Thursday, March 10, 2016

Pitchforkers, True Believers, and RINOs

With Donald J. Trump leading in the Republican Presidential Primary and Senator Ted Cruz a strong second some observers have wondered what has happened to the Grand Old Party.  Is there an anti-establishment insurgency going on?  Where is the "base?"  It would appear the Republican Party is in disarray.

For as long as I can remember there has always been some division in the Republican Party.  Yes, there were some fundamental tenets that held us together under the big tent: small government, fiscal conservatism, and a strong defense.  For many of my politically-active years there has been a tension between social conservatives and the more moderate Republicans.  Radicals versus RINOs, Hicks versus Country Club, if you will.

At the risk of over-simplifying I suggest for a couple of decades the conservatives, mostly defined by social conservatives, have been the grass roots of the Party.  If the Republican nominee was going to succeed they needed this "base."  Without this support we had losses with Dole, McCain and Romney.  Supposedly, millions of the base stayed home in 2012 because they were not confident in Romney's conservative bona fides.

To add more confusion, recall the rumor that the Bush campaign had a way to the nomination without the base?  Well, he definitely got his wish of running without the base.  However, he found it hard to find support from any sizable segment.  His establishment support and successful fundraising were clearly insufficient in this weird primary season.  His campaign was working from a playbook out of sync with the times.

The attraction of anti-establishment candidates like Trump, Cruz, and Carson has caused a lot of discussion about the so-called Republican base.  Commentators resort to calling Trump an anti-establishment candidate or a populist. Then Cruz is said to be the social conservative candidate or the choice of evangelicals.  With the field shrinking Rubio is characterized as the moderate or establishment candidate.  Kasich has some small piece of the moderate vote.

Of course there are problems with the above generalizations.  Trump is attracting a pretty broad coalition of angry voters, including some evangelicals and social conservatives (huh?).  This is the case even though before his campaign he was buddies with the establishment.  Cruz has been such a strong second that his appeal, while certainly great among social conservatives, has touched other blocs. And remember, Rubio won his last election as a Tea Party candidate; hardly a moderate Republican.

The rise of the Tea Party during the Obama Administration and a great dissatisfaction with business as usual in the national capital has fractured the old paradigm of social conservatives versus moderates.  The anger from many factions in the big tent can be seen in fragmented votes in this primary season so far.  Trump has been the consistent leader, but he has not been able to develop a band wagon and his support may top out at 35 percent. The truth has been that most of the Republican party has not been for Trump. Can he win the nomination with that?


The times clearly require a candidate that is seen as an outsider.  The old Republican Party paradigm will not work. As a matter of fact, I think trying to decipher this strange primary season with the old paradigm will only lead to more confusion.  The old Republican Party and its co-existing segments is now history. I would even say there is no longer a "base."  Forget about a base.  The new paradigm is factions.  I would suggest the new paradigm might include 3 factions of approximately equal size. The three factions are The Pitchforkers, The True Believers, and The RINOs.

The Pitchforkers are like an angry mob.  Just like the peasants of yore they have legitimate grievances.  The authorities have either ignored them or stepped all over them.  They feel like their cares and concerns have not been addressed.  They are riled up by a tough talking leader who plays on their fears.  He makes promises of making things right and they pick up their pitchforks and torches to storm the castle.

Our Republican Pitchforkers have significant numbers of people who have been involved in the Tea Party.  Fed up with Obama and his "transforming" of government they rose up demanding a halt to growing government and unconstitutional laws and executive orders.  They believed the Republican Party was going to have their back and they were let down.  They now feel like the tough talking, outsider Trump will make things right.

True Believers are serious believers in the Constitution; are fiscally and socially conservative; and are supporters of a strong defense.  They have been offended by Obama ignoring the Constitution and fed up with the Republican Congress allowing him to get away with it.  They consist of traditional conservatives, idealogues and politically active Christians.  What about the "evangelicals" that are supporting Trump you ask?  The term is fairly meaningless now.  So many have claimed to be evangelical, especially in the South, that it has lost its distinctiveness. (Exit polling shows that Trump supporters are not concerned about values...conservative Christians are appalled at Trump's immorality.) 

Cruz is finding support with True Believers.  They relate to his efforts to call out Republican leaders for not taking on Obama, his consistent conservative record, and his faith. Sure, True Believers want a winner, but elect-ability is less of a concern than is principle with True Believers.  This being the case, if Trump wins the nomination expect the True Believers to sit out the general election.

The RINOs - Republican in Name Only - are ticked off with the rebels trying to take over their party!  The Pitchforkers scare them and the True Believers embarrass them.  They are the old guard and blue bloods.  They are serious about governing and service.  They will "reach across the aisle" and creatively offer an alternative to the Democrats' craziest ideas that doesn't go quite so far. They are committed to the party and are all about winning...and the power.

In this outsider primary season most of their potential candidates didn't make the cut.  After Bush they seemed to have settled for Rubio.  As mentioned above, Rubio got elected to the Senate as a Tea Party favorite.  However, he early showed his willingness - okay, with good intentions - to make deals.  He now appears to have taken the RINOs' orders to attack Trump and attempt to derail the crazy train.  If push comes to shove they can live with Trump.  Trump is a deal maker and they can see making deals to maintain some power.  What the RINOs cannot tolerate is the totally inflexible (principled) Cruz.  He'll just ruin...their party.

The real question for me is the future with this new paradigm.  Can the Republican Party survive these factions?  Especially if this results in President Hillary Clinton?  Or are we witnessing not disarray, but disintegration of the Republican Party? Perhaps the Republican Party has outlived its usefulness.  Political parties are not sacred. When it comes down to it, I am more concerned about America than I am about the Republican Party.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Republicans Choose Wrong Tactic on Supreme Court Nomination

Since the hours after the passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Republican Presidential candidates and Senators have been warning President Obama not to bother with naming a nominee for the court.  This is a mistake.

Sure, we have every reason to believe that Obama will name someone who will tip the balance on the court to the Left.  Look at who he has already placed on the court (Judge Sonia Sotomayor and Solicitor General Elena Kagan) and you understand he'll want the biggest liberal he can find.  I wouldn't be surprised if his staff is trying to find a handicapped, black, Muslim, illegal alien transexual to nominate!


It is very hard and unusual to write something that isn't terribly negative about Obama and constitutional rights, but here goes.  Obama has a constitutional right and duty to nominate someone.  It wouldn't seem possible with Obama's record of trampling all over the constitution, but Republicans have given Obama the high road on constitutional principles.  The Presidential candidates and Republican Senators are making a tactical mistake with their obstruction.

Of course the Democrats supporting Obama's constitutional duty to nominate a justice are complete hypocrites.  From Biden to Schumer they all have attempted or wished they could have obstructed Republican presidents from making nominations; not to mention their vicious attacks on past Republican nominees.  Now they talk of the Constitution and delineated powers.  Give me a break.

I personally want to see another constitutionalist like Scalia.  However, you know the saying: elections have consequences.  The people elected the most liberal president in history and he is now going to (attempt to) nominate his third appointee. And I think if another liberal is seated on the court it would be a complete disaster for our country.

What is the Senate's duty? Well, the President nominates, but has this power only“by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate.”  It has been the fashion in recent years for the Congress to acquiesce to the Executive.  They haven't yet - Democrats or Republicans - given up their authority in "advice and consent" on Supreme Court Justices. Thank goodness.

Now here is the critical thing.  The Senate can and should do its duty, and they are not obligated to confirm. Their obligation is to fulfill the "advice and consent" role.  So Obama nominates a liberal -who disdains the constraints of the Constitution - and the Senate can then consider if such a nominee should be approved. They vote such a nominee down and fulfill there duty.

Wouldn't this be obstruction, or more grid lock you ask?  No, obstruction is the current tactic. And yes, this is grid lock - just as the Framers of the Constitution intended.  I don't know if they had the same phrase back then, but they most definitely hardwired this sort of situation. By the careful wording of the President "shall nominate" and the Senate "advice and consent" the Framers constructed a system where large differences (ideological, political, or other) would lead to stalemates.  This is much better than one branch running roughshod over the other.

We have a huge divide in vision for the country between the President and Congress right now.  It's probably a good representation of the differences that exist in the country.  I trust the Constitution to handle the grid lock.

Now, if I could only trust the Republicans in the Senate.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Trump Popularity Tells Us About the Republican Party

Donald Trump's standing in the polls tells us more about the Republican voters than it does about The Donald, I am afraid.  We all know the bombastic, real estate mogul, reality TV star, politically incorrect politician.  There is no mystery.  After struggling for months to try to figure out his popularity it has occurred to me what we really should be examining are his supporters.  I have come to the conclusion that Trump's popularity reveals the shallow thinking and even ignorance of a sizable percentage of Republicans.

Republicans are generally recognized as conservatives; to the right of the political spectrum.  Trump's life and rhetoric certainly do not represent the traditional conservative positions. So how could he lead in the polls with the "conservative" party?  It's because of this bloc of Republican voters - who may even call themselves conservative - but who are not committed to Republicanism.  That would be defined as fiscally conservative, socially conservative, supporters of a strong defense and a small government, and grounded in the Constitution. Traditional Republicanism was most recently best represented by Ronald Reagan and that is one of the reasons he is most revered among the "base." 

The thing about these principles is that it takes some thinking to arrive at them.  They are not driven by feelings or unthinking "compassion" or class warfare or a dream of Big Government solving all of our problems.  These principles do not cater to winds of populism.  They are indeed principles and they are grounded in our Constitution.

Dr. R.B.A. DiMuccio, a guest commentator for Grove City's Center for Vision and Values, recently wrote about Trump's supporters.  He quotes a YouGov poll that shows only 13% of them describe themselves as very conservative, and 20% describe themselves as liberal or moderate.  Only 30% identify with the Tea Party.  Conclusion: by and large, Trump supporters aren't the traditional conservative Republicans.  I am not saying they are illegitimate.  I am pointing out that this big bloc of Republican voters represent something outside conservatism.

I personally think the Trump supporters are mostly ignorant.  They represent a large swath of America who are unfortunate products of our public schools.  They didn't learn about the Constitution. They don't understand history and America's legacy in bringing liberty and opportunity to the world.  They are the result of a liberal media bias that has worn down and eroded traditional American values.

The Trump voter is mad and not going to take it anymore.  Trump offers a few simple solutions (I'll build a tremendous wall! It will be good!) and plays to the populist fever.  It is as if the Reality TV star has taken his show live on the road.  And the dumbed-down audience hoots and hollers as Trump calls his opponents names.

It is disheartening that this makes up such a large percentage of the active Republican voter today (is it really 40%?).  It used to be - and I have been part of this battle - the conservative base versus the country club Republicans.  Now it appears we have populism versus conservatism.  Where are the country club Republicans? The talk is they have reluctantly thrown in with Trump because they feel they can make deals with him.  And let's face it - they really dislike the hard core conservative.

What to do?  Conservatives must be committed to principles and they must effectively make the case.  Educate, promote, broadcast the truth.  Speak up and stand for liberty and Constitutional principles.  I hope this little blog will be part of that effort.


Monday, December 7, 2015

U.S. Wants Women in Combat

After years of "study" and debate Defense Secretary Ash Carter ordered all branches of the military to open all combat jobs to women.  This was not a surprise; many observers told us this was coming.

The announcement removed the final barriers that kept women from serving in certain combat positions, including the most dangerous and elite special forces jobs.  It opens the final 10 percent of military positions to women - a total of 220,000 jobs. It follows a couple of relevant and newsworthy events this year. The first was the celebrated completion of the highly rigorous Ranger school by two women. The second was the reporting of findings by the Marines of a controlled experiment they ran with units made up of men and women.

The Marines found the integrated units were less efficient in operations and in completing their mission than the standard unit of men only.  The Marines had recommended continuing the ban on women in their infantry units due to concerns about the efficiency of these units. Skeptics, including the Secretary of Defense, claimed the experiment was flawed and there was plenty of (anecdotal) evidence and history to show women could fight just as well as men in these units.  There was also the suggestion that the Marines' bias meant their experiment was inevitably going to be self-fulfilling.

Secretary Carter said in his announcement that "at the end of the day this will make us a better and stronger force..."  He also said that we can no longer afford to exclude half the population from high-risk military posts.

I have to ask in what way will the armed forces be better and stronger?  I have to guess he means we will feel better about it.  Perhaps by stronger he means to equate a more diverse or gender balanced force with moral or social strength?  He can't possibly be telling us by having more women in combat units that these units are going to be better and stronger at defeating the enemy.  Can he?  (And isn't defeating the enemy their purpose?)

It is not arguable that women are the weaker sex. I don't mean to offend women and if you are offended, well, you're looking to be offended.  I am just stating a biological, material fact and this is how God created humans.  The average man is much stronger and more capable of killing the enemy than the average woman.  Yeah, I know there are exceptions.  You can find some exceptionally strong and tough women who can "cut it" in the most rigorous training the Army can dish out.  And you can find some weak men who can't pass Army basic training.

However, do we want to set our military standards and the expectations of our fighting forces based on exceptions or do we want to have the toughest and most capable force in the world?

When I trained in Army ROTC in the 1970's and served in the Army in the 1980's we were just beginning to open up some fields for women soldiers.  This included opening up ROTC and West Point to women for officer training.  I trained with and served with men and women of diverse backgrounds and abilities.  There were many accommodations made to allow for women to succeed during our transition to being more "inclusive" in those days.  (For example, and to this day, men and women have different standards to meet in the physical fitness test.  Of course the reason is self-evident: men are stronger and faster, so you can't expect women to meet the men's standards.)

I also served, in my Army Aviation units, with some very capable women.  One could argue that once they strapped on a helicopter they didn't need to be fast and strong, just smart and skilled at maneuvering the machine and navigation, etc.  Probably true, but there was/is always the danger of a hydraulic failure in the controls (which I had the experience with) and had to muscle it down. Or what if you are shot down and need more physicality to evade the enemy or even withstand a capture and what follows.

Unfortunately in today's military environment we have had women pilots and other women soldiers captured by the enemy.  Sadly, their testimonies are that the worst did happen in captivity.  I point this out to bring home what we have created with these inclusive policies.  People, we have women killed in combat and raped as prisoners.  Is this really what we want for our American women so we can claim there is equality?

Yes, men are killed and tortured in war.  It always has been an awful tragedy.  War has famously been described as hell.  Every human being is precious and we wish no human had to endure war.  The simple truth is that men are more suited to the horror of war.  If we must have war for our national security we should want to limit the damage done to our humanity, not expose the fairer sex to hell.

Am I suggesting this bygone, chauvinistic concept: that men should protect women?  Yes I am; without apology.  We should limit women's role in the armed forces because they diminish the effectiveness of our war fighting capability and because it is men's role to protect them.


My fellow Americans, do we not want the most effective fighting force we can have?  Or is political correctness, including a totally misplaced emphasis on equal opportunity by gender for our fighters, more important than our national security?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Will PA GOP Leaders Enable the Addict?

The Pennsylvania General Assembly passed a budget in June that Governor Wolf vetoed.  Governor Wolf also rejected the GOP attempt at privatizing the state liquor stores and reforming state pensions.  So the Commonwealth has been operating with a "partial government shutdown" due to the budget impasse.  Further, the General Assembly passed an interim budget in September, in part to provide funding for the state's schools which have been squeezed in the budget impasse.  Governor Wolf vetoed it. Wolf is holding out for a collection of new and higher taxes, which according to him would balance the budget and provide needed additional funding for schools.

The House allowed a vote on Governor Wolf's $2.4 billion tax package this past week.  It failed and demonstrated there was no appetite by all of the Republicans and some of the Democrats for the tax increases.

So there has been much hang wringing and pleas for compromise by media and the political class.  Some have suggested the Republicans accept some kind of tax increase - could be Wolf's dream of additional taxes on the oil and gas industry, or a broadening of the sales tax - and that Wolf accept maybe the privatizing of state stores.  Let's give the GOP leadership credit for so far resisting a deal that would raise taxes.

However, GOP leaders are now floating the idea to raise revenue by expanding gambling in Pennsylvania.  The idea is that this would provide at least some of the additional revenue that Governor Wolf wants so badly.  Majority Leader Dave Reed said that a discussion is needed on what other revenues are on the table and "gaming options" should be in the discussion.  The pressure is getting to him.  When the GOP leadership starts talking about increasing revenues to solve the budget impasse they have accepted the Governor's premise that the problem is not enough revenue.  They are now arguing on his terms.

Gambling is seen as easy out.  It has been turned to before.  Gambling's role in financing government continues to grow.  We enacted a state lottery ($1 billion in revenue last year!) to support programs for the elderly.  We then had to keep up with our neighboring states' gambling attractions and support horse racing. So we opened up casino gambling ($1.2 billion in taxes last year!) - funds to go to property tax relief and many other wonderful causes.  Then to keep up with our neighboring states (yes, we heard this before) we had to expand casino gambling to include table games (an additional $96 million last year).  Then we legalized gambling in bars ($554,000 in diminishing returns).

Well, what's next? Well, there is Internet gambling, slot machines at off-track horse race betting parlors, slot machines at airports, and ... use your imagination.  All the revenue, of course, would be needed for the children, the "underfunded" schools, the elderly, the deteriorating bridges, the elderly, the poor, healthcare, job development, and ... use your imagination.

Most importantly, a new gambling based revenue stream would permit the GOP leadership to not have to raise taxes, and to offer new revenue to Governor Wolf and the media demanding a compromise.  It would also allow the leadership to dodge their responsibility to CUT SPENDING.  The General Assembly, with Republican majorities in both houses, needs to remain firm and let Governor Wolf know that if the budget is indeed unbalanced, as he claims, then spending will have to be reduced.

Furthermore, Pennsylvania does not need more state sanctioned gambling.  The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is addicted to gambling revenue.  It now cannot live without it.  What used to be enough now does not give the high it used to: more gambling; more tax revenue to feed the addict.  The GOP leadership would be enabling this addiction and taking the cowardly way out by solving this budget impasse with gambling revenue.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Trump is an Idiot

Excuse my French, but Donald Trump is an idiot.  I am astounded no politicians or media bigwigs call him out.  How can he continue to lead in the polls when his "policy statements" or answers to questions are simplistic nothingness?

I understand that a certain percentage of Republicans support him because he voices our disgust with the direction of the nation and the lack of leadership in the the party.  I understand his refusal to be politically correct is attractive.  This is not enought to be a serious candidate for President.

I also understand all the media attention.  The mainstream media loves the circus.  Trump attracts viewership as people tune in to see a live catastrophe. Who will he insult next?  What vulgar or embarrassing gaffe will he next utter?  Yet he has no shame and continues to bluster.

He clearly lacks any depth on policy, and where we do know his positions most of them are not conservative.  Come on people.  It is not enough to say things are bad and that other people are stupid (e.g., Rand Paul) and ugly (e.g., Carly Fiorina).  To borrow an old (commercial and) political line: where is the beef?

I give you two examples of his idiocy (for the sake of time...I'm sure you can think of many).  First on immigration.  He, in an around about way, states that our immigration policy is broken.  'Around about' because he expresses the frustration most of have that our borders are insecure and we paradoxically provide more incentives and benefits to illegal immigrants.  He crudely speaks of the caliber of immigrants.  Okay, I can live with the gist of his description of the problem, even if I think he is offensive. 

However, it is his solution that shows his idiocy.  He is going to build a wall.  Yes, most of us agree we should definitely construct some kind of physical barrier to control the illegal immigration.  Even many of the establishment Republicans give lip service to this. But Trump speaks as if this is a new idea and he wants to bring some credibility to the statement by saying, "That's what I do; build walls, And it will be a good wall. And the Mexicans will pay for it!"  (Claps and cheers.)

Uhh, the Mexicans will pay for it?  Why would they do that, Donald?  "Because I will make them, and it will be like no wall you ever saw.  Trump builds walls!" (Cheers and claps).  Really? We're going to accept that drivel from a candidate for President?  And just because you say it will be "good" I'm suppose to say, "well then that settles it? You got my vote."  Does anybody really know what he means by 'good'?  It is so simplistic to be meaningless.

The second example comes from a recent flap when he did not object to unflattering talk about Muslims and the claim that our President was a Muslim. "We have a problem in this country. It's called Muslims," an unidentified man who spoke at a question-and-answer town hall event in Rochester, New Hampshire on September 17th. "You know our current president is one. You know he's not even an American."  Trump interrupted the man, chuckling, "We need this question..." 

"Anyway, we have training camps growing where they want to kill us," the man continued. "That's my question: When can we get rid of them?"

Then comes Trump's idiotic "answer."  "We're going to be looking at a lot of different things.  You know, a lot of people are saying that and a lot of people are saying that bad things are happening. We're going to be looking at that and many other things."  He then moves on to another question.

Now the media and some of his political competitors took him to task for not challenging the man's statement that the country's problem is Muslims, and that President Obama is a Muslim and not an American.  I understand where they are coming from, but a candidate is not required to go about correcting his audience or questioners. And some have also countered that he does not need to defend Obama's faith - Obama can do that.

What gets me is the total lack of a cogent answer.  One of Trump's beauty pageant contestants could come up with a better response.  "A lot of people are saying bad things are happening?"  That is the depth of his thinking on the issue? And his solution: "We're going to be looking at that and many other things."  Good, I'm glad that is settled.

I can't wait until we get past this juvenile phase and begin a serious debate with serious candidates.

Friday, September 4, 2015

County Clerk Jailed for Religious Belief

Well, it was inevitable, wasn't it?  The conflict between the new "right to marry" and freedom of religion has resulted in a County Clerk in Kentucky going to jail.  Kim Davis sits behind bars for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  I am not at all surprised.  I am a little surprised more government officials haven't exercised their religious conscience and refused to be part of redefining marriage.

In an earlier blog I defended businesses (such as a photographer who refused to photograph a gay wedding) who choose not to participate in an activity they believe is an affront to God.  I have said that a baker should be able to refuse to bake a wedding cake for a gay marriage if gay marriage is against his religious beliefs.  However, the baker would be guilty of discrimination for refusing to sell cookies to a individual who claimed to be a homosexual.  The difference is with the wedding cake he would be complicit in the celebration of the gay marriage.  Selling a cookie does not violate the baker's conscience nor require him to condone homosexuality.

Now we have an elected government official who believes that if she were to issue a marriage license she would be complicit in a wedding that she believes is against God's law.  Is it different than the photographer or baker exercising their freedom of religion?  No, not on the basis of free exercise of religion.  Does the clerk lose her religious liberty because she is a government official?  I don't think so.  Does her oath of office require her to act against her religiously held belief?

I don't think any oath of office requires a government official to act against their sincerely held religious beliefs.  Yes, holding a government office means that you work for the people.  However, "we the people" cannot require our officials to act against their religious beliefs, because we have recognized (in the 1st Amendment) that all people have a right to free exercise of their beliefs.  To require a government official to act against their religious belief violates who we are, according to the Constitution.

Christians facing persecution for their beliefs turn to the story in Acts (5:27- 29) where Peter and the apostles were brought before the authorities for teaching in Jesus' name in violation of the authorities prohibition.  Peter and the apostles answered, "We must obey God rather than men."  Christians have the responsibility NOT to obey authorities when such authorities require Christians to disobey God's explicit commandments.

How about the consequences?  Peter and the apostles were beaten by the authorities and told not to speak about Jesus anymore.  They rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor in His name, and they kept on preaching. Most of them eventually were killed for their beliefs.  Christianity spread throughout the world.

When the State enshrines into law a sin God calls an abomination there will be inevitable consequences.  Kim Davis has been sent to jail (supposedly for a week).  I don't think it is right, but she knew there would be consequences.  (Another option she had was to resign her position.  To me that is an acceptable option, but to her conscience, and we must accept it, it was not.) We'll see where this now goes.