Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Ted Cruz Has a 15:1 Advantage Over Jeb Bush With Conservatives... And Why the Establishment Should Care

It’s sometimes said that you can tell a lot about a person by the friends they keep. That makes sense. Friendships are generally based on complementary personalities, shared values, and a variety of intangibles that cause people to bond.

Money in politics is a similar barometer. The vast majority of Americans never donate any money to politicians or get involved in politics at all. For all of the kvetching about money in politics, there’s really not that much there. In 2012 a total of $6 billion was spent on politics. That includes spending by campaigns, outside groups, and independent organizations. To put that in perspective, Americans spend almost twice that amount on bottled water each year, five times as much at McDonalds and twelve times that on the lottery.

In addition, it’s only a small minority of Americans who donate to political campaigns at all, about 11% on average. Eleven percent sounds low, but that’s actually enormous when compared to the .05% of donors who provide $2.7 billion of that $6 billion by making contributions of $2,600 or more. Talk about “The 1%”! Campaigns seem to be funded largely from “The .05%”. Here’s the breakdown: 89% of Americans give $0 dollars to campaigns, 10.5% give a total of $3.3 billion, while .05% of the population give the other $2.7 billion. That means that a total of about 15,000 people are responsible for almost half the money spent on our elections… out of 315 million people.

Although the money is relatively evenly distributed between the parties, within the GOP there is an interesting dichotomy. Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz, who raised similar amounts in the June 15 to June 30 period – $11.4 million and $10 million respectively – make for a good illustration. When Bush released his fundraising numbers, they showed that 97% of his money came from donors who gave more than $200. For Cruz that number was 61%. More interesting however are the average numbers. Overall, Bush had a total of 12,334 donors who gave an average of $926. At the same time Cruz had a total of 175,000 donors who gave an average of $81. Cruz had fifteen times as many donors but raised $1.4 million less!

This is not a screed against the rich. Rich people are often successful businessmen and that’s something we could use more of. What we don’t need more of however is crony capitalism. And that’s what makes these reports so compelling. They came out just a week before a report that the Chamber of Commerce, the shill for big corporations, is planning on targeting small government conservatives in the House, many of whom are strong Cruz allies. Their goal is to derail true border control, maintain the Export Import Bank and harness government to shield big businesses from competition whenever possible.

This of course shines an illuminating light on the Bush / Cruz numbers. Cruz is very much a phenomenon of the Tea Party movement. Against crony capitalism, against illegal immigration, against big government, and stridently so, he has animated grassroots conservatives in a way no one has in decades. (Or at least he had until the Trump earthquake came along… even if Trump is not really a conservative.) This is illustrated by the fact that 175,000 people donated to his campaign in its first two weeks. Bush on the other not only supports comprehensive immigration reform (which basically means no wall, no reform plus amnesty to boot) but shows his big government bona fides by seeking to foist the dysfunctional Common Core on the country. Both of those issues are anathema to conservatives and as a result, Bush has attracted very little in the way of grass roots support. He has however gained the support of the K Street mafia, the GOP establishment and their Chamber of Commerce enablers.

Of course there’s a long way to go and there are other candidates in the field, but it’s telling that there is such a stark contrast between what are the left and right wings of the party. While money may make up a big part of politics, success comes from getting people out of their chairs and into the voting booths. The GOP should take notice of the fact that small donor conservatives have broken 15 to 1 for Cruz against Bush. While that might not mean much in terms of money, on November 8th of next year it will be critical. After having been steamrolled by the establishment during the last two elections and seeing the resulting candidates go down in flames, conservatives may just decide to sit 2016 out if the party nominates another milquetoast candidate whose focus is on keeping the Chamber happy rather than working to shrink government and get it out of the big business business. Such as desertion just might be fatal for the GOP as it would likely lead to three consecutive losses, the first time that's happened since FDR.  With two viable parties a third party stands little chance in American politics, however with a feeble party unable to win the big prize, the prospects for one are greatly enhanced.  That's something the GOP establishment just might want to ponder as they seek to hand the nomination to another Bush.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Fool or a Villain? Obama and America's Standing in the World...

I find myself vacillating between thinking Barack Obama is utterly incompetent, or he’s an evil genius who has a nefarious anti American plan in mind. While my heart wants to tell me that the person who’s been twice elected President of the United States is a good man with good intentions who’s simply in over his head, my head tells me something else.

When it comes to the domestic economy, Barack Obama is nothing short of a complete disaster. In virtually every situation he has chosen the path that is bad for freedom, bad for entrepreneurs, and bad for businesses… basically bad for pretty much the entire country except for maybe union members and government redistribution recipients. The disaster he has wrought in the economy is obvious to anyone who’s not living off the government.

What’s a little less clear to anyone but the most engaged political observer is the fact that as bad as he’s been on the economy, it’s possible he’s been even worse on foreign policy. In 2008 candidate Obama promised to “Restore America's standing in the world.” Like with the economy, his steps here too seem more like calculated steps in a plan rather than simple missteps. If they were simply missteps one would expect him to get things right 50% of the time. He’s not even close. Indeed, his failed plan to “Restore America’s standing” can be seen in the willingness of enemies and adversaries to attack the US or take provocative actions, all with little concern for consequences from a United States led by Barack Obama.

Our “Reset” partner Russia feels no qualms in threatening NATO allies for policies it dislikes, invaded Ukraine then annexed Crimea and continues to be provocative on and across our borders, all while helping Iran pursue its nuclear ambitions.

Today China has not only hacked into our government computers and stolen personal information on every government employee of the last twenty years, but they are actively building bases on disputed territory in order to expand their area of sovereignty at the expense of its neighbors.

In 2012, thriving on the chaos enabled by Barack Obama’s feckless leadership, Islamists captured and killed four Americans in Benghazi, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

Early on in his administration Barack Obama gave a sop to Vladimir Putin and blindsided much of Western Europe when he abandoned plans for the installation of a missile defense system in Poland.

He has decimated the US military, shrinking the Army by almost a quarter, dropping the Navy to a size not seen since Carter, and leaving the United States militarily incapable of fighting two wars at once, a basic element of American defense policy for half a century.

In Egypt Obama embraced the Muslim Brotherhood as it came to power and then proceeded to give the cold shoulder to General Sisi, the leader who ousted the Islamists and who is now Egypt’s president.

In Iraq, after the United States spent hundreds of billions of dollars and shed the blood of thousands of American soldiers and marines, the country is on the verge of collapse. The virtual collapse of Iraqi state, which led to the rise of ISIS, is a consequence of Barack Obama’s unwillingness to bring about a Status of Forces Agreement that would maintain an American presence capable of reassuring the Iraqis that the hard fought gains would be sustainable. Today ISIS not only controls much of Iraq and Syria, but they have affiliates and adherents who are carrying out terrorist acts around the world, including here in the United States.

In what might be the most disturbing foreign policy error of Obama’s parade of errors, he has worked out a deal with Iran which does virtually nothing to stop the Iranians from getting both nuclear weapons and delivery systems. The Iranians think so little of Barack Obama and the nation he leads that they don’t even bother to make promises that they intend to break as the Soviets used to do. Not only that, Iranian leaders go on domestic television regularly and threaten the United States amid cries of “Death to America” all while knowing that Barack Obama will give them whatever it is they want.

And there’s much more of course, from his support of the leftist thugs in Honduras in 2009, to his embrace of the Communist Castro brothers, to his exchanging five Islamist terrorists for an American deserter, to his paper tiger threats in relation to red lines in Syria… and the list goes on.

One can only wonder, if an American president wanted to do everything possible to diminish the United States on the world stage without explicitly looking like that was what he was doing, what more might he do make things worse than Barack Obama has? Today not only are the two other superpowers in the world far more belligerent than they were when Barack Obama took office, a new terrorist organization is wreaking havoc in the heart of the middle east and a nation that constantly cries “Death to America”, threatens to annihilate Israel and funded many of the weapons that killed American soldiers in Iraq is now billions of dollars richer and on its way to obtaining a nuclear weapon. While it is theoretically possible to have taken more actions that would harm American interests and diminish the United States on the world stage, such as fighting harder to keep the Muslim Brotherhood running Egypt or quitting NATO, it’s hard to imagine any president doing more to intentionally undermine American interests than what Barack Obama has done.

Sadly, at the end of the day I don’t think Barack Obama is just a dolt who makes consistently bad choices. I think he has a plan and he’s executing it… and that plan is to leave in his wake a greatly diminished America that has far less influence in the world than it did when he took office. For those of us who feel like the United States is the greatest force for good in the history of the world – albeit an imperfect one – to know that its enervation came at the hands of the man elected to lead it makes the shrinking that much more tragic.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Donald Trump is the Canary in the GOP Coalmine

Donald Trump is performing a very important task for the GOP… he’s an indication that the brand still has a pulse. Not much of one… but it’s there.

Americans are fed up with Republicans, particularly the establishment types. How do we know? Because twice in the last six years a majority of voters elected Barack Obama as president. In both cases Obama won against the establishment’s to carry the party’s water. John McCain, while strong on defense and right on the Surge, was wrong on much else including campaign finance reform and immigration, and he refused to highlight the anti-American friendships of Barack Obama. Similarly, while Mitt Romney was right on Russia and China, he was hardly a conservative, having implemented RomneyCare and pronouncing himself a Republicans who believed in Climate Change. And he too refused to attack Obama where he was most vulnerable, this time on Benghazi.

When Americans had a choice was between a hardcore liberal Democrat and a milquetoast Republican, a majority picked the Democrat, twice, despite the fact that he was utterly unqualified in both cases. In 2008 he was unqualified because he had never run anything… ever, and in 2012 he was utterly unqualified because in four years of running the government he had gotten literally everything wrong. But a majority of Americans voted for him rather than the GOP milquetoast.

Which brings us to Donald Trump. He may be many things… arrogant, brusque, a crony capitalist and only marginally connected to the GOP… but one thing he is not is milquetoast. Which is why he is now leading the GOP for the nomination. Some Republicans don’t like what he has to say, but they like the fact that he’s saying it and the is willing to stand up and unabashedly fight for his position. He’s like Chris Christy used to be – and just as bad in some ways. When he’s in the ring you know exactly where he stands, and Americans like that.

When Trump said that Mexico was not sending over their best and suggested that many of the people coming over were criminals, he started a firestorm, from every direction, including from Republicans. And of course the media dutifully reported on his comments and promptly lied, and put words in his mouth. While many Republicans may not quite agree with Trump, they sure as hell don’t believe the narrative coming from the Democrats and the White House that every illegal alien in the country is just a poor, formerly destitute angelic youth who is simply seeking a better life for himself. Because that narrative is so counter to the reality Americans see on the news and on the street corner, conservatives are willing to accept some hyperbole if it at least means the issue gets addressed… something the Chamber of Commerce owned GOP establishment is unwilling to do.

Donald Trump may not make it to the finish line. But if he doesn’t, the GOP ignores his message, and style, at its peril. If the GOP establishment produces another milquetoast candidate who’s not willing to articulate and defend conservative positions, particularly those that related to immigration and border security, they will lose. Whether the nominee is Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders or some dark horse who’s not even on the radar yet, if the GOP doesn’t give conservatives a candidate who is willing to take the fight to the Democrats in a no holds barred match, they’ll find themselves with the first triple defeat since FDR. And this time they may not find their way back.

Conservatives may not currently have a viable alternative to the GOP, but they do have the choice to sit at home and do nothing. And do nothing they will. After two cycles of being ignored, only to be proven prescient in their prognostications on the disaster of Barack Obama, conservatives have little motivation to engage the enemy again if the fighters on their team aren’t willing to mix it up. Donald Trump may be a flawed candidate, but he’s invigorating the Republican base, something the establishment of the GOP hasn’t done in too many years.