On this Constitution Day 2017

After 230 years, our founding document is beginning to show signs of wear and tear. No, I’m not talking about the actual document housed in its sealed case, but instead the wear and tear its principles are undergoing as people are taught less and less about its true meaning and purpose and those who would prefer the absolute power to be corrupted absolutely take advantage of the situation they lent a hand in creating.

In the last few days before I wrote this we have had people who aired their grievances by protesting in the streets and creating a violent disturbance about a trail verdict they disagreed with, others who object to the placement of statues, monuments, and other historical markers they deem to be racist or inappropriate to the point of tearing them down, and a gathering of “juggalos” that emulates two men who call themselves the Insane Clown Posse demonstrating in the nation’s capital because the government believes they are a gang. (I’m not a rap fan so don’t ask me what they sing.) Believe it or not, of the three, the juggalos and juggalettes seem to be petitioning for a redress of their grievances in the most proper way. Whooda thunk it? [And, before you ask, I have drank some share of Faygo – to me (and a few others) rock n’ rye was the best flavor, although I think many are partial to the redpop.]

Now it’s not just the Bill of Rights that people are taking advantage of. Consider what the government of today, particularly Congress, does to “promote the general welfare,” and compare it to a paraphrase attributed by the Annals of Congress to then-Rep. James Madison: “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.” As economist and pundit Walter E. Williams correctly surmises, “Any politician who bore true faith and allegiance to the Constitution would commit political suicide.” And never mind the so-called “deep state” of bureaucrats that Congress has, over the years, ceded more and more of its oversight power to.

Thus, we have created a federal judiciary system with judges who often value the emotion of the so-called “victims” of a law more than what the Constitution says (or doesn’t say) about it, with the backing of the easily interpreted intent of those who wrote it to help guide them. We have created an educational system where Washington has an outsized role – even though the vast majority of the funding is raised locally – and it too often teaches children about their “rights” (whether real or created out of whole cloth) but not their responsibilities. And we have created an enforcement arm that can taint broad swaths of people with the accusation of being engaged in criminal activity based simply on music they listen to and symbols associated with it. (And before you say that’s well-deserved, ask yourself if you reacted like that when it was the TEA Party being scrutinized for criminal activity because they disagreed with policy decisions.)

I certainly wish the Constitution well on its birthday, but truly believe that too few understand its role in shaping our national history. Anymore it seems that if the Constitution conflicts with what they want then they call it outdated or irrelevant, but if it happens to be on their side suddenly they’re the stoutest defenders.

Many years ago I suggested some amendments to the document, and perhaps this is a good time to revisit these ideas with a little updating as needed. We have gone 25 years without a change to the Constitution, which is the longest drought in over a century. Aside from the 13th to 15th amendments in the few years after the War Between the States, the Constitution was largely untouched in the 19th century. But after the 16th Amendment was adopted in 1913, there was a flurry of activity in the following two decades that brought us up to the 21st Amendment, which repealed the earlier 18th Amendment that brought Prohibition. Another peak of activity in the 1960s and early 1970s was primarily to address civil rights, although the 26th Amendment established a national voting age of 18. But since 1992, when it was codified that Congress couldn’t vote itself a raise in its present term (an old idea originally intended as part of the Bill of Rights) we have left the body at 27 amendments.

So this is my updated version.

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If I were to ask for a Constitutional convention (allowed under Article V of the Constitution) I would ask for these amendments.

28th Amendment:

The Sixteenth and Seventeenth Amendments are hereby repealed, and the original Constitutional language in Article I, Section 2, Clause 3 and Article I, Section 3, Clauses 1 and 2 affected by these amendments restored.

29th Amendment:

Congress shall make no law that codifies discrimination for or against any person based on their race, religion, gender or gender identity, or sexual orientation. This Amendment shall also be construed to include a prohibition on Congress enacting additional criminal code or punishment solely based on these factors.

30th Amendment:

Section 1. With the exception of the powers reserved for Congress in Article 1, Section 8 of this document, funds received by the federal government shall be disbursed as prescribed in the federal budget to the States in accordance with their proportion of population in the latest Census figures. No restriction shall be placed on how the several States use these funds.

Section 2. Congress shall not withhold funds from states based on existing state laws.

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The desired end result of these three amendments would be to restore state’s rights, make the government live within its means, and provide truly equal justice under the law. Naturally, I don’t foresee any of these passing in my lifetime (because, as I said, absolute power corrupts absolutely) but the idea still needs to be placed out there.

The betrayal

You know, since the events that led to the formation and rise of the TEA Party the Republican Party has promised to be our savior if only given the chance. After they successfully won the messaging battle over Obamacare in 2009-10 – aided by the ham-fisted, cynical fashion it was rammed through Congress and onto Barack Obama’s desk – the GOP won a smashing electoral victory that flipped the House just two years after the second of two successive wave elections convinced many political pundits we were on the verge of another decades-long run of Democratic dominance in Washington. While that success took a pause in 2012, perhaps because the Republicans nominated the originator of state-supported health insurance in Mitt Romney to face Barack Obama, the actual implementation of Obamacare beginning in 2014 resulted in yet another midterm electoral shellacking for the Democrats that November, costing them control of the Senate.

All along, Republicans told us these various steps along the way, once they won the House in 2010. First they whined that they only had one-half of one-third of the government, which sufficed as a campaign plank until 2014, when they won the Senate. Once they won the Senate, they actually passed a bill repealing Obamacare – of course, it was vetoed by Barack Obama and the votes weren’t there for an override. So now they needed the White House and then, once and for all, we could be rid of Obamacare.

July 26, 2017. The Senate has its chance to pass a nearly “clean” Obamacare repeal bill, with a majority of Republicans in the body. There’s no question such a bill would sail through the House and we have a nominally Republican president in Donald Trump who would be for repealing Obamacare – although he wanted to replace it, too. It just has to get through the Senate, and yet – it did not. Seven Republicans joined all 48 Democrats (as one would expect) in turning their back on the people who elected them.

So who’s in this Hall of Shame? Well, it’s mainly the usual suspects: Lamar Alexander (Tennessee), Shelley Moore Capito (West Virginia), Susan Collins (Maine), Dean Heller (Nevada), John McCain (Arizona), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), and Rob Portman (Ohio). With the exception of Maine – where Trump won one of the state’s two Congressional districts (for one electoral vote) but lost overall – all these states went GOP in the last election, yet their Senators sided with the Democrats. And as President Trump noted, “Any senator who votes against repeal and replace is telling America that they are fine with the ObamaCare nightmare, and I predict they’ll have a lot of problems.” Yet only Heller faces the voters in 2018 – McCain, Murkowski, and Portman were just re-elected and the other three aren’t up until 2020.

The question now is how GOP loyalists are going to spin and explain this one away. To be quite honest, I think people have known for many moons that the Republicans were selling the voters a bill of goods but if you can’t keep your caucus together on something that’s been a fundamental promise for seven years then it’s clear even the fig leaf is gone. Despite their high-minded rhetoric, the GOP is now just as much the party of big government as the Democrats are. Now it’s just a question of which side gets the spoils.

And now where do those who believe in limited government go? They are now political orphans because the Republican Party just showed they aren’t willing to stand by those principles when push comes to shove.

A few thoughts on the prospects to “repeal and replace” Andy Harris (and Obamacare, too)

The other day I noticed on social media that our Congressman, Andy Harris, had put up a post explaining his vote for Trumpcare 2.0, the “repeal and replace” bill for Obamacare. (Most people refer to it as the American Health Care Act, or AHCA.) At the time I saw this there were 1,043 comments on his post and probably 80 to 90 percent of them were negative. I can guarantee you that 80 to 90 percent of his district doesn’t oppose his vote, but thanks to this so-called “Indivisible” movement we are seeing some of the most seriously squeaky wheels get the grease that comes from taking 30 seconds to write the linguistic equivalent of “you suck!” on his wall. So I took about five to ten minutes to write my response, because there was a little research involved.

1,043 comments, mostly from people who probably didn’t vote for Andy in the first place, vowing he’s going to lose in 2018. Y’all need about 139,000 more folks.

In terms of repealing the disaster known as Obamacare, this was the correct vote, We have a long way to go in the process and it’s way too early to say what will happen in the Senate (except that regardless of what it is, Maryland’s Senators will vote no.)

Oh, and by the way, I just checked out that Allison whats-her-name and if she’s praising NARAL she’s not getting too far in this district. Most of us stand for life.

Also, since you are on the subject of town halls up and down the thread, could you get those aforementioned Senators down here to have one? Interesting how I never hear anyone clamoring for that.

I have to admit I was only being semi-flippant when it came to “Allison whats-her-name” because I had closed my window and honestly didn’t feel like looking it up. Her name is actually Allison Galbraith and she makes her living from, of all things, steering companies to government contracts. I kid you not.

But to begin this piece I want to address the two people who replied directly to my comment, whose names are Gail Jankowski and Bill Schwartz. I’m going to quote their opening sentences here, ladies first.

Gail: We will get MORE than enough votes to replace him because more and more constituents are learning just how negatively this AHCA will affect them!

Bill: Maryland is a Blue State and we need to ensure that the first district is fairly represented.

I’m sure Gail and Bill are nice enough people, and in her case she gets bonus points for (at least presumably, judging by the surname) marrying into a Polish family. (By the same token, I won’t take any points from Bill just because his ancestors insisted on unnecessary consonants.) But they seem to have a slim knowledge of political reality.

What the vast majority of people “know” about the AHCA comes from the talking points being fed to them from the media, which isn’t exactly a set of unbiased observers. But the 2018 campaign won’t begin in earnest for another 15 to 16 months, and what I’ve found out over the years, Gail, is that the issue you may think will drive the electorate this far out isn’t always the one that is front and center by the time people really begin to pay attention, let alone when votes are cast. The big difference between the era of the TEA Party eight years ago in the Obama administration and the Indivisible movement now is, while both are having a discussion about health care as a topic in the off-year before the election – although Obamacare was more dominant in the fall and winter of 2009 – the economy was much, much worse back then. If the economy is in good shape come the fall of 2018, the AHCA will be a minor issue by comparison. People generally vote with their pocketbooks, and the reason the 2010 election was such a wave was the pent-up outrage at an administration that addressed health care before job creation and the economy. (The sticker shock effects of Obamacare were the reason for the 2014 wave election, since it took effect in earnest that year.)

So if the economy remains in decent shape, the AHCA will be so minor of a concern by then that Andy Harris will once again get his 60-65% of the vote and cruise to victory. You see, Bill, Maryland is indeed (and unfortunately) such a blue state that our previous governor and the Democrats got greedy – or at least as greedy as their incumbent Democrat Congressmen would allow them to be. I’ve made this point before, but if the composition of the First Congressional District were the same in 2008 as it became in 2012, Andy Harris would be on his fifth term. By erasing the northern half of Carroll County from the previous configuration of the Sixth Congressional District and adding it to the First, it assured whoever the GOP puts up in the First District will win because the plurality of the state’s Republican voters now reside in the First, and it’s by a factor of almost 50% more than any other district. So based on the electorate of the district the First is fairly represented. (The rest of the state? Well, they are just poorly represented, but I’m working on that.)

So now let me turn to another aspect of social media. My friend Sarah Meyers, who describes herself as a proud moderate Democrat (and is a member of our county’s central committee) was distraught about the passage of the American Health Care Act, claiming, “The Republican House just voted to allow insurance companies to deny me healthcare.”

Now I’ll set aside the false conflation of actually having health care provided and paying for it, since there are other methods of doing so out there, but my response essentially noted that she is in the minority of people who are net beneficiaries of the ACA in terms of paying less. Those who get their insurance through their employer are paying far more, a fact that she chalked up to the “greed” of the insurance companies. But the “greed” is tempered by the fact that group insurers have to pay out 80 to 85 percent of their premium income on medical care, leaving the remainder for “administration, marketing, and profit.” Since neither administration nor marketing are free, one can presume these insurers are not rolling in profit. This “medical loss ratio” is part of the ACA and may be one reason why insurers are dropping out of the business.

One of the next arguments I got was that the ACA “saves lives,” presumably because those who could not afford insurance or were no longer being tossed off for the various reasons of pre-existing conditions, lifetime limits, and so forth were being covered. But the evidence of this is anecdotal at best, and rather dubious in the amount of inference that has to be made. It truly depends on the source, but the best scholarly guess is a net wash. Even some of the partisans concede it’s a bogus argument. And while there’s always the emotional appeal of someone who can come out and claim they are a survivor because they had health insurance through Obamacare, it’s pretty difficult to speak with someone who didn’t because Obamacare made their deductible too expensive.

The most radical solution offered up was the old single-payer bromide, from local leftist Chuck Cook:

Single payer is the only solution, and it has been proven to work in every single industrialized first world nation on the planet… except ours. We are the outlier due to conservative ideology that honors the wealth of billionaires over the health of children.

Uh…..no. Honestly, we’re very close to having a single-payer system in place here given the lack of competition in many places and tight regulations on the health insurance industry in terms of how much they can make, what they must cover, and how they conduct their business. Basically it would be a Medicare/Medicaid for All system and you can just ask a doctor (whose Medicare reimbursement increased a whopping 0.24% this year, with Medicaid reimbursement being a fraction thereof) how they like it or check out study outcomes, as the left-leaning Kaiser Family Foundation did recently, noting…

Multiple studies, though not all, have documented improvements in beneficiaries’ self-reported health, reduced stress and anxiety, and improved quality of life following Medicaid expansions. The Oregon Health Insurance Experiment, which used a research design that is considered the gold standard, compared the experience of adults who gained and adults who did not gain Medicaid coverage through a lottery that allocated a limited number of new Medicaid “slots” for low-income uninsured adults in the state. The study found that Medicaid improved self-reported mental health and reduced clinically observed rates of depression by 30% relative to the uninsured group. The findings related to impacts on physical health were mixed. Medicaid increased the detection of diabetes and use of diabetes medication, but did not have a statistically significant effect on control of diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol. The researchers note that the study did not have sufficient statistical power to detect changes in these measures, and also that factors including missed diagnosis and inappropriate or ineffective treatments, among others, could mitigate the impact of coverage on clinical outcomes.

…to see if this meets your definition of “proven to work.” For me it’s lacking.

I think both sides agree, though, that the problems with the system are defined simply: access and cost. The government’s solution was twofold: one side was to force everyone into the insurance market whether they wanted to be or not (hence, the “shared responsibility payment”) so that the healthy people would balance out the sick and the other side was to try and make preventative care cost nothing out of pocket, but the problem with that is doctors aren’t going to work for free because they have families to feed, too. And thanks to all of the billing and coding concerns we have with modern government medicine, a good percentage of the staff in any doctor’s office is the overhead required to deal with billing and not there for patient care. (It’s akin to the number of administrators in a school system who don’t educate children.) In other words, “free” is the extra $2,000 on your deductible or $40 a week out of your paycheck.

One analogy often used as a comparison to health insurance is auto insurance, which is also mandatory in most states (New Hampshire is the lone holdout.) However, when you buy auto insurance it does not cover oil changes, new tires, and other mechanical issues. Similarly, the original intent of health insurance was to cover the medical bills in case you were hospitalized, as opposed to supplemental insurance like AFLAC which covers other expenses.

The idea of insurance is that of calculating and sharing risk among as many participants as possible. Let’s say you have a group of 1,000 40-year-olds whose lives are all insured for $100,000 and you know four of them will die on the average in a given year. You then know your premium pool will have to be set to $400,000 plus an amount set aside for the off-chance of a year where more than 4 die, plus administrative expenses, plus a little for shareholders. If you assume those other expenses total $300,000, then each participant would pay $700 a year to be insured for $100,000 if they die, which they may find is a prudent and affordable hedge against that risk as they have families to support. It would be impossible for a group of 2 or 10 to be able to do this, but over a thousand people it’s very attainable.

However, what we now have with health insurance isn’t truly insurance because there is so much mandated coverage and the risks are highly unpredictable. Nor are they being shared among all the participants equally because some are paying themselves through their employer, some are being subsidized for their coverage by the government, and others are completely on the government dime. Because a large amount of the money comes from funds never seen by the buyers (deducted from their checks, or just plain subsidized) they don’t much care what treatment costs, just their premiums and deductibles.

So let me return to the car insurance analogy. You have to have car insurance, and it has to be minimum coverage, but after that the market is relatively free and there are a whole lot of competitors. If you get tired of Allstate because they raised your rates 50% for no good reason, there’s always Progressive. When Flo gets too annoying, Jake from State Farm will be happy to help. If you don’t like them, we have local independent agents. They compete on price, coverage, and service – so why can’t that be the case with true health insurance, too? And what I mean by “true health insurance” is that you select what you want to cover from the options provided by the companies, or you can skip it altogether. (Or, the option for employers to provide group coverage can be left in place as well, as I’ll get to in a moment.)

I can already hear the Sarah Meyerses of the world screaming “but pre-existing conditions!” Yes, there can be high-risk pools created for those at the state level, or even groups of states can create a compact to make the pool even larger and share the cost among more people. If states want to create incentives for employers to provide insurance, that’s fair game as well. I happen to think the Tenth Amendment is the part of the Constitution that’s supposed to be most flexible, allowing states to do a large number of things that should be off-limits to the federal government. I may or may not agree with them, but that is their right to do so. There’s very little need for federal involvement in health care at all – certainly nowhere near the amount we have now.

I’m sorry to break this to Chuck Cook, but the United States isn’t like the rest of the “industrialized first world.” We are a constitutional republic where the federal government is intended to be limited, not maximized and in control of everything. (It’s also worth mentioning that the wealth of our billionaires – and the talent of a lot of other, less well-to-do American people – is quite often freely given to assist in promoting the health of people both here in America and around the world. Here’s a great local example.) So the idea that we don’t have single-payer health care is one of those rare things that’s still a feature of ours and not a bug. That’s not to say it can’t stand some serious improvement, though.

Let’s just see if we can’t make it more in conformance with what our great American experiment in liberty is supposed to be all about, mmmmkay?

There’s something about Andy…

April 2, 2017 · Posted in Business and industry, Culture and Politics, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on There’s something about Andy… 

It has now made national news that the townhall meeting held by Andy Harris up at Chesapeake College turned into a loud protest brought on by the local, so-called “Indivisible” groups. (Even more amusing is their reaction when Harris called out one woman who continued to be disruptive. It’s from a page called “Shareblue” which is trying to be the Breitbart of the regressive Left.) Now I have attended Harris townhalls in the past (here are three examples; unfortunately two of them no longer have the photos) and they have often began with PowerPoint presentations – this is nothing new. But it seemed like the fringe Left wanted blood, so they reacted accordingly.

In some other forum I made the point that we never get to hear from the other side. Maybe I just don’t find out about it because I’m not on the radical left e-mail list, but it seems to me that our Senators rarely hold townhall meetings and when they do they are in politically safe (for them) areas like Silver Spring.

Yet the argument from the Left is that they are simply doing what members of the TEA Party did during the initial Obamacare debate in 2009. (The “Indivisible” crowd claims to be using the same tactics the TEA Party did.) I will grant the TEA Party stepped out of bounds on a few occasions – one case in point was this protest* in front of then-Congressman Frank Kratovil’s Salisbury office in July of 2009 that I covered (which remains one of the most commented-upon posts I’ve ever done here) – but when it came to a townhall setting, yes, we showed our passion. In comparison to the new alt-Left, though, we were well-behaved.

Then again, local conservatives have had to put up with disruptions from the Left for awhile so perhaps this isn’t a new phenomenon.

As evidence of the difference, I attended a meeting set up by Senator Cardin in August of 2009. It wasn’t initially intended as a true townhall meeting because its target audience was seniors, but a few of those in the local TEA Party (including me) managed to secure tickets – the 100 or so there could have easily been double or triple if the room were set to accommodate them. This explains how the meeting came to be:

Originally the meeting was set up back in March and wasn’t intended to be a town hall; however, once the health care controversy blew up this became a hot ticket. The intention was to get the perspective of residents who are over 50 and live on the Lower Shore, and the ground rules were pretty strict. There would be no questions during Senator Cardin’s presentation, the ratio would be one question for a GraySHORE member for each one from a non-member, and questions would have a 30-second limit.

In the welcoming remarks, it was noted that the state as a whole is getting younger but the Eastern Shore is aging. While the state is a “net exporter of seniors” at least 7 of the 9 Shore counties are net importers. We are also older and poorer than the state at-large. The idea behind GraySHORE was to brief elected officials with policy recommendations.

Something I found intriguing was the mention of Senator Cardin’s career. He has been our Senator since 2007, but served in Congress since 1987 and was a member of Maryland’s General Assembly for almost two decades before that – he was first elected in 1966. Basically, Senator Cardin fits the definition of a professional politician and I thought that was worth mentioning before I got too far.

When Senator Cardin came up, he noted that he was skipping the slide show to get to the questions. He also commented that this size group was a “manageable” group for dialogue.

As he had on prior occasions, the Senator couched the health care question as one of “what happens if we do nothing?” Health care costs were rising faster than income and would double in the next decade. As well, Cardin gave that mythical 46 million uninsured figure as part of his case and claimed that it cost each of us “an extra $11,000 per year to pay for (those not covered).”

The idea behind reform was to bring down costs through wellness and prevention and through better recordkeeping, while creating individual and employer mandates through the bill. It would provide a “level playing field” for private insurers and remove the caps on coverage, but above all reform “must reduce costs and be paid for.” Cardin compared the idea to Medicare, which has worked “extremely well” over its lifespan and was put into place because insurers wouldn’t cover the elderly or disabled. (Emphasis added for this post.)

It should also be pointed out that most of the TEA Party objections centered on policy and not necessarily personality. Bear in mind that the first TEA Party protests were over the stimulus proposal because the bill that eventually came to be known as Obamacare (which used as its shell a bill passed in the House but completely gutted by the Senate in order to satisfy the Constitutional requirement that bills dealing with revenue had to come from the House – a legislative sleight-of-hand if there ever was one) hadn’t been introduced yet. That came later on in the summer. So at the time this was done there were a number of competing bills for the Senate to consider.

And did the TEA Party raise a ruckus over that summer? Certainly, and they asked a lot of questions. But listen to how this went down. My guess is that the context of this video is one where it was taken after some townhall event or other public appearance by Kratovil. The questions are certainly pointed, but the key is that the audience is listening to Frank’s side of the story. They may not believe it, but they are being respectful. Now imagine if the lot at Chesapeake College were to be in that same situation with Harris – I doubt Andy would get a word in edgewise.

In truth, I think the “Indivisible” group would have began no matter which Republican secured the nomination and won the election – out of the field of contenders for the 2016 GOP nomination Donald Trump was probably the second-most philosophically close to the left (with onetime New York governor George Pataki, a pro-choice Republican, the only one being closer.) Remember, Trump is the one that added the “replace” to repeal of Obamacare.

I will grant that several of Trump’s Cabinet choices are relatively conservative, but for the most part they are also outsiders and I think he was looking more for that aspect of “draining the swamp” by intentionally selecting people outside the Beltway axis than selecting those who are for rightsizing government. But the leftists would likely be out in some force for John Kasich, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, et. al. – just not to this extent. About the only two 2016 aspirants who would have attracted as much ire as Trump would have been Ted Cruz (because he would have governed from a truly conservative philosophy) and Scott Walker (based on what happened in Wisconsin.) Maybe Bobby Jindal would have been a third.

But here’s a message for those who believe Andy Harris can be toppled in 2018: Go ahead and nominate the most radical leftist you want to Congress, and you will watch Harris spank him or her by 20 to 25 points. Thanks to your favorite former governor, this district basically has the bulk of Republicans in Maryland and considering Andy had almost 80% of the primary vote (over a candidate with legislative experience, a previously unsuccessful candidate, and one other “regular” person) I don’t think you will get too far.

And I know you will point to Frank Kratovil’s 2008 victory over Harris as proof a Democrat can win here but bear in mind that the redrawn district took away the portion of Anne Arundel County Harris won by about 3,000 votes and added Carroll County, where Republican Roscoe Bartlett won by a nearly 2-to-1 margin, or 25,000 votes. Even though the First District doesn’t take in all of Carroll County, I think that with the post-2010 First District Harris would have won in 2008 with over 50% of the vote.

Your caterwauling doesn’t help your cause. And if you want to use the TEA Party as your measuring stick, it’s worth noting that their success was really fairly limited insofar as national electoral results go. The problem with those on the far Left is that they are trying to sell the same stuff that didn’t work for their other “answers” to the TEA Party like the Coffee Party, Occupy Wall Street, and so forth, and most Americans don’t buy it. They wanted repeal without replacement, immigration laws to be followed and the border secured, regulatory agencies reined in, and – most especially – they didn’t want a third Obama term via Hillary Clinton.

Of all the things that fuel the Indivisible movement, they can’t get over the fact that under the rules in place Hillary lost despite getting more votes. Well, to borrow a phrase from another liberal movement, it’s time for you all to move on.

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*As longtime readers know, many of my photo archives were lost with the demise of an Adobe website where I used to link to them rather than place them on my website server – at the time my storage there was limited. In a stroke of remarkable fortune, this Kratovil protest piece was on the front page of my site when the Wayback Machine did its occasional archive so I recovered these photos earlier today – the post is once again complete and coherent.

Speaking up about speaking out

There was a little bit of play in the news over the last few days about the refusal of Congressman Andy Harris to hold a live townhall meeting, instead opting to hold “tele-townhall” meetings where constituents in certain parts of the district can be on a conference call with their concerns. Naturally, the handful of liberals and Obamacare lovers (but I repeat myself) are calling Harris a chicken who’s afraid to come before those he represents. (And they know about calling Harris chicken. This is an oldie but goodie.)

So I had a comment on social media about this.

The (Daily Times) letter writer is misrepresenting the idea of why Andy Harris is holding back on in-person townhall meetings. First, it’s been stated in news reports that he wants to have a GOP replacement plan in place before he discusses the subject in an open forum, which makes sense in that respect – anything else is purely speculative. Obviously there is sentiment for keeping the ACA around, but there are also some who want the repeal without the replace.

And it’s also worth pointing out that Harris, far from being “a paid tool of the pharmaceutical industry,” received more in individual donations during the last election cycle than PAC donations. 62.5% of his contributions were individual, according to FEC records. Compare this to a Congressman like Steny Hoyer, who received only 28.2% of contributions from individuals, and ask yourself who’s being bought and paid for by special interests.

Yes, the writer tossed that Big Pharma tidbit in, so I had to set things straight once again.

Speaking of setting things straight, there is a pro-Obamacare group who is putting together a series of what could be called “empty chair” townhall meetings through the First District. Since they already knew Andy’s stance on having townhalls under the logical circumstance of not having a bill to discuss, what better way of sandbagging him than to have meetings and making him out to be afraid to face his constituents?

Yet I am quite confused about the one in Salisbury, which is scheduled for sometime this Friday. (One Facebook page says 3 p.m. but the other info says 6 p.m. Of course, they must know my calendar because I have a church event so I can’t make it.) If it’s at 6 p.m. there’s a pretty good chance the media will cover it.

But since the true intent of these sponsors is not just to keep the Affordable Care Act around, but allow it to morph into their true dream of single-payer, cradle-to-early-grave government health care for the masses (imagine the VA and its issues on steroids) it may be a good idea for some of the folks who provided the opposition at last Saturday’s pro-illegal immigration rally to show up at this event and ask our own questions about the not-so-Affordable Care Act. I’d like to have their excuses for why it’s failed in its intention to insure all Americans, why the exchanges set up in state after state have gone bankrupt, and why the insurance that’s been deemed acceptable has to cover so much when many in the market were pleased with their catastrophic-event plans? I’m sure you can think of others, not to mention that obvious lie about being able to keep your plan and doctor.

Anyway, we know the Left is still completely butthurt over Donald Trump becoming President – so much so that they are taking inspiration from the TEA Party.

I sort of stumbled across this site, which is a clearinghouse of town hall events held by members of Congress. It sounds innocent enough, and yes there is a public service aspect to it. But if you go to their “about” page, you find the real idea is distributing “a practical guide for resisting the Trump agenda.” So I downloaded my own copy of the “Indivisible Guide” for reference, and right up front the writers admit the following:

The authors of this guide are former congressional staffers who witnessed the rise of the Tea Party. We saw these activists take on a popular president with a mandate for change and a supermajority in Congress. We saw them organize locally and convince their own MoCs to reject President Obama’s agenda. Their ideas were wrong, cruel, and tinged with racism — and they won.

We believe that protecting our values, our neighbors, and ourselves will require mounting a similar resistance to the Trump agenda — but a resistance built on the values of inclusion, tolerance, and fairness. Trump is not popular. He does not have a mandate. He does not have large congressional majorities. If a small minority in the Tea Party could stop President Obama, then we the majority can stop a petty tyrant named Trump.

To this end, the following chapters offer a step-by-step guide for individuals, groups, and organizations looking to replicate the Tea Party’s success in getting Congress to listen to a small, vocal, dedicated group of constituents. The guide is intended to be equally useful for stiffening Democratic spines and weakening pro-Trump Republican resolve.

Of course, an event like Friday’s isn’t quite the same as a Congressional townhall because the panelists aren’t worried about re-election – and quite frankly, the vast majority of those who will be there wouldn’t vote for Andy anyway. In this case, the idea is to sow just that little bit of doubt in the minds of those who are otherwise strictly given a dose of propaganda. Notice that the event is targeting to a community that is more dependent on Obamacare and government assistance than most.

In this day and age of trying to eradicate the Obama agenda against America, the left is fighting the rear-guard action they didn’t think they would have to. The fun thing about the Indivisible page is their “action page” where “Actions are listed provided their hosts agree to resist Trump’s agenda; focus on local, defensive congressional advocacy; and embrace progressive values.” Front and center on this page are these area events, so the truth is out.

So let me ask a question: where’s their complaints about our esteemed Senators? Where is their local townhall meeting?

Perhaps the “silent majority” that elected Donald Trump better start speaking up.

Can there be reconciliation between “Deplorables” and the pure of heart?

By Cathy Keim 

Congratulations to Michael for eleven years of monoblogue!  I am truly in awe of his ability to write on a variety of topics while working fulltime, writing for other venues, and squeezing in some time with his family.

I have been missing in action due to other responsibilities, but I hope to jump back in occasionally to comment on events now that my calendar has cleared a bit.

Today’s topic that got me fired up is the two-pronged attack on the “deplorables” of America.

First, Chip and Joanna Gaines of reality TV fame with their popular show Fixer Upper are under siege for attending a church where the pastor preaches the Bible!

My guess is that Chip and Joanna will do just fine, no matter what the totalitarian progressives throw at them.  I think that they will count the cost and then pay the price to continue serving Christ as they see fit even if it means losing their TV show.

On an individual level, we are all called to follow God first.  However, I do not believe that this means that persecuting the Gaines family for their religious beliefs should be ignored by the rest of us.  Indeed, the progressive bullies will only up their assault on Christians if they get away with this power play.

Since we live in a republic and as citizens have the right to help shape our public policies, then it is our duty to speak up for just and equitable treatment of all.  There is no evidence that the Chip and Joanna Gaines have been unjust to anybody.

The second attack on normal Americans is the insult that anybody that didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton must be a racist hater.  The Clinton campaign staff accused the Trump campaign staff of winning by appealing to racists while they participated in a “Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics discussion that was intended to record history by drawing out the internal deliberations of both campaigns.”

One example of the bitterness, as expressed by Clinton advisers Jennifer Palmieri and Karen Finney to Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway and adviser David Bossie:

“Are you going look me in the face and say I provided a platform for white supremacists?” Kellyanne Conway asked incredulously. Both Palmieri and Finney nodded and said “yes.”

“I would rather lose than win the way you did,” Palmieri said.

“You guys are pathetic,” Trump adviser David Bossie replied, accusing them of a smear campaign against Bannon.

(Editor’s note: Bossie is also the National Committeeman for Maryland’s Republican Party.)

I understand that many of the progressives have so imbibed their own poison that they really do believe that most of America is inhabited by racist white people.  It was completely shocking to hear one of the Bernie Sanders’ campaign staffers, Symone Sanders, share that the Trump voters longed for the days of slavery to return when they say, “Make America Great Again!”

This is the hard part to comprehend.  About half of our nation really and truly believes that the other half is composed of horrible, morally corrupt people that long for white supremacy to rule the country. One can only hope that this continued outrageous shouting of racism will lose it power over the populace when no internment camps pop up.

The Left always wants to divide us.  They do not see individual people, but only cogs in a wheel to be manipulated by the government for the good of all (which actually means for the good of the elite.)  This is the direct opposite to how our Founding Fathers viewed the people of the United States: the people were to be in control of the government.

The rise of the TEA Party was a response to the out of control government.  People were motivated by the sheer volume of government excesses to work to stop them.

The spiraling federal debt, the collapse of the housing market, the takeover of health care, the overregulation of businesses, and a myriad of other governmental excesses led people to stand up and say no more!  While the eight-year reign of executive overreach by President Obama seemed to say that the TEA Party was impotent, it actually led to the collapse of the Democrat party.

President Obama set the tone for persecuting Americans that didn’t agree with his policies.  The IRS abused its power by going after opponents of Obama.  The IRS denied tax exempt status to conservative groups and audited opponents of the Obama administration.  The Justice Department refused to prosecute voter intimidation charges in Philadelphia because the accused were black.  The government picked winners and losers in the corporate world by giving huge loans to Solyndra only to see them go belly up.  The message was clear:  you will be rewarded if you do what the government wants and you will be punished if you don’t.

It is terrifying to have your government come after you for not supporting the desired policies. Take the case of Roger Pielke Jr., a professor whose research on climate change crossed the politically correct gospel of climate change.  Pielke has been harassed by an assortment of left wing groups funded by billionaires, by politicians, and finally by the president’s science advisor, John Holdren, after Pielke’s testimony before Congress didn’t support Mr. Holdren’s testimony.

Mr. Holdren followed up by posting a strange essay, of nearly 3,000 words, on the White House website under the heading, “An Analysis of Statements by Roger Pielke Jr.,” where it remains today.

This is stunning that a private citizen who engages in the public forum in his area of expertise should be pilloried by the White House.  Fortunately for Pielke – who notes that he indeed believes in anthropogenic climate change, but doesn’t think the evidence is there to support the theory that it has increased the amount or intensity of catastrophic weather events – he has tenure and the backing of his university.  Not all citizens are so lucky.

We should not be seeing Americans as black or Hispanic or white.  We should not be calling each other climate deniers, deplorables, and white supremacists without any evidence to back the claim.  We should be viewing all Americans as people created in the image of God with unalienable rights given by God, not by the government.

The progressives’ effort to delegitimize everyone who doesn’t believe exactly as they do will not end well for this country.  They are so sure that their hearts are pure, but at the same time they are absolutely convinced that the rest of us are black-hearted scum that do not deserve to live.  It is hard to see a path to reconciliation for the country when the opposition is that entrenched in their own reality.

I think that I feel pity for the people that are trapped in the world of their own making that is now imploding around them.  They didn’t see it coming.  All that they have been taught and have heard in their echo chambers of the media, academia, and popular culture has melted away on election night.  My pity is tempered by the realization that they are still quite dangerous and that they consider me and my Christian faith to be contemptible.

May God have mercy on our country and bring healing to us because I do not see any other way to mend the rifts between our citizens.

monoblogue turns eleven

To borrow a phrase from Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tufnel, I have to give this post that extra push. Whether that push is over the cliff or not remains to be seen, but this website is going to 11.

Once again I’m writing this “state of the blog” address on its anniversary. Since this is year 11, I don’t have to be as fancy as I was last year with “10 from 10” – just one post will do. That’s a good thing because, to be quite frank, this past year was a brutal one for this site that I would rank as the worst, for a host of reasons. Maybe it’s the realization that it may never quite be all I wanted it to become since I just don’t have the resources or talents to make it so. And almost everything I’ve tried to do recently has failed to make an impact.

So I came to the decision back in July that this could not be an everyday endeavor going forward. The reward just hadn’t been there for the effort I had been putting in, either in readership or political change.

I have had the same program count my readership for nearly a decade, so I have a pretty good idea of what the numbers will look like in any given year: even-numbered years generally outperform odd-numbered ones because this is, after all, a political-based site so interest will peak coming into an election and wane for awhile afterward. (Since only 32,000 people live in Salisbury and only a tiny percentage of them bother to vote, municipal elections really don’t help the readership cause out much. Moreover, I don’t even get that modest benefit next year because the city adopted a system similar to the state of Maryland: all of last year’s winners are set until 2019, so there’s no city election in 2017.) With Maryland’s four-year election cycle, this makes 2012 the most comparable year to 2016 – and unless I hit a readership number in the next month I haven’t had in many moons I won’t even reach half that 2012 level. Simply put, since the 2014 election my numbers have been terrible in comparison to my peak years of 2012-14. For 2016 they may not even make it back to my previous all-time low year of 2009, which was be the similar point in the cycle as 2017 will be. I never really got the October peak my site usually gets in an election year, but what’s done is done I suppose.

Another conclusion that I reached last year was that I couldn’t do justice to my Shorebird of the Week series, so it’s gone by the wayside. And given the paucity of other long-running features such as Weekend of local rock (just four volumes in the last year) and odds and ends (only six this year, and one since March), this site is undergoing a transition to a completely different look and feel that reflects my own changing priorities. (That’s not all my doing, though: I will miss having Marita’s columns each week, too. Hopefully Cathy Keim hasn’t forgotten me, either.)

One of those priorities used to be that of being a reporter, but because of the aspect of political change I haven’t recently done a number of on-the-spot posts I had previously done – and they’re not coming back. Because I decided I couldn’t support a particular candidate, there was no longer a monthly Republican Club post, reports related to events I would attend on their behalf such as the Good Beer Festival, Autumn Wine Festival, or Lincoln Day Dinner, or the other “insider” stuff I used to receive. (As an example, the Maryland Republican Party will elect a new leadership slate on Saturday – and I haven’t seen or heard a thing about it, as opposed to the contested elections we had in the spring when I was still on the Central Committee.)

Perhaps that’s why I didn’t get the October bump, but then again if you were reading this site just for that sort of reporting you were somewhat missing the point. And if you’re on a jihad against me because I wasn’t a good Republican who fell in line to support Trump (as many of my cohorts did, for the sake of party unity) you probably don’t understand the philosophy I live by. If the choice is between my conscience and increased readership, I will choose the former and live without the latter, every time. We all have choices to make in life and I made mine.

So now that I’ve gone through all the doom and gloom as well as the murmurings and disputings, allow me to look forward. And yes, despite the lower readership numbers, there will be a forward. The site is paid up for the next year so I may as well use it every so often.

Where I see this enterprise going is that it becomes more of a teaching tool, and part of that is because of another project I am doing simultaneously with this website.

We have three elements at work here: first, we have the results of socialism and government overreach that arguably were rejected with the latest election returns. (At least they were rejected in enough states to put Donald Trump in the Oval Office.) Secondly, we have the premise that President-elect Trump will govern from the center to center-left rather than the Right, at least on balance. Most of his “alt-right” supporters are surely disheartened with his transition as he’s backed away from several campaign planks and placed those who didn’t necessarily support him in positions of authority, but I never expected Donald Trump to be a doctrinaire conservative in the first place. This premise leaves the distinct possibility that some faction of the GOP will not back Trump on his proposals like paid maternity leave or increasing the minimum wage, among others. For those issues Democrats will cross the aisle to support him, probably in return for additional liberal folly.

Thirdly, and most importantly, there is an argument to be considered: was Trump a product of a conservative wave that gave Republicans resounding victories in the 2010 and 2014 midterm elections, or was Trump’s election a populist revolt rather than a conservative one, meaning conservatism as governing philosophy is back to the place where it was before Ronald Reagan? Corollary to that, one has to ask whether the TEA Party movement was extinguished by Donald Trump or is he their logical extension?

Truth be told, I was thrilled by the TEA Party because I thought the populace was finally coming around to where I was in terms of political philosophy, and I embraced it. So the question above is fascinating enough to me that I am underway with a book that will answer these arguments and questions for me and (prayerfully) many thousands of other readers. It’s something I am truly enjoying researching and writing, so I will ask your pardon if this website isn’t updated on a daily basis. Answering these queries is going to take some of my time, although I now enjoy the advantage of having a little more of it being away from the active political world.

So the book will address the third part of my above troika, but the philosophy of this site will ponder the first two elements, as well as those issues I care about within the states of Maryland and – to a more limited extent – Delaware. I’ll still be doing the monoblogue Accountability Project, for example. It may not be the type of content you’ve come to expect over the first eleven years, but I’m still striving to make that content I write of the highest possible quality.

For your consideration, that is the push I’m going to give you when I take this site to, and beyond, 11.

All over but the shouting

November 8, 2016 · Posted in 50 Year Plan, Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Personal stuff, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on All over but the shouting 

It’s the end of the “road to 2016” for me.

For me personally this has been a very strange election cycle, with the only one closely like it in the last 20 years being 2004. That was the year I moved to Maryland in October, too late to register here. So I voted absentee in Ohio and helped George W. Bush carry that state.

That was the one year I can think of (besides this year) where I didn’t work a poll for a state or national election. I thought my political career was winding down then but I was bitten by the bug soon enough. Less than a year later I was going to Republican Club meetings and by 2006 I was back in the mix as a member of Wicomico County’s Republican Central Committee.

But this time it was truly different. Once I left the Central Committee, disgusted and disheartened that my party could select such a poor nominee that belied so many of its small-government principles, I essentially shunned the political process entirely in the sense that I didn’t go to meetings, work at headquarters, or stand at a poll. Yes, I did express my support for particular candidates, but at that point in the process I was looking forward to a new and different chapter of involvement. Things look a lot different when you are 52 and married than 40 and single. I think I have done my part – now it’s time for all those voters Trump supposedly brought onboard the “Trump train” to help the Republican Party, or perhaps what’s left of it if we are saddled with a Hillary Clinton presidency.

I still have an agenda, though. Just because I’m not doing the political events doesn’t mean I won’t be interested in promoting the ideas of limited, Constitutional government in accordance with Biblical values. It’s a combination that truly made America great, and in order to make America great again what we really need is to change the paradigm. It’s a little bit like having the choice of Coke or Pepsi but longing for 7-up. This cycle has really brought the false duopoly from which we suffer home to me: too many people suffer from the delusion that not voting for one candidate is voting for the other. Imagine you support neither, read that sentence again and you will realize how little sense that “not voting for one is a vote for the other” theory makes.

Somewhere someone got the bright idea that Republicans needed to be more like Democrats to win, so they convinced Republicans to simply promise to make government work better rather than do the hard work of rightsizing it. Notice Donald Trump did not talk about promoting liberty, nor did he speak to Biblical values. (Perhaps “2 Corinthians” gave him away?) It reminded me of Larry Hogan’s 2014 campaign – and yes, it worked in Maryland but aside from some tinkering around the edges what limitations of government have been achieved?

The process of political education (or re-education) needs to begin once we know who wins tonight. That’s the one thing I hope to bring to the table going forward, leavened with the other stuff I like to write about because all politics and no play makes Michael a very dull boy.

But I am truly glad this saga is over. There was a time in my life where I treated Election Day like the Super Bowl, but I was almost always disappointed. Looking back, I’m not sure I made a difference being a field worker. Yet I have what people tell me is a God-given talent to write, and with that I hope to teach and learn a few things, too. I have a project in the works I’m hoping to have finished this time next year. Some of you may be aware of this, but I’m working on a book about the TEA Party. To me, it’s a fascinating political movement that deserves study for what it did right – and what it’s done wrong.

Since I slowed down my writing pace here over the summer, I enjoy sitting down and writing more. Has it cost me some readership? Perhaps, but that’s also something the remaining readers can work on by sharing and promoting my posts.

But I’m looking forward to the next cycle regardless of who wins, and it’s because it opens a chapter of life that I can’t wait to write. Someone was saying to me they saw a 100,000 word blog post coming on, but I think I’ll reserve a good chunk of the remaining 99,200 words, give or take, for my book and other future writing. As for tonight, I’ll just trust God is in control.

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.

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