Advice for the next MDGOP leader

On Wednesday night I put up a relatively quick post handicapping the various officer races for Maryland Republican Party leadership. But there was one person I may have missed, and his name is Gary Collins.

Over the last few days his social media has been on fire because he had noted his thought about trying for the brass ring, but deciding against it – only to find a lot of people want him to consider it anyway. It seems to me there can be floor nominations (although my recollection is rusty on this) so he may have something of a support base if he decides to try.

Back in the summer, though, Gary was one of the strongest Trumpkin voices screaming for my resignation, and I suppose he eventually got his wish because I did. Now he has to be careful what he wished for, though, because I’m going to give him (and anyone else who seeks the top spot) some free advice from an outsider who was once on the inside. It’s not so much on how to be chair of the party as it is a general treatise on philosophy. So here goes.

  • There are two numbers for the new Chair to remember: 818,890 and 1,677,926. The former number is the Democratic vote in 2014, and the latter in 2016. We can’t count on a weak Democrat that the party can’t get excited about to run in 2018, and you can be sure that the other party will be trying to tie the person who only won in 2014 by about 65,000 votes to the guy who lost two years later, in large part from Democrats and independents voting against him as opposed to being for their own flawed nominee, by over 700,000 votes. (You can fairly say that 1/3 of Hillary’s popular vote margin came from this state.) This is true even though Larry Hogan didn’t support Donald Trump and reportedly didn’t vote for him.
  • Thus, job one for the party Chair is to re-elect the governor and job 1A is to get him more help. You may not like it, and the chances are reasonably good the winner supported Trump from early on. But not everything Trump says or does will play well here, especially when 2/5 of the voters live in the Capital region.
  • Legislatively, this will be the year in the cycle the General Assembly majority is most aggressive. You can bet that paid sick leave will pass and they will dare Hogan to veto it. Even other crazy stuff like the “chicken tax” and a renewed push for the O’Malley-era phosphorus regulations have a decent chance of passing – both to burnish the far-left legacy of ambitious Democrats and to attempt to embarrass Governor Hogan. Meanwhile, if it’s an administration-sponsored bill you can be certain the committee chairs have standing orders to throw it in their desk drawers and lose the key. (Of course, identical Democrat-sponsored legislation will have a chance at passing, provided they get all the credit.) Bear in mind that 2017 will be aggressive because 2018 is an election year and the filing deadline will again likely be during session – so those who wish to move up in the ranks may keep their powder dry on the most extreme issues next session until they see who wins that fall.
  • Conservatives have a lot to lose. Larry Hogan is not a doctrinaire conservative, but he needs a second term for one big reason – sort of like the rationale of keeping the Supreme Court that #NeverTrump people were constantly subjected to. It’s the redistricting, stupid. They got rid of Roscoe Bartlett by adding thousands of Montgomery County voters to the Sixth District (while diluting the former Sixth District voters into the Eighth or packing them into the First) so the next target will be Andy Harris. If you subtracted out the four Lower Shore counties from his district and pushed it over into Baltimore City, you would only lose a little in the Democratic Third and Seventh Districts but pick up the First. The Lower Shore voters would be well outnumbered by PG and Charles County as part of the Fifth District (such a district split is not unprecedented.) Democrats dreamed about this last time out, and they want no part of an independent redistricting commission.
  • One place to play offense: vulnerable Democrat Senators. I live in Jim Mathias’s district, and it’s very interesting how much more of an advocate he was for an elected school board after 2014. He’s always tried to play up his somewhat centrist (compared to most Democrats. anyway) voting record, and I suspect there are a handful of other D’s who may try to do the same. Don’t let them get away with it, because over years of doing the monoblogue Accountability Project I’ve found (with a couple rare exceptions) that even the worst Republican is superior to the best Democrat as far as voting is concerned.

So whoever wins Saturday can feel free to use these ideas. As for me, I have far better plans for my weekend – I’ll wave in the general direction in Frederick as we go by. Fair warning: comment moderation may be slow or non-existent.

monoblogue turns eleven

To borrow a phrase from Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tufnel, I have to give this post that extra push. Whether that push is over the cliff or not remains to be seen, but this website is going to 11.

Once again I’m writing this “state of the blog” address on its anniversary. Since this is year 11, I don’t have to be as fancy as I was last year with “10 from 10″ – just one post will do. That’s a good thing because, to be quite frank, this past year was a brutal one for this site that I would rank as the worst, for a host of reasons. Maybe it’s the realization that it may never quite be all I wanted it to become since I just don’t have the resources or talents to make it so. And almost everything I’ve tried to do recently has failed to make an impact.

So I came to the decision back in July that this could not be an everyday endeavor going forward. The reward just hadn’t been there for the effort I had been putting in, either in readership or political change.

I have had the same program count my readership for nearly a decade, so I have a pretty good idea of what the numbers will look like in any given year: even-numbered years generally outperform odd-numbered ones because this is, after all, a political-based site so interest will peak coming into an election and wane for awhile afterward. (Since only 32,000 people live in Salisbury and only a tiny percentage of them bother to vote, municipal elections really don’t help the readership cause out much. Moreover, I don’t even get that modest benefit next year because the city adopted a system similar to the state of Maryland: all of last year’s winners are set until 2019, so there’s no city election in 2017.) With Maryland’s four-year election cycle, this makes 2012 the most comparable year to 2016 – and unless I hit a readership number in the next month I haven’t had in many moons I won’t even reach half that 2012 level. Simply put, since the 2014 election my numbers have been terrible in comparison to my peak years of 2012-14. For 2016 they may not even make it back to my previous all-time low year of 2009, which was be the similar point in the cycle as 2017 will be. I never really got the October peak my site usually gets in an election year, but what’s done is done I suppose.

Another conclusion that I reached last year was that I couldn’t do justice to my Shorebird of the Week series, so it’s gone by the wayside. And given the paucity of other long-running features such as Weekend of local rock (just four volumes in the last year) and odds and ends (only six this year, and one since March), this site is undergoing a transition to a completely different look and feel that reflects my own changing priorities. (That’s not all my doing, though: I will miss having Marita’s columns each week, too. Hopefully Cathy Keim hasn’t forgotten me, either.)

One of those priorities used to be that of being a reporter, but because of the aspect of political change I haven’t recently done a number of on-the-spot posts I had previously done – and they’re not coming back. Because I decided I couldn’t support a particular candidate, there was no longer a monthly Republican Club post, reports related to events I would attend on their behalf such as the Good Beer Festival, Autumn Wine Festival, or Lincoln Day Dinner, or the other “insider” stuff I used to receive. (As an example, the Maryland Republican Party will elect a new leadership slate on Saturday – and I haven’t seen or heard a thing about it, as opposed to the contested elections we had in the spring when I was still on the Central Committee.)

Perhaps that’s why I didn’t get the October bump, but then again if you were reading this site just for that sort of reporting you were somewhat missing the point. And if you’re on a jihad against me because I wasn’t a good Republican who fell in line to support Trump (as many of my cohorts did, for the sake of party unity) you probably don’t understand the philosophy I live by. If the choice is between my conscience and increased readership, I will choose the former and live without the latter, every time. We all have choices to make in life and I made mine.

So now that I’ve gone through all the doom and gloom as well as the murmurings and disputings, allow me to look forward. And yes, despite the lower readership numbers, there will be a forward. The site is paid up for the next year so I may as well use it every so often.

Where I see this enterprise going is that it becomes more of a teaching tool, and part of that is because of another project I am doing simultaneously with this website.

We have three elements at work here: first, we have the results of socialism and government overreach that arguably were rejected with the latest election returns. (At least they were rejected in enough states to put Donald Trump in the Oval Office.) Secondly, we have the premise that President-elect Trump will govern from the center to center-left rather than the Right, at least on balance. Most of his “alt-right” supporters are surely disheartened with his transition as he’s backed away from several campaign planks and placed those who didn’t necessarily support him in positions of authority, but I never expected Donald Trump to be a doctrinaire conservative in the first place. This premise leaves the distinct possibility that some faction of the GOP will not back Trump on his proposals like paid maternity leave or increasing the minimum wage, among others. For those issues Democrats will cross the aisle to support him, probably in return for additional liberal folly.

Thirdly, and most importantly, there is an argument to be considered: was Trump a product of a conservative wave that gave Republicans resounding victories in the 2010 and 2014 midterm elections, or was Trump’s election a populist revolt rather than a conservative one, meaning conservatism as governing philosophy is back to the place where it was before Ronald Reagan? Corollary to that, one has to ask whether the TEA Party movement was extinguished by Donald Trump or is he their logical extension?

Truth be told, I was thrilled by the TEA Party because I thought the populace was finally coming around to where I was in terms of political philosophy, and I embraced it. So the question above is fascinating enough to me that I am underway with a book that will answer these arguments and questions for me and (prayerfully) many thousands of other readers. It’s something I am truly enjoying researching and writing, so I will ask your pardon if this website isn’t updated on a daily basis. Answering these queries is going to take some of my time, although I now enjoy the advantage of having a little more of it being away from the active political world.

So the book will address the third part of my above troika, but the philosophy of this site will ponder the first two elements, as well as those issues I care about within the states of Maryland and – to a more limited extent – Delaware. I’ll still be doing the monoblogue Accountability Project, for example. It may not be the type of content you’ve come to expect over the first eleven years, but I’m still striving to make that content I write of the highest possible quality.

For your consideration, that is the push I’m going to give you when I take this site to, and beyond, 11.

Happy Thanksgiving 2016

November 24, 2016 · Posted in Personal stuff · Comment 

As things sometimes happen to fall in life, for me Thanksgiving begins a short period of recollection and gratitude each year because it generally falls within a week of the anniversary of my website. So I write a pair of summary-type navel-gazing posts in a short period of time, although I use this one to think about my station in life and the December 1 post as a look back at another year of blogging. Last year I did a combination deal because I used an older Thanksgiving post that happened to fall into the “10 from 10″ retrospective I did to celebrate a decade of monoblogue, so really I didn’t do my usual thoughts on my life.

Yet to say the least, a lot has occurred over the last two years: I’ve become a relatively regular churchgoer, found a steady full-time job in my original field of work, got back on the Central Committee after a hiatus away as a non-voting secretary only to leave less than a year later, and (of course) married my sweetie on a definite day to remember. And that’s just the big stuff.

So I indeed have a lot to give thanks for, and despite the fact most people have some sort of bone to pick with 2016 I didn’t think it was all that awful of a year. Yes, it was definitely different than most in the 52 I’ve been here, but it wasn’t horrible all things considered.

However, there are things I miss about Thanksgivings past. Obviously growing up as a child most of us have family traditions, and as you get older you begin to look back fondly on the way things were – the warts seem to fall away. It’s been over a decade now since I celebrated the holiday with my parents and family, although this was by my choice to great extent since I live here. In this case, it’s also true that you can’t go home again as my parents moved to Florida not long after I came to Maryland and my older brother is no longer with us. Alas, all those memories are part of the past, and over the last two years I’ve missed out on another regular Thanksgiving tradition as one of the friends who graciously hosted me (and later Kim and Kassie) for several years passed away last December at the age of 41. (She was too ill to host Thanksgiving last year as her cancer was finally beating her after a seven-year fight.)

Yet even with those sad realizations, I just have to remember it’s part of life. None of us are here forever, so it’s a good thing someone came up with the idea of annually taking the time and being thankful for the bounties life provides for us - even if we don’t always recognize them.

One of my latest writing assignments is one that I’m not paid for, doesn’t really come with a regular schedule, and has a fairly limited audience of just a few: I summarize the prayer requests of our small Bible study group and text out a reminder to keep praying for these things. Somehow this has fallen on me, but that’s not so bad because it’s a way to be better connected with the extended family of our church and (in our case) fellow parents of teenagers in the church’s youth group. And we all pray for different people we know or problems we have, with the understanding that God does answer all of our prayers. (The answer isn’t always the one we want to hear, but He is in control for a reason.)

But some of our prayers are simple expressions of thanks for His works, and it’s with that in mind that I hope you share today that which you are thankful for with our Creator. I understand for some that list may be far too short, and for others they haven’t quite learned that their long list of blessings is there in no small part thanks to His intercession. (I think He is certainly approving of the endeavors and efforts one undertakes in pursuit of those blessings, though.)

So I pray that all of you have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving, and we will see if my other, more modest prayer for a Lions win over Minnesota is answered in the way I’d like it to be. Despite being division rivals, this is their first Thanksgiving meeting since 1995 – Barry Sanders played in that game, to illustrate this lengthy interregnum. And unlike a lot of Thanksgivings in the past, this game has a lot of meaning: the winner grabs first place in the division.

Enjoy your dinner, friends, and family, and count your blessings. Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. (Philippians 4:4)

The writing game

I wonder if people thought Marita Noon’s final column was actually about me since I hadn’t posted in several days. (However, I did a little work on the site and updated the SotW Tracker page.) But you may recall I made some comments at the end of her post regarding what she had chosen to do in her career beyond writing in and about the energy field.

Something you may have missed earlier this week ties into the plight of the energy worker, and it’s a shame Marita won’t be commenting on it here on my site. On Tuesday the United States Geological Survey (USGS) came out with the news that a west Texas oil field could be “the largest estimated continuous oil accumulation that USGS has assessed in the United States to date.” They estimated 20 billion barrels of oil could be recovered, which would supply our needs for three years just by itself. (Ironically, this field probably lies deep under Marita’s house.) It’s great news, but with a catch: the price of oil needs to rebound to $60 to $65 a barrel to make this bonanza worth recovering economically. According to an oil industry expert quoted by CNN:

Morris Burns, a former president of the Permian Basin Petroleum Association, told KWES the low price of oil - currently around $46 a barrel - means the oil will sit underground for the foreseeable future.

“We are picking up a few rigs every now and then but we won’t see it really take off until we (get) that price in the $60 to $65 range,” Burns told the station.

Many years ago I remember the price of gas getting under a dollar a gallon; this was probably back in the late 1980s/early 1990s. At the time oil had plunged to about $10 to $15 a barrel. For consumers it was great news but for oil companies and workers it was a desperate time. A few weeks before her “retirement” from energy writing and commentary, Marita had wrote what seemed like a counter-intuitive piece concerning the slowly increasing price of oil. But if you look at it from the perspective of an energy worker, the best of all worlds is a price where demand stays constant but profitable. Oil scraping $30 a barrel may have dropped our pump prices close to $1.50 a gallon but it was killing the domestic energy industry (which several OPEC members wanted it to do, as the U.S. is now their major competition.)

By the same token, Marita began her career in the energy field at a time when oil prices were sky-high and we truly needed to work out ways to make ourselves energy independent at a lower cost. (One such idea I played up in the summer of 2008 because it was done with such humor was the “NozzleRage” campaign. Unfortunately, their answer was a government mandate for flexfuel cars and additional requirements for ethanol.) But these prices also came with the benefit of sustaining the industry in such a manner that the fracking revolution created a boom in the energy industry and made previously dormant regions like the Dakotas and west Texas economically attractive again. (North Dakota, in particular, was depopulating prior to the Bakken oil boom because there was little there to attract young jobseekers who were abandoning the state in droves – by 2005 it had the largest percentage of residents age 85 and older.)

And Marita was sharing in that boom – as she noted, her “field of dreams fundraising model” was getting her enough $500 annual donations to provide a reasonable living. But as the industry suffered, her own revenue sources withered and it eventually led her to dismiss her PR person and in the end chased her away. (Had Hillary Clinton won, the result of her withdrawal from the punditry game would likely have the same but surely Marita would have considered herself a failure.)

In a roundabout way, this brings me to a point I began to make the other night: writing for a living is a difficult game at which to succeed. I found this out several years ago when I was out of work and tried to make a go of it – there are too many people out there chasing too few dollars, particularly in general interest writing. When I reviewed political websites during the campaign I openly questioned whether the people some hired to write their copy even lived in the country, which I can do because I have had to compete with people who can live on a few dollars a day. A penny per word nowadays is a huge amount to make for an article, but even if you wrote 5,000 words a day that doesn’t fly in America. Yet on competitive writing job sites you’ll often find people who are willing to take half that – or less – just to write copy. (And that doesn’t count the old adage used to trap aspiring writers who get convinced to write for nothing because “it’ll give you the exposure you need.” Yeah, right. Expect to double your salary every week from that point.)

So when a polished and experienced writer like Marita, who wrote several motivational and Christian books under her maiden name Marita Littauer and the energy columns under her initial married name Marita Noon (she has since remarried, but maintained the name for professional reasons) can’t make a go of it, one has to wonder what’s in it for others in that same predicament?

Now I have never done a “field of dreams” fundraising approach, although I have been known to “bleg” every once in awhile. And it brings a smile to my face when I see someone actually clicked the donate button up top and chipped into my PayPal account. But as I have told you when I left the political party game (and slowed down on my own writing pace to some degree) part of the reason I stepped back was to write a second book – hopefully learning from the mistakes I made with the first one. That will continue nonetheless because I believe I will be making important points and contributing to dialogue going forward. The same also goes for this website – I really meant to write this column Wednesday but was sidetracked for several reasons. So you get it late Saturday night instead.

Sometimes I wonder, though, if my priorities are quite where they should be. Truly I enjoy writing, but I also have to make sure to be a good Christian, husband, stepdad, and employee. So I may never get back to (or even arrive at) the place where some said I had to be to maintain a successful blog, meaning lots of content updated frequently. After all, I often get the opportunity to sell article space on my site for dubious reasons, probably someone else’s marketing scam. I’m not going to damage my brand like that.

But the reason I went into this spiel is to make it plain I can understand why people get so frustrated with the writing game. We seem to be the last thing people need, but I happen to think we are the most indispensable people out there when it comes to making sense of the world. For that reason, Marita’s insight (as well as that of several others I have known through the years) will be missed.

Closing the loop: a postmortem, part one

I’m sure that many millions of people like me who stayed up until almost 3 this morning (yet had to get up and go to work) were of several minds: anything from watching a slow-motion trainwreck to openly savoring the bitterness coming from the hearts of the so-called “experts” who predicted a massive blowout loss for Donald Trump. And until the last maybe week to 10 days I was among that group, but it seems there is a reservoir of support Trump could keep tapping into that other Republicans could not.

That subject is one I will get to in due course (that being part two) but for the moment I just want to work through my series of predictions and see if my crystal ball has been fixed. Just as I reeled them out from national to local, I will wind them backward to wrap them up.

And just as an aside, while early voting had historically high turnout, the reason will end up being that people just wanted to wash their hands of this election.

I think that panned out to a fair extent. Turnout is lining up to be right around or perhaps slightly below where it was in 2012, depending on how many absentees or provisional ballots there were. Including early voting, Maryland brought out a little over 2.5 million voters. Considering the state has about 300,000 more voters in this cycle, I think the turnout percentage will decrease or stay about where it was – the timing of votes was what shifted.

Across the border, I fear Delaware will vote for more of the same then wonder why their state isn’t getting better. Basically the state will have the same political composition with different names on the nameplates in Congress and state executive offices – not that Sussex County agreed with it, but they will be outvoted as usual by the New Castle Democrat machine.

In the state of Delaware, Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by a 53%-42% margin, Democrat Congressional hopeful Lisa Blunt Rochester won 56%-41% over Republican Hans Reigle. and in all three state government races, the Democrats won by almost identical margins: 58%-39%, 59%-41%, and 59%-41%. Aside from an extra 10,000 or so votes cast in the governor’s race to accommodate the Green and Libertarian candidates, the Democrats’ totals were all within 2,000 votes and the GOP within 2,500.

But if you break it down by county and the city of Wilmington, you find that Hillary won 84.8% in Wilmington, 59.4% in the rest of New Castle County, 44.9% in Kent County, and 37.2% in Sussex County. The problem is New Castle County’s Hillary votes were more than the combined overall total of either Sussex or Kent County. Sussex only went 41% for Rochester, 45% for governor-elect John Carney, 47% for lieutenant governor-elect Bethany Hall-Long, and 40% for new insurance commissioner Trinidad Navarro. Going forward they need to keep statewide Democrats in the 20s in Sussex County, but that may be a tall task as those who retire there generally come from Democratic core states and apparently don’t change their voting patterns.

On the questions, I believe Question 1 will get in the neighborhood of 80% statewide but maybe 75% here. The biggest controversy will be that Question A’s Option 2 will win a plurality of the vote but not quite a majority – a spirited Democrat effort will pull Option 2 down to 48% but Option 1 will get just 32%, with 20% opting for the hybrid. Otherwise, all the charter amendments will pass by healthy margins of 65 to 80 percent in favor.

Question 1 got 73.6% here (so I was close) but I underestimated the statewide wisdom to some extent, as the partisan measure passed on a 72-28 margin overall (as opposed to 80%.) I was just 3 percentage points off on Question A but Option 2 managed a slight 51% majority rather than a plurality. The Democrats probably got a late start in backing Option 1 because it underperformed my estimate by 7 points while the hybrid Option 3 outperformed by 5 points. The other questions ranged from 63 to 77 percent in favor, so I was in the ballpark. Maybe my public opposition brought them down 2 to 3 percent each.

Andy Harris will be returned to Congress, but not by as much as previous years. He will get 60.7% of the vote both overall and in Wicomico County, but Joe Werner’s 35.9% of the vote districtwide will shrink to 33.8% here. The Libertarian Matt Beers will have 3.2% districtwide but do somewhat better here, with 5.2% support in Wicomico County.

I was somewhat correct with Harris. He got 7% better than I predicted districtwide, but I was correct that he did decline slightly from 2014, when he was a shade over 70%. That extra came from Werner as he came up 7.9% short of what I thought he would and Matt Beers came in 1% better at 4.2%. Here in Wicomico, though, I was much closer: Harris underperformed my guess by 1.7% while Werner jumped 3.3%. The Libertarian Beers came in 1.5% less here. It’s worth noting, though, that the Libertarians’ share of the vote has increased slightly with each election they participate in – back in 2008 they had 2.5%, in 2010 3.8%, in 2012 3.8% (but Muir Boda came close to edging the write-in Democratic candidate here in Wicomico with 5.9% vs. 6%) and now 4.2%.

Looking at the U.S. Senate race, I think that Chris Van Hollen wins no more than eight counties but those will be enough to propel him to victory with 61.1% of the vote, compared to Kathy Szeliga’s 37.8%. Margaret Flowers will get 0.6% and various write-ins the rest. Wicomico will be one Szeliga wins, but not quite as strongly as Trump – she gets 59.3% of the vote while Van Hollen has 40.3% and Flowers 0.2%.

Van Hollen won just six counties, but unfortunately for Szeliga they included the four biggest so she was trounced. I gave Van Hollen about 1% more credit than he deserved, but Szeliga got no benefit as she was 1.4% short. All the underage went to Flowers, who grabbed over fivefold the share I predicted at 3.2%. Just as some on the right may give Libertarians the vote in a race they know is safe (I’ve done this several times in the past) I think those well out on the left figured it wouldn’t hurt to push the Flowers total up. But when Szeliga undercuts my modest expectations (to have a shot, she really had to be in the 75% range here and elsewhere on the Eastern Shore) by a full 5.7%, it’s a short wait for a concession speech. Van Hollen only lost our supposedly conservative county by 10.4 points (and beat my guess by about 3 points) but a shocker was that Flowers did about as well here as she did statewide. I thought she would be lucky to get 100 votes locally; she picked up 1,163.

I’m going to stop with that because I want to see the write-in votes for President before I comment on that race. But I will say that I am shocked at the number of write-in votes, as over 40,000 were cast statewide. I’m sure many of these won’t be counted, but it won’t be 85% of them like it was in 2012. I may have been overly pessimistic on Evan McMullin, Darrell Castle, Tom Hoefling, and so forth as they may split 15 to 20 thousand votes (although McMullin will get the lion’s share.) We won’t know for a few days, though, and when we do I will pick up with the second part regarding the Presidential race.

All over but the shouting

It’s the end of the “road to 2016″ for me.

For me personally this has been a very strange election cycle, with the only one closely like it in the last 20 years being 2004. That was the year I moved to Maryland in October, too late to register here. So I voted absentee in Ohio and helped George W. Bush carry that state.

That was the one year I can think of (besides this year) where I didn’t work a poll for a state or national election. I thought my political career was winding down then but I was bitten by the bug soon enough. Less than a year later I was going to Republican Club meetings and by 2006 I was back in the mix as a member of Wicomico County’s Republican Central Committee.

But this time it was truly different. Once I left the Central Committee, disgusted and disheartened that my party could select such a poor nominee that belied so many of its small-government principles, I essentially shunned the political process entirely in the sense that I didn’t go to meetings, work at headquarters, or stand at a poll. Yes, I did express my support for particular candidates, but at that point in the process I was looking forward to a new and different chapter of involvement. Things look a lot different when you are 52 and married than 40 and single. I think I have done my part – now it’s time for all those voters Trump supposedly brought onboard the “Trump train” to help the Republican Party, or perhaps what’s left of it if we are saddled with a Hillary Clinton presidency.

I still have an agenda, though. Just because I’m not doing the political events doesn’t mean I won’t be interested in promoting the ideas of limited, Constitutional government in accordance with Biblical values. It’s a combination that truly made America great, and in order to make America great again what we really need is to change the paradigm. It’s a little bit like having the choice of Coke or Pepsi but longing for 7-up. This cycle has really brought the false duopoly from which we suffer home to me: too many people suffer from the delusion that not voting for one candidate is voting for the other. Imagine you support neither, read that sentence again and you will realize how little sense that “not voting for one is a vote for the other” theory makes.

Somewhere someone got the bright idea that Republicans needed to be more like Democrats to win, so they convinced Republicans to simply promise to make government work better rather than do the hard work of rightsizing it. Notice Donald Trump did not talk about promoting liberty, nor did he speak to Biblical values. (Perhaps “2 Corinthians” gave him away?) It reminded me of Larry Hogan’s 2014 campaign – and yes, it worked in Maryland but aside from some tinkering around the edges what limitations of government have been achieved?

The process of political education (or re-education) needs to begin once we know who wins tonight. That’s the one thing I hope to bring to the table going forward, leavened with the other stuff I like to write about because all politics and no play makes Michael a very dull boy.

But I am truly glad this saga is over. There was a time in my life where I treated Election Day like the Super Bowl, but I was almost always disappointed. Looking back, I’m not sure I made a difference being a field worker. Yet I have what people tell me is a God-given talent to write, and with that I hope to teach and learn a few things, too. I have a project in the works I’m hoping to have finished this time next year. Some of you may be aware of this, but I’m working on a book about the TEA Party. To me, it’s a fascinating political movement that deserves study for what it did right – and what it’s done wrong.

Since I slowed down my writing pace here over the summer, I enjoy sitting down and writing more. Has it cost me some readership? Perhaps, but that’s also something the remaining readers can work on by sharing and promoting my posts.

But I’m looking forward to the next cycle regardless of who wins, and it’s because it opens a chapter of life that I can’t wait to write. Someone was saying to me they saw a 100,000 word blog post coming on, but I think I’ll reserve a good chunk of the remaining 99,200 words, give or take, for my book and other future writing. As for tonight, I’ll just trust God is in control.

Earning my presidential vote: intangibles and the endorsement

Back in September 2015, when I made my initial endorsement out of the Republican field, my intangibles consisted of several factors: executive experience, the candidate website (as I admitted at the time, somewhat picayune), and other issues they brought up.

Now I have a smaller field, with just five contenders who I can vote for here in Maryland: Darrell Castle/Scott Bradley of the Constitution Party, James Hedges/Bill Bayes of the Prohibition Party, Tom Hoefling/Steve Schulin of America’s Party, Gary Johnson/William Weld of the Libertarian Party, and independents Evan McMullin/Mindy Finn.

If you want to review the entirety of this series before you read on (so as to get caught up), you can find my initial criteria for selection and my key issues: education, Second Amendment, energy, social issues, trade and job creation, taxation, immigration, foreign policy, entitlements, and role of government. It’s a lot of reading and quite a bit of research – but just think of it as me doing the work for you and you will be okay.

There are five points at stake here, and one feature of this area is that it can be subtractive as well – a candidate can lose points.

Obviously there is only one candidate with executive experience, and that is former governor Gary Johnson. So he receives a point for that.

In the original rendition I awarded (or deducted) up to two points for the candidate’s website, feeling that it’s now the first place voters turn to in order to make their decision. However, I am amending this to a one-point addition or deduction for a reason I’ll explain in a moment.

Darrell Castle has a website that is a little clunky, but once you find the issues page he not only has positions laid out, but links to dozens of his podcasts he’s done over the last few years, which are categorized by topic. It reminds me a lot of Carly Fiorina’s campaign website except much of the content is audio rather than video. He adds the point to his total.

James Hedges has a more rudimentary website that I found to be not all that helpful. I had to do a little more digging to find his positions, which to the average voter means he will be passed by. They have the Prohibition Party platform but only a supplemental link to one issue out of many listed. He loses one point.

With a philosophy of a modern “front porch” campaign, I found the website of Tom Hoefling to be just okay. However, he is very active on social media as well, which is how I learned about a couple of the policy positions I couldn’t glean from the main site – I asked him directly. It can almost be annoying to follow him; then again, if you think of all the e-mail you get from a specific candidate, seeing his name pop up on notifications on an hourly basis or more isn’t too terrible. So he adds the point.

Gary Johnson has a very good website, which reflects his national standing as he has the resources to keep it updated. As you read, the issues page is very comprehensive so I didn’t have to use many other resources. He gets the point.

The same goes for Evan McMullin, although I don’t care quite as much for the website design. He has a very comprehensive issues page, which has probably made up half of the wordage of this series. One thing I didn’t add in my descriptions is that he contrasts himself to both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton with his policy writings. So he gets the one point, too.

Because of the nature of these candidacies, ballot access isn’t automatic as it is for the Republican/Democrat duopoly. (Since the two parties make the rules, they tend to discourage competition. It’s a symptom of what is wrong with our current political system.) So it’s worthwhile to know just how accessible these candidates are.

  • Darrell Castle/Scott Bradley: on ballot in 24 states, write-in 23 states (and Washington, D.C.), pending write-in access in California. Locally they are a write-in for both Maryland and Delaware.
  • James Hedges/Bill Bayes: on ballot in 3 states, write-in 10 states. Locally only Maryland voters can write Hedges in.
  • Tom Hoefling/Steve Schulin: on ballot in 2 states, write-in 37 states (and Washington, D.C.), pending write-in access in California. Locally they are a write-in for both Maryland and Delaware.
  • Gary Johnson/William Weld: on ballot in all states, including Maryland and Delaware.
  • Evan McMullin/Mindy Finn: on ballot in 11 states, write-in 32 states (and Washington, D.C.). Locally they are a write-in for both Maryland and Delaware; however, they are filed with Nathan Johnson as VP candidate. This was done in order to qualify for access; Finn was selected later by McMullin as his intended VP. If elected, Nathan Johnson will resign as VP in favor of Finn, who is the only woman in this group.

Because all but Hedges can secure enough electoral votes to be president, they get credit for ballot access – 0.5 points for Castle, Hoefling, and McMullin, and 1 point for Johnson.

As part of this section, I also wrote up a short bio detailing the experience for each candidate.

Darrell Castle turned 68 years old on October 11. He served in Vietnam in the Marine Corps, currently a bankruptcy/personal injury lawyer. Ran on the Constitution Party ticket in 2008 as VP under Chuck Baldwin.

Jim Hedges would be the oldest President, currently 78 years old. Once a township assessor in Pennsylvania, the only elected member of the Prohibition Party at the time and first since 1959.

Tom Hoefling will be 56 years old upon inauguration. He previously ran for President on the American Independent Party ticket in 2012, securing three state ballots and eleven write-in positions, picking up over 40,000 votes. He also ran for Governor of Iowa in 2014. Wrote the America’s Party platform in 2012 and is a close political ally of onetime Republican presidential candidate Alan Keyes.

Gary Johnson would be 64 years old on inauguration day. He was governor of New Mexico from 1995-2003 and ran as a Republican for President in 2012 before withdrawing and securing the Libertarian nomination, receiving 1,275,951 votes or just under 1 percent. (They were on the ballot in all states but Michigan and Oklahoma, with Michigan access as a write-in.)

Evan McMullin is 40 years old, making his first run for political office. He is a former CIA counterterrorism expert and chief policy director of the House Republican Conference.

Finally, I learned that Darrell Castle opposes an Article V convention, fearing a “runaway convention.” He fears our nation will have a lower standard of living in 25 years thanks to massive debt, a declining birthrate, and foreign entanglements. Favors GMO labeling and decriminalization of marijuana, and believes states have a right to secede, but opposes the military draft and would not draft women if there were one. Given the mixed bag of miscellaneous comments and positions, I will give him another half-point. 2 points.

In his statements, Jim Hedges admitted he was from the “liberal wing” of the Prohibition Party, which allowed him to add some of their more leftist planks. He termed it as the party’s chance to survive by attracting younger voters as it has dwindled in popularity – it’s been around for nearly 150 years, but only received 518 votes nationally in 2012. So his run is as much about keeping the flame burning than winning, and they deserve to be in the process. I will be charitable and return the point I deducted before. 0 points.

One statement from Tom Hoefling can be added to this mix: that private property is a cornerstone of American liberty. I take this to mean that he is a staunch defender of private property rights, which in this age of Kelo and Agenda 21 is a good stance to have. I’ll add two remaining points for that. 3.5 points.

Gary Johnson has a commendable position on veterans that should be considered if that is your key issue. I’ll give him one extra point here. 4 points.

The same regarding veterans can be said of Evan McMullin, so he also gets one extra point. 2.5 points.

**********

I have now considered and awarded appropriate shares of all 100 points, so I have finally reached the end of my process. The candidates will now be assessed in reverse order.

While the Prohibition Party should have a voice in the process - and could be the conscience of the conservative side of the spectrum – the fact they nominated a member of their left wing in James Hedges meant he did not do well in my system, gathering just 36 points out of 100. The only categories they did well in were immigration and social issues; otherwise the nominee was near the bottom.

Evan McMullin reminds me of a typical Republican politician, someone who thinks the system is fine with some improvements. The problem is that I feel the system is broken and we need to start repairing the damage rather than patch it up around the seams - so he only received 39 points out of 100. His best categories were energy and foreign policy, which led to my comment that he would make a solid Secretary of State or Secretary of Defense. But in most areas McMullin wrote a lot but lagged the field.

Having said that, I am rooting for him to win Utah and break up the electoral map from red and blue. Perhaps he can set a trend.

I was a little disappointed that Gary Johnson only scored 50.5 points in this system, especially since he got off to a good start by winning both the education and Second Amendment categories. He also won in trade and job creation, but finishing near the bottom in social issues and last in immigration and foreign policy did him in. However, he is setting the Libertarian Party up for future success in many states where ballot access depends on a particular percentage of the vote. They could also qualify for federal funding, although their party philosophy may make them refuse it.

Once Johnson faded from the front of the race, I came down to two major contenders – Darrell Castle and Tom Hoefling. One of them won a total of four categories worth 36 points while the other won two categories, but they were worth 27 points. Neither ever finished last in a category, and both had only one fourth place finish.

In looking over their point totals, the difference was in just a couple issues: one was far stronger in entitlements than the other, while the reverse was true in foreign policy.

Tom Hoefling is a strident anti-abortionist, but it came down to a point where I was troubled by my understanding of how he felt about it in consideration of the rule of law. Here is the phrase in question, from the platform he wrote:

(E)very officer of the judicial, legislative and executive departments, at every level and in every branch, is required to use all lawful means to protect every innocent life within their jurisdictions; and that we will henceforth deem failure to carry out this supreme sworn duty to be cause for removal from public office via impeachment or recall, or by statutory or electoral means, notwithstanding any law passed by any legislative body within the United States, or the decision of any court, or the decree of any executive officer, at any level of governance, to the contrary. (Emphasis mine.)

Above all, America is a nation of laws, with the Constitution as supreme law of the land. I understand we are given inalienable rights, with life paramount above them, but we must also render unto Caesar what is his and all of us – even the most cold-blooded abortionist – are entitled to live under the law, not the whim of a dictator. If you want to change laws, you must change hearts first because that leads to electoral allies being placed in office. This is why Hoefling only got 3 points in the category and finished with 63 points overall.

And because Darrell Castle got 7 points in the category by understanding the limitations placed on his role by the Constitution, he ended up with 67 points overall – and my vote.

So on November 8 I will walk into my Civic Center polling place and cast my ballot, writing in Darrell Castle for President. I know he won’t win the state, but my goal is twofold: I am voting my conscience, as Ted Cruz advised me to, and perhaps I am planting the seed for an alternative to the two-party system.

I’m sure most of the people I know well will be holding their nose to some degree and voting for Donald Trump. But why reward a party and nominee that has done little to advance the cause of conservative, Constitutional government and is so unpopular in the state the last poll had the GOP nominee trailing by 30 points or more? Democrats have had a field day tying the GOP nominees to Trump, almost as if they selected the Republican nominee themselves to their advantage.

So I encourage you to join me in supporting a Constitutional ticket:

DarrellCastle2016_WebBanner-01-1

After all this writing, I’m taking tomorrow off (aside from placing Marita Noon’s column) and will return with something for Wednesday.

Earning my presidential vote (part 1)

As you likely know, I’m not supporting either of the two major party candidates on the ballot. Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are flawed personalities who I find untrustworthy and feel would do damage to a concept I believe in: a federal government properly restrained by the Constitution and conducted in accordance with traditional Judeo-Christian values.

So that leaves me with a lot of choices – in fact, there’s not just the four who are on the ballot in Maryland but (as of this writing) 42 write-in candidates. Now some just want attention or are crackpots, so I have eliminated those who have not selected a vice-presidential running mate. After doing so, there are ten remaining – all four on the ballot and six write-in hopefuls. I’ve already eliminated Trump/Pence and Clinton/Kaine, so that leaves eight. In this phase I will eliminate the ones who would not be obvious choices.

On the ballot we have the Libertarian Party, which is represented by former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson and his running mate, former Massachusetts governor William Weld. Obviously I have a significant amount of libertarian views, but there are areas I have concerns with them. However, I know enough about where they stand to advance them to round 2.

On the other hand, the Green Party, which is represented by Dr. Jill Stein and running mate Ajamu Baraka – who incidentally was selected over Maryland’s Green Party U.S. Senate candidate Margaret Flowers and former U.S. Senate candidate Kevin Zeese – is far, far, FAR too far to the left for my consideration.

So that’s the folks on the ballot. But what about the six write-ins?

The Constitution Party is represented by Darrell Castle and Scott Bradley, and simply based on the name and philosophy of fealty to the Constitution will move forward.

James Hedges and Bill Bayes represent America’s oldest third party, the Prohibition Party. It has an interesting platform that combines a number of very conservative viewpoints on some issues with a far more progressive approach to others, which is reflected in the candidacy of Hedges. I think it will merit further study, although they may well not be my first choice.

Lynn Kahn (and running mate Kathleen Monahan) tried to get on the Maryland ballot as independents, but could not reach a sufficient number of signatures to do so. Overall, the biggest problem I see with Kahn is one of philosophy: she seems to believe that government can be fixed to be more efficient and accountable through a number of methods, but I believe the government needs to be fixed by the Constitutional means of rightsizing government. To me, her ideas are not the fix we need so this ticket is out.

In the little bit of time I have looked through their platform, I believe Evan McMullin and Mindy Finn have a good chance at securing my vote, so I will advance them pending my further research. Because they are write-in candidates, it may not matter that the person listed by the Board of Elections as VP candidate (Nathan Johnson) is not the person McMullin intended to be his running mate, although it is a rookie mistake.

I think Marshall Schoenke and James Mitchell are very honest and forthright people who earnestly believe they are statesmen, with a God-fearing (if somewhat muddled populist) platform. But they have a huge problem: because both reside in Illinois, they are ineligible under the Twelfth Amendment as I read it.

So despite the fact the website has some pretty good music on it (Schoenke is a professional musician) I have to eliminate them from further consideration.

Tony Valdivia and running mate Aaron Barriere are political neophytes. Valdivia’s introduction stressed campaign finance reform, but he doesn’t have a website to check his issues out, which is a drawback for me. Basically the story seems to me that he decided over the summer the top two choices weren’t to his liking so he decided to run himself and has secured write-in positions in a number of states besides Maryland. It’s a nice story, but from the few minutes with which I listened to what he had to say it seemed like he’s more centrist and populist than I would prefer. So he is out.

I also have a dark horse in the race who announced he has filed as a write-in candidate in Maryland as of today, one which was suggested to me so I will look into their platform as well: Tom Hoefling and Steve Schulin of America’s Party. What I’m interested in seeing is whether there is anything they offer beyond their position on social issues to address the other concerns I have.

This means my final five, which I will begin studying more in earnest, represent four parties and one independent: the Libertarian Gary Johnson, the Constitution Party’s Darrell Castle, the Prohibition Party’s James Hedges, Tom Hoefling of America’s Party, and independent Evan McMullin. As I did for the GOP candidates, I will focus on ten key issues: education, Second Amendment, energy, social issues, trade and job creation, taxation, immigration, foreign policy, entitlements, the role of government, and other intangibles.

I think I can do this in a week, so look for an update seven days hence.

Is America forgetting 9/11?

September 11, 2016 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, Culture and Politics, National politics, Personal stuff, Politics · Comments Off 

Since the inception of this website I have written a 9/11-themed piece almost every year (I skipped 2006, which was the first year monoblogue existed.) If you’re interested in my personal 9/11 story I wrote it back in 2007.

But now that we have made it to year 15, I think the more apt paragraph is that which I wrote a year ago for the Patriot Post. This was part of my original submission but edited out for length. It’s still the truth, though.

As time passes away from the 9/11 attack, we tend to forget that those who best recall the horrific day as working adults are becoming less and less a part of the prevailing culture. The fall of the World Trade Center occurred just before my 37th birthday; in a week I turn 51. On the other side, those entering college this year were toddlers at the time and may not recall the shock we felt as adults.

Add another year to those totals (since I’ll turn 52 in a couple weeks) and realize that a child born on that date is most likely a high school sophomore now. Those in our high schools and college now were probably too young to remember their experiences that day – maybe the college seniors will think about how it affected their nap time in kindergarten (if they still do that anymore.) For them, the link is now their history books or their parents, not personal experience.

And as that generation comes to adulthood, they have also been soured on the patriotism and purpose that accompanied our fight against radical Islam, to the point where neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump wishes to commit a great deal of resources to the effort; rather they would use surrogates to do the actual fighting. It’s a far cry from the thousands who signed up for the military to take the fight to Osama bin Laden in the weeks after the World Trade Center and Pentagon were targeted. Rather than patriotism, kids now emulate the custom of kneeling during the National Anthem as a form of protest.

While we haven’t had an attack equivalent to 9/11 recently, the threat from radical Islam is still there. Since our last observance of Patriot Day Americans were gunned down by Islamist radicals in San Bernardino and Orlando, with other major incidents abroad in Paris, Indonesia, and Istanbul, just to name a few. The world remains a dangerous place and we live in interesting times.

The fact that Pearl Harbor Day and 9/11 occurred almost sixty years apart provides the opportunity to make one direct parallel. While Islamic terrorism is still a campaign issue 15 years after 9/11, we expended a lot of blood and treasure over the following four years after Pearl Harbor, with one of those war heroes successfully being re-elected President in 1956. There was a finality to World War II because the opponent was a governmental entity – once the regimes in Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany surrendered, the war came to an end. But in this case there may not be an end for generations. A decisive military defeat could hasten the process, but subduing this threat isn’t solely a military process, just a piece of the puzzle. By definition, terrorist attacks aren’t conducted by military forces but by civilians who may use military-style tactics.

So we once again come to the anniversary and remembrance of 9/11, an occasion that almost 1/4 of our population (73.6 million) has little to no memory of because they are under the age of 18. Some of the timeless images will remain, but the actual memories of how Americans were affected will be lost as those who were of Social Security age back then are passing away – this was the generation that fought in Korea and World War II, and we are losing them by the hundreds daily. The rest of us are getting older too.

Let’s just hope that we aren’t simultaneously losing our collective identity as a liberty-loving nation thanks to the threat presented by the terrorists. In the end, that may be the legacy of 9/11 we have to reject.

The road I’m taking

Now that I have made my way onto the exit ramp, perhaps this is a good time to alert you about where I may wish to go.

I was told that leaving the Central Committee would be quite liberating, and I can see that being the case. Then again, I probably wasn’t your typical member anyway – early on, one of my cohorts was very concerned about my website and, honestly, he had some good points. Over the years I learned just how far I could take certain things and when it was right to keep things under my hat. I mentioned in my announcement post that I wouldn’t be covering certain meetings or the state convention anymore, and I have to admit there were a lot of readers for the state convention posts. But I suspect the next one will be more of a wake anyway, and I’ve already done my share of those.

It’s worth noting that my website predates my tenure on the WCRCC by about a year, since I was formally sworn in back in December 2006 at one of those wake conventions I noted - it was immediately after Bob Ehrlich lost and we found out the MDGOP was thousands and thousands of dollars in the hole. Among the things I wanted to do early on with my site was to speak about issues, which led to this comment about my site in 2006. (The original is lost, but the quote was placed here.) The author of the quote is Stephanie Dray, who was once a Maryland-based blogger (and part of the erstwhile Maryland Bloggers Alliance) but graduated to be a successful writer of historical fiction:

“This blog about Maryland politics is located in Salisbury, and that’s a good thing. In any discussion of Maryland politics, the Eastern Shore tends to be neglected. Monoblogue attempts to pick up the slack. Unusual for conservative commentary, the tone of this blog tends to be wonky. There’s a slew of useful links on the right-hand side, and it’s filled with content. A handy resource for those looking to learn more about Maryland politics.”

I know I have maintained a fair share of issue-oriented writing, mainly regarding manufacturing, the energy industry (which is how I became acquainted with Marita Noon), and other business-related items, but I think it’s time to focus more on that wonky tone in preparation for a post-Trump conservatism that will be infused with a heavy dose of libertarianism. One question I may need to ponder upon in these writings is the conflict and tension between the ideas of libertarianism and the authority placed on us by faith and religion. It’s argued that we cannot legislate morality, so how and what distance from the straight and narrow shall we place the guardrails?

So instead of doing so much reporting and interpretation of events - particularly on the horserace aspect of elections, which I know I concentrated a lot on in the 2014 gubernatorial campaign – I’m looking to shift focus and begin exploring the benefits of limited government. In addition, there are certain cultural influences I think need to be broadcast and expounded upon. (That’s one reason I miss having Cathy Keim’s commentary on my site, but I’m sure her hiatus is just temporary.)

That is the first lane of my road. In the other lane is a project I’ve started on, but progress has been somewhat slow. Once I clear some commitments out of the way, though, I’m hoping to have more time to write my second book. Instead of being based on a series of blog posts I did like So We May Breathe Free was, this will be all original writing.

As one who was a member of the TEA Party movement, I have experienced this political phenomenon firsthand. There are many who have written the obituary of the movement, but I think there’s a need to look at the entirety of the TEA Party era, explore its impact, and, if its death has already occurred, do the autopsy. It’s the basic premise of the book I’ve started to write, although as I do research I’ll be interested to see how my theories bear out. Perhaps it was really all a mirage.

Just as a Christian is called to be in this world, but not of this world, perhaps stepping away from active participation in the political process may be the best way to have a perspective on it. While I was bad at it anyway, now there’s no call to be an apologist for the actions and views of our candidates Donald Trump, Kathy Szeliga, and Andy Harris. Truth be told, I’m sure that even Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton aren’t completely bad people, but neither of them is a person of their word and we always need honest leadership.

When I was a child, we always looked up to those who would run for President. Richard Nixon resigned when he failed to uphold the honor of his office, but otherwise it was a situation where, while you may not agree with the people who ran for President on a political basis, you still found them trustworthy. Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, George H.W. Bush: all fine men who differed in their political views but were men of character.

But when Bill Clinton ran for and won office, all that changed. The Democrats of the last 24 years (Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton) seem to be flawed individuals. Bob Dole, George W. Bush, John McCain, and Mitt Romney were not perfect, either, but I thought them honorable and decent in character.

Unfortunately, 2016 is the election of the flawed individual. I’m actually saddened that my involvement in the political process has coincided with the coarsening of political culture, and I feel that maybe the better step is to proceed as a recovering (albeit very low-level) politician. It’s been said that those who don’t understand history are doomed to repeat it, so my job now is to attempt to change history’s course in some small way by enlightening people about the advantages of liberty and, perhaps, the benefits of spiritual liberation.

That’s my road. I’ll surely be moving at a slower pace than I used to, but feel free to follow along nonetheless.

Taking the exit ramp

This evening I may have made some of the more radical Trumpkins happy: I resigned from the Wicomico County Republican Central Committee and as an officer of the Wicomico County Republican Club. It was the time of my choosing.

My original draft of this piece was much more angry and bitter, but I think now on reflection that it’s just a mounting frustration with all things political. I can see the iceberg as I’m standing on the deck of the Titanic but no one hears my warnings.

This is the time of year that I normally would begin the process for putting together volunteers to help out at the Wicomico County Fair, Good Beer Festival, and Autumn Wine Festival. But after a lot of thought, I realized that I would be lying to myself if I thought I could sit at a Republican table and hand out signage and trinkets for a candidate who I cannot support in Donald Trump. It got me thinking that we supposedly have all these new people who are willing to support Trump but would not support previous Republicans we worked hard to elect, so they can take over that duty.

In the last few months I have made a number of steps on my life journey, deepening in my faith. Now I understand I should be the forgiving sort, and if the reported conversion of Donald Trump to be a “baby Christian” is the truth, then I am pleased to hear it. But there also have to be deeds associated with the words, and the problem I have with Trump is that his version of the truth changes like most people change their socks. I find the lack of consistency to be an issue; while I know no one is perfect I would at least like to see him work in that direction. To borrow from the message I listened to Sunday on 3 John, Trump to me is still more of a Diotrephes and not enough of a Demetrius.

Because of that change, I’ve also realized that the party I have occupied for most of my adult life (aside from the two years I was classified as a Democrat because of my own Operation Chaos I did as a college student) has moved away from me. A party steeped in conservatism and willing to stand up for Judeo-Christian values would have laughed Donald Trump out of the race before we even counted the votes in Iowa because he has very little of either. And while the GOP talked a good game over the last eight years saying what they would do for the sake of government restraint via conservative principles if they were given enough power, their rank-and-file voters (well, the plurality of rank-and-file voters) decided to select a candidate who is, on balance, not for limiting government or for conservative ideals. This group of 44% of the Republican voters instead elected a television star and huckster whose claim to fame is a brand that’s always for sale; a man to whom practically everything is negotiable at some point. Call me hardline, but I have principles that are not negotiable.

Trump is correct in noting that he was running for the Republican Party, not the Conservative Party, but until he came along during most of my life it was understood that the Republicans were the conservatives. Not anymore.

So I have become a free agent. A party that embraces Donald Trump is no party for me. Certainly I will lean heavily to the right, but I think it’s time I freed myself from the shackles of having to be a spokesperson for a party that nominated so poorly for the top of the ticket.

While I am at it, I have to make a couple other observations. There are a lot of Trump supporters who are vowing not to support Larry Hogan in 2018 because he won’t vote for The Donald – a stand from Hogan that I applauded and let him know that I did. So let me ask them: are you going to find a primary opponent? I can’t wait to see that one. While I’m not the greatest fan of everything Hogan has done, I must say that you Trump backers are looking up the wrong hill to die on. If you want to push Hogan to the right, it’s called giving him more conservatives in the General Assembly, not tossing a governor who has a reasonable chance at a second term where he can do a lot for the GOP - like redistrict the state in a fair manner.

I also have something to say to the “party over everything” people, mainly those heavily involved in the Maryland GOP, who keep saying “not voting for Trump is a vote for Hillary.” I’m not voting for Hillary either, so neither side gets a vote from me. What you can’t seem to get through your heads is that, if Hillary is indeed elected in November, the moment she won the election was the moment you helped to nominate the extraordinarily unpopular, boorish, often truth-challenged Donald Trump to be the GOP standard-bearer. Not only did I not vote for him in the primary, I spent many weeks in the summer of 2015 researching candidates and can tell you that all but maybe one or two of Trump’s opponents would have been far better on top of the ticket. You chose to ignore me (and a lot of others who said basically the same thing) so you’ll get either a humiliating loss in November or a Republican president who will likely govern like the worst of Democrats, with the added “bonus” of making Congressional Republicans vote against their President. There were always a handful who voted against Bush’s government expansion, but most sold themselves out based on “party over everything.”  And what did it get us? Farther away from the ideals of our Founding Fathers, that’s what.

Unfortunately, the damage is yet to come: a lot of good people will be hurt by the short-sightedness of the portion of the GOP electorate that picked Trump. But I’m done carrying their water as a party officer, just as several of my friends and cohorts have already done. I was hoping against hope for a convention miracle; alas it was not to be.

This decision, however, will lead to a few changes here: no longer will I cover the Wicomico County Republican Club or the state party conventions. I may attend events after the election, but for now I think it’s better I do my own thing.

I guess the way I look at it there are three possibilities here: either Trump is going to lose to Hillary, he will beat Hillary and govern exactly as I predict he will, or he will be a great President and I will have assessed him incorrectly. Truly I wouldn’t mind being wrong for the sake of this great nation, but I have no evidence to believe I will be.

Finally, if I offended any of my erstwhile peers by my manner of springing this on you as the meeting tonight drew to a close, I’m truly sorry. But I believed I owed you an explanation. Some have been supportive and others not so much but that’s what I expected. It’s been a fun and rewarding ten years in the local Republican Party (not to mention another decade I did the same in Ohio) but all things must pass. So let it be.

Weekend of local rock volume 70

July 24, 2016 · Posted in Delmarva items, Local Music, Personal stuff · Comments Off 

As I did from last month, I’m building on 3rd Friday to provide another edition of WLR. But in this installment I’ll profile a local group doing good through music.

The “official” 3rd Friday group playing on the Plaza stage was a Salisbury University-based group called The Benchwarmers, who I would say had more of a jazz feel than straight up rock. But they won the right to play through a battle of the bands, so here they were.

I still haven’t figured out the idea of the painting being created behind the group, but to each his or her own, I guess.

Now if you stood in just the right spot, you could hear the Plaza stage in one ear while Alex & Shiloh played in the other one, outside at Roadie Joe’s.

The management at Roadie Joe’s has definitely picked up on the concept of having outside live music during 3rd Friday and bringing in business, as the outside tables are generally filled. (Kim and I ate there last month, as I noted in WLR 69.) It’s nice because if the main stage doesn’t strike your fancy you can browse on over to that end of the Plaza.

I didn’t stay for the Roadie Joe’s nightcap act this time because I knew I would be back downtown the next night for a benefit called “Fire Up the Bands,” sponsored by the Maryland-8 chapter of Hogs and Heroes, a motorcycling group dedicated to supporting military and first responders.

While there were originally three bands on the bill, a late change cut things down to two. Meanwhile, there was a silent auction going on and the leadership of Hogs and Heroes was giving away door prizes between bands.

But the evening began with a group I had just seen at the Concert for a Random Soldier a couple months back, Scrapple.

After noting the sudden passing of Lewes firefighter Tim McClanahan in a training accident, Scrapple played a hard-rocking set that featured songs like the Black Crowes’ Remedy, Love Removal Machine from The Cult, Godsmack’s Keep Away, and Pearl Jam’s Even Flow, just to name a few. They also found time for an original song of theirs, which I thought was cool.

Once Scrapple finished, I went outside to stretch my legs, see some bikes, and watch the sun set over a cloudy downtown. There was a rain shower that passed harmlessly by during the show.

The second band on the bill was Lime Green, which I know has a number of originals to its credit based on their online presence. But they chose to play just one, their most recent called Pemberton Park.

Yet Lime Green still had a lot of unique musical ideas, like buttressing the old Pink Panther Theme into Pink Floyd, playing forgotten classics like The Ballad of Curtis Loew by Lynard Skynard or Snortin’ Whiskey by the Pat Travers Band, and absolutely blowing me away with their closer originally done by Rush. I never thought I would hear the first part of 2112 done as a cover, but they did Overture/The Temples of Syrinx. Damn, that was cool. I’m still smiling thinking about it.

Because the original intention was to have three bands, Scrapple came out and played a second set that started with Rush as well. But as they did when I saw them previously, they took Working Man and transitioned it into War Pigs by Black Sabbath. Their second set was heavier and more modern, with songs from Buckcherry, Marilyn Manson, Staind, and Tool among the selections.

But they got a little help when they went retro blues and did One Way Out, a song made popular by the Allman Brothers.

There was also a fun drum solo toward the end.

If I have one thing to say about Headquarters Live as a venue, though, I have to say that taking pictures in there is a royal pain with a cell phone camera. Unless you catch the lights just right, they come out awful. The best pics I had were with the doors open when it was still light out, which is why you get one photo of Lime Green.

But my night wasn’t done. A friend of mine has been bugging me to see his band, so I went back over to Roadie Joe’s to catch Copious Poor.

While they admitted they needed to get a sound person, the selection of songs was pretty good. I particularly enjoyed their rendition of a song I have occasionally used the video from on this site, Bound for the Floor by Local H. (You may see it again November 9.)

So once again it was a good weekend of local rock for firefighters that can always use a helping hand. It reminded me that local bands are among the quickest to respond when there’s a need to lend their talents for a good cause – or just to make an evening a little better.

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