Maryland gets a little less red

When I moved across the line to Delaware, one thing I noticed about the blogosphere was that there was no active conservative blogging voice in the First State. While the political blogging world has changed significantly in the last decade-plus from the halcyon days where thousands used that medium to express their opinion – as opposed to the rise of Facebook or Twitter – thanks to the traditional media outlets expanding their influence into the online realm there aren’t many independent survivors from that era. And in Maryland, that number will soon decrease further.

Citing burnout and a lack of focus on state politics in this era of Trump, the Red Maryland blog announced it would cease operations on June 4, two days after Maryland’s presidential primary. While I’m among a host of erstwhile contributors (along with a handful of additional voices who currently contribute) the two remaining founding members, Brian Griffiths and Greg Kline, have decided to pull the plug. (The archives will remain at the Red Maryland website.)

While I’m definitely not on either Griffiths’ or Kline’s Christmas card list, there is respect due for having stuck with it so long. If my memory serves me correctly, Red Maryland began in 2007 just after the mid-aughts GOP relevance in the (not so) Free State came to a screeching halt thanks to the defeat of the moderate Governor Bob Ehrlich by popular Baltimore mayor Martin O’Malley. (This post worth mentioning is my first mention of it, back when RedState‘s managing editor streiff was still part of the RM cast.) It’s interesting to note that I cited nine contributors to the site when it was published, but somewhere around 2010 or so many of them were dismissed because they weren’t contributing. (That was about the time the blogging world began to consolidate and Facebook and Twitter were starting their rise.)

The timing of this seems interesting, since RM had branched out over several years from being just a blog. One limb was a long-standing internet (and occasionally terrestrial) radio network that was once live several nights a week but had dwindled down to one flagship show; however, a twig off that branch was Kline’s weekly spot on local station WGMD-FM. On another side: after a few fits and starts into the print medium, including a brief stint with Maryland’s largest newspaper, the Baltimore Sun, Griffiths has settled into a role of writing a weekly column in the Annapolis Capital. And finally, this year was the first (and presumably only) Red Maryland Conference held back in January. It was held in the same venue and timeslot as an event I attended a few years back called Turning the Tides, and attracted much the same audience.

In their FAQ post they put up after the announcement, Griffiths also noted he was moving on to create a new website. My speculation is that it will be more of a general interest website and not focus on Maryland politics. Why continue to beat your head against the wall?

So I’m not sure what conservatives in Maryland are going to do for blog reading, given I’ve left the state and those guys are giving up the ghost. But it was worth mentioning that I came to praise the site, not bury it.

The rearview mirror

This was one of the copies I initially received from the publisher. If it’s copy 1 like I think it is then I believe it’s still in a box someplace from our move. It was the markup I used for the reading last June and the reference copy I kept for doing radio gigs.

I placed this photo on my social media page a year ago today. It was the first book out of the box of copies of my book that I kept for hand sales and promotions. So let me tell you about being an author and what a long, strange trip it’s been since that book came out 366 days ago.

When I put the book out after 2 1/2 years of writing it, I felt reasonably good about its prospects. I thought it was rather topical as it came out a decade after the initial TEA Party protests, and the peer reviews I had on it were positive. And the initial sales were actually encouraging after I did my first radio gig on it a couple days afterward (it was actually 52 weeks ago today, the same day Joe Biden made his formal announcement.) I had a lot of encouragement from friends and supporters, but of course I had no idea what sort of sales to expect.

Well, it’s disappointing to say that I’ve sold 26 copies through Amazon. However, I can at least say that’s more than my previous book has sold in almost eight years (a total of 18 copies.) But that doesn’t count the copies I have hand-sold in person, most of which I autographed as well. Somewhere in our house (or maybe out in the shed, who knows?) I have about 8-10 copies of my first book, which came from an original stock of 20 or 25. This time, though, I started with 25 and bought another 10, leaving me about a dozen remaining. Their disposition is an interesting story.

Out of the original stock of 25, I numbered each book from 1 to 25. I kept number 1 as my copy, tithed 2 through 4 to charity (still have those), and sent most of 5 through 10 to those who contributed to the writing. (I still have one because I’ve never been able to get a contributor’s home address even in several attempts to ask.) Out of 11 through 25 I have just a few remaining – many of them were sold at my reading back in June.

Among the second batch were a few I sent to various radio personalities who requested them. As I recall all but one of those eventually resulted in an interview, and that adds to the story.

Believe it or not, I’m way more comfortable with writing than I am with public speaking, even though I took a class in college to conquer that fear. (Shocker, huh?) I’m sure that comes through over the phone, but I also figured it was a job I had to do in order to try and spread the word given my marketing budget, which was basically zero. (I did find out it costs $3.27 to send my book anywhere from California to across town, not that I had to do the latter.)

So I spoke to various people everywhere from California to Delaware, for anywhere from seven minutes or so to a whole hour. It was a “virtual book tour” which took me from my adopted hometown to my real hometown, and from where I went to school to places I’ve never visited (or, frankly, heard of) before. There were small towns and big cities on the docket, but the last stop was a national one on an internet radio station called Southern Sense Radio. I did find out from doing sixteen or so shows that the longer I knew I had, the better the conversation flowed.

While all this was happening, I went through a move (hence, why I can’t find the spare copies) and went on vacation twice. Could I have been more diligent at marketing? Perhaps, but I also work full-time. (You may gather I’m that diligent at unpacking. But I told my wife we have the rest of our lives.)

A few months after the release, I decided it would be a good idea to follow up on the loose ends I had to leave untied to finish the book by last April. Thus was born the quarterly State of the TEA Party updates, the last of which I did a couple weeks ago – a little early but necessary to be topical. It’s been a concept that’s evolved a little bit and probably will some more before it’s through.

It’s been a tremendous and tumultuous year since I put out this book. It’s interesting to ponder how the release of the book would have gone over had it come out this year, but it’s still out there if you want to read it for the history. I think I’ll go onto Amazon tonight and give you a little incentive by cutting the price. (Hey, I have reached triple digits in royalties, at least.)

As for the next book? Honestly, I can’t say for sure whether I have another one in me. Over the years I have kicked around a couple concepts, and I got as far as a couple chapters on the Indivisible movement. (I still owe you one last part on that story – maybe in the next couple weeks.)

If anything, I have the most desire to write a sequel update to my first book, So We May Breathe Free. Once upon a time I had thought about writing a tome on the struggle between Big Oil and the green energy movement – something more on my radar when I had Marita Noon (now Marita Tedder) as a columnist, but not so much now. (I still keep a few tabs on energy, but to turn a phrase I don’t have as much energy as I used to.)

The other idea I’ve had from time to time is a project I call 600 Words. It’s been over a decade now, but once upon a time I toiled as an (unpaid) columnist for an outfit called Liberty Features Syndicate. (The title refers to their optimum column length.) Most of the time these once- or twice-weekly pieces ended up on the website of a group called Americans for Limited Government, but once in awhile I would find out some small-town newspaper also ran my column. I think it would be an interesting idea to follow up on what happened to the subject of the columns, as history may or may not have been kind to them, and maybe it would have the autobiographical element of perhaps one of the most uncertain times of my life. Between 600 Words and the sequel to So We May Breathe Free, 600 Words is definitely more the vanity project.

I guess that’s the life of a part-time author who’s become a (very) part-time blogger too. If you have pity on me and want to buy the book – or if you like a good read on history (yeah, that’s the ticket!) the link to Rise and Fall remains above the fold on my front page. Let’s see if I can beat my year one sales in year two.

Patriots Day version 2.0?

This has become the season of discontent.

Weary of restrictions spawned by a virus we imported from a nation which has generally meant us harm – one which has continually underperformed extreme expectations insofar as hospitalizations and deaths are concerned – Americans are beginning to bristle at their restrictions as a federally-imposed April 30 restoration date approaches.

While it’s the proper method Constitutionally, states which have clamped down on their populace based on the Wuhan flu’s effect on certain urban areas now exist cheek-by-jowl with states using a more laissez-faire approach. Yet as the pressure mounts to restore liberty, governors in several states have adopted a more regional approach: the three West Coast states of California, Oregon, and Washington are planning a more concerted (and more restrictive) reopening, as are governors in seven northeastern states including mine in Delaware – the other states are Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. Of that group, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker was the last to join and is the first Republican.

Chances are these ten states will exhibit a slothful, “go-slow” approach designed (at least to the public) to enhance safety. In political terms, some cynics would counter that the slow movement is designed to tank the economy further, extending any possible recovery beyond the November elections. (It’s interesting to note that, of the ten governors involved, only two are on the ballot this year – Jay Inslee in Washington state and John Carney here in Delaware. But both are considered safe Democrat seats nonetheless. I’m not even aware if the GOP has a contender here in Delaware.) On the other side, a handful of non-allied states have never provided more than just limited restrictions and Texas is leading an effort to quickly start things back up from a restrictive state.

At noon today in Annapolis, Marylanders were scheduled to hold a protest imploring Governor Larry Hogan (aka “Lockdown Larry”) to move quickly in bringing Maryland back. The morning’s rain should have cleared out in time, so we will see what develops out of this protest – I expect maybe a couple hundred people will show up. (There are two separate protests planned thus far in Delaware – one on Wednesday and one on May 1.)

But what concerns me are the people I see on social media who have traded their liberty for a security the government can’t assure regardless of whether we have masks on, close all the so-called non-essential businesses, or practice social distancing. (If I never hear that phrase again after this is over, it will be too soon.) When the governor puts cops on the side of the road to pull over cars with out-of-state license plates, they’re the ones who say “go for it, we want more!” I wouldn’t be surprised if those who advocate for this are secure in their jobs – after all, those who aren’t working have the most time to protest.

The other day my friend Bob Densic asked me if this could be the resurrection of the TEA Party movement. After I pondered it a moment, this is what I said:

“You know, that thought DID cross my mind. There are two big differences though. First off, you’re going to have a more “purist” group, although we will see just how well they know the Constitution when it comes to federalism and rule of law. One key thing to watch is the reaction to these compacts between (mostly Democrat) governors, one of which involves us here in Delaware.

The other aspect that I would like to see is the absence of hypocrisy. You would have TP people complain about the stimulus but then turn around and warn, ‘don’t touch my Social Security (and/or Medicare),’ not realizing it was a large component of the problem! This one isn’t so much financial – an argument can be made that the stimulus is, in part, repayment per the Takings Clause since the government shut down – but is more rights-based, sort of like the civil rights movement.”

If it takes a virus to remind us of our rights, so be it. (I’m also heartened by the uptick in Bible reading since this all began.) But it’s time to turn talk into action as we commemorate the first Patriots Day on Sunday.

The state of the TEA Party: spring 2020

Subtitled, the Wuhan coronavirus edition.

I originally intended for this piece to have a completely different look and feel than it will have, not to mention it was moved up in time about two to three weeks from its original intention of coinciding with the anniversary of my book release last year. (Yes, it’s been 12 months since I wrapped up that labor of love.) But the question of just how the TEA Party is reacting to a government stimulus that is over twice again the one it was initially formed in response to was on my heart, so this post is brooming the original concept of answers to a rhetorical question that, frankly, was never asked anyway. Life gets in the way.

This is going to sound completely hypocritical to many, but I sort of expected the one response I found in a local Florida newspaper – the Sunshine State being one of the remaining hotbeds for the movement. One I didn’t expect but am not surprised by is the reaction to a New Mexico businessman apparently best known as a TEA Party leader suing his state government, claiming the disease “is not serious enough for emergency orders, enforcement of restrictions on socializing is impossible, and the orders deny him the right to free assembly and worship.” Aside from the lack of certainty that a mix of commonly available drugs presents a cure (the research on that is promising but ongoing) the complaint is very truthful. Yet it’s going to go nowhere.

(It’s sort of like the Rick Santelli approach that was blown way out of proportion by the Left and media – but I repeat myself.)

On the other hand, while I have been critical at times of the personally opportunistic leadership of Jenny Beth Martin and the Tea Party Patriots, I have to commend both her and the organization for the tone they have struck in their response to this ordeal. Citing Scripture (in this case, 2 Timothy 1:7). Martin writes in part:

(T)he best advice I can give is to take this virus seriously, but don’t panic. Don’t let the bloodthirsty media panic you. But, at the same time, please take appropriate precautions. Follow the recommended guidelines about washing your hands, don’t touch your face, sanitize surfaces, and stay home more. And, if possible, support your local businesses and restaurants – you can order food to go so you aren’t eating in, but still helping them keep their doors open.

Also, please if you are not in an at-risk category and you are able, help your friends, acquaintances or neighbors that are over 60 or already ill. Call them up and find out if they need anything from the store that you could pick up for them, so that they don’t need to risk going out. You can even drop it off on their doorstep so that they can avoid human contact.

“My thoughts regarding the Coronavirus,” Jenny Beth Martin, March 19, 2020.

The TPP also has a nice coronavirus portal on their website, with an editable form letter that’s honestly full of good advice for individual initiative.

But there are a couple questions going forward that those interested in fiscal conservatism and limited government should point out, particularly since those on the Left had their own wishlist that could come in yet another Wuhan virus relief bill. Aside from the non-virus related pork in the bill, another thing to watch for is whether this new, vastly increased amount of spending becomes a new artificial baseline from which the Left will scream about “cuts” if we even level-fund in the next budget year.

And when they are not wailing in their best shrill girly scream about how Donald Trump is “a president who will bear responsibility for the death of many of our neighbors, friends, and loved ones, and for an economic nightmare… an outcome of the right-wing project to undermine and vilify government,” they’re certainly scheming on how to not let this crisis go to waste:

At the end of this pandemic, more Americans will view the government as capable of solving big societal problems, progressives argue. New emergency-aid legislation dramatically expands paid sick and family leave for millions of workers and suspends work requirements for food assistance, two agenda items progressives have long supported. And the $2 trillion stimulus package that the president just signed into law would provide a $1,200 direct payment to most American adults—similar to the Freedom Dividend championed by former presidential candidate Andrew Yang—and another $250 billion in unemployment-insurance benefits. “There’s going to be an amazing shift where we recognize the impact government can have on our lives for the better,” says Charles Chamberlain, the executive director at Democracy for America, a progressive political-action committee.

“What Do Progressives Do Now?”, Elaine Godfrey, The Atlantic, March 28, 2020.

Unfortunately, that “amazing shift” isn’t going to come with the economic activity required to create the value to come anywhere close to repaying the debt or preventing a return to rampant Carter-era inflation.

Finally, it’s interesting to me that both of these stimulus programs come in response to government actions perhaps the opposite of what would be expected from the party in charge. The Obama stimulus came after the months of uncertainty that spanned from the tail end of the George W. Bush administration (when he had to destroy the free market to save it, and which briefly took GOP candidate John McCain off the campaign trail) whereas this stimulus came from the unprecedented government action of ordering certain businesses to close to prevent the spread of a virus unknown just six months ago. It’s worth pointing out, though, that the decentralization of the federal response is more or less in line with the philosophy of the Trump administration (hence the whining from the Left.)

Whether I’ll come back to my originally scheduled summer TEA Party update or change up again may depend on circumstances both national and personal. I’m definitely hoping we return to something approaching normal by then, but there’s always the prospect that we are in a new normal – and that’s what’s scary.

I’d love some thoughts from my TEA Party friends on this theory, either here or the places I’ll share.

A business state of emergency

It’s amazing in a way to think that we’ve only gone a week and change since the NBA suspended its season in an effort to stifle the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus. Since then we have endured a week of drastic bad news the likes of which we haven’t seen since 9/11 and perhaps longer. What was shaping up to be a pleasant spring routine has now been destroyed, along with the hopes and dreams of anyone who wanted to participate in the NCAA basketball tournament, their senior proms, and graduation ceremonies for the Class of 2020, among countless other annual and special events.

On Tuesday night we resumed our bowling season under different rules, splitting the league squads into two shifts to keep the number in the bowling alley below 50. Unfortunately, that change was short-lived as Governor Carney expanded his previous State of Emergency order the next day to demand the closing of bowling alleys, among other businesses.

While I get the necessity of the closings to “flatten the curve” my problem is the open-endedness of such an order. While there is CDC guidance suggesting this will last about eight weeks, the reality is that many people and businesses can’t survive an eight-week shutdown, at least not without some sort of mitigation. I love how the private sector has moved into action in a lot of cases.

Now let me make a confession: I was sort of stuck as to how to continue this post, at least until I got a comment to Wednesday’s Patriot Post commentary that I shared by Mark Alexander. This response is from a person I’ve known for awhile who is well over on the other side of the political fence, and is quoted verbatim:

Jesus christ ppl are losing jobs, dying, mass hysteria, and hoarding of vital medical supplies. I am working as so many other low paid workers in constant contact with people of high and low risk of severe illness. This is not political. The facts are this we are not prepared and a clown is running the circus. I dont want people to lose their homes, jobs, lives. Or leader need to put their big girl panties on and do what’s right for the millions of Americans and not ask first what party or income bracket they belong in.

Reaction to social media post

This whole situation has been a balancing act I wouldn’t wish on anyone because you have two bad choices: go about normal life, leave the disease essentially unchecked, and overwhelm our health system, OR, shut down everything and place people out of work. President Trump has advised for the latter course but has left enforcement up to state and local officials. To me that’s the proper way to address this because they are more familiar with conditions on the ground, and besides: you can’t completely shut everything down because people have to eat.

And I have to ask: how do you prepare for something like this, a once-in-a-century disease? If we had somehow stocked up on respirators, medicine, and so forth ten years ago, say, as part of the stimulus, wouldn’t someone have complained that we were spending money to store supplies that might have deteriorated to the point of being useless by now anyway? It’s one thing to fill an oil reserve but quite another to stock up on testing kits for a disease that doesn’t exist at the time. Leaders can be prescient but I don’t think they’re often psychic.

So I will grant that we weren’t prepared, but then again that’s the nature of a crisis. We can only prepare ourselves so much for any particular risk so we go with what we know about risks we have experienced at the expense of other ones. (Cases in point: terrorist attacks begat the PATRIOT Act and Department of Homeland Security, both of which have survived nearly two decades now, and school shootings have necessitated upgrades to school buildings which do not necessarily improve the educational process.) After this Chinese virus has run its course we will probably go overboard with products and procedures that will be infringements on our wallets and liberty. (If it brings pharmaceutical manufacturing back from China, though, that would be a benefit.)

On the other hand, I don’t think we have a clown running the circus. A President Hillary Clinton would have dictated a more bureaucratic and more politically correct solution – in my opinion it would have paralleled Italy’s and sadly, that’s been a disaster for the Italian people who are sharing their misery with a huge Chinese national contingent within their nation. The experts have agreed that clamping down on travel from China when President Trump did may have saved thousands from getting the virus and overwhelming the American health care system. And, unfortunately, I don’t think slow Joe Biden would have fared any better than Hillary had this crisis occurred next year after his election. To a greater extent than we are already saddled with, the folks in a Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden administration would have seen this as a crisis they could have used to permanently secure more federal government power.

(That’s not to say those under Trump are immune – I’m somewhat leery of how we will address the financial end by setting a precedent of government payments. One can argue, however, that this direct payment would be compensation for the taking of one’s livelihood since many places of business were forced to close. Perhaps a complementary way to address this, though, would be to bolster state unemployment accounts.)

So thanks to my friend for giving me the inspiration to revise and extend these remarks – I started this on Wednesday but hadn’t felt the need to return to it until that response.

Putting the world on hold

They tell us it’s “flattening the curve.”

However, there are a huge number of economic impacts we will need to go through now that the Wuhan coronavirus escaped its Chinese captivity and has gone global. Let’s just look at one arena of economics for example. (And yes, the pun was intended.)

On Wednesday, just after I put up my previous post, it was announced that the NBA season was “suspended” until further notice. This quickly extended to the NHL and MLB, with the NCAA topping all of them and completely cancelling ALL winter and spring championship events. (In other words, it’s not just March Madness: the College World Series, normally held in late May into June, is off, too.)

I already feel horrible for those seniors who may have been going to The Dance for the first and only time in their college careers, but one also has to consider those people whose livelihood depends in part on these events. It’s two dates that the workers at the Mercedes-Benz arena in Atlanta will now be off, not to mention the host facilities of the other regionals that are held over two nights at various venues. (In the early rounds, this can be a full shift from noon to 9 or 10 at night.) Even worse is the fate of those who work at NBA or NHL host arenas, as their facilities are often used 5 nights a week or more thanks to sports, concerts, and other large gatherings. The same goes for spring training venues, which are used nearly every day during this time of year thanks to teams sharing fields and split-squad games. Now these facilities are closed to the public and these employees are out of work.

Generally these workers are the folks who were barely scraping by, so this pandemic is going to make it more difficult for them to pay their bills. (One exception: those who work for Ilitch Holdings, which owns Little Caesars along with the Detroit Tigers and Detroit Red Wings, among other entertainment properties. They are going to compensate part-timers for games and events they miss thanks to the cancellations, which included the NCAA hockey Frozen Four.)

So there are a number of events which will be lost and never made up; lost opportunities for commerce. Granted, public health is important but my gut feeling is that we’ve overreacted to this epidemic insofar as governmental entities are concerned. It’s one thing for a privately-run league to suspend operations for several weeks, but government declaring a state of emergency and forcing the cancellation of events slated to hold more than a few dozen people may be a little beyond the pale. These things should be decided by organizers, not dictated. Believe it or not – and despite the hoarders who think they need two cases of toilet paper – we have a little common sense left in this world.

I also believe we needed an end date to this state of emergency, or at least a date certain to re-evaluate the situation. Declare a state of emergency through March 31, with an interim deadline of perhaps March 28 to determine further course of action. (The professional baseball world at least knows two weeks’ worth of games will be cancelled, so that alternate planning can take place.) Much of the reason the stock market and oil futures have tanked over the last month is the uncertainty of the situation. Now we can’t predict a virus, but I think we can at least give a firm date for attempting to return to normal.

As I see it, leaving stuff open-ended gives potential for additional mischief from the “never let a crisis go to waste” crowd. We’re already staring a recession dead in the face (unless pent-up demand rescues us in 2020 Q2) and, being an election year, we know what that means. As always, the government has to do something to insure its re-election as opposed to following the Constitution or adhering to limited-government principles that would suggest a more hands-off approach.

We’ve already seen what a media-enhanced panic looks like by checking out the store shelves, so it’s time for vigilance and, once this is over, preparation for the next time. Trust me, it WILL happen again.

Is it hype or reality?

If I were to categorize my state of health, I would argue that it’s relatively good. Yes, I weigh more than I should but the blood work always seems to come back fine. It’s a blessing that I’m glad to have considering how many others suffer.

In the last few weeks, we’ve been reminded what suffering is thanks to the spread of the coronavirus, or, more appropriately, Wuhan virus. It took a few weeks to learn what virulent effects it was having on the people around the Chinese city of Wuhan, but as it spreads around the world we hear fears of a pandemic on the scale of the Spanish flu a century ago, where millions in a war-ravaged global population perished. (Reports suggest its effects casualty-wise were worse than the First World War, which was coming to an end just as the influenza was beginning to spread.)

Because of that fear, we are treated to breathless accounts of rapidly dwindling supplies of surgical masks, disinfectant, and toilet paper. The Dow Jones and other markets have plunged, major events cancelled, entire countries are being placed into lockdown over the Wuhan virus, and even our church has played into this paranoia as shaking hands has been discouraged at the greeting time built into the service.

If you know me well enough, you know I’m something of a born skeptic about certain things, and Wuhan virus is quickly falling into that category. There are just too many reasons to believe that there’s much more sizzle than steak when it comes to our seemingly biannual dread disease that’s going to wipe us all out. (If we survived SARS, which is more easily spread, we can handle Wuhan virus.)

Now the conspiracy buffs among us could speculate that the whole thing is a Chinese plot to try and crash our economy, paving the way for a President more to their liking than Donald Trump, who has been a difficult adversary when it comes to trade. It is interesting to note, though, how the federal reaction once thought to be too strict is now being portrayed as an albatross around Trump’s neck worse than Hurricane Katrina was for President George W. Bush. And as I noted above, the media has been complicit in stoking up fear.

After the topic came up for discussion at our small group tonight, I had another thought on the way home. Now it’s nothing completely out of the ordinary for schools to close because of the flu, as it happens from time to time when a school finds a significant percentage of its kids are sick. But the measures being taken such as cancelling in-person classes in favor of online lessons for the foreseeable future or keeping workers at home, as well as the talk of scrubbing pro sports games (as of about 30 minutes after I posted this, it’s no longer talk) or, more likely, holding them in closed stadiums – go beyond the pale into uncharted territory.

What this all reminds me of was the time period immediately after 9/11, and we have some eerie parallels. You may recall that both MLB and the NFL postponed an entire week’s worth of games (which, by the way, was how we got November baseball for the first time. I remember seeing the “Welcome to November Baseball” sign at old Yankee Stadium as the October 31 World Series Game 4 dragged past midnight into November.) But it’s also worth pointing out schools remained closed for several days after the terrorist attack, and life wasn’t really something close to normal for weeks – or months, in the case of the New York and D.C. regions. (Or so I presume since I was still in Ohio back then.)

And it could be much the same type of situation here, except the impacts are in different areas, such as the global supply chain, financial markets, and perhaps oil industry – has the sudden, unexpected drop in demand from a moribund China led to a schism in the market as Russia and Saudi Arabia could not agree to supply cuts to re-establish $60 a barrel oil? Tonight I even saw the “r” word being mentioned in the same story that noted the latest decline in the Dow Jones makes it official: the post-Great Recession bull market is officially over after 11 years. Stocks have fallen 20 percent off their peak of just a few weeks ago.

Long story short: Wuhan virus is a reality and chances are it will spread to a point where some areas are hard hit, just like any flu season. But there’s a lot more hype on this one because there’s a larger agenda being held by some people. Right now the news deserves a little larger grain of salt.

Splitting the opposition: the power couple

Editor’s note: Back in January I promised a multi-part series of posts based on a book I started on the Indivisible movement that, simply put, just wasn’t coming together as I would have liked. So I decided to serialize that beginning of a book draft – with a little more editing as I see fit – and add more writing to make this into a multi-part series of posts.

This is the second part, which will talk about the two primary leaders of Indivisible, the husband-and-wife team of Ezra Levin and Leah Greenberg. To pick this series up from the beginning, go here.

It’s not just any out-of-town wedding that makes the New York Times, but among families of a certain social class and structure nuptials become part of all the news that’s fit to print regardless of their location. That station in life was where Ezra Levin and Leah Greenberg fit in, thus their March 28, 2015 wedding was a short feature in the following day’s Gray Lady. As described at the time:

Greenberg works in Washington for Humanity United, a philanthropic foundation dedicated to peace and freedom. She manages grants and projects to combat human trafficking and slavery. She graduated from Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., and received a master’s degree in law and diplomacy from Tufts.

Her father is the acting assistant secretary at the Administration for Children and Families at the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, for which the bride’s mother, now retired, was a lawyer.

(…)

Mr. Levin, 29, is an associate director in Washington, specializing in the advocacy and research of tax and asset-building policies, for the Corporation for Enterprise Development, a nonprofit organization that fights poverty. He also graduated from Carleton College and received a master’s degree in public affairs from Princeton.

“Friends, First And Always”, New York Times, March 29, 2015.

Perhaps the only thing unusual about the event was the fact Levin was a Washington outsider by upbringing, as his parents were residents of Austin, Texas. Regardless, the wedding united two prototypical Beltway progressives and insiders in matrimony, and their future seemed bright in 2015: a Quinnipiac Poll earlier that month had Hillary Clinton with a vast lead for the Democratic nomination and, more importantly, an edge over leading GOP contenders former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida and Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin. While it was a precarious 3-point edge over Jeb, Clinton led Walker by 9 points and all other prospective Republicans by 5 points or more.

Even as the Greenberg-Levin ceremony became a pleasant memory later that fall, there was still a feeling that the same formula which worked for the Left in 2008 and 2012 in electing and re-electing Barack Obama would be more than enough to defeat a Republican candidate who had either alienated enough of the moderate electorate to already be a loser (GOP frontrunner Donald Trump, who had announced his bid a few months earlier in June) or the rest of the field that would invariably place themselves at a disadvantage by not calling out the subtly-biased political commentary of a reporting establishment that would be in the Democratic nominee’s corner. And while the Democrats in Washington were still laboring under a TEA Party Republican-controlled Congress, there seemed to be a confidence among the Beltway insiders that, if he were able to remain the frontrunner through the nominating process, Donald Trump’s abrasive personality and tendency to spout off on Twitter could drag the GOP ticket down enough to perhaps allow Democrats to regain control of Congress after two to six years in the minority wilderness for the Senate and House, respectively.

On the Democrat side, since Vice-President Joe Biden eventually begged off the race because of the untimely illness and death of his son Beau from a brain tumor, the “next-in-line” mantle fell squarely on the 2008 runner-up Hillary Clinton. Hillary, who eight years earlier ran against eventual nominee Barack Obama as more or less of a continuation of her husband’s triangulated policies – which worked best when enacted hand-in-hand with a Republican-controlled Congress – was now the 2016 version who believed she was entitled to the opportunity to be the first woman to be president. In her quest to win a primary campaign where its skids were already being greased for her through the Democrats’ superdelegate process, Hillary had already “evolved” leftward on some issues, such as immigration, and was being pushed even farther that way by the skunk at the coronation garden party named Bernie Sanders. Yet behind the scenes as the 2016 campaign evolved and the Clinton election looked more and more likely, progressive groups of every stripe began plotting how they could get Hillary to enact their dreamed-about policies given the reputation and expectation (cemented by her husband) that she would govern as a new type of centrist Democrat.

For politicos like Levin and Greenberg, another four or more years of Democratic dominance would perhaps enable the couple to move up the food chain into quasi-government positions with more power and prestige, while a victory by Jeb! or some other establishment Republican not named Donald Trump would just place the lovebirds in a four- or eight-year holding pattern. Of course, we all know who beat the odds and defied the so-called experts.

Just as it did for millions of others in the progressive ranks, the ascent of Donald Trump to become our 45th President threw the couple for a loop. But instead of flailing around or complaining just as soon as it was apparent that Trump would prevail, Levin and Greenberg established a goal: disrupt the new administration by any means possible. It began with the Indivisible Guide, which melted its distribution channels upon its release, and turned into a full-fledged group just weeks later.

Yet while Levin and Greenberg got the credit for Indivisible’s birthing process, they were just the public face of a cadre of “about 30 staffers from Congress and non-profit groups” who participated in shaping the initial Indivisible Guide. Since its origin, though, the couple’s stewardship has evolved the group from a small protest to a left-wing juggernaut, and in doing so has provided Indivisible with something the TEA Party really never had: clearly identifiable leaders.

In that respect Indivisible was quite unlike the TEA Party, where two major national groups (Tea Party Express and Tea Party Patriots) traded on the TEA Party name and local groups splintered in a number of different directions: many fiercely guarded their independence while others morphed into subsets of already-existing organizations such as Americans for Prosperity or the Campaign for Liberty. Add in various state and national TEA Party umbrella groups with overlapping but different agendas and it was clear not all of them were pulling in the same direction. But that was the beauty of a grassroots group.

On the other hand, while there are local Indivisible chapters who may deal with local issues as a sideline, their job 1 is to encourage resistance to Donald Trump and his Congressional allies while promoting a far left wing agenda chock full of socialized medicine, unfettered immigration, steeply progressive taxation, promotion of gender-bending policy, and overall government control.

One aside that I was contemplating for inclusion within the book: from time to time on Facebook I have commented on what I call the “traveling roadshow:” a group of maybe 20 to 30 malcontents and cranks who make it their life’s work to troll the social media of Congressman Andy Harris – who used to be my Congressman before I moved to Delaware – and show up at one of his regular town hall meetings around the sprawling district that spans nearly half the length of the state of Maryland thanks to Democrat gerrymandering. If I wanted to be a Facebook stalker, I imagine that I would find most of these fine folks are members of some Indivisible group within the district or pretty close by: according to their group roster Maryland is home to 56 member or partner organizations.

Over on this side of the Transpeninsular Line here in Delaware I counted 16 Indivisible and affiliated groups; most of those are in New Castle County, which is the Wilmington area. Since all three of the federal representatives from Delaware are Democrats, the job of Indivisibles (at least on social media) seems to be that of an amen chorus, with the sidebar of dismissing any conservative who speaks up as a Putin-paid troll. Since my representatives don’t seem to have the mostly rural western part of Sussex County on their GPS I haven’t yet been to a townhall-style meeting to see them in action to know how our version of Indivisible receives them. (It’s telling, though, that Senator Chris Coons – most famous for having Christine O’Donnell lose to him – has a primary opponent taking him on from his left, which is already pretty far over.)

Returning to point: another key and important distinction between Indivisible and your average TEA Party is in the backgrounds of its leaders. Just take the few dozen initial leaders of the TEA Party and you’ll find only a handful with any sort of government experience – while they often were local political organizers, they did so from outside the system. Conversely, Levin and Greenberg, as the Times profile shows, made their living in the belly of the Beltway beast. As Congressional staffers for Democrats, they were often on the receiving end of TEA Party anger so they had a pretty good idea how the other side lived. Whether it was perceived to be revenge or whether they admired the success of the tactics, even before the Trump administration began Greenberg and Levin were plotting out strategy to thwart the GOP’s best-laid plans of building a border wall with Mexico, securing a significant tax cut, and repealing the atrocity of Obamacare. Hence, the Indivisible Guide.

And you have to admit, looking back at these events from our hindsight of three-plus years later, that Indivisible’s method of defense was very successful. While the border wall is slowly being erected, Americans (with the exception of many well-to-do folks living in Democrat strongholds) received their tax cut, and Obamacare is being deconstructed piece by piece, one can just imagine how much more could have been accomplished if not for the misguided resistance and constant investigation by the not-so-loyal opposition. Every bit of success Donald Trump has had was either through his own initiative or took so much political capital that it cost the GOP its federal trifecta – they lost the House in 2018 and, had the Senate not been so heavily stacked against the Democrats, who had to defend the majority of their seats (26 of 35 seats up in 2018 were held by Democrats or Democrat-leaning independents) they may have taken the Senate as well.

(Just as a means of comparison, the 2010 TEA Party wave was bigger in terms of net gain of seats by the GOP, but the Senate landscape was considerably different: they needed to add ten seats to gain a majority in an election cycle where the seats being contested were almost evenly split. Had a situation analogous to 2018, with Democrats defending a vast majority of seats, been present in 2010, the GOP may have pulled off the coup of winning both houses of Congress; conversely, in a landscape where seats up for election were about evenly split on a partisan basis as it was in 2010 the Democrats may well have prevailed in taking the Senate back in 2018.)

Leah Goldberg and Ezra Levin look the part of a personable young couple; one who you probably would love to have move in next door. Personally I hope they get all they want out of life, with the one exception of stopping what little progress we are making on rightsizing the federal government. There’s no denying that they have played the political game in a masterful way, and it indeed proves a point that motivated people can make a difference, even if it’s not the change you want to see.

But there is a legitimate question one must ask about just how organic this call for change was. Granted, there were nearly 3 million more votes for Hillary Clinton than for Donald Trump, but – based on overall voter registration and turnout – the true winner was “none of the above.” So was it really a groundswell of support for continuing the Obama agenda or did Indivisible get a little push along the way?

I have quite a bit of research to do for what will be the third part, so I’m thinking it will take me until the latter part of March or early April to finish. There I look at how Indivisible got so wealthy so fast and how its priorities on that front have changed over time.

Where’s the reset button?

It’s fascinating to me how sometimes the most random things inspire me to write. First of all, it has to be a topic which is interesting to me and secondly there has to well up in me a feeling that I would have something relevant to add to the conversation. So I was sitting with laptop in lap the other night and saw two articles – a John Mauldin article posted by my friend Bob Densic and a Forbes piece by Carol Frazier – back-to-back on my social media and thought it a sign. So go ahead and read them, I’ll wait patiently for your return.

Sobering enough? I thought they were. They paint a much different picture than the good tidings promoted by the current administration, but they aren’t as pessimistic as one may think aside from the means of solution to the perceived problem.

The paragraphs that finally inspired this piece came from Jack Kelly’s Forbes post:

Ironically, the younger generations may be in for a windfall in the future. As their Baby Boomer parents pass away, they stand to receive a large inheritance. It could be the largest wealth transfer in American history. 

The catch is that if the market goes down appreciably or crashes, like in the 2008 financial crisis, the parents will sell their stocks at fire-sale prices and there won’t be much left over for their children. If all of the Boomers start selling their homes when they retire—which they are now doing in large numbers—to downsize their lifestyles, housing prices may collapse. This will also lessen the amount of money that could be transferred over to their kids. 

“Why Young Voters Are Embracing Bernie Sanders And Democratic Socialism,” Jack Kelly, Forbes, February 5, 2020.

From the sounds of these articles, the problem seems to be that those who are struggling are having issues with several different expenditures, number one being student loans but also the costs of rent and health insurance. So when Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, et. al. go out and pledge to wave a magic wand and eliminate two of those three expenses by forgiving student loans and “Medicare for All,” well, that’s an appeal which sounds mighty good to those who wrestle with these things each month.

I’m no Boomer, but I did live through a time when I was relatively fresh out of college, newly married with a five-year-old daughter by another father, and wished to pursue the American Dream of home ownership. The year was 1990, just 30 years ago. Of course, we didn’t have a large nest egg for a down payment but there were programs out these to assist those in our situation.

However, the bank told us no. They took one look at our credit and said, “work on paying this stuff off and come back in a year.” So we did. It meant we had to be more diligent with our finances but we pulled it off and a year later we bought our first house – which was a better one than the place we were denied.

Having said that, let me tell you about that house: it was nothing fancy to look at. The biggest criteria we had was to live in the high school district we believed would give our then-second grader the best possible educational outcome. So we were willing to settle for a three-bedroom, one-bath home on a 25′ x 120′ lot that was built in 1925, in a nice neighborhood of similar houses. We made it into the desired school district by five blocks.

It’s worth adding that, at the time, I was also paying off student loans. However, the rules for student loans were different back then, as were the rules for being a success: it was widely understood that success could be achieved in modest, incremental steps. The large house in the suburbs wasn’t out of play, but it was assumed to be your step to take after establishing equity in a starter house. You stepped your way up through newer and newer second-hand cars or bought the low-priced base model Ford or Chevy before you got to the car you really wanted out of the showroom. And while life for me has taken its share of unexpected twists and turns, the Michael at age 55 isn’t really all that far away from what the Michael at age 25 expected him to be – it’s just that the cast of characters has expanded and the stage has changed. Overall, I don’t have a ton of bells and whistles and I’m quite cool with that.

So consider this perspective of expectations as you read on with my analysis, and let’s go back to the blockquote. While my parents aren’t Boomers (they are part of the Silent Generation as they both are in their eighties as of next month) they do have a house and someday it will be passed on to my surviving brother and I (my other brother passed away nearly a decade ago.) Whether he decides it’s a fine place for him and his wife to relocate to (and buys me out) or if we just sell it and split the proceeds, yes, it may be a nice nest egg. Now I can’t speak for him, but as long as the house isn’t underwater (figuratively and/or literally) my wife and I will do just fine.

Naturally I realize not everyone is as fortunate as I am with regard to that potential windfall, but it’s worth pointing out that my parents weren’t (and still aren’t) bells and whistles types either. We had the modest two-bedroom, one-bath house until I was seven and it got to the point the second bedroom was just too small for kids nine, seven, and three to share. Yes, there were two cars in the driveway but oftentimes at least one of them was second-hand, and the rare family vacation was often a week at a rented cottage on one of Michigan’s many inland lakes. But we had food on the table and a roof over our head, culminating in their dream of a house on enough land to placate the ball-playing needs of three growing boys – five acres was plenty enough.

That’s how I was taught, and while I didn’t take those Depression-era lessons completely to heart, I remembered enough to be prudent at times when the chips were down as I made my way in life.

So let me return to Kelly for a moment:

A combination of crushing student loan debt, low-wage jobs and escalating home and rental costs has a huge impact on Millennials and Gen-Zers. If a person does not feel financially secure nor confident about their future, it’s natural to hold off making big commitments, such as getting married, purchasing their first home and having children. These things were once taken for granted by older generations. Now, it’s a hard-to-reach and nearly impossible dream for many people. 

“Why Young Voters Are Embracing Bernie Sanders And Democratic Socialism,” Jack Kelly, Forbes, February 5, 2020.

I think Kelly definitely overstates the “taken for granted” because older generations were taught that achieving those milestones took hard work, patience, and sacrifice.

No one is putting a gun to your head to take out student loans in order to afford college. There are several alternatives:

  • Begin your college career at a more affordable state school or community college
  • Attend part-time and work full-time
  • Embark on a career that doesn’t require a college degree, such as a trade
  • Join the armed forces and eventually attend on the GI Bill

Yes, this is a sacrifice in some respects – but perhaps it’s better to sacrifice now when the stakes are low than chain yourself to decades of debt.

When it comes to the other two aspects Kelly cites, getting married and having children, we’ve often found that the younger generation does this in the wrong order by having the kids first. Now while I remind you I keep a (pretty much) family-friendly, PG-rated shop here, I have to bend the rules for a moment for a reminder:

  • Guys: think with the head on your shoulders, not the one between your legs.
  • Ladies: you have the ultimate say in the matter, and I’m not talking about abortion as birth control. If you don’t want to have a child yet, then keep those legs together.
  • I don’t care what brand of condom you use, if you’re on the Pill, or whatever method you may think will cheat the inevitable. It’s gonna fail. Remember, when it comes to birth control, only abstinence works 100 percent of the time it’s tried.

And let’s talk about high rent and health insurance costs. Has it ever occurred to our little snowflakes that perhaps part of the problem with high rent is the overhead a landlord has to deal with: taxes, upkeep, perhaps his own mortgage? A landlord also has to build in a little bit of cost for the possibility someone skips on their rent or trashes the place before they go. Yet if you can get something that may not be the newest thing in the hot development but otherwise fits your needs, that’s a little extra to save for a down payment.

Regarding health insurance, let’s just say that thanks to health insurance being mandated, there are a lot of greedy little tongues trying to lap up that manna from heaven called taxpayer money. Some of it comes from Medicare and Medicaid, and some of it comes from subsidies. Plus don’t forget that some medical payments come from dollars you weren’t taxed on. The system hasn’t been a free market in decades, which makes it way more expensive than it would be in a simple fee-for-service world. Indeed our system is broken but Medicare for All isn’t the fix for it.

I’m well past 1500 words of advice here, so I suppose it’s time to cut to the chase: the appeal of socialism is the desire to have reward without responsibility. Working to build up savings isn’t fun, and there is no shortage of people who will tell you that’s old-fashioned and the debt isn’t really that bad. Waiting for marriage to consummate a relationship is a sure ticket to being socially outcast in this day and age, but perhaps in thirty years you’ll find out your marriage is a strong one because you built it on the ground of waiting until you had the emotional part down to begin with the physical part. Now that you have a rock-solid family unit that was raised properly you can look back and laugh about it.

Perhaps I am the worst person ever to give all this advice, but in five and a half decades on this rock I’ve kind of figured out that maybe our parents and the values and morals instilled into them by previous generations were (by and large) right.

The path to socialism is the path to an epic fail. Don’t doubt me. If we’re dumb enough to set foot that way, I fear for this land I love.

Splitting the opposition: the upset

Editor’s note: Back in January I promised a multi-part series of posts based on a book I started on the Indivisible movement that, simply put, just wasn’t coming together as I would have liked. So I decided to serialize that beginning of a book draft – with a little more editing as I see fit – and add more writing to make this into a multi-part series of posts.

This first post begins with the introduction I had wrote, which covered “the biggest upset in U.S. history.”

For (Hillary) Clinton, the loss is especially brutal. She had meticulously planned her victory party at the Javits Center in Manhattan, symbolically under an enormous glass ceiling that she hoped to break through. Instead, it was the dreams and aspirations of her supporters that were shattered.

Trump pulls off biggest upset in U.S. history“, Shane Goldmacher and Ben Schreckinger, Politico, November 9, 2016

If you had done a “man on the street” interview in the days before the 2016 Presidential election and asked about its potential outcome, most respondents would likely have followed the conventional wisdom that the election was going to be, at long last, the second consecutive rectification of a long-standing wrong in American history: after electing (and re-electing) the first African-American president in Barack Obama, the fairer sex would get its first opportunity at the Oval Office by the election of a woman with a familiarity to the premises in Hillary Clinton, the long-suffering wife of our 42nd President, Bill Clinton.

That’s not to say, however, that the Clinton campaign didn’t endure some bumps in the road in the process: specifically, her coronation as the favored Democratic candidate was all but interrupted by the insurgent bid of Vermont’s Senator Bernie Sanders, who temporarily dropped his independent moniker in order to seek the Democratic nomination. Old-style machine politics coupled with rules that made the party anything but democratic, such as the significant roles played by the superdelegates and the thumb placed on the scale by Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, made sure that a large slice of the left-wing electorate was going to have hard feelings regarding Clinton’s nomination. However, looking at the election from an early-November perspective, all that funny business with Sanders was going to become a mere footnote in the poorhouse-to-penthouse political success story that Hillary was putting the finishing touches on.

Yet believing the conventional wisdom may have been the mistake that unraveled Clinton’s campaign – a going-through of motions that ignored several Rust Belt states assumed to be in the Democratic column. Perhaps the Clinton camp felt safe in believing she would win because Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin had a heavy union influence and, with the exception of Ohio, had voted Democratic blue in every Presidential election since 1988 – a trend first made possible by Hillary’s husband. Moreover, placed against a divisive candidate who had alienated a large cross-section of the Republican Party – a group called the #NeverTrump Republicans – it was thought that GOP turnout could be depressed in swing states like Florida, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Virginia, further securing the Clinton victory. One week out, polling showed that Clinton was indeed winning in her “firewall” states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin and within the margin of error in Florida. Ohio was not in as good of shape, but historians could assure Hillary’s backers that, while no Republican has ever won the presidency without winning Ohio, there have been a handful of GOP stalwarts who won the state but lost the overall race – the last being Richard Nixon in 1960.

The factor no one ever considered in handicapping the 2016 race, though, was the amount of pent-up frustration churning in the residents of America’s heartland. Going into Election Day, Hillary’s campaign probably knew she was in a bit of trouble in Florida and Ohio, but all that would do was temper her Electoral College victory to something below 300 votes. In assuming that Hillary would win Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, they believed she would have squeaked out a 278-260 Electoral College win even while losing Florida and Ohio. But for want of 77,747 votes combined in the three “firewall” states Hillary lost – far fewer than Green Party candidate Jill Stein received in the trio – Donald Trump won the Electoral College and the Presidential election despite drawing nearly 3 million fewer votes nationwide. No amount of cajoling or laying on of guilt by certain members of the public could convince members of the Electoral College to switch their Trump votes to Hillary, although a half-dozen changed their votes to others. On January 6, 2017 Congress counted the votes and it became official: January 20, 2017 would mark the beginning of the Trump administration.

It was an administration I didn’t vote for, but these events gave birth to a fascinating political movement and eventually inspired this series I’m writing as a way to document its unique history and effects and to present a proposal on how right-thinking Americans can split up this supposedly unbreakable entity.

You may ask, then: what piqued my interest in the Indivisible movement?

In 2019, a decade after it came into being as a protest against the billions of dollars being proposed as economic stimulus by then-President Obama, I released a book called The Rise and Fall of the TEA Party, a historical and analytical book that featured several of its early leaders. As I learned in researching that book, it turned out the ragtag irregular rear-guard regiments of the loosely-organized TEA Party were the ones who didn’t get polled (or couldn’t bring themselves to admit backing Donald Trump, or flat-out lied to the pollsters) but came out in droves in those aforementioned heartland states to cast their ballot against Hillary. They were a voter bloc left for dead in American politics, in large part because these initial supporters now viewed the national organizations claiming that TEA Party mantle as just another set of inside-the-Beltway interest groups. Combine that with the percentage of voters who “felt the Bern” and were disgruntled enough with the Democratic Party and their gaming of the system to push them into supporting someone like Jill Stein over Hillary, and you get the result we received: Donald Trump pulling the “biggest upset in U.S. history.”

However, once the shock of Hillary’s loss wore off, those who believed she was the better candidate decided not to get mad – they vowed to get even. In writing the Indivisible Guide – more formally known as Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda, but I’ll just call it the Indivisible Guide or simply Guide – the authors made it clear their movement was borrowing heavily from the tactics and techniques of the TEA Party but doing so in order to oppose Donald Trump and advocate for the progressive agenda they believed would have been both an extension of Barack Obama’s policies and the starting point for a Hillary Clinton presidency. Quoting from its introduction:

Donald Trump is the biggest popular-vote loser in history to ever call himself President. In spite of the fact that he has no mandate, he will attempt to use his congressional majority to reshape America in his own racist, authoritarian, and corrupt image. If progressives are going to stop this, we must stand indivisibly opposed to Trump and the Members of Congress (MoCs) who would do his bidding. Together, we have the power to resist – and we have the power to win.

We know this because we’ve seen it before. The authors of this guide are former congressional staffers who witnessed the rise of the Tea Party. We saw these activists take on a popular president with a mandate for change and a supermajority in Congress. We saw them organize locally and convince their own MoCs to reject President Obama’s agenda. Their ideas were wrong, cruel, and tinged with racism – and they won.

We believe that protecting our values, our neighbors, and ourselves will require mounting a similar resistance to the Trump agenda – but a resistance built on the values of inclusion, tolerance, and fairness. Trump is not popular. He does not have a mandate. He does not have large congressional majorities. If a small minority in the Tea Party could stop President Obama, then we the majority can stop a petty tyrant named Trump.

Opening statement to Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda.

Having the direct comparison available between Indivisible and the TEA Party may have led readers to believe this will be a short summary, but it’s made much more complex by the nature of the opposition. Unlike the TEA Party, which I found to be percolating beneath the political surface for over a year before it was galvanized by random early morning remarks by a TV pundit by the name of Rick Santelli in February, 2009, Indivisible was put together almost overnight – yet it gathered the momentum it needed in a few short weeks thanks to the backing of large organizations which make Indivisible much more of an Astroturf group than it may appear to be from the outside.

In the understatement of the decade, it’s fair to say that the prospect of a Trump presidency didn’t sit well with a lot of people, and their anger was intense. At the same time Indivisible was being planned out, social media organizers were putting together the Women’s March on Washington. Held the day after Trump was sworn in, their event outdrew the inauguration, according to news reports. Quoted in The Atlantic, an “expert on nonviolent protest” by the name of Erica Chenowith gushed that the Women’s March “has some of the hallmarks of the beginning of a successful movement. The ability to mobilize large numbers of people is often associated with the creation of an effective campaign.” Yet, charges of anti-Semitism against its leadership and its embrace of political values far outside the mainstream have led the March on a downward spiral, with the 2020 event drawing a mere fraction of the 2017 crowd. It’s even taken a back seat to the annual March for Life put on by abortion opponents, which continues to draw hundreds of thousands to the nation’s capital year after year and was buoyed this year with President Trump’s personal appearance – the first time a sitting President has addressed the gathering. (Let’s pray it’s the pro-life support that becomes the “effective campaign.”) Whether it was because the Women’s March had folded most of its support into other aspects of progressive politics, such as Indivisible, or if the anti-Semitism repelled prospective marchers, the Women’s March as an organized group doesn’t appear to have the staying power that Indivisible has maintained.

Given that Indivisible has presented itself as inspired by the TEA Party, having the experience of writing and researching on that particular political caprice provided me with a number of questions about Indivisible and its place in the progressive movement which needed to be looked at to provide a complete accounting. And, to borrow from the Rules for Radicals penned by progressive icon Saul Alinsky, it’s an effort to make Indivisible conform to the rules they themselves set by making such a comparison. By far, that aspect of this series will be the most fun to write because, frankly, the Indivisible narrative has more holes than a slice of Swiss cheese.

Naturally, the comparison can’t be an exact one. Setting aside the difference in policy prescriptions the respective winners ran on in 2008 and 2016, the situation that gave birth to Indivisible was far different than the circumstance that led to the formation of the TEA Party. Unlike his predecessor, President Trump did not come in facing a nation amidst the direst economic circumstances since the Great Depression, one simultaneously troubled by ongoing conflicts in the Middle East. Instead, what Donald Trump inherited was a sense of unfinished business felt by the populace: as 2017 dawned, America was in a dawdling, “jobless” economic recovery while its foreign policy wrestled with the rise of the al-Qaeda successor Islamic State – Barack Obama’s idea of the “JV team.” Donald Trump’s blueprint for fundamental change, then, was the idea of reversing what he saw as the excesses of big government, such as eliminating Obamacare, providing tax relief, and securing the border with Mexico. Those three agenda items formed Trump’s appeal to the TEA Party’s political diaspora.

But Trump didn’t go as far as the initial TEA Party leaders would have. While they shared much of the platform of thwarting Obama’s initiatives, Trump wasn’t as keen during his campaign about returning the federal government to what TEA Party believers deemed a more proper, Constitutional role by limiting its size and scope. For example, early on Trump took entitlement reform off the table, believing a more robust economy would work the problem out for us.

Conversely, Indivisible was about one thing and one thing only: stopping Donald Trump. Yet the most important consideration when talking about Indivisible’s origins is knowing its organizers are products of a political culture. Instead of outsiders tilting at the windmills of the political field like most of the original TEA Party leaders were, Indivisible’s two key founders, the husband-and-wife team of Ezra Levin and Leah Greenberg, were already well-placed inside the castle because they were both Congressional staffers at some point during their careers and continually worked inside the Beltway swamp. Knowing all the inside baseball allowed them to dictate an anti-Trump agenda, pull the proper levers, and implement their agenda in the stealthiest manner possible, with minimum fingerprints thanks to a bureaucracy (the Swamp, or “deep state”) that also loathed Trump from the get-go.

Thus, at the time of its inception, Indivisible was only interested in what they termed “playing defense” and settling in for a waiting game until progressive reinforcements could arrive in the 2018 midterm elections. Once the changing of the House guard came, thanks to the 2018 midterms, Indivisible began advocating for a number of policy changes their supporters could originate in the House as its way of going on offense.

I’m relishing the chance to share my conclusions, but my next part will begin with a look at the couple that’s the public face of Indivisible.

A rush to condemn, part 2

A recent post on Twitter by a Delaware state senator made local news, and it’s just another example of what I meant in my last post.

State Senator Bryan Townsend is, of course, a Democrat who owns a measly 11 lifetime rating (out of a possible 100) on the Delaware edition of the monoblogue Accountability Project. But his retweet of a cartoon obviously depicting Limbaugh of a member of the KKK is yet another example of what I described yesterday.

Of course many who replied to the Tweet let him have it. But in looking down his overall Twitter feed (which intersperses between mainly political-related items with a few family observations tossed in) it’s apparent that he’s not going to care one iota regardless of the remarks, or the facts: like his longtime call screener Bo Snerdley (a black man) we’re still waiting for all the racist remarks Rush has made. But to Townsend (a politician) perception is reality.

It also goes without saying that there’s a double standard at work here, since two different local GOP party officials were recently drummed out of their party roles thanks to insensitive remarks on their part. But I doubt Townsend is going anywhere and he has the luxury of his seat not being up until 2022, as he was re-elected in 2018 with the largest margin of victory among the eight Senators who faced opposition, with just under 76%. He represents the leafy suburbia of New Castle County – his district runs along I-95 just west of the Christiana Mall – so Bryan obviously has his constituents fooled into believing he’s worthy of support. I just feel sorry for his small children, being raised by parents with such beliefs.

I’m also glad he’s not my state senator. Ironically, I found out my state senator is a newspaper owner so you can imagine how much scrutiny his editions receive. Maybe that’s the most prudent approach?

A rush to condemn

Like millions of other Americans, I was stunned by the news that Rush Limbaugh has been stricken with advanced-stage lung cancer, as he revealed on his show last week. I was just as stunned to learn that Limbaugh was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom as part of the State of the Union address by President Trump. (In part this is because I never watch the SotU show – I would rather just save myself the 90 minutes and read the transcript. Same goes for State of the State, county, city, etc.)

First, though, I should tell you how I was introduced to the Maharushie, and how he helped make me the political person I am today.

Back in 1993, when I changed jobs and joined a small (but rapidly growing, which is important to this part of the story) architectural firm, I met my friend Bob Densic. As it turned out, the company I worked for was growing so quickly it had to sublet a small office from another business in the building we inhabited, where four of the firm’s employees worked – no phone, and we had to be fairly quiet to not interfere with the very occasional consultations of the social workers from whom the space was subletted.

Bob was the leader of this group, and as such I quickly learned that the four of us in what he called the “Rebeldome” – in part because it was on the south side of the building, and in part from the inhabitants – were in the building’s “Rush Room.” (At this time, Limbaugh’s show was also increasing in popularity such that restaurants, coffee shops, and similar outlets had what they called “Rush Rooms” where patrons could listen in. This was before the era of widespread cell phones and way before podcasts.)

So from 12 to 3 each day, I got a dose of a “relentless pursuit of the truth” and it didn’t take me long to get hooked! I didn’t stay too long at this firm, particularly since Bob left a few months after I was hired. At my next stop I was deprived of my Rush fix (this was a company that piped in Muzak, believe it or not) so, like the nicotine addicts who stepped outside at lunchtime and the scheduled breaks, I would often be in my car with the radio on to catch the first half-hour. By the time my career had moved into my Hobbs+Black phase (the last firm I worked for in Toledo, when they had an office there) I had a good system down – headphones to listen to CDs in the morning and late afternoon, but Rush was on my old clock radio – with the volume respectfully turned down somewhat low – from 12 to 3. Years later, when I reached the career detour the good Lord gave me to take, all that windshield time between Lewes and Exmore was perfect for listening to the EIB Network.

And I think that having that exposure to political ideas through Rush inspired me to join the Young Republicans in the mid-1990s. From there I became a precinct chair and eventually a member of Wicomico County’s Republican Central Committee. More importantly for this venue, Rush was the inspiration for the name, as I wrote in 2005 on the original “about” page – the first page I ever wrote for this website, even before it went live. (I reached back into the internet archives for this one, in case you’ve never seen the earliest rendition of my site.)

Although I haven’t been nearly as faithful a listener to El Rushbo as I once was – I was repelled by what seemed to me his slobbering embrace of Donald Trump as the 2016 campaign unfolded, particularly when the field was chock-full of solid conservatives like Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, et. al. – every so often when the opportunity arises I still check in to see what he has to say. I have to admit he was on to something with Donald Trump.

I know a little bit about cancer from being married to an oncology nurse, enough to know that stage 4 lung cancer can be deadly serious. We all have our time to go, but for Rush making it to the November election, let alone his 70th birthday next January, is now quite the dicey proposition. (I noticed in the photos and videos from the ceremony that he now looks a lot older than 69, at least to me. It seems to me like he’s aged two decades in the last five years, even with the beard.) Granted, he’s been blessed to be in a financial position to be able to procure the most advanced treatments from the world’s best doctors, but his days as a radio icon are of a much smaller number than we believed he had before last week. (After all, longtime radio commentator Paul Harvey broadcast regularly until he was nearly 90.)

Yet the fact that Rush is in his final days was the source of glee to many on the Left. Needless to say, their TDS, combined with the surprise presentation of the Medal of Freedom at the State of the Union – Limbaugh states he was aware he would receive the award, but thought it would be in a more subdued ceremony later this month – brought out some of their most toxic venom on social media. It was shameful, but at the same time pitiful.

Look, you will not find me as the member of any major Democrat politician’s fan club. Following them on Facebook is about as close as I get. But, like politics used to stop at the water’s edge, the same goes for personal vendettas. Would I be pleased if Nancy Pelosi resigned tomorrow? Of course. But I would not be the one celebrating if she were diagnosed with cancer and given months or weeks to live, or collapsed suddenly from a coronary and died. That’s just not cool. It’s like the vultures on our side who pine for Ruth Bader Ginsburg to pass away so another Supreme Court seat becomes available; that really bothers me. I’d rather she enjoy a few years of retirement.

At some point, everyone of every political persuasion goes to meet our Maker. I’ll miss Rush when he’s permanently departed from being behind the golden EIB microphone, even if I didn’t always agree with him. So why can’t we remember we’re all human and we’ve supposed to love thy neighbor as thyself? It’s a struggle to keep our schadenfreude to a minimum when someone on the Left passes away, but we really should try to lead by example.