So what is a flip-flop?

It predates my writing career, but back during the 2004 Presidential campaign much hay was made over Democrat John Kerry’s attempts to be on both sides of various issues, including voting for something before he was against it. If you ask me, though, Kerry was by no means alone in terms of trying to cover all the bases and be all things to all people – the truth is that the further you go in politics, the more likely it is you will run across situations where your current action may well contradict something you did 10 years ago.

People are allowed to change their minds on issues, and I can use myself as an example: for a time I held the orthodox libertarian view that term limits artificially restrict voter choice and should be eliminated. While that makes a lot of sense on a philosophical level, in practice voter choices are more limited by the amount of money that naturally accrues to incumbents and by rules about ballot access that tend to favor the two major parties, enabling them to get their message out more effectively (and in turn more likely to succeed.) In keeping with the idea espoused by our Founding Fathers that representatives were only supposed to stand for election and do that public service for a term or two before returning to private life, I now feel that making it more difficult for people to make a career out of elected politics through term limits would bring us closer to the original intention. (Nor should we forget that only the House was supposed to be elected by the people directly - Senators were appointed through the respective state legislatures until the 17th Amendment was adopted in 1913.*) There is a compelling argument to be made, though, which contends that if term limits were adopted then control of the government would be placed in the hands of the unelected bureaucrats that write the rules and regulations. But I also believe that if elected officials are relieved of the constant fundraising to stay in office they may come up with more bold ideas and real solutions to problems – not lip-service intended to keep government bureaucrats in place perpetually.

I could probably spend a couple thousand words pursuing that digression, but my real intention in putting pixels to screen today was to discuss the immigration “flip-flop” of Donald Trump in relation to other issues. I put the phrase in quotes because to me it was already baked into his campaign, and those who truly believed he would be a hardliner on immigration were being played for suckers. Early on I knew about the “big, beautiful door” and “touchback” amnesty so what was one of his strongest points when I analyzed all of the GOP Presidential hopefuls almost a year ago became more and more watered down as time went on.

The difference to me between a “flip-flop” and a legitimate change of heart, though, comes down to whether the words remain consistent and are followed by appropriate actions. Obviously as a challenger in a political campaign Donald Trump doesn’t have a record of votes to compare nor has he had to address the myriad issues that someone in political office is confronted with on a daily basis. As a case in point for the latter: a week or so ago I put up a Facebook post asking why utility trucks such as those operated by Delmarva Power have to go through truck scales (as I had observed that day) with my thought being: what if they were going to repair a major power outage? I can almost guarantee you that no other constituent had that thought in mind in the year or two my local Delegates have been in office, but to me the question was worth asking for the reason stated.

Let me use Trump as an example in two areas: immigration and abortion. As I see it, the recent statements from Trump on the prospect of amnesty represent a flip-flop of a rhetorical kind, although some may consider it the usual running to the center a Republican candidate is supposed to do after he or she runs right for the primary. It’s more magnified for Trump, however, because of the ferocity of his initial statements such as ”(Mexico is) sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” In the weeks immediately after Trump’s announcement, the murder of Kate Steinle by an illegal immigrant who had been repeatedly deported yet kept returning into the United States buttressed Trump’s point. So the rhetoric remained hardline, thus, there is a certain element of Trump’s support base that probably feels completely sold out but will revert to reassuring themselves “he’s not Hillary” rather than admit buyer’s remorse from being sold a bill of goods.

It should be noted this Trump pivot, which may or may not bolster his standing among Hispanic voters, also comes at a time when he is also making a parallel push for black voters on a more legitimate question: what have the Democrats done for you lately – or for that matter since the Great Society era and civil rights struggles a half-century ago? Obviously he’s not going to the Obama/Clinton position of just letting any immigrant in, but this more recent concession is quite a different tone than the initial Trump ”build a wall and make Mexico pay for it” stance. Those who wanted a “pause” to immigration are surely disgusted with the turn of events over the last week or so, but there are enough Trump skeptics out there who can say nativists were warned regarding Trump and immigration.

Yet on abortion I think Donald Trump had a more legitimate change of heart toward being pro-life, a move he claims came from a personal experience. Of course, those who are farther along on the pro-life spectrum still question Trump’s bonafides based on his support for Planned Parenthood, but that is not the be-all and end-all of the movement – Planned Parenthood is more of a symptom of the disease than the disease itself. Certainly Donald Trump is not one who has led a monogamous lifestyle – and only God knows if any of his trysts have led to pregnancies eventually terminated - but small victories are still small victories nonetheless. Over the course of the campaign Trump has not shifted a great deal on the issue, with the horserace watchers more focused on the aspect of which evangelical leaders are backing Trump despite his faults and which ones are simply sitting this election out or voting for a more strictly values-based candidate, either on the ballot or as a write-in, as I may.

But there remains a trust issue with Trump that makes writing pieces like this necessary. (Not being able to trust Hillary Clinton any farther than they could throw her was already factored in for millions of voters, simply based on the litany of scandal and questionable decisions she’s made over a quarter-century.) I’ve argued before that 2016 is the election of the flawed individual, but perhaps character doesn’t count in America anymore. While the Clintons, Al Gore, John Kerry, and Barack Obama have major character flaws, only Kerry lost the popular vote on Election Day – and conspiracy theorists still blame Diebold for that 2004 loss. So perhaps Republicans now believe that “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” and selected their own person of questionable character just to pick up that long-desired W on Election Day.

And if you discount character, you quickly understand why there are people who walk among us that would say or do whatever is necessary, flipping and flopping on their beliefs and values, to get what they want – anything from the modest “15 minutes of fame” to the most powerful political office in the country. Upon that realization, it’s just a short step to pondering about the fate of this very republic we live in. America will survive, but with the leadership we seem to be attracting who will want to live there?

Women and men of values, character, and principle, please make yourself known. Your nation needs you, now more than ever.

*Ironically, Delaware and Maryland did not ratify the 17th Amendment until 2010 and 2012, respectively. In Maryland, only eight members of the House of Delegates properly voted against ratification – and one of the eight switched his vote to be against it only after it passed.

Woe unto them that call evil good: a frank discussion about life issues and the party platforms

By Cathy Keim and Michael Swartz

Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

Isaiah 5:20, KJV

This fall in Maryland we will have four parties on the ballot: not just the Republicans and Democrats, but also the Libertarians and the Green Party. All four of them are represented on the Presidential ballot, with three also contending for United States Senate and for our First District Congressional seat. (There is no Libertarian running for Senate and no Green Party candidate in the First District. Around the state, there are six Libertarians and five Greens running for the House.)

As one who has a passionate interest in the subject, Cathy Keim sat down to take a look at the four parties and where they stand on life issues, particularly abortion. Most of us aren’t single-issue voters, but I think I speak for Cathy when I contend we are both convinced that the way a party looks at the subject of life is an indicator of how it interprets the intersection of liberty on the one hand and faith on the other – or, as I would put it, the location of the guardrails on America’s path.

The Declaration of Independence states our unalienable rights to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. One cannot partake of these unalienable rights if they are murdered in the womb, so to us it is just that simple that an American that believes in the founding principles of our nation must also embrace a pro-life position.

To approach this, we have decided to lay out each party’s platform on the subject and provide our take on it afterward. These will be placed in alphabetical order so the Democrats go first.

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Securing Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice

Democrats are committed to protecting and advancing reproductive health, rights, and justice. We believe unequivocally, like the majority of Americans, that every woman should have access to quality reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion – regardless of where she lives, how much money she makes, or how she is insured. We believe that reproductive health is core to women’s, men’s, and young people’s health and wellbeing. We will continue to stand up to Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood health centers, which provide critical health services to millions of people. We will continue to oppose – and seek to overturn – federal and state laws and policies that impede a woman’s access to abortion, including by repealing the Hyde Amendment. We condemn and will combat any acts of violence, harassment, and intimidation of reproductive health providers, patients, and staff. We will defend the ACA, which extends affordable preventive health care to women, including no-cost contraception, and prohibits discrimination in health care based on gender.

We will address the discrimination and barriers that inhibit meaningful access to reproductive health care services, including those based on gender, sexuality, race, income, disability, and other factors. We recognize that quality, affordable comprehensive health care, evidence-based sex education and a full range of family planning services help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions.

And we strongly and unequivocally support a woman’s decision to have a child, including by ensuring a safe and healthy pregnancy and childbirth, and by providing services during pregnancy and after the birth of a child, including adoption and social support services, as well as protections for women against pregnancy discrimination. We are committed to creating a society where children are safe and can thrive physically, emotionally, educationally, and spiritually. We recognize and support the importance of civil structures that are essential to creating this for every child. (Page 37 here.)

Also, on Page 46:

We will support sexual and reproductive health and rights around the globe. In addition to expanding the availability of affordable family planning information and contraceptive supplies, we believe that safe abortion must be part of comprehensive maternal and women’s health care and included as part of America’s global health programming. Therefore, we support the repeal of harmful restrictions that obstruct women’s access to health care information and services, including the “global gag rule” and the Helms Amendment that bars American assistance to provide safe, legal abortion throughout the developing world. (Emphasis ours.)

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Cathy: How can the Democrat Party write such drivel with a straight face?  They define reproductive health as including abortion and proceed to say that reproductive health is core to women’s,  men’s, and young people’s health and wellbeing.  Except for the baby that is murdered in the womb.  The aborted baby’s health and wellbeing is certainly not benefited by legal abortion.

Once upon a time, they pretended that the baby was just a blob of tissue, but now they declare that even if life begins at conception, they would still demand that abortion be legal. Despite their claim that they want abortions to be safe, they have blocked and overturned any laws that have been passed to require abortion mills to conform to accepted standards of safety. You would be horrified if your vet subjected your dog to the kind of unsanitary, unsafe conditions that abortion mills routinely conduct their procedures under.

The Democrat Party plank on abortion definitely falls under the category of calling evil good.

Michael: What I can’t get over is the sheer hypocrisy of the Democrats standing for “creating a society where children are safe” when the one place you would think would be the safest is fair game for a mother’s ill-informed “choice.” And does it not reek of the same sort of eugenics made famous by Margaret Sanger (founder of Planned Parenthood) that the Democrats want to promote abortion “throughout the developing world?” Why not just call them “human weeds” while you are at it?

And once again they give their whole-hearted support to Planned Parenthood by claiming they “provide critical health services.” So do thousands of other facilities that don’t make millions of dollars performing abortions or stand accused of selling baby parts for profit.

Next we will turn to the Green Party, which recently finalized its 2016 platform.

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Women’s rights must be protected and expanded to guarantee each woman’s right as a full participant in society, free from sexual harassment, job discrimination or interference in the intensely personal choice about whether to have a child.

Women’s right to control their bodies is non-negotiable. It is essential that the option of a safe, legal abortion remains available. The “morning-after” pill must be affordable and easily accessible without a prescription, together with a government-sponsored public relations campaign to educate women about this form of contraception. Clinics must be accessible and must offer advice on contraception and the means for contraception; consultation about abortion and the performance of abortions, and; abortion regardless of age or marital status.

We endorse women’s right to use contraception and, when they choose, to have an abortion. This right cannot be limited to women’s age or marital status. Contraception and abortion must be included in all health insurance policies in the U.S., and any state government must be able to legally offer these services free of charge to women at the poverty level. Public health agencies operating abroad should be allowed to offer family planning, contraception, and abortion in all countries that ask for those services. We oppose our government’s habit of cutting family planning funds when those funds go to agencies in foreign countries that give out contraceptive devices, offer advice on abortion, and perform abortions.

We encourage women and men to prevent unwanted pregnancies. It is the inalienable right and duty of every woman to learn about her body and to be aware of the phases of her menstrual cycle, and it is the duty for every man to be aware of the functions and health of his and his partner’s bodies. This information is necessary for self-determination, to make informed decisions, and to prevent unintended consequences. Unplanned conception takes control away from individuals and makes them subject to external controls. The “morning-after” pill and option of a safe and legal abortion need to remain available. (This is under the heading of “Civil Rights.”)

Under “Health Care“:

The Green Party unequivocally supports a woman’s right to reproductive choice, no matter her marital status or age, and that contraception and safe, legal abortion procedures be available on demand and be included in all health insurance coverage in the U.S., as well as free of charge in any state where a woman’s income falls below the poverty level.

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Cathy: The Green Party seems to think that reproduction refers to the right to prevent or terminate a child. This is changing the meaning from good to evil. A child is to be prevented from being conceived (I find this hard to believe) by the woman knowing her menstrual cycle! This sounds rather like the rhythm method. Why bother when you can have a free morning after pill or a safe abortion on demand? Every part of this plank is geared towards preventing future citizens. Women are only equal if they do not get pregnant.

“Unplanned conception takes control away from individuals and makes them subject to external controls.” I would think that that sentence should read makes them subject to internal controls since the baby is inside the mother’s womb!

This whole conversation is ignoring the right of the baby to exist. They try to hide that by talking about prevention, but in the end, the right to abort the baby must be universal. Since any baby can be aborted, then there can be no protection for a baby that has Down’s syndrome or any other problems. This means that there is no call to prevent sex-selection abortions. What if the baby has a cleft palate which can fixed by surgery? Once the sanctity of life is broken, there is no end to the mischief that results.

The Green Party fails completely on the abortion issue, but that didn’t surprise you, did it?

Michael: The scariest part of their platform to me is the fact that they actually say abortion is a “right (that) cannot be limited to women’s age or marital status.” As I read this, they are perfectly fine with a 10 year old getting an abortion, whether the parent knows or not. There IS a surefire way to prevent unwanted pregnancies, but then it would eliminate the choice a woman would have to sleep with a man. If the choice is made to engage in sexual activity, then there is a risk of pregnancy. Even if a woman is “aware of the phases of her menstrual cycle” there’s no guarantee that a time she thinks she’s safe is really a safe time. (Nor does this account for the inevitable failure of contraceptives.)

In essence, they are perfectly willing to absolve the women of all responsibility for their actions in the name of “individual rights.” And that leads us to the Libertarian Party.

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1.5 Abortion

Recognizing that abortion is a sensitive issue and that people can hold good-faith views on all sides, we believe that government should be kept out of the matter, leaving the question to each person for their conscientious consideration.

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Cathy: The Libertarian Party takes a dive with their disingenuous attempt to leave abortion up to the individual.  If life is an unalienable right, then you cannot leave the choice up to the individual.  We do not leave it up to the individual to decide whether to murder someone, so why should we suddenly pretend that this is different?  The only difference is the size of the citizen.

Michael: They definitely punt on this question, and not in the least because “people can hold good-faith views on all sides.”

I believe that the Founders placed “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” in that order intentionally. It is difficult, if not impossible, to pursue happiness without liberty, but it is impossible to enjoy liberty without life. And this is why I believe a true libertarian would by necessity be pro-life. Rather than argue about the point of viability for the unborn, I presume that they enjoy the right to life upon conception and their right to life trumps the mother’s liberty, as expressed in the phony “right to privacy” the majority in Roe v. Wade made out of thin air.

I can agree that the federal government should be kept out of the abortion matter, because I believe it’s properly debated and adjudicated in the several states.

Finally, we get to the Republican Party, which has been traditionally the home of the pro-life movement.

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The Sanctity and Dignity of Human Life  

Faithful to the “self-evident” truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children. We oppose using public revenues to promote or perform abortion or fund organizations which perform or advocate it and will not fund or subsidize health care which includes abortion coverage. We support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life. We oppose the non-consensual withholding or withdrawal of care or treatment, including food and water, from people with disabilities, including newborns, as well as the elderly and infirm, just as we oppose active and passive euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Republican leadership has led the effort to prohibit the barbaric practice of partial-birth abortion and permitted States to extend health care coverage to children before birth. We urge Congress to strengthen the Born Alive Infant Protection Act by enacting appropriate civil and criminal penalties on healthcare providers who fail to provide treatment and care to an infant who survives an abortion, including early induction delivery where the death of the infant is intended. We call for legislation to ban sex-selective abortions - gender discrimination in its most lethal form - and to protect from abortion unborn children who are capable of feeling pain; and we applaud U.S. House Republicans for leading the effort to protect the lives of pain-capable unborn children in the District of Columbia. We call for a ban on the use of body parts from aborted fetuses for research. We support and applaud adult stem cell research to develop lifesaving therapies, and we oppose the killing of embryos for their stem cells. We oppose federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.

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Cathy: The Republican Party plank is pretty good.  It covers a lot of areas that need to be protected.  However, it stops short of stating that from conception to natural death, life should be protected.  This includes children with Down’s syndrome, birth defects, and babies conceived by rape.  The baby should not be punished for the sins of the father.

Michael: It’s a very comprehensive platform. I think Cathy’s concern is covered somewhat by the opposition to “withholding or withdrawal of care or treatment…from people with disabilities.” But I especially like the mention of judges, who are vital in the effort to provide protection to the unborn – how many common-sense laws have been overturned by the unelected federal judiciary? Ask the state of Texas, which had a perfectly valid law regarding abortion clinics overturned by judicial fiat.

Yet with such a great platform one has to ask just how much the nominee believes in it, given his statements on Planned Parenthood and relatively recent conversion to a pro-life stance. I understand people can honestly change, but the proof is in the pudding and this nominee sometimes has difficulty keeping a story straight.

Cathy: If you are a person that believes that abortion is wrong, then the party platforms reduce the viable candidates immediately.  If you further look at which party has a chance of winning, then there is only one party that works for the pro-life individual.

Voters that are concerned with “social issues” are frequently reprimanded for being single issue voters or for holding the party back from success.  I hear those arguments, but they don’t hold much water if you are not allowed to ever draw your first breath.  The pro-life position is so basic that it leaves no room to discuss other policies.  Once we have determined that our future citizens have the right to safety in their mother’s womb, then we can talk about the other issues.

The Republican Party does many things that I do not always agree with, but they have still managed to hang onto their pro-life plank.  I also understand that not every candidate will fully support every plank, but from my survey of the candidates listed on the Maryland ballot, they all claim to stand on abortion where their parties’ plank would put them.

Consider this as you choose which candidate will receive your vote.

The price to pay

It really wasn’t my intention to write about this election very much, as I would rather try to shape post-Trump conservatism, but there is an occasion here for a lesson to be taught.

Late last week we began hearing the rumbles about a letter to the RNC, signed by a number of concerned party members, urging them to stop financially supporting the flailing Trump campaign and concentrate their declining finances on saving the House and Senate from a Democratic takeover. The latter was already a strong possibility thanks to the sheer number of Republican seats in play – the TEA Party wave election of 2010 comes home to roost this year in the Senate. Among those signing are onetime Maryland YR chair Brian Griffiths and my “partner in crime” Heather Olsen, who resigned earlier this summer as county chair in Prince George’s County because she, too, could not support Donald Trump as the GOP nominee.

While I have had my differences with Griffiths over the years, it’s more rare that I disagree with my friend Heather. Yet I believe there are two good arguments for keeping Trump in the GOP financial loop, despite their (likely correct) contention that it’s “throwing good money after bad.”

First of all, those who climbed aboard the Trump Train early on were completely and utterly convinced that he would absolutely steamroller Hillary Clinton just as he has built up his business empire. But now that the polls being reported on a near-daily basis continue to find Trump not only losing nationally but putting several “safe” GOP states in play, these backers not only claim the polls are “fake” but also point to other (non-scientific) polls showing Trump has a “YUGE” lead and analysis saying he’ll win in a “landslide.” So apparently this money is going to a good cause, right? These militant Trumpkins are going to be covered regardless – either he wins and then the purge of the #NeverTrump group from the GOP begins, or he loses because he said early on “I’m afraid the election going to be rigged.”

So if you withhold the GOP money from Donald Trump, it’s just going to be another thing to blame his loss on. “We had these huge rallies and we knew we had this election in the bag,” they will wail, “but Reince Priebus and the GOP establishment wouldn’t give us any support – they must have been in cahoots with Hillary.” Don’t you dare give them that excuse.

As for the second reason, the Republican Party simply needs to be taught a lesson on its own and sometimes the only way to get the point across is letting them utterly fail. They had the chance, several times, to do something to avoid this situation – closed primaries, penalties for skipping debates and insistence on participation to the end, or allowing convention delegates to vote their conscience, as examples - but they did none of these things, allowing a candidate with far less than 50% of the Republican vote to skate off with the nomination. (This doesn’t count the policy failures of Republicans in Congress.) As I have said before: you break it, you bought it. Give Trump the money he’s due, and when the election is lost all of those involved will hopefully resign in disgrace for what they have done to a great party and a great country.

So when I get my appeals for donations to the national Republican party (and even the state version) I’m not giving them a dime. This is actually nothing new for me, since I would rather give to the individual candidate I believe in than a party organization that will be as likely to support a candidate edging left of center as it would a conservative (and perhaps more.) And too often they place their thumb on the scale in a primary even though it’s against their policy to do so. (Heather surely recalls Rule 11 being used for Maryland in 2010.)

It looks more and more likely that a bitterly divided Republican Party will endure electoral disaster unseen in a decade this November. (Maybe it’s years ending in 6, since the last several of those have been horrible for national Republicans – they lost all of Congress in 2006, Bob Dole lost in 1996, they lost the Senate in 1986, and Gerald Ford was defeated in 1976. 1966 was the last successful one.) But just as the Democrats are now split between the radical progressives that backed Bernie Sanders and the establishment which went for Clinton, the GOP is rent asunder by the schism between conservatism and the alt-right populism best expressed by Donald Trump (and, to a certain extent prior to that, Sarah Palin.)

Once we get to 2017, the question will be that of who blinks first. After the new Congress and administration is sworn in, it will be time for the GOP to get together and select new leadership. If things go as expected in November, the January RNC meeting will be must-see TV for political junkies as the fate of the resistance is determined.

But if the right people are placed in charge, the few million dollars wasted on Trump at the expense of Congress will be a memory because many may be willing to open their wallets again. In that respect, perhaps the Trump candidacy will be the catharsis the GOP needed to begin on a path to a post-Trump conservatism. We can only hope.

Seeking action on Medicare

The mailing had everything needed for the shock value: a worried-looking senior citizen juxtaposed over a stack of paper stamped “DENIED.” “Worried About Government Bureaucracy Restricting Your Medicare?” it asked. If the piece of paper could listen I would tell it that I’m not even counting on having Medicare when I get to that age, but I figured this may be a fun bit of research and exploration to do. “Okay, I’ll bite,” I thought.

The mailing came to both my wife Kim and I as two separate “families” and was paid for by the American Action Network (AAN). So my first question was obvious: who is the American Action Network? According to Wikipedia, the AAN is “a nonprofit issue advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. which promotes center-right public policy. It was established in 2010 by Fred Malek and Norm Coleman as a 501(c)(4) organization.” On their behalf, the AAN argues its “primary goal is to put our center-right ideas into action by engaging the hearts and minds of the American people and spurring them into active participation in our democracy.” So the heart must be the center and the mind must be right?

In essence, it’s a group similar to one I pointed out last week, Americans for Limited Government. AAN may have fancier digs and a larger mailing list and donor base, but they are just another of the thousands of issue advocacy groups orbiting around the capital region – one that has $1.7 million to spend on sending a piece that specifically asked me to, “Tell Congressman Andy Harris to Continue His Fight to Protect Your Medicare.” Since both Kim and I are registered as Republicans, I’m thinking the list was culled to specifically target GOP voters and it wouldn’t shock me if they also narrowed this mailing to only reach those over 50 (as Kim and I both are.) According to AAN, 61 districts in 27 states were targeted for the advocacy campaign, for a total cost (with print and digital ads) of $4.8 million.

To be specific, the mailing advocated the passage of two bills: H.R. 1190, which is better known as the Protect Seniors’ Access to Medicare Act of 2015, and H.R. 5122, which doesn’t have a fancy title but is intended “To prohibit further action on the proposed rule regarding testing of Medicare part B prescription drug models.” Harris (as well as every other Republican present, and 11 Democrats) voted for the former bill last year, but it’s been bottled up in the Senate.

H.R. 1190 has two purposes: one is the termination of the Independent Payment Advisory Board (or, in the words of Sarah Palin, the “death panels”) while the other cuts billions of dollars in spending on the Prevention and Public Health Fund over the next decade. But because Barack Obama isn’t going to agree with this anyway, it’s apparent that the bill will go nowhere in the Senate (they won’t even make it past the cloture vote.)

The second bill, H.R. 5122, would eliminate spending on a proposed rule, which is 33 pages to explain that the Department of Health and Human Services wants to try a new method of payment for certain drugs administered to Medicare patients as a trial program. The overall idea is to encourage the use of lower-priced drugs, since the authors of the rule contend the providers use more expensive medications to take advantage of a flat 6 percent reimbursement rate. As an experiment, the rate would go down to 2.5% plus a flat $16 additional reimbursement. After its introduction the bill has apparently sat in a desk drawer someplace because no vote has been taken on it.

Yet AAN objects to both bills, and ”calls on seniors to advocate for two key legislative priorities: (1) H.R. 5122, to prevent the Obama Administration from changing the Medicare Part B payment policy for treatments, and (2) H.R. 1190, to repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). Both bills will block bureaucrats from imposing harmful changes to Medicare that could threaten seniors’ access to care.”

So I investigated further, and found a missive Coleman wrote last month about this and other issues. Among the things Coleman said:

Despite assurances that ObamaCare would be the end all, be all, for health care reform in America, we now know that it is simply collapsing in on itself.  Insurers are fleeing the system - premiums are increasing - and recent court rulings have undermined the credibility of the financial assumptions used by liberals to justify the creation of ObamaCare.

All this is true. Yet Coleman goes on:

In the end, America doesn’t need only to reform government.

We need to reform the notion that government is the solution to our problems or the key to our future prosperity.

Again, truer words have never been spoken. But the premise of the AAN mailing is that of protecting a government program by appealing to the beneficiaries. (A subsidiary site operated by AAN and promoted on the mailing makes this clear: DontCutOurMedicare.com.) If government isn’t the solution to our problem, one would think AAN would be looking to repeal Medicare entirely (over a relatively lengthy sunset period, of course) to truly reform the notion that Americans should depend on our government for health care or feel entitled to it. At the very most, the idea of Medicare should be no more than a state-level initiative – if the people of Maryland want a lavish senior care program, let them adopt it as their own. However, those in Delaware may feel differently.

So the definition of “center-right” seems to be the same sore subject that millions of Donald Trump voters used as their excuse to vote against the “establishment.” While they have selected a deeply flawed vessel to amplify their message, it seems those frustrated voters are looking more for the “right” than the “center,” since all the center seems to be is the maintenance of a failed status quo.

On the other hand, one can argue that their objection is not about government involvement, but instead only a complaint about the originator of the idea. They don’t seem to have the same issues with the Medicare Part D program enacted under Republican President George W. Bush – which is, in some respects, similar to the pilot program H.R. 5122 seeks to defund because Part D tends to reward the usage of less expensive medication. It’s still the federal government subsidizing health care, but it was done in the name of a centrist ”compassionate conservatism” instead of the leftward ”fundamental change to America.”

To me, it’s very ironic that a group which wants to back away from the idea that our government is a solution sends out a directive to appeal to our very conservative representative to maintain a costly government entitlement program. Even more so, those who complain “don’t touch our Medicare” would be the first to object to expanding eligibility to cover those over 50 years of age, in part because it’s Hillary Clinton’s idea. (Trump seems to favor the Medicare status quo with a few tweaks, which may explain why much of the AAN target audience is his support base.)

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this is figuring out where they got $4.8 million for the campaign. We have a few clues, but the backers of this group aren’t being very public about it. So if they were looking for exposure, I suppose this piece is added value to them. But I must say: the “center” of their “center-right” really comes out with this one, particularly if you consider the center as our current situation – a President pulling to the left and Congress mildly countering to the right. Then again, to AAN we are only a “democracy” anyway, so at the moment the people want largesse from the public treasury, with AAN’s large donors perhaps trying to preserve their cut of the proceeds.

While those on the Left, such as writer Igor Volsky, celebrated Medicare as a success and believe the issue is settled, I happen to think those Volsky cites who argued against the concept when it was first proposed over 50 years ago were proven correct. Volsky also quotes an exchange between then-Congressman Mike Pence and journalist Andrea Mitchell:

Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) explained his opposition to a new public health care option by arguing that Medicare spending has exceeded actuarial estimates from 1965. As Andrea Mitchell pointed out, somewhat jokingly, “I don’t know if you want to go back to Indiana and campaign against Medicare.”

Obviously those on the center-right don’t want to, so it’s going to take decades of re-education on the concepts of liberty and personal responsibility to counter the effects of the entitlement mentality society we live in today. Some may consider Medicare a success and wish it saved, but to achieve the rightsizing of government we need it’s clear Newt Gingrich was correct: Medicare does need to “wither on the vine.” Given the sheer number of insurance companies that now cater to the senior market, the problem Medicare was created to “solve” can easily be addressed by the private sector.

The first post-GOP teaching moment

It was about seven or eight years ago that I first came in contact with the group called Americans for Limited Government. One of their projects that I participated in for awhile was called Liberty Features Syndicate, which (as the name implied) was a syndication service that generally catered to small newspapers. For perhaps a year, I was one of their writers and every so often I would find out one of my 600-word columns was placed in some small-town newspaper. That was a neat experience, particularly the very first time when I found out my column was in a Kentucky newspaper fitting that description. For a moment I thought I was destined to be the next Ann Coulter. (Now I’m glad I’m not.) They also do the NetRightDaily site, which is where I first discovered Marita Noon as they also carry her weekly op-ed. Somewhere in their archives I’m sure most of my columns survive.

All that has gone by the wayside, but I remain Facebook friends with current ALG president Richard Manning. Over the last few months, though, I’ve been dismayed to see how a group which claims to be for limited government has climbed aboard the Trump train. A case in point was something they posted last week, which I want to use as an educational tool. It’s called “Trump’s the nominee, deal with it.” I’m going to go through it a little at a time and share my thoughts as we go.

Donald Trump is the nominee and the establishment is going to have to deal with it. These anonymous GOP sources speculating on what the process would be if Donald Trump chose to withdraw from the race for president should be identified and forever run out of the GOP.

I find this rhetoric to be disheartening and a little disingenuous. Manning should remember that 56% of the Republican voters did not support Trump, but when it came time for that group to be represented at the RNC Convention Trump was right there with the “establishment” to shut it down. It was a coordinated effort, so don’t tell me Trump is not part of the establishment when it serves his purpose, and vice versa. Personally, I believe the whole “Trump will withdraw” story is wishful thinking on the part of some, but given his meteoric personality it’s not outside the realm of possibility. If anyone deserves to be “forever run out of the GOP,” though, it’s the Trump/RNC “enforcers” who were at the convention intimidating the grassroots supporters of needed rule changes. That action was one of the reasons I left the party leadership.

Where were they when Mitt Romney was outed telling donors that 47 percent of the people were on government assistance, creating the exact class warfare narrative that the Democrats craved? These anonymous, cowardly whiners were more than likely busily making fortunes at the GOP trough.

Probably the same place they were when Trump alienated women voters with his remarks about Megyn Kelly – except those weren’t surreptitiously recorded like Romney’s remarks were. The Democrats are going to attempt their tactics of division regardless of what the Republican nominee says. The one thing to criticize Romney for? He was off by 2 points – it was actually 49 percent. One would think that a group advocating limited government would embrace that fact as a reason to begin work on the issue. The truth hurts sometimes.

The only reason that this circular firing squad story exists is because the D.C. establishment class cannot get over that Jeb lost and with his loss, their every four-year financial windfall went away. And that’s the ugly truth, Donald Trump’s real failure is his unwillingness to spend millions in consulting fees to keep the GOP consulting vultures at bay. If these consultants had not lost the popular vote in five of the past six presidential elections, they might have some validity in their concerns, but they are proven losers, and Trump doesn’t like losers.

This is perhaps Manning’s best point, but by making it about Trump he makes a mistake. Trump may not be using the consultant class, but the problem is that he’s losing just like in the other five elections (and the current polls track similarly to theirs.) If Trump were running at 60% in the polls Manning would have a great point, but the only thing about Trump at 60% is his negatives. We should hope that the consultant class withers on the vine, but the way to do that is through limiting government so there’s less financial incentive to be a consultant.

So, now they are all-in in trying to stop Trump, and by fostering speculation that he might drop out, they give their cohorts in the mainstream media the excuse to replay some mistakes that Trump has made and the campaign is trying to move on from.

They don’t have to replay mistakes because Trump creates a fresh batch on an almost-daily basis.

It is time to root out these conspirators to elect Hillary Clinton president, and not allow them to hide under the cloak of invisibility that cockroaches and vermin depend upon.

Someone really needs to do an exhaustive study on how many Democrats crossed over in the open primaries to help make Trump the GOP nominee. Oh, wait, those aren’t the conspirators Manning is referring to? My contention all along is that the only candidate Hillary could beat was Donald Trump, so I suppose the real conspiracy was within the group that talked Trump into running when there were already several in the race – remember, Trump was among the last to announce.

For the rest of us, Donald Trump is the only chance to end the Obama expansion of federal government power, his disastrous EPA regulations, Obamacare and his use of the enforcement powers of the Executive Branch as weapons against his political enemies.

For Trump, any and all of these will eventually be negotiable except for the last one. Given the ferocity of his attacks against his former Republican foes, I don’t doubt that Trump has an “enemies list” of his own, and it won’t be all the groups who have tormented conservatives the last eight years. The conservatives will remain in the crosshairs because Trump didn’t need party unity anyway.

Moreover, The Donald yo-yos between wailing about “draconian rules” regarding federal land and advocating the federal government remain in control of it. His stated health care plan repeals Obamacare, but he also vowed to make a deal with hospitals to take care of the poor at government expense. EPA regulations are bad unless you’re pandering to Iowa corn farmers.

In short, I truly don’t see any real support for limited government from Trump, which makes me wonder why ALG is involved in this election. To be honest, I’m sure Americans for Limited Government is a relatively modest group, living on a comparative shoestring as one of many thousands of advocacy groups around Washington, D.C. (That in and of itself is rather ironic. If they don’t like the inside-the-Beltway culture perhaps their headquarters should be in flyover country.) They take Trump’s outsider image to heart, even though he has donated thousands of dollars to political candidates on both sides.

But simply being an outsider with little political experience does not necessarily equate to limited government. And while some argue that with Trump we at least have a slim chance of success, let me remind you that failure to constrain government will once again be a Republican trait if Trump wins and governs on a platform where Obamacare is replaced by other government involvement, regulations are addressed in a capricious manner, and entitlements like Social Security and Medicare are off limits to needed reform, let alone the true limitation of government that can be achieved by sunsetting the programs over a multi-decade period to provide an orderly transition.

I use this as a cautionary tale about consistency. If you believe the group’s mission statement, it’s a curiosity to me why they involved themselves in this race:

We are leaders in identifying, exposing and working with Congress and state legislatures to prevent the continued expansion of government. Never shying away from the big issues, ALG is perpetually ahead of the issue curve taking on issues like the $100 billion International Monetary Fund line of credit while others are still trying to spell IMF. This aggressive, non-partisan approach to the threats posed by an ever expanding government to our basic freedoms gives us the ability to honestly present the limited government perspective both inside the beltway and most importantly around the country.

It’s clear to me that neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton will lift a finger to limit government; rather, they will rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic. I can understand the fear of Hillary Clinton being a third term of Barack Obama, but who’s to say Donald Trump wouldn’t be a third term of George W. Bush, where government expanded at an alarming rate, too? There were several other candidates who were willing to begin the process of rightsizing the federal Leviathan, but Trump prevailed as the “Republican, not the conservative” nominee. It’s troubling to me that the folks at ALG let party override principle and fear take the place of common sense.

So despite the admonition of Manning and friends, the only nonsense we need to stop is continually claiming that not voting for Trump is a vote for Hillary. One can be #NeverTrump and #NeverHillary at the same time. There are other candidates out there who hew closer to the principles of limited government, and one of those things which holds them back is the perception that no one other than a Republican or Democrat can win. In the end, the decision is up to the voters, so what ALG needs to do is return to stressing the value of limited government rather than shill for one flawed candidate against another.

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.

Compare and contrast: government vs. the private sector

A few days ago I mentioned the manufacturing advocates the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) in a post regarding their convention plans. I wasn’t surprised to see they were very pleased with Hillary Clinton’s remarks, including a plan to “pass the biggest investment in new, good-paying jobs since World War II.” Ah yes, the old “investment” in infrastructure, where taxpayer money will be shoveled to cronies and unions in an effort to build things we may not need or use (like facilities for public transit, bike paths, and so forth) at the artificial “prevailing” wage. Spend five dollars, waste two or three more – they don’t care because it’s all on the credit card anyway.

It sounds to me just like the promises regarding the “stimulus” package from Barack Obama, officially known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. Those “shovel-ready” jobs actually turned out to be, among other things, government backstopping certain public-sector jobs that may have been destined for the chopping block. Only a small portion of the over $800 billion spent actually went to infrastructure, but ARRA was sold as an investment in infrastructure. So pardon me if I expect little good to come from Hillary’s plan.

Anyway, last night I read a contention that was more interesting (and realistic) from American Enterprise Institute scholar (as well as professor of economics and finance) Mark J. Perry. Here is the money line:

The bottom line is that America’s abundant and low-cost natural gas and electricity have more than offset higher labor costs in the U.S. and have contributed to the strongest profitability in a generation or more for U.S. manufacturers. Within three years, and possibly even sooner, it will be cheaper for most U.S. companies to manufacture goods for the American market at home, compared to producing those same goods in Asia. (Emphasis mine.)

Of course, that prediction is fraught with peril. We could regulate our way out of the energy boom by continuing to mandate the use of expensive, inefficient renewable energy sources (or, in lieu of that, transfer payments from utility providers), we can maintain the oppressive tax climate that has been one of many reasons companies are choosing to go offshore – any bean counter will tell you it’s better to pay 15% tax than 35% – or actually enact the increasing minimum wage that unfortunately Donald Trump is now supporting. Any or all of these are possible regardless of who wins the Oval Office.

And that’s the shame of it all. Over the course of the nation’s history, we have seen America become a great industrial power only to lose its advantage to upstarts like Japan and China. (Then again, we wrested the title from the British in the 1800s so things are always fluid.) These Asian nations took advantage of newer technology and less expensive labor to attract American manufacturing jobs that were in older, less efficient unionized plants, despite the fact these items would have to shipped back thousands of miles to their primary market.

But here we have the chance to get some of this back, and my fear is that too many people want to keep the status quo in place as a political issue rather than solve the problem. We talk about being a free market insofar as trade is concerned, but I contend that we need to work on freeing our own market:

  • Toss out these federal and state regulations and carveouts that only benefit special interests or large, established competitors trying to corner their respective markets.
  • Encourage the adoption of right-to-work laws so unions are forced to compete and sell the benefits they provide for the cost to workers.
  • Instead of debating whether the minimum wage should be increased or not, we should be debating how quickly we phase it out. The true minimum wage is zero, which is what workers who are tossed out of a job when companies can’t afford the increased labor costs will earn.

In reading the GOP platform (and I’m just going to ignore the Democrats on this one, since they aren’t selling themselves as free-market, limited-government types) I saw some attention paid to these issues, although their approach seems to be more of just controlling growth and pruning around the edges than a wholesale reduction. Needless to say, that platform could be completely ignored by the elected members of the party from Donald Trump on down if the idea of enriching their friends, rather than the supporters of the other side that have engorged themselves over the last eight years, remains in place.

Sadly, over most of the last century it hasn’t really mattered which side was in power because government has grown regardless of who was in charge. (The one exception: the Harding-Coolidge era of the 1920s, when the federal budget was drastically reduced – and annually balanced - after World War I. In a time where we are stuck with Trump, Clinton, or maybe Gary Johnson, what we really needed was a Coolidge. Bobby Jindal was probably the closest we had in the GOP field.)

I began this whole process by talking about infrastructure, and there’s a legitimate need for prudent spending on upgrades where it is appropriate. Sometimes there is a need for a new federal or state facility. But I have also seen how the government uses infrastructure to maintain a cash cow, with my favorite example being the Ohio Turnpike I grew up close by.

You see, the original plan was to eliminate the tolls once the bonds to construct the road were paid off in the 1980s. (This was promised when the highway was built in the early 1950s – my dad remembers them staking it out a few miles from his house.) But then they decided that some new exits were necessary (which they were) so they decided to build those. Then it was adding a third lane in each direction between Youngstown and Toledo (a process still going insofar as I know, since I haven’t been that way in a couple years), then renovating all the rest areas (twice in thirty years, and ditto), and so on and so forth. Forget the promise to remove the tolls once the highway was paid off – they constantly spend money on projects that weren’t within the original scope, perpetuating the agency that runs the Turnpike.

In theory, we could spend money from now until doomsday on government-sponsored projects. Some contractors would benefit, but others would be left out in the cold because there’s a certain procedure required to bid on and win public works contracts. But it wouldn’t necessarily be the best use of our funds – and by that I don’t mean the money in the public till but the money that we earn for our collective pockets. If we really want to get manufacturing going and bring it back to America, we need to maximize their potential for meeting our marketplace. They may make mistakes, but that should be up to the market to pick winners and not the government.

WCRC meeting – July 2016

It’s not all that likely people know that the woman who is probably Salisbury’s most famous widow – Mitzi Perdue – had such an interest in politics. We got to hear about that and her support for Donald Trump during our meeting Monday night.

Once we dispensed of the introductory business, we turned the meeting over to her and Perdue spoke for more than a half-hour on a number of topics – or as she called them, “things on my mind.” She was very pleased to see several younger people in the group, pointing them out as “VIPs” among us.

But after recommending the new Dinesh D’Souza movie “Hillary’s America,” saying “you’ll love it,” Mitzi revealed that she had been for Donald Trump “a long time.” She related a story that many were familiar with: the renovation of the Wollman Rink in New York City. It was a project the city had tried and failed to do for several years before Trump convinced the city of New York to give him a $3 million budget and six months to get the job done. Not only did he do so, but he made a profit. “I want somebody who is really competent,” said Perdue, “and cuts through the red tape.” It went along with her belief in smaller government and lower taxes.

Yet while Mitzi had a longstanding interest in politics, telling us “politics attracts me,” she could never take the step into running for office. It was so “incredibly tempting” though that she decided to enroll in campaign school. But there she learned that a candidate’s primary job was to deny their opponent’s identity, and she could not run under that condition. Perdue lamented the fact that campaigns aren’t about honesty or truth, pointing out the 65,000 negative ads run against Trump. As “a writer by trade,” Perdue thought “the amount of distortion was staggering.” She added her belief that Trump was “a product of where he came from,” as he grew up in Queens.

In addition, Mitzi related her opinion that in this election we are “up against an extinction-level threat.” While she asked the response of several in the room about their most important issues – and got solid answers such as illegal immigration, radical Islam, the economy, and so forth, she considered our national debt as the biggest threat. Citing a book by Reinhart and Rogoff called This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly, Perdue contended that when debt becomes too great, it brings about the end of nations. Because Donald Trump “understands balance sheets,” Mitzi believed he could best address the issue. “I want a businessman who knows how to say ‘no’,” she explained.

But when Perdue was asked about illegal immigration, she noted the research that shows all the new jobs this century accrued to immigrants, which led to stagnant wages. “Labor is a commodity,” said Perdue, who also noted that, while immigrants are paying $13 billion a year in taxes, they are using $100 billion in services. “I love that (Trump) is for our citizens,” she said, adding that’s in part because ”we don’t protect our borders.” A border wall is “very doable” with modern technology, she added. As an further benefit, it would slow the drug trade. “My hatred of drugs is unending,” Perdue explained.

Her next campaign task was going to be difficult, though: she was seeking a position she had contemplated as a national coordinator of volunteers. This person would evaluate the skills and aptitudes of those who wanted to work for the Trump campaign and give them appropriate tasks. Since Mike Pence had a slightly different strategy, Mitzi thought the job may not pan out.

A final question dealt with coordination between the campaigns of Trump and Maryland’s U.S. Senate hopeful Kathy Szeliga, but it morphed into a discussion about credibility since President Bush had used up a lot of his during his term of office. “Trump is cut from a different cloth,” said Perdue. As for the coordination (in particular signage) that may be up to the state and local parties.

It was an interesting talk, more or less aimed at people not sold on Trump – that would be me. Perhaps I will address this at a later date.

As for the meeting, I was pressed into service to give the Central Committee report. So I updated the club on the Board of Education, an upcoming local fundraiser for Kathy Szeliga to be held on August 20, and progress in planning the Lincoln Day Dinner.

Delegate Carl Anderton gave us an update, assessing that “everything is going great,” and that his immediate agenda would be that of trying to get local priorities funded in next year’s budget as he meets with the budget secretary.

Other issues Anderton found important were the impact of the Maryland Department of the Environment and of Obamacare, particularly the “numerous issues” constituents were having if their Obamacare plans lapsed due to non-payment. If it was a choice between that and cable, “stretch the cable bill,” said Anderton. Overall, he believed “the Lower Shore delegation is busting their humps” for us.

Speaking on the Department of Natural Resources, Joe Schanno pointed out two upcoming issues would be Sunday hunting and controlling the deer population because our area was seeing more frequent car vs. deer accidents.

We learned that we would have a GOP headquarters in the same location the Trump headquarters occupied, with the opening in late August – perhaps coordinated with 3rd Friday. Speaking of that event, Shawn Bradley stressed the need for volunteers at the GOP table there.

We “may need more volunteers” for the Crab Feast September 10, added Jim Jester. The club also authorized a package for sponsorships, which will shortly be available along with tickets to the event.

Regarding our two local womens’ Republican groups, Michelle Bradley reminded us the Greater Wicomico Republican Women would next meet August 11 at Adams Taphouse, with Delegate Christopher Adams being the featured speaker. For their part, the Republican Women of Wicomico will come off their summer break with a Brew River lunch meeting on September 7 with county Chair Mark McIver speaking, then have their Constitution Day gathering on the 17th of September, said Ellen Bethel.

Nate Sansom gave us a rundown on the local Teenage Republicans, who will get back together in August and plot out their strategy to work with both the Trump and Szeliga campaigns.

We also heard from Don Murphy, who came to thank the Central Committee for its support in sending him to the convention as a delegate. He noted that he “had never seen as much contention and dissention” at any other convention he had attended as he had seen during the Rules Committee fight. And while he was one of maybe 7 or 8 from Maryland who voted against the rules, he was one of those who did so as a Trump backer. “What Ted Cruz did was wrong,” added Murphy.

Yet as contentious as the GOP gathering was, Murphy believed it was “not even close” to what the Democrats were experiencing. “Hillary is our common enemy,” Don concluded.

So it was a very interesting meeting. The next one is slated for August 22 with a speaker to be determined.

Showing their colors

On several occasions, since my brief dalliance with a company and website called American Certified - which, alas, is no longer in business – I have cited a group I first ran across around that timeframe called the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM.) I have also pointed out that their perspective comes from their backing, as it is a conglomeration mainly composed of unionized steel manufacturers – so I always assumed they were more in line with the Democratic Party than the Republicans, which traditionally have been more in favor of free trade rather than protectionism.

So I had an e-mail in my back pocket that I was going to mention in a piece like this. Originally it laid out AAM’s plans for both conventions, but I received an updated version of their plans for the Democratic convention confirming that’s where the effort would be.

Here was their slate for the GOP in Cleveland:

AAM is hosting the Keep it Made in America tent, a space located just outside the Quicken Loans arena where we are chatting with convention-goers about ways to grow American manufacturing jobs. We also are speaking at a number of state delegation breakfasts, sharing with local, state and national lawmakers the issues that we think must be on their policy agendas.

AAM president Scott Paul added in a blog post last week:

(T)rade and the atrophy of middle-income factory jobs are dominating the national political discussion. Trump talks about it constantly. But he’s not alone, and this is the first time in the post-World War II era that we’ve seen both party candidates take the issue so seriously.

It’s better late than never. Before you write off Trump’s bellicose “45 percent tariff” rhetoric as low-brow protectionism - or find the change of heart on the Trans-Pacific Partnership that Hillary Clinton experienced on the trail a little too politically convenient - keep in in mind that a lot of our fellow Americans agree with this sentiment. They certainly do here in Ohio.

The logic behind free trade, though, is that nations benefit when value is maximized and it may be possible to add more value to a product in another location than it is in America. Yet the AAM argues – correctly to an extent – that nations like China take advantage of the rules by not dealing fairly through a policy of subsidizing industries and currency manipulation.

On the other hand, though, AAM will certainly be pulling out all the stops for the Democrats in Philadelphia, including what they describe as a “scene-setting Town Hall meeting”:

The Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) is hosting a conversation about why these issues matter for our economy, our children’s future and our politics today.

Recent focus group and polling data show these topics are driving voters’ decisions on which candidate to select. Both Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump have been aggressive in defining their plans for trade and manufacturing.

Confirmed Speakers Include:

  • Gene Sperling, key economic adviser to Hillary Clinton
  • Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers
  • Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA 3rd District)
  • Mark Mellman, award-winning pollster for Democratic leaders
  • Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing
  • Mike Langford, president of the Utility Workers Union of America
  • Tom Conway, international vice president of the United Steelworkers

This to me represents less of an exchange of information as it would be an echo chamber.

Protectionism and punishing corporations that choose to offshore manufacturing is one possible answer, of course. But the thing I always think about when this conversation comes up is the East German Trabant automobile that was hopelessly stuck decades behind the times when Germany finally reunited in 1990. Because it had a protected market, what incentive did Trabant have for improvement?

Unfortunately, a short-sighted government-centered approach that saw manufacturers as cash cows for big government and favored the big guys over leaner, hungrier start-ups through regulation too burdensome for smaller competitors to withstand has done as much (or more) to curtail American manufacturing as our trade policies have. While I certainly don’t believe many of our larger trade agreements were tailored to suit our interests enough, for the most part it’s the complexity of the deals and how they worked out exceptions for certain industries and players that is the issue. If we simply said “we won’t tariff your stuff if you don’t tariff ours” and both sides stuck to it, eventually the market would find its own level. America should be able to use the advantages of a predictable legal system, well-educated workforce, abundant sources of energy, and outstanding transportation network, but they are negated by the policies in place that I describe above.

The generation of my grandparents won World War II by being able to produce within our borders much of the material and equipment needed to keep a two-front fighting force going. Can anyone honestly say we could do that today? I don’t wish us to be on a war footing, but I’m convinced America can be a place that makes things again. It’s a simple matter of policy over protectionism, and adopting a hands-off approach at the federal level (yes, there’s that limited government idea of mine again) would be the best course of action. I just don’t think AAM would be willing to listen to that argument.

The cooling-off period

At one time I planned on writing a rebuttal to all the Trump items I put up this week yesterday, but after all the events of the convention I decided it was better to hold off for a week or so and let emotions simmer down a little bit. It also gives me a chance to attend two of my meetings and gauge the mood of the electorate, so to speak – so perhaps after all that I will pick up that baton and share my thoughts on both Marita Noon’s commentary regarding Trump’s energy policy and the entire Art of the Deal series. Right now, emotions are too high and points will be missed.

It’s no secret I didn’t support Donald Trump for the Republican nomination, nor will I be backing the Clinton/Kaine ticket. (Hell, the guy doesn’t even know our part of Maryland exists because he thought Virginia shared a border with Delaware.) Yet I still have an interest in the downticket races, and this year I will be following the advice of Ted Cruz and voting my conscience. (Or, if you prefer, Ivanka Trump, who said, “I vote based on what I believe is right for my family and for my country.” So will I.) But the combination of the Democratic convention taking over the news cycle and my general fatigue with the Presidential race means I may look at some other stuff for a little bit.

One thing I was asked to look at by my friends at the Patriot Post for this week was the prospects for Republicans in the downticket federal races. (If you get their “Weekend Snapshot,” the article is prominently featured there as well.) But I find a little bit of fault with my editor because my original concluding sentence was, “The next four years could be the most interesting and unpredictable times our nation has ever known.” My thought in that sentence was to invoke the old adage “may you live in interesting times” as we seem to be cursed into a choice leading us toward them. To me, this may be the election where more people vote against someone that affirmatively vote for a candidate.

(To that end, can we install the “none of these candidates” option like Nevada has? I could see factions in all four parties on the ballot in Maryland who would love a do-over: Republicans who are anti-Trump, Democrats who backed Bernie Sanders, Libertarians who would like a more doctrinaire candidate than former Republican Gary Johnson, and Jill Stein of the Green Party who would happily move aside for Sanders, too.)

Just think about Congress for a moment. In poll after poll it’s shown to be one of the least popular institutions in the country, but voters send all but a small handful back term after term until they decide to retire. Maryland is a good example of this, with the longest-tenured Congressman being Steny Hoyer (17 terms), followed by Elijah Cummings with 10, Chris Van Hollen and Dutch Ruppersberger with seven apiece, John Sarbanes with five, Donna Edwards with four (plus a few months), Andy Harris with three, and John Delaney with two. Since Edwards and Van Hollen both sought the Senate seat, those districts will open up – but thanks to blatant gerrymandering, they are likely to be gravy trains and “lifetime appointments” for Anthony Brown and Jamie Raskin, respectively.

Aside from the one term of Frank Kratovil here in the First District as a “blue dog” Democrat carried on the Obama wave in an otherwise GOP-dominated area, you have to go back almost forty years to find a handful of one-term wonders that Maryland sent to Congress. Both our current Senators came to the job after serving multiple terms in the House, as would Chris Van Hollen if he wins the Senate seat. Kathy Szeliga, on the other hand, has served just a term and a half in the Maryland House of Delegates – although compared to other GOP Senate candidates in recent years that almost qualifies as “career politician,” too.

Yet while our GOP candidate supports Trump and has an uphill battle to win, she was criticized for skipping the convention as well:

Some (GOP convention) delegates who wished to remain anonymous to avoid antagonizing another party member privately expressed discontent and disappointment with Szeliga’s and Hogan’s absences in Cleveland at a time when unity is a key goal of their party after a fractious primary season.

Of course, Andy Harris was there in Cleveland, but he’s in an R+13 or so district with far less to worry about. It was better for Szeliga to be in Crisfield meeting voters with her opponent there.

So while I will talk about the convention in at least one piece I’m considering – and my invited guests may decide on their own to look at the Presidential race – I’m going to step back from it for a little bit. It’s the pause that will refresh me.

Trump: making America’s energy policy cheaper, faster, and better

Commentary by Marita Noon

Editor’s note: by Marita’s request – and so as not to come in the midst of other upcoming content from her – I’m posting this a day earlier than Marita’s normal Tuesday morning slot.

The name Donald Trump will occupy the news cycle during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. Other than comments from oil entrepreneur Harold Hamm, energy won’t be a huge topic on the stage – though it does hold a spot on the newly approved Republican Platform and has a starring role in Trump’s plan to “make America great again.”

Trump calls it “An America First Energy Plan.” In it, he calls for “American energy dominance,” which he sees as a strategic, economic, and foreign policy goal. Like every recent president before him, he seeks “American energy independence” – which he defines as being “independent of any need to import energy from the OPEC cartel or any nations hostile to our interests.” According to his energy adviser, Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND), this acknowledges that we will still use oil from our friends like Canada and Mexico and that, for example, due to refinery configurations, there will likely continue to be oil imports and exports. The thing to note is that we will not need to, not have to, do business with those who are hostile toward America.

He understands that our amazing American energy resources offer the United States tremendous wealth and economic advantage. In his May 26 speech in North Dakota, addressing untapped oil and gas reserves on federal lands, Trump exclaimed: “We have no idea how rich we are. We want to cherish that wealth.” In comparison, he pointed out that Hillary Clinton wants to lock up “trillions in American wealth” while her “poverty-expansion agenda” enriches her friends and makes everyone else poor. (Be sure to read more about Hillary enriching her friends in my column next week.) In the speech, Trump pointed out to the audience, largely made up of people from the oil and agriculture industries: “If Crooked Hillary can shut down the mines, she can shut down your business, too.”

His America First Energy Plan calls for a redirection of our energy agenda. Overall, Trump will move away from government-central planning efforts and return authority back to the states – an idea that has made it into the Republican Platform. His plan has three main components. Under a Trump administration there will be big changes in climate policy, regulations, and the management of federal lands.

Climate policy

While Trump is known to have called climate change “a hoax,” and has declared that he will not allow “political activists with extreme agendas” to write the rules, he is a true environmentalist. Coming from New York City where the only “nature” is Central Park, he has a heart for the environment. Cramer told me Trump holds a typical “Manhattan view of the West:” clean air, green space, and nature are precious. In his energy speech, Trump announced his environmental policy: “my priorities are very simple: clean air and clean water.” A Trump administration “will work with conservationists whose only agenda is protecting nature.”

In his “100-day action plan,” Trump says he’ll rescind the Climate Action Plan – which “gives foreign bureaucrats control over how much energy we use.”

[Note: this foreign control over energy use was a key component in the Brexit vote - as I wrote a few weeks ago. Since then, Theresa May, the UK’s new Prime Minister, who last week announced: "I want to see an energy policy that emphasises the reliability of supply and lower costs for users," has scrapped the Department of Energy and Climate Change and replaced it with a new Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy. With a President Trump, we can expect similar action.]

Trump has pledged to “cancel the Paris Climate Agreement and stop all payment of U.S. tax dollars to U.N. global warming programs.” He says such policies are evidence of America bending to benefit other nations at a cost to the U.S. Once the “draconian climate rules” are eliminated there is no rationale for imposing a “job-killing cap-and-trade” scheme or to keep extending the subsidies for wind and solar. He is not opposed to wind and solar energy, and in fact, wants to “get bureaucracy out of the way of innovation so we can pursue all forms of energy,” but he doesn’t support the idea of “the government picking winners and losers.” Like other energy sources, once the subsidies expire, the wind and solar industry would benefit from typical business tax deductions and deferments.

Regulations

Trump’s agenda calls for “Regulation reform that eliminates stupid rules that send our jobs overseas.” He knows that “costly regulation makes it harder and harder to turn a profit.”

In his speech, he accused the Environmental Protection Agency of “totalitarian tactics” and pointed out the current enforcement disparity: “The Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against seven North Dakota oil companies for the deaths of 28 birds while the Administration fast-tracked wind projects that kill more than 1 million birds a year.”

Cramer told me we can expect Trump to roll back a lot of Obama’s regulatory overreach and take a different approach toward rules, like the Waters of the U.S. and the Clean Power Plan, that are currently under a court-ordered stay.

Coal miners have come out en masse for Trump because of his promise to “save the coal industry.” I asked Cramer how Trump planned to do that. He told me that while coal-fueled power plants that have already been shut down or converted to natural gas will not likely be reopened, a Trump administration can save what’s left and stop the bleeding by not artificially punishing the industry through regulation.

On July 14, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the 2017 Department of Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill. It provides an example of actions we can expect from a President Trump. Cramer says if this bill were to make it to Trump’s desk, he would sign it. Some of the bill’s provisions include:

  • Prohibiting the EPA from implementing new greenhouse gas regulations for new and existing power plants,
  • Prohibiting harmful changes to the “stream buffer rule” or making changes to the definition of “fill material” negatively impacting coal-mining operations, and
  • Requiring a report on the backlog of mining permits awaiting approval.

Additionally, the bill cuts funding for regulatory agencies – “a decrease of $64 million from last year’s budget and $1 billion below the President’s request.”

While the Obama Administration has issued near fatal regulations on the coal industry (which Hillary would take even further), other countries are using more coal. On July 11, the Financial Times announced that prices for coal surged on increasing demand in China.

In short, Trump explained: “Any future regulation will go through a simple test: is this regulation good for the American worker? If it doesn’t pass this test, the rule will not be approved.”

Federal Lands

In his speech, Trump reminded people that President Obama has halted leasing for new coal mines on federal lands and aggressively blocked the production of oil and natural gas by closing down leases and putting reserves off limits. He pointed out that these resources are an American treasure and that the American people are entitled to share in the riches.

One of the ways Americans will benefit from the riches of our natural resources is through a designated fund that, much like many natural resource states already do, will put a portion of the revenues directly into rebuilding roads, schools, and public infrastructure.

As a part of his 100-day action plan, Trump has promised to “lift moratoriums on energy production on federal areas.” Instead of slow-walking permits or being passive-aggressive with the permitting process, he’ll order agencies to expedite exploration, drilling, and mining permits.

Trump has said he intends to “trust local officials and local residents.” This idea will be played out in his approach to the management of federal lands – which Cramer explained will be more of a state and federal partnership where states will have a much greater say regarding their land use. This includes the regulation of hydraulic fracturing. In a blow to the Obama administration’s overreach, a federal court recently affirmed that the regulation of the technology is the jurisdiction of the states – not the Federal Bureau of Land Management.

We’ll see this same philosophy played out in the designation of national monuments – something the Obama administration has abused by turning the ability to designate national monuments into a land grab. His monument designations often prevent productive use of the federal lands – such as agriculture or mineral extraction. The GOP platform committee adopted language that empowers states to retain control over lands within their borders. New monuments will “require the approval of the state where the national monument is designated or the national park is proposed.” As a result, Cramer told me: “We will not see a lot of new federal lands.”

There are two additional important energy items to note. First, Trump would “ask TransCanada to renew its permit application for the Keystone pipeline” – which would be built by American workers. Second, Trump has long been a supporter of nuclear power.

Trump’s energy plan is a turn toward realism. It is based on the fact that our American energy abundance can allow for shared prosperity, better schools, more funding for infrastructure, higher wages, and lower unemployment. Isn’t that what making America great again is all about?

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy - which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.

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