At throats

February 27, 2017 · Posted in Culture and Politics, Personal stuff · Comment 

Some thoughts at large:

Is it just my imagination, or have the last 20 years simply escalated the tension in this country between political factions?

Once we were told that politics and religion were two subjects that really weren’t suited for dinner table conversation. In days of old, I’m sure the women who used to trade gossip over the back fence as they hung the laundry out to dry and the guys who bowled together on Tuesday nights couldn’t care less about who their neighbors and teammates voted for because they had so much more in common than they did differences. Conversations were more about how to best ward off the Fuller Brush man coming to the door or needing to throw two strikes and count on the fill shot in the tenth frame to win the series and avoid having to buy the final round, not whether the President needs to be impeached for some real or imagined slight.

Fast forward a few decades and now people are selective with their friends and associates, preferring to be in their own information silo. Needless to say, that information silo exists because we’ve come to a point where people consume their news and information almost exclusively from sources they believe are true, and that element of truth comes from being aligned with their worldview. If you had one belief style, you would believe that Ronald Reagan was a dunce whose best acting job was becoming President, the Bushes came from a crooked, out-of-touch family dynasty, Bill Clinton was hounded by overzealous prosecutors and everything against him was just about sex, and Barack Obama was the best thing since sliced bread because he gave us health care. On the other hand, you could also be convinced that Reagan was worthy of sainthood, the Bushes were a true American family dedicated to public service, Bill Clinton was a crook who got away with murder, and Barack Obama was a communist plant who was really born in Kenya. There doesn’t seem to be much of an in-between, and people were made even more passionate by the Trump-Clinton election of 2016.

So now everyone has to be on a side, or you will be assigned to one. If you were #NeverTrump, you had to be a Hillary Clinton supporter. If you think climate change is real but mankind has nothing to do with it, you are still a “denier.” And so on and so forth through a host of political topics and issues – it’s my red team or blue team, wrong or right.

If you have been here since the beginning or known me for any length of time, you know that I’m not a completely neutral observer, although I try hard to be objective as a reporter. I have a set of beliefs and I defend them; however, I’ve been working more on stepping out of the information silo because the research will make for a more interesting book when I finally finish it. When discussing the TEA Party, there is the perspective from conservative media (it was a grassroots movement), the liberal spin (Astroturf set up because a bunch of racists hated a black President), and the truth (they were mainly people who were truly scared about their future and didn’t want the government taking so much money, power, and control.) Such a movement will attract a handful of true racists but really attracts the charlatans trying to make a score via the political topic of the day. I say this about just one subject, but there are myriad others with the same sort of arguments on both sides.

Perhaps a reason I needed a break from politics and its associated idea that you have to be either on the red team or the blue team is the realization that the game is on a completely different field. We argue about how much influence Uncle Sam should have on paying for our health care when the argument should be regarding their involvement in general, for example. To speak to anything else is to rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic.

That being said, I’m glad that some people I know had a good time at CPAC this year, but I had no desire to go. They told me that getting out of politics would be liberating, but they didn’t say how much. It’s more fun to discuss issues and try to break through the silos on social media than to go cheer for one candidate or another.

I think it was said that if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog. Politics will make you a lot of friends, although when you leave you notice there are fewer. But taking a stand in this day and age will get you a lot of enemies, and I don’t think they ever forgive or forget. There are lots of reasons friendships break up, but isn’t being for a presidential candidate other than your own a pretty stupid one?

The third administration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 

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 third party alternative

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Replacing Scalia

February 14, 2016 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, Delmarva items, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

Sometimes in life timing is everything. Being out of the loop yesterday due to some family business, I didn’t learn about Justice Antonin Scalia’s death until I saw it on the evening network news. (My reaction: “You gotta be kidding me…we’re so screwed.”) It turns out, though, that something I wrote for the Patriot Post just two weeks ago becomes more prescient than ever. My “assuming all of them survive this year” just got tossed out the window.

Obviously Democrats feel that the timing means Barack Obama can select that cherished fifth liberal vote he needs to seal the deal and consign America to the ash heap of unlimited government power. In an e-mail with the subject “Our message to Mitch McConnell” they warn:

Our president, Barack Obama, has been very clear: He’s going to fulfill his constitutional obligation and nominate our next Supreme Court justice.

But we’ve got a Republican Congress insisting President Obama shouldn’t even bother to nominate a justice to the Supreme Court. And we have a field of Republican presidential candidates saying that the Senate should block and obstruct any nominee, Michael.

So it’s on us to stand with President Obama and make sure that Mitch McConnell and his fellow conservatives in Congress allow President Obama to do what is his right and responsibility — name the next Supreme Court justice.

Yet the Constitution is clear that the President can only appoint Supreme Court justices “by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate.” (For those liberals unfamiliar with the Constitution, refer to Article II, Section 2. It is not close to the “right to privacy” that some have read into the document.) If McConnell wants to wait until the election to act on the vacancy, he can do so although there is the risk that he may not be Majority Leader when the next President is inaugurated given the composition of the Senate and those up for election.

I’ve seen it pointed out that Justice Anthony Kennedy was seated in the last year of Reagan’s term; however, Kennedy was actually appointed in November 1987 and seated in February 1988. (Had the Democrats who ran the Senate been as congenial to Reagan’s initial nominee, Robert Bork, the election-year appointment would have been unnecessary.) They fail to recall how Senate Democrats treated President Bush in 2008 with regard to nominees, a practice sometimes known as the “Leahy rule.” (Democrats, of course, blame longtime GOP Senator Strom Thurmond, who blocked President Johnson’s attempt to promote Abe Fortas from associate Justice to Chief Justice in 1968, after Johnson decided to forgo re-election.)

In truth, the last time such a maneuver was performed was in 1956 when President Eisenhower made a recess appointment of William Brennan in October, just before his eventual re-election. (Brennan was eventually confirmed by the Senate in a near-unanimous vote.) Obviously such an avenue would be available to Barack Obama, and it would be particularly attractive to Obama given his interpretation of “recess.”

As it so happens, the Senate is in a recess through February 22, and the Left is salivating at the prospect of Obama rapidly selecting a nominee this coming week. Even if not confirmed, the appointee would sit until the end of the Senate’s term in early January, 2017, presumably reversing many of what were perceived to be 5-4 decisions in the favor of conservatives.

So if I were a liberal judge who is called by Barack Obama as a potential SCOTUS member, I would take the job without much of a worry about it being temporary. First of all, I can just see Obama making the appointment and daring the Senate to call him on it. Given the propensity of Mitch McConnell to roll over to Obama he won’t do so.

Further, if the Republicans nominate Donald Trump to be their nominee (which polls suggest may occur), based on current polling data he’s the most likely to lose to the Democratic nominee. And if Trump’s campaign sinks the GOP’s chance to retain the Senate the new nominee would either finally win formal appointment or be granted yet another recess appointment through early 2019.

Meanwhile, a voice of sanity on the SCOTUS will be laid to rest and missed more and more as the years go on. Indeed, we are screwed.

Trump plays the Palin card

You know, I used to like Sarah Palin.

Actually I still do, but I’m also trying to figure out how a political figure who has been an integral part of the TEA Party movement since the beginning could give her imprimatur to the Republican in the field who is arguably the least conservative in the overall scheme of things. In Trump’s world, aside from immigration and perhaps global trade, we won’t deal with the excesses of government in any meaningful way. He’s pledged to leave Social Security and Medicare alone, despite the fact that both entitlements are going bankrupt. As a complete suck-up to the ethanol industry in Iowa, Trump is calling for more ethanol to be blended into our gasoline as well. Neither of those positions scream “limited-government conservative” to me.

In reading the reaction over the last day or so, people either seem to be shooting the messenger by panning the speech or the various foibles of Palin family members, or they are assuming that Palin has sold out once again for the almighty buck trying to extend her fifteen minutes of fame, or they believe she’s got a deal to secure a Cabinet post in a Trump administration. Some even believe it will be a Trump/Palin ticket. We haven’t seen as much of the “mama grizzly” lately so maybe she needed to be back in the limelight again. Meanwhile, as Erick Erickson argues, Trump is trying to pick up the win in Iowa to shut out Ted Cruz in the first few states as Trump has huge leads in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Florida. Byron York saw it as a way to get Iowans torn between Trump and Cruz off the fence.

To me, it’s just another part of the ongoing struggle between limited-government conservatism and the big-government populism that Trump seems to be cornering with every vague promise to make things great again, played out in the Republican primary. Unfortunately, by espousing government-based solutions Trump is just serving to perpetuate the policies that have messed things up in the first place.

Yet if you ask a Trump supporter why they support him, the answer tends to be in the realm of being an outsider with a record of getting things done. We have a problem with illegal aliens? Build a wall and make Mexico pay for it! And we can’t trust those Muslims, so we just won’t let them in! Once The Donald says it will happen, by golly it’s going to occur.

Okay, fair enough. It may work very well in an autonomous corporation where whatever The Donald says is law, but may not translate nearly as well when you need a majority of the 535 members of Congress to assist you in getting things accomplished the proper way. Sure, Trump can go the executive order route on a lot of things but isn’t that our major complaint about the Obama regime? Just because it’s a guy on “our” side doesn’t make it any more Constitutional to govern by dictate, with the probable exception of rescinding previous orders. (I would rather Congress do that heavy work, though.)

So it comes back to what Palin saw in Trump. In the brief release from the Trump campaign, the reason stated for Palin to back Trump is his “leadership and unparalleled ability to speak the truth and produce real results.” I would categorize it as saying what people want to hear (for example, he stated his new-found position on ethanol in front of a lobbying group) with the results being oodles of press coverage. Admittedly, Trump has helped make immigration a key issue with his remarks, but I think that discussion was going to occur anyway.

The other “real result” seems to be that of finally erasing the line between politician and celebrity. Ronald Reagan was known to the public as an actor, so he had some amount of recognition from those who weren’t political junkies. (Unlike Trump, though, Reagan had a political resume as governor of California.) Bill Clinton tried to portray himself as hip by frequent appearances on mainstream entertainment shows, and that trend has continued with both George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Having been a reality TV star, Trump takes this cultural recognition to a new level, which may expand the universe of possible voters but brings us much closer to the undesirable aspects of governance by popularity rather than ability.

If Sarah Palin was looking to improve her brand recognition, she did well by endorsing Trump. But if she’s looking to improve America…well, maybe not so much.

The last hurrah of the Boomers?

January 15, 2016 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, Delmarva items, National politics, Personal stuff, Politics · Comments Off 

The generation that fought World War II is considered by many modern pundits as our “greatest generation.” Those who were born in the 1920s were the ones who grew up with the adversity of the Great Depression and came of age as America was attacked at Pearl Harbor.

But the generation they spawned upon their return from the battlefields of Europe and war throughout the Pacific has made their own impact on the American culture, turning their collective noses up at an unpopular war in Vietnam and becoming the narcissistic subject of what was termed the “me” generation. In general terms, a Baby Boomer is one born between 1946 and 1964, although the peak of the boom occurred in 1957. It took a half-century before the total number of births in a calendar year eclipsed the total of 4.3 million we had in 1957.

Yet in the area of Presidential leadership the Baby Boomers are represented only by our last three Presidents, two of whom were born at the very beginning of that era in 1946. Together, however, they represent 24 years of our history as Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama have served two terms apiece. One can argue whether or not they’ve had a positive impact on the country, but with the propensity of our nation of late to elect a President twice, it’s likely that if we elect a President who was born during that 18 year span in 2016 he or she will be the last of that generation to hold office. The tail end of the Boomers will be 60 by the time that election occurs, but most of them will be older than 67.

I bring this up because this election has the potential to be the same generational shift as we had in 1992 when Bill Clinton (then 46 years old) defeated the incumbent George H.W. Bush (then 68 years of age) – albeit not to that extreme of a degree since Obama is only 54. And if you recall the 1980 election as I do, there was a great deal of concern about Ronald Reagan’s advanced age – at the time of his inauguration he was just a few weeks away from his 70th birthday. Previous to Reagan the oldest President to take office was William Henry Harrison, who was 68 – and died in office a month later. So I think people became a little gunshy about electing a man of advanced age.

If you look at the ages of the remaining contenders, you’ll notice that nearly half of them are already eligible for Social Security as they have passed their 62nd birthday. While the average age of the Republican contenders is 58, it’s worth noting that for the Democrats it’s nearly 65, with Martin O’Malley dragging the average out of the 70s. All three Democrats fall within the Baby Boomer range.

On the other hand, the top three Republican contenders are the two youngest in the group (Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio) trailing the oldest Republican running, Donald Trump. I had no idea Trump was the oldest until I looked it up but he is 69 now and would be 70 by inauguration day, making him the oldest President to take office. So where are the people concerned with his health and advanced age? (Hillary Clinton would be just a few months younger than Reagan was if she won, while Bernie Sanders would shatter the age record as he is already 74.)

While I identify more readily with the Generation X that followed the Boomers, by birth year I’m lumped in with them. By being a few years younger than the peak of our generation, those born in the early-to-mid 1960s like myself have always dealt with the hand-me-downs we received, and they were often worse for the wear. (Having a brother who was two years older this was literally true in my case.) So it is with America, which has seen the decline in morality brought to us by the Clintons, the questionable attempts at nation-building we tried under George W. Bush, and the trainwreck of “if you like your plan, you can keep it” Obamacare under its namesake. If you ask the question, “are you better off than you were 24 years ago?” the number of people who say no might be shockingly high.

Perhaps it’s time for the Boomers to leave the stage, but I’m sure they’ll have to dragged off kicking and screaming because it will always and forever be about them.

Odds and ends number 77

It will be on the light side this time, but this is probably the lightest news week on the calendar as many of the productive people in the country take an extended vacation. Having Christmas and New Year’s Day both fall on a Friday really assists in that effort because the average worker only has to take 3 or 4 vacation days rather than a full week – as an example I had both Thursday and Friday off this past weekend and will be off Friday, too. Long story short, the government and newsmakers are pretty much off for several days with the minimum of paid time off insuring a long 11-day break.

So I’m going to begin with news that came out recently from the Center for Immigration Studies that confirmed what millions of observers have long suspected: we aren’t ejecting illegal immigrants from the country like we used to. No one is talking about all 11, 13, 20, 30, or whatever million there are, but just over 235,000 - not even half of the number just four years ago. Jessica Vaughan of CIS noted in testimony before the Senate that:

This willful neglect (regarding deportation) has imposed enormous costs on American communities. In addition to the distorted labor markets and higher tax bills for social welfare benefits that result from uncontrolled illegal immigration, the Obama administration’s anti-enforcement policies represent a threat to public safety from criminal aliens that ICE officers are told to release instead of detain and remove. The administration’s mandate that ICE focus only on the ‘worst of the worst’ convicted criminal aliens means that too many of ‘the worst’ deportable criminal aliens are still at large in our communities.

Even if Donald Trump personally supervised a border wall and made Mexico pay for it, deportations continuing at that rate would take decades to clear out those here illegally, giving those at the bottom of the list for removal time to have anchor babies and otherwise game the system to stay put. It’s a waiting game that Americans and those law-abiding immigrants wishing to enter are losing quickly.

Obviously the first steps any new administration would need to take not only involve revoking all the pro-illegal alien policies of the Obama administration but putting an end to birthright citizenship for non-citizens and cracking down on employers who knowingly employ illegals. In one stroke I’m for pissing off both the Democrats and the pro-amnesty Chamber of Commerce types.

Immigration – and its potential for bringing in a new generation of government-dependent first-generation voting residents (I hesitate to call them Americans as they are slow to assimilate) isn’t as much of a cause for concern for Robert Romano of Americans for Limited Government as is the death of the Republican voter.

I’ve brought up this question in a different form before, as I have pointed out the Reagan Democrats of 1980 were comprised of a large number of blue-collar lunchbucket types who were probably approaching middle age at the time. Brought up as Democrats with the idealism of John F. Kennedy and the union worker political pedigree, they nonetheless were believers in American exceptionalism – for them, the American malaise was a result of Jimmy Carter capping off a decade or more of failed liberal policies both here and abroad.

As Romano points out, many in the Silent Generation (which was the base of the Reagan Democrats as they reached middle age in the 1970s) are now gone. At around 29 million, it is well less than half of the Baby Boomers or Millennials. (I notice that Generation X isn’t mentioned, but they are certainly larger than the Silent Generation as well. At 51, I could be considered a tail-end Baby Boomer but I identify more with Generation X.)

Yet the question to me isn’t so much Republican vs. Democrat as it is “regressive” statist vs. conservative/libertarian. I worry more about the number of producers (i.e. those who work in the private sector) vs. the number of takers (public sector workers + benefit beneficiaries). The number of takers is growing by leaps and bounds - chronic underemployment to the point people still qualify for food stamps or housing assistance plays a part, as does people getting older and retiring to get their Medicare and Social Security. I’ll grant it is possible (and very likely) some straddle both categories, particularly older workers who qualify for Medicare, but as a whole we have a bleak future as an entitlement state without some sort of drastic reform. This example probably oversimplifies it, but you get the picture.

At least I’m trying to be honest about it instead of using the faulty reasoning of the Left, as Dan Bongino sees it. Sometimes I wonder if its a game the liberals play in the hopes that we waste and exhaust ourselves trying to refute all the bulls**t they spew rather than come up with new, good ideas.

Perhaps more importantly, though, Bongino in a later article makes the case that government surveillance is not the terrorism panacea people make it out to be.

I’m not willing to sacrifice my liberty, or yours, for a false sense of security, Ironically, those defending this egregious, government-enforced evaporation of the line between the private and public self cannot provide any evidence of this metadata collection process intercepting even one terror plot.

After 9/11, Congress adopted the PATRIOT Act, which was supposed to be temporary. Given that we are in the midst of a Long War against Islamic-based terrorism, there is some need for scrutiny but Bongino has a point – are we trying to get someone inside these terror cells?

Finally, I want to pass along some good news. If your house is like mine and uses heating oil, you can expect to save $459 this winter compared to last. (Having well above-average temperatures in December meant I made up for the “extra” 100 gallons I had to get to make it through a chilly spring.) But as American Petroleum Institute’s Jack Gerard also points out, investing in energy infrastructure is a key to maintaining these savings in the long run – and has the added benefits of an economic boost.

We often talk about infrastructure in terms of transportation, where public money is used on projects generally used by the public for enhanced commerce. As I was told, traffic bottlenecks were common in Vienna before they finished the bridge over the Nanticoke River in 1990 as well as in Salisbury until the completion of the U.S. 50 portion of the bypass a decade or so ago. Now traffic flows more freely, time and fuel are no longer wasted, and people are just that much more likely to visit our beach resorts. (The same process is occurring on Maryland Route 404 and U.S. 113 as widening makes that traffic more bearable.)

But this can also occur in the private sector as a future investment, and this is what Gerard is referring to. Most are familiar with the story regarding the Keystone XL pipeline, but the same sort of opposition rose up to the Mid-Atlantic Power Pathway, a transmission line once slated to run through Wicomico and Dorchester counties on its way to the Indian River generating plant in Delaware. Slack demand and other infrastructure improvements were cited as factors in killing MAPP, but the process of dealing with environmental issues likely played a larger role.

Regardless, you can bet your bottom dollar that any sort of fossil-fuel based infrastructure would be opposed tooth and nail by a certain class of people who believe all of our electricity can come from so-called “renewable” sources, and that power will magically run directly from the wind turbine to the outlet in your living room. I see nothing wrong with private investment trying to make lives better, so if another natural gas pipeline is what Delmarva needs to succeed and some private entity is willing to pay for it, well, let’s start building.

Just as I built this post from the debris of my e-mail box, we can make our lives better with our natural resources if we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot.

About that TEA Party…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gaining interest

August 21, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

On a Friday night in Alabama, it’s probably not unheard of to have 20,000 people in a football stadium. But the only game going on was a political one, for Donald Trump was holding a campaign event in Mobile.

Now think about this for a second. We are 14 1/2 months out from the Presidential election and five months out from the first votes being cast. But 20,000 people braved s sultry evening to hear a candidate talk tough on immigration because it is a key issue to voters like them. Indeed, there is the celebrity factor you won’t get with even a Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush because The Donald is a TV star. (It’s not like we haven’t had an actor as a President; only the medium would be different. “B” movies evolve to “reality” TV.)

There are candidates on the right and left, in Trump and Bernie Sanders, who seem to be drawing large crowds wherever they go. Trump is talking tough on immigration and foreign policy while Sanders is portraying a socialist nirvana paid for by soaking the rich with an exorbitant tax rate. Since 99% of the audience thinks they will get something for free, naturally they will be supportive.

Liberals would discount Trump’s appeal as blatant racism designed to appeal to Southern whites. “Of course he will draw 20,000 in Alabama,” they chortle knowingly, “since all that live there are mouth-breathing racists who won’t let go of their Confederate flags or Bibles.” Two to three times a week I get DNC e-mail sneering about the latest thing Trump said.

But there is something about a candidate who vows to “make America great again.” It seems the last time we were in such a state of malaise it was at the end of a Democratic administration which reigned in an era shortly after a military defeat. Granted, we don’t have the “misery index” of inflation and unemployment that plagued Jimmy Carter’s one and only term, but we don’t exactly feel like we’re in an economic boom, either. America, by and large, gets tired of a party in power after eight years – aside from the deviation of an “extra” Republican term because Ronald Reagan won in 1980 and was succeeded by his vice-president George H.W. Bush, we have gone over six decades in that pattern. Democrats are not as wildly popular as Ronald Reagan was, so odds are the pendulum will swing back in 2016.

And Donald Trump has survived every pitfall predicted. No one thought he could get a campaign off the ground at first, then it was decided by the conventional wisdom that his comments about John McCain would sink him. After that, it was the Fox debate and people were sure they had him when Megyn Kelly was bleeding from wherever. Perhaps Trump has more political lives than Morris the Cat, but it seems that no matter what epitaph the political class writes for him, the rumors of his demise are greatly exaggerated.

To be quite honest, I tend to agree with Trump’s immigration stance. I’m sure it will be one of, if not the, highest score out there once I wrap up the immigration portion of my Dossier series.

Yet Trump is beginning a high-wire balancing act with his immigration proposal. On one side, he has to begin coming up with reasons to vote for him besides empty catch phrases, but on the other he needs to maintain the shoot-from-the-hip style that endears him to many voters among that 20,000 who showed up to watch him. If you replicated the same conditions in Salisbury, you might only get 5,000 – but that would be tenfold what any other candidate, including Sanders, would draw here.

I’m definitely not sold on Trump as the GOP standard bearer, and history is littered with candidates deemed “inevitable” a year out from the election who failed to win a single primary. America may get tired of Trump’s attitude and fire him from the GOP field, but there is that specter of a Perot-style run lurking. I was one of those disaffected Republicans who was so disappointed in the Bush 41 performance that I voted for Perot, and there were enough of us to swing the election the wrong way. Lesson learned.

I hope that I hear more from Trump on the important issues. Since he is all but a shoo-in for the next debate, maybe the questions won’t be the “gotcha” style ones employed by Fox. One can only hope, anyway.

Irrelevant?

As I relaxed after a long Mother’s Day weekend with family, this story from the Washington Times piqued my interest. Here’s Jeb Bush, who most consider the “establishment” Republican candidate, trying to make believers out of the religious Right as the graduation speaker at Liberty University. You may recall LU is where Ted Cruz kicked off his own 2016 campaign, and the school founded by the late Moral Majority leader Jerry Falwell seems to be a popular stop on that circuit.

Yet I contrast this to the idea, popularized by some and echoed by that s0-called “establishment,” that the only path to victory is to moderate or even capitulate on some social issues, particularly gay “marriage.” Where are the Republican presidential candidates who are choosing to cater to this crowd? I think the answer is simple: there’s not enough voters there to really matter.

Something I’ve seen over the years, in many elections, is that it’s rare that a Republican can succeed by being Democrat-lite. I will grant that the most recent Maryland election could be seen as a case where the avoidance of social issues – despite the bait continually laid by desperate Democrats – may have assisted in a GOP victory. Or maybe it didn’t because there was only a tiny percentage of Maryland voters who are militantly pro-abortion or fanatical in their support for gay “marriage.” Regardless of whether the issue were brought up or not, most of those would have supported Anthony Brown. I can even turn the question on its head and ask those who are in a group like Millennial Maryland: let’s say Larry Hogan had come out against abortion and for traditional marriage. Would you, as nominal Republicans, have still supported Hogan?

You see, this is the question those who are considered “values voters” continually have to ask themselves when we see an otherwise conservative candidate fall all over themselves trying to pander to various centrist groups who would rather not see social issues be prominent campaign issues. I think most who are social conservatives realize it’s the economic message that carries the day overall, but having an evangelical candidate could be the difference between maybe just voting for the candidate (with the risk these discouraged voters may stay home or just vote down-ballot races) or being active in knocking on doors, making phone calls, and opening the checkbook.

Until someone can prove to me that there are millions who will beat down the doors to the GOP if they would just throw the values voters under the bus, I think I would lay my money on a conservative nominee who can stand on all three legs of the conservative stool – fiscal, social, and national security – and appeal to values voters. Is it not worth pointing out that Falwell’s Moral Majority was an early supporter of Ronald Reagan in the 1980 election? I think he did pretty well for himself.

It seems to me that this part of the Republican Party needs to find its voice and make sure it nominates a clear alternative to the morally bankrupt policies of the political insiders. Yes, we call that Judeo-Christian values.

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