Saturday, October 11, 2014

Kashkari: Conservatism 0.0

File:George Will.jpg
WP Columnist George Will (Source: Keith Allison)
Columnist George Will has offered some unsound analysis on recent political developments.

A latent spokesman for amnesty, Will determined that the United States should absorb the tens of thousands of illegal immigrant minors who have crowded our nation's Southern borders. Condescending to amnesty foes, Will countered that these "children with their teddy bears" posed no real threat to this country.

All the amnesty talk in Washington and from state leaders have encouraged the invasion of illegal immigrants to this country. Will's acquiescence is petulant.

On other counts, pertinent to my interests in the Golden State's elections, Will argues that California gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari will remake conservatism into a libertarian brand, or "Conservatism 2.0".

Neel Kashkari

More like 0.0, Kashkari's rhetoric against Governor Brown and his run for Sacramento's top spot contrast with his federal record in Washington, which put the Big in "Big Government".

Last July, Will set the stage for Kashkari's entrance under the legacy of Arizona Republicans Senator and Presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, Jr.:

Fifty Julys ago, up the road near San Francisco, in the unfortunately named Cow Palace, the Republican National Convention gave its presidential nomination to Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater, who knew he would lose: Americans were not going to have a third president in 14 months. Besides, his don’t-fence-me-in libertarian conservatism was ahead of its time. His agenda, however, was to change his party’s national brand.

Barry Goldwater did exactly that. He defeated Nelson Rockefeller, a big government, New England liberal who believed in the power of the state to legislate a superficial morality, plus a civil rights effort based on legal strictures. Sadly, I submit that Goldwater's conservatism remains ahead of its time, because it remains outside of the normal domains of today's political discourse. Democrats and Republicans have bickered about the extent of government growth. Very rarely do politicians actually push back government. The last truly limited government executive was not Ronald Reagan, but Calvin Coolidge, who cut huge swaths of bureaucracy, then appointed the most hostile and incompetent executive administrators to frustrate federal growth and influence into Americans' daily lives.

Will's argument ignores the inevitable devolution of focus and principle which inversely expands with the growth of government power, too.
Today, in this state where one in eight Americans lives, and where Democratic presidential candidates can reap 55 electoral votes without spending a dime or a day campaigning, the Republicans’ gubernatorial candidate has an agenda and spirit similar to Goldwater’s. Neel Kashkari is not, as some careless commentary suggests, an anti-Goldwater, diluting the state party’s conservatism. He is Goldwater 2.0, defining conservatism a ­half-century on.

This statement is patently untrue. Kashkari's discussion does not carry the weight of the "don't-fence-me-in libertarianism" which defined the Arizona Senator's influence in the Republican Party.
He relishes “turning upside down” the parties’ stereotypes. The Democratic candidate, 76-year-old Gov. Jerry Brown, is “the old white guy.” Kashkari, the 40-year-old son of Indian immigrants, was born in 1973, the year before Brown was first elected governor. Brown is a child of the establishment — his father, Pat, California’s 32nd governor, was defeated in 1966 by Ronald Reagan. Jerry Brown, California’s 34th and 39th governor, is a government lifer, having been secretary of state, attorney general and Oakland’s mayor when not unsuccessfully seeking a U.S. Senate seat and the presidency (three times).

All of these statist aspersions against the Democratic incumbent are true. Yet conservatism is more than identity politics. Besides, the brunt of the Republican's campaign against Brown focus on his failed, statist policies, not just the fact that Brown is an old white guy.

Kashkari prospered in the private sector, a place as foreign to Brown as Mongolia. Born in Ohio, Kashkari studied mechanical engineering at the University of Illinois, came to California to work in the aerospace industry, then earned an MBA from Wharton, joined Goldman Sachs and landed a Washington job with a Goldman Sachs alumnus, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. As a treasury official during one of the most dangerous periods in the United States’ economic history, from July 2006 to May 2009, Kashkari says: “I saw the best in our political system.”

Despite Brown's attempt to spin Kashkari as a government outsider, Kashkari's role in TARP funding, and its accompanied waste, fraud, and dissolution, militantly offend any principle of libertarianism, in which government intervention must meet  two criteria (per George Will): a compelling and constitutional need. TARP met neither of these criteria.
He remembers that, with a liquidity-deprived financial system pushing the nation to the precipice of a depression, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell simply said, “Of course we’ll find a way to get this done.” The politically perilous but nation-saving business of bailing out the banking system was done in days. “What other democracy in the world,” Kashkari asks, “can move that fast to deal with a crisis?”

I am dismayed when I read a conservative like George Will taut and defend TARP. The best reform would have been for the federal government to do nothing. Big banks played fast and loose with derivatives and risky market ventures. When the financial house of cards fell, these massive firms played the "Too Big To Fail" scare, and Congress bought it.

Barry Goldwater with LBJ (predecessor of Barack Obama)
This is not conservatism, and I do not believe that Barry Goldwater would have applauded that multi-billion dollar taxpayer-funded bailout, which propped up left-wing, parasitical unions rather than shoring up the toxic assets of greedy CEOs.

Just as McConnell’s opponent in this year’s Kentucky Republican primary execrated McConnell’s finest hour, Kashkari’s primary opponent vociferously deplored Kashkari’s role as administrator of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). This opponent, a factually challenged fire-breather (of illegal immigration, he said, “We are in a war”), also said Kashkari supports sharia law. That would be peculiar for a Hindu who calls himself “a libertarian socially” (he is pro-choice and pro-same-sex marriage) and lives in Southern California’s culturally relaxed Laguna Beach.

Accommodation for socially marginal lifestyles does not necessarily make one a libertarian. In his debate with Brown, Kashkari did declare: "I want the government out of all private decisions", specifically referencing the marriage issue. Then he supported Brown's decision to appeal Prop 8,  a popular initiative to define marriage between one man and one woman. Why did Kashkari not argue for getting the government out of marriage and restore the institution to its status outside of the state in the first place?

That would have been the more consistently libertarian position.

Today, California is a one-party state: Democrats have 2-to-1 majorities in both legislative chambers and account for 40 of 55 members of Congress. Republicans hold no statewide office and have only 28 percent of voters registered by party. All of this has something to do with these facts: California has the nation’s highest income tax, sales tax and poverty rate (adjusted for the cost of living) and the second-highest gasoline tax. Only four states have higher unemployment rates. Kashkari says California’s “U-6 unemployment rate” — which includes unemployed people seeking full-time jobs, part-time workers who want full-time jobs and people too discouraged to seek jobs — is more than 16 percent.

These facts are true. The declining Republican brand is a response to these failed, anti-business policies, which have driven the party's chief supports -- middle-class taxpayers and small business owners -- out of the state.

Running against Brown requires discerning silver linings on black clouds. Kashkari says of polls showing Brown leading 52 percent to 32 percent: Well, 100 percent of Californians know who Brown is, so 48 percent are looking for an alternative.

Voters are looking for an alternative, and Kashkari is not alternative enough!

Kashkari promises to derail Brown’s obsession — the (at least) $68 billion San Francisco-to-Los Angeles bullet train. Brown has been silent about the recent court decision striking down the tenure system that entrenches incompetent public school teachers. The public likes the decision; teachers unions loathe it. Brown, Kashkari says dryly, has “multiple owners.”

Kashkari opposes the bullet train. So did Donnelly. Opposing a big government project does not a conservative create.
“If I get Jerry on a debate stage,” Kashkari says, “anything can happen.” That is true, as is this: Goldwater lost 44 states but won the future. His conservative cadre captured the GOP, which won five of the next six and seven of the next 10 presidential elections. If California becomes a purple state and Democrats can no longer assume its 20 percent of 270 electoral votes, Republicans nationwide will be indebted to the immigrants’ son who plucked up Goldwater’s banner of conservatism with a Western libertarian flavor.

Indeed, Kashkari landed some well-placed punches against Governor Brown in their one debate, including Brown's shameful decision to support unions instead of inner city kids seeking a better education.

This column was one of Will's weakest. There are not strong links between Goldwater and Kashkari. None. What kind of libertarianism was Kashkari referencing?

His platform is "Jobs. Education. That's it." There is no deep ideology in this slogan. He supports school choice, but he also supports Common Core, which is an en masse federalization of public education. That is an anti-libertarian position. He argues that the illegal immigrant youth crowding the Southern borders must be returned home, yet he does not opposed drivers license for illegal immigrants. This is an inconsistent position.

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Congressman Darrell Issa

Kashkari trumpets fiscal discipline and political prudence. Yet he administered TARP, which is like steroids to government corruption, according to House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa. This "conservatism 2.0" candidate voted for progressive Barack Obama, who is diametrically opposed to enumerated powers, constitutional rule, limited government, individual liberty, and the rule of law.

He is pro-choice, and He is pro-gay marriage. He is entitled to his point of view. How does he reconcile that there are many libertarians who are pro-life, including the movement's Godfather and Godson Ron and Rand Paul?), and that the conception of life is not open for debate? Has Kashkari articulated a legal and moral response to homosexual activists' fascist tendencies, since they demand to be accepted, not just tolerated?  What are his views on the First Amendment? The Second Amendment? How does Kashkari recognize the relationship between the states and the federal government?

Based on many of Kashkari's positions, this Republican candidate is not offering voters a choice, but in too many ways echoes the Democratic Party band.

Goldwater had a different agenda:

What are Kashkari's views on human nature, even? These ideological verities are crucial to any politician distinguishing himself as the New Conservative.

Despite Will's best attempt to paint a happy picture over certain-to-lose Kashkari, the notion that he will advance conservative principles is just unsubstantiated, as well as unserious.

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