The Age-Old Question

OK, maybe not “age old” but old:

Vote Democrat or Republican?

Many of my friends, it seems, are thumping the Republican drum. For instance, there’s the staunchly Republican former Chief of Staff for a Democratic Congressman; there’s Rob, a frequent commenter; there’s Adam, who insists being a Republican is only because Rudy’s jsut such a hottie, and Moishe, who’s been increasingly vocal about his insistence that questioning our administration about the war is wrong and that we’ve all “gotta support the team” (among other very hawkish attitudes).

I’d like to propose a thought, something to see what you guys say: We’re better off voting Democratic. (Please keep reading before you comment).

Let’s leave Israel out of this. As America’s only democratic ally in the Middle East, Israel will always enjoy the support of America (especially with the help of AIPAC, etc.). So the question of voting for a President who is “good for Israel” shouldn’t rate highly on the priority scale. As we’ve seen, Israel will take care of herself. Sure, Clinton pressured for peace, but that was because he had a willing partner in Rabin and his followers.

Let’s also leave the Iraq war out of this. We’re in it. It’s a mess. Nobody has a good solution for what to do about it, so it’s gonna suck regardless.

So let’s weigh policy (in a knee-jerk, rhetoric-filled, partisan talking points kind of way….this is my “for your consideration” entry for a blo-rena guesting job! How’my doin’?)

Now, I get that people will disagree about the particulars about certain things I write here. That’s fine, because ultimately, it won’t matter to my conclusion, as you’ll see.

1. Fiscal Policy: Everyone knows that Republicans hate poor people. Whatever, if it means I get to keep more of my money, I’m OK with that.

2. Social Policy: Everyone knows that Republicans hate minorities also. I’m not a minority, so I’m OK with that.

3. Foreign Policy: Here is where we start to get interesting. Personal feelings about fiscal and social policy (and joking) aside, our foreign and domestic policy intertwine. Much has been made of our energy policy. I know, this goes under “Domestic,” but bear with me for a second. Without getting into it, which I will do in a bit, our energy policy is terrible not only because of the environmental effects, but also (as I was arguing back in 2004, right Adam?) because of how it affects our foreign policy. If you read the New York Times op-ed page, you may have read Thomas L. Friedman or Bob Herbert ranting on about “financing both sides of the war on terror.” What I don’t understand is why more isn’t made of this. Every barrel of oil we buy from Saudi Arabia finances some Wahhabi madrassa, where they churn out terrorists like bunnies on crack. How can we fight the terrorists and finance them at the same time. If we are going to fight the war on terror (and I certainly think we should) then we have to fight it smartly. Every bomb we drop in Iraq (or in Lebanon) creates more terrorists. Every 10 year old who watches his father die, hears someone blame it on America (or Israel) will be holding a gun or wearing an explosive belt 6 years from now (if that long). We have to realize that simply bombing them back into the Stone Age isn’t the answer. Sure, it makes for riveting cowboy TV, but it’s just not a good solution. Unless we kill every Muslim (settle down, Moishe, it’s not that easy), we have to find a better way. Stopping the flow of money is a really, really good place to start. That means cutting our dependence on foreign oil. Now, I ask you honestly, who is more likely to accomplish that? A Republican who is financed by big business, maybe the auto industry, and quite possibly the oil industry, and maybe even (like our current President) has strong ties to the oil Sheiks in the House of Saud? Or a green Democrat like Al Gore? Seen in that light, who’s the better choice for our foreign policy, including national security?

Secondarily, if offensive strategies don’t work (and so-called “Western” appeasement and diplomatic strategies don’t work) then what do we do? (This doesn’t apply to Israel, who faces a threat of totally different nature, and must secure her borders in much different fashion, including pushing Hezbollah with force back behind the Litani. We don’t face that in America.) Well, if every dollar wasted in Iraq, who was not a legitimate threat to US soil, were instead funneled into national security interests domestically, we might truly be safer today then we were on 9/10/01. And maybe even without wiretapping. More police, more airport security. Sure, maybe more hassle getting on the train or plane, but more bomb-sniffers in subways, etc. Really protective measures. More likely to accomplish? Neither, sadly, since a Democrat would pull out of Iraq and not use the money on security and Republican wouldn’t pull out of Iraq. Alas.

4. Domestic: Aside from energy policy which is important for foreign policy, it’s also good for environmental policy. Al Gore may be boring, but he’s not stupid. We are ruining the planet. (And before you say, “eh, this won’t affect me, I’ll be dead by the time this happens” just make sure you aren’t in New Orleans. Or New York, for that matter. Have you seen the heat, humidity and crazy thunderstorms we’ve been having lately?)

Finally, my last point, and kind of the reason I started this: religious freedom. More and more, Republicans are allying themselves with evangelical Christians. People who call this “a Christian country” and bemoan the “War on Christmas.” I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: these people are not our (ie Jews’) friends. Every time they call America a Christian country, they are excluding you (unless you’re Christian, which might be like, one of my readers. Sorry, Nina. But they exclude your for other reasons.) That is a dangerous sentiment, meant to undercut some of the very basic protections that we enjoy here: the establishment clause and the free exercise clause. As Jews, we should be wary of any amount of government interference in religion, as well as anything remotely resembling government endorsement of religion, because it won’t be our religion that they endorse. Support prayer in public school? It won’t be Asher Yatzar. Support days celebrating Jesus? He’s not our savior. Support artwork depicting the Ten Commandments? Those aren’t our Ten Commandments. (Quick Side Point: in the Pilot episode of The West Wing, someone says “well, what is [the first commandment]?” and President Bartlett, making what was supposed to be a cameo that turned into a major role, comes in and says “I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt have no other gods before me.” And I wanted the Jews in the room (Toby and Josh) to say “well, sir, that’s part of the first and the second.” Because our first is “I am the Lord, thy God, who has taken you out of Egypt, from the house of bondage.”)

The question then, is, who is more likely to support Christian religion, and who is more likely to oppose it? More and more, Republicans are “playing to the base” and supporting (and being supported by) Christian groups. These are not our friends, and we should not elect them. Imagine Tom DeLay, who ran on a platform of being Christian. Is this someone a Jew should ever vote for?

People may respond (and have responded) that politics make for strange bedfellows, and we ally ourselves with Republicans like that so that we get people in office who are more like minded on fiscal and welfare matters. Meanwhile, we end up with President Jesus-Boy who, despite popular opinion, vetoes a bill that would be good for America based on religious grounds. At some point, that relationship based on fiscal like-mindedness is strained.

That’s why I say, we, as Jews, should avoid these people at all costs. Because, ultimately, they will enact religiously based policies that are essentially at odds with what we believe. And even worse, that threaten our welfare and our freedom, which we should cherish above all else (including our money).


41 responses to “The Age-Old Question

  1. One thing I learned on 9/11 was that if Americans think that the Arabs are attacking the US because of our support for Israel, they will be less likely to support Israel. If you will recall, there was a very big movement to discover “why they hate us,” and many people, some Republicans but mostly Democrats, believed that the US should alter its policies, not just towards Israel but with everything, to reduce the antagonism that we cause.

    I think you did a very good job of describing the difference between Republicans and Democrats. Ultimately, I disagree with your conclusions for the very reasons you laid out. For instance, I don’t agree that the money is better spent on self-defense measures at home rather than a military offensive abroad, because I think (a) that no matter how much money you spend, there will always be cracks for terrorists to slip into and we will never be able to play perfect defense – London is a good example – and (b) if we ever could put a security net around us at home, it likely would cause major issues with civil liberties and definitely be restrictive.

    So why do I support the Iraq war? I think it’s more or less logistics. If we lose a battle in Iraq, what happens is a terrible tragedy and soldiers die. If we lose a battle in NYC, civilians die. But in Iraq, the army is better prepared to fight the battle – they have a greater likelihood of stopping an attack or, if one occurs, to have a lower body count. Soldiers are trained to live in a war zone, whereas civilians are just living in society. I don’t think that the terms “moving the battlefield,” or “fighting them over there rather than over here” are just partisan rhetoric without meaning. True, they’ve become catchphrases today, but I agree with the policies that lie behind them. I do believe that though we’re fighting an insurgency in Iraq, we’re less likely to be attacked here.

    Now here’s where the two policies – Iraq and Israel – mix. Americans who believe in playing defense rather than offense – or engaging in policies based on what will cause the least amount of antagonism – are also more likely to expect Israel to do the same. All the distinctions that you made between the US and Israel? The average American doesn’t know or understand all that. And our elected Democrats cater to (or agree with) that segment of society. Republicans, by contrast – and George W. Bush and Rudy Giuliani have said this specifically – believe that Israelis are waging the same ideological war that the US is, and therefore are more likely to let Israel “off the leash” for military offensives like the one going on today. Israel believes that it needs to fight this battle now – and only Democrats – and the most prominent Democrats, including the last presidential nominee – are calling for diplomacy. Are they doing this because they don’t like Israel, or don’t consider Israel to be America’s greatest ally in the Middle East? No, of course not. They are doing it because their Weltanschauung is that diplomacy is a better policy. And I happen to disagree with them, both with the US and with Israel.

    I agree with you on your points on energy, and the environment, and although I don’t agree with the extent, I agree that Republicans being beholden to Christian groups cannot be good for Jewish religious needs. And they are all valid points. I also agree with many Democratic social policies.

    But I think we need to prioritize what issues are important to us. My rankings go like this:

    1. Israel
    1A. US Foreign Policy – I think these two are related
    2. Energy policy – because I agree it relates to foreign policy, and also I think it would be a big boon to the economy.
    3. Fiscal policy
    4. Environment
    5. Social Policy

    I agree with the Republicans on items 1, 1A, and 3. I agree with the Dems on Items 2, 4, and 5.

    How do I get around the Christian religion thing? Simply because I don’t see it as a problem right now. I don’t see a problem of Christian prayer in schools. Teaching Creationism in school is not widespread – it’s mostly been shot down and it’s been the creation of local school boards, not the national party. If and when the Republicans overstep their bounds, (and if they did we’d have the safety net of the Courts,) my priorities could change. (I wouldn’t mind getting Christmas off every year. But let’s start with the Monday after Superbowl Sunday, please. That should definitely be a day off – the first party to add that to their platform has my loyalty for life.)

    Actually, as of now – as of now – I think I agree with Republican views towards religion. I like faith-based initiatives. I’ve seen it first hand, and many Jewish institutions are getting much needed funding for their security needs. The main reason I like it, though, is that often times Church groups are better at providing social services than the government is. They have better networks, cheaper (volunteer) labor, and the trust of those they’re helping. For argument’s sake, if the government has a 50% efficiency rate at a soup kitchen, and a Church basement runs a soup kitchen with a 75% efficiency rate, then (so long as the Church does not proselytize or discriminate in its hiring practices, which are two conditions the Republicans insist upon) why waste the money having the government perform the service? I understand there are arguments about the slippery slope. And, like I said, if the Republicans overstep their bounds on this issue, I’ll stop supporting it. And if enough people stop supporting it, the policies with shift back.

    In the meantime, at least one Democrat that I’m familiar with believes that faith-based initiatives is really a more typically Democratic policy than Republican one. In a speech that has been taken down from the Internet, he said that Republicans essentially took what historically were Democratic policies and seized them as their own. He said he would implement them if he (Anthony Weiner) became mayor of NYC: “When I talk about working with the religious community, I talk about the many programs that, frankly, the charitable sector has learned to do much better than we in government have done. And in my administration, we are going to embrace cooperative efforts between City Hall and [faith-based] charitable organizations.”

    From an article on that speech: “In a Weiner administration, the congressman pledged, City Hall would bring together “religious leaders, philanthropic beacons, business executives, and academic experts” and Catholic-school parents to finance struggling parochial schools.”

    All this is my long way of saying that I don’t think we should instinctively run away from Republican policy towards religion until we see where it goes. There is much established case law that protects religion, and there is only so far they can go.

    Finally, I’ll conclude with this. I do not feel beholden to one party or another. I think my list above, where I agreed with the Dems on three things and the Republicans on three things, demonstrated that. But I honestly feel more at home in the Republican party right now. Why? Well, let’s look at the mainstream of the Republican party. Rudy Giuliani and John McCain are currently leading, by a very wide margin, in every poll for the party’s nomination for president. They are both fairly moderate. They, moderates, are the mainstream. (I know it’s early, but it still is an indication of where the party is.) By contrast, look at the most prominent Democrats. The last presidential nominee was John Kerry – far left. The insurgent candidate who now runs the national party, Howard Dean, is far left. (OK, you could say that Ken Mehlman is far right, though I don’t think that Bush is far-right considering his spending habits.) Look towards the next set of presidential candidates: Kerry. John Edwards, far left. Hillary Clinton, the current frontrunner: depends on the day, but generally a big-government Democrat. The list goes on. There are some moderate candidates, but they haven’t been embraced.

    I am honestly open to ideas and I’m not a staunch republican by any stretch. But take the issues that are most important to me – Israel and US foreign policy. Bush is giving Israel a free hand, and the Republicans support that. Democrats, led by their last nominee, are calling for restraint. I think it’s clear where I’m more likely to land.

    P.S. Noyam did, in fact, make his energy policy arguments back in 2004.

  2. I agree with some of your assesments. Just figured I would add my two cents regarding some of the topics you have addressed.

    In terms of energy policy I don’t think any Dems have offered much in the way of a viable solution either-not sure why this issue would push you to the Democratic side – remember, in the 50’s and 60’s the Democrats catered to the oil companies. I think we Americans are to blame. Prices are soaring and we are driving more and more without conserving. Some Republicans have suggested drilling in ANWR as a solution and while this is not a long-term solution it may soften the market in the near term. Obviously there are enviornmental considerations to be made with this. The only solution will come when Americans say enough is enough and some company (from the energy industry or the automotive industry) decides to figure it out for the economic benefit of doing so. Obviously, this could be facilitated by government involvement but again I’m not sure why the Dems would be any better on this issue.

    In terms of Foreign Policy – I’m not sure what the FP of the Domocratic party would be if they controlled any part of our govt. From what I have read, I think it would be status quo diplomacy if anything. IMO, that doesn’t cut it in the times we live in. One can criticize Bush’s policies but at least he has staked out a plan, a definitive course of action (we can debate on whether he is executing the plan well or whether the plan is a good one to begin with) but at least there’s a plan that involves more than world tours for American diplomats. As highlighted by his comments yesterday, what would Kerry be doing in terms of FP if he were President? The answer is I don’t know and neither does he b/c he has failed to articulate any policy (one big reason he lost in 2004). If I had to guess, he would be pulling our troops out of the Middle East, putting crazy pressure on Israel to stop bombing Hizbollah/Lebanon while pushing them to w/ draw from the West Bank. He would also send Madeline Albright on a peace-seeking mission to the ME. SOunds a lot like the 80’s and 90’s to me – like I said at least Bush is doing something.

    In terms of Israel specifically – I agree that Israel’s special relationship with America will remain strong were the Democrats in power but there is no arguing with the fact that the current administration (maybe not the Reps as a party) have been as good an ally as Israel has ever had. Public support, private support and military support have been overwhelming. There is no question that Bush sees Israel’s fight as connected to America’s war on global terrorism. Again not a reason alone to vote Republican but a reason to have Hakaras Hatov for this support.

    I very much concur with your uneasiness in buddying up with the religious right. For years I have been saying that we should tread carefuly on this front. But I also agree w/ Adam that we can monitor this relationship as it goes. I don’t think America will turn into a theocracy as we are constitutionally protected from this but again I am skeptical or at least cautious of this relationship.

    You also omitted a domestic topic that I feel effects our country in many ways and that is better off in Republican hands than in Democratic ones. Tort Reform is badly needed. It effects the price we pay for just about everything including our local taxes (NYC pays hundreds of millions of dollars to settle tort claims against it). The only reason that this issue has not been addressed in a more serious way is b/c of the strong lobby of the plaintiff’s bar. Not that the Reps have accomplished any corrective measures on this topic but at least they are on the right side of the issue.


  3. In terms of energy policy I don’t think any Dems have offered much in the way of a viable solution either-not sure why this issue would push you to the Democratic side – remember, in the 50’s and 60’s the Democrats catered to the oil companies.

    OK, I’m not an expert in political science and history, but I think times have changed since the ’50’s and ’60’s. So maybe let’s update our thinking a little.

    I refer you back to my original point: who is more likely to accomplish that? A Republican who is financed by big business, maybe the auto industry, and quite possibly the oil industry, and maybe even (like our current President) has strong ties to the oil Sheiks in the House of Saud? Or a green Democrat like Al Gore?

    I can’t imagine why you’d disagree with that.

    You honestly don’t know why energy policy would favor the Democrats? You really think Republicans are as likely to be Pro-Environment and Anti-Business as Democrats? Recent politics has shown otherwise.

    And something like significant energy reform will not be market driven. If it were, we’d see some progress. In truth, there hasn’t been any. In truth, the auto industry has no incentive to find alternative sources and encourage the purchase of alternative fuel cars. As an example, Ford has been making their cars Flex Fuel capable for years (since like 1997), however, only now do you see it actually advertised. And they aren’t pushing for the creation of more ethanol and ethanol stations.

    Or GM, offering discounts on gas for their most gas guzzling cars as a purchase incentive. These are the actors you are relying on to push the change we need. They won’t. They would rather sell a Hummer than a Prius. Change like this needs to be foisted on them. And if Republicans are lobbied hard by the auto and oil industries (and they are) they are less likely to force that change. Harking back to politics of 50 years ago (when the geo-political landscape was entirely different) doesn’t add anything to the debate.

    As for Adam and Rob’s assertion that we can keep tabs on the Christian right, and monitor them and worry if they become a problem, I think that’s optimistic and shortsighted.

    You rely on the constitution, they look to amend it (see: Gay Rights, Flag Burning). You rely on worrying about it when it becomes a problem, so did the Jews of Germany, circa 1933. I’m not saying we are near a Holocaust, but don’t you think it’s a bit foolish to wait to do something about too much power in the wrong hands until they already have that power? Wouldn’t it be wiser to see the signs (and they are there, in plenty) and prevent them from gaining power?

    At what point will they have “overstepped their bounds?” When they propose and amendment to the constitution making Christianity the state religion? Will there be an election day for you to act between when that gets proposed and when that gets ratified? For all our sakes, I hope so. I’d rather not let it even come up.

  4. I don’t agree with you that Republicans are more likely to be in bed with the likes of the auto industry that relies heavily on blue collar workers (mostly Democratic) or even the oil companies. My point in referencing the Democratic South of the 50’s and 60’s is that there is not necessarily a difference b/w the parties when it comes to energy policies – they both have none. Before the Civil Rights Act was pushed by LBJ (a Democratic Southerner) the South (and oil industry) was heavily Democratic – geopolitics change all the time. Jimmy Carter was our President only 25 years ago and we had a Southern Democratic Pres. (in Clinton) until 2000. The Democrats rely on money from big business (including the oil industry) as much as the Republicans do. You can point to an individual Democrat that you may think has better policy ideas on this issue but I wouldn’t say the party on a whole is better on this issue. I can’t imagine John Kerry carrying out any very tough legislation regulating our oil consumption. I think he would cower to the big business/oil company lobby as much as the next guy. And it’s not only the oil lobby that causes the problem – it’s the average American that wants a big car with a lot of power and speed. That’s why I think the only chance we have for meaningful change is when Americans finally get fed up with being raped at the pump, some company will look for a viable and cheaper solution. BTW, I would love to see the govt. assist on this front with some meaningful incentives etc. but I don’t think the Democrats are more likely to accomplish change than are the Republicans.

    As for our connection to the religious right, you forget that in the meantime some of their sects have been very supportive of issues that are of importance to us – especially Israel. If for example, they were able to accomplish tax deductions for the cost of private school, that would be a good thing (IMO) for people like me. If they continue to pressure the President to support Israel, that is a good thing (again IMO) so while I am skeptical, to dissassociate ourselves from these groups would also have detrimental effects. That’s why I argue to continue the alliance but to monitor it closely. I think the OU and Agudah have done a decent job walking that fine line but I only know what I read in the paper and have no inside knowledge of the specific relationships.


  5. I don’t agree with you that Republicans are more likely to be in bed with the likes of the auto industry that relies heavily on blue collar workers (mostly Democratic) or even the oil companies.

    First of all, the blue collar workers aren’t the ones making the big political contributions, nor are they the ones making decisions. I didn’t say the Union lobby, I said the auto industry lobby. The workers aren’t really relevant.

    Second, are you kidding?

    Some stats, from here:

    – The auto industry has contributed $37.8 million to lawmakers since 1995, with 77 percent going to Republicans;

    – The top 15 auto industry contributors have given $4 million in soft money to political parties since 1995, with 90 percent going to Republicans;

    – The top 15 auto industry hard money contributors (PACs and individuals) have given $13.9 million since 1995, 74 percent of which went to Republican candidates and committees

    Or some tidbits from this story:

    Eighty four percent of the $8.6 million oil and gas companies have contributed to the 2006 elections has gone to Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

    According to data compiled by the Center, the top 20 recipients of oil money in Congress are all Republicans.

    I am not being partisan here, I am being realistic.

  6. Meanwhile, donations to politicians from the “Alternative Energy Production & Services” industry go historically 2/3 to Democrats, though in 2006, have gone only slightly better than half. Though if you attribute this to incumbent donations, I’m sure that skews the numbers.

    Either way, with Auto and Oil industry donations going 2/3 to republicans, I don’t think it’s really even a question.

    See this chart and this one at this awesome website.

  7. Commenting as I go.

    Noyam said: And something like significant energy reform will not be market driven.

    I agree with this. There should be supply side incentives to invest in alternative energy sources. I admit I fear that some Dems want to levy a gasoline tax to spur the market, and I think that’s wrong. There should be tax breaks and financial incentives for corporations and scientists to discover or invent new sources of clean, Mid-East-free energy without burdening the consumer.

  8. Noyam said: Wouldn’t it be wiser to see the signs (and they are there, in plenty) and prevent them from gaining power?

    Frankly, I just don’t share your concerns. I agree it would be better if the ties to the religious right was not there, but I don’t agree with your analysis on the gravity of the situation.

    Can I suggest something radical? Sometimes I get frustrated with the Dems for what I consider godlessness, or anti-religiousness. Their religion sometimes is secularism, not neutrality. That bothers me too.

  9. OK, after reading the rest there is not much new there. Noyam I agree that energy policy, the environment, and foreign policy all interrelate. It does strike me as inconsistent that the Bush Administration has done so little to push for alternative sources of energy when it does appear that it could be a silver bullet in some respects.

    The president has correctly stated that we need to wean ourselves off of oil: “The prices that people are paying at the gas pumps reflect our addiction to oil. Addiction to oil is a matter of national security concern . . . These countries know we need their oil, and that reduces our influence, our ability to keep the peace in some areas.”

    But he also knows that Americans use so much oil because they enjoy it (from an Ari Fleischer press conference): “The President believes that it’s an American way of life, and that it should be the goal of policy makers to protect the American way of life. The American way of life is a blessed one. And we have a bounty of resources in this country. What we need to do is make certain that we’re able to get those resources in an efficient way, in a way that also emphasizes protecting the environment and conservation, into the hands of consumers so they can make the choices that they want to make as they live their lives day to day.”

    Now, I agree that something has to be done about the environment. And I can’t understand why the president hasn’t done more to spur discovery and development of alternative sources of energy. But, at the same time, what worries me about Democratic policies is that they will take measures that have an adverse affect on the consumer. Rob suggested before that the market should sort itself out. I think that if the government does have to manipulate the market, something which it should do sparingly, it should do so by giving the engergy industry an incentive to find a new source, not by putting a disincentive on consumers from buying the old energy. And I fear Dems will walk through door number 2 on that one.

  10. Noam,

    Your stats are skewed b/c since 1994 Republicans have had control of the House, the Senate and the Presidency (since 2000). Companies give more money to those who call the shots and since 1994 that has primarily been the Republicans. If the Democrats controlled the House, the Senate and the Presidency for such an extended period of time, the oil/auto industries would be pumping money in that direction.

    What is the Democratic solution for the current energy crisis? They are allowed to propose legislation.

    Adam, As I mentioned above I would love to see some supply-side incentives. Both parties have done nothing on this issue but I agree it is in Bush’s (and the Republican’s) hands right now to at least propose a solution. I agree with both of you that it certainly has effects on our foreign policy and needs to be addressed.


  11. Come on, that’s the best you can do? Look at other funding sources on that site: many (like Gay Rights and Environmental groups) give most, if not all, of their money to Democrats, even though they are not in power.

    As a glaring example, look at two sides of one issue: Guns. The gun control lobby gives money to Democrats at a 78%-22% margin; the gun rights lobby gives money to Republicans at 85%-15% margin.

    If you were right about your thesis that being the party in power matters to the numbers so much, wouldn’t the numbers be the same, regardless? Your critque of the data is weak, and probably has a marginal impact on them, if at all, since if they were Democrtically inclined, they would fund challengers.

    If you really want to keep insisting that Democrats are as likely as Republicans to be in the pocket of the Auto and Oil industries, even in the face of data (numbers and facts, not conjecture), then I can’t really give any credence to any of your arguments. It discredits you to do that.

    You’d be better served to make your other points while conceding, at least, that you were wrong about who is more influenced by Oil and Cars.

  12. Gay rights and gun control are not equatable b/c these are issues that clearly divide along party lines (for the most part). Gay rights activists would not give Republicans money for the same reason Republicans would not take it – b/c they fundamentally disaree on the issue. I think energy is different b/c for the most part both parties agree that there is a crisis that needs to be dealt with and both parties are unwilling to come up with concrete solutions. IMO, it is b/c any legitimate solution would be very painful to (and unpopular amongst)the American public. That’s why I say the politicians won’t go there until the American people, on some level, are willing to make at least short term sacrifices (slower cars w/ less power, or walking/bike riding or car pooling or public transportation etc.). What we need is a President and law-makers who are willing to make unpopular decisions and while I support Bush on many issues, I don’t think he is up to this task.

    You still haven’t answered my question as to what the Democratic policy is on our energy crisis.


  13. Show me a ligitimate Democratic energy policy innitiative that would make me more inclined to vote Democratic. I think this is an important topic and such an innitiative or proposed law would certainly effect my decision when voting – I don’t see it from either side of the aisle right now but I’m curious to see what specifically makes you think the Democrats will work on a solution enough to argue that this is one reason to vote Democratic.


  14. I don’t know, Rob. Democrats run on the environment, it’s part of their platform. It’s definitely a Democratic issue… for now. I’m surprised because I think the Republicans can easily claim it as their own, for a reason you said: it will be too painful to implement anything on the consumer side, so positive industry incentives seems like a better answer to me. However, now that you bring it up, I am interested to know just what concrete solutions they (the Dems) have proposed. I haven’t seen An Inconvenient Truth yet, so I don’t know what he proposes. Noyam, what substantial changes are part of the Democratic platform?

  15. I haven’t seen a coherent energy policy that I like from either side.

    My point in saying that the Repubs are in the Oil and Auto industry pocket is two fold.

    With regard to oil, anything that impacts oil industry profits will be forcefully lobbied against by the oil industry. Since the top 20 money-getters from the Oil industry are republicans, I think they will be less likely to come up with a solution that causes Americans to use oil. If that’s in the form of a tax on Gas that pushes the price of oil permanently above $5/gallon (which is an admittedly demand-side measure, but will act to force change), it will more likely be a Democrat who does it.

    The other things, with regard to the Auto industry is this: I agree with you, Adam, that change must be supply-side, that it won’t be market driven, like I said. However, I take it on step further. I think in addition to positive incentives, there have to be negative incentives as well. For instance, raising emissions standards significantly, to the point where the only cars that can reach them will be hybrids and alternate fuel cars. That kind of change will force the Auto industry to respond, and they always, always, ALWAYS fight tougher emissions standards. Again, as I said, I think an environmentally inclined Democrat will be more likely to achieve this than an Oil and Auto friendly republican.

    It’s not that the democrats have a better policy, it’s that I think the Democrats will be more likely to get this done.

  16. Noyam – hybrids themselves (and better emissions standards) get you somewhere but not a big enough dent. Where are the real Democratic policies? Agreed that Dems are more likely to make those emissions changes. But will that be enough? Show me Democratic policy that has a long-term solution.


    March 7, 2005 U.S. Edition

    Imagine: 500 Miles Per Gallon

    There have been many calls for programs to fund research. Beneath the din lies a little-noticed reality—the solution is already with us

    By Fareed Zakaria

    The most important statement made last week came not from Vladimir Putin or George W. Bush but from Ali Naimi, Saudi Arabia’s shrewd oil minister. Naimi predicted that crude prices would stay between $40 and $50 throughout 2005. For the last two years OPEC’s official target price has been $25. Naimi’s statement signals that Saudi Arabia now believes that current high prices are not a momentary thing. An Asian oil-industry executive told me that he expects oil to hit $75 this decade.

    We are actually very close to a solution to the petroleum problem. Tomorrow, President Bush could make the following speech: “We are all concerned that the industrialized world, and increasingly the developing world, draw too much of their energy from one product, petroleum, which comes disproportionately from one volatile region, the Middle East. This dependence has significant political and environmental dangers for all of us. But there is now a solution, one that the United States will pursue actively.

    “It is now possible to build cars that are powered by a combination of electricity and alcohol-based fuels, with petroleum as only one element among many. My administration is going to put in place a series of policies that will ensure that in four years, the average new American car will get 300 miles per gallon of petroleum. And I fully expect in this period to see cars in the United States that get 500 miles per gallon. This revolution in energy use will reduce dramatically our dependence on foreign oil and achieve pathbreaking reductions in carbon-dioxide emissions, far below the targets mentioned in the Kyoto accords.”

    Ever since September 11, 2001, there have been many calls for Manhattan Projects and Marshall Plans for research on energy efficiency and alternate fuels. Beneath the din lies a little-noticed reality‹the solution is already with us. Over the last five years, technology has matured in various fields, most importantly in semiconductors, to make possible cars that are as convenient and cheap as current ones, except that they run on a combination of electricity and fuel. Hybrid technology is the answer to the petroleum problem.

    You can already buy a hybrid car that runs on a battery and petroleum. The next step is “plug-in” hybrids, with powerful batteries that are recharged at night like laptops, cell phones and iPods. Ford, Honda and Toyota already make simple hybrids. Daimler Chrysler is introducing a plug-in version soon. In many states in the American Middle West you can buy a car that can use any petroleum, or ethanol, or methanol‹in any combination. Ford, for example, makes a number of its models with “flexible-fuel tanks.” (Forty percent of Brazil’s new cars have flexible-fuel tanks.) Put all this technology together and you get the car of the future, a plug-in hybrid with a flexible-fuel tank.

    Here’s the math (thanks to Gal Luft, a tireless‹and independent‹advocate of energy security). The current crop of hybrid cars get around 50 miles per gallon. Make it a plug-in and you can get 75 miles. Replace the conventional fuel tank with a flexible-fuel tank that can run on a combination of 15 percent petroleum and 85 percent ethanol or methanol, and you get between 400 and 500 miles per gallon of gasoline. (You don’t get 500 miles per gallon of fuel, but the crucial task is to lessen the use of petroleum. And ethanol and methanol are much cheaper than gasoline, so fuel costs would drop dramatically.)

    If things are already moving, why does the government need to do anything? Because this is not a pure free market. Large companies—in the oil and automotive industry—have vested interests in not changing much. There are transition costs‹gas stations will need to be fitted to pump methanol and ethanol (at a cost of $20,000 to $60,000 per station). New technologies will empower new industries, few of which have lobbies in Washington.

    Besides, the idea that the government should have nothing to do with this problem is bizarre. It was military funding and spending that produced much of the technology that makes hybrids possible. (The military is actually leading the hybrid trend. All new naval surface ships are now electric-powered, as are big diesel locomotives and mining trucks.) And the West’s reliance on foreign oil is not cost-free. Luft estimates that a government plan that could accelerate the move to a hybrid transport system would cost $12 billion dollars. That is what we spend in Iraq in about three months.

    Smart government intervention would include a combination of targeted mandates, incentives and spending. And it does not have to all happen at the federal level. New York City, for example, could require that all its new taxis be hybrids with flexible-fuel tanks. Now that’s a Manhattan Project for the 21st century.

  17. (BTW I don’t think he takes into account the fact that most of our electricity comes from oil, right? Or is it coal?)

  18. I don’t disagree that it may be more likely that a Democrat would take on the oil industry but as I said in an earlier post, the painful concessions are going to have to come from the American people more than from the oil/auto industry and I don’t think either party is ready to adopt an unpopular position. Until I see a real/plausible solution presented by either party, it will not sway my vote either way.

    Not sure about the electricity but we certainly know from the recent black/brown outs that there is no abundance of electricity to go around – especially in the summer.

    Did you guys see the CNN piece on America’s addiction to oil (w/ James Woolsey) and the security ramifications with that addiction? Scary stuff.


  19. the painful concessions are going to have to come from the American people more than from the oil/auto industry

    How does that work? If Americans are going to buy smaller cars (and have incentive to do so) and use less gas (and have incentive to do so) don’t you see that actions like that will directly affect the bottom line of Auto and Oil companies? (If it were going to happen without incentives, it would have already. Something revolutionary like this doesn’t happen on it’s own, and certainly not in the time frame we’re talking about).

    And don’t you think that the incentives that are necessary to achieve the sacrifices you think Americans will have to make will be fought against tooth and nail by those industries because their bottom lines will be affected? And doesn’t that bring us full circle back to the point? That because of those truths, Republicans who arepaid much more money will be less likely to effectuate it.

    Your repeated reference to the American people and their sacrifice, while disagreeing in essential nature with Adam’s (and partly mine) supply-side theory, doesn’t act to weaken my argument, it serves to strengthen it.

    Rob said: And it’s not only the oil lobby that causes the problem – it’s the average American that wants a big car with a lot of power and speed. You don’t think the fact that he can get that car for a price he can afford, and that it’s marketed to him agressively by the Auto industry plays any role?

    That’s why I say the politicians won’t go there until the American people, on some level, are willing to make at least short term sacrifices (slower cars w/ less power, or walking/bike riding or car pooling or public transportation etc.) You think that will happen without incentives and government intervention?

    That’s why I think the only chance we have for meaningful change is when Americans finally get fed up with being raped at the pump, some company will look for a viable and cheaper solution. Clearly that’s not happening. When does it happen? at $5/gallon? $10. Be realistic here, it won’t happen without government incentives.

    You are right that the transition won’t be pleasent on Americans, and they won’t enjoy it, but the initiative for change won’t come from them. Market driven social change is much to slow and inefficient.

  20. That’s why I think the only chance we have for meaningful change is when Americans finally get fed up with being raped at the pump, some company will look for a viable and cheaper solution. Clearly that’s not happening. When does it happen? at $5/gallon? $10. Be realistic here, it won’t happen without government incentives.

    Ah, but be careful here. The answer is not to levy a $2/gallon gas tax. I mean, it might work, but I wouldn’t support it.

  21. By the way, I forgot something: Another reason why I feel like I don’t belong in the Democratic Party right now: The Ned Lamont campaign and all it represents. The moderate three-term incumbent Democrat may lose his primary. The Democratic party, I believe, is moving to the fringes.

  22. I never said it won’t negatively affect the oil/auto industry. (In the words of a blogger I know “Read what I wrote”) All I said is that politicians (in both parties) are dealing with a far greater challenge than dealing with those two industries and that is dealing with the people who directly elect them. Look at the horsepower of some of the hybrid cars on the market. When I got a new car in December I looked into hybrids b/c I figured I would be a good citizen (it’s not economically beneficial b/c they cost more and it takes years to make it up at the pump). If a midsize car like an Accord, Camry, or Altima had horsepower b/w 150-185, it’s hybrid counterpart had HP of 95. It’s hard to enter a highway with huge 18 wheelers on the road in a car w/ 95 HP especially when you are used to cars with a fair amount of pick-up. A fortiori people who drive nicer cars w/ HP of 250+.

    I also said I agree with incentives to the respective industries but I think to truly fix the problem there will have to be a major change in the American attitude. Supply-side incentives will help but will not do it alone.


  23. OK – so what are we settling on here? Dems are better for the environment in the sense that they care about it and would technically be willing to help, but de facto are no better than Republicans because they have no plan or proposals?

    Meanwhile this has nothing to do with Noyam’s real reason: the religion thing.

  24. I can agree to that and I think for the most part we all agree on the religion issues – the question is only where the line should be drawn in terms of any alliance with the Christian Right. On this front, Malcom Hoenline mentioned that 3,500 Christian clergy members were meeting in Washington primarily to express their unified support of Israel and I think he said that they had affirmatively adopted language to the effect that the meeting was purely to support Israel and had no missionary type intentions. Very interesting.


  25. I never said it won’t negatively affect the oil/auto industry. (In the words of a blogger I know “Read what I wrote”)

    Uh, you kind of did. The implication of your vehement denials of the impact that the oil/auto industry will have on this process (i.e. And it’s not only the oil lobby that causes the problem or The only solution will come when Americans say enough or politicians won’t go there until the American people, on some level, are willing to or the painful concessions are going to have to come from the American people more than from the oil/auto industry).

    And even if you agree, now, after all that, that the Oil and Auto industry lobbies have more influence over Republicans than Democrats, and that they will be hurt by any measure taken by government, don’t you then agree that they will pump much money and influence to stop something like that? And don’t you think that will have (because it will go more to Republicans) a disproportionate effect on Republicans?

    Doesn’t that bring us back to where we started (again) that a Democrat would be more likely to act in the interest of reducing oil dependency (foreign and domestic) because of less ties to the industries and greater care about the environment?

  26. Re: Christian support for Israel:

    I am not confortable (and I know Rob and Adam are) with Christian support for Israel, at all.

    Why? Because it stems from the belief that Jews controlling Israel will hasten the rapture, when, of course, all the Jews will die.

    I don’t accept any support premised on my death. Thanks, but no thanks.

  27. Hey, let them think whatever they want. I don’t care. Also, how do you know that they just don’t have a good moral compass and see right (Israel) from wrong (terrorists)?

  28. Noyam – aside from your suspicions or concerns of where the Republican party could go with its ties to the Christian right, what about the party now do you feel has already overstepped the bounds? If possible, try to separate social policy from religious or Establishment Clause issues. For instance, having the Ten Commandments outside a courthouse is a religious issue. Abortion, which could have its roots in religion, is a social policy issue. I know the two are often connected, making this difficult. Gay rights, while rooted in religion, is probably more of a social policy issue as well. And while I think you agree with the Dems on both of those issues, because they involve social policy and not religion, they do not give rise to a “fear,” so-to-speak, of the Republican connection with the Christian right. What have the Republicans done that you feel has gone too far? (Note: the main one that comes to mind, for me, is faith-based initiatives. But I agree with that policy, as stated above.)

  29. Also, how do you know that they just don’t have a good moral compass and see right (Israel) from wrong (terrorists)?

    Uh, because they explicitly say so.

    See here.

  30. No, No. I know that generally it’s true. I was referring to this one particular rally. Never mind, it was a small point. Let them try to supernaturally hasten my demise; I don’t care. More curious to flesh out the other idea though.

  31. Adam, you’ve set up an unfair boundary. I don’t think social policy should be dictated by religious beliefs. Christian morality is not the same as Hindu morality, Muslim morality or even Jewish morality (despite the chimera of “Judeo-Christian Ethics”).

    So limiting my objection to overtly religious policy is slightly unfair. Nevertheless, as an example of something I object to, stories like this one and the follow up make me nervous and upset.

    Remember, it is not just national politics that worries me, though that it part of the concern.

    Like when Tom DeLay uses being a Christian as a campaign platform. That’s not cool for me.

  32. “And it’s not only the oil lobby that causes the problem or The only solution will come when Americans say enough or politicians won’t go there until the American people, on some level, are willing to or the painful concessions are going to have to come from the American people more than from the oil/auto industry”

    Not sure how you read this but this quote was intended to argue that the tallest hurdle in getting decent energy reform will not be the oil/auto industry lobby but getting the American people to sign on. Notice the words “NOT ONLY the oil lobby” and “painful concessions are going to have to come from the American people MORE THAN from the oil/auto industry” So the implication was to the contrary.

    I think many decent Republicans will pass legislation that negatively effects the oil industry if it means making our country safer as long as the policy put forth has a legitimate chance of working. Maybe I’m naieve.

    I am definitely not categorically comfortable with their support of Israel. I am very skeptical and nervous about it. I just think that considering the enemies we face, it’s not bad to take the support that is offered while viewing it with a grain of salt. As a very very loose analogy, I was happy to hear mild support for Israel from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the other “moderate” Arab states on the current crisis but obviously such words are taken with the full knowledge that they are no friends of Israel.


  33. but getting the American people to sign on.

    And yet, it was only yesterday that you were saying that governing by the will of the people was wrong.

  34. Noyam – This comment refers to Comment 31. Two comments back:


    OK, well first to address your concerns on the articles you linked to and on Tom Delay:

    The articles refer to local government, not the national party (correct me if I’m wrong about that, because I didn’t have the time to read them all the way through). Tom Delay is a disgrace, and I agree it’s troubling that such a crook reached such a position of prominence. I don’t know the specifics of his campaign, but I wouldn’t put it past him to say something like that. However, I would point out that candidates run all the time on their ethnicity. Just look at the race currently going on right here in our backyard, in the NY-11, where the most qualified candidate is being excoriated because he is not an African American. Particularly for races in the House, sharing a background with your constituents plays a big role. More important is what changes they actually affect once they’re in office, which I would argue is not much. And, as you said before, when local governments, like the one in Delaware, overstep their bounds, I agree that the Democratic Party is a better option for Jews. But that’s why you take each election on its own – Tom Delay perhaps (I think definitely) shouldn’t be trusted, and he was a huge stain on the party when he was the leader, but Peter King maybe (I think definitely) should be given the benefit of the doubt. As far as President Bush goes, when it comes to his ideology on Israel, I give him all the credit in the world because I don’t see his views on Israel as stemming from his Christianity, but from him views on the mutual war on terror.

    I know I maybe set unfair boundaries, but there’s really no other way to look at it, because one man’s Judeo-Christian religion is another man’s Judeo-Christian morality. (Speaking of which, I wonder – if Roe v. Wade was overturned, and someone sued a state government saying that anti-abortion laws violated the Establishment Clause, would that suit succeed?) People oppose gay marriage on social grounds – and maybe that’s ultimately rooted in religion, maybe in morality, maybe in something else. It’s open to interpretation and certainly skepticism, so it’s not even worth debating. So, you know what, for the sake of argument, let’s throw those social policies into the mix and say that the Republicans perhaps take the position they do because of their ties to the Christian right. I still ask, what damage has been caused by this Republican-Christian connection? In the meantime, what good has come from the connection? I would argue that there has been much more good than bad. And if the amount bad begins to approach the good, we are free to change our minds then. (Also, keep in mind that some of the most prominent Republicans today, Rudy and McCain, are social liberals/moderates and are not beholden to the Christian right.)

  35. I would argue that there has been much more good than bad.

    Like what?

    By the way, I called Judeo-Christian morality a chimera because it doesn’t exist. It’s a misnomer, a myth. There’s no overlap between our values and theirs. Their religion, and hence their morality, definitionally rejects ours.

    People oppose gay marriage on social grounds – and maybe that’s ultimately rooted in religion, maybe in morality, maybe in something else.

    No they don’t. It’s based on the “definition of marriage” which in itself in an entirely religious construct. There’s nothing secular about. And since the government doesn’t legislate the act anymore, there’s no reason (outside of bigotry and religion) to deny them basic rights (like hospital visitation, inheritance, etc.) But I don’t want to get into gay marraige again.

    My point is that in this country we’re better off secular than religious. Maybe not because of past inequities, but for future protection.

    As for your defense of DeLay (i know, it was limited, but you did defend running as a Christian), I think there’s a basic difference with being chosen based on your apparent ability to represent the constituency and making it a campaign pledge. He was essentially saying that he will support Christianity if elected. That’s not good, because for a national legislator, he shouldn’t be supporting religion at all (or giving the appearance the will).

  36. Noyam you barely addressed my points at all. The “good” that has come from it is the staunch support of Israel and faith-based initiatives, which have helped Jewish institutions. The bad has been… what?

    I think you ran with the wrong point I was making. I said that I didn’t want to debate the gay marriage point, and whether it was rooted in religion, I said that for argument’s sake we should assume that it is rooted in religion. That’s me arguing on your terms. So, with that, I pose the question to you: Take social/religious policy – anything that’s rooted in religion – what have the Republicans accomplished in this area that is detrimental to the Jewish community (since we are looking at this from a selfish perspective, right?)?

    Heading home soon, looking forward to continuing this tomorrow.

  37. One final thought for the day: I’m not saying that the Republican-Christian right connection should be of no concern. I just think that it shouldn’t be a priority on your list of concerns, until (if and when) the time comes that the affects of the connection have more serious detrimental effects.

  38. Adam, you’re right, I didn’t properly address your argument. I misread your comment (because you started off dismissive, and then agreeable, it was hard to follow).

    Assuming that republican social policy has been influenced by Christian groups, what harm has been done, from a religious perspective?

    It’s hard to pin down, and certianly I can’t point to specific examples. However, it is a mentality. Rarely does Christianity grant an issue the complexity of thought that Judaism does. Take life and death issues, for instance, or abortion. Morality is complex, and I want my legislators thinking about it, and in a deeper way than “What Would Jesus Do?”

    So, you’re right, there isn’t necessarily a harmful policy that I can point to (other than some local initiatives that I have already pointed out). But in my view, Jews are better served if this country is secular. Making any policy decision based on religion moves us away from that. And it bothers me.

  39. … And that’s why I place it lower down on my priority list of concerns, and why for now I put it aside while I vote based on foreign policy, a hawkish approach to counter-terrorism, and “unfettering” support (if I can make up a term) for Israel.

  40. “And yet, it was only yesterday that you were saying that governing by the will of the people was wrong.”

    And I still think it’s wrong in this case. I wish there would be a strong push from government to incentivize and possibly regulate against gas guzzling cars. Unfortunately, the politicians of today (both parties) are too weak and are only concerned about public opinion to make such an unpopular decision. That’s been my point all along. Real change will only happen when a strong-willed President or group in Congress is willing to go against the grain and tell people like me no more big SUV’s. My opinion (again) is that this is a tougher hurdle for the many decent politicians in our government than is taking on the oil industry. Unfortunately, b/c they don’t have the balls to piss off the American public, I think it may only happen when the American people realize the effect on our foreign dependency and our environment (and I agree it may be too late by then).


  41. Noyam I just realized you should have added the stem cell research veto to your list of policies that are rooted in religion. Comment 38. (Yes I’m citing like a lawyer.) Although I’d still say that my desire for Bush’s policies on Israel trump my desire for federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.

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