Sunday, December 16, 2007

the difference between conservative and liberal think tanks

After exploring the PNAC think tank website, I realize just how aggressive the conservative side is in framing politics. Not only does PNAC "[accept the US] as a ruling body and moral standard for the rest of the world," as Ian said, it actually caused such an idea to become popular and mainstream. By framing certain issues, such as the recurring one of American "global responsibilities," as fact, and ignoring opposing opinions, PNAC is extremely successful in attracting a strong following.

UC Berkeley professor George Lakoff says that one of the reasons conservatives are so successful in politics as well as in think tanks outside government is the framing of their ideas as the best for the people. In this article, he explains that wealthy conservatives provide funds for intellectuals to write from a conservative perspective. As a result, "over the last 30 years [conservative] think tanks have made a heavy investment in ideas and in language." Lakoff explains that conservatives have put huge block grants into think tanks, while progressives give more of their funds to grassroots organizations (fits with their image more, for sure).

I can see in the Statement of Principles of PNAC, after hearing what Lakoff had to say about language and framing, many examples of such framing strategies. Presenting American global responsibilities as concrete, and downplaying the significance of those to whom America owes responsibilities is, are thus very effective ways to use language to give power to conservative ideals.

Julie Zhao

Saturday, December 15, 2007

DLC's New Democratic Credo a tame response to the right?

The Project for the New American Century (PNAC) is a neoconservative think tank based in Washington D.C. that is committed to "rallying support for American global leadership". Its members include Dick Cheney, Jeb Bush, Steve Forbes, Donald Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz. I was directed to their site after discussing with a friend the DLC's New Democratic Credo. While the group has been mostly defunct since 2005, the Project's Statement of Principles (written in 1997 [well ahead of 9/11/01]) is quite scary, and presents a much more aggressive, but frighteningly relevant, set of ideals for the future success of the nation. I made a point in class about the DLC's use of the phrase, "lead the world toward greater political freedom," as opposed to the current buzz-phrase "spread freedom and democracy" You won't find any such gentle language in the PNAC's statement. They (as expected) hearken back to the Reagan era for inspiration:

"We seem to have forgotten the essential elements of the Reagan Administration's success: a military that is strong and ready to meet both present and future challenges; a foreign policy that boldly and purposefully promotes American principles abroad; and national leadership that accepts the United States' global responsibilities."

What bothers me most about this attitude is the general acceptance of the US as a ruling body and moral standard for the rest of the globe. The needs, desires, and beliefs of those peripheral nations we are supposedly helping seem to be ignored.  Check out the Statement of Principles for a greater idea of where much of today's political idiom is coming from.

What do you all think?

You can check out the PNAC website here:

and more specifically, their Statement of Principles here:

-Ian Staub

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Huckabee, not liberal

Mike Huckabee may not be as "conservative" or "right" as parts of the Republican party wants him to be, but as we talked about in class, that part of the GOP is in a steady decline and is grasping for power, threatening to form their own party.

The people classifying him as "liberal" tend to be his political opponents. Mitt Romney, one of the Republican front runners for the presidential nomination, has been one of the biggest critics of Huckabee. Saying that he is too liberal in his tax policy and on immigration. One has to ask oneself, why would a political opponent be trying to classify Huckabee as, for the lack of a better word, an "enemy." Could it be that he is trying to win an election, or does Romney actually believe that Huckabee is closer to a liberal than a conservative.

Groups such as the anti-tax group "The Club for Growth" also call Huckabee a liberal since he raised taxes as the Governor of Arkansas. They claim that he is a fiscal liberal even though he he supports a large federal sales tax. Blogs like call Huckabee a liberal based on his stances towards things like illegal immigration and tax policy.

Yet is Mike Huckabee actually a liberal, could the entire country be fooled? Maybe his opponents would like to de-fang him since they see his growing popularity as a threat? Maybe conservative groups are simply frustrated that Huckabee is not as conservative as they would like him to be? Both factions do an excellent job of painting him as liberal but when one looks at his actual stances and views, it is clear that Huckabee is far from liberal.

"None of this is to say that Huckabee's policy positions are much better than those of his Republican rivals; in some cases, they're worse. He wants to replace the federal tax code with a gigantic, horribly regressive sales tax; he cannot name a single time he has ever disagreed with the National Rifle Association; he wants to amend the Constitution to ban gay marriage and abortion." - Hendrik Hertzberg, wrote in The New Yorker

It is hard to qualify Mike Huckabee as liberal unless you are a Republican who is upset with some of one of your candidates actions or if you want to beat him in an election. One would be hard pressed to claim that Huckabee comes any where near liberal even in his handling of illegal immigration. His views are a little less conservative than the pack but still are not "Blurring the line between liberal and conservative."

-Peter Lubershane

Huckabee and Romney attempt to channel Reagan

Though both Huckabee and Romney are duly influenced by their respective faiths, they both also try to represent themselves as "the conservative." According to this CNN article, "both men have draped themselves in the mantle of former President Ronald Reagan." Huckabee and Romney have been volleying back and forth, accusing each other of being not-Reagan enough in various (sometime outrageous) manners. For example, Huckabee said of Romney, "When he was against Ronald Reagan's legacy and said he wasn't part of that Bush-Reagan thing, I was a part of that Bush-Reagan thing." Hmm. So it seems that these two Republican candidates are trying to channel Reagan's legacy in the same way as many candidates want to align themselves with the "great Presidents" (JFK, FDR, etc.).

To follow up on Karina's post, Huckabee has been called a "false conservative" (by columnist Robert Novak) and considered to be not as Right as some GOP party members want. So I agree that his religious principles may override his conservative ones. In fact, he has stated that he is a Christian leader and led by faith.

Julie Zhao

Monday, December 10, 2007

Mike Huckabee and Morality

In class today, when the question “What is the status of morality in American politics” was raised, I immediately thought back to an article about Mike Huckabee that I read last week in the NY times. The article, called “Pulpit was the springboard for Huckabee’s rise”, covered the life and beliefs of the candidate. Thinking about the political roles of morality and religion as well as notions of party politics, this quote seemed especially relevant:

“Some other Christian conservatives have accused Mr. Huckabee of encouraging lawbreaking by supporting government social services for illegal immigrants. Mr. Huckabee defends himself on religious terms. He talks of a Bible-based injunction to care for illegal immigrants, just as he points to biblical admonitions to minister to the sick and protect the environment.”

It is quite evident that some of Huckabee’s Christian perspectives do not line up with standard conservative viewpoints. In the case of Huckabee’s support of illegal immigrants and his alleged “lawbreaking”, it becomes clear that for this candidate, religious morality can take precedence over law. Huckabee seems to embody the merger of religion and politics that we talked about in class today. Additionally, his Christian morality causes him to ignore the political boundaries of his party. Blurring the line between liberal and conservative, in the Iowa caucuses, Huckabee has emerged as a strong contender. Could this former evangelical pastor be the “moral leader” that some Americans are looking for? I wonder though, where does moral leadership end and religious control begin? Mike Huckabee’s candidacy forces us to search for the location of this boundary.

Here is the link to the article:

Karina Maravelias

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Buchanan Culture War Speech Part 4

CNN Exit Polls dispute whether "all politics is local"

There was some controversy over exit polling during the 2006 mid-term elections. One topic covered in the CNN news report in this video that we spoke about in class was the issue of politics being "local." The polls showed that the biggest concerns that Americans had were national issues. Iraq was "by almost 2-to-1" what people were most worried about. However, a few correspondents did point out that exit polls are sometimes unreliable. Pollsters might misrepresent information by phrasing the question in ambiguous manners or interpreting it with a bias. The percentage values did not even add up to 100%.

Julie Zhao

Thursday, December 6, 2007


In class Wednesday, Professor Potter mentioned that during the1980’s polling had reached its peak. In What I Saw at the Revolution, I noticed that Peggy Noonan frequently discussed the rise in importance and presence of pollsters in politics. Noonan stated, “Polls are the obsession of every modern… political professional, Republican and Democratic” (pg. 249). Noonan felt frustrated by the intrusion of polls onto her speech writing, especially in regard to abortion. Her advisors kept telling her to remove the anti-abortion language from Reagan’s speeches because the anti-abortion stance did not reflect the will of the people according to the polls. Noonan responded that opinion polling may be a new “sophisticated tool” to help leaders understand how the nation feels about an issue, but it should not determine what issues the leader decides to fight for. Noonan contended, “Being led by the polls isn’t practical….The fact is it’s practical to do what you think is right and keep talking to the people honestly about it” (pg 251).
To me, Noonan presented a stronger argument against polls then simply the president should stick to his morals and stances despite their unpopularity when she raised the issue of the unreliability of poll results. She gave an example of a pollster presenting the question of how to solve the drug problem to the average American. She argued that citizens will give their opinions on the issue, but without a firm belief in their own knowledge about the background of the problem and that they would be shocked if they found out their answers had any weight in determining policy. She also discredited polls by saying sometimes the individuals felt forced to give an opinion even when they didn’t have one and that often what citizens said was just a regurgitation of “momentary swirls of culture and style and what they heard on TV” (pg. 251). I do not think Noonan argued enough the extent to which polls can be destructive in politics. Due to sampling errors, manipulative word choice, and coverage bias, the ill effects of polling have become increasingly obvious. During the past presidential elections, Americans, especially conservatives, have become increasing skeptical of the exit poll and are more often refusing to answer the pollster therefore skewing those included in the sampling and the results. The problem of relying on exit polls for accurate information became obvious in Florida in the 2000 presidential election when Al gore was proclaimed the victor and then had the victory recanted (though the validity of that is debatable). In 2004, the exit polls again mislead the public by indicating that John Kerry had a much larger lead then he did. In a New York Times Article about Warren Mitofsky, the man who designed the exit polling system, Mitofsky claimed that the method wasn’t the problem but that people misused the system. I think exit polls have been misused because the methods can so easily be manipulated.

Margaret Hannay