Thoughts on Ted Cruz and his endorsement of Donald Trump

September 25, 2016 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

Let’s start off with my initial emotions on this announcement: disappointment, then resignation. I think this adequately captures both sides of the equation going forward, so allow me to elaborate.

I consider myself a limited-government conservative, or perhaps better described as a conservative with libertarian tendencies in a number of respects and areas. I often write about the idea of “rightsizing” the federal government down to a point where it does the minimum required of it in the Constitution, and this worldview affected my perception of the 2016 Presidential field. Ted Cruz was not my overall first choice out of the group, but of those remaining when Maryland’s day in the sun came back in late April he was – by miles - the best remaining choice in terms of my stated desire to reform the federal government in a Constitutional manner.

On the other hand, I had already heard and seen enough from Donald Trump to know that he wasn’t going to significantly improve the situation inside the Beltway. He had already backtracked and capitulated on enough campaign issues for me to see that he wasn’t going to be trustworthy enough to be the GOP standard-bearer. Although we went for a period of about 2 1/2 months before the Republican National Convention with the idea that there still were chances to derail the Trump train, the national Republican party (and Trump zealots) did their best to make sure that the “victory” Trump won (dubious at best, thanks to the number of open primaries) with just a plurality of the Republican vote would stand. In the end, many supporters of Ted Cruz as well as John Kasich were browbeaten into acceptance – the rest became the significant number of #NeverTrump folks out there, of which I was one. I would not accept Trump as the nominee, and my conscience would not allow me to work within an organization that promoted someone of dubious value to the conservative movement.

So when Ted Cruz stood at the podium of the convention and exhorted everyone to vote their conscience, I considered it a highlight of an otherwise pathetic coronation of The Donald as Republican nominee. My confidence in Trump upholding the planks of the GOP platform was about the same as the confidence that he could go a week without being on the media for saying something asinine – in both cases, about zero. The fact that the Trump people booed Ted Cruz off the stage was proof that they weren’t principled enough to stand before conservatives to defend their candidate when his bona fides were questioned.

Obviously I was not thrilled to see Cruz fall off the #NeverTrump wagon after all that transpired between Trump and “lyin’ Ted” during the primaries. (Of course, that assumes he was really ever on it.) But as Christians we pray to have our trespasses forgiven as we would those who trespass against us, and from the tenor of Cruz’s comments in his statement I think he has forgiven Donald Trump for what he said during the campaign as simple competitive rhetoric.

And Cruz has a number of political calculations he has to account for, too. After November the election season turns to the 2018 cycle, and Cruz is part of it as the junior Senator from Texas. Certainly there are already people in Texas politics smarting from the very fact that Cruz upset the establishment choice of former Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in the GOP primary there four years ago, but former Gov. Rick Perry is one of those rumored to be considering a 2018 run for Cruz’s seat. Opponents cite the alienation of Trump voters as just another factor against Cruz, since there’s also the perceived blame for the 2013 government slowdown and the reputation for being a boat-rocking troublemaker that Cruz carries. (It should be noted that all that baggage was supposed to sink Cruz’s presidential campaign early on, but he outlasted most of the rest of the field that was supposedly more palatable to the electorate.)

For all his issues, it’s clear that for Ted Cruz to have a political future he had to modify his stance on Trump, and that was made more convenient by the unqualified Democratic candidate and the pledge he took to support the Republican. Over the next four years he is more useful in the Senate than martyred by his own rhetoric.

So let’s say Trump loses, Cruz retains his Senate seat, and the Clinton/Kaine team continues the damage done by Obama/Biden. The question is whether people will be as passionate about Cruz in 2020 or if they will consider him damaged goods? Assuming Trump loses and doesn’t wish to try again at the age of 73, the early favorite in 2020 has to be Mike Pence – just as the first rights of refusal went to Sarah Palin in 2012 and Paul Ryan this year. But there will certainly be a crop of those who didn’t grasp the brass ring this year looking to seize the nomination: I would strongly suspect that group includes Cruz, John Kasich, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Scott Walker, and Bobby Jindal. All of them (except Kasich, who briefly ran in 2000) were first-time candidates – the political world seems to be that of just two strikes and being out, which eliminates guys like Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee as old news. All but Kasich also seek the votes of strong conservatives, with Kasich being more of a moderate.

At this point I would still like to see Bobby Jindal make a 2020 run, as there’s little chance one of the 2016 crop knocks him off as the king of my hill. But someone new could strike my fancy or there could be a significant moderation in Jindal’s political views. Still, I would welcome Ted Cruz to the fray with open arms, knowing he had to do those things he may not have liked in order to keep his position of leadership in the conservative movement.

As for me, I remain #NeverTrump whether it’s politically damaging or not. Since politics is not my job I have little to lose but a lot to gain as I work to convince people of the benefits of limited government and support those inside politics who advocate it with actions, not words.

Part of the exodus

On Labor Day I normally post on something union-related, but today I have a different sort of union to ponder: the union between conservative activists and the Republican Party.

Among the items on my Facebook feed this morning was one from Dwight Patel, who is one of the financial movers and shakers in the Maryland Republican Party (note: I have transcribed these as written, grammatical/spelling errors and all):

If you are an elected Republican Central Committee member and you can’t bring yourself to Vote for our Parties (sic) nominee… Go resign

After the shouts of “Preach!” and “Word!” in response was this from Eugene Craig, who is the 3rd Vice-Chair of the MDGOP:

Elected members of the central committee were elected to build the GOP not tear it down with blind gang like loyalty to open racism. That is not the party of Reagan and Lincoln and I will protect every RCC member rights to do what’s best to build their local party and vote their conscience.

So Patel responded:

Eugene out (sic) bylaws speak of this… Hence many people have resigned over trump… It was the right thing to do… And you need not further the lefts talking points by calling Donald trump a racist.

Dwight went on to explain that Trump was among his bottom choices and he gave maximum or sizeable donations to others. I can vouch for the fact that Dwight is a significant donor – the resident of Montgomery County bought two tables for our Lincoln Day Dinner last year and brought several people across the bridge. It’s likely he will do so again this year.

As you likely know, I am one of the “many people (who) have resigned over trump.” I didn’t have to in accordance with the bylaws, but I chose to anyway. Simply put, as one who is conservative before Republican I could not back a man who I saw as detrimental to the conservative cause, in part because I found him lacking in trustworthiness and principle. Having no way of knowing just how many people have resigned over Trump as compared to regular turnover, though, I don’t know what sort of trend we have here. But it’s highly likely that most of those who have left over Trump are those who were on the conservative side of the Republican party – people I call the “principle over party” wing as opposed to the “party over everything” wing. (And then you have those caught in the middle based on the fear of a Hillary Clinton administration, which seems to be descriptive of Patel. I suspect they would be sorely disappointed with the lack of positive change that would come from a Trump administration – just more of the status quo of ever-expanding government but with the “Republican” imprimatur on it.)

But in speaking to Craig’s point about “build(ing) their local party,” the sad fact is that 64.6% of those voters in Wicomico County who showed up voted for Trump over a more Constitutional conservative choice in Ted Cruz and a more moderate choice in John Kasich. Perhaps if Maryland had voted earlier in the process many within the 64.6% would have backed other conservatives in the race but we will never know – I just have to deal with the data at hand, and to me it proved that our county voters may be the “party over everything” group. If that’s true, then many of my efforts in educating local voters have been for naught.

I will admit that Trump seems to be getting his campaign going in a better direction, and even with the possible pitfalls of the Trump University trial and allegations of financial ties to Russian and Chinese backers those pale in comparison to the headaches Hillary Clinton is dealing with as the e-mail and Clinton Foundation scandals – along with the rumors of serious health issues with which Hillary is afflicted - smolder in the background despite being ignored by the partisan media. And the other day I concocted a scenario in playing with an Electoral College map where Trump had a path to victory if he can make up just five points on Clinton in certain states. (Part of that involves getting Gary Johnson into the debates, which I support. Let Jill Stein come along and participate, too.)

But, to use an overused phrase, in terms of the conservative movement a Trump presidency would still be rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Moreover, his base has been variously described as “nationalist populist” or ”alt-right” while those who oppose those ideas are dismissed as “cuckservative.” I reject that description: I think I stand on the real conservative ground here based on my body of work – it’s you guys who need to get off the idea of using government to get even with your opponents. That makes you no better than liberals.

In this case I am not an unbiased observer, but the number in Maryland and around the country that have resigned from party-level positions based on Trump securing the nomination on a plurality of the vote – with some unknown number of Democrats switching over to goose the process for nefarious reasons – is less important than the conservative balance they brought to the Republican Party. Because of certain tasks I was generally given, I could not bear the idea of publicly having to show support for Donald Trump so I opted out.

I have read on many occasions that the Republican Party will soon go the way of the Whig Party, but the circumstances have changed significantly since the mid-19th century as Republicans and Democrats cooperated to make ballot access difficult, if not impossible, for other parties to secure. (The same goes for the Presidential debates, which are controlled a commission made up primarily by members of the two parties. It’s why people like me, who have some degree of agreement with the Libertarian and Constitution parties, stayed as Republicans – the others can’t win on a state and national level.) If the Republican Party ceased to be, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see the power-hungry Democrats take the opportunity to lock the process entirely. So it’s gut-wrenching to see the GOP self-destruct, but there’s the possibility this may occur.

The conservative fight has to go on, though. Like many of the others who left over Trump, I may just need some time to figure out my role.

A position of power for Andy Harris?

In the middle of reading a story about a possible breakup between two conservative factions in the House, I found what should be a very, very fascinating tidbit to folks in these parts. According to Phillip Wegmann at the Daily Signal:

“I’ve heard of no mass exodus (from the Republican Study Committee),” a GOP aide said, “just a few members here and there who don’t feel they use the resources [RSC] provides often enough to justify paying the dues.”

The right candidate for RSC chairman could change that dynamic though, the aide speculated. “I’d imagine a Chairman Andy Harris would make (House Freedom Caucus) folks more likely to stick around.”

Harris, a Maryland Republican, is a potential candidate for RSC chairman, according to multiple Capitol Hill sources. He has remained tight-lipped about his plans, however. Harris’ office did not respond to multiple requests by email and phone from The Daily Signal.

The race for RSC chairman will officially be decided after the November election, but members have been talking about it at least since July when Flores announced this year’s process. When lawmakers return in September, interested candidates will meet with the study committee’s founders. Because the House is in recess all of October and most of November, that only leaves next month for campaigning.

No congressmen have declared their candidacy officially, but a senior GOP aide told The Daily Signal that both Harris and Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., are building support inside the caucus for a bid. (Emphasis mine.)

I realize we are going by the word of an unnamed “GOP aide” – for all we know, he or she may work for Andy – but assuming this is true, it is an intriguing prospect for Andy’s national profile. Because he is far more conservative than most Maryland voters are perceived to be (and certainly Democrats are happy to help that perception along) it’s quite likely that a statewide position isn’t in the cards for Andy. However, he does represent a conservative district that is quite pleased with his record based on the fact he’s received over 75% of the primary vote each time since his 2010 election against challengers who ranged from neophyte to crackpot to serious enough to have some name recognition in portions of the district.

While the RSC has maintained a reputation as the conservative hangout for the House, the fact that membership includes the vast majority of the Republican caucus seems to give a perception that the RSC is now the “establishment.” At the beginning of the current iteration of Congress, the more conservative members decided they needed their own group because they felt the large size of the RSC was watering down its conservative message – hence, the House Freedom Caucus was born. While Harris wasn’t a founding member of that group, he is one of 42 members of the Freedom Caucus as well as an RSC participant.

As leadership will likely be rearranged in the wake of November’s election, Andy Harris may be presented with a number of opportunities. Given that the state’s blatant gerrymandering has placed Harris in an exceptionally safe seat, he has used the opportunity to try and build up the GOP farm team in his district – but now could be a spokesperson on a larger stage. (However, I am holding him to something he promised when first elected – six terms and out.) Love him or hate him, we will see if the back half of Harris’s Congressional service becomes a springboard to a leading role in the national conservative movement.

Taking a break – from talk radio

March 23, 2016 · Posted in Business and industry, Delmarva items, Mainstream media, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

Back on Saturday I posted an update to Facebook in response to a RedState diary. My message said:

I used to listen to Rush daily at work, or when I drove around the region in my previous job… but now I just can’t do Rush’s (or Sean Hannity’s) all-Trump, all-the-time talk radio anymore.

Part of the reason is that I work in an office and figure it’s better to pay attention to what’s going on rather than be distracted. But at one time I didn’t mind the distraction – as I noted, in my former job I had several presets for Rush depending on where I had to go that day. Prior to that I would have my radio on from 12 to 3 when I sat in my cubicle at my old jobs.

But I don’t find it as interesting anymore, and perhaps if you multiply that by a few thousand that was the reason we lost a talk radio station lately. Earlier this month the former talk radio station WICO-FM (92.5) became a simulcast for WCTG-FM (96.5), a music station with its studios in Chincoteague, Virginia. I actually didn’t know this until I saw a WCTG billboard in Delmar, Delaware and wondered why a station that far away was advertising there until I saw the 92.5 addition. Admittedly, I’m pleased because now I have a music station for my drive to work in the morning.

In the old days I would have been a little upset because the AM signal that Rush and Hannity are now presumably on doesn’t carry as far as the FM signal did – I could listen all the way down into Virginia on the days when I traveled that way. Now I wonder if this is a trend. A quick look at Wikipedia – perhaps a biased source but a source nonetheless – states Limbaugh is on 590 stations. That is less than the “over 600″ generally attributed to him, but not to any great degree.

But one thing I have noticed over the last few years is a change in the type of advertiser that is found on Rush. I realize that this isn’t the era where more familiar products and services are hawked on talk radio, but it seems the advertising demographic is skewing to the same type of content you see on the nightly network news – more stuff for older folks, such as supplements and security systems. Talk radio in general seems to attract survivalists (like those who would buy the food with the 25-year shelf life) and those who would be likely to purchase precious metals because I would hear those spots, too.

Maybe the issue for me is how serious it’s become. You used to laugh when you listened to Rush, but for me there doesn’t seem to be the humor in it anymore.

And with the advent of social media I can get a lot of conservative news and commentary without appointment radio. (Perhaps my new favorite is The Resurgent.) Others can listen all day to internet radio and podcasts to get their political fix – Lord knows there are enough would-be Limbaughs, Becks, and Hannitys out there. I’m not one who listens to the plethora of possible content – just let me read it and be done with it.

I may still turn on Rush from time to time when I go out for my lunch hour, but I think the days of listening wall-to-wall have come and gone. Everything has its season, and it wouldn’t shock me to find more and more political talk radio stations trying a different format in the months to come.

Conservatives against Trump (and his hucksters)

January 23, 2016 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, Delmarva items, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

In an attempt to tip the scales a little bit, and arguably give itself a little relevance in this current campaign, National Review gathered nearly two dozen prominent conservatives to make their case why nominating (and worse, electing) Donald Trump would be a mistake and a setback for the conservative movement. For the most part their reasons echoed a lot of what I said when I did my “dossier” series a few months back. Simply put, Donald Trump is not a conservative.

Had National Review asked me, my case would be made from the idea that Trump is a populist rather than a conservative, with ideas that sound great in a broad sense but when implemented evoke the old saying “the devil is in the details.” On immigration I share Trump’s concerns, and for the most part I think he has a sound approach to the issue. (This is in contrast to some at NR that would embrace immigration reform.) But in other areas such as taxation Trump works in a more steeply progressive, populist direction. Low-income wage-earners may get to send in a tax form that says “I win” but eventually we will all lose because the precedents will be set in punishing certain businesses. Talking tough with China is one thing, but putting the policies into practice another.

I don’t want to go through a complete rehash of what I said the other day when Trump got the Sarah Palin endorsement, but so far in the 2016 campaign – one which had the promise of a good, conservative candidate who could win on a message of rolling back the excesses of the Obama administration – we have instead seen the candidate whose campaign has most resembled the brashness and bravado of a WWE event reach the top of the polls and stay there despite the best efforts of several candidates to knock him off the perch. The argument that he’s not conservative enough seems to fall on deaf ears because people believe Trump can make America great again for some reason. It makes me wonder if the TEA Party was more of a cry for limited-government solutions or just a reaction to a President who was going too far too fast in a direction they didn’t expect.

To that end, there are now TEA Party people who want to cash in on the Trump name. Case in point: Amy Kremer, formerly of the TEA Party Express. I apologize in advance for the long blockquote, but you have to get a load of this fundraising appeal:

Dear Patriot,

Are you sick and tired of seeing America lose?

Are you fed up with Washington Elites and the liberal media screwing up, weakening our country and running us into the ground?

Do you think we need less mindless political correctness and more old-fashioned common sense?

And, do you think we need a bold, proven leader to win the Presidency and Make America Great Again?

Well I do too! And I am wholeheartedly supporting Donald Trump!

My name is Amy Kremer and I am one of the founders of the modern day tea party movement.

As Chairman of the Tea Party Express, I worked alongside millions of Americans just like you and we helped lead a revolution in American politics. I was just middle class mother who was fed up and spoke out, but together, we made a difference.

Now, America needs us again. We have to come together and elect Donald J. Trump President of the United States!

That is why I have founded TrumPAC, a brand new organization dedicated to supporting Donald Trump. And, I am going to need your help, BIG Time.

(snip)

The Elites are going crazy! They cannot stand the idea of President Trump, they are running scared, and as they quiver in their Ivory Towers, they plan to throw every thing they can at Mr. Trump to try and stop him, including the kitchen sink! No smear will be left in the bag or underhanded dirty trick will go un-played.

Their desperation is disgusting, but we know it’s coming. And we need to stop them!

That’s why we need you today, right now, to help Donald Trump weather the course. Mr. Trump has strong shoulders, and if we get his back and show the World that there is a movement behind him, ready to propel him all the way the Oval Office, nothing will stop us!

(snip)

Donate today and we’ll send $5 dollars directly to Mr. Trumps campaign so YOUR name will be on his FEC Report – we’ll handle the paperwork and even cover the credit card processing fees so every penny goes to the Trump campaign.

(snip)

AND BEST OF ALL – when his January finance report comes out, Your name will be on it, telling the world where you stand. You see, normally only big donations show up on finance reports, but because it came through us, just $5 will get your name counted too.

Mr. Trump will get a shot in the arm to see all of our names going on the record for him. Plus, his campaign will know how to follow up with you and get you involved when it’s time to vote in your state.

(snip)

I hope I can I count on you to chip in with a contribution and help reach our goal so we can get our winning message out to voters across the country.

Just $20 will help reach about 5,000 people through robocalls, social media, and Internet ads.

$35 will help reach about 13,000 individuals.

$100 will help reach nearly 36,910 folks. $150 reaches nearly 51,000 people.

Just $200 allows us to contact nearly 68,000 folks over social media and the Internet.

Whatever amount you can afford, your contribution will help us reach out and convince more voters that Donald Trump is what America needs!

So I send Amy Kremer $25 (which is the default amount on their fundraising appeal) and Trump gets five bucks? What a bargain! Not only that, the other $20 will “reach about 5,000 people through robocalls, social media, and Internet ads.” (Damn, I’d love to know where they are spending their $20 because I have a website I’d like to promote.) On that point, it looks like we have diminishing returns at some points so I’m wondering where this lady got her numbers. Math may not be her strong suit?

It’s interesting because when Kremer left the TEA Party Express in 2014 her plans were for “engaging in competitive Senate primaries and supporting fiscal conservatives in the coming weeks.” There must not have been enough money in that part of the political world so it was time to glom on to the most populist candidate we’ve seen since Barack Obama to be a moneymaker.

And people wonder why those of us in the heartland are so cynical about politics. It’s why we shouldn’t attach ourselves to a person but a philosophy, and mine is that of limited-government conservatism. Out of all the remaining candidates in the 2016 race, it’s a sad commentary to know that Donald Trump is the farthest from that ideal, yet many who call themselves conservative support him and apparently making money off his name is just peachy.

Update: Still need more evidence Trump isn’t a limited government conservative? Federally-controlled land is just fine with him.

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 61% solution

A recent poll by the Washington Post brought gasps of surprise from Republicans – even in a state where registered Republicans are outnumbered by better than 2-to-1 by their Democratic counterparts, the people of Maryland approve of Larry Hogan’s performance by a margin of 61% to 22% disapproval. Since a similar poll taken shortly after Hogan took office, he has gained 19 points in the approval department by pulling in a large percentage of those who previously had no opinion and even whittling the disapproves from 24% to 22%.

All those are encouraging signs, particularly as the Post points out Hogan is nine points up on Martin O’Malley at a similar juncture and back in the territory Bob Ehrlich enjoyed early on.

Of course, the Democrats retort that a portion of the goodwill is based on Hogan’s ongoing treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, with his last round wrapping up. Hogan’s newly bald head is regularly featured on social media as a constant reminder of his treatment, something which he’s parlayed into a lot of good press coverage.

Insofar as policy goes, though, Hogan has gone pretty much down the center of the road. The incoming governor whose initial act of significance was to pull unpopular phosphorus regulations from being published in the Maryland Register ended up compromising on less stringent measures in order to avoid a veto fight over a legislative version of the O’Malley regulations. Days later, his first budget made some unpopular “cuts” (read: more modest increases in spending than the opposition was conditioned to expect) but still was larger than the previous year’s.

On the transportation front, Hogan pulled the Red Line in Baltimore but decided to keep the Purple Line in the suburbs of Washington provided the local governments paid more for it. He used the money saved from the Red Line to fund needed highway projects and also figured out a way to reduce the tolls in Maryland. Unfortunately, we still have the higher gas taxes passed by Martin O’Malley to pay for the Purple Line and planned Red Line.

In a number of ways, Hogan has achieved his level of popularity to working around the edges. The makeup of the General Assembly is such that Hogan had a number of bills that passed where he allowed them to become law without his signature. It was probably a political calculation of the likelihood of whether his veto would hold and if the hill was vital enough to die on politically. Both sides seemed to be feeling each other out in a cautious session – save the doomed effort to roll back the “rain tax,” Hogan’s legislative agenda had a focus on economic development that was to some extent left over from the O’Malley administration’s half-hearted attempts to address the state’s awful business climate.

The question for Maryland Republicans going forward is just how much conservatism they want to push. Those in the party who disapprove of Hogan generally fall into either or both of the two categories of wanting fewer gun restrictions or better leadership on social issues – naturally, the Democrats tried to use both as wedge issues against Hogan and failed.

Maybe a better way to frame this is to question whether the Republican caucus in the General Assembly will create its own legislative agenda for next year or just ride along with Hogan’s. One thing I have noticed over the years is that there are several legislators who introduce bills in the General Assembly but we don’t seem to have a platform we follow – it’s like every man for himself.

Perhaps next session the GOP should pick out eight to ten important, conservative bills and work like hell to get them passed, bypassing the committee if necessary. (For example, had they done that on the original “rain tax” bill, they could have forced a floor vote on sustaining it, putting Democrats on the record as favoring it.) They can even be repeal bills of O’Malley legislation – after all, if Hogan is rolling back O’Malley’s toll hikes and Red Line boondoggle, we should hope he will ditch items like the “septic bill” and PlanMaryland.

If you have 61% of the public behind you, it’s time to grab a bully pulpit and make needed change.

Tough sledding

May 7, 2014 · Posted in Business and industry · Comments Off 

I know our Republican gubernatorial candidates have been talking at length about business climate in Maryland, but last night I saw a devastating chart which shows the result of bad national policy, compiled by the generally liberal Brookings Institution and found on the post at the Independent Journal Review.

When you open the chart up (because my links generally open in a new tab) you’ll notice that the firm entry line had been ahead of the firm exit line until they met in the latter part of 2008. And while the Brookings data only covers through the end of 2011, I’m pretty sure the situation is no better now given the situation with Obamacare.

In contrast, the chart seemed to have its widest positive gap in the mid-1980s, right in the sweet spot of the Reagan presidency and just after two tax cuts.

To be honest, there’s not a whole lot of incentive out there to create a business. It’s very hard to get capital because lenders are finding it more lucrative to play financial games among themselves to make a profit, and larger would-be competitors are busy trying to rewrite the rules to limit competition. For an example of this, study the story of ride-sharing service Uber and how it has to put up with the taxi cartels in large cities. The same might be said of e-cigarettes, which are being categorized (and banned) like regular cigarettes despite the fact the “smoke” is much less hazardous. Something tells me Big Tobacco is behind the scenes somewhere in this e-cig controversy and states will become much more amenable to the product once they receive a more hefty cut.

Finally, if you succeed all it gets you is a higher tax bracket. It’s like the old saying: no good deed goes unpunished. So the idea is to make being good less of a punishment, and perhaps a return to the successful policies of the Reagan era would be a beginning.

Best laid plans

Hopefully this is not an indication of how the remainder of the campaign will go, but the best laid plans of Larry Hogan had to take a back seat to the weather tonight. Instead he made the announcement in a release where Hogan noted:

An overwhelming majority of Marylanders, regardless of party, feel that we are way off track, heading in the wrong direction, and that new leadership is needed in Annapolis. And one thing is clear: we can’t change Maryland without changing governors. So after serious reflection, I have decided to answer the call, and step up to this challenge.

The establishment in Annapolis has just been expecting another coronation in November. But today, regardless of the weather, we’re putting them on notice that we’re going to give them the toughest fight of their lives.

While our initial intention was to continue despite the weather, as we monitored the situation overnight, it became clear this was going to be a significant weather event. We’ve postponed today’s event, but no amount of snow is going to stop our grassroots army of 75,000 fed-up Republicans, Democrats, and Independents from bringing real change to Maryland.

We have already started our work to change Maryland for the better, but our primary concern today is the safety of Marylanders. Due to extreme winter storm warnings we are strongly advising our supporters to stay home and stay off the roads.

Sounds awfully gubernatorial already. But, just like the 1,100 or so who crammed into his Annapolis event at the state Republican convention expecting Larry to lay out his campaign, another 500 were claimed to be awaiting this gathering. At one point this morning, I had heard there would be a live stream of the festivities but eventually the whole thing was scrubbed. Honestly, while there was a serious concern for safety, there was also the prospect of zero television coverage as most stations go wall-to-wall on their news with tracking the storm and its effects.

So Hogan will try this again on Wednesday, January 29. While it’s a long way out, Hogan supporters will be relieved to know the current Annapolis forecast for next Wednesday is for a sunny but chilly day, with a high of 28.

But as I joked with my blogging friend Jackie Wellfonder – a confirmed and diehard Hogan backer – if Larry had made the announcement when I thought he should have, it could have been an outdoor affair. You don’t have to plow sunny and warm. It is what it is, though, and perhaps the late-entry approach will work.

The real question, though, is how long the race can go with four main contenders, only two of whom have six-figure account balances to back them. It won’t take as much money to win the Republican primary, as it will be the race no one hears about – because the two leading Democratic contenders will likely soak up most of the available Baltimore and Washington commercial time – but it will require some financial prowess to compete. Obviously the concern is also how much a GOP contender will have remaining to go against a well-funded Democrat in the general election.

2014 is definitely an “all hands on deck” sort of year for Maryland Republicans. We always refer to the current election as “the most important in our lifetime” but in this one we sort of mean it. Either we watch our liberties continue to melt away into a morass of taxation, regulation, and usurpation of our God-given rights, or we grab the bull by the horns and wrestle it to the ground in order to save our state. The time to stand on the sidelines is long past.

Don’t let a little snow stop us in that fight.

Harris continues with high AFP marks

It should come as no surprise that a grassroots group which has over the years strongly backed our Congressman, Andy Harris, would give him high marks for his overall voting pattern. But Americans for Prosperity and their Federal Affairs Manager Chrissy Hanson wanted to make sure I got the word.

Now that the first year of the 113th Congress has come to an end, it seems like a good time to look back and take notice of how our Representatives and Senators voted. Americans for Prosperity ranks members of Congress based on their votes in favor of economic freedom, and thus, a better, brighter, more prosperous future.

Interestingly enough, though, while Andy’s 2013 score was solid, his rating for 2014 probably went down yesterday when he voted for the omibus spending bill which funds a large part of the government for the remainder of this fiscal year, through September 30. It did on the continuing Heritage Action scorecard, where Harris only rates an 83% score. In either case, though, Harris has tended to land on the edge of the top 50 rated members of Congress, both House and Senate.

In this day and age of instant gratification and accountability, it’s notable that many organizations take the time to track these Congressional votes and rate representatives. But these can be deceptive as well – for example, Harris actually has a worse rating than Sen. Marco Rubio (who’s best known for working with Democrats in trying to reform immigration into an amnesty program) and is only a few points ahead of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who’s been painted as an ineffective leader of the resistance and faces a strong primary challenge from Matt Bevin – so much so that McConnell has an attack website against his Republican opponent.

The point is that any scoring system can make for a flawed look at a politico, because sometimes actions are more important than votes and not every issue is of equal importance. To use Rubio as an example, he may be voting the correct way on economic issues but most have still not forgiven him for working with the pro-amnesty portion of the party on immigration.

In general I’m satisfied with how Andy Harris votes – when he served in the Maryland Senate he was one of only two legislators who have ever achieved a perfect monoblogue Accountability Project score of 100 in a particular session. I’m a very difficult taskmaster. So it goes without saying I was an early Harris Congressional supporter and remain so, given the lack of credible and better opposition in our district, at least until 2022. (This is because he set a 12-year term limit on himself.)

If I could wave a magic wand and get hundreds more members of Congress like Andy Harris, I’d take it in a second. We would be so much better off, regardless of the scores he’s assigned.

How to be an activist

September 12, 2013 · Posted in All politics is local, Maryland Politics, Politics · 1 Comment 

If I can wheedle the time off work, I would be inclined to attend myself as it would be a Friday afternoon well spent.

But on Friday, November 8th the Maryland Citizen Action Network is sponsoring what they call “Citizen Activist Training” in Annapolis. And while I already have a very good idea of how the state legislative website works thanks to my experience doing the monoblogue Accountability Project, I have never gone to Annapolis to deliver testimony in person (although I have submitted written versions on several occasions.) So it would be a good primer course in that respect.

My only suggestion to MDCAN would be, if possible, to have another similar session two weeks later – after all, the state Republican Fall Convention will be in Annapolis and that sort of information would be useful to activists within the party who are already making the trip for the convention.

But if that can’t come to pass, I would suggest you sign up quickly as I’m certain space is limited. There’s nothing that frightens the majority in this state than a minority which is no longer cowed into submission.

I didn’t do this intentionally, as I wanted to bring this event to the attention of my readers and today seemed like a good place to do so, but this happens to be the anniversary of one of the early seminal events of the TEA Party, the 9/12 gathering in Washington, D.C. I was there that day, and it was a powerful event which restored my faith that the pro-liberty movement wasn’t just limited to my little corner of the world.

We don’t need a million people to change this state – although I’m sure the Republican gubernatorial candidate would take that as a head start to the 2014 election, to build from there – but every one we can add to our cause brings us closer to our goal of restoring the “Free” to the Free State.

WCRC meeting – August 2013

In what turns out to be the second of three consecutive club meetings featuring a gubernatorial candidate, a packed room enjoyed the presentation from Charles Lollar. While Lollar hasn’t formally announced – one item he mentioned was that this area will be part of his bus tour on September 5 – it’s clear he’s intending to run for the GOP nomination.

So, as is our usual custom with visiting dignitaries who travel from afar, once we got through the Lord’s Prayer, Pledge of Allegiance, and introduced our other distinguished guests we turned the meeting over to Charles, who brought his wife Rosha along.

Lollar started right out by telling those gathered it was “awesome” we began with the Lord’s Prayer. (It’s actually something I believe our late former president George Ossman started. We later paid tribute to George, who passed away last week and was remembered as “a great Republican and club member,” with a moment of silence.) Charles continued on that point, saying that religion was the fabric of our nation, He also contended that the political process of late was one of deciding between whether our rights derived from God or were passed along by mankind, “If you think our rights are from men, don’t vote for me,” said Lollar. “Rights and liberties…come from the Creator of our universe.”

Charles pondered what could happen next year given three items: the new majority of local elected officials statewide who belong to the Republican Party, the impact of fights over state Constitutional amendments such as the one permitting gay marriage, and the influence of conservative Democrats in rural areas upset about the current administration’s efforts to instill draconian gun control measures.

But Lollar urged those attending to gather as much information as they could before making a decision on the gubernatorial race. For his part, Charles claimed “we will represent you well…when you run your campaign from here,” pointing to his heart.

In going over some of his qualifications, LtCol Select Lollar pointed to his service in the Marines as a leader of men as well as the turnaround he worked at Cintas, taking a division lagging in the bottom 15% of the company and transforming it into a top five percent outfit. “I’m a completely boring person (in my personal life)…but I understand money (and) leadership,” Lollar said. He repeated the case later: “I have more leadership experience than all of them.” referring to all those running for the state’s top office.

Regarding social issues, Charles made the point that he would be “elected as governor, not priest.” That’s not to say he’s not a social conservative, but his focus would be on the fiscal side. “We’re in it until the budget is balanced,” promised Lollar.

Charles brought up a fantastic point, stating that a significant portion of the state’s budget came from the federal government and because of that Washington controls much of what our state government does. He gave the example of a western state which enacted an 80 MPH speed limit until they were threatened with the loss of federal highway funds, at which time they reverted back to the standard 65 MPH. (Pity.) The states lose their ability to govern themselves when federal funding becomes a significant part of their budget, he added.

One solution he advocated was a taxpayer’s bill of rights (or TABOR law) like Colorado adopted some years ago. Simply put, a TABOR law means annual spending can only be increased by the sum of percentage of population growth plus the rate of inflation. For example, in FY2012 Maryland’s population grew by 0.8% while inflation was measured in 2012 at 1.7 percent. Thus, the maximum budget increase allowed by law would be 2.5 percent. (In reality, Maryland’s budget grew just over 4 percent. Had the TABOR been in effect, Maryland taxpayers would have saved roughly $650 million this year.)

In answering questions, Charles explained how he could run despite the Hatch Act (he is now a reservist, not on active duty), deferred on a lieutenant governor choice by stating “we are strongly considering and praying” about who the person would be, but wishing to get the campaign off the ground first, and noted his “concern” about cancelling out loyal Republican votes in an open primary.

But one questioner seemed to catch Charles off guard a little bit, if only because he may not be familiar with Mark Levin’s recent book. Once explained briefly, Lollar opined it “sounds like something I would agree with.”

And there was the obvious ask: how do you win in minority areas? Charles noted he didn’t need to win outright, and victory was possible with just 35% in those areas (knowing he’ll roll up sizable majorities in places like Wicomico County.) But he’s been active there, and while there are some who he knows won’t be receptive to his message, he’s going at these communities with the statement that “the best entitlement program is a job.”

Finally, it was noted that with the recent endorsement from Blaine Young, the Frederick County Commission president would be an honorary chairman of Lollar’s campaign.

With that, we returned to the usual order of business, with the minutes being read, treasurer’s report given, and Jackie Wellfonder introducing another former WCRC leader who would promote her event later.

Giving his Central Committee report, county chair Dave Parker conceded, “it’s been a hard week.” Parker pointed out the “assault” on State Senator Rich Colburn by the Daily Timesan article which aroused one supporter to warn “we can’t let them get away with this” and call on the group to burn up the editor’s phone lines starting at 8:30 the next morning – and the circus surrounding the District 36 seat. He said he had personally spoken to Diana Waterman, who denied any allegations of impropriety, but still believed the “state level was doing its best to self-destruct.”

And after bringing up the upcoming events of the WCRC Crab Feast on September 7 (contact me for tickets, by the way – I still have a few left to sell) and our next Central Committee meeting on September 9th, he urged those in attendance to consider joining the Central Committee next year. There will likely be turnover, and “we need some troublemakers” on the Central Committee, said Dave.

The aforementioned WCRC president, E. Dee Monnen (who I referred to last week) was promoting the upcoming First District Bull Roast on September 21 in Queen Anne’s County. Unfortunately, she could not secure a local bus for the event but still urged us to attend and show support for our GOP candidates, including Andy Harris.

Also speaking on behalf of Harris, Shawn Jester added that he was pleased with the Fruitland town hall turnout of over 100 people.

We also heard from District 38C candidate Mary Beth Carozza, who gave kudos to those running the Wicomico Farm and Home Show. (I credited my volunteers; they did most of the hard work. All I did was badger them a few times and bring the big red bin of Central Committee stuff I now need to go through.) She was planning to attend a now-scrubbed legislative hearing on onerous state regulations on the poultry industry as well as visit with the Rural Maryland Council.

And while the Colburn supporter was stating her case against the Daily Times, one observer believed the Senator indeed exhibited “poor judgment” with these expenditures. Personally, I’m hoping they check into the campaign finances of some on the other side of the aisle just as closely.

Our next meeting will be September 23, and as I noted at the top we complete our gubernatorial trifecta with Delegate Ron George introducing himself to the club.

I would like to make one final comment. In many instances, we allow the visiting speakers to speak early figuring they have a long drive back home or to where they are staying. Few stay for the whole meeting, but Charles indeed stuck it out and spoke to several members afterward individually. That sort of gesture is not forgotten.

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