Sunday, January 24, 2016

Why Palin and Limbaugh Are Supporting Trump: Fame and Legacy

It was with great disappointment that I listened a few days ago to Sarah Palin’s endorsement of Donald Trump. I was similarly disappointed the next day when I heard Rush Limbaugh proffer simply that “Nationalism and populism have overtaken conservatism in terms of appeal.” It’s tough when you find that your heroes are less than they had led you to believe, or, perhaps, what you chose to believe…

I’ve been a big supporter of Sarah Palin since the moment I saw her walk out on the GOP stage in 2008. I penned a piece titled “Why I love Sarah Palin” discussing exactly why I found her so compelling. I liked the fact that she was not part of the establishment. That she had not spent her life in Washington. That she had lived a normal, imperfect life that many Americans could relate to… and, most of all, she was conservative and traveled around the country touting the virtues of a limited government.

I’ve been a big fan of Rush Limbaugh since I first heard him on the radio in 1990 while in college in Florida. Throughout that quarter century I’ve listened to Rush talk about conservative values, government overreach, media spin and endlessly skewer epic government failures both big and small. Although I don’t agree with him 100% of the time, it’s pretty damn close.

This week it became clear that both Palin and Limbaugh are paper conservative tigers. Both have shown that they are conservatives when it’s easy, when it’s convenient, but when the chips are down, they are consummate politicians. As I myself have written, I will vote for Trump over anyone that the donkey party produces, but until that becomes the choice, I’m not a Trump guy. He’s simply not a conservative in any sense of the word. From limited government to abortion to gun control to taxes, Donald Trump has no idea what a conservative is. And he doesn’t care.

There are however two different things going on here. The first is Palin, who with her ringing endorsement of Trump betrays the very principles she has spent eight years publicly espousing. The conclusion I’ve drawn is that she has become a Kim Kardashian wannabe. She became enamored with the fame, with the media spotlight, with the money, and she decided that a better avenue back to that spotlight was to jump on the Trump train, principles be damned. Donald is a rock star and Sarah is a groupie seeking to reignite her career in his shadow.

With Limbaugh it’s something different, although it’s kind of the same. He’s not overtly supporting Trump, and in fact he constantly says that if you want a rock solid conservative, Cruz is your man. Limbaugh of course doesn’t need Trump to shine. As a matter of fact, if Hillary or Bernie won his audience and fortune would probably increase. No, when he spends three hours simply “explaining” what’s going on with Trump is he’s feigning objectiveness while tacitly pushing him to the front of the stage. Which he has every right to do, as it’s his show… but then don’t waste our time whining about the GOP establishment never giving Americans a conservative to vote for.

Make no mistake, this is a choice. Limbaugh claims that he’s just “explaining” what’s going on, that he’s just reacting to the news cycle, but in reality he decides what goes on on his show. Guaranteed if he wanted to he could spend three hours talking about Iowa governor Terry Branstad’s attempt to crucify Cruz for opposing ethanol, and given it’s Rush it would be entertaining. But rather than do so, he spends days on end explaining why Americans find themselves entertained by a strangely coiffed professional entertainer. And why might he do this? Fear. Trump is the easy play. Trump is the fun play. And there’s no risk with him. If he loses, then he was just a clown that entertained people for a while. If he wins, well, great, a guy who’s not part of the establishment who will leave plenty of terrible government programs to skewer. But Cruz… he’s a real conservative. He’s the guy Limbaugh has been telling America we’ve needed for almost three decades. What happens if he gets the nomination and he loses? Then suddenly Limbaugh is shown to be wrong… he’s shown to have been a fool all these years when he was telling his audiences what Americans really want and need and weren’t getting from the GOP... a conservative nominee.

So there we have it, two giants of modern conservatism who, when the chips are down, decided to betray their principles. One for fame and the other for fear of losing his legacy. Unfortunately, after being a fan of both for years the only thing that comes to mind is a quote from P.T. Barnum: “There’s a sucker born every day.” My guess is more than a few other conservatives feel the same way.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Although I Love Donald Trump, I'll Be Voting For Ted Cruz

I love Donald Trump. For all of his faults, he has done this nation an extraordinary service that it seems no other politician has been able to do for a quarter century. He put the single, most important issue facing our nation at the top of the heap in terms of what voters are concerned with: Immigration. Illegal immigration is literally undermining our nation, and without control of our borders there is simply no way our country will survive as a constitutional republic.

That love, I suppose, is really more appreciation. While I thank Trump to the high heavens for his contribution to this race, I don’t plan on voting for him. I’m voting for Ted Cruz.

Trump has a certain unabashed style, a presence, a reputation and an unrestrained manner that has allowed him to become not only a spectacularly successful businessman, but a media star. As PT Barnum is said to have said: “There's no such thing as bad publicity”. Those things worked to Trump’s advantage getting immigration on the agenda and putting him at the top of the heap right now in the GOP race.

But none of that should suggest that he should be President. Ask a  Trumpian what they like about Trump and you'll usually get something like “He gets things done”. That’s true, but like an iceberg, where 90% of what’s important is unseen, it’s how Trump “gets things done” that’s a problem for those who value the Constitution. And that’s exactly where Ted Cruz excels.

There are big differences between Ted and Trump, and once you get past the issue of immigration, where both want to build a wall from San Diego to Brownsville, TX, those differences become crystal clear. Here are a few important ones:
5th Amendment
One of the key elements of a limited government is the personal property rights of the nation’s citizens. You can’t have an American dream if the government can simply come along and take your stuff or let someone else do so. The 5th Amendment keeps the government from taking a citizen’s property for anything other than a public use. It reads:  No person shall ..., nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation. Or at least it did until Kelo v. New London in 2005. In that case the Supreme Court decided that the government could take property from a group of citizens and give it to a private company, with no public use involved. So, according to Kelo, if a citizen was sufficiently friendly to politicians in a particular area, they could use that friendship to take the property of someone else… and do it legally.

Donald Trump not only agreed with the Kelo decision, but he did so enthusiastically. In addition, and this does not bode well for limited government, Donald Trump had tried on numerous occasions to do the same thing that Pfizer did in Kelo. Ted Cruz vociferously disagreed with Kelo and would appoint Supreme Court justices who actually understand what the 4th Amendment says.
Donald Trump, while correctly characterizing Obamacare as a disaster, talks glowingly of the dysfunctional single payer systems in Canada and Scotland. Indeed a decade ago he advocated for a single payer system here in the US. In his most recent healthcare proposal, while he advocates repealing Obamacare, it’s not free markets he offers as the solution, but rather the opaque “something terrific” that ensures every American who wants health coverage can get it. He says that government will provide healthcare for those who can’t afford it, and according to Forbes magazine, that “plan” could essentially only function with government cost controls in the first place.

Ted Cruz, on the other hand, has been a staunch opponent of Obamacare in the Senate, even going so far as to shut down the government in 2013 in an attempt to overturn it. And did so very much against the wishes of the spineless GOP leadership. More than that, Cruz wants to harness free markets to solve the problem of healthcare.
10th Amendment
And this one may be the single most important difference between the two candidates and the most important determinant as to who to pull the lever for. The 10th Amendment is at the core of America’s limited government and the prosperity it has engendered. It states: 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. Donald Trump is not today, nor ever has been an advocate for limited government. From getting into bed with local governments for tax breaks to leveraging government gambling licenses against creditors to encouraging local governments to use eminent domain against opponents, Donald Trump has never shied away from using government intimidation to further his interests. A President Trump would likely pay as little attention to the 10th Amendment as President Obama has.  There's a reason unions and 20% of Democrats are considering supporting Donald Trump, and it's not because he's a small government guy...

Ted Cruz, however, is a staunch defender of the 10th Amendment and an advocate for dramatically cutting government regulations. Indeed, he’s been a strong advocate for state’s rights and for states to be competing “laboratories of democracy” since before he was Senator. And just in case there was any uncertainty on the subject, in November of last year Cruz announced his “Five for Freedom”, five departments he would shutter if he were president, including the IRS and the Department of Education.  Ted Cruz is the opposite of a Crony Capitalist... which explains why the big government loving GOP establishment favors Trump in a two man race.

If Donald Trump wins the GOP nomination I will vote for him with no hesitation. I will not however vote for him in the primary. There are fundamentally two cancers that threaten our Republic today. The first is unfettered immigration, because when the voting rolls are packed with new "citizens" who don't share out culture and with no understanding of or appreciation for the Constitution as a restraint on government, then eventually government simply becomes an enforcement and redistribution arm for the majority. The second cancer is a leviathan of a federal government which seems to know no limits and believes it exists to solve every problem imaginable for its preferred citizens, regardless of what the Bill of Rights and the Constitution say. As Jefferson could have said – but didn’t - "A government big enough to give you everything you want, is a government big enough to take away everything you have."

Both Donald Trump and Ted Cruz would cure the first of these two cancers, but only one candidate would cure both. That man is Ted Cruz, and I will be voting for him come primary day.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Immigrants, Slaves, Redistribution and a Cult of Personality: Barack Obama and the Last Days of the Roman Republic

Late last year I started listening to the History of Rome app. While functionally terrible, content wise it’s quite good. Having been many years since I read Roman history, it’s a welcome refresher for those things I’ve forgotten and an education for many more I never learned in the first place.

It’s an extraordinary history, particularly the first 500 years when Rome was a republic. As I was listening I couldn’t help but draw a few parallels between the Roman Republic and ours.

Slavery changed the face of the Roman Republic. Although slavery had been an element of Roman history from the beginning, during the Republic’s 4th century it would fundamentally transform it. For most of the first 350 years of the Republic Rome was a somewhat egalitarian state where, although there were rich and poor, many of the lower classes were farmers who owned the land or worked it under contract for patrician owners. Beginning in the 2nd century BC after the Romans finally conquered Spain, North Africa and Greece the Legions began bringing home the vanquished foes en masse and putting them to work on the farms of patricians who were accumulating vast estates by buying out small farmers with tribute from vanquished lands or by simply taking them. As the numbers of slaves working the land skyrocketed, a similar number of free Romans were put out of work, many of whom migrated to the cities. This ever growing number of free Romans who could not provide for their families was a problem for the ruling class and free and subsidized grain programs were implemented. Indeed, in 123 BC Gaius Gracchus codified a law that set aside a given portion of the grain revenue be provided to citizens at a heavily subsidized rate.

So we have immigrants taking the jobs of citizens and many of the displaced ending up on the government dole… Sound familiar? Here in our Republic, according to Pew, 17% of American jobs are filled by immigrants, both illegal and illegal. That, according to an organization that consistently undercounts the number of illegal immigrants, equals 23.8 million jobs. This while there are 94 million American adults not in the workforce, and fully 34% of the population living in homes receiving welfare.

There is of course more… From its beginning the Roman Legions were populated by land owning citizen soldiers. By 100 BC when so many citizens had lost their land to the patricians the requirement for landowning was eliminated all together. As a result, an enormous number of men joined the Legions. And because it’s never a good idea to have armed men standing around with nothing to do, Rome put them to work. It’s no surprise then that during the last century BC Rome grew more than it had at any time in its history and faster than it would at any point during the Empire.

The Legionnaires were of course… government employees. And how do rulers deal with government employees? By promising them the moon and then taking whatever is necessary from the citizens to pay for it when the bill comes due… which is exactly what happened. Indeed, Julius Caesar made himself quite unpopular in Rome when he “redistributed” vast amounts of land and wealth from his enemies in Rome to his Legionnaires.

Finally there is the Cursus honorum, a law that laid out the sequences of public offices that a politician must follow over their career, including terms, frequency, limitations, and from 180 BC, the minimum ages necessary to fill each position. During the last century of the Republic the Cursus honorum was shredded as the Republic came to be dominated by competing cults of personalities around generals who increasingly ignored the law. Gaius Marius was one of the first to openly flout the Cursus’s dictates and after him the floodgates opened, and by the time Julius Caesar and Augustus were finished, the Cursus wan’t much of a suggestion, nevermind a law.

Thankfully, on January 20th 2017 the long national nightmare of the cult of personality known as Barack Obama will finally come to an end, at least the ruling part of it. That is, of course, unless some “unforeseen” event occurs that forces a “postponement” of the constitutionally required election or the next president’s inauguration… But even if we assume Obama recognizes that he can’t overstay his term, one wonders what will be left in his wake.

With his flagrant lying to the nation – Benghazi – his using the police power of the state to intimidate his opponents – IRS Tea Party scandal – his unconstitutional rewriting of laws – Obamacare waivers – and his vast expansion of the regulatory state – Net Neutrality – not to mention the above noted immigration and redistribution policies, one has to wonder if Barack Obama has not set our Republic on a course that mirrors that of the Romans. Is our Constitution better able to withstand a tyrant than the Roman Cursus? Will January bring a new president who pulls back from the Obama overreach and puts the nation back on a strong Constitutional footing or will the new president build on Obama’s imperial presidency and further distance the nation from a limited government republic? Let’s hope that the “Constitutional scholar” in the White House who actually knows very little about the Constitution and respects it even less, is replaced by one who not only understands the document, but recognizes its virtues, and has a record of defending it in the highest court in the land. Hopefully Ted Cruz will have more luck rescuing our Republic from tyranny than Cicero did in saving Rome’s.