy, it’s per hoc ergo propter hoc. Two things are happening at the same time, therefore they must be related!

The funniest thing about this gratuitous hackery is what they leave out. Guess what else has risen “in tandem” with CEO pay and food stamp enrollment? Employment. Over the last two years, employment has slowly increased (too slowly, in my opinion, but that’s another story). Why didn’t Gawker write the story titled, “CEO Pay Rises in Tandem With Employment”? The answer is obvious. Both stories are technically true while entirely misleading, but only one gives the opportunity to demonize wealth, success, and capitalism. Par for the course for the leftists at Gawker.

Mark Levin’s federalism word game

I don’t listen to Mark Levin. I haven’t read his books. So I don’t know how seriously he meant this, but the lovely Martha Cano linked it on Twitter today, and I just couldn’t let it go without a rebuttal (beyond our tweets on the topic).

Actually, a Federal Marriage Amendment (whether one favors it or not), if ratified, would be federalism in action since three-fourths of the states are needed to approve it.

Really? No, really? I’ve never heard Levin described as a prankster or satirist, and even if so, this only qualifies ironically.

Federalism, loosely defined, is the practice of letting the 50 states handle an issue as each of them sees fit instead of having a solution imposed from the central government in Washington, DC. An amendment to the Constitution that would impose law on all 50 states, as the Federal Marriage Amendment would do, is exactly the opposite of federalism, regardless of how it is enacted.

It matters not at all that the amendment would be passed by the states, as Levin points out. The effect of the amendment would be by definition anti-federalist, so why would the process by which it is enacted be at all relevant to the question? Using the federal amendment process (as opposed to the Congressional one) to circumvent federalism cannot be considered federalism. If you pardon the Godwin, that’s like saying, “But Hitler was elected!”, or noting that Jim Crow laws were duly passed by the people’s representatives in several states. Applying democracy to a bad or just plain evil idea doesn’t make it acceptable (that’s why a republic with separation of powers and checks & balances is ideal), and using federalism to pass anti-federal law doesn’t make the end result federalism.

I would think that a professional lawyer and former Reagan administration officer would know that. So maybe he was being too clever by half. I hope.

Marriage for all, or marriage for none

As the Supreme Court hears arguments this week about both California Prop 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act, the debate over marriage has reached fever pitch. One problem with the debate is that the terms are being used differently by each side. Fortunately, by clarifying the terms of the debate we also clarify the outcome.

Many religious conservatives argue against marriage equality for gay couples because they view marriage as “a covenant between a man, woman, and God before God on His terms“. The problem with this, of course, is that a secular government cannot and should not enforce religious covenants. Attempting to do so is absurd on its face. Government doesn’t enforce communion rights, endorse the transubstantiation, or preside over confirmation ceremonies. When governments issue marriage certificates, or justices of the peace preside over marriage ceremonies, they are doing so as civil officials, not religious ones. God is sometimes invoked, but not as the consecration of the union, but as a part of the traditions of our still largely religious people.

The issue we are arguing over is civil marriage, not religious marriage. Religions can have their objections to performing certain marriages, and every state that has legalized gay marriage has enshrined protections for churches from performing marriages against their beliefs into their law. And what of the religions and churches who want to perform same-sex marriages? Without state recognition of equality, theirs is meaningless ceremony.

According to the 14th Amendment, the law and civil institutions must be applied equally to all citizens. It is irrelevant how long the “definition of marriage” has been “man and woman” if that definition is inherently discriminatory. If “marriage” must remain an institution that discriminates based on gender, it cannot be an institution of the state. If the social benefits of marriage are to remain, they must be extended to all citizens in the form of generic civil unions. The ceremony for that civil union could then be performed in a church to give the significance (to the participants only) of religious marriage.

The idea of civil unions for all and marriage for churches has gained significant traction, mostly on the libertarian right, and in the end it is the only permanent solution to the issue. The state must stop issuing “marriage” licenses if religious conservatives are so insistent on the semantic debate over the word. It would then be free to issue civil unions to any consenting adults who requested them. To be sure there would still be debate over what is best for society in that regard, but the basic right to associate, form contracts, and “marry” is indisputable and must be extended to all.

GOP image problem: Eavesdropping edition

Earlier this week, I posted about a poll that perfectly demonstrated the GOP’s problem. It showed that many people agree with our ideas, but they refuse to identify with us or vote for us because of our terrible candidates and messaging.

Today at lunch I overheard a conversation that explained the same phenomenon. A young black man and his female companion sat next to me at a restaurant. After talking about life, music on his portable device, and other things, he brought up politics. He said he actually identifies with the Republican party, “but not the people”, just the ideas. He even mentioned smaller government and the Tea Party in a positive light and was considering what he would do in the next election. I didn’t hear the entire conversation and didn’t have time to engage him on the topic, but I could draw several conclusions.

This guy is an Obama voter, but not a permanent Democrat. He’s young and black, so the former is nearly a statistical certainty anyway, but the way he mentioned rethinking the next election made it seem like he had voted for Obama and Democrats so far by default.

He’s also a gettable voter. He already has small government sympathies. What we need to stop doing is alienating him and those like him. Using “Obama voter” like a slur may make you feel better, but it also insults this intelligent young man. President Obama is a very relatable and likable guy (most of the time), and not everyone votes according to specific issues. Some of these people might even agree with us, but the way we portray ourselves turns them away. So when you lump all “Obama voters” or “libruls” or “Dummycraps” together with at best contempt or at worst suggested expatriation, you are part of the problem.

But he can’t relate to our candidates. We don’t have to nominate a minority to connect to minorities, but what does this guy have in common with John McCain, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, or Newt Gingrich? Zero, except perhaps their habit of voting for things other than small government. Matt Lewis has an excellent post on this today. We don’t need someone who checks ideological boxes. To get people motivated and believing in the party, we need candidates who can inspire that innately. It can’t be taught or forced, but issues can.

Obama isn’t the first candidate since Eisenhower to win twice with 51% of the vote because people agree with him on every issue. It’s because people relate to him (yes, even though you don’t see how he could), they like him (yes, even though you don’t), he inspires them (yes, as empty as you may think that is), and he doesn’t scare them (yes, as much as you may try to make it sound like he should). We’ve had that ourselves before, and we need it again, to reach this guy and millions more like him.

GOP Primary 2016: Venn diagram edition!

Nate Silver (yes, I know…) has an excellent post today assessing Senator Rand Paul’s chances in a 2016 Republican primary (spoiler: not great, but not terrible). Yes, it’s early. But there’s a Venn diagram! And we all know a political nerd can’t resist a Venn diagram. Silver uses it to portray the conflicting but overlapping ideological (and non-ideological) groups that makeup the Republican coalition.

It’s obviously simplified of course, and the different groups and their members are fluid and ever-changing in today’s instant media cycle. But it’s a useful generalization of what we’re currently working with. So while Silver describes Rand and other candidates in terms of these intra-party groups, I felt the urge to pin them down to a particular spot on the diagram using my epic photoshop skills.


NOTE: I had trouble placing a couple of these due to the inherent limitations of the static Venn diagram format. For example, Jindal is a reformer to be sure, but he’s not at all a moderate, so he probably fits more in the religious and Tea Party spheres, even though he was elected long before the Tea Party movement started. But that’s what the comment section is for. Also, I don’t think all these guys will run, and others will that we don’t know about yet, but they’re who we’re talking about, so I included them.

Agree? Disagree? What would you change? Does where your preferred candidate fall on the diagram match your own estimation of where you fall as well? Do you find yourself drawn to a candidate outside your own sphere, or questioning your choice of a candidate who’s too far away? With more than three years before any votes are cast in the 2016 primary, candidates have plenty of time to shift, and we have plenty of time to decide.

The GOP image problem explained in one poll

According to a recent Pulse Opinion Research poll, 55% of likely voters support a plan that “does not raise taxes, cuts $5 trillion and balances budget. Only 28% support a plan that has “$1 Trillion in Tax Hikes & 100 Billion in cuts that does not balance budget”. The first of those is the Paul Ryan House GOP budget. The second is the Patty Murray Senate Democrat budget.

The second question is about how to reduce the deficit generally. An even larger majority, 65%, said it should be done mostly by cutting spending (the GOP plan), while only 24% said it should be done mostly by raising taxes (the Democrat plan).

It would make sense then if a majority of people said they approved of the GOP on budget issues, right? Wrong. In the same poll, only 30% support Republicans more on the budget. The plurality, 35%, actually support Democrats. Actually 4% more people support neither party more than Republicans (technically, this is the correct position based on history).

This captures the Republican problem perfectly. Even if it’s just this one issue, the vast majority of people support the Republican approach, but less than half of that majority supports the party on the issue. There are two possible explanations for this: 1) the GOP’s message on the budget isn’t clear, so people don’t realize it’s the GOP plan they support, or 2) the GOP itself is so unpopular that people can’t bring themselves to identify with it even on an issue where they agree. Given that Congress has been debating almost nothing but the budget and how to fix the deficit for the last three years, #1 is simply impossible. If anything, anything has gotten through the media filter as the primary GOP message, it’s “cut spending”.

That leaves only reason #2. The GOP brand is so damaged that even when people agree with them they refuse to admit it. There’s more evidence for this phenomenon too.

One of the major problems with thinking on the right during the last election cycle was our assumption that the polls were wrong, that they were oversampling Democrats and undersampling Republicans, thus being skewed to show Obama winning when he wasn’t. This obviously wasn’t the case, as the final polls turned out to be extremely accurate on Election Day. Then what was the problem? Why did we question the sample? Because people refuse to identify as Republicans. The polls weren’t undersampling Republicans, Republicans were hidden as Independents. So when places like Gallup found huge support for Romney among Independents, they were actually mostly just Republican-leaners who preferred not to identify with the party.

So how do we get people to stop hating the GOP again? Well, we could start by not doing things like this, this, and this. The official RNC post-mortem report on the election and what went wrong was just released this morning. It’s certainly not all what I would suggest, but it’s a good start. Elections are by definition an organic thing. People have many reasons for supporting parties and candidates at every level (well, some just one), and thousands of things happen each election cycle to affect the outcome. The final result can’t be controlled by the party or even the candidate at the top of the ticket, but we should definitely find those things that we can control and do better there.

CPAC’s Most Fabulous Panel, or, Why you should embrace the gay right for what they are

There are many, especially on the left, skeptical of the marriage equality movement’s sudden momentum on the right. From Dick Cheney to GOProud to Rob Portman, some of the most prominent voices for conservative support of gay marriage have been shouted down from all sides. This is counterproductive to both marriage equality and to conservatism itself. I realize blind partisans have the knives out for anyone with a different letter designation following their name, but on issues where we agree, we should find support and encouragement, not knee-jerk hostility.

For those who remain skeptical of conservatives’ and libertarians’ sincerity in supporting marriage equality, I present the following:

This was the rogue CPAC panel hosted by CEI, a free enterprise think-tank, to discuss issues on the gay right, especially intra-movement tolerance and marriage equality. Those involved were some of the biggest names in conservative thought and Republican politics, not just fringe libertarians who would naturally support gay marriage anyway. Jonah Goldberg, editor at the conservative publication, National Review. Jen Rubin, the conservative voice at the Washington Post. Liz Mair, digital campaign strategist for several high profile candidates. Margaret Hoover, one of the most eloquent conservative voices on CNN. And last but not least, Jimmy LaSalvia, founder of GOProud, himself a campaign visionary and thought leader who has been pushing on these issues for years.

The thing is, these leaders aren’t pushing the GOP or conservatism to the left to meet gay marriage. They’re moving gay marriage to the right, making the case that supporting marriage for anyone is by definition socially conservative. This isn’t an issue of compromising to win elections or surrendering an issue for good media coverage. There is real and growing momentum on the right to support marriage equality, and really broader civil rights and liberties across the board. GOProud’s fight, this star-studded panel, and the high profile fight about the issue at CPAC is evidence enough.

As I’ve been saying for years, and one of the panelists here echoed, this issue is a demographic one that will seem quaint and anachronistic to debate in just a few years. Those on the left would be wise to support us on it, and those on the right who don’t would be wise to get out of the way.