The case against Trump (part 2)

Since I finished part 1 last week, we’ve had a lot of developments in the race: Trump picked outgoing Indiana Governor Mike Pence to be his running mate (or did he actually make the selection?) and came up with an awful logo (that lasted one day) to celebrate. Meanwhile, the RNC apparently succeeded in binding their delegates to this dog of a ticket. (My question: how did our Maryland Rules Committee members vote? I believe Nicolee Ambrose, who has fought in that committee before, voted the proper way and against the RNC/Trump minions. Yes, they are shamefully now one and the same.)

Update: Indeed, both Maryland members voted properly, and Nicolee Ambrose is urging members to reject the Majority Rules Report.

So the question may be moot, but I’m going to press on for the record so I can point back at this and say “I told you so.” Not that it will do a whole lot of good, of course, but maybe people will listen to reason in the future. It’s worth a try.

Just as a refresher, the five issues I have left over are taxation, immigration, foreign policy, entitlements, and role of government.

Trump came up with a decent taxation plan during the campaign – maybe not all that I would want, but an improvement. But he later admitted that all of it was up for negotiation, so let me clarify: the rates will not go down for many taxpayers, but the increases that made the package “revenue neutral” in his words will remain. Those on the low end of the scale may get the “I win!” form but the rest of us in the middle will lose, again.

I’m tempted to save immigration for last because that was the first important issue for Trump and the one that propelled him from celebrity sideshow to true contender. Americans, indeed, want something done about the influx of foreigners and a large part of that is building a wall at the border. But it’s not my most important issue and I still run this blog, so it goes in order.

The first crack in the Trump immigration façade for me was the idea of building a “big, beautiful door” in the wall to promote legal immigration. Then I found out Donald was an advocate of what’s called “touchback” immigration, which is a fancy way of saying he’ll give amnesty. And I can see it already: in a “grand deal” to get the wall built, Trump will eliminate the “touchback” part – because it’s oh so hard for these immigrants to be uprooted and return to their homeland – for the promise that a wall will get built. News flash: we were promised this in 2006, but the Democrats (along with a few squishy Republicans) reneged on the deal. We see how Congress acts, and regardless of what Trump may say this is not a promise he would keep. Bank on it.

I know Trump did a sort of catch-all address on foreign policy some months back, but his criticism of the Iraq war (and accusations about soldiers therein) gives me pause. That’s not to say we are always right, but there is a little bit of hindsight he’s taking advantage of here. If Iraq were a thriving nation and American bulwark in the Middle East such as Israel is, I seriously doubt Trump would say word one about it being a bad idea. That’s the sort of person I take him to be.

It’s very possible to lump both entitlements and the role of government into one statement, reportedly made by Trump in New Hampshire back in 2015 and relayed by Andrew Kirell at Mediaite:

The Affordable Care Act, “which is a disaster,” he said, “has to be repealed and replaced.” That line drew applause.

“Whether it is we are going to cut Social Security, because that’s what they are saying,” he continued. “Every Republican wants to do a big number on Social Security, they want to do it on Medicare, they want to do it on Medicaid. And we can’t do that. And it’s not fair to the people that have been paying in for years and now all of the sudden they want to be cut.”

So will it be fair when the train goes off the tracks and millions of younger Americans are left with nothing? Trump is 70 years old, so (as if he really needed it) if Social Security runs out in 2030 he’ll likely be dead anyway. But I will be 66 years old and hoping to retire at some point, although thanks to the Ponzi scheme of Social Security all that money my employers and I grudgingly gave to the government over forty-plus years will long since be pissed away. And the more I deal with the “Affordable” Care Act, the less affordable I find it. The repeal is fine, but the replace should be with the old system we liked, not some new government intrusion.

In sum, it became apparent to me early on that despite his appeal as an outsider, Donald Trump is far from an advocate of limiting government. If he should win in November, conservative Republicans will likely be in the same precarious position they were often placed in by George W. Bush: it’s difficult to go against a president in your own party even if he goes against party principles.

The Republican Party I signed onto back in 1982 when I first registered to vote in Fulton Township, Ohio was ably represented by Ronald Reagan at the time: strong defense, lower taxes for all Americans, and a moral clarity of purpose that included the concept of American exceptionalism. Yet Reagan also intended to limit government; unfortunately he wasn’t as successful in that aspect because he always worked with a Democrat-controlled House (and usually Senate.) I often wish that Reagan could have worked with the early Gingrich-led House and a conservative Senate – we may have beat back a half-century of New Deal and Great Society policies to provide a great deal for all Americans who wished to pursue the opportunities provided to them.

I don’t know how we got Donald Trump as our nominee, although I suspect the early open primaries (and $2 billion in free media) may have helped. Democrats may have put together their own successful “Operation Chaos” to give Republicans the weakest possible contender. (And if you think that’s a recent concept, I have a confession to make: in my first Presidential primary in 1984 I requested a Democrat ballot so I could vote for Jesse Jackson, who I perceived as the Democrat least likely to beat Ronald Reagan in the general election. Not that I needed to worry.) It’s worth noting that the defeat of “Free the Delegates” also resulted in the defeat of some measures designed to reduce the impact of open primaries.

Alas, the GOP may be stuck with Trump as the nominee. So my message for the national Republican Party from here on out is simple: you broke it, you bought it. The mess is on you and I’m washing my hands of it.

Programming note: Over the next four days – in addition to her regular Tuesday column – I will run a special four-part series sent to me by Marita Noon, but originally written by John Manfreda, who normally writes on the energy sector like Marita does. She “spent most of the day (last Thursday) updating it, reworking it, and cleaning it up,” so I decided to run it as the four parts intended during the Republican convention.

I intend it as a cautionary tale, so conservatives aren’t fooled by a smooth-talking charlatan ever again. Don’t worry, I have a couple things I’m working on too so I may pop in this week from time to time if I feel so inclined. But I trust Marita and this seems quite relevant and enjoyable, so look for it over the next four afternoons…probably set them to run at noontime (how appropriate, right?)

Not standing alone

June 22, 2016 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics, Polling, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Not standing alone 

When all the ballots were counted, Donald Trump amassed about 44% of the total Republican vote in the 2016 primaries. Granted, that total surely includes some Democratic crossover votes in open primary states – so we can’t discount a successful Operation Chaos in reverse by the Democrats – but considering there were 6 to 10 contenders in play at the time many states voted that’s a fair amount of support.

But the guy who wrote about the art of the deal seems to be having a tough time closing the sale with the GOP. In a CNN/ORC International poll released today, there are 48% of Republicans who would like a do-over in this election cycle.  (Page 18 of the poll.) Granted, Democrats are not completely thrilled with Hillary Clinton because only 55% back her with 43% still wishing for Bernie Sanders. (There is no alternative to Trump given for the GOP.) If it’s not obvious by now, I’m one of those 48% who think we can do a lot better.

Obviously the path to that is one of allowing convention delegates to vote their conscience at the RNC convention next month. There are a number of renegades who will do just that, but the question is whether they would be enough to make a difference and whether they could even open up the balloting. The only alternative candidate who could be nominated as the rules stand now is Ted Cruz, who would need to restart his campaign that was mothballed in May after the Indiana primary. (But Cruz would have more cash on hand than Trump has now, and his mainly inactive campaign pulled in almost as much in May as Trump’s did.)

Yet the 48% of Republicans who don’t care much for Trump must be the ones not donating money to him, putting the GOP in a financial position it didn’t think was possible given the political climate and eight years of a stalled economy and spotty foreign policy. The trend over the last sixty years has been eight years of one party controlling of the White House before yielding to the other side, with the only deviation being the first term of Ronald Reagan giving the GOP an “extra” four years from 1981-85. (The second term of Reagan plus George H.W. Bush were the “natural” years in this cyclical pattern, which resumed with Bill Clinton.) So the Republicans would be in the position of thinking it was their turn on the merry-go-round.

A candidate that has been the “presumptive” nominee for several weeks running but only has the support of a small percentage that didn’t vote for him is perhaps a fatally flawed candidate. I’m sure many will blame the #NeverTrump movement for poisoning the well for The Donald as he tries to consolidate support, but it’s not up to us to earn the votes – that’s on the guy running. The other candidates on my ballot at least have some conservative credentials I can rely on as I give my support, but Trump is wrong on so many issues (or is right for about a day before backing off) that I think he will extinguish all the progress we’ve made since Ronald Reagan took office. Things eroded a lot during the Bush and Bush years but we would go the other way toward a more “yuge” and oppressive government regardless of who wins if we stay as Trump vs. Clinton. Whether it’s “our” authoritarian or not, the Executive Branch will gain power because we already know Congress isn’t doing much to stop the Obama agenda and it would be hamstrung by Trump’s excesses by his being a Republican. I didn’t sign up to be part of a dictatorship.

So I’m not standing alone in demanding a better alternative, and the movement grows daily.

The end of the GOP campaign

Imagine, if you will, a gathering of one lady and 15 distinguished gentlemen. Nine of them had served as the governor of their state, most for multiple terms. Another five have served the nation in its highest legislative body, while one was a world-renowned neurosurgeon and the lady worked her up to CEO of a large hi-tech corporation.

Now, if you’ve ever watched the movie Caddyshack, imagine the character Al Czervik (Rodney Dangerfield’s character) – loud, bawdy, and obnoxious. Our version of Al, bullying his way into this genteel affair, was Donald Trump. Yet he emerged victorious, in part due to that brash personality but also thanks to a heaping helping of populist rhetoric that sounded so good 40 percent of the Republicans voted for him. (That’s assuming, of course, our side hasn’t been hoodwinked by a massive version of Operation Chaos – and given the number of people who switched their registration from Democrat to Republican or voted in open primaries, I wouldn’t put it past them.) I say “sounded good” because, by and large, his rhetoric had the depth of a cookie sheet.

One upshot of this in Maryland is that the state Republican Party was poised to exceed one million members for (I believe) the first time ever. (As of the end of March, the MDGOP had 997,211 voters, which was an increase of about 16,000 from February – so the trend may have put them over the top.) But that success will be short-lived with Trump, who has disgusted so many erstwhile Republicans that a decrease of 50,000 Maryland Republicans in the next couple months isn’t out of the question.

So now I am hearing the old complaint that not voting for Trump will be a vote for Hillary. No, for conservatives, not voting for Trump will be a repudiation of the direction the Republican Party has taken since Barack Obama took office, and arguably since Ronald Reagan left.

You see, if Congress had shown any stones whatsoever, rank-and-file Republicans would not have felt the need to shake things up by electing an outsider as President. Perhaps Ted Cruz would not have felt the need to run for President in the first place, and the Republican nomination may well be coming down to a contest between two or three of those governors, or perhaps another Senator or the CEO with business experience.

Instead we get Trump, who basically ignores one leg of the conservative stool by praising Planned Parenthood and giving short shrift to religious liberty. Limited government doesn’t seem to be his bag either, since he’s pledged to let Social Security and Medicare go without reforming them and pandered to Iowa farmers by promising to keep ethanol subsidies going. Where most GOP candidates run right in the primary and tack to the center for the general election, Trump is already in the middle so he will likely soften some of his more conservative positions as part of the flexibility in getting the deal done. It’s getting to the point where Trump and Clinton are not all that distinguishable from each other.

And about getting those deals done. Conservatives have wanted a border fence for more than a decade; in fact, the authorizing legislation was passed under President Bush. So why do I think that The Donald will get his fence once he promises to Democrats he will create a bigger, more beautiful door for it? Since he’s the de facto head of the Republican Party now, when is he going to negotiate with Congressional Republicans and work in a more conservative direction? Perhaps the twelfth of never? We will get the “touchback” amnesty, but then the Democrats will just say “forget the touchback part.”

Finally, to borrow a phrase from another movie, I find Donald Trump to be like a box of chocolates, because you never know which one you’ll get. He’s not exactly the poster child for consistency so a Trump administration would be a constant guessing game.

I suppose my advice to voters in those remaining primary states is to show up and vote your conscience if you’re not a Donald Trump supporter. Don’t change parties yet, and get out and vote for Ted Cruz, John Kasich, or anyone else but Trump. Keeping him under 50% of the overall national vote would be a good way to send a message that we’re not sold on Trump as the nominee.

You have to give Donald Trump credit for one thing: he was smart enough to run in a dysfunctional political year. In that case, he has been the perfect candidate – too bad voters like me were looking for order after the disarray of the last eight years. And I will say: had I written this last night, the word “campaign” would not have been in the title. But the Grand Old Party may want to prepare for some stormy days ahead.

Odds and ends number 82

It’s time once again to go through my e-mailbox and share some of the more interesting things I saved for just such a purpose.

There wasn’t much play from this in the national media, but recently the Americans for Limited Government group released a poll they commissioned from pollster Pat Caddell that showed wide opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement:

Republicans are even more likely to oppose bad trade deals than Independents or Democrats. Once they find out what’s in it, Republican voters overwhelmingly oppose TPP, 66 percent to 15 percent. Democrats only oppose it 44 percent to 30 percent, and Independents oppose it 52 percent to 19 percent.

TPP does sound like a bad deal, but the key words are “once they find out what’s in it.” To me, it’s a little bit of a push poll but in reading some of the other findings we can deduce that Americans are a little pissed off about the state of their affairs, blaming the politics of Washington for their plight. I’ll come back to that in a bit, but as for the TPP and its opposition the ALG group has put together a website with their thoughts on the deal.

While as I noted the national media didn’t make much of it, the question did make it into the Miami GOP debate.

I noted that the voters Caddell surveyed were upset with inside the Beltway politics, and in a recent column at Conservative Review Dan Bongino discusses why.

Whenever government tries to pick economic winners and losers, it usually picks the losers, while the political winners continue to get re-elected because their campaign coffers are filled with business lobbyists eager to get their snouts in the taxpayer-funded trough.

In so many ways this explains the rise of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump to the left of center and Ted Cruz (who Bongino has endorsed) to the right. For years I’ve known that the object of government is not to solve a problem but to perpetuate the solution to make the agency tasked to deal with it indispensable, yet those whose livelihood depends on big government continue to stay close to the seat of power. In Maryland it’s no surprise that the wealthiest areas are those right outside Washington, D.C. I’ve contended for about as many years that if not for the nation’s capital Maryland would be in the same boat as West Virginia.

Speaking of Trump, I suppose I’ll add my couple pennies to the nearly $2 billion of free media he’s received. But staying on the subject of Bongino, he discusses the protests Trump is enduring, most famously in Chicago but after Dan went to press with his column Trump had more strife in Arizona yesterday.

What these far-left mobs are seeking is known as the “heckler’s veto.” The heckler’s veto occurs when an organized group of far-left protestors actively cause unrest and violence at an event, and then use the threat of violence at the event to call for future events to be shut down and the speaker to be silenced. This scam has been going on for a long time. I’ve seen it again and again. As a supporter of Senator Cruz for the presidency, I’m asking all conservatives, libertarians, Republicans, and fed-up Democrats to do the right thing and stand against these tyrannical tactics, regardless of who you are supporting for the presidency.

Trump isn’t the only one who has endured the heckler’s veto. Just ask speakers like Ben Shapiro – who, by the way, is slated to be at Salisbury University Monday, March 28.

But Trump supporters and Ben Shapiro may not be on speaking terms considering Shapiro’s recent resignation from the Breitbart website. In fact, the #NeverTrump forces seem to be coalescing behind Erick Erickson and his Resurgent website. There we find the “Conservatives Against Trump” statement, which reads in part:

We are a group of grassroots conservative activists from all over the country and from various backgrounds, including supporters of many of the other campaigns. We are committed to ensuring a real conservative candidate is elected. We believe that neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump, a Hillary Clinton donor, is that person.

We believe that the issue of Donald Trump is greater than an issue of party. It is an issue of morals and character that all Americans, not just those of us in the conservative movement, must confront.

We call for a unity ticket that unites the Republican Party.  If that unity ticket is unable to get 1,237 delegates prior to the convention, we recognize that it took Abraham Lincoln three ballots at the Republican convention in 1860 to become the party’s nominee and if it is good enough for Lincoln, that process should be good enough for all the candidates without threats of riots.

We encourage all former Republican candidates not currently supporting Trump to unite against him and encourage all candidates to hold their delegates on the first ballot.

Lastly, we intend to keep our options open as to other avenues to oppose Donald Trump.  Our multiple decades of work in the conservative movement for free markets, limited government, national defense, religious liberty, life, and marriage are about ideas, not necessarily parties.

Right now the Republicans have a leader who hasn’t cracked the 50% barrier in any state (and only has done so among the few dozen voters in the territory of the Northern Mariana Islands.) In fact, Trump has received about 35% of the Republican primary and caucus vote, with some of his broadest support coming in open primary states. Is it not conceivable that there’s a reverse Operation Chaos going on from Democrats to elect the weakest possible GOP nominee, one that regularly gets thumped in head-to-head polling against Hillary Clinton and has negatives over 60%?

It’s obvious Erickson and his group realizes people are fed up, but they realize the answer is not Trumped-up populism but the bold colors of conservatism. Of the remaining candidates, Ted Cruz is the best example.

There’s also the question of whether people are ticked off enough to remove their Congressman. I haven’t heard about any major primary upsets so far this campaign (most states have only done Presidential preference) but Maryland First District voters will have their chance to hear from the most serious challenger to Congressman Andy Harris several times over the primary campaign’s last month. Former Delegate Mike Smigiel is in the midst of a series of townhall meetings around the district: he had his Salisbury meeting while I was on my honeymoon and was in Easton yesterday, but there are several remaining dates. Next Saturday Smigiel will be in Carroll County for a 1:30 meeting at the Taneytown Library, but more important to local readers are upcoming gatherings in Cambridge at the Dorchester Library on Friday, April 1 and two meetings on Saturday, April 9: 11 a.m. at the Somerset County Library in Princess Anne and 2 p.m. at the Kent County branch library in Chestertown. (That may involve some fast driving.)

Finally, the rancor even extends to the local level. Smigiel and Harris have had bad blood over the years in Cecil County (which Smigiel represented in the House of Delegates) but that county – which is almost the same size as Wicomico County, so it’s not a greatly populous county compared to others in Maryland – seems to have an outsized share of political infighting. The most recent instance came to my attention a few days ago when their Campaign for Liberty chapter attacked local County Council candidate Jackie Gregory in an e-mail I received. Her cardinal sin? Supporting what the C4L considers “establishment politicians.” On their Facebook page C4L sneers, “Gregory’s desire to become part of the Cecil County political establishment apparently outweighs the tea party principles she claims to adhere to.” (Gregory is a founding member of the Cecil County Patriots TEA Party group.)

Well, let me tell you about this “establishment” candidate: she is a supporter of mine and has been for some time. The time C4L should have acted was finding a candidate to oppose Gregory in the primary – at least one who has more than the 2.9% support he received when running for County Executive there in 2012. (Note that Paul Trapani may not be the Campaign for Liberty’s choice, either – but they are the only two on the ballot. Unless an independent bid crops up over the summer, the winner of the GOP primary will become the County Council member after the November election since no Democrat ran.) So I have made a modest donation to Jackie’s campaign and encourage more people do so.

Perhaps what is annoying to the C4L crew is Jackie’s stance on the County Executive race:

I am supportive of all of the candidates having a good, positive race which highlights the issues important to the county and their vision regarding how to deal with those issues. Each of them has a history, a record, and a voice. It is up to each of them to convince the voters that he is the best person to lead Cecil County for the next four years. I am confident that the voters will choose wisely.

Seems fair to me, since there are four running on the GOP side.

Here’s the thing about groups like the Campaign for Liberty: they’re great at bringing up issue advocacy but not so good at getting people elected. Sure, they will say that the establishment stacks the deck against them but at least Gregory has made the step of putting her beliefs into action by stepping forward to run for office rather than use her candidacy to create a hit piece to beg for money.

So ends this cauldron of trouble I have now stirred up. The other day I was called an “ass” by a Trump supporter, but as I told him I have been called far worse by much better people. Then again, I still sleep well at night so I must be doing something right. On that note, have a great week.

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