Odds and ends number 98

I promised this a few weeks ago, but here it is in all its glory or whatever. As always, it’s little items which interest me and take up a few sentences.

So what does my e-mail have for me to share? In a monent I will look, but first allow me to reintroduce you to a classic concept.

Sunday evening reading

Many years ago, back in the days even before Salisbury had its blog wars – or had monoblogue – there was a website called Duvafiles. Its purveyor was a local attorney by the name of Bill Duvall, who has since passed away.

Aside from the sometimes-hilarious skewering of various local political figures and other prominent citizens, one of his regular features was indeed called Sunday evening reading – generally a short list of links Bill found interesting or useful.

In this case, there are many times I bookmark Erick Erickson because of how he intersects religion and politics. Unfortunately, having moved to Substack I can’t just link to his pieces but he does keep a limited free archive. (I’m just not quite willing to pull the trigger on $70 a year.)

Another frequent writer whose work sometimes gets buried behind a paywall is former Louisiana governor and 2016 presidential candidate Bobby Jindal. He’s not really being mentioned as a 2024 contender but with commentary like this, I think he should be.

I’ve known Michigan-based writer Jen Kuznicki online for several years, but I didn’t know she had a more primary gig as a bartender. It gave her an up-close and personal view of a serious effect from the pandemic.

So since today is Sunday, I happened to see it as a perfect time to bring back the old concept. I think I have replicated it a time or two over the years, so it’s back again like the McRib.

Backing the blue

Another blast from my past came onto my radar screen recently. I’ve known Melody Clarke for several years, dating back to her previous moniker Melody Scalley and her unfortunately unsuccessful runs for office on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. She may have a sweeter gig now as a Regional Coordinator of the Heritage Foundation.

Melody alerted me to a new Heritage initiative called the Police Pledge, which simply states that the signatory will “pledge to oppose any bill, resolution, or movement to ‘Defund the Police.'” Most notable among local signers thus far is Congressman Andy Harris, but there are two notables in Delaware as well: my District 21 state Senator (and candidate for Governor) Bryant Richardson, who signed it in his Senate capacity, and District 32 House challenger Cheryl Precourt from Kent County. Both are Republicans, although that’s no shock since all current federal officeholders who have signed are also members of the GOP. Nearly 80,000 private citizens have also signed, insuring the Heritage Foundation maintains a healthy e-mail list.

By comparison, it’s interesting to know just what the Left considers “defunding the police.” According to the Indivisible group, it’s where funding intended for police is diverted to “crisis intervention specialists, social workers, behavioral and mental health experts, food assistance and clean water, housing assistance, (and) school budgets.” But don’t we already pay for a welfare state?

By the way, that group of leftists had its “week of action” recently and touted “over 300 events across 37 states.” There was only one event in Delaware, so I guess they must figure they have this state sewn up. Got to work on that.

On the energy front

I already knew wind power was less reliable, more inconvenient, and more expensive, so this piece just reinforces what I already knew. On the other hand, API’s Mark Green describes some of the issues with getting necessary infrastructure in place.

While Delaware seems to be in decent shape with its natural gas supply pipelines, there is still the matter of trying to get an extended route to supply Maryland’s Eastern Shore constructed. As is often the case, short-sighted “progressives” are against real progress but cheer on pie-in-the-sky boondoggles that do nothing but drive up electric bills and ruin viewsheds.

Party over principle?

It’s an argument that dogged the TEA Party – do you work within the existing two-party system or try an alternative? Unfortunately, the Republican Party did not bend to the right nearly as readily as the Democrats have kowtowed to the radical left-wing flank of its numbers over the last two years, which is one reason why we have the predicament we are in now.

But radio host Andy Hooser, a.k.a. the “Voice of Reason”, begs to reignite an argument that seemed to fade away when the TEA Party morphed into the backing for Donald Trump. He writes:

(After the GOP nominated John McCain and Mitt Romney) I considered leaving the Republican party and going independent or Libertarian. I wanted my conservative voice to be accepted, not shunned in a party that is supposed to advocate for the views and ideas I have…not for me to conform to the party…

I then began my radio career by joining the broadcasting school, and interning for one of the great radio legends Mike Rosen of 850 KOA in Denver, CO. During my tenure with Mike, I had heard him advocate for the “Party over Person” argument, explaining third parties do nothing more than ruin any chance of getting someone close to your ideology…but help elect the person farthest from your views.

It hit home with me.

“The Voice of Reason” newsletter, August 2020

But we tried all this, and it didn’t work. I am living proof: is the Maryland Republican Party any more conservative now then when I began with them in 2006? No, they are even more spineless and have an impotent titular head to boot.

We actually now have an opportunity to open things up on both sides as the Democrats are eating their own and Republicans are trying to be more like Trump. There are openings for the progressives, centrists, and conservatives if they can just figure out a way to break up the R-and-D duopoly that saddles us with too many “lesser of two evils” elections. In Delaware I have six ballot-qualified parties to choose from, and while the system could use a little more work it’s an improvement from what Maryland and many other states are saddled with, like the Maryland Libertarians finally getting ballot access after a grueling ordeal.

“I want to thank everyone who helped petition to get back on the ballot, especially under such circumstances where the state of Maryland insisted we had to collect signatures while making it illegal or very difficult to petition in public for much of 2020,” said Maryland LP chair Bob Johnston in a release. But they are only there through 2022 unless they get 1% of the vote for Governor or 1% of the state’s registered voters. (That works out to about 40,000.)

Meanwhile, Delaware Libertarians break their 0.1% of RV hurdle with ease. I just wish they would focus more on candidate recruitment.

Getting to follow up

I didn’t realize that it had been over 18 months since I wrote a piece for The Patriot Post on civil asset forfeiture, but it proved to be a handy precursor to a lengthier treatise on the subject from Robert Stilson of the Capital Research Center on that very topic.

We still need to work on the principle that gains considered ill-gotten by the standard of suspicion are ripe for the taking. Believe it or not, there are legitimate reasons for individuals to carry large sums of cash and it’s none of the government’s business why they do so unless they want to press criminal charges and prove illegal intent in court. It’s not intended to be a slush fund for local law enforcement.

The long march to the left

One other noteworthy item from the CRC is this profile of the Walmart Foundation. Apparently Sam Walton had little use for charity or politics, but his heirs have gone completely overboard from the port side.

I don’t mind companies giving to charity, but it seems to me that many of today’s corporate conglomerates are operating under the “last to be eaten by the alligator” principle. How about just starving the alligator instead?

Uniquely Delaware

When I first moved to this area in 2004, one thing I quickly noticed was the all-number Delaware license plates. (Meanwhile, my Maryland plate was one of the first to have the old 1AA A11 pattern they used for about eight years before adopting the current 1AA1111 pattern.) Being a small state, Delaware is one of the last holdouts that has such numeric tags. (Many do have a standard prefix, though, as I note below.)

Now my car has a regular old random six-digit number beginning way up in the 9’s as its plate, but if I had a lot of coin I could buy the rights to have a number as low as 4 on my car. (I have to be elected governor, lieutenant governor, or secretary of state to get 1, 2, or 3 respectively. But I have seen #4. On the other hand, I also know someone who has a plate in the 9998xx series. Wonder if there’s a market for high number plates, too?)

The plate PC8 (PC, or “passenger carrier,” is a prefix often found on SUVs) just sold for $175,000. This creates an interesting question for me: do you insure the car or the license plate?

Speaking of Delaware, I wonder how this turned out? If for no other reason, the added traffic snarl of our prospective President having a beach house here is a good reason to keep Donald Trump in office.

And last…

Since I got this done in time, tomorrow night I will try my hand at pre-primary wild guesses and analysis for the Delaware primary. We’ll see if my expertise gained over often winning the (ladies and) gentlemen’s bet over Maryland primary and general election results among my fellow Central Committee members transfers across state lines.

Odds and ends number 97

You know, I figured just as soon as I put old number 96 to bed that my e-mail box would fill up with interesting tidbits, so it wouldn’t be nearly as long before I got to number 97. So let’s see what I have here.

A look at theology

People tend to think of Erick Erickson as just a radio personality and pundit, but it’s not as well known that he’s studied divinity. So when he talks about religion it makes my ears perk up, and this recent column of his was one of those times.

Christians need to be preaching Jesus, not Christianity. We need to preach about the end and the return and the world made new. It is fantastical and supernatural and unbelievable for so many. But it is real and right and true and will give the hopeless hope.

Erick Erickson, “Groaning for Justice: The Theology of What is Happening”, June 25, 2020

It sounds a lot like my church. But it’s worth remembering that on one side is the world and on the other side is God, expressed in the Trinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Perhaps I have a simplistic perspective about it all, but then again I came to the game later in life than a lot of other people so my flaws were more apparent.

I believe that when Jesus said no one comes to the Father but through him that He was absolutely right. There’s nothing wrong with trying to make the world better but there should always be that end goal in mind, too.

Is there any reason for college?

This may seem strange to say as an alumnus of Miami University, but insofar as career preparation I learned as much in a year of work as I did in securing my four-year degree. (However, I did manage to consume many “Gobblers” and adult beverages from various eating and drinking establishments around Oxford, Ohio, and I got to go see Division I sports for free. So there was that.)

By the same token, Victor Davis Hanson has toiled in the academic field for decades – yet he delivers a scathing critique of college life and educational achievement in 2020, 34 years after I walked away from Millett Hall with my diploma case in hand.

31 years later I was witness to a similar scene but under wildly different circumstances, as my wife received her bachelor’s degree from a nationally-recognized college after taking online courses tailored to the working world. For these folks, their campus was the Washington, D.C. area and beyond, and hundreds of them were in what was then the Verizon Center for their big day. They received their degrees after enduring a lifestyle of trying to juggle work, kids, and other responsibilities with their academics as opposed to being cloistered on a campus and shuttling between academic halls, student centers, and their dorms. That was my world in the mid-1980s as a snot-nosed kid from a small Ohio town.

Yet many kids still do the same thing I did four decades ago, and the problem with that approach is that it’s rapidly becoming an information silo. Kids learn a lot about things of little importance in real life then wonder why it bites them in the ass. I remember pounding the pavement for a job right out of college then finally taking something outside my field to tide me over – turns out I was there less than a month before I got the break I needed; then again I was in an avocation where there was demand in the real world so it finally needed my supply.

And my alma mater wonders why I ignore their pleas for alumni donations.

More from smart people

How this guy ever got to be governor of his state – and then re-elected – often mystifies me. IMHO he was really too smart for the job, and the same went for being President. I think Bobby Jindal could have been the next Calvin Coolidge, a President who exhibited admirable restraint of his powers and led the government to do the same.

Recently he penned an op-ed for the Washington Examiner where he focused on some items he saw as long-term trends accelerated by the onset of the Wuhan flu. This one was the one that piqued my interest the most:

De-densification: Elevators, mass transit, and air-conditioned spaces, all critical components of urban living, will be rendered safe again one day. Yet, the nation’s most successful cities were already victims of their own success, with the rising cost of living pushing working families to the suburbs and exurbs. Workers are going to demand more flexible work arrangements and less time wasted commuting. Remote work and virtual meetings will allow many office workers to be productive in the exurbs and in the country. Wealthy families will join them with getaway homes, and companies will require less-dense and smaller offices. Smaller communities near urban centers will benefit and become more economically viable for their permanent residents. The economic efficiencies that have driven urbanization will still continue to be compelling, and first-tier cities especially will reinvent themselves and continue to attract immigrants and new businesses.

“How the COVID-19 pandemic will change us”, Bobby Jindal, Washington Examiner, June 24, 2020.

The initial push to the suburbs in the postwar era was fueled by the surge of new families looking for room to grow, coupled with the inexpensive cost of gasoline and car maintenance and expansion of highway construction allowing commuters to bypass mass transit. Suddenly small towns that were once on the outskirts of metro areas and surrounded by cornfields became the loose center of dozens of subdivisions looped together by beltway interstates surrounding the city core. My parents did this in spades, bypassing suburbia altogether to buy five rural acres for three active boys to play ball on and dealing with a half-hour or more commute.

Being in the design world, I’ve seen the push for a new urbanism. For example, in nearby Salisbury their mayor Jake Day has pushed for a new style of downtown revitalization, attempting to bring in mixed-use development accessible by multiple modes of transportation. Surface parking on city-owned lots downtown is rapidly becoming a thing of the past as lots are sold to developers.

Fortunately for Day, Salisbury is still a small enough city that it doesn’t suffer from the maladies of Baltimore, Washington, Philadelphia, and others which have seen their urban core rot away from a toxic combination of crime, poverty, and lack of opportunity. It could yet go that way, or it could become a destination precisely because it’s been small enough to escape these issues – the sort of small town Jindal envisions succeeding thanks to the remote technology we now have.

But these urban escapees have another close-by alternative which is also retiree-friendly – if we don’t screw it up.

Picking too many losers

The state of Delaware lags the field in state-level GDP growth these days, one survey placing the First State last in the nation.

Perhaps a reason for this, argues the group A Better Delaware, is that our state government is terrible at determining winners and losers. As it has often turned out, the well-connected are the winners and taxpayers are the losers, and the group goes through some examples in this recent piece.

As I see it, job creation is about filling needs. An entrepreneur sees a market void and figures out a way to fill it, then once that venture is a go he or she may find the work is too much for one person to handle. Suddenly they’re signing the front of a paycheck, and the measure of a business-friendly state is just how easily that employer can get to that point without feeling violated from the anal rape of a corrupt system installed to grease the palms of a thousand bureaucrats. Somehow Delaware seems to believe that making life easier for those who promise scores of jobs without figuring out the market void is a good thing to do. I tend to like my strategy better.

The library

I was recently introduced to an interesting website in a unique way: one of its employees requested to purchase a paper copy of The Rise and Fall of the TEA Party. So I autographed it and sent it to Tennessee for his enjoyment. (By the way, I have several more available.)

So while Ammo.com sells – as you may guess – many different varieties of ammunition, they also feature what’s called the Resistance Library: a collection of articles on many and varied topics. (Actually, the whole site is worth exploring.) The post my newfound friend was dying to share with me, though, was on “Policing for Profit.”

Civil asset forfeiture is a popular concept with the “if you don’t do anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about” crowd; the same ones who shout “blue lives matter!” (And they do, but so does the law.) In reading this lengthy, well-written treatise on the subject I found out that Delaware is a state which is one of the worst in that regard.

And civil asset forfeiture laws are difficult to change because there are two large lobbies already stacked against these efforts: law enforcement and local government. Imagine what $200,000 seized could do for a local government’s bottom line when they may spend $2 million on a police department annually. Never mind it’s not their property and they have only suspicion that it was gathered illegally. It’s like crack cocaine to an addict: wrongly or not, they can’t pass it up. We need to send our state to a proverbial NA meeting next year when the General Assembly reconvenes.

More bad advice

I like to end on a light-hearted note when I can, and what better way than to poke fun at those who tell me how to run this place?

Hello monoblogue.us team:

As you know because of Global pandemic, the world has shut down and a big question mark on sustainability of business.

We are connecting the business owner to create a high standard for their business website and marketing strategy. To start this, we recommend to upgrade the website to more customer friendly.

If you have same idea in your mind, Let’s discuss about redesign of your website in economic cost.

A really badly written e-mail.

I can’t decide whether this came from China, India, or some other third-world country where English is taught as a second language. (In this case, maybe third.)

Fortunately, I didn’t shut down during the pandemic. Now I won’t say that I was terribly productive during the time span, but the college degree I alluded to way above led me to a job deemed “essential” so I have been working my usual full-time hours. Even so, I sustain into my fifteenth year of this site. (I even outlasted Red Maryland.)

My site is not really a business site, but I do have a marketing strategy: write good sh*t. It’s even customer-friendly because I kept out the offending letter.

And, in case this guy missed it, I redesigned my website a couple years ago, finally retiring old “Black Lucas” after nearly a decade of service. I still miss that theme sometimes but I like the back end that goes with the current “Twenty Sixteen” theme much better.

So I think I have flogged the dead horse of my inbox enough for one visit. I didn’t even get to the silliness that’s the Delaware governor’s race, but maybe I’ll hold onto that for a standalone post after all.

Programming note

Once we clear the filing deadline this coming Tuesday I’m going to add my Delaware political sidebar with all the primary and general election candidates and then the following Monday or Tuesday release the 2019-20 monoblogue Accountability Project – Delaware edition. The delay is because I have to determine whether the legislators involved get a free ride in November or not.

Because the Delaware session was truncated this year, I decided to simply amend the 2019 edition to use four votes this year and drop the least impactful four votes from last year to maintain 25 separate votes. You’ll see what I mean when I put it up later this month.

Odds and ends number 95

Back with bloggy goodness in bite-sized chunks of a couple sentences to a few paragraphs. Let’s see what the e-mail bag has in store.

A pro-life concern

Political e-mail is often chock full of hyperbole, but I found a recent e-mail from the folks at the Maryland Pro-Life Alliance PAC interesting – is there really a renewed pro-abortion push here? They call it a “political attack group,” a 501 (c)(4) which “will be able to take massive checks from outside Maryland starting from Day 1.” But I didn’t find any news story on the subject, which makes it sound like just so much hype.

To me, theirs is the kind of e-mail that sets back the cause. Don’t just tell me there’s an AP story, give me a link – for all I know this was three years ago. It’s bad enough that a group with less than $1,000 in the bank, and a group that didn’t spend a dime on candidates in the 2018 election, is asking for money to counter this phantom threat.

More bad news for Maryland business

The headline of a Maryland Public Policy Institute business climate study made it sound like businesses are becoming less optimistic about business conditions in the state overall, yet they remain relatively positive.

But buried in the remaining information was an interesting dichotomy between businesses along the I-95 corridor, where companies believing the state was business-friendly prevailed by a 49-16 average margin, and outstate companies which only deemed the state business-friendly by a 39-35 count. Given that the overall mark was 46-19, it’s apparent that the outstate entities were but a small portion of the survey – probably no more than 15%. However, that’s 100% of the issue here on Delmarva.

Add to this the war on plastic – which is in the process of having the good guys lose in Delaware – as well as the laughable job creation numbers proponents of the maglev boondoggle are touting, and we may have seen an economic peak on Delmarva until people with real sanity are placed back in government, at least in the view of the MPPI.

But their annual magnum opus is the Annapolis Report, which grades the Maryland General Assembly on its work for the session. If they were a college student, the MGA would be on academic probation.

The Democrats’ deplorable problem

For decades the prevailing belief was that Republicans were for the business man while Democrats were for the working man. In 2016, however, that philosophy was turned on its head as thousands and thousands of union workers ignored their Big Labor bosses who backed Hillary Clinton and pulled the lever for Donald Trump, enabling him to win in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

But, as David Catron recently argued in The American Spectator, the Democrats who think those voters are the key to 2020 victory are barking up the wrong tree. He contends:

(S)upporting Trump simply isn’t the done thing in polite society. To do so is to risk loss of social status – if not outright ostracism – and open conflict with friends or family. Trump supporters mislead pollsters or simply refuse to answer their questions pursuant to similar psychological and social incentives. All of which leads to a lot of confusion concerning who it is that supports President Trump and precisely why. This, in turn, renders it very difficult for round heel politicians like Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren to pander to “working class” voters they badly need to “win back” to the Democratic fold in the 2020 election cycle.

David Catron, “Why the Dems Will Never Win Back Trump Voters,” The American Spectator, June 24, 2019.

I’ve talked about this a couple times on the radio, and Catron makes the argument as well: I sensed this back in 2016, which is why I did “Bradley effect” updates on the Presidential race. If you believed the actual polls on a state-by-state basis, Hillary Clinton should have had upward of 300 electoral votes. But if you assume the polls underestimated Trump by five points, your blue map becomes a shade of pink that carries The Donald to victory. My last couple “Bradley effect” maps suggested a narrow Trump win so I wasn’t as shocked as I thought I might be when it really happened.

On another deplorable front, the pull of Big Labor doesn’t seem to be as strong as it used to be. I remember writing on this situation for The Patriot Post back in 2014, but even after another half-decade of trying the UAW still can’t get its hooks into an auto plant south of the Mason-Dixon line, failing again to unionize the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. This latest update comes from my friends at the Capital Research Center.

More on the Presidential sweepstakes

I have a number of different items here.

Let’s start with Erick Erickson, who points out in a brief but concise Resurgent article that Joe Biden’s not a racist – it’s just proof of how far the Democrats have moved the Overton window on that subject.

And if you want bat-crap crazy Democrats, look no further than the Indivisible crowd.

After the recent Democrat debates, the Astroturf group polled its followers and found that their preferred candidates didn’t line up with the ones on top of the mainstream polls:

We asked Indivisibles to identify which candidates they are considering voting for and which they are definitely not. The results revealed that the historic candidacies of women, people of color and LGBTQ candidates are faring well among the movement and have plenty of room to grow as the field narrows. It also revealed that some of the presumed frontrunners may hit a ceiling with activists, given how many Indivisibles say they aren’t considering them at all.

Indivisible news release, July 2, 2019.

In other words, identity politics is alive and well. “(I)f the election were held today, 35% of people said they would vote for (Elizabeth) Warren and 31% selected (Kamala) Harris,” they said. Compare this to the Morning Consult poll from yesterday (July 16) where Warren and Harris combined for just 27% of the vote, a number that still trailed frontrunner Joe Biden. In fact, those “women, people of color, and LGBTQ candidates” only account for about 40% of the vote, trailing those white males in the top 2 slots and scattered among the rest.

I’m not going to sit and do the math, but I daresay that Indivisible isn’t much of a movement when the candidates 66% of their group support can’t even muster half that amount of support in a wider poll.

Who’s really gerrymandering?

This is a fascinating study from the CRC. While the Democrats contend that independent redistricting commissions will best address the issue of gerrymandering (which, of course, only became a problem after the TEA Party wave election of 2010, which got the break of getting to draw districts for this decade), this study suggests the hype from Democrats is overblown.

Two more states – but a bunch to go

If you’re a fan of the Constitution Party, the good news is that they kept ballot access in two states (Arkansas and North Carolina) and their goal is access in 35 states. Maryland will probably not be one of them because their 10,000 signature threshold is daunting for the two minor parties which generally qualify for the ballot, the Green Party and Libertarian Party, let alone a smaller entity such as the CP. In Delaware they need over double their number of registered voters by the end of 2019 to qualify, which seems unlikely unless a concerted effort to flip members of other minor parties occurs.

And last…

You may notice this is the day of Tawes, but there’s no pictorial.

After 13 or 14 years of going, I just lost interest in the event the last few years. And considering this is a pretty much dead year on the election calendar – no 2020 Senate election and not much going on in the Congressional realm – it was not worth taking a day off to go and overpay for food, a little bit of beer, and a crapton of diet Pepsi. Since I’m not an invited guest to the tents where the real action is, I’m happier being home.

To my friends who were there, I hope you had a good time. But it just isn’t that much fun for me anymore.

So, about those Jeremiah conservatives…

I made an executive decision as I wrote this: an edited (no blockquote) version is crossposted to my book site.

I’ve been meaning to get to this all week and the opportunity has finally arrived. Last week Erick Erickson at The Resurgent did a piece on what he called “Jeremiah 29 conservatives.” In the post, he cites Jeremiah 29:5-7, which is a portion of a letter from Jeremiah to those who were captured and forced to relocate to exile in Babylon. Erickson uses it to springboard to his main point:

There is a growing class of conservatives in the United States who can be considered Jeremiah 29 Conservatives. They have given up on national politics. It has become too ugly, too compromising, too unaligned with their values, and too willing to make compromises with bad government and big government to advance a compromised agenda.

These conservatives are trying to seek the welfare of the cities in which they live, recognizing that it is there they will find their welfare. They want good government and understand the most important fight of the day is the one for their family’s daily well being. Washington, they know, is too far removed from their daily lives and, in their mind, Republicans and conservative institutions in Washington have made too many compromises to be effective.

At the end of the Bush Administration and beginning of the Obama era, thanks oddly enough to the Citizens United case, grassroots groups were springing up around the country to help conservatives down to the local level. There were training sessions for conservative activists on simple things like the best way to write editorials to local papers. They grassroots groups provided tools for local activists to contact their state legislature. They explained how to find when a city council met and how to show up to speak on an issue. They encouraged conservative activists to run for the school board.

As the tea party rose, conservative organizations began focusing more and more on fighting Barack Obama. They abandoned the fights in the states.

Obviously this quote hit home with me given my passion for the TEA Party and its principles. But to a great extent it’s true.

I’ve probably researched the TEA Party more than 99% of the people out there and I found that it was a very unusual phenomenon in that the TEA Party began as a nationwide effort but then decentralized itself to the local level for a time. Think of the TEA Party as three early stages, which I’ll distinguish by their dates: February 27, April 15, and September 12. (All these occurred in 2009.)

The February 27 wave occurred in fewer than 50 cities and was really put together for one purpose: to make a statement about the unwillingness of government to consider solutions other than top-down financial stimulus and increased government control in addressing the Great Recession. Some may have organized this believing it would be a one-time deal, but there was such a success created that thousands of others, helped along by mass media, decided to get in on the action at the local level.

So rather than 40-odd mainly large cities, the April 15 (and later July 4) wave of TEA Parties took place in a thousand cities around the nation, big and small. Each local event had its own flavor, with some rallying around strictly financial and national issues and others departing from that script to address local items or topics dear to social conservatives, particularly those in the pro-life movement. There was no “right” way to do a TEA Party, and part of its appeal was the grassroots organization that didn’t get marching orders from a party or inside-the-Beltway group.

But by the September 12 Taxpayer March on Washington – an event I simply call 9/12 – local groups were being encouraged to join up in a national organization, supposedly to increase the clout of the movement. While some TEA Party groups remained fiercely independent, most others gravitated toward an alliance with organizations such as the Campaign for Liberty or Americans for Prosperity. (The latter is basically what happened to our local TEA Party.) This also coincided with the rise of Tea Party Patriots as an umbrella group, although they weren’t the only one as many states had similar entities.

Once the rallies became less frequent, though, hundreds of TEA Party groups withered on the vine. And many of those individual participants who stuck it out for the first couple years were perhaps made complacent by how easily the political tables were turned in 2010 and figured the movement didn’t need them anymore – they let the most passionate ones soldier on. So by the time 2012 and 2014 rolled around, many of those who believed in the TEA Party early on saw that the movement was no longer locally grassroots but corporate-style Astroturf, and no longer fiercely independent but now the red-headed stepchild of the national Republican Party.

As Erickson might tell it, that’s what happens when outsiders try to get involved in national politics, which is way out of the league of the average person. Most people are more interested in local activism, and (to be honest) if government were as it should be that’s all they would need to deal with.

So today I decided to look again at the Tea Party Patriots’ website as they celebrate their tenth anniversary. In a celebratory op-ed by Jenny Beth Martin – the only one of the three original co-founders of Tea Party Patriots to still be with the group – she cited a number of Washington initiatives as accomplishments of the TEA Party and noted they would continue to fight in the halls of Congress – just like any other lobbying group. They pay lip service to the local groups, but their focus is on stopping socialism on a national level. There’s nothing wrong with that, but let’s stop pretending they’re a grassroots group, okay?

It’s very sad to think that the TEA Party may have missed its golden opportunity because they lost focus on the local groups. If local needs are addressed, it’s more likely that states will follow and eventually the nation.

I have a suggestion for all this, but I can’t reveal it here – it’s waiting until my book is ready. (That’s called a tease.) Good Lord willing and if the creek don’t rise, look for it April 15.

A resurgence of red ink?

One of my favorite commentary websites is The Resurgent, Erick Erickson’s site that just turned a year old, tried a different business model for a time, and gave me (or at least a photo I took) a brief brush with fame. (He also co-authored a whale of a book.) But it seems being #NeverTrump during the campaign came with a cost there, too:

While I don’t regret my choices, I have to admit it hurt professionally and has brought The Resurgent to the brink of going out of business. Any sponsors who did not bolt last year were, at best, forced to scale back. Many of them came under withering attacks and calls for boycott, as did my radio advertisers. It was more effective than I would like to admit, though we kept the lights on thanks to the generosity of others. That may be coming to an end now.

Someone needs to plant their flag for defending conservatism, even against the GOP, whether it be Trump’s GOP or someone else’s. That’s what I intend to do — to call it as I see it. But that only gets me so far without the help of others here and, frankly, our bank account is crossing into critical territory.

Before I started The Resurgent, I asked for help and readers generously gave us over $65,000.00. But this past year, between all the health and personal stuff going on and the professional toll of the campaign, I did not want to push the issue as much as I should have. By the time I got around to really asking, it was just after Thanksgiving. The result is that readers only contributed $19,000.00.

With our advertising revenue, that helped us get through the year, but we ate into our reserves.

The reality is that if we cannot boost ad revenue and, hopefully, count on you guys, we will have to wind things down. I know this will generate laughter from both the alt-right and the left. A conservative site shuttered because of a refusal to kiss a ring does such things.

I would imagine there is a percentage of those who read here who think Erick deserves it for going against the Republican nominee. Obviously then they think I deserve the readership loss I had, perhaps for doing the same thing. (It was quite severe, too: I haven’t had numbers like those since the early days – but then again I also slowed the pace of my writing a lot, which honestly may explain much more of the decline. I would rather write fewer, better things though than slap something together I’m not that pleased with and if it’s not daily, so be it.)

Yet I’m not going to kiss a ring, either. So far I have a “wait and see” approach to the incoming administration as some of those Donald Trump has selected to head his Cabinet departments sound like good choices and some do not. And the GOP Congress also has a role to play regarding the legislation Trump will have to sign or veto. Yet the fact that those on the left are having conniption fits over the prospect of a Trump administration at least gives me a laugh. For example, I get Senator Van Hollen’s Facebook feed and occasionally leave a comment. But those comment threads are popcorn-worthy. Teachers seem genuinely worried that Betsy DeVos (who Erickson called “a staggeringly good choice“) will become Secretary of Education, and I say: why not? It would be great to have her be the last Secretary of Education before the department is dismantled, although that would only last as long as the Democrats are out of power.

Once the newness wears smooth, though, we will see just what a minority of Republicans (and voters overall, although he obviously won enough states) have wrought on us. Unfortunately, for conservatives it’s sort of a Faustian bargain because if he succeeds people will say it’s because of Donald Trump’s populism, but if he fails Trump will suddenly become more conservative than Reagan ever was, just to put an albatross around the neck of the Right. Obviously the equation of Republican with conservative will play a role in this.

But to circle back to the original point, I’m hoping people come through with enough support to keep Erick’s site going. Certainly he’s not in a situation like some other destitute “bleggers” have been over the years, but he has a family too. We need bloggers like Erick to keep The Donald honest, even if his biggest fans don’t want to listen.

Sitting right next to square one: a postmortem, part three

I’m not patient enough to wait on the final Maryland results, but if they hold fair enough to form they will conform to a degree with my prediction.

Evan McMullin will get the majority of counted write-in votes, eclipsing the 5,000 mark statewide. I think Darrell Castle comes in next with around 1,100, which almost triples the 2012 Constitution Party candidates Virgil Goode and James Clymer (both ran under that banner as the party had split factions.) This would be astounding when you consider there were over 10,000 write-in votes cast in 2012 but most of those weren’t counted…Thanks to McMullin, though, this year the stigma behind write-ins will be broken somewhat.

On the Wicomico County level…Evan McMullin will beat (Jill Stein) by getting 0.6% of the vote. Of the other 100 or so votes, I figure Darrell Castle gets about 45.

If I had to make a living predicting write-in votes I would go broke in a week. However, there is something very instructive about how they did turn out.

Just based on the state results that are in, and making an educated guess about the remainder, it looks like Evan McMullin will handily exceed the 5,000 mark. Based on the number of votes left to be counted and where they come from, I wouldn’t be surprised if McMullin picks up close to 9,000 statewide. But compare that to the 34,062 Jill Stein received as the bottom on-ballot candidate. McMullin’s success comes in a field of write-ins that is far outshadowed by the “other” write-ins category they don’t count (that category is beating Stein so far but its numbers will dwindle as counties sort out the results.)

On the other hand, my expectations of Castle may be twice what he actually draws, as he’s looking at about 500 to 600 votes when all is said and done. However, there is a chance he may finish third among the group of write-ins depending on how many wrote in Michael Maturen of the American Solidarity Party – I would describe that group as having a left-of-center Christian worldview and the counties that remain to be counted would be more likely to support that than a conservative, Constitutional viewpoint. (99 votes separate the two.)

Here in Wicomico County I think double-digits could be a stretch, although the comparable Cecil County gave Castle 17 votes. (Proportionately, though, Somerset County cast 6 votes for Castle, which put him at 0.1%. So my vote for Castle may have quite a bit of company.)

But think of all the press coverage Evan McMullin received during his brief run of 3 months; by comparison we heard next to nothing about Darrell Castle accepting his party’s nomination in April of this year. I did a Bing search just a day or two before the election and found out that McMullin had five times the number of mentions that Castle did. Although that rudimentary measuring stick alluded to a large disparity, it doesn’t factor in the depth of coverage, either. McMullin got a serious number of pixels from #NeverTrump personalities such as Erick Erickson and Glenn Beck, so people had an awareness of a candidate whose campaign turned out to be more or less a favorite-son quest in Utah to deny Trump 270 electoral votes.

And there is a legitimate argument to be made for a very pessimistic point of view regarding this. My friend Robert Broadus remarked yesterday on Facebook that:

Considering that among all these choices, Castle was the only candidate representing a pro-God, pro-Family, pro-Constitution platform, I think it’s safe to say that conservatives are a negligible minority in the United States. Either it’s time for conservatives to adopt a new philosophy, or it’s time for a new party that can attract conservative voters, rather than abandoning them to liberal Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Greens, and all the other flavors of Communism that exist on the ballot.

Nationwide, Evan McMullin has 545,104 votes (with ballot access in just 11 states and write-in access in 31 others) while Darrell Castle is at 190,599 with ballot access in 24 states and write-in access in 23. If nothing else, this shows the power of media, but I disagree that conservatives are a negligible minority. Rather, they fall prey to the notion that the election is a binary choice and the two major parties aren’t exactly going to go out of their way to say, hey, we know you may not agree with us so you may want to consider (fill in the blank.)

But it’s also clear that ballot access makes a difference. In looking at the states where Castle was on the ballot and McMullin a write-in, the limited amount of data I could find (the state of Missouri and a sampling of Wisconsin counties – they report that way) suggested that a Castle on the ballot far outdistanced a McMullin write-in. Castle received nearly ten times the votes in Missouri, for example, and generally defeated McMullin by a factor of 2 to 4 in Wisconsin.

So if you are the Constitution Party (which, based on their platform, would be my preference as an alternate party) – or any other alternate to the R/D duopoly not called the Libertarian or Green parties – job one for you is to get ballot access.  Granted, the Constitution Party only received between .2% and 1.1% of the vote in states where they qualified for the ballot, but that was vastly better than any state where they were a write-in.

Maryland makes this a difficult process, and this is more than likely intentional. To secure ballot access, a party first needs to get 10,000 valid signatures to the Board of Elections stating that these voters wish to create a new party. To maintain access they then need to get at least 1% of the vote in a gubernatorial election or 1% of the total registered voters – at this point, that number would be about 38,000. The Libertarian Party maintained its access in 2014 by receiving 1.5% of the vote, while the Green Party managed to once again qualify via petition, so both were on the ballot for the 2016 Presidential race. The Constitution Party did field a candidate for Maryland governor (Eric Knowles and running mate Michael Hargadon) with ballot access in 2010, but did not qualify in subsequent elections.

I also looked up the requirements in Delaware:

No political party shall be listed on any general election ballot unless, 21 days prior to the date of the primary election, there shall be registered in the name of that party a number of voters equal to at least 1 0/100 of 1 percent of the total number of voters registered in the State as of December 31 of the year immediately preceding the general election year.

In the First State the same parties as Maryland (Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Green) qualified for the ballot; however, the Green Party made it by the skin of its teeth as they barely broke the threshold of 653 they needed – they had fallen below that earlier in 2016. At this point Delaware would be adding the American Delta Party (2016 nominee: Rocky De La Fuente, who has 6 Maryland write-in votes so far) and maintaining the other four; meanwhile the Constitution Party sits at 311 of what is now a requirement of 676. (The Conservative Party is also in the same boat with 432. Perhaps a merger is in order? Also worth noting for the Constitution Party: Sussex County could be a huge growth area since they only have 36 of the 311 – they should be no less than Kent County’s 135.)

So the task for liberty- and Godly-minded people is right in front of them. While it’s likely the Republican Party has always been the “backstop” party when there are only two choices, more and more often they are simply becoming the lesser of two evils. Never was that more clear than this election, as most of the choices they presented to voters were the “tinker around the edge” sort of candidate who will inevitably drift to the left if elected.

Of course, Broadus may be right and those who are “pro-God, pro-Family, (and) pro-Constitution” may be a tiny minority. But so are homosexuals and they seem to have an outsized role in culture and politics. (I use that group as an example because they have successfully created a perception that homosexuals are 20 to 25 percent of the population.) It’s time for the group I write about to become the “irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.” It may be a stretch when most people think Samuel Adams is a brand of beer, but I choose to try.

The third party alternative

For decades, millions of Americans have complained that their Presidential choices consist of someone more evil against someone slightly less evil. Since we don’t have compulsory voting, those people have taken the option to skip voting altogether, with Presidential election turnout in 2012 estimated at 57.5%. Put another way, “none of the above” trounced both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama as they each only picked up around 29% of the registered voters.

But the fact that neither Democrats nor Republicans seem to be completely pleased with their presumptive nominees has brought out those who believe the Libertarian Party is best poised to make a little bit of inroads among the voting population. This seems to happen every cycle, but by the time the votes are cast the Libertarians are usually stuck with between 1/2 and 1 percent of the vote, By comparison, independent efforts from Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996 garnered a vastly larger percentage of the vote, and those of us who are a certain age recall liberal Republican John Anderson and his 1980 Presidential bid, which got 6.6% of the vote against incumbent Jimmy Carter and eventual winner Ronald Reagan. (Perot received 18.9% in 1992 and 8.4% in 1996, both times denying Bill Clinton a majority of the vote.)

Of course, with the unpopularity of both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, who both have significant shares of voters on the principled edges of their respective parties declaring their intentions to not vote for the nominee, there is the luster of an independent run by a conservative like Ted Cruz or a socialist like Bernie Sanders. The idea falls apart, though, thanks to early ballot access deadlines in several states and “sore loser” laws preventing defeated Democrats or Republicans from going back on the ballot a second time in a particular cycle for the same office.

So here in Maryland there are only four party lines: Republican, Democrat, Green Party, or Libertarian. Each has a place on the ballot, and since I’m nowhere near caring who runs for the Green Party my focus for this is on the Libertarian ticket, where their nominating convention will be held in Orlando this weekend. Their field of 18 recognized candidates actually exceeds the original GOP field, but for all intents and purposes the balloting is going to come down to three: Gary Johnson, John McAfee, or Austin Petersen.

Johnson has the highest profile, but I suspect the purists of the LP are a little leery of him because he ran and governed as a member of the Republican Party. He originally sought the GOP nomination in 2012, but left early on to pursue and secure the Libertarian nod, getting the LP past the million-vote barrier in a Presidential election for the first time. He’s already selected former Massachusetts Governor William Weld as his running mate, making it a ticket of two former governors.

John McAfee is the guy whose name is synonymous with computer software, and in some respects is the Trump of the Libertarian field. He seems quite brash to me and of the three I would give him the least chance of winning. But it’s a convention and anything can happen.

There are a number of conservatives openly rooting for Petersen to win (Erick Erickson is the latest) for various reasons, not the least of which is a platform which is rather tolerable to those Republicans disgruntled with Trump. (One example: “Encourage a culture of life, and adoption, and educate Americans about the ‘consistent pro-life ethic,’ which also means abolishing the death penalty.”) I could get behind the pro-life portion, although I differ with Petersen on the death penalty believing there are circumstances where one forfeits his right to life by committing heinous deeds. Another more in a mainstream libertarian vein (that I can agree with): “Allow young people to opt out of Social Security.” I give Petersen the outside chance of winning, but I suspect there’s just enough support for Johnson/Weld to give them the nod.

Regardless of who wins, though, the pattern will probably work this way: over the summer the LP will poll in the high single-digits and may crack 10% nationally in some polls. But sometime around October these campaigns reach a point where voters decide they really want to back the winner, not some guy polling 10 percent. They’ll forswear their allegiance to the LP for the chance to say, yes, I backed Trump or Clinton in the election. Or in a lot of cases they’ll just say, “screw it, I’m staying home because my guy has zero chance.” Given that the support for the LP seems to be coming more from the Republican side right now, that attitude could lose the Senate for the GOP.

So on Tuesday we will know just who the LP nominee is, and the #NeverTrump group will have to decide if he (or, the slight possibility of she) is worth losing party privilege over.

More online media bites the dust

Those who actually watched and paid attention would have known this days or weeks before I did, but this morning I received an e-mail announcing the demise of PJTV, the video arm of the PJ Media internet site. The reason I didn’t pay attention is because if I’ve watched PJTV a half-dozen times, that would have been accidental – not to say that it was or wasn’t quality work, but I’m the type of person who would rather read the State of the Union speech than waste an hour watching it. Movies and television really don’t interest me all that much, although I’m fine with watching a ballgame on the tube. And thanks to the power of the internet, the PJTV contributors will still be getting their message out on their own.

Still, I have a soft spot for PJ Media (which used to be Pajamas Media) because, once upon a time, I was a contributor to their site. (I was their Maryland state correspondent for the 2010 election, since we were considered a possible swing state with a key gubernatorial election, and also contributed a handful of articles like this one in the months afterward. They paid very well for the latter.)

But the site has changed since I was last contributed there. While it was once primarily political, in recent years it’s gone to a more general-interest site where increasing emphasis is placed on non-electoral areas like parenting, faith, and lifestyle. (It still features one of my favorite writers, Victor Davis Hanson, though.) Presumably the more or less modest amount of advertising they have on the PJMedia site (which has improved itself graphically over the years, evolving to a relatively clean design that reminds me of the of the homepage I have with the Microsoft Edge internet browser I use) is enough to pay their bills.

On the other hand, the PJTV side was a little confusing because it was a mix of free and subscriber content. Obviously the subscription base wasn’t enough to justify the continued expense, as a Daily Beast story by Lloyd Grove (which references the ubiquitous unnamed “former employees and outside observers”) claims:

Several former employees and outside observers described the two enterprises as money-losing ventures whose advertising revenue and online traffic—8.3 million unique visitors in the first quarter of 2016 for PJMedia.com, according to a Google analytics tracking figure provided by a PJ Media spokesperson—were hampered because much of PJ TV’s content was behind a paywall and available only to subscribers. (The spokesperson declined to specify the number of subscribers, explaining that the information is proprietary).

8.3 million unique visitors in a quarter translates out to about 92,000 a day. Even being generous and saying 10% were PJTV subscribers, that’s only 9,200 daily viewers and you have a hard time getting advertisers with that audience.

And having written recently about Erick Erickson’s struggles to get The Resurgent off the ground (which doesn’t feature its own video channel and may have to scrap its subscriber-based model, much to my disappointment) it’s becoming clear that the political audience is becoming so fragmented and fatigued that they are just tuning out. This particular cycle has become less about issues and more about celebrity, and it’s very hard to compete with that with political commentary even if it is on the humorous side.

Naturally the creation and demise of enterprises on the internet is nothing new, and survival is tough – I have outwitted, outplayed, and outlasted probably thousands of political sites over the years, but at some future time the end will come to this one as well. There are a number of websites and ideas that I have been a part of, such as Red County, Conservative Weekly, and American Certified, which failed to last. All of them reached a point where the time and effort placed into keeping up the website as opposed to other, more productive pursuits outweighed the satisfaction (or revenue) one got from creating the content. I decided early on this would not be all political because if it had been it wouldn’t have made it two years, and even on my site I have started and stopped various features when they became too much of a burden. For example, spending three hours transcribing a phone interview every week because the software to do it wasn’t affordable to me led to the demise of Ten Questions.

When I was much younger, half a lifetime ago, MTV was blamed for shortening the attention span of youth to a point where their education was suffering. Johnny couldn’t read because he was not interested in a 50-minute English class. Perhaps the same is happening to long-form entertainment such as a TV network, such that PJTV was.

But the real issue is that we are spoiled: the internet is more or less free, although you pay a provider to place you there. What I think PJTV has become the latest to find is why should people pay for content when they can get comparable entertainment for nothing? I don’t have that answer because, if I did, this wouldn’t be an enterprise which probably pays me millage per hour to create. (Is this an appropriate moment to remind people I have a “donate” button?)

With the absolute mass of content now available thanks to the World Wide Web, there really is no such thing as “must-see TV” anymore. PJTV won’t be the last to learn that lesson.

An open letter to Erick Erickson

Dear Erick:

To begin, I’d like to thank you and Bill Blankschaen for writing You Will Be Made to Care. I was pleased to be selected as one of those who received an advance copy for review, and even more pleased with the final result. Again, I was “intrigued by the direction that it went and by the emotions this book took me through as I read through it.” So congratulations for its success, and know that many of us appreciate you bringing up this necessary discussion as subsequent events have placed religious freedom squarely in the headlines again.

At around the same time as YWBMTC was in its final stages of editing and initial promotion, you were embarking on a journey which interested me as a blogger: trying to succeed with a sponsorship-based advertising system. As I wrote on January 11:

I’ve been impressed with (Erickson’s) new website, one which I can read without being overrun by annoying pop-up ads and false story breaks that only serve to increase page view count (in order to extort more money from would-be advertisers.) On Thursday he had a candid assessment of how his website was doing and so far he seems to be successful. Good news for those of us who value content over clickbait.

Thus, I was pleased to see a couple weeks back that your venture was growing, with a doubling of readership and significant increases in areas that you are trying to stress, such as listenership to your radio show and engagement with elected officials. I’ll grant that over time this may level off, but I think you have a long way to go until you reach that plateau given that you are still in the startup stages.

But there is one aspect of your three-month assessment that troubles me:

Our advertising model is very unique among conservative websites and, frankly, may come to an end as I’m struggling to fill sponsorships going forward. But it has been so different I’m actually getting attacked for it. (Emphasis mine.)

I was cheered somewhat that you then wrote:

But I have to try to work on that area to beef up sponsorships. What I do know is that it works. Several of the advertisers tell me they saw an uptick in donations, sign ups, and volunteers through their sponsoring the Resurgent. That makes me hopeful we will be able to keep this going a while, particularly as my radio presence keeps growing.

Now I realize that, compared to your site, mine is small potatoes: my page views in a good year might equal yours for a weekday. I also know that, while by necessity and God-given talent in my chosen field I work outside of media to help put food on my table, you are using The Resurgent and your radio show to put food on yours. You have a lot more skin in the game with your website than I do, as I’m just a part-time blogger. But I’m using my venue and an open letter format because I want to share my thoughts with you as well as encourage readers to go to your site, helping it to succeed. I believe in what you are trying to accomplish.

So I’m imploring you to stay the course on this sponsorship-based model as long as you can because I think it will eventually succeed and hopefully lead others to follow. I never felt comfortable with having the clickbait links when they were on my site, but it seemed to be the only way to get a modest revenue stream going. I’m praying The Resurgent changes that and provides an example to follow for other high-readership sites.

For about a decade I have worked as a remote contributing writer for a publication that has a donation-based revenue model with no advertisements, the Patriot Post. Like you, they have struggled to make their expenses over the last few years but by the grace of God they are still going. If their website can go two decades with the support of their readership carrying them through I think it’s possible for your enterprise to prosper as well with the weekly sponsors you are cultivating – with the results you’re getting they should become repeat business.

One thing we have in common is that we have both run websites for over a decade, so you know as well as I do the ebb and flow of working in the political commentary field. You picked a good time to make a successful debut, so my hope is this successful beginning prepared you well for the trials and tribulations still to come once the political season is over and interest wanes.

Again, I want to express my hope you can stay with your sponsorship-based model and keep the clickbait and pop-ups away from The Resurgent. While we both pray for a resurgence of faith to overspread our country, our little corner of the internet can use something worth following as well.

Sincerely,

Michael Swartz
Salisbury, Maryland

Book review: You Will Be Made to Care: The War on Faith, Family, and Your Freedom to Believe by Erick Erickson and Bill Blankschaen

As I described a few weeks ago, I was one of a select group that was picked to read an advance manuscript of this book for reviewing purposes. Having read Erick Erickson’s work on a regular basis through RedState and his new website called The Resurgent, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what to expect in this book. Yet I was still intrigued by the direction that it went and by the emotions this book took me through as I read through it.

In its opening chapters, the book honestly made me quite angry. Knowing that Erickson is legally trained, it should not have been a surprise that he lays out the initial argument regarding the ongoing war on faith, family, and (particularly) freedom to believe by laying out case after case after trumped-up case where aggrieved members of the protected classes of today’s society work to rob those who proclaim their adherence of traditional, Biblical values of their livelihoods and reputations. While Erickson initially brings his main focus to the case of former Atlanta fire chief (and onetime Obama appointee) Kelvin Cochran, who was dismissed in early 2015 by the city of Atlanta based on a book he had written over a year earlier, he works briefly through dozens of other cases where believers have encountered unexpected consequences for running afoul of secular society.

Needless to say, my leftwing friends would read through this laundry list of incidents – which include the more famous examples of businesses like Sweet Cakes by Melissa, Ralph’s Thriftway, or Memories Pizza – and conclude that these entities were trampling on the “right” to, using these particular examples, seek to solicit a wedding cake created for their same-sex ceremony, purchase the “morning after” pill, or cater their same-sex wedding reception. To the activist plaintiffs in the former two cases it didn’t matter that each of these entitles were happy to suggest alternative arrangements or, in the case of Memories Pizza, was dealing with an entirely theoretical request: the plaintiffs believed these businesses were using the fig leaf of religious belief to deny “rights,” and sadly in most of these instances the heavy hand of government was putting a thumb on the scale against the business owners. These abuses of power, which appear throughout the first two-thirds of the book, should make anyone who reads this book angry.

Yet as Erickson explains, after going through several of these examples:

There is one key reason that those on the Left must force their beliefs on the rest of us. It’s really very simple. If they didn’t force their craziness on us, we would never embrace it. Deep down, they know that to be true. Progressive thinking doesn’t work in the real world.

They go on to try and figure out the progressive worldview, and at that point my anger turned more into a sense of pity. It’s really not all that hard to come to the realization that we are but sinners who fall short of the grace of God, but to do so means you actually have to admit to yourself that many of your acts are sinful and eventual repentance is necessary.

But Erickson makes the case in his book that pastors and churches are falling short in their calling as well, substituting symbolism for substance. For example:

There seems to a pattern here in Protestant circles: the more liberal a church becomes, the more it invests in all the trappings of the appearance of religion. The more it compromises the truth, the more it seems to try and compensate with impressive liturgies, pompous ceremony, and clerical garb. The compromisers seem to want you to get a feeling of spirituality from the way they conduct the service – not the words they use. It’s as if they want to be judged by the color of their robes and not the content of their sermons.

To Erickson, too many men of the cloth have come to avoid the discussion of sin as it relates to everyday life. Pastors, he argues, have become overly timid in their discussions so as not to scare away parishioners by appearing too judgmental or jeopardize the church’s tax-exempt status. While the modern church can be entertaining, he writes, it falls short on the enlightenment aspect. Through most of Christian history, he continues, we have been persecuted so why should we expect different today? In fact, Erick boldly states that our faith in America as a nation may be misplaced if it supersedes our faith in God. Ours may not be the Christian nation we grew up believing that it was.

Yet my anger at the outset turned to hope as I continued on. While it has the appearance of being a little bit self-serving – as Erickson’s recently-created website is dubbed The Resurgent – within the final chapters of You Will Be Made to Care he lays out ideas for a resurgence of the people: The Resurgent Community, The Resurgent Believer, The Resurgent Family, The Resurgent Church, and finally The Resurgent Citizen. I see these five chapters as the “how-to guide” of the book – like the erstwhile lawyer, local politician and campaigner he was, Erickson laid out the case for change, added the necessary backstory and history, then explained his platform and agenda for positive, worthwhile improvements to our state of being.

In introducing this segment of the book, Erickson writes that the nation is not about red vs. blue states or regions anymore. Instead:

I see us – the resistance to the suddenly dominant Spirit of the Age – as a group of conservatives and faith-filled people united against the forces of the Left. Sensing what is at stake in the conflict, many of us have found our voices and are willing to be bold, to become a resurgent people of free ideas, faith, and family.

The evolution of this book hit home for me because it reminded me of my own journey through faith and what it can lead us to believe. I’ve been pro-life for many years, but never really became as activist about it until I began regularly attending church. It’s also led me in the direction of bringing my cohort Cathy Keim on board as a relatively like-minded writer with many of the same goals in mind but a different and unique audience.

(This also affords me the opportunity to remind readers that Erickson has a co-author for this book – Bill Blankschaen seemed to be an excellent choice as a co-author given his history as a collaborator and pastor. While I write about Erick in the singular for the purposes of the review, I’m sure Erick would be the first to tell you the book is a joint effort.)

Yet the chapter on The Resurgent Community reminds me of something I wrote (to considerably less fanfare) a few years ago. After the introduction, I wrote about community in the respect that we should stop looking inward and do more to help our fellow man. While my perspective wasn’t overtly religious, the point Erickson made in this chapter made me think about that which I wrote a few years back but had contemplated long before that.

I also enjoyed the humanizing moment he shared in the book. Wrote Erickson:

If we know we need the fellowship of other believers, why do we seem to be so cloistered in our own homes? I don’t know about you, but one of the greatest barriers our family has to connecting with other believers is (a) very practical concern – a clean house. It sounds crazy when we think about it in the context of facing persecution for our faith, but the first thing people have to be willing to do to cultivate community is to stop worrying about how their home looks.

This light-hearted example aside, perhaps the thing I most took away from You Will Be Made to Care is Erickson’s conclusion that we are not alone. Despite these interesting times we live in, the advice to be a light in the darkness and be a happy warrior is timeless.

What I would encourage those who read my review to do is to (naturally) pre-order the book for yourself. (Like most new books, it already has a website and pre-ordering entitles you to some added perks.) Since it comes out next Monday (the 22nd) it will likely be in your hands next week. Read through it and then share it: loan it out to your friends, your pastors, your fellow worshipers and remind them they are not alone.

Even if they only read it and return it, I’m sure Erick and Bill won’t miss the dollar or two in their pockets if they know the information is being disseminated. There are a couple people on my personal list to share it with, so once I get my hard copy I’m doing the same.

It’s time for Christians to stop feeling sorry for ourselves or playing the victim. At my church we are reminded that the outside world is a missionary field, so if Erickson’s book helps you serve in that capacity there’s nothing wrong with enlisting his aid.

Opportunities and training wheels

You may think this an unusual title for a post, but there were two things upcoming that I wanted to write about and after I thought about it I realized that in both cases there were rhetorical training wheels coming off.

First of all in the more immediate timeframe I am going to take Cathy Keim’s training wheels off and she’s going to be in charge of content this weekend. I’m going away for a personal mission (of sorts) so she is going to cover for me Friday through Sunday. Given some of the places she’s telling me she’s going and has been, there should be stuff so good you’ll hardly miss me.

But once I return I have a homework assignment: I have to review an upcoming book.

You probably know him as the former editor for RedState who now has his own site called The Resurgent, but Erick Erickson is moving back into the world of publishing with his second book, You Will Be Made To Care: The War On Faith, Family, And Your Freedom To Believe. I was one of a select few who get an advance copy to sneak a peek at (and yes, there was competition involved – only about 1 in 4 who applied were picked.)

In his life, Erickson has evolved from being a lawyer to local politician to blogger to radio host, but along the way followed his faith into studying for the ministry, and it’s that perspective taken from the intersection of religion and politics which interested me in reviewing this book. He’s taking the training wheels off this newfound (or perhaps rekindled) passion of his.

It’s been awhile since Erick turned the phrase that became the title of the book, but it rings more and more true as the secular nation intrudes more and more onto the religious community. Once upon a time the church was sacrosanct, with small towns around the nation coming to a halt on Sundays as people flocked to the local Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, and Catholic churches. Local clergy were respected members of the social circle of each of these communities.

This began to change in the latter half of the last century, not only with a decline in church membership and attendance but also the coarsening of culture, or to borrow a term from the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, “defining deviancy down.” Now churches and their believers are becoming the outcasts of society, with some denominations yielding more readily to the reality they perceive is out there than others.

Regardless, I look forward to spending a little time reading the advance copy and gathering my thoughts on Erickson’s points. But I’m going to adapt a saying I use for my music reviews and tell you to read for yourself – all you need to do is follow these steps and pre-order it.

If it’s as well-done as his new website is (spoken from the perspective of a guy who really hates all the clickbait out there, Erick’s new site is a refreshing change) this book deserves to be a million-seller. Looks like I’m going to find out!

Odds and ends number 78

Here I go again, producing those little dribs and drabs of information that I need a sentence to a couple paragraphs to discuss.

For example, I don’t need to give much more than an “attaboy” to Ted Cruz for continuing to stand against ethanol subsidies yet succeed in Iowa, as Leon Wolf pointed out recently at RedState. Such a stance may not make me a lot of friends among the corn farmers locally, but I’ll bet the chicken producers would love to see a decrease in the price for a bushel and I suspect once the Renewable Fuel Standard is pulled it will give them a break. Let’s hope Cruz (or some other GOP candidate) follows through on this common sense. After all, according to my friend Rick Manning at Americans for Limited Government, the deficit last year was $677 billion so putting ethanol subsidies on the chopping block would make fiscal sense as well.

As Richard Falknor at Blue Ridge Forum points out, though, we have a large number of gutless wonders in our House of Representatives who don’t care that the latest omnibus was a budget-buster. Maybe they just need to read some advice from my Patriot Post cohort Mark Alexander, who reminded us of what our Founding Fathers said 240 years ago. We really do need a revival of the Spirit of ’76. (I’m old enough to remember the Bicentennial, by the way.) As Alexander writes about the current GOP crop:

Patriots, in this presidential election year, I invoke this timeless wisdom from George Washington’s farewell address (1796): “Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism.” Indeed, there are among even the ranks of Republican presidential contenders some pretenders. Caveat Emptor! The future of Liberty hinges on the ability and willingness of grassroots Patriots to distinguish between the genuine article and the false prophets.

Yet while Ted Cruz seems to be one of the few who is standing up for conservative principles in Congress, as Erick Erickson adds at his new website, The Resurgent, the Establishment has decided to throw its lot in with Donald Trump to stop Cruz’s polling advances. Yes, politics makes strange bedfellows.

None may be stranger than those in the state of South Dakota where the drive for non-partisan elections I told you about a few weeks ago made the ballot. Local talk radio host Rick Knobe is spearheading the effort:

For too long, both political parties have been shouting over each other at the expense of the voters, and now have an opportunity to do something about it. Just look at the growing number of registered Independents, which now numbers over 100,000 in South Dakota. That number is growing here and across the country. When this measure passes, those 100,000 South Dakotans will have the opportunity to fully participate in the election process.

The state as a whole had 521,017 registered voters as of the 2014 elections so it appears about 20-25% are not affiliated. If it is adopted in this election, the state will move to a non-partisan primary for 2018. I suspect the two major parties will lose a significant amount of their support should this happen, so this is something to watch as it develops.

Immigration is one of the issues that has thoroughly disgusted a number of former Republicans who bolted the party when the elites adopted a pro-amnesty stance. Recently many Republicans (including the aforementioned Ted Cruz and our Congressman Andy Harris) supported a major expansion of H-1B visas despite a claim from the Center for Immigration Studies that found no evidence of a labor shortage in those occupations. One has to question how many semi-skilled workers are idle in this area due to the H-1B visa.

Finally, I’m going to circle back to Erick Erickson. I’ve been impressed with his new website, one which I can read without being overrun by annoying pop-up ads and false story breaks that only serve to increase page view count (in order to extort more money from would-be advertisers.) On Thursday he had a candid assessment of how his website was doing and so far he seems to be successful. Good news for those of us who value content over clickbait.

So ends another (hopefully) clickbait-free edition of odds and ends. Now my mailboxes are empty once again.