The 2016 Republican Field – September Update

With Rick Perry and Scott Walker dropping out of the race, and some other developments, it is a good time to briefly revisit our categorization of the current GOP candidates.  We will modify our approach to this task just slightly from our early August attempt in the following ways: 1) As unfortunate as the “undercard” mass media scheme has been, it loosely reflects reality, and as a result we will not consider candidates who do not qualify for the major debate, and 2) We will identify our assessment of a likely standard bearer for each camp.

Conservatives

Ted Cruz – Ted is not making waves, and delivered an almost forgettable performance in the last debate. He often seems to be one step ahead or behind the popular issue of the day, and he is working the evangelical angle pretty fiercely, at the expense of a broader appeal. Ted waves the flag for this camp based on his commitment to conservative principles across the board, and on his record, simply having more proof than any other candidate of fighting both parties in Washington. Since he is the best in his camp, and he isn’t wowing anyone, he will need to step up his game quickly or constitutional limited-government conservatives will not have a champion this time around.

Rand Paul – Paul appears to be the candidate who knows the constitution better than any other. He also does not shy away from a fight and appears to mean every single word he says. Unfortunately, his negative and quirky demeanor tend to turn people off. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, as they say, and the people really do not seem to want the unfiltered truth.

Mike Huckabee – Along with Christie, it would seem an appropriate time to throw in the towel. Huckabee maintains a strong base of southern evangelicals, but appears to have very little ability to appeal to anyone else. The world has passed this good man by.

Ben Carson – Carson had a surge in the polls right before the debate. Unfortunately, his soft soft-speak and flat jokes make him a horrible debater. Throw in his comment on a Muslim president this week, and his days might be numbered. His mistake was not so much the merits of his comment, but more so that he answered a stupid question with a serious answer. Even Donald Trump knows you can’t do that.

Establishment

John Kasich – We move Kasich into the Establishment camp. In August we called him a moderate. His performance during the past month of campaigning has been consistent and predictable, with a positive message that often sounds like a broken record. He avoids hot-button issues and food fights. Because he is the most conservative of the three establishment candidates, because he delivers the most positive message and because he has flashes of energy resembling something like leadership and inspiration, he waves the flag for this camp.

Jeb Bush – Currently leads in the polls for this camp. Entirely dull and uninspiring. The only candidate to openly embrace the hispanic and immigrant communities as a political strategy. Sadly, Jeb may be a nice man, but voters from all points on the spectrum should be opposed to Bush on sheer principle. Representing the very worst dimension of the establishment, a vote for Bush is a vote for family dynasties and complete and utter corporate/Rovian domination of national politics.

Chris Christie – Hanging on for dear life, Christie is very likely to be the next first-tier candidate to drop out. You can only go so far with cheesy melodramatic temper tantrums and head nods to 55 year-old construction workers. Not enough conservatism, not enough substance.

Moderates

Carly Fiorina – With what most referred to as a clear victory in the most recent debate, Fiorina jumped to 2nd or 3rd in national polls, depending on your choice of poll. In reality, she probably should share the moderate flag with Rubio, but based on the debate alone, we grant her the honor for the time being. Fiorina demonstrated mastery of foreign policy knowledge down to the specifics of how many battalions must be maintained in a healthy Marine Corps. While this information is the type that may be memorized and rehearsed, she also exhibited more spontaneity and emotion in her remarks on Planned Parenthood.

Marco Rubio – We move Marco from the Establishment to the moderate category, after giving due respect to his short tenure in office, and his defeat of a true establishment candidate to gain the same. Rubio has the conservative version of the Obama factor, in that he is a young, smooth talking up-and-comer, who might be able to hypnotize less detail-oriented voters to fall in love with him despite some shaky bona fides on substantive issues.

*Note, this camp is interesting. This is the camp that does not satisfy any of the ideologues or hardliners, but differs from the establishment in that there is at least something about the candidates that makes them conservative. In addition, short terms in office or relatively little time spent in politics tends to land a candidate in this group. For the record, Romney probably would have fallen into this category.

Populist/Nationalist

Donald Trump – It is difficult to define Trump’s camp, but he clearly owns it. No one will overtake his throne with this segment, and this segment is unlikely to defect to any other. The one position that Trump has made clear, and the one that has propelled him to undisputed leader status, is the issue of immigration. His largest supporters are primarily middle/working class Americans, and the focus on borders, language, and culture, along with appeals to American exceptionalism, lead us to brand his camp “Populist/Nationalist”.

The next logical step for these updates would be to collapse the support for each camp to one number, and see where the chips fall. Then we might compare the standard bearer for each camp against the Democrat competition. But this we’ll save for a later date. There is so much time…

Thinking and Talking about Race: A Brief Intro for a ‘White’ Man.

We’ve all seen the humiliating display of the white man who’s not sure if he’s allowed to say “black”. He looks around uncomfortably, slinks his shoulders, lowers his voice and says “The African American Gentleman” as if he’s introducing a foreign diplomat in the United Nations chamber. Not only is this foolish considering not all black people trace lineage to Africa, and there are white people who are African-Americans, but more importantly, this is not how people ordinarily describe their equals.

Perhaps it is this very gesture (and many other similar gestures) that condescends to entire classes of Americans and traps them in a cycle rather than enabling their advancement.

There are a few stubborn issues that prevent us from truly moving past ‘race’ in this country.  First, true racism (differentiated from the modern, common misuse of the word) still exists. The extent to which it pervades our society or has been institutionalized is the subject of an epic debate that will not be resolved here. There are, however, fringe groups of believers in the supremacy of certain races based on characteristics, traits, and attributes inherent in those races. Second, there are incentives, and thus motives, in some political groups to perpetuate outdated attitudes about race even while outwardly expressing a different goal. This topic is so large and so prone to misinterpretation that we will not attempt to tackle it here, but will reserve for later.

The Third issue will be the subject of the remaining paragraphs here. Those in the racial majority (white people in the US, for the time being) do not know how to talk about race. This often results in lazy, hesitantly made cultural observations being attributed to that vile foe: bigotry, or even racism, when in fact ‘race’ was incidental to the initial observation, at best. When marked as a racist, many enlightened white men panic and defend themselves vigorously, or even begin to doubt their own heart and spiral down into self-deprecation.

Foundation – suggestions on how to think about race:

  • Confront irrational stereotypes. Acknowledge those stereotypes with some valuable basis in fact. Stereotypes are generally considered ‘bad’, especially if they result in harmful prejudice. The idea that they should be eradicated, however, betrays logic. Images or ideas do not become stereotypes until they are widely held, and they are widely held for a reason. Sometimes these reasons are irrational or grossly over-exaggerated, but in other cases the stereotype has probative value. It is a difficult exercise, but we should force ourselves to categorize the stereotypes we have, discard and openly confront the irrational, and give appropriate weight to the probative and allow it to inform us.
    • No useful or actionable lesson is derived from “black people are stupid and lazy”, “white people are evil and privileged”, or “Jews are greedy and control the world”. If we refuse to take notice of the man on the dark street wearing baggy pants and a hoodie in warm weather, or the young man in the front row of the movie theatre with shifty eyes and a backpack, however, we are not tolerant, we are foolish.
    • Never abandon your common sense observations if you have determined they are logical, in an attempt to appear tolerant.
  • Acknowledge the history of slavery. Confront the question of collective guilt.  The fastest way to lose credibility is to deny history. Slavery of black people was real. Even after the formal abolition, of slavery, segregation and invidious discrimination really happened. The holocaust was real. The only rationale for denial of these events is an instinctive refusal to accept responsibility for actions one did not directly participate in. The human mind is small in its capacity to comprehend the most horrifyingly wicked truths. “I could never do such a thing. Most people are like me. Therefore, no one could do such a thing”. This introduces the complex problem of collective guilt.
    • Picture the descendant of an early 1900’s Irish or Scottish immigrant whose family has no history of land ownership, let alone slave ownership, and who has clung to the lower or middle rungs of the US socioeconomic ladder since arriving on the continent. Privilege and comfort are foreign concepts to this “white” man who grew up on baseball, football, cans of beer and blue collar jobs. Isn’t it a tragedy for this white man to bear the guilt burden of slavery? Maybe not. The problem with collective guilt is that when it is misapplied it is a repulsive form of self-submission and humiliation.
    • Collective guilt should not, and must not, ever be forced, either by law, or social pressure. Such a guilt could never be genuine, and forecloses the possibility of sincere reflection. Collective guilt, properly understood, is a personal decision made with self-respect and dignity. Picture now the families of 9/11 victims, the families (especially children) of slain soldiers, or those embroiled in a battle with a deadly disease such as cancer. What is the emotion we feel for these people? We might call it ‘sympathy’, ‘love’ or ‘support’, but is it very different from guilt? Certainly we did not directly cause their calamity, but did we not enjoy comfort and freedom while they suffered? Simply consider the concept. This does not require a personal admission of responsibility and should be separated from the criminal or legal concept of culpability.
    • If you make the personal decision to bear a productive level of collective guilt (or whatever name you give it), don’t ever attempt to force your fellow man to accept it. This only works if it is a personal choice.

With those concepts in mind, the following are suggestions on how to talk about race.

  1. Don’t assume a knee-jerk defensive posture or say “I’m not a racist”. Let your life and your conduct make your case.
  2. Don’t patronize black people either overtly, or passively. If you don’t obsess over what to call the white guy walking down the street, don’t obsess over what to call the black man on the street. Don’t implement your own personal affirmative action program. Any suggestion that a black man should be given preference for a benefit, advantage or position on the sole basis of skin color assumes that he could not have obtained it with his own efforts. That he is not actually equal to you.
  3. Think and speak in a cultural framework. Despite the modern use of the term, there are only 3-5 actual ‘races’ in the world, so a good starting point would be to at least understand the difference between race and ethnicity. Even ethnicity is a red herring. Modern observations should be made on the basis of culture, which, unlike the broad supercategories of race, is made up of meaningful and significant attributes, traits and characteristics.
  4. Appreciate differences, but place more emphasis on what is the same. Some cultures blend well with others. Some do not. It is intellectually dishonest to label all efforts at cultural solidarity as racism. If you think something is rude, exclusionary or snobby, then call it by those names. Larger political ideas which embrace efforts to either blend cultures, or to maintain a traditional cultural identity, are likely to draw the ire of the opposing ideology, but they are valid, legitimate and constitutional. Chief among our cultural priorities should be an ‘American’ culture.
  5. Be proud of who YOU are. Maintain your self respect and dignity. Don’t apologize for, castigate or deprecate yourself for any reason other than for being a jerk (if you have been one). Even if you were born privileged, but you follow #6 below, then you have committed no crime.
  6. Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, no matter where you are, and no matter who is watching. If you follow this suggestion, you will have no trouble standing up to the scrutiny mentioned in #1 above.

How should a white man talk about race? Unless he is a student in an anthropology class, or he is using skin color as a visual descriptor, he shouldn’t. He should focus his efforts on his own conduct, and he should be free to express ideas on culture. The inevitable next step is to identify one’s self with a culture more granular than “whiteness”, and the next article of this type might carry a different headline.

Kim Davis: Good Fight – Wrong Fighter

Kim Davis is entirely wrong. She is wrong in the Christian sense. She is wrong in the legal sense. She has become a very damaging force in what will become a very meaningful constitutional debate over the course of the next decade. It is because her defiance is so onerous and offensive to current sensibilities that only the most die-hard religious extremists are coming out in support of Davis. She is the wrong person, testing freedom of religious expression in the wrong way, at the wrong time. The fact that she is wrong does not justify the unprecedented and aggressive actions of the rogue justice department in incarcerating her when there is a remedy under state law to address an official’s refusal to perform ministerial tasks.

The backlash against Davis has been fierce, not just from those who were pleased with the June 26, 2015 redefinition of marriage by the US Supreme Court, but also from many Christians who are opposed to same-sex marriage but take the now popular “the Court has ruled and the law is the law” stance. Davis has been attacked on the basis of her failed marriages, her misguided appeals to “God’s Authority” and, yes, even on her appearance.

It is understandable for Christians to turn on Davis. Despite the ridicule one is subjected to if they dare to suggest that Christians or other people of faith are being ‘persecuted’, it is a tough time for mainstream Christians. Many are willingly going through the process of reconciling their personal beliefs with a government that may not always reflect those same standards. Delightfully, many are quickly becoming comfortable with this, and realizing that it is possible to maintain one’s own faith and moral views, despite the laws of the nation contrasting their personal convictions. Even among the faith-based community there are legitimate disputes about how to respond to the ever changing social landscape of this country. It is unfair for any one faith-based group to claim a monopoly on the correct response, or “what Jesus would do“.

In the midst of this turmoil even many practicing Christians are undergoing a bit of a progressive transformation. They don’t want to be the party of bigotry and hate. They want to be known for the message of the unconditional love of Jesus, and a promise of forgiveness for sin. All the while, they forget some of the lessons of unconditional love and understanding of the downtrodden in their rejection of Davis. After all, she is a lost and troubled soul.

It is reasonable, arguably, to expect an elected government official to carry out the ministerial tasks it is charged with, without respect to their personal beliefs. Probably the most commonly stated phrase concerning Kim Davis has been some variant of “she should do her job, or resign”. For the sake of argument, we will assume this position. She is wrong. She should do her job or resign. The consequence of continued refusal could be a state misdemeanor proceeding, or a legislative process to remove her from office.

Only now, Kim Davis has been held in contempt of a federal court order and imprisoned. Wait… What?

Answer this question without regard to the facts of the Kim Davis fiasco: How long has it been the practice of our federal government to imprison state, county or city level officials for their failure, or even outright refusal, to perform a specific duty? If your answer is that she did more than refuse to perform a duty based on a religious objection, she in fact obstructed justice and defied a federal court order, then the question could be stated differently: How long has it been the practice of federal courts to intervene and issue court orders (which provide the grounds for contempt orders) in the ministerial affairs of county governments? This level of federal involvement in local affairs is wildly unprecedented and the implications are broad.

How are we suddenly so selectively outraged at the refusal of a government official to perform one of her duties? Remember, issuing marriage certificates is one of her duties, not “her duty”. She is not the Clerk of Marriages. She is a county clerk responsible for automobile registrations, real property records, lien records, and yes certain certificates including marriage certificates. Since the June, 2015 decision Davis has refused to issue any marriage license, whether to same sex or traditional couples.

When the department of justice acts in an unprecedented way, with a laser focus on very particularized conduct, and enters territory it has previously ignored and attempts to make a resounding statement, we start to see what looks like discrimination based on religious expression. When our government holds a grudge, and vigorously prosecutes some bad acts, but not others, we need to look at what is different about the actors in the acts in question. Let’s do that.

How is Kim Davis different from the ten public officials who acted in defiance of state and federal law while the same sex marriage fight was still being fought? Most of the arguments for these lawbreakers was that they were breaking the law to ‘give’ a right, not to infringe on a right. The lesson from this example being that lawbreaking is OK as long as it protects the actors interpretation of what rights should be protected. What about a county official that infringes upon rights clearly enumerated in the constitution, such as this Orange County California sheriff who continues to manipulate, stall and engage in sophisticated legal wrangling to deprive 2,500 law abiding citizens from obtaining concealed weapons permits despite meeting all legal requirements? Is the lesson here that instead of outright refusal, Davis should have been more cunning in her obstinance? That if you wish to deprive your constituents of their rights, you will not be jailed if you are sophisticated enough to filibuster?

Have we considered the 200 cities, counties and states across the country who boldly refuse to to comply with ICE detainers, or otherwise impede open communication and information exchanges between their employees or officers and federal immigration agents? These localities blatantly obstruct justice, and not in some obscure regulations, but in matters of national security and public safety. Now that the precedent has been set with this lowly small county clerk in Kentucky, should we expect Annise Parker, Ed Lee, Ed Murray and Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to be hauled before district judges sometime in the near future? They are all mayors of crime-ridden cities, and the argument that their blatant refusal to comply with federal law is not depriving anyone of their rights is easily refuted by evidence of the disastrous consequences of not dealing with dangerous criminals when you have them in custody.

Boiled down, the difference between Kim Davis and these high ranking local officials is that Davis was motivated by what she believed to be religious belief, and dared to trespass in the sacred cow of a recent supreme court decision. Meanwhile, the mayors of our major cities defiantly shrug off statutory provisions of the United States Code that are not even controversial. Sheriff Hutchens treads on the literal language of the constitution itself. Neither Hutchens, nor Parker, Lee, Murray, or Rawlings-Blake cite religion in their delinquency.

Davis is an easy target for the insatiable hordes of social justice warriors, salivating over the prospect of their first kill in the Obergfell era. She is uneducated and has a shaky (at best) marital history; she is not aesthetically pleasing and appears to be, at least to some extent, a wackadoodle.

She does not have the right to create her own law, or decide to enforce it according to her own interpretation. God would not expect this of her, and the law does not permit it. There is a process to deal with her, either by impeachment by the state legislature, or misdemeanor charges at the state level. Maybe those steps should be taken to restore order to the universe, but we absolutely must not accept the discriminatory incarceration of a county clerk because the federal court has a score to settle, and deems some laws worthy of enforcement while other equal offenses are ignored.

Liberty comes in strange shapes. Sometimes it even produces a bad result, and as a result, some normal, patriotic and responsible Americans are willing to give up constitutional protections or look the other way at the federal government’s overreach and watch liberty erode. Physical liberty (freedom from imprisonment) is widely considered of the highest order of our individual rights. How quickly and easily we are willing to give up our most basic protections in the bill of rights as long as the cuffs are on the wrist of some wackadoodle.

Not us. We are enlightened, we are moral. Certainly a life-tenured District Judge will never disagree with us.

Has The Iran Nuclear Deal Already Failed?

The headline reads: “Obama Secures Enough Support For Iran Deal In Congress“. This is an interesting way of putting it, because the text below the headline identifies Barbara Mikulski as the 34th vote in support of the deal. Thirty-four votes out of one hundred senators (on a subject of global significance) is what passes for support in an era of obscene executive swagger. The Congress (The People) do not need to be persuaded, they simply must be overcome by procedure.

Now the focus must shift from efforts to defeat the deal, to holding the brazen and emboldened Iranians to its terms. Our national posture must transition from one of leadership to one of futile appeasement and pleading. We no longer have the leverage to control the situation and force compliance. Now we must simply ask “Please comply?”.

It is common in today’s political environment to hope for the failure of an initiative we oppose, as some form of confirmation that our ideas were superior. We take every minor negative indicator as an opportunity to say “See! I told you! Thanks a lot [Obama][Bush]!” Now the stakes are too high. We can’t simply wish for this deal to fail so we can prove how naive this administration is. There are too many lives at stake. No political point should be proven by a massacre. In actuality, we should all be hoping that WE were wrong, and that the Iran deal WILL prevent a murderous regime from obtaining the means to destroy its publicly declared enemies.

But this brings us to the point. Is it really nuclear war that we are afraid of? Maybe, but it seems a bit far-fetched to think that Iran would destroy what it deems to be its own holy land with a nuclear attack. And although the regime holds no such fealty to the North American continent, they are well aware that any nuclear attack on the US would result in an immediate nuclear winter and “Goodbye Iran!” The reality is, nuclear war is not the most likely method Iran will choose to terrorize the world.

The issue in the coming years as it relates to the Iran deal will be defining failure or success. Proponents of engagement and appeasement willl argue that as long as nuclear missiles do not rain down on Israel and America, the deal worked. This emphasis on nuclear weapons is important, but too narrow. The existence or non existence of nuclear weapons capability in Iran was simply a point at which powerful nations could reach consensus. It is easy for all of us to say “Iran is dangerous and should not have nukes”. This issue does not encapsulate the myriad objections to Iran’s role in the middle east, and the world.

Iran’s victory did not involve their enrichment capability. The truly significant achievements of the regime were Legitimacy, and Economic Stimulus. It has been a successful strategy for world superpowers to keep their club an exclusive one. When nations are led by violently oppressive figures or troublemakers with ancient grudges it is a perfectly appropriate use of one’s own “superpowers” to condemn such nations, preventing them from gaining economic and ideological legitimacy.  We are justified in refusing to share our wealth and prosperity with an entity who promises to use it for evil purposes.

Possibly the greatest world crisis at this point is occurring in Syria. While Iran, even in its currently diminished capacity, is the primary sponsor behind Hezbollah and the Assad regime, The United States is the largest (by a shocking margin) contributor to the World Food Programme which struggles to feed millions of Syrian refugees, contributing 1.5B per year. Meanwhile, Iran does not conceal their desire to dominate the middle east, and ultimately the world, and in the midst of negotiating with us over nuclear proliferation (which remains the key basis for bargaining) Iran is steadily increasing its military capability, including long range non-nuclear missiles. The Iran Deal does nothing to curb non-nuclear military expansion.

The success or failure of the Iran deal, a deal which we strongly suspected was a foregone conclusion, does not hinge on whether or not Iran develops weapons now, or in 15 years. The measure instead should be the amount of damage a newly bolstered and legitimized regime can inflict upon the middle east, and the rippling effect on the world, still led, though reluctantly as of late, by the United States. Watch Hamas in the Gaza strip, where rockets are launched toward Ashkelon, and tunnels are dug into Israel to deliver committed terrorists so often that it rarely make the news anymore. Watch Hezbollah in Syria, Lebanon and Northern Israel. Watch the Houthi in Yemen. Anywhere there is an anti-democratic, islamic revolutionary movement in the middle east, you can be sure that Iran is providing weapons, training, and logistical support.

All attacks carried out or funded by this regime may be traced back to the legitimacy and prosperity we granted this regime, and our desire to sit at arms length with them. Our unwillingness to see the starkly obvious, that they do not want to be our friends, and they have no respect for our way of life or our position of leadership in the world, is proof of how far we have fallen, and how foolish we look by claiming to have slowed their progress while unleashing billions of dollars into their bloody coffers.

It’s a typical political hornswaggle. When constructing a legacy, it is not necessary to actually achieve a true strategic objective, as long as you define success narrowly. We must remember the lesson of 9/11/01, that it does not take a nuke to bring a superpower to its knees. And how quickly we forget Iran’s role in providing funding for that particular iconic attack. Considering Iran’s complicity with Al Qaeda and the last successful attack on American soil, and giving appropriate weight to the factor of legitimacy, has the “Iran Nuclear Deal” already failed?