The musings of one Andrew Langer - defender of liberty, passionate protector of individual rights, foodie. (Note: Said Musings of Andrew Langer are his own, and the views represented herein are likewise his views, and not the views of any other people, entities, foodstuffs, etc [unless otherwise specifically and explicitly noted].)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Have You Migrated With Me?

I was talking to a friend the other day who asked me, "Why haven't you updated your blog in so long?"

It's a good question - and the answer largely centers on the fact that most of what I'm up to, professionally, at least, can be found on the Institute for Liberty website (which in and of itself was redone over the summer). Of course, IFL can be found right HERE.

Politically, I'm still as active as ever - trying to strike a balance (and keep a line) between what I do for work and what I do in the context of partisan politics.

I realize that the time this blog went silent coincides pretty well with the birth of the Tea Party movement, and if you have been following what I'm up to (on FACEBOOK and TWITTER [click those links to follow me there] you know that I've been active there, especially on Twitter).

Tremendously active. I'm giving a speech in a Baltimore suburb on the subject tonight, have been talking quite a bit about the impact of the Tea Parties, and am actually writing a book about the movement itself.

And I'd thought I'd share with you, since I haven't shared it here before, my speech at the 912DC event. My numbers put the crowd count at 600,000 - but no matter how you slice it, it was the largest gathering of limited government activists in the nation's history, and far exceeded the 50,000 number originally anticipated.

A bit of background here, by the way. I had been originally allotted 5 minutes to speak, and while I normally speak "off the cuff," sometimes using an outline or the barest of notes, because of the importance of this speech, I'd actually done some serious prep work - there were messages I felt needed to be conveyed, and had gotten them, cogently and coherently, into the 5 minute limit.

But, literally, as I was stepping onto the stage, I was told by one of the event organizers that my time had been cut to 2 minutes, less than half of my original allotment! I asked, "what happens if I go over?" and was told that I'd be played off, like at the Oscars.

So here's what I was able to pull together, out of those remarks and what I felt needed to be said at that point. As you can see, I just went slightly over.

I hope you enjoyed it. And please, follow me over to the IFL page. Follow me on Twitter, friend me on Facebook. Check out IFL's Keeping Small Business Healthy Project

And thanks again for your support!

- Andrew Langer

Thursday, January 29, 2009

New Piece on the RNC Chairman's Race...

Been a busy winter so far - and while I should have written about our "Carbon Footprint of the Inauguration Report (which I'll put up later - but in the interim can be found on the publications page of the IFL website), I just got too buried in work.

Obviously, one of the side projects has been the race for RNC Chair, and Michael Steele has been one of the front-runners. Given the number of people running, and multiple ballots, who knows what's going to happen tomorrow.

But in the interim, here's a piece that just came out...

Who Will Lead the RNC :: Can the GOP Get Down with the Brown?

The GOP has a problem. Well, two. One of them has just been inaugurated with an approval rating near 70 percent—but the other is going to be just as hard to fight. You see, as former Bush speechwriter David Frum put it on NPR , the Republican Party is the “party of white America.” And in Barack Obama’s colorful new Washington, that’s just not going to cut it.

As Republicans begin their cold sojourn out of power, it’s hard to feel sorry for them. In recent years, the GOP has blocked attempts to protect civil rights and fund early childhood education, health care and urban development. Katrina ravaged on its watch. Republican power brokers have a history of exploiting racial and ethnic divides for electoral benefit. And of the 247 members of the congressional Republican caucus, none are African-American and just five are Hispanic. Similarly, at the 2008 Republican convention, just 2 percent of the delegates were black.

But, this Friday, when the Republican National Committee gathers for a vote on its next four years of leadership, members will have the chance to make their own kind of racial history, as former Maryland Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele and former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, both African-American, compete for party chair.

The attempt at a new look couldn’t come a moment too soon. The 2008 election sent a message that the GOP’s 1950s decision to become the party of racial backlash is not only a moral offense, but it’s also a strategic blunder. People of color are at the heart of the predicted “emerging democratic majority.” The GOP’s slice of the black vote was pitifully small in 2008. Republicans hemorrhaged Latino support as well, losing Hispanics of all ages by a disappointing 2-to-1 margin. And Obama’s popularity with the under 30 set has meant that even the white vote can’t be taken for granted. Bloomberg’s Al Hunt surmised that “old white people are their strongest bloc, and young white people are their weakest.” The demographics will only get tougher as the McCain-Palin campaign’s favored “small town,” “real America” becomes an ever-shrinking part of the electorate.

So a mild anguish was on display at a post-election event in Virginia, held by the America’s Future Foundation (AFF), a libertarian-conservative coalition that seeks to raise a new class of Republican leaders. The December gathering of about 50 young people, mainly white men, in a private, wood-paneled room, featured bow ties, wingtips and flag pins, and was dedicated to the question: “Now What?”

The first step to recovery, of course, is realizing you have a problem. Virginia state senator and Attorney General candidate Ken Cuccinelli, speaking to the AFF crowd, didn’t have much of a strategy. But any Republican acknowledgment of the deficiency when it comes to race is welcome—as when Colin Powell announced that changing demographics will require the GOP to listen to minority communities, rather than “shouting” at them with “loaded statements” and “Republican principles and dogma.” Policy proposals that speak to minorities are even better—Donna Cahill, a Steele supporter and longtime Republican Party organizer who is black, pointed out in a recent interview, that women and minorities often benefit from GOP tax policy, and she said she was disappointed that “small businesses only came up in the campaign because of Joe the Plumber. It should have been outreach since the beginning.”
Still, “it’s going to be tough,” said a young African-American GOP activist who asked not to be identified while speaking about the imminent RNC vote. Outreach in past elections, he sighed, has “been about social conservatives in Ohio. It hasn’t been about everyone.”

A faction of right-leaning commentators and organizers has realized that the GOP needs to get down with the brown. Frum has lamented the Republican loss [5] of minorities, as well as the educated and suburban class, and he recently left the National Review to found New Majority [6], a less reactionary Republican Web magazine. Other Republicans have expressed a desire to expand grassroots outreach—via the technological savvy and, yes, community organizing that brought Obama and dozens of new Democrats to Washington. And Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam have written a book [7] specifically aimed at attracting the middle class and restoring a real “compassionate conservatism” to the Republican platform.

But the ongoing fight over who will lead the RNC seems only to underscore, rather than heal, the much-discussed schism within the party—between the aforementioned “reformers,” and “traditionalist” Republicans who think George W. Bush was not conservative enough. The traditionalists call those who want to compete for new votes “RINOs”: Republicans in Name Only. Immigration, tax policy, the scope of entitlements and environmental action are some of the issues that send these camps to war. Race only complicates the matter. Some Republicans, such as Richard Land, think [8] doubling down on culture warring with “pro-life and pro-family agendas” could pay political dividends in the same way that conservative outreach to minorities helped to pass anti-gay marriage initiatives in California, Florida and Arizona. On the other side, Andrew Langer, a Republican strategist who works with small businesses, claims that the GOP is the party of racial inclusion: “Most Republicans view race as almost ancillary,” he said.

It’s true that two black men—of very different political leanings—are among the six men fighting to represent the party of Abraham Lincoln. Blackwell is a rock-ribbed conservative who writes for the far-right Town Hall [9], belongs to the Family Research Council as well as the National Rifle Association. Steele is a moderate who helms the revived Republican Leadership Council, a centrist political action committee, alongside others like Christine Whitman, Jane Swift and Tom Ridge. But how can we forget that Chip Saltzman, another potential RNC head, recently sent supporters an e-mail making fun of “Barack the Magic Negro?” Just this week, a fake cover of USA Today began to circulate among RNC membership, with the unpleasant headline [10] “RNC Members Choose ‘Whites Only’ Chairman”—a reference to Katon Dawson, a South Carolina operative said to be the front-runner, who joined a private club that does not admit blacks. In future, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal [11] has long been cited as a plausible party leader. Other faces of color, such as conservative Puerto Rican Governor Luis Fortuño, Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio or former Oklahoma congressman J.C. Watts, could mount national campaigns—though Watts has said of minority candidate recruitment, “I’ve never gotten the impression that it was institutionalized.”

The three days of discussion leading up to the vote on Friday will be a key indicator as to which way the wind is blowing for the GOP. The optics of a black RNC chairman could prove irresistible to the embattled minority. Both African-American candidates are already big departures from the status quo: Blackwell “twitters” and recently used the online technology to dub himself “a new media ninja.” And, unlike many non-minority politicians, Steele “loves to talk about race,” says Lindsay Williams Grath, a white GOPAC volunteer who has worked closely with him. True to form, Steele told the conservative Washington Times that “the problem is that within the operations of the RNC, they don’t give a damn. It’s all about outreach … and outreach means let’s throw a cocktail party, find some black folks and Hispanics and women, wrap our arms around them—‘See, look at us.’ ”

That sounds like truth to power. If the Republican Party can successfully shift its focus from ethnic accessorization, to actually “look at us,” the results could be interesting. After all, the title of rising conservative leader Mike Huckabee’s new book—often heavily critical of the Republican intelligentsia—is Do the Right Thing.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Liberty Blog's Been Mippin-ized and thus Mobile-ized...

Ok - so I'm on Twitter now (and have been on Facebook since February). I happened to start following "Mippin" on Twitter, and I got the following message:

"Hi Andrew thanks for following! We took the liberty of mobilizing your blog Tell us what you think"

I think it's just awesome! Essentially, Mippin is a service which will take your blog and make it mobile phone-friendly.

So if you want to read the Liberty Blog on your mobile phone, here is the URL:

Monday, December 15, 2008

New Column on Blagojevich Up At Where The Money Is...

That’s Where The Money Is
Andrew Langer
Sunday, December 14, 2008

With the arrest of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, the calls have come once again for reigning in the ability of wealthy donors to give money to candidates. It is almost pavlovian—the scandal breaks, and immediately thereafter the issue of donations causing corruption is raised. But those who raise this miss the point, and in many respects have it backwards. It’s not the influence of money from donors that is the problem, by and large.

No, the problem is the vast sums of money that are controlled by government, and funneling of that money to a variety of special interests. Whether it was Jack Abramoff trying to steer government appropriations, facilities or special consideration to his clients, or the lobbyists from Illinois’ horse racing industry working to get tens of millions of dollars funneled from casinos to their clients’ failing businesses, the underlying cause is the same: government has too much cash to dole out, and those who are able to game the system are going to do whatever they can to get it. As Willie Sutton said when asked why he robbed banks, “That’s where the money is.”

People are outraged at the federal monies going to bail out the auto industry—no matter where you are on the political spectrum. But the problem doesn’t lie with the lobbyists for the auto industry, the problem lies in the very fact that the federal government has that much money that it feels it can “play with”. Dan Mitchell, who analyzes policy with the libertarian Cato Institute, was correct when he recently pointed out that such wealth transfers not only cost in terms of the direct impact on taxpayers. They also cost inasmuch as they prevent that money from being spent elsewhere in the economy, where it might do more good.

The auto bailout is only the latest in what has come to be termed the “fetishization of failure”. Over the summer, much was written about political leaders in Illinois deciding to reward the failure of Illinois’ struggling horse racing industry by taxing the state’s most profitable casinos. It has now come to light that Governor Blagojevich’s signature on the bill allowing for that wealth transfer was only going to come after he got his taste of the largesse. That the money was paid could only have happened because the racing industry was going to receive millions upon millions of dollars from the state itself.

Had Illinois not had the power to take money from a successful industry and give it to a failing one, then no attempt to bribe the governor would have been made. Now, this isn’t to say that the governor might not be coerced for other spoils of government, but if you limit the spoils, you limit the corruption.

What’s ironic, of course, is that this all happens in Illinois, home of the President-elect, and has come to light because of chicanery surrounding his replacement in the US Senate. Obama, elected on a mantle of change, is being sullied, early on, with the typical politics of Illinois. It is something that was predicted throughout the campaign—and it could be dismissed as isolated to the Land of Lincoln save for some disturbing reports already starting to come out of DC. The Inaugural Committee, working in concert with the DC City Government, is moving to severely restrict independent vending during the inauguration. Small vendors’ interests are being pushed aside at the behest of much-better-funded big businesses.

These businesses smell the millions that will be made during the Inauguration through government-controlled licenses, and they’re willing to spend whatever it takes to make sure they have them.

It’s not “change” you can count on. It’s government dollars, and lots of them, and the fact that those who can will do whatever they can to make sure that the money flows to them. Get rid of the government dollars, and the stink of corruption will disappear.

Friday, November 07, 2008

A Preliminary Wrap-Up, and a Video...

I know some of you were looking for my post-election message - and there have been some comments regarding me and McCain. First things first, while McCain lost nationally, he did resoundingly win here on Maryland's Eastern Shore, and my primary responsibility was making sure that happened (which wasn't always a clear outcome from some of the polling numbers I saw). McCain won, and won big out here - and as I've said in the press, it's really a testament to the volunteers...

And it's a testament to the Palin pick. Palin energized the base, and I've had countless people come up and tell me that she's the reason they were coming out to vote. So, I've got a real hard time with the people from the campaign who are throwing her under the bus. I'm working on a post-mortem on the campaign right now, and may share it with you all later. Essentially, McCain failed miserably in telling his story (no, not the POW story. The "McCain as an agent for change" story.).

I'm working on a GOP-Rebuilding strategy for a friend of mine. People who heard me at The Wednesday Meeting or at Harris' Crab House the other night have gotten a preview of it. We simply don't have time to wallow in self-pity - in Maryland the 2010 race started on Wednesday, and the first test for the RNC will be the off-year elections in Virginia and New Jersey.

We've got a lot to do between now and then.

In the interim, I'd meant to link to this video a while ago - and just found out that I could embed it. It's a speech on Coalition Building that I gave at the GOPAC Summit this summer.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Recent Event Pics and Video...

Thought I'd finally share some pics and videos. The first pics are from a speech I gave to the Mid-Shore League of Republican Women.

These are from the Convention itself:

Tuesday night, with Michael. The day before the speech...

The day after the speech, at the Maryland Delegation's hotel.

Mike pointed me out from the stage after he spoke (anyone have a picture of him pointing?). Here we are talking about it, and the fact that my buddy Bryan and I had hung back from the front of the crowd on the floor, because we didn't want Mike to burst out laughing.

And here is the "Drill, Baby, Drill" video. Somebody just told me they saw me on TV in Germany...

Friday, September 12, 2008

New Column Up: This Time At USNews.Com....

So, I can now add to the list of places that are publishing my stuff. I'd put the following together for National Review Online, but they dawdled a bit. US News took a look at it, and decided they wanted to put it up.

Sarah Palin, Small-Town America, and the Democrats' Ongoing Arrogance Problem

Small towns provide real-world experience—as well as electoral victories

Posted September 12, 2008

There was a map of the United States produced after the 2000 and 2004 elections, showing the presidential campaign victories on a county-by-county basis in blue and red. America was a sea of red, with clusters of blue for the most part relegated to major urban areas in the East, West, and scattered in between. The Democratic Party is an urban one, focused largely on urban problems and constituencies.

But in order to win in 2008, Democratic leaders knew that they needed to woo small-town America. The time was ripe, the theory went, with an unpopular president, an unpopular Congress, and a Republican Party that had somehow lost its way. So the Democratic machine went to work, bringing Barack Obama to places like Montana, hoping that he could build on that dissatisfaction and show that the Democratic Party cares about Main Streets across the U.S.A., no matter how rural or sparsely populated.

Which is why the attack on Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, and her prior experience of being the mayor of a town of 9,000, is both strange and troubling. The 2000 and 2004 electoral maps show, and political experience confirms, that America is a place of small towns. So casting aspersions on those who live and govern in Small-Town America seems to be, well, a stupid way of courting those voters.

But it also evinces a complete misunderstanding of the complexities involved with governing a small state or town, a hubris that underscores the dishonest slogans of "change" that have come from the Democratic camp. If you don't understand how public policy actually gets implemented in the real world, how can you possibly work to improve the system? If the belief is that only policy made at the federal level is complex and grants experience to the policymaker, then how can one be trusted to ensure that policies that have to be implemented at the state and local level (i.e., unfunded mandates and the like) are reasonable and limited?

The answer is, they can't. Local government comes with its own set of experience-accruing difficulties. It can be just as complex, the stakes just as high, but without the glamour that comes from being a member of the House, or a senator for two or 36 years. In fact, it has the potential to be much harder, for two reasons.

First, you're governing not just in the public spotlight but in and around and with your constituents. There is no buffer between you and the public if you're a small-town or small-county executive. When you make a decision that people don't like, you hear about it. You get phone calls, you get approached in the supermarket, people walk up to your front porch or back fence. This is just one of the reasons many local political parties have trouble at times finding people to run for office—it is tremendously stressful to be so easily accessible.

Joe Biden sees real people on the train to and from Delaware, and he sees people in carefully scheduled events in the state itself. But when was the last time that Biden made a tough vote to curtail the funding for some project affecting his constituents and then had to go do his family shopping at the local grocery store? When was the last time Obama made a decision to enact some new regulatory scheme affecting small business and got approached while he was weeding in his front yard to hear complaints about it?

These things happen in small towns. And frankly, it makes a politician a lot more sensitive to the impact of what they are doing. It lends an additional air of accountability that people like Barack Obama and Joe Biden simply don't have.

And from a practical standpoint, Obama and Biden have never had to contend with making the hard fiscal choices that small-town mayors and small-state governors have to. They've never had to balance a budget. Local officials do. Every year. They cannot go into debt. And frankly, America would be better off in the long term with more public officials in higher office who have had to grapple with keeping public books balanced.

This talking point about the population of Wasilla, Alaska, is insulting—to the millions of Americans who live in small towns, to those who have done the hard work of serving the public in governance of those small towns, and to the intelligence of all of us by trying to confuse the real issues of experience and judgment with phantom ones.

Those 2000 and 2004 maps told a story, a story with an important lesson. It had appeared as though the Democrats had learned it, but this new bit of arrogance shows that they have not.

Andrew M. Langer is the president of the Institute for Liberty.