Archive for November, 2008

Five Behind the Curtain

Over on my StickyFigure blog, I’ve been maintaining a series called Five in the Morning…wherein, each weekday (well, almost), I try to share 5 interesting posts from around the blogosphere.

But recently, I was “tagged” by Ann Handley (a favorite fellow blogger) to share 5 things about myself that you probably don’t know. There’s a lot more than 5 things that you don’t know or don’t want to know, but here are a few tidbits just so Ann won’t be able to nag or call me uncooperative!

1. I was going to be an astronomer. Or so I thought, until I took physics and calculus my freshman year in college. There ended my budding career intentions in high science (but I did once own a telescope in high school, and I hope to again, if we ever move to a non-light-polluted part of the country!)

2. My wife and I have a secret romantic little beach spot where you can actually see the sun set…over the Atlantic! Anyone know where it is??

3. One of my distant relatives appears on old editions of the U.S. $2 dollar bill.

4. I once ran my dorm janitor (write-in candidate) for Vanderbilt’s student body president. He got 36 votes. I don’t think he ever knew he was in contention.

5. Turns out I did one of these “5 things” memes a couple years back. So here’s a few more obscurities from behind the curtain!

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True conservatives are deeply disappointed by the results of this year’s presidential election. Not only because a Republican lost to a Democrat, but because there weren’t any conservatives in the running. In fact, there hasn’t been much evidence of conservative practice in the highest office in the land for 20 years.

Does this mean that conservativism is dead? That people no longer hold to ideals of limited government, individual liberty and responsibility, and patriotic attachment to distinctive American first principles, and disengagement from unnecessary international entanglements?

Hardly. There is a vast pool of frustrated idealism in the American republic, as was seen in the early candidacy of Ron Paul, and in the passionate involvement of religious and other conservatives for decades. The problem is that this is a movement without a party. The Republican party, which theoretically stands on many planks of conservatism, in practice is adrift from those principles.

Now I’d like to propose that we do something about it. We who do not identify ourselves with one party, but instead who are Patriotic Independent Conservatives (PICs), have the tools to crowd-organize and support only those candidates who are real conservatives.

I live in NJ, where genuine conservatives are despised and bypassed by the state Republican party, and where Republicans of almost any stripe are routinely defeated (in state or national races) by liberal Democrats. But what if a great candidate – maybe a strongly conservative Republican, or even an Independent, had another source of support beside a compromising Republican party?

Barack Obama has demonstrated, in a very practical way, how technology and individual initiative can be harnessed to create massive and effective support. Why cannot PICs do the same – instead of waiting for the Republican party to do the right thing, why not self-organize into a massive, independent organization that will pool funds and efforts to support other PICs (or at least strong conservatives) who are up for office?

If local, state, or national Republican party groups want to put up moderates or liberals, they forfeit the support of the PIC constituency. And perhaps even invite an Independent candidacy to oppose them along with whatever Democrat is in the mix. But if truly conservative Republicans are running for office, PICs will bring major-league financial and logistical support to bear.

How could this be organized? I’m an idea guy, not an operations person, so the organizational and legal structure is not something I could pursue. However, if a small brain trust of proven conservative political and legal figures would serve as the directors of such an organization (folks like Newt Gingrich, Michael Farris, and other of similar caliber), those of us who are looking for a real voice in the process would feel comfortable investing time and treasure into building an operation that would reflect our values. Not a new political party – a focused and target support organization that gets behind the most conservative candidates.

I could see such an organization getting behind a small handful of principled, conservative candidates, seeding state and national bodies with leaders who believe that the Constitution is not made of malleable plastic. PICs could have both positive and negative leverage over Republican party groups – support a good candidate and we pitch in our support; put forth a milquetoaster and we stay home or even run against you.

I could even see two groups of PICs developing – one for libertarian conservatives, and one for (for lack of a better term) religious conservatives, who tend to put a heavy emphasis on social and religious issues in the public sphere. Both groups, however, share a limited government/individual liberty perspective, and would find common ground on a high percentage of potential candidates.

Perhaps the organization devotes, say, 25% of its budget to defeat the most liberal candidates, even if the opponent is not a true PIC. All part of long-term strategy of trimming back as much extremism as possible.

There is a tremendous well of energy and pent-up passion to have real conservatives back in the public realm. It’s time to take advantage of all the tools in our hands, and grab the microphone (and bank account) and make sure our voice is heard without waiting for a “party” to return to its roots.

What do you think? Is this dream viable? Who wants to take the lead?

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The Thrill of Victory

When, like approximately 50% of the population, you grow up as a guy, you go through the early decades with an invisible measuring stick constantly by your side. The man-o-meter, delineated in testosterone units, tells you that in order to measure up, you have to…win.

Being a good student, or a budding artist, or a musical prodigy, simply doesn’t seem to cut it if you’re a guy. Sure, those are good things in the grand scheme of things…but the backyard scheme of things has to do with being bigger, stronger, faster, tougher. Self-worth is measured in man-units.

Like many guys, I grew up smaller, weaker, slower, more tentative. In elementary school, I was typically the last one picked on the recess kickball team, and with good reason – I was really quite pathetic in the athletic department. And on the voyage of male puberty, my train was slow out of the station. I keenly remember standing in the junior high locker room, still with a boy’s body, feeling vastly inferior to bigger guys in my grade who already had hair sprouting out of their bodies.

It’s not easy being a guy on the shallow end of the male bell curve.

But sometimes, even those used to the agony of defeat get to taste the thrill of victory.

As a sophomore in high school, the only sport I could marginally qualify for was track. But even then, my athletic prowess was such that I never had a chance to win, place or show. I was, shall we say, team ballast. With no realistic hope of 220, 440, or javelin improvement. My first – and last – attempt at pole-vaulting was mercifully witnessed by only one other soul, who didn’t tell anyone else.

However, the next year our school started its first-ever tennis team, and I gave it a try. So, as a junior (and finally beginning to mature into a young man), I was finally able to compete at something. I was erratic, but had a decent serve and a desire to win. Usually, I played as our sixth seed in singles, and also played some doubles.

As the season wore on, in my inconsistent fashion, I won some and lost plenty, but toward the end of the year, we were playing a match pretty straight-up with a rival town. I’d actually won my singles match (I think – memory is a bit faded nowadays), and now was locked, with my partner, in a doubles match at the end of the afternoon. The game next to us was over, and suddenly, the contest was tied. All eyes were on us.

And I was “on” that day. Everyone who has played sports knows the feeling. Your feet are light. The ball is big. The racket feels laser-guided. Confidence surges through your veins. You’re playing above your head. You’re going to cut across the net and pound that return into their panicky feet. You’re in the match, it’s close, and you have a shot…at victory.

We won that day. I recall jumping higher than any other time in memory, lifted up with an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and validation. The backdrop of failure and inferiority was, for a moment, eclipsed by a hard-earned win. Athletic victories had been few and far between in my life up to then, and truth to tell, I never did become accomplished at sports. Most of my highlight reel is taken up with other areas of life, things far more important than sports trophies. But in the recesses of manhood memories that matter, that little win – that thrill of victory – still brings a feeling of warmth. Sure, it was just a game.

But it was a game we won!

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