Earning my presidential vote: role of government

In the final of my issues segments, I get to the most important one to me: how the President understands and addresses the role of government. I’m just going to dispense with the bullet point this time: government must be limited and conducted in accordance with the Constitution. To do otherwise is an abomination and diminishes our standing as a nation – unfortunately, we have endured this status for (depending on the perspective of the observer) anywhere from the last eight years to the last hundred. (Some even trace it back to the War Between the States or even the Marbury v. Madison decision.)

To re-introduce the candidates, we begin with Darrell Castle of the Constitution Party, then it’s Jim Hedges of the Prohibition Party, Tom Hoefling of America’s Party, Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party, and independent Evan McMullin. Johnson is on the Maryland ballot; the rest are write-ins but their votes will count. And if you want to start this series from the beginning (this is the tenth part) you can go here and I link to each succeeding part in turn. At stake is fourteen points, which is the highest individual total.

So let’s see what the people have to say, shall we? I’m going to warn you: this is the longest part because a lot of elements fell into this category.

Castle: No one wants to limit government because it doesn’t fit the goals of the establishment, which is why there’s little coverage of his campaign.

“Who wants to have limits set on what you can do if you can be emperor of the world? Power corrupts. The Founders knew that. It’s human nature to want more and more power, which the Founders understood very well. The people of the United States have permitted their government to exercise almost absolute power, and that’s a mistake. The system the Founders gave us is not self-policing; the people have to do that, through their representatives. And we seem to have pretty much forgotten that.”

Would end the Federal Reserve and return nation to the gold standard.

“Today I want to speak to you in defense of liberty and against tyranny. I speak for the republic and against the fascism that seems to be enveloping us. The general government was created by the sovereign states for a specific purpose; that purpose was to protect our God-given rights. Anything that runs afoul of that purpose is therefore illegal and unconstitutional. And since virtually everything this government does runs afoul of that purpose, virtually everything it does is illegal and unconstitutional.”

“Private property rights are under assault in communities and rural areas across the nation as state and federal authorities move to enforce new planning development programs, particularly under the labels of Sustainable Development or Local Visioning.

Local elected representatives are being overshadowed by the establishment of non-elected boards, councils, planning commissions and regional governments. These non-elected organizations are taking government further away from the people as they are unseen and unapproachable. While totally unaccountable to the people, they enforce policy that affects property rights, tax rates, etc.

Across the nation communities are being pressured by federal agencies to accept grants for local sustainable projects that affect property rights and destroy local control. He who pays the piper calls the tune.

I would withdraw the federal government from such international, sovereignty destroying legislation. I would stop the federal government from manipulating local communities with handouts, and begin the process of handing control of their lives and property back to the local people.”

“I would end the Federal Reserve’s control of the United States’ monetary system by repealing the Federal Reserve Act. Interest rates would no longer be tampered with, as lenders and borrowers would set their own rates.

I would remind the banks that there would no longer be a Federal Reserve to lend to them in an emergency so if a bank gets in trouble, it’s on its own.

Then I would let the American people know that they are now free to use whatever currency they want. The dollar would again be exchangeable for a fixed quantity of gold and the U.S. Treasury would now accept any major currency, including bitcoin, in payment of taxes. As a result, the country would return to a traditional and sensible money system so people could decide for themselves what kind of money they wanted to use. They could save it, spend it, or put any price they wanted on it if they wanted to lend it out.”

Respects people who favor term limits, but disagrees.

War on Drugs has been a “terrible disaster.” (Facebook) “Tell me something today that has created more crime than the War on Drugs.” It’s time to declare peace. (“Iron Sharpens Iron” internet radio show)

Hedges: Term limits for Supreme Court justices.

“The role the federal government should be to ensure that all citizens are treated equally before the law, that we don’t retreat back to the times when only white, male, land owners were allowed to participate in government.

The states should be allowed to make their own regulations about a lot of things. Now, if there is a spillover two adjacent states, such as air pollution from coal-burning power plants, or alcohol sales adjacent to Indian reservations, then the interstate compacts or national courts need to resolve these conflicts. But, the states can experiment with 50 different solutions to various problems and maybe a few of those experiments will work and be a guide for everyone, while a mandatory national policy has just one chance of getting it right.”

Voodoo economics from Democrats and Republicans – deficit spending. Alarmed by “sustainable level of deficits.”

Key issue: who is in charge, states or D.C.? “Today we have 50 sovereign, independent states that are united under the Constitution. States need to step up, since states created federal government.” (Bayes)

Supreme Court and President cannot make law, Court members who do so should be impeached. (Bayes)

“The Constitution mandates that Congress shall have the sole power to coin money and to regulate its value. We will abolish the Federal Reserve System, establishing in its place a government-owned National Bank. Predatory lending activities and punitive rates of interest will be banned. We will encourage the formation of state banks where qualified entrepreneurs can borrow money for investment in job-creating enterprises at minimal interest.” (party platform)

Party favors balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.

Hoefling: We seek to restore the intended balance between the three separate branches of our government, and to strictly limit government to the Enumerated Powers granted and expressed by the will of the people of the United States in our Constitution.

All existing functions of the Executive branch that are outside of those Enumerated Powers must be eliminated.

All spending and regulation by the Legislative branch that lies outside the Enumerated Powers must cease.

Judges who attempt to legislate from the bench, or who abandon the clear principles of our Constitution, must be checked if liberty and justice are to prevail in our society once again.

We demand a return to adherence to the provisions of the Tenth Amendment: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

We also call for the repeal of the Seventeenth Amendment. Its enactment greatly reduced the power of our state legislatures and state governments – which are much closer to the people – and damaged our system of federalism. (party platform)

“Just as ‘good fences make for good neighbors,’ good government is mainly about knowing where the legitimate boundaries are, and having the courage to defend those borders forcefully. This is true in terms of the defense of our territory, our security, and our national sovereignty, but it also applies to the sworn duty of all of those in government to equally protect the God-given, unalienable rights of each individual person, from their creation onward, their sacred obligation to stay well within the enumerated powers of our constitutions, and of the role legitimate government must play in balancing the competing rights and interests of the people, in order to establish justice.” (personal website)

Johnson: No excuses. No games. A REAL balanced budget.

By 2017, the national debt will be $20 TRILLION. That is not just obscene, it is unsustainable — and arguably the single greatest threat to our national security.

Responsibility for the years of deficit spending that has created our debt crisis rests squarely with BOTH the Republicans and the Democrats. The debt doubled under President George W. Bush — and doubled again under President Obama. During that time, both parties enjoyed control of Congress, and the deficit spending just kept piling up.

It doesn’t have to be that way, despite what the politicians say. But the idea that we can somehow balance the federal budget without cutting military spending and reforming entitlements is fantasy. What is required is leadership and political courage. As Governor of a state with an overwhelmingly Democratic legislature, Gary Johnson stood up to excess spending, vetoed 750 bills and literally thousands of budget line items … and balanced the state’s budget.

Governor Johnson has pledged that his first major act as President will be to submit to Congress a truly balanced budget. No gimmicks, no imaginary cuts in the distant future. Real reductions to bring spending in line with revenues, without tax increases. No line in the budget will be immune from scrutiny and reduction. And he pledges to veto any legislation that will result in deficit spending, forcing Congress to override his veto in order to spend money we don’t have.

Limit terms. Increase accountability. Bring back representation.

Under a republican form of government, representatives should be accountable to all people, not institutional forces like lobbyists, special interests, and partisan gamesmanship. Yet today, politicians are often unable to do their job because they are incentivized to do what it takes to get re-elected, not to do what is right for the American people. This doesn’t make them bad people. But it does make for bad representation.

This is why we adopted the 22nd Amendment in 1947, to limit the number of terms a President can hold office to two terms. We did this because we recognized that a President should focus on representing the people instead of playing politics.

Yet today, we have a perpetual election cycle that incentivizes politicians to speak along carefully crafted campaign talking points, constantly ask special interests for campaign donations, and rely on their political party campaign machines for election support. And we wonder why we have such extreme partisanship in Washington?

Can a Republican support gay marriage? Not if his or her first priority is to get re-elected.

Can a Democrat vote for a tax cut? Not if his or her first priority is to get re-elected.

And that is where we are at today. Whether it’s foreign policy, taxes, civil rights, or any other issue — Democrats and Republicans alike cannot take positions on behalf of their constituency because partisan campaign rhetoric trumps the pursuit of practical policy.

As the spending continues unchecked. As the wars continue. And as Government keeps taking away more freedoms, the dangerous dedication that politicians have to getting re-elected keeps representatives from doing the job they were elected to do in the first place.

That’s why Gary Johnson is a strong advocate of term limits. And that’s why Governor Bill Weld served as national co-chairman of U.S. Term Limits.

Run for office, spend a few years doing the job at hand, and then return to private life. That’s what Gary Johnson and Bill Weld did as governors, and that’s what all our representatives should do too.

Our founding fathers established the 4th Amendment, for example, to prevent the government from snooping into our private lives without a warrant.

Yet today, we have a national government that spies on private communications, monitors your financial transactions, photographs your license plates, and even will track everything you do at a public library — all without warrants or due process of law.

Gary Johnson and Bill Weld want to get the government out of your life. Out of your cell phone. Out of your bedroom. And back into the business of protecting your freedoms, not restricting them.

End the War on Drugs. Reduce Recidivism. Support Law Enforcement.

The failed War on Drugs is, of course, the greatest example. Well over 100 million Americans have, at one time or another, used marijuana. Yet, today, simple possession and use of marijuana remains a crime — despite the fact that a majority of Americans now favor its legalization.

And who is most harmed by the War on Drugs? Minorities, the poor, and anyone else without access to high-priced attorneys.

More generally, mandatory minimum sentences for a wide range of offenses and other efforts by politicians to be “tough” have removed far too much common-sense discretion from judges and prosecutors.

These factors, combined with the simple fact that we have too many unnecessary laws, have produced a society with too many people in our prisons and jails, too many undeserving individuals saddled with criminal records, and a seriously frayed relationship between law enforcement and those they serve.

Fortunately, a growing number of state and local governments are taking steps toward meaningful criminal justice reform. The federal government must do the same, and Gary Johnson is committed to bringing real leadership to this long-overdue effort.

Gary Johnson and Bill Weld are committed to meaningful criminal justice reform. (campaign website)

McMullin: Evan McMullin is a constitutional conservative who will reverse the unaccountable expansion of federal power at the expense of state and local government. He will restore the constitutional system of checks and balances, which designates Congress—not the president, the courts, or the bureaucracy—as the only body capable of making laws. Evan will appoint judges committed to upholding the Constitution as originally written and understood, instead of imposing their social agendas or legislating from the bench. These reforms will help to ensure that our country continues to have government by the people, of the people, and for the people.

In defiance of the Constitution, President Obama has relied on executive action to force through controversial proposals that failed to win support in Congress. When Congress refused to pass the immigration reforms that Obama wanted, he issued a de facto amnesty that would cover as many as 5 million illegal immigrants. When Obama failed to persuade Congress to restrict carbon dioxide emissions, Obama had the EPA issue a Clean Power Plan that would achieve his goals. Federal courts eventually blocked both Obama’s amnesty and the Clean Power Plan.

Even when Congress does what Obama wants, he has taken new powers for himself that go far beyond legal limits. After the passage of the Affordable Care Act (or “Obamacare”), the president repeatedly made substantial changes to the program without congressional authorization. He suspended requirements, issued waivers, and even appropriated federal dollars without permission from Congress.

Under Obama, independent agencies have also begun to exceed the bounds of their authority. In 2011, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) sought to block Boeing from operating an aircraft plant in South Carolina, not because Boeing broke any laws, but because South Carolina laws are less favorable to unions.

The volume of regulation has also increased substantially under Obama. As of mid-2016, the Obama administration has issued 600 major regulations, defined as those with a cost of at least $100 million each. The total cost of these regulations is $743 billion and they will require 194 million hours of paperwork to implement. In his remaining months in office, Obama may issue another 50 major regulations with a cost of $70 billion.

For constitutional conservatives, neither of the leading candidates in this election provides much hope for a return to limited government and an effective system of checks and balances.

Evan McMullin believes in the wisdom of the Tenth Amendment, which reserves for state governments and for individuals all the powers that the Constitution doesn’t explicitly give to the federal government. The framers of the Constitution understood that what works best for Massachusetts might not work as well for Virginia. In addition, a government that is closer to the people is more accountable to the people.

By embracing a one-size-fits-all approach, numerous federal programs have become far more burdensome and less efficient than they ought to be. Even though Medicaid is in desperate need of reform, a thicket of federal regulations stands in the way of state-led innovation. While the federal government should encourage high standards for public education, Washington’s heavy-handed promotion of Common Core has set back the cause of reforming education.

As president, Evan would support House Joint Resolution 100, a proposed constitutional amendment for the re-empowerment of the states. This amendment would enable a two-thirds majority of the states to repeal any Executive Order, regulation, or administrative ruling issued by the executive branch.

Evan would also oppose new regulations unless there is a clear definition of the problem to be solved and compelling evidence that the cost of regulations would be less than their benefits. Evan also supports the REINS Act, which would require up or down votes by Congress on the most significant regulations that the executive branch introduces each year.

In addition, Evan would sharply reduce the number of unfunded mandates, which compel state governments to shoulder the cost of implementing federal regulations. He would also oppose legislation such as the Dodd-Frank Act that delegates unlimited lawmaking powers to federal agencies.

Finally, Evan will appoint exceptionally qualified judges with a proven record of interpreting the Constitution as it was originally written. While the world today is much different than it was 1789, the Constitution embodies timeless principles that remain the foundation of limited government.

Today, after decades of federal expansion and executive overreach, there is a need to return to these foundational principles. Only Evan is committed to restoring our Founders’ vision and rebalancing our government to put power back in the hands of the people.

Our national debt stands at an astonishing $19.5 trillion, an increase of $9 trillion since President Obama took office. This reckless growth represents not just a threat to our prosperity, but also to our national security. Out-of-control spending on entitlements is the most important reason for the national debt’s staggering growth. The annual cost of entitlements is now $2.3 trillion per year, which amounts to 60 cents out of every dollar spent by the federal government.

Evan McMullin believes that the only way to preserve Social Security and Medicare is to enact reforms that make these essential programs more efficient while fighting pervasive fraud and abuse.

While preserving Medicare and Social Security is an important objective in its own right, entitlement reform is also necessary to ensure that the federal government can afford other priorities, including scientific research, infrastructure repair, and national defense. An important side effect of uncontrollable spending on entitlements is the lack of funding for every other government program. Fifty years ago, entitlements consumed 26 percent of federal spending; today, they consume 60 percent. Over that same period, defense spending has fallen from 43 to 15 percent of the federal budget.

The strength of our nation depends at least as much on a robust economy as it does on our armed forces, however. Without funding for scientific research and infrastructure repairs, the economy suffers. Furthermore, a sharp increase in our debt raises the likelihood of an economic meltdown as bad or worse than the one we endured in 2008. Under President Obama, our debt has risen from 39 to 77 percent of our country’s annual income, which economists call Gross Domestic Product, or GDP. This percentage will keep on growing until we elect a president who understands the simple truth that you can’t keep spending money you never had.

There is an urgent need to restore the bonds of trust between law enforcement officers and the communities they are sworn to protect, especially African-American communities. Over the past 20 years, police departments have played an indispensable role in bringing down crime rates across the nation. To preserve these gains, we must ensure respect for every citizen’s right to fair and equitable treatment under the law. The time has also come to reform our courts and prisons, so that we rely less on incarceration, which can break apart both families and communities.

Improved training and community outreach can help to prevent the kind of encounters that have escalated into violence. When police officers patrol the same community year after year, they have the opportunity to build relationships with local residents. Trust is built as police engage with members of the community in positive settings—such as schools, parks, and public forums—not just when confronting potential lawbreakers.

Additional training in communication skills and de-escalation strategies can help police officers to prevent conflict even when confronting potential lawbreakers. The office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) at the Department of Justice is an important resource for local police departments that can provide advice, best practices, and resources for new initiatives.

Evan believes that ‘stop and frisk’ policies are a form of unreasonable search and seizure, and therefore inconsistent with our Fourth Amendment rights. He also believes strongly that body cameras help to bring transparency to encounters with the police. Camera footage can help to ensure accountability for officers who behave recklessly, while verifying that responsible officers followed all appropriate procedures. Police departments must ensure that these cameras are in good working order and have a clear and enforceable policy for when the cameras must be on.

Violent felons should remain in prison for as long as necessary to prevent them from causing additional harm. However, the American justice system has resorted to incarceration for a wide range of low-risk, non-violent offenders, leading us to have the highest incarceration rate in the world—four to five times higher than England, which is second. We could save tens of billions of dollars per year by making greater use of alternatives to prison as well as emphasizing rehabilitation in order to reduce the rate of recidivism.

Evan believes that responsible sentencing reform is the first step toward lower incarceration rates. First, far too many crimes have become federal offenses, particularly routine drug crimes. Even the late Justice Antonin Scalia lamented this trend. Second, judges should have greater discretion rather than having their hands tied by mandatory minimum sentences, which worsen racial and income-based sentencing disparities. Third, judges should be empowered to enroll offenders in diversion programs that emphasize community service, treatment for addiction, and other approaches to rehabilitation. Already, Texas and other states have implemented similar reforms without compromising public safety.

The size and cost of the federal prison system have grown by leaps and bounds, a trend that will only continue without reform. Since 1980, the number of federal prison inmates has grown from 20,000 to more than 200,000. The cost per prisoner rose 50 percent, from $20,000 to $30,000 per year, between 2000-2010. Prison costs now take up one quarter of the Department of Justice’s budget, and the proportion is rising. If this approach prevented crime, it might be worth it. However, experience shows that the relationship between building prisons and reducing crime is unclear. For example, the state of New York lowered incarceration rates by 24% from 1994-2012 while leading the nation in progress against crime.

To maximize effectiveness, sentencing reform should be paired with new programs to reduce recidivism and set non-violent offenders on a path to reintegration. A study by the Pew Center found that more than 40 percent of state prisoners return to jail within three years. To prevent crime as well as further incarceration, prisons should expand job training and educational programs that can help released prisoners find work. Outside of prison, there are too many barriers to employment for those who have served their sentences. Low-risk offenders should not face a blanket denial for all professional licenses or certifications. People who have paid their debt to society must have a pathway back.

The biggest beneficiaries of all these changes will be families and communities. Today, about 1 in 30 children has a parent behind bars, a four-fold increase since 1985. For African-American children, the figure is closer to 1 in 10. The children of inmates often struggle in school, have higher teen pregnancy rates, earn less as adults, and are more likely to commit crimes and wind up in prison themselves. Evan McMullin believes in responsible reforms that will break the cycle of poverty and give these children the opportunities in life they deserve while preventing crime and saving taxpayer dollars. (campaign website)

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I liked a lot of what Darrell Castle had to say. I must say that this campaign has really opened my eyes to the effect of the duopoly we languish under, as neither major-party candidate is liked by a lot of the people, but those in charge of the media and the establishment seem to prefer them – so they won. Imagine a true debate with all the candidates who have campaigns sufficient to win 270 electoral votes – the two dominant parties would have a conniption when they saw the polls afterward.

To be honest, I’m not really up on the economic effects of the gold standard but it makes some sense to have our legal tender pegged to something of value rather than our credit, which has to be shot with $20 trillion in debt and climbing. He also refers to an issue that I haven’t heard a lot about, which falls under the banner of the UN’s Agenda 21. In a battle between so-called “sustainable development” and private property rights, I will come down on the side of the latter and so will Castle. He’s also correct in his assessment on the War on Drugs. Perhaps the only thing I disagree with him on is term limits, but overall I think Castle gets it pretty well. 11.5 points.

The Prohibition Party and Jim Hedges has been a mixed bag all along, as I thought it would be. I’m not sure I agree with the idea of SCOTUS term limits since those judges are appointed; however, I could see an age restriction as several states already have. On the other hand, he is correct regarding the idea of the state governments being able to make their own way and being able to judge success.

But I observed in the few minutes I had to listen to Hedges’ VP candidate that Bill Bayes should have been the top of the ticket, as he appears to represent the more right-wing side of the Prohibition Party. He made the good points about states creating the federal government in the first place. Finally, I like the BBA but am cold to the idea of a National Bank. 6 points.

Tom Hoefling makes a solid case for himself regarding what government should and should not do, although it doesn’t go into the specifics I would prefer. And that could be a problem going forward since we went from a series of chief executives who completely understood how government was supposed to work to a next generation that thought they understood but also thought they needed to modernize a timeless concept. Ten generations later the concept is completely lost except when it is convenient for political reasons. News flash: you cannot pick and choose which provisions of the Constitution you want to enforce. If you don’t enforce all, you enforce nothing.

And a bonus point for calling for the repeal of the Seventeenth Amendment, which was a mistake that blots our Constitution. Maryland should also have a Senate based on pre-Seventeenth Amendment concepts, with each county legislature appointing two Senators to represent them (meaning 48 instead of 47.) 12 points.

It’s interesting that Gary Johnson takes the most libertarian point he has and leads with it. In order to submit a balanced budget, Johnson would have to take out roughly $600 billion, or about 1/6 of it. I have no doubt he could do it, but the problems he has with this approach are a) Congress actually does the appropriation, and b) they are elected in the pay-for-play system Johnson rails against so his budget will be DOA (like Reagan’s were.) He would have to secure the bully pulpit to explain to America the advantages of smaller government.

Unlike Castle (or many Libertarians) Johnson is for term limits, which is the correct stance in this day and age. He also opposes the War on Drugs.

But I do question his admonition about the government being in the bedroom, which is derisive shorthand for having traditional, religious-based opposition to abortion and same-sex “marriage.” What two adults do in the privacy of that room is none of their business, but claiming rights that don’t exist as a byproduct of that relationship is a problem.

I would expect the Libertarians to do well in this category, but they could have done better. 10 points.

In practically every case, Evan McMullin has written the longest description of how he would reform government. But there is little in the way of suggesting how he would reduce it. Indeed, appointing judges steeped in original intent would help, as would a renewed emphasis on the Tenth Amendment and state’s rights – although he doesn’t advocate for the repeal of the Seventeenth Amendment, nor is he willing to jettison the entitlement programs that would best serve to rightsize government.

It’s also worth noting much of his treatise regards criminal justice reform and police-community relations where it should be local authorities taking the mantle, not the federal government and their penchant for micromanagement. All in all, he is sort of the Beltway-type Republican that seeks a more efficient big government rather than limited government. 6 points.

We have just about reached the end. Tomorrow will bring intangibles that apply to the various candidates and my final decision.

So what is a flip-flop?

August 27, 2016 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, Culture and Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on So what is a flip-flop? 

It predates my writing career, but back during the 2004 Presidential campaign much hay was made over Democrat John Kerry’s attempts to be on both sides of various issues, including voting for something before he was against it. If you ask me, though, Kerry was by no means alone in terms of trying to cover all the bases and be all things to all people – the truth is that the further you go in politics, the more likely it is you will run across situations where your current action may well contradict something you did 10 years ago.

People are allowed to change their minds on issues, and I can use myself as an example: for a time I held the orthodox libertarian view that term limits artificially restrict voter choice and should be eliminated. While that makes a lot of sense on a philosophical level, in practice voter choices are more limited by the amount of money that naturally accrues to incumbents and by rules about ballot access that tend to favor the two major parties, enabling them to get their message out more effectively (and in turn more likely to succeed.) In keeping with the idea espoused by our Founding Fathers that representatives were only supposed to stand for election and do that public service for a term or two before returning to private life, I now feel that making it more difficult for people to make a career out of elected politics through term limits would bring us closer to the original intention. (Nor should we forget that only the House was supposed to be elected by the people directly – Senators were appointed through the respective state legislatures until the 17th Amendment was adopted in 1913.*) There is a compelling argument to be made, though, which contends that if term limits were adopted then control of the government would be placed in the hands of the unelected bureaucrats that write the rules and regulations. But I also believe that if elected officials are relieved of the constant fundraising to stay in office they may come up with more bold ideas and real solutions to problems – not lip-service intended to keep government bureaucrats in place perpetually.

I could probably spend a couple thousand words pursuing that digression, but my real intention in putting pixels to screen today was to discuss the immigration “flip-flop” of Donald Trump in relation to other issues. I put the phrase in quotes because to me it was already baked into his campaign, and those who truly believed he would be a hardliner on immigration were being played for suckers. Early on I knew about the “big, beautiful door” and “touchback” amnesty so what was one of his strongest points when I analyzed all of the GOP Presidential hopefuls almost a year ago became more and more watered down as time went on.

The difference to me between a “flip-flop” and a legitimate change of heart, though, comes down to whether the words remain consistent and are followed by appropriate actions. Obviously as a challenger in a political campaign Donald Trump doesn’t have a record of votes to compare nor has he had to address the myriad issues that someone in political office is confronted with on a daily basis. As a case in point for the latter: a week or so ago I put up a Facebook post asking why utility trucks such as those operated by Delmarva Power have to go through truck scales (as I had observed that day) with my thought being: what if they were going to repair a major power outage? I can almost guarantee you that no other constituent had that thought in mind in the year or two my local Delegates have been in office, but to me the question was worth asking for the reason stated.

Let me use Trump as an example in two areas: immigration and abortion. As I see it, the recent statements from Trump on the prospect of amnesty represent a flip-flop of a rhetorical kind, although some may consider it the usual running to the center a Republican candidate is supposed to do after he or she runs right for the primary. It’s more magnified for Trump, however, because of the ferocity of his initial statements such as “(Mexico is) sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” In the weeks immediately after Trump’s announcement, the murder of Kate Steinle by an illegal immigrant who had been repeatedly deported yet kept returning into the United States buttressed Trump’s point. So the rhetoric remained hardline, thus, there is a certain element of Trump’s support base that probably feels completely sold out but will revert to reassuring themselves “he’s not Hillary” rather than admit buyer’s remorse from being sold a bill of goods.

It should be noted this Trump pivot, which may or may not bolster his standing among Hispanic voters, also comes at a time when he is also making a parallel push for black voters on a more legitimate question: what have the Democrats done for you lately – or for that matter since the Great Society era and civil rights struggles a half-century ago? Obviously he’s not going to the Obama/Clinton position of just letting any immigrant in, but this more recent concession is quite a different tone than the initial Trump “build a wall and make Mexico pay for it” stance. Those who wanted a “pause” to immigration are surely disgusted with the turn of events over the last week or so, but there are enough Trump skeptics out there who can say nativists were warned regarding Trump and immigration.

Yet on abortion I think Donald Trump had a more legitimate change of heart toward being pro-life, a move he claims came from a personal experience. Of course, those who are farther along on the pro-life spectrum still question Trump’s bonafides based on his support for Planned Parenthood, but that is not the be-all and end-all of the movement – Planned Parenthood is more of a symptom of the disease than the disease itself. Certainly Donald Trump is not one who has led a monogamous lifestyle – and only God knows if any of his trysts have led to pregnancies eventually terminated – but small victories are still small victories nonetheless. Over the course of the campaign Trump has not shifted a great deal on the issue, with the horserace watchers more focused on the aspect of which evangelical leaders are backing Trump despite his faults and which ones are simply sitting this election out or voting for a more strictly values-based candidate, either on the ballot or as a write-in, as I may.

But there remains a trust issue with Trump that makes writing pieces like this necessary. (Not being able to trust Hillary Clinton any farther than they could throw her was already factored in for millions of voters, simply based on the litany of scandal and questionable decisions she’s made over a quarter-century.) I’ve argued before that 2016 is the election of the flawed individual, but perhaps character doesn’t count in America anymore. While the Clintons, Al Gore, John Kerry, and Barack Obama have major character flaws, only Kerry lost the popular vote on Election Day – and conspiracy theorists still blame Diebold for that 2004 loss. So perhaps Republicans now believe that “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” and selected their own person of questionable character just to pick up that long-desired W on Election Day.

And if you discount character, you quickly understand why there are people who walk among us that would say or do whatever is necessary, flipping and flopping on their beliefs and values, to get what they want – anything from the modest “15 minutes of fame” to the most powerful political office in the country. Upon that realization, it’s just a short step to pondering about the fate of this very republic we live in. America will survive, but with the leadership we seem to be attracting who will want to live there?

Women and men of values, character, and principle, please make yourself known. Your nation needs you, now more than ever.

*Ironically, Delaware and Maryland did not ratify the 17th Amendment until 2010 and 2012, respectively. In Maryland, only eight members of the House of Delegates properly voted against ratification – and one of the eight switched his vote to be against it only after it passed.

The most popular Republican in Maryland

August 11, 2014 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2016, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on The most popular Republican in Maryland 

I don’t have a poll to show you, but I do have a website.

Today I was alerted to the existence of a new political website which makes the case that the next Congressman from the First District should be a woman: Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio. Gleaned in large part from her recent run for lieutenant governor on the David Craig ticket and set up to resemble an actual campaign site, the website is the brainchild of political activist Phil Tran. Tran points out that current Congressman Andy Harris is voluntarily term-limiting himself and believes Haddaway-Riccio would be the best logical successor.

I decided to start a movement. In the event that Congressman Andy Harris decides to voluntarily limit his terms, we need to have a formidable successor ready to go. That successor is Delegate Jeannie Haddaway!

Jeannie Haddaway is a great role model for young women (and men alike!). She will serve Maryland’s Eastern Shore and the Baltimore suburbs with grace and dignity in a Congress that desperately needs such qualities.

Plan ahead or plan to fail. Please sign the petition to draft Jeannie Haddaway for Congress! We are also selling shirts to support the movement!

(I know David Craig didn’t use the full name, but I prefer to refer to her with the married professional variation she used for the House of Delegates, Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio.)

It’s fun to note that Tran has both 2016 and 2022 listed as the prospective dates for the campaign, and each presents different opportunities – as do other points on the calendar, as I’ll illustrate.

First, though, it’s my understanding that Andy Harris would stay in Congress twelve years – under his proposed Constitutional amendment, Congressional members would be limited to twelve consecutive years. I think the three terms statement is a misunderstanding since I was told twelve years at the time Andy ran the first time for Congress, and had personally asked him for clarification since. Twelve years was always the answer I received. But there are a lot of other ways Jeannie could go in the interim.

Let’s look at 2016 for a second. It’s a Presidential year, so there won’t be a lot on the ballot. While I hope Andy Harris gets some Congressional help this year, it’s likely he will either remain the lone Maryland Republican federal elected official or perhaps have Dan Bongino as second fiddle if the Sixth District votes in its best interest. (Obviously, if Maryland voted in its best interest they would have a full GOP delegation, but I’m talking in real terms.) In any case, I don’t think Harris is leaving after just three terms.

But there is an intriguing race which could develop. Remember in early 2010 when the rumor that Barbara Mikulski was passing on re-election caught fire? Well, with the increasingly likely prospect of Republicans taking over the Senate, and the fact Mikulski’s not getting any younger (she will turn 80 a few months before the 2016 election) it could lead to an open Senate seat for the first time since 2006. Needless to say, every Democrat in the state and their brother (and sister) will be salivating at the chance for the brass ring, but who else is on the GOP bench that has run statewide? You could say Bob Ehrlich, but he’s been rejected twice by statewide voters.

Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio as the Republican Senate nominee in an open-seat scenario, particularly if the Democrats have a bloody primary because most are running from cover? Maybe she’s not as conservative a candidate as I’d prefer, but I think she’s electable in Maryland and it’s a move that would make sense if she wanted another statewide bid. She would also have the advantage of needing less time to ramp up a campaign since it’s likely Mikulski would wait until the last minute to announce her intentions to the world.

If Jeannie wanted to wait until 2018, she would have even more options. One would hope that she doesn’t have to worry about a run for governor because Larry Hogan is the incumbent, but the possibility of a match against Anthony Brown is there. Unfortunately, no Democrat governor has lost a re-election bid in Maryland in about forever (okay, actually 1950 – and ironically, William Preston Lane lost over tax increases) so that may not be the best play.

After running for office statewide, it would perhaps be seen as a demotion to run locally, but there’s the chance Addie Eckardt may only want one Senate term as she will be in her mid-70s by that point. Granted, we will hopefully have two new GOP Delegates who could move up if Eckardt wants just one bite of the apple, but my suspicion is that 2018 was always eyed as the time Jeannie would make the jump. A win there could keep her in the limelight for 2022, when Harris would be through his twelve years, the 2014 gubernatorial winner would be term-limited out of office, and – if Mikulski finally decided to retire at the age of 86 – that Senate seat would be again up for grabs.

Another possibility for 2018 would be to take on Ben Cardin in a Senate race, but assuming Ben wants to stay on he would be tough to beat – although, at 75 years of age and perhaps in the minority he may decide to ride off into the sunset as well.

It’s clear that Jeannie’s selection as David Craig’s running mate opened a lot of eyes around the state (and brought out a few long knives) so it’s no wonder Phil Tran is promoting her as a possibility for higher office. She isn’t the longest-tenured or most conservative Republican candidate in the state, but she has the right experience and didn’t hurt the Craig ticket, which simply didn’t have the resources to compete against a deep-pocketed opponent who made no critical mistakes.

Running for lieutenant governor didn’t turn out to be a success short-term, but it’s obvious a lot of people now think highly of her long-term prospects.

The radical proposal, expanded

The other night on Facebook I wrote a statement, which was somewhat off the cuff and just a little tongue-in-cheek, but to my surprise and delight a number of people took it more seriously than I thought they would. This is what I wrote:

Thinking about Jackie Wellfonder and her poll about salaries…I think certain members should get an increase. But how about this radical proposal?

In year one after election, you receive $80,000 in salary. It may seem like a lot, but surely there are expenses a freshman legislator has to pay.

In year two, though, the salary drops to $70,000…then $60,000 in year 3 and $50,000 in year 4. Still want another term? Well, the salary will go down in $5,000 annual increments from there to a stipend of $10,000 a year for veteran legislators.

My hope is that this would encourage the average person to run for political office, serve their term, and then return to private life – just as our Founders intended.

Bear in mind the Maryland General Assembly members get just over $40,000 in salary, plus a stipend for living expenses during the session. I don’t think the latter part is completely unfair considering a large portion of them don’t live that close to Annapolis and the hours during session are irregular.

But to me there’s something wrong with the system where members (of both parties, although Democrats tend to be the worse offenders) feel they should serve twenty or thirty years – or even longer. The current Maryland poster child for this phenomenon is State Senator Norman Stone. At the age of 78, he has spent almost 2/3 of his life in the General Assembly – elected to the House of Delegates in 1962, he moved up to the Senate in 1966 and has served there since. (Stone decided in July to forgo yet another term.)

There’s something to be said for institutional knowledge, but a half-century is way too long in public office.

So I came up with my idea, for which I really didn’t do any math. But I think the ideal legislator for me would be someone who has spent a little bit of time in local political office (perhaps 4 to 8 years) but much more time building a business, raising a family, and being active in the community outside the political arena. He or she would spend 4 years in Annapolis, or perhaps 8 on the outside, and then return home.

Or I can use a personal example. I have spent almost 12 years overall as a member of a local Republican Central Committee – about four years in Ohio and I’m into my eighth year here. I am planning on running one more time next year – win or lose, it’s my last election because I promised myself I would not run again for office after I turn 50. To me, being on the Central Committee is a good place to get a political start and I’d like to see some younger people occupy that office after I’m through. I’m not going to be a Central Committee member in my nineties, as we have now. (Out of nine in our local group, the three youngest among us are all in our forties, with the average somewhere around retirement age.) Once I win, I will be set up for a total of about 16 years of political service and four wins on the ballot. (I also lost once, but I was shortly thereafter appointed to serve an adjacent precinct.)

Simply put, the idea was not to stay in office forever – it seems like we tried to set ourselves up NOT to have elected royalty. So I figured if the financial incentive gets smaller, perhaps people would think twice about making politics a career. Of course they still could since my state restriction wouldn’t apply to federal office. Then again, we only have ten such posts available.

Obviously there’s another method of achieving this goal, and that’s term limits. Like the federal government, our state’s chief executive is limited to two consecutive terms but legislators have no such restriction. While I understand the libertarian argument that people should get to elect whoever they want – even if it’s for a tenth or twelfth term – the abuse of this system led me to change my mind about this issue, for I was once opposed to term limits on those grounds.

Once we take care of the political side, the next step is to shrink the size and role of government so that career bureaucrats can’t run the show, either. That’s a more difficult path to take, but it’s the item we have to explore in order to rightsize government.

The call for term limits

January 24, 2013 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Inside the Beltway, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on The call for term limits 

As you may or may not know, I am an advocate for term limits. I didn’t always think this way, as there was a period I subscribed to the libertarian view that voters should have the fullest possible choice of representation and if that meant sending some senile old bat to Congress for the twentieth straight term, well, that’s what the people wanted.

Unfortunately, like many other things, the bad apples ruin things for the rest of us and occasionally limits have to be placed. Since the 22nd Amendment was ratified in 1951, there is precedent for federal term limits so I came around to the notion of a 24-year lifetime limit in Congress (six terms in the House, two in the Senate.) I expound on this further in my book.

So I was pleased the other day to see this release from U.S. Term Limits:

This afternoon, Senator David Vitter (R-LA) introduced an amendment to the U.S. Constitution which would limit the number of terms that a Congress member may serve to three in the House of Representatives and two in the Senate.

Term limits for members of Congress has been spotlighted in recent weeks as former Senator and Vice Presidential nominee Joe Lieberman announced that after reflection on his 24 years in office that he now supported term limits.

The Lieberman statement was followed by a polls conducted by the Gallup Organization released last week showing that the American people would vote for congressional term limits by a 75 – 21 margin.

Phil Blumel, president of U.S. Term Limits, the nation’s largest term limits advocacy group, called on Congress to send the Constitutional Amendment to the states for them to decide saying, “The public clearly wants term limits, and it is the ultimate conflict of interest for federal elected officials to prevent the states from making the decision on whether their own terms should be limited.”

Senator Vitter is introducing the amendment on a tide of public dissatisfaction with Congress, and Blumel believes this public outcry may break the log jam that has prevented consideration.

“Many members of Congress are hearing from their constituents that they want the tough issues in D.C. to be acted upon rather than a continual kicking of the can down the road.  In this context, they are realizing that a constitutional amendment limiting terms for members of Congress may be the only way to make our political system work again.”

It is anticipated that a term limits amendment will be introduced in the House of Representatives in the weeks ahead. In the interim, Vitter is reaching out to his fellow Senators seeking co-sponsors of the amendment.

In a letter sent to members of the Senate prior to the introduction, Blumel urged others to join Vitter as co-sponsors writing, “Now, Congress faces a crisis. The people hold the legislative branch of our federal government in such low regard largely because they believe that they are no longer represented by fellow citizens but instead by professional politicians. It is time to change this. It is time to put citizens back in charge. It is time to pass congressional term limits.

To become part of the U.S. Constitution, the amendment requires a two-thirds vote in each house of Congress and ratification by three quarters or 38 out of 50 states. (Emphasis mine.)

The reason I emphasized the part of the U.S. Term Limits statement – and the addition which upgraded this from being an “odds and ends” item to one deserving a post all its own – is the sponsor of the companion House legislation. Dated the same day (January 22):

Today, Representative Andy Harris M.D. introduced a Joint Resolution (H.J. Res. 22 – editor) that would limit the number of consecutive terms that a person could serve in the U.S. Congress. It would limit persons to two consecutive terms in the U.S. Senate and six consecutive terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Representative Harris released the following statement on the bill:

“Limiting Congressional terms is a common sense way to change Washington and make sure our elected leaders work for the people instead of the special interests. We need more citizen leaders who are willing to address our challenges instead of coming to Washington to become career politicians. Far too many of our leaders are more worried about the next election than addressing out of control spending or preserving our entitlement programs. We need to break the gridlock in Washington caused in part by career politicians.”

The only difference between what Harris proposes and what I advocated is that there’s no lifetime limit, just a one-year exemption. I’d rather the lifetime limit be amended onto this because it is a Constitutional amendment being proposed. It’s also somewhat weaker than Vitter’s proposal, which may be why U.S. Term Limits didn’t mention it.

Honestly, though, I don’t see either bill getting very far UNLESS we put a lot of pressure on Democrats to vote for it. And considering half of Maryland’s delegation is either approaching or beyond that six-term/two-term threshold I don’t see a lot of support coming its way. (They wouldn’t be affected as current officeholders but most have made a lifetime of political office; I’m looking at you, Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski.)

The same should hold true for Maryland state legislators, but to date I’m not aware of any bill which would limit their terms. If one were to pass – doubtful for the same reasons a federal law would pass – it would have to go to the voters and, if the Gallup numbers are anywhere near correct it would pass.

But a phenomenon present in national elections would also probably work to our detriment in a state election. While many people have a “throw the bums out” mentality, that doesn’t extend to their particular bum. How else can a body which collectively has approval ratings in the teens or below otherwise retain over 80 to 90 percent of those members who choose to run for re-election? If they enforced their own term limits there would be no need for a Constitutional amendment; sadly we are at the point we are because voters don’t have the will or desire to do so.

Wicomico County could be going through changes

I mentioned the other day that there were proposed changes in the Wicomico County charter, and now I’ve had an opportunity to digest these a little bit. Many are perfunctory, but there are also some which may be controversial as well.

There are a number of changes being proposed to the charter, but some of the more provocative ones are:

  • Establishing special elections for long-term vacancies within County Council or the County Executive. This was probably a reaction to the untimely death of the late District 4 Council member Bob Caldwell, who died less than a year into his term. An appointee approved by our Central Committee and selected by County Council, John Hall, will serve the last three years.
  • Establishing a two-term limit on the County Executive. Notably, that prohibition would not extend to County Council. From what I’ve been told, this two-term limit on the county’s leader was considered as part of the original Charter change that created the County Executive position a decade ago but the Democratic County Council majority at the time balked at the inclusion of that language. It’s worthy of note that none of those four Democrats chose to run again in 2006, the election where the first County Executive was selected and the Council was stripped of its executive powers over Wicomico County.
  • Changing the number of referendum signatures required from 15% of the total number of registered voters in the county to 15% of county voters who cast ballots in the previous Presidential election. Using the active voters from October, 2008 and local results from that year’s Presidential election as a base it would reduce the number of signatures required from 7,934 to 6,278 – still a significant number. Similarly, a public-inspired change to the Charter goes from needing signatures from 20% of all registered voters (or 10,000, whichever is fewer) to 20% of participating voters, with a maximum requirement of 10,000. The 20% of participating threshold would reduce the number of signatures required to 8,371 based on 2008 numbers.
  • Giving the County Council a say on the removal of the County Attorney via a 2/3 vote (which in Wicomico County would be a 5-2 vote assuming all seven members are present.) This was probably inspired by the controversy in the city of Salisbury over their city attorney.

In discussing this with Marc Kilmer, a member of the committee who gave me the heads-up on the situation, it’s not clear just how these items would be presented should they pass muster with County Council.

But given the fact that state voters will already be facing six (and perhaps seven) ballot issues this fall, the number of local questions should probably be kept to a minimum. If they were to pass the first three issues I spell out and write the questions in such a way that these subjects be put together, with special elections for County positions as one question, term limits on the County Executive – and I would be inclined to suggest the same for County Council – as a second question, and the referendum changes as a third, I think we could call it a day.

Sure, there are other changes which probably should be made but many of them are more technical and there’s no reason we can’t come back in 2014 to make those corrections. There’s no restriction on when items supported by the Charter Review Committee can be placed before voters because, with five affirmative votes, County Council can bring those up at any time. I might even be convinced that putting off the term limits question to 2014, when we can add County Council to the roster of offices under term limits and vote in politicians who would be subject thereto, would be the way to go.

Of course we have no way of knowing what the 2014 ballot will look like at a state referendum level because there are almost always state amendments placed before voters, and if the Democratic majority in Annapolis doesn’t learn the lesson they are hopefully taught this time we may see a half-dozen or more statewide questions once again. But knowing that there are already a number of weighty issues before the voters in Wicomico County, it may be smart to parcel out changes among several election cycles and address the most important ones now. To me, making sure vacancies are filled by the people and easing referendum requirements are top priorities, while term limits can go on the back burner.

But the Charter Review Committee has done its job, and now it’s up to the people to speak. The next chance comes Tuesday evening at the County Council meeting, but there’s also e-mail and voice communications as well. This post is my take on what should be done but I’m sure readers have theirs, too.

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