Racist

By Cathy Keim

(Editor’s note: Cathy thought I should share the credit, but all I did was add a few finishing touches. She did the hard part.)

The fear of being called a racist has frozen people into a defensive crouch for most of my lifetime. In modern America it is a ridiculous threat – yet it still keeps people immobilized from taking any action that might open them to being called racist.

Why is it a ridiculous threat? Because it just hasn’t been true for many years now. It is hard to find a family that isn’t filled with in-laws, stepchildren, adopted children, cousins, and more that are from a different race or ethnic group. Being old enough to have attended a segregated public school and then living through integration and finishing my public school education in an integrated high school, I can attest to the huge strides forward made in this country towards a color blind society.

Sadly, that is all being turned back by the purposeful hyping of our society into tribalism. It is more beneficial for some politicians to divide us by race or ethnicity than it is to emphasize our common beliefs as Americans.

These common beliefs are what made America so unique in the world. We were not bound together by our tribe; instead we were bound together by our consent to believe in the principles and laws set out by our Constitution and Founding Fathers. Despite the obvious concession we have to make that America has not been perfect and that there have been blemishes on our record, we can admit to those flaws but as a whole still be proud of our principles and our nation. After all, no nation led by human hearts and minds will ever be perfect – but we are charged in our Constitution to strive “to form a more perfect Union.”

Unfortunately, our youth are not being taught the good that is America, but to magnify the flaws and warts that are still items to be worked on – a distorted picture of the truth. This cultural manipulation of our story has been going on for decades in order to benefit those politicians that want to keep power over the people.

When I first became active in the Tea Party, I quickly recognized that being called a racist, bigot, or homophobe (and combinations of the three) would come with the territory. It didn’t take me long to learn that, rather than trying to defend myself from the spurious charges, it was better to keep on making the case for the rational ideas and policies that I believed in. One’s defense against being called a racist usually falls flat, anyway, because how can you prove a negative or defend yourself against liars? No matter what you tell them, they will continue to lie and even make up new charges if necessary.

It would seem that some of the Republicans are waking up to this idea. Recently the front page stories have been the ones between Trump and Hillary, but I was interested in the sidebar story on the governor of Maine refusing to be called a racist.

Maine Gov. Paul LePage went ballistic Thursday after several Democratic politicians labeled him a “racist” over comments he made about the demographic makeup of drug trafficking suspects in his state.

LePage went on a profanity-laced tirade in a voicemail message in which he challenged Democrat state legislator Drew Gattine to prove he was a racist, the Portland Press Herald reported.

“Mr. Gattine, this is Gov. Paul Richard LePage,” a recording of the governor’s phone message says. “I would like to talk to you about your comments about my being a racist, you (expletive). I want to talk to you. I want you to prove that I’m a racist. I’ve spent my life helping black people and you little son-of-a-bitch, socialist (expletive). You… I need you to, just friggin. I want you to record this and make it public because I am after you. Thank you.”

It would seem that GOP Presidential nominee Donald Trump is leading the way for others to take the offense when accused of racism, as Michael wrote on Friday:

But speaking Wednesday in Jackson, Mississippi, Trump took a more accusatory approach. “Hillary Clinton is a bigot who sees people of color only as votes, not as human beings worthy of a better future,” he shouted. It’s an approach that won’t win any friends at The Washington Post, but the message wasn’t aimed at them.

The race baiters have frequently called for the need for a dialogue on race, but they have wanted to control the terms of the discussion – otherwise, we are a “nation of cowards” on race. In light of the incitement to tribalism from our elites, it is past time for regular Americans to have the discussion publicly.

I want for people to respond to each other as fellow citizens based on their actions. If you obey the laws, work hard to support your family, contribute to your community, and stay out of trouble, then we can all get along together. Notice that none of that depends on your tribal affiliation.

The recent upturn in protests by La Raza (the Race) and Black Lives Matter point to the urgent need for Americans to embrace our common heritage before we descend into the full-blown tribalism that has plagued the rest of the world for centuries. Americans of all races have enjoyed a higher standard of freedom, security, and living than any other nation, while other nations – particularly those deemed “Third World” countries in Africa, Asia, and the Americas – have all been plagued with violence, graft, and corruption as warring factions seek control of their natural resources and people.

Over the last few years we have seen the rise of factions in our nation as well. Both Black Lives Matter and La Raza are inherently racist and un-American. They are being manipulated to further destroy the fabric of America.

Moreover, the Democrat party has thrived for years by fomenting the distress of the minority Americans. They have not alleviated the problems, but instead have created further issues on so-called “poverty plantations” while calling conservatives or Republicans racists, bigots, and haters, accusing them of holding minorities back.

But take a look at the cities that are boiling over with hatred – they are all controlled by Democrats and have been for decades. The liberal Great Society policies of the 1960s served to dismantle the black family and replace the father with government subsidies, and they have been the most devastating attack on the inner cities possible. More recently, the government policies of bringing in low-skilled immigrants through the refugee resettlement program, the H2B temporary workers visas, and illegal immigration have all contributed to the loss of jobs for minority workers and have caused wages to stagnate.

There are many Black and Hispanic citizens that are integrated into our communities and are thriving, but the focus is always on fomenting the discontent and exploiting the rage of the minorities that are trapped in the underclass. Trump is finally asking those Americans what the politicians have done for them? It is about time that more leaders stand up and state the truth: our current government is not here to help you, because it is to their advantage to keep you down.

All of America loses if we revert to ethnic and racial tribalism rather than joining together to declare that in America all men are created equal and all can participate in our society.

I will close with a quote a recently-published book my son enjoyed and recommended, Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger. He begins this passage by quoting neuroscientist and traumatic stress expert Dr. Rachel Yehuda of Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City.

‘If you want to make a society work, then you don’t keep underscoring the places where you’re different – you underscore your shared humanity… I’m appalled by how much people focus on differences. Why are you focusing on how different you are from one another, and not on the things that unite us?’

The United States is so powerful that the only country capable of destroying her might be the United States herself, which means that the ultimate terrorist strategy would be to just leave the country alone. That way, America’s ugliest partisan tendencies could emerge unimpeded by the unifying effects of war. The ultimate betrayal of tribe isn’t acting competitively – that should be encouraged – but predicating your power on the excommunication of others from the group. That is exactly what politicians of both parties try to do when they spew venomous rhetoric about their rivals. That is exactly what media figures do when they go beyond criticism of their fellow citizens and openly revile them.

Reviling people you share a combat outpost with is an incredibly stupid thing to do, and public figures who imagine their nation isn’t, potentially, one huge combat outpost are deluding themselves.

Impressions on Maryland’s U.S. Senate GOP primary

Over the last couple weeks I have been trying to get a reading on who I would like to be my Senator from the great state of Maryland. (Spoiler alert: Donna Edwards and Chris Van Hollen ain’t going to cut it.) It’s been a process of trying to get questions answered, checking websites, and watching some of the debates in order to figure out who the best candidate for me would be.

There are 14 Republicans running for the Senate seat, a number which is unusually high. (In previous cycles, it was closer to 10 candidates.) Of course, with that many candidates in a statewide race it becomes apparent early on who has the most legitimate shot at winning. Granted, this has been helped somewhat by media perception, such as which hopefuls are invited to debates, but realistically only about half of those 14 candidates have any real shot – the rest are just ballot filler. In fact, when I asked the questions of candidates only 12 of the 14 had good e-mails, and two of those 12 have no website insofar as I can tell. (Another has a website with just a front page and no functionality). Sadly, the pair without websites are two of those who answered my questions – but the larger question is how you can beat someone who has $3.6 million in the bank like Chris Van Hollen does? You need money to get your message out.

By the time you separate the wheat from the chaff you get about a half-dozen somewhat serious candidates, with a couple on a lower tier that are running campaigns more suited to a Congressional level. Greg Holmes is one, with another being Anthony Seda, who has pointed out he’s not accepting contributions. Noble, but suicidal in the real world of politics. Let me repeat: you need money to get your message out.

So in my estimation, the race comes down to five: Richard Douglas, Joe Hooe, Chrys Kefalas, Kathy Szeliga, and Dave Wallace. In the last debate I watched there were only three participants as Hooe and Wallace were not invited. Another debate featured all but Wallace, while the Goucher College debate had Holmes, Hooe, and Wallace along with Douglas and Kefalas (Szeliga skipped this debate for a Maryland GOP event.)

So here is how I would categorize the contenders, in alphabetical order.

Richard Douglas is the only one of the five to have run a statewide campaign before, but I’m not seeing that pointed out as an advantage. He also has the benefit of experience working in the Senate, but in this topsy-turvy electoral year he’s forced to run more as an outsider because that’s the political mood. His campaign to me has been an intriguing concoction of a hawkish foreign policy combined with a populist economic outlook. He’s one of only two of the five who has answered my list of questions, and as one would expect I found his answers to be strongest on foreign policy, immigration, and to some extent the role of government. (I also know Richard has religious freedom bona fides.)

In 2012 when Richard ran for Senate and lost to Dan Bongino, I noted he would have been my 1A candidate after Bongino, who I endorsed. I would have been as comfortable with him winning as the eventual nominee, and at this point he’s done nothing to change that assessment given this field. Still, he speaks the language of an insider and that may hurt him.

Joe Hooe has made his key issue that of immigration, advocating for a paid guest worker program he claims will raise $80 billion. He claims it will make taxpayers out of illegal aliens, but my question is whether we could track such a program when we have no clue how many people are in the country illegally because they crossed the border and how many are illegal because they overstayed their visa. And if they refuse to pay to work, how will we enforce this new fee? If they are here illegally, then I doubt they’re suddenly going to have a “come to Jesus” moment and decide to follow a law that will cost them $1,000.

One thing I do like about Hooe is his advocacy for apprenticeship programs, but to me that is more of a state concern than a federal concern. Perhaps it’s the aspect of having to be elected by the people (which was not the original intent of the Founding Fathers) but I think all of these candidates conflate the roles of the federal and state governments to some degree. Education is one of many areas where there should be no government role.

Chrys Kefalas has a background that I think would serve him well, particularly since he’s involved with the manufacturing field. He does well on trade and job creation, but my question is whether he would be anything different than what we have now concerning the social issues leg of the Reaganesque three-legged conservative stool. Surely he (and some others) argue that Maryland has settled on its position regarding social issues such as abortion and gay marriage, but that doesn’t mean we should stop working toward Judeo-Christian values where life begins at conception and marriage is between one man and one woman. It’s not quite enough to keep me from voting for Chrys on a general election ballot but many thousands of voters realize a two-legged stool doesn’t work.

Maryland Republicans run into trouble when they try to out-liberal the Democrats on certain issues: if you’re a voter who’s going to vote based on the belief that the unborn is just a blob of tissue and no harm comes to society when anyone can marry anyone else they want – and why stop at one, right? – it’s not likely they’re going to be conservative everywhere else. Meanwhile, you just dispirit the percentage of GOP voters who have that passion for Judeo-Christian values. “I’m only voting for President,” they’ll say. It can be argued that Larry Hogan’s victory was an example of putting social issues on the back burner, but aside from Hogan getting the benefit of a depressed liberal Democrat turnout in 2014, ignoring social issues doesn’t play as well on a national race.

Kathy Szeliga is the “establishment” candidate trying desperately to portray herself as an everyday outsider. With the vast majority of Maryland’s General Assembly Republicans favoring her – mainly because she’s served as a Delegate for six years – she also has received the most attention and support in the race. Using my monoblogue Accountability Project as a guide, her lifetime score of 83 would put her in the upper third of those who have served with her over the years, although her score was more mediocre in 2015 (a 72 rating.) She’s also served as one of the faces of General Assembly Republicans - witness this video, one of a string she has done with fellow Delegate Susan Aumann:

Having said all that, there are two main things that disturb me about Szeliga’s campaign. For one, she has no “issues” page on her website, and I always subscribe to the theory that if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything. (The same is true for Kefalas.) However, she is reasonably good about answering questions and participating in debates.

But on that point you can tell she is a professional politician. Most of Kathy’s answers seem to be empty platitudes about her life and experiences being a mom, business owner, etc. rather than substantive discussions of the issue at hand. (On the other hand, Richard Douglas has a tendency to talk over the level of the average voter.) Not to be patronizing, but I suspect someone is telling Kathy women voters who would normally be afraid to vote Republican need to be addressed in a non-threatening way – never mind the Democrat who survives the primary will try and paint Szeliga (or any of the others, including the more socially moderate Kefalas) as a stereotypical Republican anyhow.

Dave Wallace, out of the five candidates, seems to be the most conservative. Having read a lengthy treatise of his, most of what he has to say makes sense on a policy level and for that reason I’m leaning his way at this point.

Yet having said that, we also know that Dave lost to a likely opponent by 22 points in a district which is, admittedly based on registration, a D+23 district as it currently stands. In that respect, though, it’s not as bad as the state at large (which is D+32.) We have seen this movie before: Dan Bongino lost by 30 in a 3-way race in 2012, Eric Wargotz by 26 in 2010, Michael Steele by 10 in 2006, E.J. Pipkin by 31 points in 2004, and so forth. I really don’t want a 30-point loss again; unfortunately, too many Maryland voters are stubborn like a mule in voting against their self-interest. (If they “got it,” the most conservative candidate would always win.)

Dave seems like a nice guy and a policy wonk, which I like. But the question is whether he can be a bulldog and attack the Democratic candidate for the failure of the last seven years.

This may not necessarily apply to Dave, although I’m using his space, but I don’t like talk about bipartisanship from any Republican hopeful because Democrats at a national level will nearly always take the hand you reach out to them with, twist your arm off, and proceed to beat you with it. Anyone remember “read my lips?” One of the reasons the bulk of Republicans are fed up with the political system is the lack of intestinal fortitude they see from the politicians they sent to Washington with the message “it’s always been done this way” is not cutting it anymore.

When the TEA Party wave in 2010 put the GOP back in charge of the House, the excuse was “we only control one half of one-third of the government.” Indeed, a do-nothing Senate was a problem. But when the do-nothing Senate was flipped to Republican control in 2014, we still heard excuses about why we couldn’t get anything done. If you want a reason for the rise of Donald Trump, you don’t need to look much further. (Never mind Trump’s not conservative and the bulk of his policy statements have the depth of a cookie sheet. He talks tough.)

If I were to rank my choices in this horserace at the moment, it would go Wallace and Douglas fairly close going into the final turn, with Kefalas a neck ahead of Szeliga for third on the outside and Hooe bringing up the rear. (The rest are chewing hay in the infield.) As it stands now, I will make my endorsement the second Sunday before the primary (April 17.)

In the coming days I will rank the three contenders for the First District Congressional seat. [Yes, there are four Republicans on the ballot but Jonathan Goff is such a strong Trump supporter that he is disqualified. (#NeverTrump strikes again.)] That race is a little different because the incumbent is a Republican so the question becomes whether we want a more straight-ahead conservative or someone who has the reputation of being more liberty-minded? I’ll do some research and hear from one of the three candidates in person in the coming days to help me decide.

Update: Want more? Here you go.

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.

Transcending the political

First off, welcome to 2016. As a politically-minded blogger, even-numbered years in America always seem to draw more interest in my site so I hope it begins today.

But to begin 2016 I want to write about something which on its face would appear to be political but goes beyond party politics. It comes from the 9-12 Delaware Patriots, a conservative political group and one that has its interest in pushing Delaware in a different direction than its leadership tends to want to go – a recent example was their opposition to Syrian refugees entering the state.

However, a conservative movement is well-served in branching out beyond politics so I thought this part of their New Year’s message was appropriate in that regard:

Many of our members face challenges this year; health, financial, employment, etc.  We hope to build a network of support throughout this new year for our members to bring resources to bear.  One of the exciting things we’ll be doing is developing a directory of members who provide goods and/or services in the community.  We also will be setting up resources for people to receive donated items and to donate items to our members or the community at large.  If you are familiar with setting up and managing one of these “Needs & Seeds” programs, please contact Karen Gritton.

Perhaps the best places to learn more about their particular program are their social media page and website. This, though, brings up a larger point about the willingness of political groups to help out.

I have been involved to some degree or another with party politics for over two decades. Many people who are connected to a party – speaking from experience as a Republican, but assuming it’s not uncommon among Democrats, Libertarians, Greens, or anyone else – also spend a lot of time helping out in the community on an individual level. They may be Jaycees, volunteer and donate their time to lead the local Relay for Life, be a deacon in a local church – whatever the case, they aren’t creatures of the party. On the other hand, while individual members of a political party may be community leaders, the party itself by definition serves solely as a vehicle to get their favored or voter-selected candidates elected to public office.

So there are interest groups which try and straddle the line between politics and community. To use an example I’m familiar with, the Wicomico County Republican Club has a scholarship they give to a local high school senior. While there is competition to win it, the most basic requirement is that the recipient be a registered Republican – so it’s not inclusive of the entire community. (This is true of many other scholarships and awards as well, such as those only available to public school students.) In previous years, the WCRC also had a food stand at the old Salisbury Festival. But as a group their primary goal and interest is to elect Republicans.

On the other side of the coin are interest groups that aren’t necessarily political, but have a strong common interest and desire to do politically-based things. Foremost in my mind in that regard is the Free State Project, which is a movement to gather 20,000 liberty-minded people who promise to move to the state of New Hampshire, deemed to be the most advantageous pro-liberty state. (As of this writing, they are at 18,406. Once the 20,000 goal is reached, which could be this year, those who signed pledge to move to New Hampshire within five years. Almost 1,900 already have.) It’s likely that this group would be politically active upon arrival, but as it stands they are more of a community.

As the TEA Party movement evolves away from the label that was unfairly tarnished by half-truths and innuendo, it also needs to become more attuned to how it can be of assistance in a broader sense. I don’t think it’s unfair to consider the 9-12 Delaware Patriots a TEA Party group, but by rule they do not endorse candidates and it’s rare that anyone left-of-center would come be a speaker at their meetings. (Kudos to those who do.) What they seek in this call to action is sort of a mini-Free State Project in the regard that it would be encouraged for them to patronize the businesses members own and help each other out in times of need. To me, that echoes some of the functions of the religious community, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find a disproportionate percentage of the 9-12 Delaware Patriots are church members compared to the population at-large.

At the heart of all this is the question of where we want to go as a nation. There are many in this society who would be perfectly happy to cede their decision-making to an all-powerful government in return for subsistence, almost to the point of needing assistance to wipe their behinds. Sadly, I suspect that number is growing because the Millennials and beyond aren’t being educated in the concept of American exceptionalism and the progress to which our laissez-faire capitalist system has led the world.

Yet there are still a fair number of us who desire the limited government we were taught the Constitution guaranteed to us. We may argue about whether or not certain functions are legitimate and proper, such as our role to combat radical Islam, but the overall idea is to be self-reliant and to try and obey the Golden Rule. Some argue that the 2016 election may be our last stand, and we don’t want Custer in charge of it. (Many portray Donald Trump as Custer, while others believe any politician with Washington ties will lead us straight to that ambush.) Regardless, they have been disappointed with the political trends ever since the TEA Party movement began in 2009 as the opposition to statism.

Over this year, the electoral process will play out and hopefully the side of liberty will prevail. In the meantime, though. the idea behind the 9-12 Delaware Patriots’ initiative will be worth following. Perhaps it can lead to a local resurgence in the TEA Party movement that faded away a couple years ago.

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.

The truth, the spin, and the battlefield

By Cathy Keim

John Boehner hit the Sunday morning TV circuit to explain why he is resigning and to spin his past performances. In addition, the various media are adding their spin and giving advice as to how to proceed. After reading through a variety of reports, it seems pretty well decided that:

  • John Boehner did the best he could under the circumstances.
  • Congress never really had the ability to stop the Obama agenda.
  • The conservatives/Tea Party types that caused this ruckus should go away.
  • House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy will be the next speaker.

One can go farther and depending on the source conclude that:

  • Our nation has grown too large to govern as a republic.
  • Christians should withdraw to enclaves because it is all going to the dogs.
  • There is no turning back from the path of destruction that we are on.

Before you give up hope and head for the hills with your guns, ammo, Bibles, and food, let us take a quick review of the comment sections of the same articles.

I do not read the comments on some sites because they are merely vile epithets interspersed with poor spelling, but other sites actually have rousing comment sections. There are many Americans that are still interested in the American Experiment and in their Christian faith. They are not giving up. Nor should we.

We need to think about the battlefield before we proceed. Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) says:

If we launch headfirst into leadership elections like this is a typical succession, without ever taking the time to diagnose our current ailments, we won’t heal the fractures in a Conference that has thus far proved unleadable. Simply reshuffling the deck won’t serve our members, and it especially won’t help our next slate of leaders who will be tasked with producing better results than our leaders have so far been able to achieve.

Kudos to Rep. Roskam for identifying the need to come up with a coherent strategy to unite the GOP. The current fracture between the leadership and the base is not going to disappear, especially if Boehner uses his last 30 days as Speaker to push through a clean CR as is rumored. (He did.) If the House replaces Boehner with McCarthy it will be viewed as the leadership ignoring the base once again. It is possible that McCarthy would acknowledge the desires of the base more than Boehner did, but it would be a long road to prove this and to gain the trust of the base.

We have entered into a dangerous time for the country with an expanded imperial presidency unfettered by the legislative branch and supported by the judicial branch. This president rules by executive order, regulations, and selective enforcing of the laws.

Congress has allowed this because under Pelosi and Reid they agreed with Obama’s agenda. The citizens expressed their strong disapproval by dismissing first Pelosi and then Reid by decisive victories in the House and the Senate. Those victories at the elections have never translated into victories in rolling back the president’s fundamental changes. This has led to extreme disappointment and anger amongst the base. The passage of the CRomnibus bill is a recent example of this outrage. Rep. Harris said we needed to just pass the CRomnibus so that we could focus on this year’s budget. We didn’t have time to fight over the previous budget, because we needed to look ahead. Fast forward. Now we are looking at another CR. Hmmm, we didn’t fight last time so that we could work on doing it right this time, so now let’s just pass another clean CR so we can focus on the next one?

We have been handed that line just a few too many times. They say we will hold the line on that debt ceiling; no, at the budget; no, back to the debt ceiling. The bait and switch doesn’t work once people realize that it is happening.

Congress under its present failed leadership has tried one too many times to blame everything on anything except themselves. Like a drug addict in rehab, they need to get clean, and face their inner demons. They were elected to serve their country, not to become rich, powerful men and women addicted to their status and in need of the next cash transfusion from their donors/masters.

The GOP leadership really cannot afford to kick this can down the road now. In the progressive movement, they are facing a ruthless, effective opposition that will stop at nothing to achieve total control of every aspect of our lives.

  • Housing and transportation zoning codes: Agenda 21 takes care of that.
  • Education: Common Core destroys that.
  • Family: Changes to marriage and social mores finishes that off.
  • Freedom of Religion: Reduced to a personal faith only to be expressed inside the church building, and only as long as they don’t get political.
  • Government medical care: We have you covered, but that doesn’t ensure access to care.

We are well on our way to a totalitarian state and the progressives will not stop until they get there or are decisively defeated, not just pushed back for an election cycle or two.

Now, GOP leadership, do I have your attention? Your base understands and is extremely motivated to stop the fundamental transformation that is taking place in this country. We are no longer deceived by your show votes.

I suggest that instead of sneering at your base, the leadership of the GOP should take a brief time to reflect on the course of the nation and come to a plan of action that will encourage its base and present the proper explanations which can be ably defended by many of the presidential candidates as to why we need to defund Planned Parenthood, stop the flood of immigrants that we are not assimilating, and change our foreign policies, particularly our policy towards Iran.

Carly Fiorina is not backing down on the evil that is Planned Parenthood as revealed by the Center for Medical Progress’s videos. Congress should join her by forcing a vote on defunding PP and making the President veto it. Show the videos so that the President and his followers are exposed for supporting selling butchered baby organs.

Ted Cruz is standing alone on the floor of the Senate calling out the failed leadership on their collusion in funding Planned Parenthood and the Iran deal.

Ben Carson is not retreating from his statements about a Muslim president.

Many of our candidates are showing themselves to be fearless in presenting their ideas. This should be a lesson to our present failed leadership.

Do not go onto the battlefield without a strategy to win. Once you start, stand by your principles, and go for victory.

The only flaw in this advice is that it assumes that our current leadership is operating on principles when it sadly seems that they are doing the bidding of the highest donors. This is the most plausible theory to explain why the GOP keeps siding with the progressive agenda when it coalesces around the goals of crony capitalism rather than their base. If so, they need to reform or find themselves cast aside like Boehner. Revolutions can pick up momentum. The outsiders may just lead the base to true victory.

The perils of social media

May 16, 2015 · Posted in Delmarva items, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

I’ve been sitting on this one for about a week, as I’ve had a busy last few days and have been following some other items that placed themselves on the front burner. But way back on the stove was an e-mail I received a week ago that I found interesting enough to reply to.

It was an e-mail from a gentleman who is trying to resurrect a social media site for conservatives. In this case he was looking for a link to his site from mine. (I guess he’s found out I run a relatively conservative political shop over here in the hinterlands.) In return he would build a fan page for me on his site, which is fine with me as far as that goes. In my case, I just read the e-mail and it piqued my curiosity – what happened to the original site?

So I asked this guy, DJ Cohon. Here’s what he said:

We had the site from 2008 to 2011. In the past we had a little over 15,000 members. At the time it was costing us too much money. Then facebook had shut down our fan page which was a major blow. The main reason however was the site was getting completely taken over by people against the Tea Party movement. I was spending too much time deleting blogs that were anti-american to say the least. The final straw was a major ddos attack.

This time we are much more prepared with spam checks and filters in place before the launch. The conservatives of the country need a place to call their own. I read everyday online how FB is removing more and more pages that are right leaning. They are once again trying to shut down the voices of the people. Another fan page for Allen West just had their page taken down because they had a link to a site that showed a picture of Mohammad. They had over 300,000 fans. GoFundMe has also recently taken a stand against right leaning causes. They are doing this in preparation for the upcoming election. I was thinking about bringing the site back after seeing what has been going on. And after receiving many messages through twitter from followers asking to put the site back up I decided it was time.

To each his or her own – if I had 15,000 readers a week I would be floored. So I checked out the site (teapartytown.us) and right now it has is a video, a space to gather e-mail addresses, and a fairly broad range of submenu items which are hit-or-miss – but it looks like a quality, well-done site. There’s already a handful of fan pages, mainly for 2016 presidential candidates but a couple bloggers there, too. It’s on track for a July 4 relaunch.

I realize that the next couple paragraphs are going to assume that Cohon’s story is true. I have no real reason to believe he’s not telling the truth and he’s not going to gain much by lying to me. But if what he said about the demise of the original site is correct, what does that say about the tolerance of the Left to opposing views? It’s anecdotal evidence to be sure, and there are people out there who will believe anything that fits into a particular worldview and narrative, but overall Facebook and other social media sites seemingly only put up with conservatives because they have to at best and are openly hostile at worst. Say something there to defend the right to life or traditional marriage and you run the risk of someone swinging the ban hammer.

But in the back of my mind there’s just something which gnaws at me about the label “TEA Party.” I don’t shun the label myself, but there is a connotation to it that is negative to some as well. As long as Cohon doesn’t envision massive commercial success, though, he should do just fine in the niche of several million Americans who tend to be conservative to libertarian in their outlook. 15,000 people is a nice number, but in the universe of Facebook, Twitter, and so forth it’s like a tiny asteroid. I’ve been to rallies where 15,000 was just the population of the restroom lines.

Maybe the thought occurs to me because, while there may be a need for a group like TEA Party Town, we as a movement can’t be a community insulated from the outside world. To paraphrase an old quote: we may not be interested in war, but war is interested in us. In the minds of many who subscribe to the philosophy of the TEA Party, if government and the world left us alone we would be satisfied with life – but neither is going to happen soon. So we have to deal with the world as is, and that includes the traditional social media.

At my church the sign over the front door tells us we are entering the mission field. It’s worth having a place to preach to the choir and speak among friends – in fact, I encourage the fellowship – but we can’t abandon the rest of the world when doing so.

Local Democrats make big claims to receive handouts

Fresh off a shellacking where their statewide standard-bearer had his doors blown off locally by 30 points and only two of their eleven state race contenders won - one by just 30 votes locally and the other in an ostensibly non-partisan race – the Wicomico County Democratic Party finds itself in somewhat desperate financial straits. So in order to raise a little money, the party is making some claims which have to be seen to be believed – and I’m going to show you.

Let’s go through this a little bit at a time, shall we?

Maryland voters decided to “Change Maryland” last November, with the election of Larry Hogan as Governor. However, with only a month in office, Hogan is already proving himself to be just another Tea party Republican.

Perhaps the idea was to indeed elect a TEA Party Republican, rather than four more years of the O’Malley/Brown debacle? We certainly were due for a change.

And as far as the TEA Party goes, it’s worth recalling that TEA is actually an acronym that stands for “Taxed Enough Already.” We heard for three-plus years about all the tax increases put in place by the O’Malley/Brown administration so people naturally decided enough was enough.

But they continue:

Here are just a few of his first actions:

  • Slashing education funding – $1.9 Million from Wicomico County alone
  • Recklessly raiding over $2.5 Billion from our Transportation funding
  • Eliminating programs that help to keep the Bay clean

Apparently I’m supposed to take their word about these so-called cuts, since there’s no context or backup information provided.

I will not profess to be an expert on the state budget; however, I did look under public education and on all three line items I found for Wicomico County:

  • “compensatory education funds to local school systems based on Free and Reduced Priced Meal Eligibility counts” goes from $37,322,878 actual in 2014 to $38,615,082 for 2015 estimated – an increase of $1,292,204.
  • “additional support for students with limited English proficiency” goes from $3,092,879 actual in 2014 to $3,407,287 for 2015 estimated – an increase of $314,408.
  • the automatic supplement to counties “which have less than 80 percent of the statewide average wealth per pupil” goes from $3,670,117 actual in 2014 to $4,579,323 for 2015 estimated – an increase of $909,206.

By my count that’s an increase of $2,515,818. It appears the Hogan administration is well taking care of those things it needs to, prioritizing at a time when the state had to address a $750 million structural deficit.

I still haven’t figured out where the $2.5 billion “raid” to transportation funding is – the repeal of the automatic gas tax increase would save consumers nearly $1.56 billion over the next five fiscal years. We know Democrats own tax increases, so perhaps they bemoan that “lost” revenue to the state.

As for the elimination of programs for the Bay, I’d like to know precisely what they are referring to. They’re getting the PMT regulations so they should be happy.

Anyway, let’s continue.

And the story is the same in Wicomico County where Larry Hogan’s Tea Party partner, Bob Culver, is becoming the anti-education County Executive by refusing to fund a new building to replace the clearly antiquated West Salisbury Elementary School and scraping (sic) completion of the Bennett High School athletic complex.

Obviously the WCDCC has little concept of debt service. It would be one thing if the county could reach into its pocket and fish out $40 million for a new elementary school but the idea of pulling out the county’s credit card to put yet another multi-million dollar expenditure on it doesn’t appeal to the new County Executive. Just like they did in electing Larry Hogan, county voters wanted a change in direction from the former administration.

Instead, the county will improve the school in the areas where the need is greatest, with the list compiled through a consultation with experts and school officials. It may not be the “new” West Salisbury Elementary, but it will be an improved one. Perhaps that approach would have saved the county a lot of money with the former Bennett High School.

As for the Bennett Middle situation, completion of the athletic fields would not be “scrapped” (as the letter should have said) but simply placed in a different area of the site. The former Bennett Middle would be repurposed for office space, allowing the opportunity for the county to consolidate some of its operations. The change still needs the approval of County Council.

Picking back up, with the sad trumpet appeal for funding:

This isn’t the change I voted for in November, and I know you didn’t vote for this, either. We need your help to fight back. We cannot elect more Democrats in 2018 without your support over the next four years. Every dollar you donate to the Wicomico Democratic Central Committee goes to funding our efforts to recruit and help good local candidates.

Most importantly, your donation goes to helping us communicate our party’s values to the voters… personal responsibility, educating all of our children, cleaning up the Bay, protecting our agricultural community, equality for ALL, supporting local businesses, and protecting the Middle Class… and we need your support!

Actually, I did vote for some of this change. Unfortunately, I couldn’t change enough members of the General Assembly to make the total difference that’s needed – although my personal representation in the House of Delegates got a whole lot better.

But if the WCDCC wants to elect more Democrats in 2018, those Democrats can’t be in the tax-and-spend, socially liberal mode. Not in this county.

And after reading that Democrat screed, I realized it’s really conservatives who advocate for all those things the Democrats claim to stand for. That’s not to say a Democrat can’t be conservative but they are fewer and further between, even in this area.

So how would I, as a conservative, respond to their letter? I’ll go through what they claim to represent.

We believe that personal responsibility begins with keeping more of the money you earn by taking advantage of the opportunities a capitalist system creates.

We believe that money should follow the child so you can choose the best educational opportunity for your children, whether in public or private school or through a homeschooling regimen.

We believe in cleaning up the Bay through a balanced approach, beginning by addressing a proven detriment in Conowingo Dam and not punishing farmers who have been trying their best to address the issue.

We believe in protecting the agricultural community by allowing farmers the option to do as they wish with their land, not arbitrarily shutting off development options to them.

We believe in equality for all, not discriminating for or against anyone. But we also know our nation was founded on Judeo-Christian values which have stood the test of time.

We support local businesses by allowing them more freedom to do what’s productive and less time to have to deal with governmental edict and regulation. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and we want to encourage them to grow and prosper for the community’s sake, not as a cash cow.

We want to protect and grow the middle class – not at the expense of the upper classes, but by allowing the conditions where those on lower rungs of the economic ladder can climb their way up through hard work and ingenuity.

The jury is still out on this, but I think all the Democrats have is rhetoric. We will have to keep an eye on the GOP to make sure they deliver the results their philosophy should yield.

So if you are a local Democrat who received this letter, there’s only one thing to do: go to the Board of Elections and request the change of registration form to become a Republican. It may be your best chance to influence election results in the future.

A Palin problem?

January 27, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The question about Common Core

January 18, 2015 · Posted in Business and industry, Delmarva items, Education, National politics, Politics · Comments Off 

My friends up in Delaware are blessed to live in a relatively small, easy-to-get-around state. While its national reputation is that of a reliably Democratic state, they have a significant conservative grassroots presence and one subpart of that group, the 9-12 Delaware Patriots, is trying to spread the word about a Common Core Workshop to be held at the University of Delaware Saturday morning. It’s a free event but you have to follow the link to get a seat. While it may be somewhat Delaware-centric, other surrounding states are in on Common Core as well.

The event is sponsored by the Mid-Atlantic Education Alliance, which has some interesting opinions on Common Core, and is set up to be a debate between those who support and oppose the Common Core concept. It’s good to see the 9-12 Delaware Patriots involved because they are an activist TEA Party group (witness their recent pro-police rally I spoke about earlier this month) which stands up for that which they believe.

But I also wanted to focus on one aspect of Common Core that is bothersome to me, and that’s the role of crony capitalism. While the goals of Common Core were admirable when the concept was introduced in 2008, it’s come to mean a nationalized approach to schooling – ironic when one of the original goals of Common Core was to note:

A number of studies… have found that students perform better in systems that give schools greater freedom to hire and reward teachers, purchase supplies and make other school-specific budget allocations, and choose curriculum materials and teaching methods. Those studies also show that decentralization works best when it is combined with various forms of accountability. According to one team of researchers, the positive impact of school autonomy coupled with choice and accountability amounts to more than one-and-a-half grade-level equivalents on the PISA assessment.

Instead, we seem to be saddled with a one-size-fits-all approach, perhaps because it’s a really lucrative market with a captive audience. This has led to questions about motives and who actually controls the system (hint: it’s not our Board of Education, whether elected or appointed.)

So because one group, formed by government and financially backed by a wealthy philanthropist, decided the United States lagged behind the world academically we had to adopt new standards in the name of competing in a global marketplace. Wouldn’t it be better to let each state pick and choose the methods which work best for their children?

Much as we try to teach down to a bland sameness, drug down the mischievous tendencies of boys through medication to calm them down, and wring our hands about every manner of politically incorrect social interaction, we need to remember that all kids are different and learn certain things at their own paces, which can vary from subject to subject. The girl who may struggle with math could master five languages or the boy who can’t tell you the concepts behind a particular book may be adept at vocational skills and excel at robotics.

While other nations may have more of a top-down approach, Americans pride themselves on local control and that’s a significant reason why Common Core has had trouble being accepted. Add in the large gobs of federal money dangled as incentive for state governments to adopt Common Core and you get a distinct “us vs. them” mindset.

For the most part, parents want their children to be well-rounded, well-mannered, and well-educated. Unfortunately, there are too many who don’t care or can’t be there to assist their offspring and that leads to poorly-educated, poorly-prepared kids who drop out of schools that they cause trouble in before they leave. Common Core does nothing to address that problem because that is a cultural divide and not an educational one. In fact, throwing money at the issue can even make it worse.

Yet there is a bucket load of taxpayer dollars involved, so the advice is the same for this matter as it is for almost everything else: follow the money. It may have started out with good intentions, but it seems to me that Common Core is just another scam being perpetuated on unwitting taxpayers and fattening the coffers of well-connected groups.

Different perspectives

January 16, 2015 · Posted in Business and industry, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

It’s not quite a GO Friday, but relatively close. I’m going to point out a piece on the Manufacture This blog, which is a product of the Alliance for American Manufacturing. In it, they note: “We asked Americans in manufacturing about the State of the Union. Here’s what they said.” The post excerpts from interviews with 10 Americans about how they assess the current economic situation; of course, most are worried about some of the pet issues AAM talks about and advocates for as well.

Jobs, opportunity, and a growing economy are what middle-class families want President Obama to speak to during Tuesday’s State of the Union address. The faces in the Alliance for American Manufacturing’s (AAM) “Manufacturing State of the Union Box” will not be in Washington for the speech. Instead, they will watch from home or work, hoping President Obama will offer solutions on issues that matter to them, including manufacturing jobs that afford them a middle-class lifestyle.

Quite honestly, the AAM’s leftward bias shows through in that statement because it’s highly likely both the Republican and TEA Party responses will advance possible solutions for what ails the middle class as well. In fact, I would be brash enough to state that government is not the solution at all – getting it out of the way as much as possible seems to me a more likely prescription to cure an ailing economy. Let entrepreneurs of all stripes thrive, workers have the freedom to work in a union shop without joining the union, and minimize regulations so that more labor is spent being productive than reactive. Somehow, though, I don’t think these will be addressed in either the State of the Union speech or its responses, although the TEA Party one may come relatively close. Unfortunately, not a lot of people will see it because viewership for the SotU is relatively light to begin with and the patience of most Americans with Barack Obama wears thin quickly.

So it will be interesting to follow the reaction of the AAM ten after the speech on Tuesday, and whether they paid any attention to the Republican or TEA Party responses.

The required renovation of Andy Harris

For the four years he has been in office, Andy Harris has generally enjoyed the support of his conservative Eastern Shore constituents. He’s not had a serious primary challenge since he was elected and garnered over 70% of the vote in 2014 against Democrat Bill Tilghman, whose centrist posture was well right of mainstream Democrats but far out of step with the district.

But since that resounding November victory, Andy’s actions in Congress during the lame duck session have earned him further enmity from the strong libertarian wing of the party and alienated conservatives as well.

By inserting a provision into the so-called CRomnibus bill preventing the District of Columbia from enacting its Proposition 71 marijuana legalization, Harris again became the target of District residents and leaders who demanded a tourism boycott of Andy’s Eastern Shore district earlier this summer. Accusations of being in the pocket of Big Pharma followed, but Harris defended the role of Congress spelled out in the Constitution [Article 1, Section 8] as overseer of the District’s affairs.

Yet while the libertarians of the Shore make up a small slice of the constituency – a Libertarian candidate ran in the First District for three successive elections from 2008-12, but never received even 5% of the vote – the conservatives are upset about Andy’s vote in favor of CRomnibus. That segment of the electorate is Andy’s bread and butter.

In the TEA Party community, there are whispers about who could challenge Andy from the right, as several feel he is on the same glide path that Wayne Gilchrest took during his long Congressional career. His 2008 primary defeat (by Harris) came after a bitter campaign where Andy stuck the “liberal” tag successfully on the longtime pol as well as fellow Maryland Senate opponent E. J. Pipkin.

Ironically, a politician long allied with Pipkin could be a prospect to make that challenge. Michael Smigiel, a delegate who was defeated in the 2014 District 36 GOP primary, is popular among the TEA Party community for his strong Second Amendment stance. But it would be difficult for anyone to raise the money Andy has at his disposal and Harris has bolstered his profile among local elected officials and the state Republican party by being generous with his campaign funds through A Great Maryland PAC.

It’s also worth mentioning for context that CRomnibus is probably roughly the same deal which would have been made if the budget were completed in regular order, given the partisan divide between the House and Senate.

Instead, while most functions of the government will continue through next September, the Department of Homeland Security budget has a February expiration date. This sets up a showdown between Congress and Barack Obama regarding the latter’s executive actions to give de facto amnesty to millions of illegal aliens; however, some hardliners already feel the damage is done.

In response to a lengthy Facebook post by Harris explaining his CRomnibus stance, though, local activists summed up the frustration TEA party activists felt, noting:

  • “(Harris) does a nice job of listing those riders and amendments that might seem to gain the approbation of the conservative and Republican audiences, while omitting anything that might serve as a balance – what effectively was the PRICE paid for what was had, the PRICE of ‘compromise.’”
  • “It is rather sad that Andy thinks that he can list a few paltry gains and that will make us overlook the whole thousand page monstrosity. The obvious question is that if he got in a few tidbits that he wanted, then who else got in their tidbits and what are those?  I would imagine that they will far outweigh any small gains that he is bragging about.”

These activists agree one way Harris could help to restore his image would be to take the lead in the conservative grassroots push to replace John Boehner as Speaker of the House. Bear in mind that this could come at some cost as Andy serves on the Appropriations Committee and a Boehner victory over any challenger for whom Andy shows support could bring repercussions such as the stripping of his position there, but on balance I believe a potential sacrifice such as that is worth the opportunity to have a stronger conservative leader as Speaker. It’s a sentiment shared by commentators at American Thinker, WorldNetDaily, and RedState.

On November 4, people hungry for real change went to the polls to reject the Democratic Senate and place Republicans firmly in control of Congress. The events leading to the CRonmibus, though, shook the confidence that Washington would depart from its business-as-usual benefits to the ruling class by allowing the outgoing defeated members one last hurrah. While all of this blame cannot be laid at the feet of John Boehner, there is a mood in this country that a strong counterbalance is needed to the increasing use of Executive Branch power by Barack Obama, particularly on immigration and Obamacare. The fear of many conservatives, particularly those in the First District, is that John Boehner doesn’t have the spine to rein in the executive.

Just like in 2008, when Andy Harris first ran for Congress, the potential is there in 2016 for state elected officials to “run from cover” as their Delegate or Senate seats aren’t on the ballot. During the similar 2012 election, 7 members of the Maryland General Assembly ran for Congress – one for the Senate and six for various Congressional seats. While none were successful overall, two won their party primary and ran through November.

No member of Congress is universally loved, and being a representative at any level of government means you won’t please everyone. But there’s a growing number who want Andy Harris to be a conservative leader and not just talk a good game.

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  • The Road to 2016

    President:

    Donald Trump (R)

    Gary Johnson (L)

    Hillary Clinton (D)

    Jill Stein (Green)

    U.S. Senate - Maryland

    Kathy Szeliga (R)
    Chris Van Hollen (D)
    Margaret Flowers (Green)

    U.S. Congress - Maryland District 1

    Andy Harris (R - incumbent)
    Matt Beers (L)
    Joe Werner (D)

    ---------

    Delaware

    Governor

    Colin Bonini (R)

    Sean Goward (L)

    John Carney (D)

    Lieutenant Governor

    La Mar Gunn (R)
    Bethany Hall-Long (D)

    U.S. Congress - Delaware

    Hans Reigle (R)

    Scott Gesty (L)
    Lisa Blunt Rochester (D)

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