2017 Wicomico County Lincoln Day Dinner in pictures and text

October 30, 2017 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Inside the Beltway, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on 2017 Wicomico County Lincoln Day Dinner in pictures and text 

This time around it will be fewer pictures and more text. It’s not like I haven’t done this for many years at the same venue. But you may recall I took a hiatus from party politics for awhile, meaning this was the first such event I’d attended in two years.

So I was greeted with mainly open arms, although many people thought I had already moved to Delaware. (Not quite yet.) Regardless, the feel of the event was such that I felt right at home – the only difference was that we were supposed to begin an hour earlier to accommodate our speaker. As it turned out, we got underway about 45 minutes late (or 15 minutes early by our “normal” schedule), so I who was there at 5:00 for a 6:00 dinner had plenty of time to commiserate and hear the band play.

One of the new folks I got to meet was the lone statewide candidate to attend. She is definitely having fun on the campaign trail.

Angie Phukan (a.k.a. “MsComptroller”) is, as the tagline would suggest, running for the GOP nomination for Comptroller. To date she’s the only candidate to file against incumbent Democrat Peter Franchot, who likewise has filed. She hails from Ocean City, so she’s a statewide candidate in our backyard.

I had actually conversed online with her a few weeks back when she was trying to figure out her yard signs. I suggested simpler is better, and assured her last night she need not worry about separate signs for primary and general elections. “Your job right now is to build name recognition,” I told her.

Of course, most of our local contingent of folks were there as well. One I want to point out is Mary Beth Carozza, Delegate from District 38C. Here she’s between County Council member from District 5 Joe Holloway and his wife Faye. (Holloway is once again my Councilman since we moved.)

The reason Carozza is important to the story is she’s making a “special announcement” next month in Ocean City.

The speculation is rampant this will make formal what’s been rumored for awhile: notice how much Jim Mathias is on social media these days? If Mary Beth indeed decides to try for the promotion, she would join Democrat-turned-Republican Ed Tinus in the race, although Tinus could then decide to seek the open Delegate seat.

As always, we began with a visit from our 16th President and the event’s namesake.

I had some fun with the photo since it demanded an oldtime look. As he always does, Lincoln waxed eloquent with tales from his life, this time focusing on the time he was a young man who studied voraciously to tackle new opportunities that came his way, such as surveying or winning his first elective office at the age of 25. (Oddly enough, the Whigs of the day had to contend with voters who were ineligible because they didn’t live in the district or weren’t yet citizens.) Observing today’s political landscape, he noted that there seemed to be no survey plan to drain the swamp.

As I was driving around to find a parking spot before the event, I spied a well-dressed man who seemed like he was looking for the door to get in. I thought it was David Bossie and it turned out I was right. He may be our Republican National Committeeman and entrenched as a confidant for President Trump, but he was still baffled by the setup of Salisbury University’s Guerrieri Hall.

But when it was Bossie’s turn to speak, there was no confusion. First of all, he asked how many in the room thought a year ago that Donald Trump would win. When a fair number went up, he said “Liars,” adding “I didn’t raise my hand.”

“I’ll tell the President that he had a room full of people who knew he would win,” added Bossie. He only figured it out as he was feeding information to the soon-to-be President on Election Night.

David had met Trump several years earlier through a mutual friend who believed Trump would be willing to lend the use of his golf course for a charity event Bossie was organizing. The main reason for Bossie’s interest in that cause was his then-six month old son, who had several medical issues that piqued his interest in fighting against Obamacare in the belief it would damage our medical system that was aiding his son.

Bossie’s role in the campaign and eventual transition was “a humbling experience,” although for a time it greatly diminished when Paul Manafort was hired. Manafort “froze him out,” so when Trump “thankfully…(got) rid of Manafort” Bossie helped lead the comeback from a low point after the GOP convention.

So the day after Trump shocked the world, they realized there was no formal transition plan. In part, that was superstition from Trump, an avid sportsman who had the belief – like many athletes who compete regularly do – that considering the transition would be a departure from routine and would jinx his campaign. Shortly after the victory, though, David was selected as the Deputy Executive Director of the transition.

While this was going on, Bossie remained at the helm of Citizens United, which he described as “focused on the President’s agenda like a laser beam.” The problem with enacting it, continued David, was that our government was “dysfunctional and out of touch.” Since the House and Senate were elected on the same issues as Trump was, their reluctance to cooperate was an affront to President Trump. “He’s a pissed off dude, isn’t he?” said Bossie about the President. “Get something done and the temperature goes down,” he added, referring to the Senate and relations between them and Trump. If they do, there’s a “good opportunity to pick up Senate seats…really good math for us.” Bossie mentioned races in Ohio and Missouri as strong possibilities for pickups and welcomed the changes in Arizona and Tennessee with the retirements of Jeff Flake and Bob Corker, respectively.

(Interesting to note: the mentions of Flake, Corker, and John McCain drew boos and hisses from some in the crowd.)

We needed, though, to put aside the things of a year ago. Remember, “if Hillary Clinton wins, the nation as we know it is over,” said Bossie. But since Trump won, things have taken shape with our economy: the Dow is “out of its mind” and as far as regulations go, Trump promised to eliminate two for every new one. “Do you know how many he’s done?” Bossie asked, and someone in the crowd you may know well said, “Sixteen.”

“Who said sixteen?” he asked. “Showoff.” Indeed, the Trump administration is mowing down regulations at a frenetic pace.

But the economy is missing one thing: a “robust” tax reform package; one that Bossie described as “generational.”

“Shame on us if we don’t get it done,” Bossie said, and the sooner the better: if enacted by year’s end and made retroactive for 2017, the boost in the economy will kick in around next summer and make the 2018 election a pocketbook balloting. If done in the spring, the effects won’t be nearly as great, argued David.

While Bossie apologized in advance for not being able to stay too late, he did answer a few questions.

The first one required him to put on his National Committeeman hat, as he was asked “what can we do on the Eastern Shore?”

Our focus, said David, should be first on winning the needed five State Senate seats to sustain Governor Hogan’s vetoes. Of course, that also meant we had to turn out for Hogan as we did last time so he could defeat the “worst group of Democrats” in the country.

He was less optimistic when asked about what we could do about Ben Cardin. “There’s lost causes, then there’s lost causes,” said Bossie. That may be news to Sam Faddis, who is the only Republican with an FEC account in that race so far. (No one has formally filed, save three Democrats not named Cardin who are hoping the incumbent retires or keels over.)

Someone else asked whether GOP money was going to Donald Trump. Their investment is “behind the scenes” right now, assured Bossie, although Trump already has a 2020 re-election account as well. The RNC is “stockpiling” money with a large advantage in fundraising over the Democrats at the moment.

Turning to foreign affairs, a question was asked about our relationship with China.

Trump was focusing on the Chinese president, David said. “No one wants war,” and by dealing with China – which is the main trading partner of North Korea – Trump is dealing with an entity that could “suffocate” North Korea if they chose. It’s a combination of tough talk and diplomacy, he added.

Finally, it was asked about the governors not supporting Trump. Bossie argued that their agenda was better off with Republican governors whether they agreed with President Trump on everything or not. And even though our governor didn’t support the Trump bid, it was “vital” he be re-elected anyway, concluded Bossie.

With that, he was off to see his family before an early morning gig on Fox News, so the conclusion of the event was the introduction of a number of elected officials, club officers, and 2018 candidates, along with the drawing of raffles from both the Wicomico County Republican Club and the College Republicans. As it turned out both grand prizes were donated back to their respective organizations, so the WCRC can once again give away a $1,000 Dick’s Sporting Goods gift card and the College Republicans netted $280. Wicomico County GOP Chair Mark McIver also announced that there were 130 people in attendance, making this a successful event that grossed better than $8,000.

Just like in the beginning, there are people who stay around and gab the night away. In this case, it’s Delegate Charles Otto (left) with Joe Schanno of the Department of Natural Resources (center) and Dwight Patel (right), who annually makes the trip from Montgomery County to show his support. We finally cleared out about 9:30, although there was an impromptu afterparty offsite some chose to enjoy.

It was nice to be remembered, and as I had pointed out to me by County Councilman Marc Kilmer, now that I’m a “free agent” I can pick and choose my events. Trust me, I’m still on the mailing lists.

But writing this was like riding a bicycle – you don’t forget how to do it even after awhile away. It was fun.

The betrayal

You know, since the events that led to the formation and rise of the TEA Party the Republican Party has promised to be our savior if only given the chance. After they successfully won the messaging battle over Obamacare in 2009-10 – aided by the ham-fisted, cynical fashion it was rammed through Congress and onto Barack Obama’s desk – the GOP won a smashing electoral victory that flipped the House just two years after the second of two successive wave elections convinced many political pundits we were on the verge of another decades-long run of Democratic dominance in Washington. While that success took a pause in 2012, perhaps because the Republicans nominated the originator of state-supported health insurance in Mitt Romney to face Barack Obama, the actual implementation of Obamacare beginning in 2014 resulted in yet another midterm electoral shellacking for the Democrats that November, costing them control of the Senate.

All along, Republicans told us these various steps along the way, once they won the House in 2010. First they whined that they only had one-half of one-third of the government, which sufficed as a campaign plank until 2014, when they won the Senate. Once they won the Senate, they actually passed a bill repealing Obamacare – of course, it was vetoed by Barack Obama and the votes weren’t there for an override. So now they needed the White House and then, once and for all, we could be rid of Obamacare.

July 26, 2017. The Senate has its chance to pass a nearly “clean” Obamacare repeal bill, with a majority of Republicans in the body. There’s no question such a bill would sail through the House and we have a nominally Republican president in Donald Trump who would be for repealing Obamacare – although he wanted to replace it, too. It just has to get through the Senate, and yet – it did not. Seven Republicans joined all 48 Democrats (as one would expect) in turning their back on the people who elected them.

So who’s in this Hall of Shame? Well, it’s mainly the usual suspects: Lamar Alexander (Tennessee), Shelley Moore Capito (West Virginia), Susan Collins (Maine), Dean Heller (Nevada), John McCain (Arizona), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), and Rob Portman (Ohio). With the exception of Maine – where Trump won one of the state’s two Congressional districts (for one electoral vote) but lost overall – all these states went GOP in the last election, yet their Senators sided with the Democrats. And as President Trump noted, “Any senator who votes against repeal and replace is telling America that they are fine with the ObamaCare nightmare, and I predict they’ll have a lot of problems.” Yet only Heller faces the voters in 2018 – McCain, Murkowski, and Portman were just re-elected and the other three aren’t up until 2020.

The question now is how GOP loyalists are going to spin and explain this one away. To be quite honest, I think people have known for many moons that the Republicans were selling the voters a bill of goods but if you can’t keep your caucus together on something that’s been a fundamental promise for seven years then it’s clear even the fig leaf is gone. Despite their high-minded rhetoric, the GOP is now just as much the party of big government as the Democrats are. Now it’s just a question of which side gets the spoils.

And now where do those who believe in limited government go? They are now political orphans because the Republican Party just showed they aren’t willing to stand by those principles when push comes to shove.

The third administration

January 20, 2017 · Posted in Culture and Politics, Inside the Beltway, National politics, Personal stuff, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on The third administration 

I observed on Facebook earlier today that eight years may seem like a long time, but on the other hand my wife and I have only known one administration as a couple: we met just two weeks after Barack Obama took office.

By that same token, today monoblogue moved into its third administration, as I began this enterprise in George W. Bush’s second term and somehow made it through eight years of Barack Obama. Obviously one may conclude that, being a conservative, I would have a lot less to complain about in a Republican administration – but something tells me this will be a Republican administration like no other.

In a lot of the analysis I’ve read about why and how Donald Trump came to the place of being sworn in today as our 45th president, the quick take is that he did it much like Ronald Reagan did: he appealed directly to the people and was effective enough at working around the filter of the media that he succeeded where Mitt Romney, John McCain, Bob Dole, and the two Bushes had failed – and yes, I am aware that George W. Bush was president for eight years (and his dad for four.) But would you consider them successful presidents? I’m not sure that I would. On the other hand, Reagan is fondly remembered by most of America except the hardcore Left.

It’s no secret that I didn’t vote for Trump in either the primary or general elections, and my approach to him at this point is one of a fairly wary optimism. In all honesty, that’s based more on the public perception that things are turning around for the better than any evidence I have that his policies will show us the way to make America great again. (I will say, though, that what I wrote about in today’s Patriot Post did tug the rope slightly more in his favor. But I have to see follow-through.) Yet one thing Reagan had in his favor was his sunny optimism that it was morning again in America, and many of my more conservative friends invoked that sentiment in discussing today’s events. (Of course, those few left-leaning friends of mine will likely feel like the old Li’l Abner character Joe Btfsplk with the black cloud perpetually over his head for the next four to eight years.)

Yet I share in the optimism, if only because my circumstances are improved from the last time around. When 43 became 44, I was out of work – however, I was warned that if Obama was elected our business may be in for a rough ride. He was elected and I was let go a month later. Needless to say, it wasn’t really my mood to give him a chance because I could sense Obama was bad news for America based on the policies he wished to put in place. And I believe I was correct in that assessment because I’m not better off than I was eight years ago, at least in an economic sense. If Obama was a progressive, we desperately need a regressive as far back as the Constitution will let us go. Unfortunately, Trump’s not that guy and the one I thought would be got 200,000 votes nationwide.

In that time, though, I’ve become more convinced that we are under the control of a higher power anyway. If it is His will that America survives, it will indeed do so – if not, I leave my fate up to Him. I’ve been blessed to spend 52 years here in this God-blessed nation, which is something that few who walked on this planet ever got and likely much more than I as a sinner who falls short of the glory of God deserves. So I sort of get this sneaking hunch that the reason I was given the talent I have and placed where I was is to try and preserve the blessing – thus, I will remain on that side of the equation regardless of who is president.

So good luck to President Trump and Vice-President Pence, and best retirement wishes for the Obamas and Bidens. Enjoy being private citizens again. As for me, it doesn’t matter who is president because I am writing for a different reason.

A somewhat surprising endorsement

Perhaps the National Rifle Association is now in the “lesser of two evils” camp.

You know, we used to rag on John Kerry for being for something before he voted against it, but I suppose the passage of time grants Donald Trump the privilege of being for an assault weapons ban when it was all the rage two decades ago and now getting the endorsement of the NRA much earlier in the campaign than Mitt Romney did four years ago, according to Fox News:

The NRA’s endorsement comes significantly earlier in the election cycle than previous endorsements by the group. The group did not endorse 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney until October 2012.

However, officials told Fox News ahead of the announcement there is an excitement for Trump among their members that they did not see for Romney or 2008 nominee Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

I’ll grant that I am a Second Amendment advocate who is not a member of the NRA, but it is worth pointing out that the group endorses solely on their perception of how candidates will stand up for the Second Amendment and gun owners’ rights. It’s very likely Hillary Clinton will be a gun-grabber and certainly the so-called “assault weapons” ban will return to our law books if she’s elected. Trump fed into that when he said, “Crooked Hillary is the most anti-gun, anti-Second Amendment candidate…She wants to take your guns away from you, just remember that.”

But it has to be asked whether the NRA is just hoping to keep the status quo, which as it turns out makes the NRA a lot of money – over $300 million, according to this report on their 2014 tax filing. With Trump I don’t foresee any rolling back of restrictions, and given his tendency to walk back previous statements (like his Supreme Court short list) I have to wonder if the NRA was thinking more about its bottom line in seeing a lot of “Trumpkins” becoming new members than advancement on a more true interpretation of the Second Amendment. That whole “shall not be infringed” thing seems to be violated regularly.

This is particularly the case when the NRA’s rival, Gun Owners of America, recently posted an article blasting Trump for donating $25,000 to Terry McAuliffe when he first ran for governor of Virginia in 2009 – seven years later, after winning in his second try, McAuliffe allowed 200,000 convicted felons to register to vote. Writer John Velleco concludes:

If McAuliffe’s unconstitutional action is not overturned, it will make it that much tougher for ANY Republican to win in the Old Dominion–a key state on the road to the presidency–as the new voters “thank” McAuliffe by voting for Hillary.

Ironically, while Trump brags about his “deal making” prowess, it is that wheeling-and-dealing that has now made it all the easier for an anti-gun Democrat to win an important state like Virginia in November.

Trump does not seem to grasp that making deals in politics is not the same as in real estate, where you can have a win-win outcome.

When you sit down at the table with Terry McAuliffe, Nancy Pelosi or Chuck Schumer to negotiate on, say, a gun bill, it’s a zero-sum game for them.  The discussion will always end up being how many of our rights will we lose.

A “compromise” to an anti-gunner is a ban on “certain” semi-automatic firearms, instead of a ban all semi-automatics.  A 3-day waiting period verses seven days.

They’re not interested in compromise.  They’re only interested in our side selling out, and for how much.

We know Donald J. Trump doesn’t understand the gun issue.  He supported an “assault weapons” ban before he opposed it and just last year he endorsed the notion that people on a secret government “watch list” should be barred from owning guns.

Trump is bragging about the “deals he’ll make” specifically with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi.  In that negotiation, our gun rights could very well be the bargaining chips.

In other words, Velleco shares one of my biggest concerns about Trump – as a Republican, he’s sure not going to negotiate with conservatives. Perhaps some of the more strident advocates of the Second Amendment will be convinced to jump on board the Trump train with word that he’s the NRA’s chosen candidate, but there are a lot of races where the NRA has preferred incumbents who were worse for the nation on an overall basis. Most people can fathom that Hillary is a gun grabber and they didn’t need the NRA to tell them that.

Is it really “Trump Republicans” that made the difference?

May 2, 2016 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2016 - President, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Is it really “Trump Republicans” that made the difference? 

Yesterday Richard Falknor, who I gather is a Trump supporter, splashed a story onto his Blue Ridge Forum blog that asked whether the state Republican Party will welcome the 200,000 new voters that voted in 2016 compared to 2012. His conclusion to this?

Sending mostly non-Trump delegates-at-large to Cleveland will send a message that the Trump-inspired portion of the 195,000-plus new or returning 2016 Republican presidential primary voters are unwelcome in the Maryland Republican Club.

On the other hand, if some Maryland GOP nominees for the House and Senate endorse Trump now, they will be telling these new or returning voters they have gotten their message and should help with their campaigns.

I like Richard, but his comparison wasn’t a very precise one for a number of reasons. If you recall, the 2012 primary here in Maryland was conducted at a point where Mitt Romney had pretty much sewn up the nomination, so naturally turnout was less. In 2008, Mitt Romney was the last realistic contender standing against John McCain; he dropped out days before the Maryland primary. By percentage, in 2012 voting for the Presidential race involved about 26.6% of Republicans, while in 2008 that figure was 36.1%.

I would draw a closer parallel to the 2000 election, which occurred relatively early in the process. The Republican primary had 376,024 voters out of 769,329 registered Republicans, but I believe there was a caveat that year because the 2000 Republican primary was open. So it’s not the best comparison.

All in all, the increase from 2008 (the last fully open-seat election) to 2012 was about 9 percentage points – but how much of that was having a race that actually mattered as opposed to one which was anti-climactic? You really can’t argue that the Trump candidacy brought a lot of people to the GOP, either – from January to March the GOP numbers only increased from 974,602 to 997,211. That’s a nice bump, but Democrats added nearly 46,000 to their ranks and unaffiliated voters declined by a little over 19,000.

So here’s the thing. Indeed, Donald Trump won the state, probably in part because he campaigned here the most. But I’m not sold on the argument that he either drove new voters to the GOP or motivated them as much as the simple fact that Maryland mattered – all three of the top candidates were in the state at least once. In addition, some fraction of the GOP increase was likely from an “anyone but Trump” movement that probably benefitted John Kasich more.

Moreover, I’m getting more and more convinced that Donald Trump is electoral poison. Call me establishment, but I have this quaint, old-fashioned notion that the Republican candidate should be at least a little conservative, and there are millions of Republicans around the country who agree. The hard part of a Trump nomination will be containing the bleeding down the ticket, which is why so few of the GOP leaders and candidates in Maryland are embracing him. Governor Hogan, who most Republicans respect, is not on the Trump train. In my estimation Trump may be the most divisive GOP presidential nominee ever, even counting Abraham Lincoln.

Even if all 200,000 additional Republican votes came out just to support Donald Trump, it’s worth mentioning that Trump was over 300,000 votes shy of Hillary Clinton here in Maryland – and nearly 50,000 behind Bernie Sanders. Assuming all the unaffiliated voters who couldn’t vote in the primary came out, Trump would have to win at least 75 percent of them to catch Hillary and that’s not going to happen.

If there’s a choice to be made, let’s pray it’s one of bold colors vs. pale pastels, not Tweedledum vs. Tweedledee.

About that TEA Party…

November 27, 2015 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2016 - President, Delmarva items, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on About that TEA Party… 

My “10 from 10” post this morning regarding the 9/12 Rally back in 2009 got me to pondering where the movement has gone in the intervening years.

If you’ve been a reader around here for a long time, you may recall that I covered a significant number of TEA Party-related groups that sprung up in the local area over the next couple years. Not only did we have the TEA Parties themselves that went on in both 2009 and 2010, but also groups like Americans for Prosperity and the Wicomico Society of Patriots. They went on for a couple of years but essentially died off from a lack of interest. (On the other hand, we still have the Worcester County TEA Party and 9-12 Delaware Patriots.)

Having been involved to a limited extent with the Wicomico groups, I can tell you that some of the players who remain active have gone “establishment” to the extent they remain active in the local Republican Party. Three of those most heavily involved have served on the Central Committee – unfortunately, that’s the only election where some of the TEA Party leaders have found success. While many in the area take TEA Party values to heart, they seem to vote for the names they know.

This erosion of the brand is also reflected on a national level. I used to write quite a bit about the TEA Party Patriots and expressed hope that the TEA Party Express would bring some of its star power to the region. In the last few years, though, the national movement has suffered from infighting as well as a concerted media effort to impugn the brand. I don’t hear nearly as much from the group these days, as their function has by and large been superseded by SuperPACs that fight for specific candidates or causes.

If you consider the high point of the TEA Party as the 2010 election, where the political landscape dramatically shifted in a more conservative direction in the wake of two consecutive leftward shifts as well as the adoption of an unpopular Obamacare entitlement program, then the nadir came two years later with Barack Obama’s re-election. A conspiracy theorist could point out that the 2010 election results put the Obama campaign on high alert, meaning they pulled out all the stops to ensure re-election with a little help from a compliant media. But one could counter by noting the movement wasn’t strong enough to topple frontrunner Mitt Romney and they shot themselves in the foot by staying home on Election Day. (As it was, though, Romney did get more votes than John McCain did in 2008.)

So while you can credit TEA Party principles for winning the day in 2014, the actual movement itself seems to be receding to a low tide. Since TEA is an acronym for “taxed enough already” it’s been pointed out by the Left that taxes really aren’t that bad, at least in comparison to the rates in place for administrations from Hoover to Carter. (This is a neat little chart to see the differences.) Ronald Reagan dropped rates twice: from 70% to 50% in 1982 and eventually down to 28% with the Tax Reform Act of 1986. It had been over 50 years since the top rate was less than 50%.

But that only considers income tax. Certainly as a 100-year body of work our current rates are on the low side, but back then we didn’t have the maddening plethora of taxes and fees we do now. Some are consumption-based taxes like sales tax on goods purchased or per gallon of gasoline, while others are considered some sort of “sin” tax like additional levies on cigarettes or alcohol, a combination that Marylanders endure to a larger extent than several of their neighbors. Even speed cameras could be regarded as a sort of “sin” tax, since supposedly the only ones who pay it are the ones who are speeding well above the posted limit. (Try as they might to convince us that it’s about safety, we all know they need the Benjamins. Why else would they have to install cameras in more and more dubious “school zones”?) Nor does that consider property tax, which tends to be the preferred vehicle for raising money for the public schools. In most states where districts have taxing authority, it’s not uncommon to see a school district seek three to four additional property tax levies a decade as they strive to raise funds for buildings and operations. (Maryland is different because counties pay for their portion of school funding from their general funds, so there are no ballot issues to deal with property taxes.) To make a long story short, we still consider ourselves taxed enough already.

As far as a formal movement goes, though, for the most part we are back to where we were around 2008. There is a lot of frustration with the direction of both parties, but this time rather than a movement without a leader people are going the route of a looking for a leader for what they consider their movement – hence, political outsiders Ben Carson and Donald Trump have been ahead of the Republican field for most of this campaign. (As further proof, the other side is still believed to be behind Hillary Clinton.) Carson is cast as the Godly, principled man who would quietly and reverently lead our nation in need of healing, while Trump comes across as the brash general who would kick butt and take names, restoring America to its top of the heap status.

Conversely, those who are conservative but came up through the standard political channels have fallen out of favor this cycle. In any other cycle, we would look at governors like Rick Perry, Scott Walker, or Bobby Jindal as frontrunners – instead, all three are out of the race. In terms of political resumes, the front-runners on both sides have even less to go on than Barack Obama did, and that’s saying something.

So it’s hard to tell where the TEA Party trail runs cold. I think a number of them have coalesced behind Donald Trump despite the fact The Donald is not a movement conservative. One recent rumor is that a Trump/Cruz ticket is in the works, which would perhaps appease the true believers. Trump’s success has belied the predictions of TEA Party leaders that he will be a flash in the pan.

But it appears the days of rallies like 9/12 are behind us. Such a pity.

Debating the importance

September 16, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, Delmarva items, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Debating the importance 

As soon as I heard a commercial from CNN comparing tonight’s Republican presidential debate to a prizefight, I knew it wouldn’t be worth watching.

The thing I find most interesting, though, is that by elevating Carly Fiorina to the “big kids table,” the withdrawal of Rick Perry, and the absence of Jim Gilmore for whatever reason, they had just four for the initial debate: Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, George Pataki, and Rick Santorum.

Now I am a transcript guy – I would rather just read a speech than watch it because it takes me five minutes to work through an hour-long speech in real time. But I think the also-ran debate came closest to my idea when this all started, and it would probably be great reading because with only four contenders and 90 minutes to kill, we could actually have either good depth or a great variation of questions.

And even in those four you have a good variety of viewpoints: two governors and two Senators, with one of the governors also having Congressional experience. One of each category is currently in elected office while the other has been in the private sector for a decade. They also run the gamut from the moderate wing of the party to the social and fiscal conservative outskirts.

On the other hand, the other 11 in the later debate will have most of the oxygen sucked out of the room by one Donald Trump. So far in the campaign I have been less than impressed with him, but Trump is on top of the polls because a lot of people want a complete shakeup in Washington and assume he’s the guy for the job.

So I’m sure the coverage and spin will be all about what The Donald said, did, and had for a postgame meal. Will that make the voters any more informed? I doubt it.

Generally speaking, the media as a whole is not favorable territory for conservatives. Particularly in the last two cycles, we have seen the media given the perception that they shaped the GOP campaign. John McCain was a media darling until Barack Obama secured the nomination and McCain chose the then-obscure and tough-taking Governor Sarah Palin for a running mate. All media passes expired at that point.

In the 2012 campaign we had a similar phenomenon to the Trump insurgence at about the same point in the campaign. It came from an outsider who made his mark in business and had the additional appeal of being a minority and a cancer survivor, with an economic plan that would change the entire system. It was simply amazing how much dirt was found on Herman Cain, and if you ask me, the media was scared to death that Cain could beat Barack Obama by being a competent minority who is conservative. If Ben Carson pulls ahead in the polls, you can bet your bottom dollar they will be out to find or make up something that will stick.

So it makes me wonder why the media hasn’t really gone after Trump, hounding him like Palin or Cain. I just have that sense that the dirt on Trump is waiting until he closes in on the nomination and it’s too late to change.

There is the chance such an event would further galvanize support for Trump, but as much as they have glossed over Hillary’s record I doubt it. (While the GOP debates are being promoted as must-see TV, it’s interesting to me how they have limited the Democratic debates to a half-dozen or fewer. Less risk of a gaffe.)

If you were watching I hope you enjoyed it, but I had more productive pursuits this evening.

Not too late for change

June 28, 2015 · Posted in All politics is local, Delmarva items, Inside the Beltway, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Not too late for change 

It was 2009, and Americans were still captivated by a shiny and new (or articulate, bright, and clean, if you prefer) President. Yet deep in the nether lands of liberalism there were people already thinking about how to maximize the political gains they could make. In November of that year I wrote about a scheme dubbed the “10-0 project” where Maryland Democrats would gerrymander their way to having all eight Congressional seats by pairing up the few Republican strongholds in the state with large Democratic enclaves, such as wrapping the First District into Baltimore City. The person who developed that plan bragged how it split the McCain voters out so that no district had more than 40 percent McCain support.

While the redistricting plan developed after the 2010 census wasn’t quite that extreme, there were still some of the shenanigans of rerouting the Sixth District toward Washington, D.C. to pave the way for that district to turn Democrat (canceling out the GOP strongholds west of Frederick) and dissecting other heavily GOP areas in Carroll and Anne Arundel counties into multiple districts. They also made the First District a nearly impenetrable Republican fortress, an R+13 district in a state which is nominally D+26.

But while we are past the halfway mark to the 2020 census, there are still those out there who believe the state’s Congressional lines were drawn for partisan advantage rather than true representation. Last week a number of plaintiffs – one from each Congressional district – utilizing the assistance of Judicial Watch filed a federal lawsuit alleging the current setup “harms all Maryland voters, regardless of their party preferences or how they would vote in a particular election, by giving State legislators the power to make choices regarding the State’s congressional delegation that only the voters should make.”

As relief, the suit seeks to have the current districts tossed out and a new district plan drawn which better conforms to the Polsby-Popper compactness test. As it stands currently, Maryland has the worst score of any state, but the plaintiffs allege (through a map they created) that significant improvements can be made. (Unfortunately their map is somewhat confusing because the district numbers assigned on it are quite different than the ones in use now. As an aside, if this map were adopted we would likely be placed in the equivalent of the Fifth Congressional District while both Andy Harris and GOP challenger Michael Smigiel would land in what’s basically our Second Congressional District shifted more to the north and east.) Regardless, the plan appears to keep more counties and areas together rather than the Rorschach test we have now.

While Judicial Watch has stepped in, though, it’s obvious that the battle will be an uphill one. As the suit notes, this is not the first time there has been an objection to the Congressional redistricting plan, and the current scheme was maintained through a misleading referendum in 2012. Thus, the chances for success aren’t very good.

But this should come with a parallel effort to change the system once and for all by putting it into the hands of an independent commission comprised of citizens from each district or even each county. As an example of this, Wicomico County had a commission to redraw County Council districts and its end product had few complaints regarding compactness or gerrymandering. (The most unusually-shaped district here is the one mandated to be majority-minority.) Let them come up with the maps away from the General Assembly and have our legislature give them a simple up-or-down vote. The same goes for state legislative districts, which also should become exclusively single-member districts – no more jungle elections where the top two or three get in.

In our case, unless it sees significant growth, the Eastern Shore will likely always have to share its Congressman with someone else. But that someone else should be close and accessible neighbors – surely the folks in Carroll County are nice people but they really don’t belong in our Congressional district. If we have to take some of Harford and Baltimore counties to make up the population that’s understandable.

Maybe in the next Census I’ll draw a real map that shows the way it should be done. But if Judicial Watch somehow gets its way I can always move that timetable a little closer.

Addressing the crowded stage

May 22, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Addressing the crowded stage 

A few months ago, sensing the GOP may have up to 15 candidates in the race, I wrote about how the Republican presidential primary debates should be structured. With the addition of several candidates over the last month – I have 15 now listed on my sidebar – that may become a reality.

So the question is how these debates will be structured. According to Matea Gold in the Washington Post, Fox News will only take the top 10 in an average of national polls for their debates, while CNN will do the same with a twist – giving the bottom-feeders their own forum as well.

And forum seems to be a more operative word because there are a number of issues these candidates will agree on. Of course, the moderators (with the possible, but doubtful, exception of Fox News) will likely concentrate on the issues they perceive will create the most “gotcha” moments for the Democrat’s campaign to exploit – look for questions on social issues, repealing the most popular aspects of Obamacare, and “tax cuts for the rich” to lead the way, along with trying to get the candidates to throw George W. Bush under the bus.

My thoughts on the contenders buying their way into a debate and splitting the field into three (or more) groups, randomly selected, is one thing. But commentator Dan Calabrese believes in the flip side: “Get rid of the debates. They’re stupid.”

These meat parades are about the silliest spectacles ever to rear their heads in politics, and let us count the reasons this is true:

1. They are not debates. A debate is an argument between two people who disagree about something, or about many things. These are attention-grabbing contests in which each person on stage is trying to convince you of the same thing – that he/she is the true conservative, the true heir to Reagan, the true believer in small government, the real tax-cutter, whatever. Or they’re looking for the opportunity to say that someone else on stage (or maybe everyone else in stage) is not those things. I’m not sure what you call that, but I know what it isn’t, and that’s a debate.

2. The media should have no role in this performance theater, and certainly not as the “moderators.” Having them there simply makes it a glorified joint press conference, but it’s a bizarre press conference in which the people holding the press conference have no idea what they’re there to talk about, because the media could ask them about anything from Syria to health care to boxers vs. briefs. (And they will.) When the media rides its hubris for all it’s worth, you remember the media more than you remember the candidates. Bernard Shaw. Candy Crowley. Unless they want to run, get them off the stage.

3. Momentary anomalies come to define candidates in ways that should never happen. Rick Perry was the worst victim of this I ever saw. A momentary mental block kept him from recalling one of the three cabinet-level departments he had proposed eliminating, and the brain freeze was instantly seized upon as the end of his campaign. Which it was. That was crap. Say what you want about whether Perry would make a good president, but anyone can lose their train of thought in a moment, and what usually happens is you say to someone, “Hey, I’m having a mental block, what was that thing?” And they tell you, and you say oh yeah, and that’s that. It has nothing to do with your ability to do the job of president, nor does your reaction to someone’s zinger or a brief look of surprise that someone decides to call a “deer in the headlights moment.” These isolated events are stupid and irrelevant, and yet they are used to define you by people who are stupid and should be irrelevant.

4. We never learn anything. In fact, we often come away from a debate more ignorant than we were when it started. If you want to know a candidate’s position on something, go to his web site. If you want to know the legitimate criticisms of him, research that independently. If you judge anyone – positively or negatively – based on what they can say for themselves in a span of 30 seconds, you should be disqualified from voting.

I’ve often said that a candidate can’t (and shouldn’t) be judged on a 30-second commercial, but the sad fact is that a majority of voters do just that. It definitely bothers me because I lay a lot of time and effort into the process of selecting my candidate based on how they address the issues I care about and document my search – unfortunately I reach but a tiny fraction of the voters even one 30-second spot on a cable news network would (with the possible exception of MSNBC, where my readership may match their viewership.) Even if a half-million people actually watch the GOP debates, all the negative statements and gaffes (like Perry’s) are immediately beamed to a much larger audience.

Yet if we don’t have these forums, there is the question of whether certain issues would be addressed. I realize this can lead to pandering to a particular audience, which is a complaint I’ve had with some local forums such as the NAACP ones, but at least it’s understood going in that the audience will be listening for the answers to their particular concerns. If I had a forum, I’m sure I would ask a certain roster of questions, too, and sometimes when I attend these events I indeed have my questions asked.

So there’s really no fair process in place. Eventually the problem will work itself out to the extent that a few candidates will be out before the leaves change color, but Calabrese has a point.

My contention and wish, though, is that people do their due diligence in determining who they would vote for. I don’t think this was done sufficiently in the last two Presidential elections, so look at what we got. Granted, neither John McCain nor Mitt Romney may have been the answer, either, but I think we hardly could have done worse. Go back to 2007 and I can tell you why.

Carson, Carly, and Huckabee – oh my…

May 4, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, Inside the Beltway, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Carson, Carly, and Huckabee – oh my… 

By this time tomorrow, the GOP presidential field will be three aspirants larger than it was over the weekend.

Dr. Ben Carson and former HP head Carly Fiorina formally made it official today, while 2008 candidate and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee is expected to throw his hat back in the ring tomorrow. So what does that mean for the field at large?

We’ve known Carson was going to run for several months, and though there’s some local sentiment which wishes he would instead pursue the Republican nomination for Maryland’s open U.S. Senate seat currently held by the retiring Barb Mikulski, a run for the Oval Office has been on Carson’s radar ever since he first attracted notice at the National Prayer Breakfast a couple years ago. Anyway, his run is already priced into the market, so to speak, so the Carson cadre will continue supporting their candidate as he holds the “outsider” position in the race.

In 2008 and 2012, those who believed a businessman should be the one to run the country needed to look no further than Mitt Romney. While he’s not running in 2016, there is another business executive who is (and at this point, his name is not Donald Trump.) Carly Fiorina also makes the case that the best way to combat Hillary Clinton is to nominate a female to run against her.

This is a legitimate argument, but the question is whether it’s compelling enough to give her any traction in the race. Fiorina’s lone political experience was losing a Senate race in California, and while losing a race in a tough state doesn’t disqualify her, it brings up whether she can win.

And then we have Mike Huckabee, who I actually voted for in 2008 as the last somewhat conservative alternative standing to John McCain. Yet there must be a sense out there that the world has passed him by, and the conventional wisdom is that he fights for the same social conservative voters that gravitate to Ted Cruz. Granted, the one thing he has that Cruz does not is executive experience but I suspect more than a few people think of Huckabee more as a huckster than a politician, given his seven years away from the active political stage.

As it stands, I think the second tier is filling out nicely. But like American Pharaoh needed seventeen other horses to run against to earn the roses at the Kentucky Derby, the front-runners Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Cruz, and Marco Rubio need a field to sharpen their campaigns. Then again, one in awhile the longshot wins and several Presidential nominees were thought to have no shot at victory in the early stages of their campaign. That description fits this guy named Obama in 2007, but let’s hope the 2016 version can undo all his damage and then some.

Ted Cruz: a palette of bold colors

March 26, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, Cathy Keim, Inside the Beltway, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Ted Cruz: a palette of bold colors 

By Cathy Keim

I finally had the time today to watch the entire Ted Cruz speech at Liberty University on March 23, 2015, where he announced that he is running for president. It seems certain that he has locked up the conservative right position. I don’t see that he left room for anybody to get past him, nor am I sure that there is anybody who would try. He is going to run a campaign that many conservatives have been calling for: A conservative running unapologetically as a conservative.

His campaign, if he continues on this course – and I see no reason he would budge since he has been saying the same thing since he arrived in Washington – will put to the test the notion that a true conservative can win the presidency. John McCain and Mitt Romney never even tried to run as all out conservatives.

Sarah Palin was the closest to an all out conservative in those two cycles and she was hampered by being the vice presidential candidate, so she had to march to John McCain’s orders. Many folks believe that he would have lost by an even greater margin if he had not had her on the ticket.

Since Mitt Romney chose a moderate GOP insider, Paul Ryan, as his vice president and got even fewer votes than John McCain, there may be reason to believe that theory.

We can expect that all the dirt that was thrown at Sarah Palin will be turned onto Ted Cruz. One twist is that the liberal media and politicians will not be able to use his alma mater since Ted Cruz has the credentials from Princeton and Harvard Law to stand up to any of the jabs. He also has the debating skills and the spine to resist the onslaught.

He will have the same fight that Palin has had that is even worse than being attacked by the opposing party – the GOP will viciously savage him. The mainstream GOP has already shown their disdain for Senator Cruz as they have not backed him in any of his efforts to fight for the Constitution, against Obamacare, and against executive overreach.

In an article for the Boston Herald, Jennifer C. Braceras points out that Ted Cruz is the mirror image of Obama, standing for exactly opposite positions, but with eerily similar backgrounds. She even addresses the birther problem:

Indeed, similarities extend even to bizarre “birther” claims that neither men are “natural born citizens” qualified to be president.

Cruz — whose father fled Castro’s Cuba — was born in Canada. Obama was born in Hawaii, although some on the right question whether he was actually born in Kenya (his father’s birthplace). The question of birthplace is, of course, irrelevant — both men were born to American mothers, thereby granting them U.S. citizenship at birth and making them “natural born citizens” for purposes of the Constitution.

While she does not see the birther issue as a problem, she does postulate that the electorate will not stand for another brilliant Harvard law grad after eight years of our current one.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Ted Cruz. I supported his 2012 run for Senate because I remember him from law school as a brilliant, intellectually curious, and hard-working conservative whose political views closely tracked my own.

So somebody who says they like his views and finds him brilliant concludes by saying that he doesn’t have a chance because of the Harvard arrogance tag. With friends like this, you don’t need enemies.

The mirror image comparison to President Obama is interesting, but fails to address a key difference. President Obama does not like America and Senator Ted Cruz does. What a sea change that simple distinction makes.

Furthermore, I have observed that people of principle who work hard in their field of endeavor because of their firmly held principles, are frequently savaged by their peers because they recognize that this individual is different than they are. The principled approach to life encourages accusations of arrogance because of the assurance with which principled people conduct their lives. Once their mind is made up on the course of action, they will pursue their goal even if it is not popular. This can seem like arrogance to people who cannot understand what they are seeing since they run their lives not on principle, but on public approbation.

Jeb Bush is gearing up for a run and he has already made clear that he will not be courting the conservative branch of the GOP. He is for amnesty, Common Core, and his energy policies are wrong. The biggest hurdle may be the burden of bearing the Bush name. Many citizens are not interested in a family dynasty ruling over them.

Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin, has been making a lot of news with the possibility of running. He has been an effective governor in a blue state and has taken on the unions and won. He is certainly a candidate to watch. As a counterpoint to Ted Cruz’s Ivy League background, Walker attended Marquette University, but never graduated. Some people will see that as a negative, but just as many may see it as a plus after observing what so many Ivy League alumni serving as politicians, media people, and government leaders have done to our country.

Ben Carson is contemplating a run, but after the gay mafia firestorm he caused by offering an opinion on whether one is born gay, many wrote him off.

There are many others considering a run. Time will tell how many actually jump in the ring.

It would behoove the conservatives to make their decision as quickly as possible, throw their weight behind one candidate, and once the decision is made to stand firm. The onslaught from both the Democrats and the GOP insiders will be brutal. Nothing is to be gained by attacking the conservative candidate for every perceived misstep. Instead, once the choice is made, the conservatives need to close ranks and fight hard for the battle will be vicious. Every conservative candidate will be questioned over and over about gay and transgender issues, abortion, evolution, climate change, and religious freedom. They need to have their principles inform their position and then stand. Do not walk anything back once they say it and the conservative base needs to have their back.

This can all be done with a smile. It may be war, but engage in the battle with a smile because we are in to win. Our determination is based on the premise that we believe in what we are fighting for: no less than the soul of America.

A Palin problem?

January 27, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on A Palin problem? 

As the 2016 Republican presidential field begins to expand rapidly, there is one name that evokes equal parts devotion and disgust: Sarah Palin. The question of whether or not she would run in 2012 sucked a lot of the oxygen out of the early days of that race, yet this time she’s not the slam-dunk favorite some thought she was in the wake of her 2008 candidacy – which I would argue revitalized a somnolent John McCain campaign – and the 2010 TEA Party wave election. Certainly others with longer gubernatorial records can boast more relevance.

On the other hand, there is a significant portion of the conservative electorate which loved her story and honest willingness to stand up for those principles in a humorous manner. I was there two years ago when at CPAC Palin mocked the effort to ban large-sized sodas by taking a few sips out of a Big Gulp during her speech. It’s an approach which is apparently off-putting to some in the Republican establishment – witness the acid tone of this recent National Review Online piece by Charles C. W. Cooke from which I excerpt:

For a long while now, Palin has not so much contributed arguments and ideas as she has thrown together a one-woman variety show for a band of traveling fans. One part free verse, one part Dada-laden ressentiment, and one part primal scream therapy, Palin’s appearances seem to be designed less to advance the ball for the Right and more to ensure that her name remains in the news, that her business opportunities are not entirely foreclosed, and that her hand remains strong enough to justify her role as kingmaker without portfolio. Ultimately, she isn’t really trying to change politics; she’s trying to be politics — the system and its complexities be damned. Want to find a figure to which Palin can be reasonably compared? It’s not Ronald Reagan. It’s Donald Trump.

That is an interesting comparison considering that Donald Trump is making news again about running for President – at least enough noise that Breitbart News took the time to speak with him about it.

Yet while it can be argued that Trump has plenty of both business acumen and self-promotional skills – qualities Palin also has, as evidenced by her frequent forays into series television and devoted fan following – Trump has never taken the helm of the ship of state. His one advantage, which would certainly be turned against his by class-warfare-exploiting liberals, is that he’s willing to self-finance his campaign. Donald is definitely part of the 1 percent, while Sarah Palin’s chief sin seems to be the aspiration to join him despite her modest upbringing.

I’ve noted before that eight years can sometimes be the period of political rehabilitation, with the pre-Watergate Richard Nixon being an example. Having lost the 1960 Presidential election as the sitting Vice-President, he then ran in 1962 to be governor of California and lost again. But Nixon stayed active in the political world and reclaimed the GOP nomination in 1968. Similarly, Sarah Palin set her political office aside in 2009 but has stayed active in that “kingmaker” role with some success, campaigning for Republicans around the country.

Yet Sarah will not be the only one with executive experience who can appeal to Republicans. Just a cursory glance at some in the possible field reveals that a number of recent or current governors may jump in: Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Rick Perry, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, and Scott Walker are among those mentioned, and all have more time in their governor’s office than Palin’s two-plus years.

Just as I would say to any of those I mentioned above, the more the merrier. The GOP field is perhaps the most wide open in memory, with a number of good candidates that a deep bench provides. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton is the heavy favorite – but she was at this stage in the 2008 campaign as well, even with a fairly large initial field as the Democrats were the party out of power the previous eight years. But there are likely many rank-and-file Democrats who would like a break from the Clinton circus and may not be keen on the prospects of a President Biden, so their side is a little dispirited and less than enthusiastic.

There’s a school of thought out there which believes the political opposition will tell you who they are most afraid of by the amount of ridicule and criticism heaped their way. In that respect Sarah Palin is a leader because she gets flak from both the Left and the establishment Republicans, and it’s one aspect where the Reagan comparison is quite apt.

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