Monday, May 22, 2006

Smart Money's On Bouchard (So Far)

Going into the November election, it looks as if after all Republicans may lose one House of Congress, the House of Representatives, that is. Earlier I predicted that the GOP would lose possibly ten seats in November, but with sagging poll numbers for both the president and Congress, people are absolutely fed up with Republican policies right now.

What’s even more interesting about all of this right now, is that for some odd reason, Michigan looks as if it will be one of those states that bucks the tide this coming November. Jennifer Granholm has fallen behind the presumptive Republican nominee, Dick DeVos in the latest EPIC/MRA poll, even though they’re still within the margin of error (43% for DeVos, 42% for Granholm).

It’s easier to guess a likely outcome for governor; there’s only two candidates running. But, this is not the case for the US Senate, where Debbie Stabenow seeks a second term and faces three Republican challengers in Reverend Keith Butler, Mike Bouchard, and Jerry Zanstra. Zanstra, the weakest of the three has recently lost crucial support when Right to Life of Michigan withdrew its endorsement of him. RTL’s pullout means his campaign is practically over. His presence in the race is merely nominal at this point. Not that he was going to be much of a contestant in the first place.

That’s why the Republicans have a tough choice in Butler and Bouchard. Both are from Oakland County, both are well-funded, and can likely put up a strong campaign against the incumbent. But where they break from each other is perhaps that Bouchard stands a better chance of knocking off Stabenow in the fall, which may help the GOP maintain control of the Senate. I don’t think it’s likely the Republicans will lose control of the upper chamber, but it’s not a sure thing they’ll keep it, either.

Bouchard is currently the Oakland County Sheriff. This is crucial for a few reasons. The first is that him being elected to a county-wide office (by 61%), aids a Republican politician seeking to win that county. For decades the Republican nominee could always count on Oakland County as being the largest pool of votes in the general election. With the exodus of many African-Americans leaving Detroit and moving into the Oakland suburbs, the county is no longer a Republican stronghold. Bill Clinton in 1996, Al Gore in 2000, Jennifer Granholm in 2002, and John Kerry in 2004 all won Oakland County when they ran for president or governor. Stabenow lost Oakland County in 2000, but by just a slim 12,000 votes to Spencer Abraham.

Bouchard is an experienced politician. He has been elected to previous offices such as State Senator, and was an effective politician in Lansing. Bouchard is a fresh face, and if there’s to be an upset, it will be his upset of Debbie Stabenow in November. Stabenow is popular, there’s no denying that. But she has no accomplishment as a Senator, and really doesn’t have anything to offer but the same old Democratic talking points.

Bouchard knows Michigan better than any of his opponents. Despite his late entry into the race, he has been a full-go, energetic and enthusiastic politician. Of all three Republicans, he is definitely the most politically savvy. Butler may have more endorsements of key Michigan Republicans, but Bouchard’s appeal can excite Republican activists across the state who will turn out in November.

Butler has some strengths as well. But assessing just how much strength is a bit sketchy. The last office he was elected to was the Detroit City Council, back in 1989. He made no secret that he was a Republican running for a city-wide office in a heavily Democratic town, and Mayor Coleman A. Young was willing to help him blow the whistle about that. Butler ran, and he won, much to his credit, one of the top nine vote getters out of eighteen. This is his biggest selling point: that he as a Republican, can get votes of African-Americans who would otherwise vote Democratic, and thereby steal votes in both Detroit and Flint from Stabenow.

I appreciate Butler’s enthusiasm, and God’s speed if he can. But there’s something I worry about in his selling pitch. He won an office seventeen years ago, that had he ran against a Democrat in a one-on-one race, may not have likely won. Second, seventeen years ago is a long time out of the game. Yes, he served until 1993, but he’s been running his Word of Faith Ministries ever since, and that hasn’t helped him politically in my eyes. Not because he’s a preacher, not because part of Word of Faith’s message is that financial prosperity and spiritual growth go hand in hand, but because he hasn’t been pressing the flesh as much as he could have in that time.

If Butler wants to appeal to African-American voters, it’s going to take more than being more than someone who was elected to a city-wide office in the state’s largest city to convince them to vote for him. Republicans nominated Bill Lucas to run against then-Gov. Jim Blanchard in 1986, and Lucas had his hat handed to him. Lucas was then a Wayne County Executive, which Republicans in Michigan thought would help them in dethroning Blanchard. Wayne County is the largest county in Michigan, and Lucas was a conservative African-American, which to be honest, is somewhat of a political anomaly (that’s like having a pro-lifer being a spokesman for the feminist movement).

Republicans’ problem in nominating Butler is that they haven’t learned from 1986. They don’t understand the African-American community. Nominating a black candidate to head your ticket isn’t going to sell to African-Americans just because he or she is black. Republicans just don’t do their homework on this one, and it’s a wonder there’s this disconnect between the black community and the Republican Party. As long as Republicans don’t understand African-Americans, they can’t make inroads in that voting demographic.

This is in no way to say I’m against Butler. Quite the contrary, if he is nominated August 8, I will certainly vote for him over Debbie Stabenow. From a personal standpoint, I like Butler more than Bouchard. Butler had the courage to take on a popular incumbent when no one else would. It wasn’t until well after Butler’s campaign had been established that Bouchard decided to get in the race because he thought he could also win his county, which in turn, would turn other Republicans out across the state. A friend of mine pointed this out to me at the Hillsdale Lincoln Day Dinner, and I couldn’t have agreed more.

My main guy, Joe Schwarz, endorsed Butler. I have even had the pleasure of meeting Butler on a few occasions. The last time was a few weeks ago at the Lenawee County Lincoln Day Dinner where I sat next to him and ate dinner with him and Dr. Schwarz. He was very courteous and polite, and he even signed a copy of his book Reviving the American Spirit, which I graciously accepted. I didn’t ask for it, he just offered it out of the blue. To that I say, my hat’s off to him.

Butler at this point, may very well be the establishment candidate, given the number of his endorsements significantly outweigh those of Bouchard. But it seems as though for now, Bouchard has that intrinsic value that Butler lacks. Bouchard can boast of more accomplishments in recent memory than Butler. Bouchard and Butler are charismatic in their own way, but there’s no guarantee that Butler can turn out voters in heavily Democratic areas (like Detroit and Flint), the same way Bouchard can energize conservative and moderate-leaning Republicans across the state.

In other words, my head is with Bouchard, but my heart is with Butler. I’m sure I’ll get more coaxing in the days ahead.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Maslow, As It Relates To Iraq

For the longest while, I have had to listen the proponents of the ongoing war in Iraq eschew that this is a war of "freedom," to which mainly is a straw man's argument, designed only to be an argument of last resort that would otherwise make it impossible for some detractors of Operation Iraqi Freedom seem as though they are somehow against basic human rights. It's a show of desperation on their part, an opportunity to look as though they have the moral highground, when in fact, all they are merely doing is scraping from the bottom of the barrel.

In having to put up with this nonstop nonsense, you always knew that in the back of your mind, this simple argument made by the absolutists and the glib demonstrate any lack of thought, or the ability to understand reason. With them, everything is black and white, cut and dry. I tend to find glibness to be just another word for ignorant; absolutism a deadly policy.

If this is a war of freedom, as the proponents maintain, then have they not read Abraham Maslow's paper, A Theory on Human Motivation, which subscribes to the practical theory of the Hierarchy of Needs? We are to believe by the neoconservative intellectuals that people yearn for freedom; that freedom is contagious and once thrust upon oppressed peoples that it will spread to a region where such things have been denied to those for generations.

They therefore are presupposing that Iraqis who lived under Saddam Hussein would embrace some "liberators" from afar coming in to rescue them from the brutal tyrant that Hussein was. But what they fail to grasp, rather, is not the lack of freedom that is missing, but that they fail to understand what Iraq and Iraqis needed.

Freedom is not a basic need. It is a need to be met after various subordinate needs are met. When applying Maslow's Hierarchy, we come to the realization that there is an ordinal set of needs that have to be met. Once each primary need is met, we then graduate to the advanced need (in an ironic sense, each graduated need is somewhat ancillary to the previous).

You have your basic sets of needs. First is physiological, second is safety, third is love, fourth esteem, and fifth and finally, self-actualization. The first two imply a sense of security. In the absence of all, the first fulfillment of any human being is physiological. You and I have to eat in order to stay alive. We need to drink and eat so that our bodies can survive. If the individual is a simple creature, then once that physiological need is met, then that creature will never need more than to simply survive and be happy at that.

The second need is safety. Once we've satisfied our basic demand, we need to live without having injury brought upon us. Our fears of illness and injury overwhelm all others except in physiological terms. We naturally wouldn't eat out of a garbage can because we know that most likely the food in there is contaminated by expiration, by disease-carrying insects, and contact with other substances that would make food rather inedible to us. But to a person who is starving and has come to their last resort, they will forego safety and be willing to become sick if it means they will live to see another day.

The next set of needs are needs based more on personal advancement. Love is a need based on human responses toward one another. The absence of love is not necessarily life-threatening, in that you can live without ever having relations with another human being. Naturally, there are long-term effects and consequences that can drive people to bring harm upon others, but that's not important enough to go into here.

Esteem comes from the desire have a higher appreciation of ourselves. We base that esteem on achievement or some capacity and/or ability to accomplish something. Sometimes esteem can sit in the place of love, provided that the esteem will bring perhaps a better class of people for whom one can love. From having a greater self-worth, we can attact those whose values are mutual to our own.

The final need is the whole "freedom" thing: self-actualization. This comes only after all other needs have been met. If we are to become everything that we are capable of becoming, that is, if we are to be a people who live in freedom as opposed to tyranny, we have to be advanced enough to demand it.

The problem with the neoconservative proponents of the war lies in that they just assumed that freedom is a basic need. It is not. You and I have to consistently day in and day out be able to be self-sustaining. When we overran Hussein's army in three weeks, it was argued that we'd be met with cheers and thank yous, to which in the very days following April 9, 2003, we were.

But like my Urban Planning professor said, you have to have infrastructure in order to govern. It's infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure. Now that the Iraqis have a new freedom that they didn't have under Saddam, how did they plan to eat, or work, or care for one when a family member got sick?

Under Saddam, things were kept under control. Yes, no one argues that he was a vicious tyrant, a thug, a bad guy. That is a given. But, Iraq was a stable nation before March 2003. In fighting this War on Terror, we decided to pick a fight in a region that had, if not a civilization up to our standards, at least a nation that could be held together. Had we thought of Iraq as an asset-by-proxy in the war in Afghanistan, we could have realized that even though Hussein was not our ally, his presence and ability to keep things together in Iraq, would have made it easier in our quest to eliminate Al Qaeda and bring Osama Bin Laden to justice.

But now, because we have given Iraq "freedom," we have taken away their basic needs. The physiological and safety needs cannot be met adequately in Iraq because we, with our military might, destroyed vital infrastructure. They could no longer produce enough electricity to power the entire nation. They could no longer produce fresh, potable drinking water in a nation that is all but dry, sandy desert. With no government in place, there is no infrastructure and administration. There is not enough public works operators that can fix roads, traffic lights, or even dispose of wastes properly. Not enough police, ambulance, and fire crews to handle emergency matters. Putting the advanced needs above the basic needs created chaos.

A parallel to this is New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurrican Katrina. The people there already had the self-actualization of freedom. But once the physiological and safety needs were taken away by a Category 4 hurricane, we were left with a city in ruin and despair. You have to have order and security before all the good stuff that comes with democracy.

The end result of all of this, is that we have failed to understand what was really needed for Iraq and its people. I'm not about to say that removing Saddam from power is without some justification. Preemptive wars may be fought in another time in the future, for just reasons and other circumstances we have not yet conceived. They may very well be more successful than this. I cannot honestly ignore entirely, the humanitarian element in fighting this war. If Iraq does turn out to be a stable and prosperous civilization 10-20 years from now, George W. Bush will be looked upon very favorably by history.

Yet, had we acted in a more diplomatic fashion than we did, we could avoided going to war in Iraq altogether. Or, both the international community and Bush could have gotten their way at the same time. Regime change, with more nations and voices having a say, being internationally sanctioned, could be planned in such a way as to adequately meet the needs of those who will one day be able to realize their own self-actualizations.