Monday, November 20, 2006

Predictions for '07-08

Recently a friend wrote me a letter asking what I thought the Democrats would do -- he's a conservative Republican, so he asked if things would go down the tubes or stay the same. I answered back, and thought I'd post my answers here (a little expanded).

Well, at heart I'm an optimist and my head tells me that the partisan differences in America are a lot smaller than meets the eye, so I'd go with "stay the same" mostly.

On big expansion of government issues I think of two big facts: 1) that when the Democrats had the presidency and a Democratic Congress, President Clinton's "nationalize health care" bill was never even brought to a vote; and 2) when the Republicans had the presidency and a Republican Congress, President Bush's "privatize Social Security" bill was never even brought to a vote. The public isn't interested in massive expansion or contraction of the government, and being the sovereign, they are going to make sure they don't get either.

Secondly, the Democrats know that a big terrorist attack will really hurt them. If I was an al Qaeda operative with information on a ticking nuclear bomb I would much rather be in the hands of the White House than Nancy Pelosi, because Nancy Pelosi has even more interest in torturing me until I confess than the White House does. For the White House it's just the country that's at stake, but for Nancy Pelosi, it's not just her country, but her party, and her career. As a result, I really doubt that libertarians and internationalists will get anything of what they want on the Patriot Act or military commissions. (In fact it will be a good time for Republican libertarians to engage in a little cost-free posturing and propose stuff like eliminating eliminating the Homeland Security Department and fighting terror by arming the citizenry with M16's, knowing that the Democrats will squash it.)

The big drawback I see is that we have lost one of the great chances to appoint Supreme Court judges who would get rid of Roe v. Wade, put US jurisprudence back on a real constitutional direction, and open the way for some real pro-life legislation from the states. This is the part that makes me most frustrated. I remember during the whole 2000 election brouhaha one commentator saying "Wacking the states over the head with the 14th amendment is what the Supreme Court does for a living" and it's so true. But more specifically, let's say that the kind of bills for which the SCOTUS wacks the states are almost always conservative bills (limits on pornography, limits on abortion, limits on flag-burning, and so on), so we could refine this and say, "wacking conservative state legislators and governors over the head with the 14th amendment is what the Supreme Court does for a living". It would be nice to change that. The irony is that if you read the Federalist papers it is clear that original design was states and localities can legislate morals freely, but they can't legislate regulation of the economy, and what we have now is essentially the opposite: states can regulate the local economy freely, but they can't regulate local morals.

An unintended but pretty likely side effect is that the President might actually find the veto pen he seems to have lost for the last six years and veto extravagant spending bills passed by the other party. From the point of view of budgets, I think experience shows divided government is good for the tax-payers' pocketbook.

In foreign policy, certaintly there aren't going to be any more preemptive wars, which I think is a good thing. (Actually I think they wouldn't have happened anyway, but it's nice to be sure.) But the increased binding of US operations in Iraq will probably result in an early withdrawal. I'm not sure however that the US-Iraqi alliance was working out anyway, and withdrawal might not be a bad idea. Unlike most people, I think civil war in Iraq might not be a bad idea, but it is not soemthing American soldiers should be dying in. In any case the al-Qaeda supporters there are already toast -- they just don't know it yet. The real question is whether the Iraqi regime that digs their grave is a 1) US ally or 2) an Iranian ally or 3) something in between. The Democratic election makes option 1 which was already pretty problematic much less likely. With luck we can salvage option 3 -- maybe.

Afghanistan is the big ticking time bomb, I've heard -- Michael Yon is saying next year the Taliban will probably be big enough to wipe out a NATO garrison or two at which point we'll have to decide whether to fish (increase troops) or cut bait. This will put the Democrats in a pickle -- the moderates have used Afghanistan to say "we're not just doves, we really are against al Qaeda". But all the differences in the origins of the Afghanistan war don't make it much different in its current character -- if we've abandoned our friends in Iraq at considerable savings to ourselves (measured in dollars and soldiers' lives), it will be harder to resist the same possibility, with the same savings, in Afghanistan.

Iran and N. Korea will continue to be nuclear powers and will continue to regard selling them to the highest bidder as unacceptably risky. Eventually we will get used to it, and stop being frightened of it, and all their investment in it will be seen as the paper tiger it is.

Anyway that's my prognostications on the issues that matter to me.

Any other bloggers want to take up the challenge?