The era of Trump is set to begin

For all the hype and hope that somehow the Trump Train would be derailed over the last year-plus, that engine has reached its destination with the Electoral College formally making Donald Trump the President-elect. Indeed, the guy who many of us thought would have his poll lead evaporate once the field was narrowed down and figured in no way could defeat Hillary Clinton served us a heaping helping of crow. (And it wasn’t the best-tasting stuff, either.)

Perhaps what was most hilarious about the Electoral College vote was that Hillary Clinton had more defections than Donald Trump did. From the state of Washington, four of the twelve electoral votes she was supposed to receive went to others: former Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell received three while Sioux tribal activist Faith Spotted Eagle received one from a fellow Native American. (I would imagine she may be the first Native American to receive a Presidential electoral vote.) Also, one of Hawaii’s four electoral votes that were supposed to go to Clinton went to Sen. Bernie Sanders. There were other Democrats who attempted to vote for others in protest but they either changed to Clinton or were replaced by another substitute elector.

Coming off the Trump ledger were two Texas votes: one for Ohio governor John Kasich and the other for former Congressman and three-time Presidential candidate Ron Paul, who finally got an electoral vote in a year he did not run (although his son Rand did.) So if you count the nominal Republican Powell as a member of the GOP, the Republicans got 309 of the 538 votes. (The GOP also picked up an extra vote for the vice-presidency, where Maine Sen. Susan Collins received one of Washington state’s four faithless votes along with fellow Senators Maria Cantwell and Elizabeth Warren. Native American activist and two-time Ralph Nader Green Party running mate Winona LaDuke received the other. No Republican defected from Vice-President-elect Mike Pence.)

So we have much of Donald Trump’s cabinet in place (pending confirmation, of course) and the transition is well underway. But it’s still less than clear to me just what we can expect from a Trump presidency. I will say that, after an initial steep drop, the Dow Jones and NASDAQ have looked favorably upon it and anecdotally I’m hearing the real estate industry is expecting a banner year (although interest rates have finally edged up after a long period of stability.) If perception is reality, perhaps we can get to the 4% GDP growth Trump promised – and the post-election euphoria may help Barack Obama enough to avoid going 0-for-8 on 3% or better growth, as the election happened early enough in the fourth quarter to possibly have a significant impact.

On the other hand, holiday sales results are mixed, as shoppers still have discounts in mind. The turning away from brick-and-mortar stores may lead to some significant closings in 2017, which will be blamed on Donald Trump rather than the continuing trend of shoppers to go online to buy their gifts.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump will certainly be tested on a leadership level, with today’s murder of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey leading some conspiracists to believe it’s the first shot of World War 3. That incident managed to temper the newsworthiness of another truck-based terror attack, this time in Berlin. And don’t forget the president-elect has already spoken out about the drone incident with China over the weekend.

In many respects, the speculation on what Trump’s effect will be has already written the bulk of an annual piece I’ve done, looking ahead at the next year. It’s not quite as short or sweet as last year’s but I suspect the era of Trump sets the tone for 2017 to such an extent that I’m just going to skip that look forward for the year and assume this will suffice.

Assuming no act of God to the contrary, all this will begin in earnest at noon on January 20 when Donald Trump becomes our 45th (and perhaps most accidental and unlikely) President.

The conservative’s conundrum (revised and extended)

In the wake of my original remarks I had quite a bit of reaction on social media, and the balance of support vs. “throw the bum out if he doesn’t resign” seems to be about 50/50. The latter category, however, seems to be almost exclusively Trump supporters who didn’t seem to hear the part at the state convention (or read my reporting) about being tolerant to those who don’t support The Donald.

I do have one issue with a completely different segment of the Trump opposition that is physically attacking Trump supporters such as those in California. Since many of these young punks have no concept of history, let me throw something out at you that was actually before my time, too.

Back in 1968, the Democratic Party had its convention in Chicago. As it turned out, then-President Johnson declared himself out of the running after a disappointing showing in the New Hampshire primary, opening up the field to a group of candidates that was cut down by one with the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy that June after the California primary. Coupled with an escalating Vietnam war and race riots in response to the murder of the Rev. Martin Luther King two months beforehand, all creating a population already on pins and needles, the violent Democratic convention shocked a population as it was punctuated by scenes of daily protests and violence captured nightly on the evening news. (Remember, there was no internet back then so the sources of national news information were the nightly TV news and daily newspaper. National conventions also received wall-to-wall coverage on the networks in that era.) Across America’s heartland, it was easy for the law-and-order campaign of Republican Richard Nixon to be successful as voters were sickened by the strife associated with the 1968 Democrats.

So when you are out protesting Donald Trump by waving Mexican flags and shouting anti-American slogans, it’s a surefire way to rally support to his side. Quite honestly, I’m surprised some conspiracy theorist hasn’t put out the idea that the Trump protestors are an inside job by his own side to galvanize support. This is an election that has a lot of the hallmarks of the 1968 campaign, and Donald Trump isn’t a half-bad impersonation of Richard Nixon.

But back to my story regarding Trump supporters, who remind me that “You do not and are not willing to represent the nominee that the voters who you represent prefer.” This particular one pointed out that there were 7.200 county voters who supported Trump. (7,214, but who’s counting?)

So let’s make the leap in assuming they are against the status quo in Washington, which seems to be Trump’s selling point. Well, I also represent the 8,775 Wicomico County voters who were happy to support Andy Harris and I have no problem working for his re-election because I find him conservative enough. I’m not quite so down with the 2,839 Kathy Szeliga supporters but she will still get my vote. Both of them have been loyal and conservative Republicans for years, unlike Trump. Commitment to limited government (not to mention tact, trustworthiness, and a command of the English language) is something I find sorely lacking from Trump.

And then we have this diatribe from that same person:

Your role as a Central Committee member is to advance the party, and that means whomever the nominee is after the primary, you work to beat the Democrat! If you cannot do that in good conscious (sic) you should resign.

Well, this is interesting because I did a quick bit of investigation and found out this person was a diehard Ron Paul supporter in 2012 and basically has had the desire to stick it to the Republican Party since then. In fact, it’s intriguing to me that a number of folks I know as Paul supporters and who are supposedly pro-liberty are supporting perhaps the most anti-liberty Republican in the race simply because they perceive him as anti-establishment. Seems to me that in this person’s opinion the GOP wasn’t worth advancing:

I’ve been saying this for a long time…This man is not, and never has been a Republican…he is an Obama operative….a couple stupid neocons jumped all over me for calling that shot but now, who’s eating crow?…..You stupid neocons are soooooo scared about Ron Paul running as a third party….you defended this schmuck and now it looks as though he’s the spoiler!!

Everyone is entitled to change their mind and I respect that. But perhaps you might want to pardon me for thinking – like you did once upon a time – that Donald Trump is the spoiler.

Honestly, if I really didn’t think the Republican Party as a conservative vehicle was about to throw two decades’ worth of my sweat and toil away by nominating a particular candidate, would I speak out? Would I really give a rat’s rear end?

Oh, and by the way – our county does have a provision where we can withhold support from a nominee as a group. So at this point it’s still possible we won’t back Trump thanks to what’s known as the David Duke rule. And while Duke hasn’t officially endorsed Trump, he did state that voting for anyone but Trump is “voting against your heritage.”

Consider that as you continue to react.

Local TEA Party welcomes ‘Betrayed’ author

It’s been quite awhile since we’ve had a local TEA Party event in Wicomico County, but the hiatus appears to be ending – not with a typical rally, but with an author who’s advocating a more robust military. From Greg Belcher, who is organizing the event:

Billy and Karen Vaughn are the parents of fallen Navy SEAL Team VI member, Aaron Carson Vaughn. The downing of a chopper (call sign Extortion 17) carrying thirty fearless American warriors was the day Aaron’s life ended and the day their lives began again.

As Billy and Karen began searching for answers their eyes were opened to vile atrocities being played out on America’s military. They’ve now become advocates for our war fighters, exposing the criminal Rules of Engagement, which have unnecessarily cost so many American soldiers their lives. Billy has authored the book “Betrayed” detailing the days, weeks and months after his son’s death, as he began compiling this devastating information.

The Vaughns spend a considerable amount of time on Capitol Hill, and have shared their story on countless local, state and national radio outlets. They’ve made many appearances on Fox & Friends, as well as Beck TV, The Huckabee Show, Hannity’s America, The Today Show, The Andrew Wilkow Show, The Willis Report, The Kelly File, Geraldo at Large, and more.

Their mission statement: Our defenders deserve to be defended. The burden of their covering rests on us, the patriots of this nation. It is imperative that we stand together and demand change. “Let them fight or bring them home.”

Billy Vaughn will be making the appearance at Adam’s Taphouse Grill (most people still know it as Adam’s Ribs) on Fruitland Boulevard in Fruitland on April 1 at 6 p.m.

Obviously Vaughn will be discussing the book, but there are other insights which can and should be gleaned from this appearance.

First of all, we can determine if  there is still interest in the Afghanistan conflict, which for our part is being wound down as we speak. Once it was the “good war” all those who were opposed to our excursion into Iraq thought we should be pursuing, but it’s apparent that was just a smokescreen. Once Barack Obama spiked the football of Osama bin Laden’s demise (at the hand of many of those killed on Extortion 17) the question was: how useful were those guys? The conspiracy theorist could posit that having a lot of heroes who could point out just how uninvolved Barack Obama really was cast their die for them.

This may also show where the libertarian, Ron Paul wing of the TEA Party movement – the one which believes we shouldn’t be involved in the affairs of far-off countries with little to no national interest at stake – might not play well with the element that believes the battle against radical Islam is truly the Long War I’ve occasionally written about, a battle without clear borders or defined enemies.

But as the rebirth of the local TEA Party, this could be a good kickoff. Most indeed believe America should have a strong defense which fights to win, not to not offend local populations. As the Vaughns ask:

Don’t you want to know what went so terribly wrong in our military strategy that the single largest loss of life in Naval Special Warfare HISTORY came at the hands of a 14 year-old Afghan farmer? AND…the SECOND largest loss of life in Naval Special Warfare HISTORY ALSO came at the hands of a young Afghan goat herder. The dialogue MUST begin.

One of the upcoming points for that dialogue will be next Tuesday in Fruitland. And for my friends up Cecil County way, Billy Vaughn will be the guest at the Cecil County Patriots meeting on Thursday, April 3rd. That meeting will be held at the Cecil County Administration Building in Elkton starting at 7 p.m.

The push for polls

On several occasions I’ve bemoaned the fact there are no polls in the Republican race, aside perhaps from internal polls not released to the public. It has given somewhat outsized importance to website-based polls such as the Red Maryland poll or the Red White Blue poll, neither of which are scientific. The same goes for a poll sponsored by the Gazette newspaper, which as I write this has Larry Hogan with a slight lead over Charles Lollar, with David Craig and Ron George trailing significantly; on the other hand, George has won the last two Red Maryland polls. The proof that the internet-based polling may be overblown is the amount of cajoling the candidates (or supporters) have done to solicit support, particularly in the Gazette poll since it’s a “reputable” news site.

  • David Craig on Facebook Monday: “Please take a moment to show your support by casting your vote for me in this online poll.”
  • Ron George on Facebook Monday: “Please take a moment to vote in today’s Capital Gazette online poll, ‘If the Republican primary were today, who would you vote for as the nominee for governor?’”
  • Larry Hogan on Facebook Monday (via Change Maryland): “First online poll since our Harvest Party with Change Maryland‘s founder and Chairman Larry Hogan in it. Please click on this link to cast your votes.”
  • Charles Lollar on Facebook Tuesday: “Good Morning Lollar Supporters! We are only a few points away from taking 1st place in this poll. Please vote for Chares Lollar, the only candidate that can win in the General Election. Vote from your computer, your work computer, your phone. Together WE can do this!”

That’s just one of several appeals, mainly from the Lollar and Hogan camps. But Larry is going one better, based on a newsletter I received yesterday:

Earn points by helping us Change Maryland by sharing our posts, by getting your friends involved, and by engaging in the conversation. Use your Change Maryland points towards getting Change Maryland stickers, T-shirts, hats and awesome polos!

I was thinking I already have the sticker, and as much as I’ve pimped the group over two years I could qualify for being clad head to toe. The group continues to add followers and may have 70,000 before the week is out. But the political world isn’t based on Facebook likes or easily-manipulated internet polls; the question is how real voters will really react when the ballots are cast in June.

As I have often pointed out, a poll such as the Red Maryland poll or Gazette poll simply is a basis of knowing how many people are in the devoted 1% of followers – consider that if you believed a number of internet polls, we would be talking about President Ron Paul right now. But in real life he rarely cracked double digits in any primary.

Regardless, this all means the gubernatorial race isn’t taking much of a holiday break.

Update: Steve Crim of Change Maryland alerted me to the fact this Change Maryland point promotion has been underway since June – I already have 116 points!

The R3volution will NOT be televised

August 11, 2013 · Posted in Business and industry, Mainstream media, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

On Monday another former Presidential candidate tries to become a media maven.

In and of itself, that’s not unusual as several of the alsorans have taken to the new media in various ways: Newt Gingrich has Gingrich Productions, which works in the realms of film and literature. Rick Santorum founded Patriot Voices as an advocacy group, but one which offers a movie called “Our Sacred Honor.” Perhaps the closest to doing multimedia is Herman Cain, but the ambitious “new online network of programming designed to give you the other side of popular culture, politics, entertainment” of CainTV has seemed to devolve into a mix of regular short videos and written commentary to go along with Herman’s nationally-syndicated radio show.

Yet the idea is still appealing, and on Monday Ron Paul will debut what he calls the Ron Paul Channel. There he promises:

When the Ron Paul Channel launches, we’ll take mainstream media by storm. No advertisers, no corporate agenda — just the truth delivered exclusively to subscribers like you.

From the looks of it, there will be at least some daily programming on the Ron Paul Channel beginning tomorrow – perhaps not a 24/7 setup like a cable news network, but having an exclusively online presence also saves in the overhead of actually securing a channel on cable or satellite, as Glenn Beck has done. Similarly, another alternative news network targeting the conservative audience is the TEA Party News Network, which is comprised of videos of their personalities on other news sources.

Trying a more conventional route, however, is One America News, which went on the air in July and runs constant programming to around 10 million cable-equipped homes. Their alliance with the Washington Times lends them some gravitas but may lead to a perception that they’re a knockoff of Fox News.

But Ron Paul has a rabidly loyal following that these other outlets don’t, with the possible exception of Beck. So what kind of audience can such a channel expect?

Let’s look at some numbers.

In 2012, according to Wikipedia, Ron Paul received 2,095,795 votes. However, there are perhaps 10 percent of these voters who would be the most militant followers and that’s the base one can expect to at least look at the RPC. So we’re down to 210,000 homes and maybe 10 percent of that crowd would be using the RPC as their primary news source daily. I think 21,000 viewers daily is a fairly decent estimate of their potential audience to start if all goes well and the programming is of sufficient quality. It may seem like a lot but it pales in comparison to what the cable networks reach, even on a summer weekend.

(As a point of comparison, the social media presence of the RPC has fewer than 13,000 followers right now between Facebook and Twitter. So I may not be far off base.)

It’s worth mentioning, though, that the RPC won’t be looking for sponsors, but subscribers. To me, that implies a monetary component which could be a few dollars a month or more for enhanced access. Obviously I could be wrong, and I hope I am because one would think that spreading the truth according to Ron Paul would be done in such a way to make it as accessible as possible.

A channel run by moneybombs? I suppose it’s possible; after all, we’ve found over the last half-decade or more that Dr. Paul is a pretty good marketer.

It’s not hypocrisy, it’s just time for a change

Here’s the problem with running against a freshman legislator: he’s not always responsible for the messes put in place by members of his own party. Congressional candidate Dan Bongino can’t pin a vote for Obamacare on his Democratic opponent John Delaney because Delaney wasn’t there in 2010. Perhaps John was cheering them on, but there’s nothing there which says Delaney voted for it – although there is a vote he made this year against the measure’s repeal, which passed the House with a unanimous GOP and two Democrats supporting repeal. That’s actually true to Delaney’s campaign promise, although it’s unclear how he proposes to reconcile the second part:

I will fight attempts to repeal this landmark legislation, but I believe it is necessary to refine the ACA to create a framework that will lower long-term costs.

Um, Congressman, that would probably involve repeal. And by the way, health care is NOT a right.

On the other hand I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for this:


How many days will it be to the 2014 election? That will be Dan’s count.

To that end, Bongino stepped up the pressure in a release yesterday announcing Delaney’s “stunning act of political hypocrisy”:

In a stunning act of political hypocrisy, Rep. John Delaney now supports legislation that seeks to prevent political targeting from the IRS, but he remains unwilling to withdraw his support for Obamacare, which uses the IRS to target the American people through higher taxes, fines, and penalties.

Obamacare is failing because of one inescapable economic truth: cost and quality can only be effectively controlled when individuals in the marketplace control the system, not government bureaucrats.

I challenge John Delaney to immediately withdraw his support for Obamacare because it is hurting working families and small businesses in District 6. Delaney has voted with Nancy Pelosi and President Obama over 90 percent of the time. But it is time to put the people of District 6 ahead of party politics.

I will have to challenge one statistic Bongino uses, as practically any Congressman outside of a Ron Paul clone will vote with the opposition well over 50 percent of the time. A large percentage of the votes are unanimous or with token opposition, and that ratchets up the total for everyone.

On balance, though, Bongino makes a sound point. One thing he’ll have to use is whatever media he can get to counteract the full-court press by Barack Obama to get younger and healthier people to sign up for Obamacare as those kids are the largest factor in “bending the cost curve” so they’ll be enticed, whether through the schools, the libraries, or just the media cheerleaders in his corner, to sign up. (NFL cheerleaders are a different story, though, as the league rebuffed the advances of HHS head Kathleen Sebelius.) Regardless, he’s depending on the young to subsidize the old, just like many other entitlements we’re now saddled with.

Moreover, the trick for Dan will be to come up with something better that can’t be demagogued by Delaney and used to scare low-information voters into believing the end is nigh with a Bongino election. As an example, Democrats for decades used to scare seniors into thinking Republicans would take away their Social Security check, despite the lack of actual legislation to do so. While the idea of cancelling Obamacare may not be such a tough sell with voters, the system indeed needs some reforms aimed at curbing the spiraling costs. (In my view, getting  the government out of health care entirely would work well to that effect. Just like anywhere else, those in the health care provider system can’t resist a huge pot of “free” government money.)

Yet I’m not sure this will be the hot topic come the fall of 2014. To draw a parallel, in the summer of 2008 we were screaming about high energy prices but an economic calamity has a way of making people sit up and take notice. No one cared about gas prices (which, by the way, had retreated far off their summertime highs) by the time the election was held – instead, we were on the verge of “abandon(ing) free-market principles to save the free-market system.” Obamacare could be an expensive sideshow by then, considering the President is now arbitrarily pushing back the deadline for business compliance to after those midterm elections.

Long story short – sixteen months is three eternities in politics. So while this is good publicity for Dan, I’m sure he’s also working on more specific ideas for the debates with both his GOP challengers and Delaney himself, assuming John doesn’t lose to a more liberal opponent in the Democratic primary.

Getting it wrong

This is the kind of thing which happens when you don’t have your ear to the ground: brilliant planning, poor execution.

I was sort of glad to see that John Tate, president of the Campaign for Liberty, took the time to explain some of what he saw as the effects of the RNC rules changes made last summer. (It’s a very lengthy diatribe, so I chose to link to it rather than reprint it all. Some of those in my audience probably received their own copy.)

However, I will bring up one passage from the message. See if you can spot the error:

Now, Virginia RNC Committeeman Morton Blackwell – who led the fight against implementation of the new rules in Tampa – will be introducing a resolution to reverse them.

That is why I need you to contact your Republican National Committee representatives IMMEDIATELY to urge them to support Blackwell’s repeal effort.

You are represented at the RNC by the State Party Chairman, a National Committeeman, and a National Committeewoman from your state.

It requires a 75% vote of all RNC members to overturn these rules, so your action could not be more critical.

As you’ll see, I’ve included their contact information for you below.

National Committeeman Louis Pope: 301-776-1988 louismpope (at) aol.com

National Committeewoman Nicolee Ambrose: 410-323-6698 nicolee (at) nicoleeambrose.com

State Chairman Alex Mooney: 301-874-5649 amooney (at) mdgop.org

Who’s this Alex Mooney guy? Didn’t he move to West Virginia?

Obviously Tate was using an outdated list to compile the information, but he also makes an interesting observation: it doesn’t really matter who is on the Standing Rules Committee if all 168 vote on the changes. Obviously there are only 43 sticks in the mud who can stop it, given the RNC’s extremely steep 3/4 threshold, but our job is to beseech the three representing Maryland to vote the correct way. Certainly we would prefer Nicolee Ambrose be the one who represents the state on the Standing Rules Committee, but Diana Waterman can help or hurt her cause with her vote.

Now I don’t have Diana’s phone number, but the e-mail listed at the state website is simply chairman (at) mdgop.org.

Tate’s secondary point is that the RNC wants to move away from the caucus system used in some states, where insurgent candidates with grassroots support like Ron Paul did best, to what would eventually be a regional primary system. Tate makes the point that those candidates with the most money and favorable coverage (i.e. the “establishment”) would gain an advantage over those who may be supported by the grassroots.

Yet the facts don’t necessarily bear this out. Certainly Ron Paul had his share of success in the small states which run strictly on a caucus basis, but Rick Santorum won a number of state primaries through a grassroots network of those more concerned with social issues. He never had the monetary backing of Mitt Romney but did well enough to outlast most of the remaining candidates. I could see Ron Paul’s strategy of using his supporters to take enough states to place his name into nomination, but it never came to pass.

Still, Romney won, doing best in states where there were “open” primaries or where the media markets were most expensive. For the second cycle in a row – and arguably since the days of Reagan – we Republicans were saddled with a candidate who wasn’t palatable to various factions of the pro-liberty movement. (Remember, Reagan campaigned on items like eliminating the Department of Education. It’s obviously still around and no GOP nominee has made that promise since.)

Here’s where I disagree with Tate, though. Why not take this opportunity to reform the broken nominating system and make it shorter, install a quick series of regional primaries during the late spring/early summer of the election year which would only require a few weeks of sacrifice for the grassroots people to get out the word for their candidate, and allow those who earned their convention posts at the state level to be seated no matter who they support instead of insisting on binding winner-take-all primaries? After all, it’s a nomination and not a coronation, and if it takes more than one ballot to select a nominee, so be it. From what I make of it, the Blackwell resolution reverses the changes made by Ben Ginsberg and restores the national party to the rules originally adopted for the next cycle. But we can do so much more with this opportunity and can set these changes in stone at a time well in advance of the nominating process.

If they are going to tinker with the rules at this point, why not get them right and maximize the grassroots participation?

Update: The subsequent reminder e-mail now has the right information.

Ten Question Tuesday: January 15, 2013

Today’s guest comes from a perspective which might surprise you. Jonathan Bydlak comes from a political background as the Director of Fundraising for Ron Paul’s 2008 Presidential campaign, but has turned his talents to the lobbying side of politics as President of the Coalition to Reduce Spending. They bill themselves as the only group in Washington with that singular focus.

Since I’ve referred to his group here on several occasions, most recently in this odds and ends post, I thought his national perspective would be good for readers to understand, if only to prove not everyone inside the Beltway wants to spend, spend, spend!

**********

monoblogue: What got me interested in your group in the first place was that you’re looking at things on the spending side, which is where I think the whole ‘fiscal cliff’ solution lies.

Bydlak: Absolutely.

monoblogue: But let me back up a second, because your group is relatively new, is it not?

Bydlak: Yes, we formed in February of 2012 and we didn’t become a full-time pursuit until late May or early June.

monoblogue: So you’re actually a very new group. What was the impetus behind getting together as a group and starting it up?

Bydlak: Well, I has the idea of the group for quite some time, literally since I worked in the (Ron) Paul campaign in 2008. The initial idea actually came out of a conversation I had with Peter Schiff, when I was working on the campaign. We used to chat every so often on economics and we got into this discussion one time about, why does no one talk about spending and why is no one as serious about spending as Dr. Paul? That’s what ultimately, personally drew me to Ron Paul, that he was willing to ask the question ‘where are you going to get this money from to pay for the things that you want to do?’ which most of the candidates in both parties tend to not want to do.

Anyway, the thought occurred to me at the time – Grover (Norquist) has been successful at getting – at least Republicans – to not raise taxes. And it struck me that the pledge model is actually a pretty effective one – not just because of Grover’s success, but also if you look at the term limits movement for example in the 1990s spread pretty effectively through groups like US Term Limits by using a pledge mechanism. It struck me as odd that no one had attempted to apply that model to the spending side of the equation, and here we fast-forward five years after the 2008 campaign…the TEA Party movement is talking about the debt and about spending, and it seems to be a more significant awareness and concern about borrowing and the debt, and so on… You have groups that focus on the tax side of the equation and you have groups that talk about spending along with twenty other issues, but there’s no one who has attempted to create an organization that is focused solely on spending…

There was a huge void being missed, particularly in light of the fact that people are seemingly waking up to the notion that spending is ultimately the cause of our financial problems.

monoblogue: Right. And I guess that’s the other side of the equation; as you said, Grover Norquist is very well known for his ‘no new tax’ pledge. The problem that I’m sure people are having a hard time wrapping their head around on the idea of cutting spending is that you can cut spending for anybody except the pet group of the person that’s sitting there saying “we need to cut foreign aid” or “we need to cut welfare” or “we need to cut defense.” Yet there’s other people who say “you can’t cut defense” or “you can’t cut welfare” and you can’t cut all this other spending. If – and maybe this is kind of putting you on the spot – if it were up to Jonathan Bydlak, what would be cut spending-wise?

Bydlak: Let me make a couple comments on that. So the first thing is that everyone wants to get into, exactly what we should cut. The problem I have with that discussion is that it assumes there’s already agreement that there should be cutting going on. As the recent fiscal cliff negotiations show, there’s actually not agreement at all. You had all but eight Senators voting for McConnell’s fiscal cliff compromise, and you had roughly one-third of Republicans and all but 16 Democrats voting in favor of the bill. So, in Washington at least, there isn’t agreement that we even should be cutting in the first place. We haven’t passed a budget in over 3 1/2 years, over a thousand days. So from our group’s perspective there is significant value to be added just by getting people together from both sides of the aisle and getting them to even agree with the premise that we should cut spending. That’s my first comment.

As far as where you cut, the bigger problem isn’t so much that everyone has their pet projects per se, it’s that both parties have not wanted to address significant portions of the budget. The reality is, if you want to balance the budget, you want to curb spending and bring the budget back into balance, you have to address the big-ticket items in the budget, and there are relatively few: entitlement spending and military spending. The interesting thing about those two things is they essentially represent the two sacred cows of the two major parties. On the left you have entitlements, Democrats (will tell you) ‘no, you can’t consider entitlement reform, on the right you have military spending and Republicans say, “no, we can’t really go and address a bloated Pentagon budget.”

So at the end of the day if you care about having a government that lives within its means, it doesn’t really matter what Jonathan Bydlak wants to cut because it’s a mass that you have to reform. Entitlements and military spending make up 75 to 80 percent of the budget, and when we’re talking about borrowing 40 to 45 cents out of every dollar you can’t balance that without…by looking at only 20 to 25 percent of the budget. So the second point I’ll make is that, from our group’s perspective, we’re trying to increase awareness and highlight the fact that ultimately, if you’re serious about spending and serious about having government live within its means, you have to also be serious about reassessing entitlement spending, about reassessing military spending, and about getting both parties to put their sacred cows on the table. The big part of the problem as I see it: Republicans, for a long time, have talked a good game about “we need to cut spending” and then Democrats come back and say, “all right, let’s start with the Pentagon.” Republicans say no, that’s our sacred cow and push it off the table…as a result, Democrats are never forced to put entitlement spending on the table.

To me, the most important line in our pledge is the line that says, “all spending must be on the table.” We can have the debate down the road about how much we can cut from here and how much we can cut from there, but let’s start with an agreement that we shouldn’t claim spending and that everything should be on the chopping block. In my opinion, that’s the only way you’re ever going to get both parties to seriously consider the types of cuts that need to happen.

monoblogue: So you’re looking at it more as a groundswell of support from the outside rather than trying to work from the inside…you’re looking for the people to say, “look, we want you to address this problem – we don’t care exactly how you address this problem, just put everything on the table and let’s address it.”

Bydlak: I think that’s the starting point, right? Then you have to say what can we cut in the Pentagon’s budget, and how can you restructure Social Security and Medicare and other entitlement programs. That’s the sort of debate that has to happen, but instead we see…grandstanding about that we can’t cut this, or can’t cut that, or, in general, an unwillingness to put their own sacred cows on the table. The compromise is always “I’ll vote for your spending if you vote for mine,” rather than “I’ll accept some cuts in my spending if you accept some cuts in yours.”

I think you’re starting to see a pretty significant change…one is that Ted Cruz, for example, he signed the Pledge and has been saying everything should be on the table. That’s something that would be hard to imagine happening five or ten years ago. Another example is Lindsey Graham – now Lindsey Graham and I would probably have disagreements over how much could be cut from the Pentagon’s budget, but Lindsey Graham has said, “you know what, I’d be willing to go and consider military spending on the chopping block if we can get meaningful entitlement reform.” That’s a very big change, so that’s the sort of mindset that we’re trying to promote, to actually get people to realize this problem is ultimately, in my opinion, and if you want to talk about the greatest threat to our national security, it’s our national debt.

So the way that you’ll ultimately get significant reform in these areas is to get everyone to agree that their sacred cow is on the table, too. I wouldn’t characterize it as working from the outside or working from the inside; it’s a combination of both.

monoblogue: Given that you have such an influence from Ron Paul, you would get a reputation as sort of a maverick. That was Ron Paul’s entire gig, so to say – he was not exactly a mainstream Republican (and) he kind of went his own way. That’s fine; I respect him for that. Do you find that the influence – most people know you’re disciples of Ron Paul and such – is that a large obstacle in Washington?

Bydlak: I don’t consider myself a disciple of Ron Paul; I don’t know even what that exactly means. Obviously I’m very supportive of Dr. Paul and I’m generally of the same political persuasion, but I don’t consider myself a disciple of anyone. There have been a couple of articles which came out recently saying that I’m the next Grover Norquist, if you will, (but) my comment is I’m the first Jonathan Bydlak. (laughs) That’s funny, my parents will tell you a story that when I was five years old, maybe I was four, the first book I ever bought was a collection of Ronald Reagan’s speeches, “Speaking My Mind,” which was an autobiography and collection of speeches he wrote shortly after leaving the White House. I paid a dollar for it at a used bookstore and growing up I had a picture of Ronald Reagan on my bedside table. There are plenty of things I would disagree with Ronald Reagan on, so again, to characterize me as a disciple of one or the other, I don’t really know.

I suppose your argument is that simply by having worked for Dr. Paul that somehow that ends up being a disadvantage, but I don’t think so because the focus of our organization is just on the issue. If you think about which organizations in Washington tend to be most effective at accomplishing their objectives, in my opinion the evidence is pretty obvious. And that is organizations that have a laser-like focus on one issue – you think about the NRA, you think about the ACLU – left or right, those groups tend to be the ones that are most effective and ultimately the most feared. So I think this is part of the reason it’s so important to focus only on the issue of spending, because if you start taking positions on twenty different issues the coalition of people that you’re able to bring together becomes increasingly limited. My hope, and I think what we’re proving, is that we’re able to bring together a larger number of people by focusing solely on one issue, regardless of whether you’re a Democrat, Republican, independent, Libertarian, Green, pick your ideological persuasion or party affiliation.

monoblogue; Well, I agree with that. That makes perfect sense to me. Now I know you were also circulating a spending pledge, much like Grover Norquist’s pledge not to raise taxes, and you mentioned Ted Cruz – I assume he’s one of those who has signed that pledge?

Bydlak: Yes, that’s right.

monoblogue: Who else has signed the pledge, and has anyone started to think about 2014 and contacted you and said “I already don’t like the way things are going in this Congress and I wanted to get a early jump on the next Congress so I’d like to sign your pledge now?”

Bydlak: We got started in the middle of the primary cycle, so we got started a little late just by virtue of when the group was formed. We  had 24 candidates nationwide who signed the Pledge; of those we had a Democrat running in New York City, we had an independent running in Colorado, we had a handful of Libertarians, and the rest were Republicans. Out of those, I think 12 made it into the general election, and then two were elected: Ted Cruz being one and the most prominent, and the other being Doug Collins, who was elected in Georgia’s Ninth District, which has recently been redrawn because of the Census and Georgia getting an additional seat. Representative Collins has been looking pretty great in terms of what he’s been saying; I think he seems pretty solid on the issue. Of course, we’ll see how that continues to pan out… That’s sort of where we are right now; naturally we are focusing on getting organized ourselves in terms of being able to maximize our impact in 2014, with the idea being that we want to get as many people on the record as possible saying they are committed to the planks of our Pledge.

monoblogue: So your foot is in the door in terms of both the House and the Senate…in the future – and I know you’re basically a one-issue organization – are you planning on getting into financially supporting candidates or do you just want to stay with the advocacy arm of it?

Bydlak: No, we don’t endorse any candidates. Part of what I see our role is to put candidates on the record. For example, in the Texas Senate race Lieutenant Governor (David) Dewhurst, who was running against Cruz, also signed the Pledge within a day after we announced Senator Cruz had signed… We’re not here to endorse anyone.

Pledges have two main benefits, I think. One is that they provide information to voters. When candidates run for office and say they’re serious about tackling the national debt, or that they’re a fiscal conservative, or what have you – it’s one thing to say those things but it’s another thing to be actually willing to put your name on paper and say what that actually means. We are attempting to define very clearly what that means; generally the three planks of our Pledge, which is that you’ll only vote for a balanced budget, you won’t vote for new spending programs that aren’t offset elsewhere in the budget, and they won’t vote to increase borrowing.

The second benefit, of course, is that when they get into office and they renege on the promise they made to voters, well, now there’s a means for the voters, the activists, and the media to hold them accountable. It’s not just that they ran for office and it was some random verbal promise, here you have it in writing and you can say, “wait a minute, this is what you said and you’re not doing that.”

So we see our role as not at all trying to endorse anyone, but actually trying to get as many people as possible to go on the record and say we care about these issues enough that we want to signal to voters that we’re serious enough to say we want to sign on the dotted line. That, in a nutshell – to us, it’s more about changing the incentives of the game. There’s a great Milton Friedman quote where he says something to the effect of the greatest challenge in politics is to create good incentives so that imperfect people do good things. And the idea is if you’re going to rely on politicians to do the right thing, that’s kind of a fool’s errand. But you can start to create incentives for certain behavior – that is something that I think is really valuable, and that’s where I think the Pledge is really valuable that it starts to provide a counterweight to the incentive of the status quo, which is basically bring home the pork to your district and have your campaign financed by special interest groups.

But if you can show that voters care about these issues enough where politicians feel compelled enough to go on the record about them, well, that changes the incentives of the game and perhaps leads to a better opportunity to see meaningful spending cuts.

monoblogue: Certainly I’d like to see, if I’m faced with a primary of ten people, I’d love to see that ten people signed the Pledge, and I definitely want to do my part to spread the word. I know you guys have a website and all that, so take this opportunity to plug yourselves for my readers.

Bydlak: The website is reducespending.org, People can go on our website and download a copy of our Pledge, and get their Representative or Senator to sign, or candidates to sign. There is also a Voter Pledge people can sign, with the goal being the more support we can show for the idea we are promoting the better. We are open to any suggestion, certainly we are heavily into social media, which is probably not surprising given my experience in the Paul campaign, but definitely join our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter, and send me an e-mail and get involved that way in terms of, if there are ideas people have, we want to hear any of them.

monoblogue: I have one last thing that just occurred to me. Are you planning on taking this to a state level, or strictly federal?

Bydlak: It’s absolutely something we would like to do, and we’ve already talked to a couple organizations about this. The challenge of the state level is that there are fifty different requirements, as some states have balanced budget requirements, some don’t, there’s various minutia in every different state; frankly, I’m not well-versed in all the minutia in how each state works. So that’s a growth opportunity and something we want to do, but we need to enlist the involvement of people who are experts so what we would likely do is roll them out in a handful of states at a time. That’s definitely something we would like to do in the future.

monoblogue: All right. I appreciate the time; it’s been very enlightening to me and hopefully getting the word out a little at a time will help you in 2014.

**********

I hope you enjoyed this as much as I enjoyed chatting with Jonathan, whose group may someday rival organizations like Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform. Certainly I think they have a sound approach to getting excess spending into the national conversation.

Next week’s guest is yet to be determined, since there’s a possibility of having a “breaking news” personality. Stay tuned.

Here comes the judge

December 30, 2012 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, Politics, State of Conservatism · 1 Comment 

Since Ron Paul is getting too old for electoral politics – the soon-to-be-former Texas Congressman and three-time Presidential candidate will be 80 years old before the 2016 election – there is a clamor to select a new standardbearer for what those involved call the liberty movement. One choice is perhaps a curious one, but has the requisite amount of celebrity attached since he is a television personality.

Ron Paul has been the inspiration and mentor of the Liberty Movement for many years, and he always will be.  But now he has stepped aside as the Liberty Movement’s candidate for President of the United States, and he has singled out one person who is capable up picking up his mantel (sic), Judge Andrew Napolitano.  Judge Napolitano is the one person best suited to assume Dr. Paul’s role as presidential contender in the Republican Party and to become the intellectual leader of the Liberty Movement. (Emphasis in original.)

At this point, the drive is simply a petition drive, the success of which is so far unknown since I can’t verify how many have signed without signing it myself. But a Facebook page devoted to the subject has just 168 likes, so the petition numbers are probably in the low three-digits presently.

And how successful could a draft effort be? There’s this historical guide:

Successful presidential drafts are rare but not unheard of. The two most successful modern efforts to draft candidates for the presidency both occurred in the 1952 campaign. There had been an effort within both political parties to draft five-star general Dwight D. Eisenhower to run as a candidate for President as early as 1948 and then again in 1951. Eisenhower studiously ignored both efforts. He was, however, finally compelled to pay attention after Henry Cabot Lodge entered him in the 1952 New Hampshire Republican primary without the general’s authorization. Eisenhower won the entire slate of Republican delegates in the New Hampshire primary without even campaigning. (Emphasis in original.)

The piece on the Revolution PAC website (the parent of the Draft Napolitano site) goes on to point out Democrat Adlai Stevenson was drafted by Democrats disappointed Eisenhower didn’t choose their side.

But could a draft work in 2016?

There are a number of hurdles in place for 2016 that weren’t there in 1952; moreover Eisenhower was a special case due to his popularity and the fact the military was held in high regard as a training ground for office. Troops who admired Eisenhower’s leadership the decade before in World War II were his natural support base.

There’s also the fact that being a judge is rarely a proving ground for a presidency, with the last President to serve as a federal jurist being William Howard Taft. (Taft became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court eight years after his Presidential term expired, but served on a federal appellate court beforehand.) Few have attained office without electoral experience, either – although the aforementioned Eisenhower is an exception.

More importantly, Napolitano would be sponsored by a political wing which exists without a party. Undoubtedly the mainstream Republican party voter looks askance at liberty supporters, preferring instead those who hew closer to the established party line. Given Ron Paul’s lack of success in terms of popular votes, it’s not a large base from which to work; moreover, the adoption of new party rules will make it far more difficult for a non-establishment Republican candidate to succeed.

Nor is there enough of a bloc to support an independent bid – see Ross Perot, 1992.

But the advantage Napolitano has is one of no paper trail. We can’t find fault with the voting record he has, so the only guides we have to his political positioning are his books. Obviously he’s a believer in the original intent of the Constitution, so that’s generally a plus; however, he’s also made known his unconventional approach on same-sex marriage and controversial thoughts on 9-11 which go against the grain and generally accepted narrative.

Still, there is the possibility that a nation may be sick enough of both the liberal excesses of the Obama years and the party politics played on both sides to want a new, fresh face. Then again, the election of Obama was supposed to bring a new, fresh face to the White House and we’ve seen how that works out. And unlike the draft effort we have here in Maryland for a particular potential gubernatorial candidate, the final result could be a polite refusal by the subject at hand.

2012 Maryland GOP Fall Convention in pictures and text (part 1)

Yes, this puppy is going to need to be a two-parter because I have photos a-plenty.

I can start with the first thing I did after checking in and getting a little freshened up: the host county had their reception for arrivals.

There were also advertisements for the evening to come.

I’ve often wondered what guests who happen to be here for other purposes think about all of these advertisements – and how many of them drop in for the free food and drink, sort of like wedding crashers.

Previously I have characterized the conventions after an electoral loss (which have happened all too frequently in Maryland) as wakes. But this one had a little less bitterness and a little more of a hopeful tone to it after we admitted our side indeed took a shellacking. After all, as Andy Harris noted during a surprise appearance at the Executive Committee meeting Friday evening, “we have to remember where we were three years ago.”

Of course, when Harris said that “we’re going to expose the President for what he is…he doesn’t get it,” I had the thought those of us who already knew that couldn’t get the message through the thick skulls (or entitlement-addled psyches) of the voting public. But we carried on and Harris stated unequivocally, “I’m going to hold firm – no new taxes,” adding that “Democrats are the ones who tax the middle class.”

Andy’s closing message was that we needed to lay the groundwork for 2014.

On the other hand, MDGOP Chair Alex Mooney knew we had a lot of grievances to go around. “Be prepared for a long meeting,” he warned Executive Committee attendees. “These things need to be aired out.” As it turned out, I’m told their affair lasted almost three hours.

Yet Mooney echoed what we all knew: “It was a disappointing year top to bottom.” For example, he “never thought in a million years” Question 6 would pass, but it did. We have to “look hard to ballot questions” in the future, Mooney continued.

But Alex also looked ahead to 2014 opportunities.

Both National Committeewoman Nicolee Ambrose and National Committeeman Louis Pope spoke before the group. While Ambrose chose to defer most of her report, which was to assess the success of the “Super Saturday” program this fall, to the general meeting Saturday afternoon, Pope bluntly called the time since the election “a tough 3 1/2 weeks.” Yet he also snapped back at critics who questioned his role at the national convention, saying there are “some factions (that) continually want to divide us.” Fighting among ourselves throws us off track, said Louis.

He also reminded us about an upcoming event at this very facility: the Reagan Presidential Ball on February 9, 2013. “One thing this party needs is fundraisers to be solvent,” Pope concluded.

It was then time for committee reports, and the unrest began from the youth.

Brian Griffiths of the Maryland Young Republicans gave us a rundown of what the MDYRs had done within the state during this election cycle before tartly noting, “I wish the officers and others would make that effort.” That was in reference to several MDGOP-sponsored bus trips to Ohio and Virginia. I happen to agree with Brian, particularly in hindsight.

Equally critical was the College Republicans’ Fiona Moodie, who saw a “vast disconnect” between the College Republicans and the main party message.

A few county Chairs were also more critical of the 2012 effort than others. In announcing he was stepping down on December 31, John McCullough of Dorchester County told us that we have one of two choices: either we target (and change) the media, Hollywood, and the schools or “we let everything collapse and we rebuild on the other side.” Preparing his young family for whatever hits the fan was more important than being part of the MDGOP at this time, said John.

Sandy Terpeluk of Kent County was impressed by the effort to get the ballot initiatives to the voters via petition, but agreed with Brian Griffiths that we should have stayed home and made more of an effort to defeat O’Malley’s laws. Her message was that we need more of an organization for these types of ballot issues.

After the county chairs gave their reports, the meeting moved into closed session and I went to see just what was going on. Turf Valley has perhaps the best room ever for an Executive Committee meeting, since it was set up like a college classroom and I could have easily liveblogged it had I known, but it had perhaps the worst setup for hospitality suites since they were in two different parts of the facility. To get from one side to the other, you had to return to the lobby and get to the other elevator.

Since I had to go back to my room to drop off a few items, I started on my side of the facility and dropped in on Maryland’s leading elected Republican.

Andy looked very relaxed, don’t you think? I stopped by his first because he wasn’t staying too late. But he had some scrumptious desserts as always.

Another guy with dessert was Delegate Tony McConkey, whose suite had plenty of Hostess products. On this I’m going to use a photo taken by my good friend Maria Ialacci since for some reason mine didn’t come out – camera issues.

But perhaps the liveliest pair of suites on that side of the facility were the ones hosted by Strategic Victory Consulting and the Montgomery County GOP. Since I ended up returning there to wrap up my long evening, my narrative will work back to those because, in the meantime, on the other side of the Turf Valley hotel, there were also dueling rooms let by two candidates for Governor.

Blaine Young had an entire ballroom, complete with finger food and open bar. At last I had something good and substantial to eat.

I thanked Blaine for my time on his show, but the room was crowded with a number of people who believed his more conservative message was the right way to go in 2014.

On the other hand, David Craig’s hospitality suite was more modest and featured…hotdogs.

I actually don’t recall speaking to David while there. Someone else there was trying to ply me with spiked snowballs, which with a liberal dosage of vodka and cherry flavoring were actually not too bad.

The nascent Charles Lollar draft effort seemed to have an insignificant presence at Turf Valley and, as Joe Steffen of Global Rhetoric writes, Larry Hogan’s Change Maryland group was conspicuous in its absence this time.

In his assessment Steffen also relays his dealings with 2012 U.S. Senate candidate Dan Bongino, who I ran into going between sides of the building. He was nice enough to pose with my fellow blogger (and Bongino worker) Jackie Wellfonder.

Once I got upstairs I came across a group trying to flex its political muscles at Turf Valley. This was the dual suite of the Maryland Liberty PAC.

Their message and fundraising choices were obvious: pro-liberty is the way to go.

You may have noticed the podium in the first picture. The idea behind the suite was to feature a number of pro-liberty speakers (including Dr. Greg Belcher from here in Wicomico County); alas, I arrived too late to hear any of the speakers. In fact, I would have to say their party was dying out as I tardily showed up.

But two things I noticed about the hangers-on: they weren’t all familiar faces I was used to seeing at MDGOP conventions and most of them were rather young. I’m not a great judge of age but I would peg the average age of those I saw at about 25 to 30. These were the activists who were energized by the message of Ron Paul and may have felt betrayed by the actions of the national Republican Party. While they returned this time, I would be wary about losing their support once again.

Whether that was the “disconnect” Fiona Moodie of the College Republicans spoke out on or not, the fact I heard a few people disparagingly speak about the “Ron Paul people” as I was going from place to place shows that there’s still a clique mentality in our party rather than the “big tent” philosophy we try to sell.

As I talked about earlier, there were a different group of younger Republicans working their best efforts at political capitalism. One lively suite belonged to Strategic Victory Consulting, and the hook was an addictive purple drink they called the SVC. They also had elephant-shaped food.

The SVC suite had some interesting people and props; in the background of this picture you can see the professional photography setup.

In my first go-round through the suite the online Red Maryland Radio Network was doing a live broadcast. From behind the bed and clockwise were Andrew Langer, Greg Kline, guest Hillary Pennington, and Brian Griffiths (standing.) Hillary Pennington and fellow SVC leader Kristen Shields also do their own online radio show called Purple Elephant Politics, so I’m thinking Hillary knows the drill.

Those photography props made for interesting pictures later on.

From left to right in this one are Julianne Grim, Ryan Miner, Kristen Shields, and aforementioned blogger Joe Steffen (aka the ‘Prince of Darkness’ during the Ehrlich era. Thanks to him and Hillary Pennington for setting me straight on names and faces – definitely not my strong suit in most cases and really bad after a couple concoctions.)

The other rocking suite was the Montgomery County Republicans’ one next door.

They had karaoke going on, and we found out Anne Arundel County Councilman Jerry Walker and National Committeewoman Nicolee Ambrose can sing – in this case, the duet ‘Summer Nights’ from ‘Grease.’

Me? I can’t carry a tune in a bucket. And by the time I had ate, drank, been merry, collected a few business cards, found a few of my fans, and spoken to a whole host of people at and around the various convention suites and lobbies, it was getting past 2 in the morning. So I was finally off to bed in order to try and be up for breakfast and what promised to be an interesting convention proper.

You’ll find out my observations about Saturday in Part 2 tomorrow.

One happy party

Lost in the post-election hangover and finger-pointing was something which could either be good news or bad news for Maryland Republicans: the Libertarian Party is assured of a place on the 2014 ballot. My friend Muir Boda provides some background:

Election results in Maryland showed positive results for Maryland Libertarians. Muir Boda, the Libertarian candidate for Congress in Maryland’s 1st District received nearly 12,000 votes at 3.8%.  Even more exciting the Libertarian Candidate for President, Governor Gary Johnson, received over 21,000 votes and 1.1% of the vote. This secures ballot access for the Libertarian Party in Maryland through 2016, which will save Maryland Taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

However, I’m not sure of Boda’s interpretation of the law about 2016, as Maryland election law states on minor parties:

The political party shall retain its status as a political party through either of the following:

(i) if the political party has nominated a candidate for the highest office on the ballot in a statewide general election, and the candidate receives at least 1% of the total vote for that office, the political party shall retain its status through December 31 in the year of the next following general election; or

(ii) if the State voter registration totals, as of December 31, show that at least 1% of the State’s registered voters are affiliated with the political party, the political party shall retain its status until the next following December 31.

Unless the Maryland Libertarian Party can get to and stay at a figure of about 36,022 registered voters (they had 10,682 at last report) my reading of that law means they only have 2014 ballot access.

Boda can boast, however, that he was the leading vote-getter of the eight Libertarians who ran for Congress in Maryland as he received 3.8% of the overall vote. If extrapolated statewide, Boda and his 12,522 votes would have easily topped the actual statewide candidates (U.S. Senate hopeful Dean Ahmad and Presidential candidate Gary Johnson) because neither had topped 30,000 votes as of the last round of counting. The First District has been very libertarian-friendly over the last three cycles, with Boda and 2008-10 candidate Richard Davis getting an increasing share of votes each time. Muir has a chance at beating Davis’s 3.79% in 2010 if he can hang on to his current percentage.

So what does that mean for the Maryland GOP? Well, obviously there is a small but significant part of the electorate which is dissatisfied with the moderate establishment of the Republican party, so much so that they would “throw away” their vote on a third party. Perhaps one factor in this was the fact Andy Harris was widely expected to crush his competition so a Libertarian vote was a safe “message” vote, but I think this 1 to 4 percent of the electorate is just as important as the 3 to 5 percent of the electorate which is gay – and we certainly bent over backwards to accommodate them in this election, didn’t we? (Granted, those two groups aren’t mutually exclusive but hopefully you see the point.)

While I’m discussing my Libertarian friend, I think it’s important to bring up an article he penned for Examiner.com. In that piece, he opens:

The utter failure of the Republican Party to embrace and acknowledge the millions of people that Ron Paul had energized over the last five years not only cost Mitt Romney the election, it may very well hinder the growth of the GOP. This is the result of a political party bent on preserving the status quo and adhering to its very principles.

He goes on to allege that “Mitt Romney did not have to cheat to win the Republican nomination, but he did anyway.”

Besides the fact I think his statement on principles is perhaps not artfully worded – if not for principles, why would a political party exist? – I also think Boda’s article loses a little bit of steam in the middle when he writes about the back-and-forth between the two parties. Republicans and Democrats exist in a manner akin to the way two siblings get along, with the bickering coming to a head at election time, and unfortunately Muir falls into the trap of believing there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the two parties.

But his opening paragraph and closing statement are fairly close to hitting the bullseye given the state of the national GOP as it relates to outsiders like the TEA Party. I’ll put it this way: given the general attitude of the mainstream media about the Republican Party, would it have hurt to follow the rules which were originally established and not shut out the Paul delegates? Yes, the convention may have served less as a Romney/Ryan coronation, but with the rules shenanigans that occurred there we had plenty of controversy anyway. I’m sure some percentage of them came around, decided to bite the bullet, and voted for Mitt Romney, but a lot of those folks didn’t vote, didn’t volunteer, and didn’t send in money.

Boda concludes:

The unfortunate truth is that Republicans had their chance to roll back regulations, reform the tax system and address other issues such as Social Security and Medicare. Yet, they became worried more about retaining power and keeping us at war than protecting our liberties.

Now I disagree with the specifics of this passage simply because the entire idea of a political party is “retaining power” and we were warned the battle against Islamic terror would be a long one. But in a sense Boda is correct as the last Republican president – with the help of a Republican-led Congress – worked to expand federal involvement in education (No Child Left Behind) and created another entitlement program with Medicare Part D. In the end, those will be more expensive than the oft-quoted passage by liberals about “putting two wars on a credit card.” Nor should we forget that President Bush had a plan to address Social Security, but demagoguery by Democrats and the AARP (but I repeat myself) nixed that thought.

Of course some are going to say that the idea of a competitor whose party mainly siphons votes from our side should be dismissed. But, unlike some of those in the Maryland GOP establishment, to me it’s principle over party and I’m conservative before I’m Republican. My job is to marry the two concepts together and win the battle of ideas, which in turn will lead to winning elections – even over the Libertarian candidates.

Playing from the inside

In May I did an Examiner piece on the Coalition to Reduce Spending, a group which was co-founded by a former Ron Paul campaign operative with the aim to endorse candidates pledging to (of course) reduce spending.

Well, today I found the following in my e-mail box, with the headline “Johnson, Paul Campaign Talent Combine to Help Liberty Candidates Win.”

Struggling libertarian political candidates and advocacy groups now have a chance to succeed in races where the establishment might otherwise prevail.  Seven of the most successful individuals who have variously worked on the Ron Paul, Rand Paul, and Gary Johnson campaigns (among many others) have combined to form Liberty Torch Political Consulting, LLC.  The firm aims to change the outcome of elections around the country and get more freedom-loving candidates elected to office than ever before.

The common name between the two groups is Jonathan Bydlak, who is president of the CRS. I must be on his e-mail list.

Now that’s not to say I have anything against the group; in fact, I’d love to see plenty of pro-liberty candidates win. But it has to be said that this team doesn’t necessarily have a track record of success, unless you consider Gary Johnson’s nomination as the Libertarian candidate a smashing accomplishment. Yes, Ron Paul has been successful in several House elections but he never accounted for a significant part of the presidential vote, nor did Johnson. Only Rand Paul has seen a major electoral success, and that was in Kentucky – not exactly a key swing state. So what would they really bring to the table?

I suppose their apparent focus on winnable local races is a good one, since there are hundreds of local and state seats up for grabs this year. Obviously there’s a significant pro-liberty media presence out there, so local races which aren’t going to be decided mostly on who bombards the airwaves with the most frequent and dirtiest thirty-second commercials will be a natural market for the folks at Liberty Torch. Adding a little national panache to these local races may help tip the scales in a few of them.

While he’s not necessarily the poster boy for pro-liberty followers, the way Scott Brown nationalized a Massachusetts U.S. Senate race seems like a good model to follow – in Maryland, Dan Bongino has taken a few pages from that campaign. Having a broad network in media can help to some extent, as can some creativity and plain talking. But you need to have the boots on the ground, too, and consultants are no substitute for a good candidate. (Notice the two commercials I cited backed candidates who lost their election – one in the primary and one in the general.)

But it’s interesting to see our side playing the same game as the high-powered Beltway politicians play. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, right?

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