Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Rome Long Survived Countless Incompetent, Narcissistic Emperors, Will America Survive Barack Obama and His Successor?

I'm writing this while sitting on a cruise ship that’s docked in Mallorca, Spain. I'm heading to France and have just spent 4 days in Italy. I've only had a cursory look at the news from home, and what I've caught has been depressing, like this entire election cycle.

One of the most interesting things about this trip thus far - other than the obvious visits to Pompeii, the Coliseum and St. Peter's - has been observing how things work - or don't - and talking with people who live in Italy. The first thing you discover in Naples is that the place is absolute chaos. Driving is life threatening, things are expensive and the trash situation is a disaster. And that is from a tourist perspective, and we get to see the city's good side! For Italians it's far worse, particularly businesses, and it's not just Naples. The Italian government takes half of your REVENUE, strangles you with regulations and can’t provide basic services for anyone. At our Rome hotel our host asked us to make sure we turned off the light in the room because electricity is so expensive it might be the difference between his breaking even or taking a loss on our stay. A friend living in Naples told us that Italians rarely turn on heat in winter because the price of gas is too high.

This all comes on the heels of my having listened earlier this year to the History of Rome podcast. The most interesting thing about that history was the fact that the Roman Empire lasted for over 500 years... Or 1,500 years if you count the Eastern Empire. They had some spectacular rulers such as Augustus, Trajan, and Marcus Aurelius, and some of the worst in Caligula, Nero and Domitian. You would somehow think the Empire couldn't survive such incompetence and perniciousness, but somehow it would. So you ask yourself, cannot America survive whichever disastrous candidate emerges victorious from the 2016 election? If the Roman Empire could survive 500 years can't the US survive Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump? The truth is, I'm not sure, and I lean towards no...

Rome may have been a sophisticated empire, may have built thousands of structures that have survived two millennia, but make no mistake, the Rome that built an Empire and ruled the known world was a brute power. They survived by waging war on their enemies and taking their resources. As long as Rome was at war and winning, it was (mostly) strong. What's more, the Roman Empire was a dictatorship. The position of Emperor was usually passed from Father to son - sometimes adopted for that specific purpose - but there were countless coups where the resulting emperor was the man who controlled the most powerful legions or the one who bribed the Praetorian Guard. In essence Rome was a dictatorship that survived by taking the resources of its neighbors and supplicants.

But America is not that. Although the United States did grow partially by winning wars against the British, Indians, and others, geographically it has been largely static for over a century. We even gave up wide swaths of land – or more accurately, didn’t take them – after having won wars across the planet. In addition, the United States has never been a dictatorship. It has always been a nation where the leader has been elected by citizens, if indirectly. More importantly however, it has been a nation where the Constitution reigned supreme. From John Adams to Abraham Lincoln to Richard Nixon, the Constitution ultimately ruled the day. The limited government based on that Constitution is what has made America the most powerful and important nation in human history. We’ve sat atop of the world's hierarchy of power and influence for over half a century not because we subjugated our neighbors but because we inspired the world with individual freedom and economic opportunity that were based on that limited government. At the same time the economic prosperity sown by our freedom was coupled with a military position that largely dissuaded enemies from attacking us and our allies and gave much of the world confidence to trade somewhat freely with one another.

In November of 2016 however we find ourselves at a point where everything that has made America great is in peril, and the wound is self inflicted. At least the Roman people had the "excuse" that they lived in a dictatorship. Americans don't have that excuse. Not only is the culture under assault from within and without, far more importantly, the primary notion that government is limited to only those things it is specifically empowered to do is lost. Today the government is involved in virtually every aspect of American's lives. That is a recipe for economic stagnation and political ruin. Take a look at the remains of the Roman Empire to see the future of America... Italy – and much of Europe – is an economic basket case and quickly becoming a cultural one as well.

Government is a borg that grows until it is stopped. Our Constitution used to do that. Today it no longer does. Unlike the Roman citizenry who often found themselves ruled at the end of a sword, Americans have willingly put themselves in this position. Not only by putting two reprehensible human beings, two power hungry narcissists in a position to rule the country, but by buying into the notion that the government is the first and best vehicle for solving virtually every problem. Nothing could be farther from the truth, and there is the core problem: Americans, or an increasingly large portion of them want the government to take care of them, from cradle to grave and everywhere in between. Whether it’s providing them with an income, protecting them from evil businesses or limiting the offensive speech of others, we have become a nation of citizens who can no longer take care of themselves or aren’t willing to do so. Either way, with Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump in the White House individual freedom and economic liberty will continue to shrink. So too will prosperity and much of what remains of the American Dream. One wonders what will be the legacy of America in 2,000 years. No doubt, if someone is writing a history of America and chronicles her demise they will surely include Barack Obama and his successor as key players to her downfall, but the primary culprit will have been the American people, who voted to have the government replace individual liberty, individual responsibility and common sense.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Sure, Donald Trump may shiv us... but the country can't survive Hillary Clinton's thugs

Jonah Goldberg had a great piece over at National Review on Saturday. The title was: If Candidate Trump Can’t Be Managed, What Makes You Think President Trump Could Be? He makes a strong argument that a President Trump is going to be a disaster for the country, the Republican party, and particularly conservatives. He suggests that a President Trump will lie, obfuscate and essentially rule as the liberal Democrat he’s been his entire life. He makes a particularly strong argument that Trump will renege on his promise to appoint conservatives to the Supreme Court.

His critique of Trump should not be interpreted as an endorsement of Hillary Clinton however, because it’s not. He dislikes Hillary Clinton seemingly almost as much as he despises Trump. Here however is the crux of the piece: “But here’s the thing: Conservatives know how to oppose Clinton, who will come into office the most damaged and unpopular president in American history, having fulfilled her mandate to not be Trump on Day One. But it’s already very clear they do not know how to oppose Trump.

Goldberg believes that America can survive another 4 years of fascist liberalism building on the last 8 from Barack Obama. This, largely because the GOP would fight her tooth and nail at virtually every point. He doesn’t believe however that conservatism can survive 4 years of President Trump because erstwhile conservatives will simply become lapdogs for a GOP president, even if he doesn’t govern like one.

I agree with almost every word of his piece, but I disagree with his conclusion. I agree that the GOP will more easily fight a Democrat president than they will a GOP president, but the fact of the matter is, that the reason we’re in this spot in the first place is because the GOP establishment did virtually nothing to stop Barack Obama from doing anything he wanted to. The GOP establishment has spent much of the last eight years rolling out the red carpet of acquiescence to Barack Obama simply out of fear that they would be called racists for doing so – or, in the case of immigration, because they agreed with him. What makes Goldberg think that they will be any less likely to push back on Hillary’s policies when Democrats start accusing them of being sexist in a country where 54% of voters are women?

Sure, she’s less popular than Obama is, but the GOP establishment is fundamentally made up of squishes who cry at the first boo. Imagine, they couldn’t even get up the courage to stop Obama from giving away control of the Internet, arguably the single most important economic, political and social tool developed in the last half century, to organizations run by tyrants and third world dictators, what makes Goldberg think they will fight Clinton on tax rates for “the rich” or regulations “insuring the uninsured”?

At the end of the day I have no illusions about Donald Trump being a good president. Goldberg’s right, he’s a liberal Democrat and will likely govern as such. But sadly, the choice we have isn’t between a liberal Democrat and a conservative. That ship sailed when the Democrats, the media and the GOP establishment pushed Ted Cruz over the side. No, we’ve got a choice between two liberal Democrats, albeit with one who is arguably slightly less liberal.

But here’s the thing… Goldberg says that the US can survive 4 more years of Barack Obama’s policies because the GOP will fight his heir. Neither the premise nor the conclusion of that statement are true. The GOP will not fight, and the country may not survive, at least not as a republic governed by the Constitution. Four more years of unfettered immigration and filling the courts with treacherous liberals will be enough to eviscerate any chance conservatives have to pull the country back from the abyss of progressive socialism and unfettered government intervention in every aspect of our lives. Adding millions of voters from Mexico, Nicaragua, El Salvador, the Middle East and Africa will result in Democrats becoming the ruling party of record for literally generations. At a time when Republicans control record levels of government at the state level – in 23 states they control the governor’s office AND both houses of the legislature vs. 7 states for the Democrats – they have spent the last 8 years getting steamrolled by Democrats in Washington. Between the cancer of liberals on the courts and the extra constitutional operations of the Obama administration and the Washington bureaucracy, the chances of reining in Washington grows ever more remote.

Today, with possibly the most flawed candidate ever to run on a major party ticket, the Democrats are still poised to win the White house. Fast forward to 2020 after Hillary Clinton has expanded immigration from 3rd world banana republics from around the world and given millions of “new Americans” voting rights. Will there ever be another election as close as Bush Gore? No. Will the spineless GOP establishment ever have the stones to allow the nomination of an actual conservative? No. Will conservatism, limited government and individual freedom survive? No?

Goldberg suggests the country can survive another 4 years. He’s wrong. In four years the Democrats will have a virtual supermajority of takers and that spells the end of freedom and limited government as we know it. Trump may betray voters on every promise he’s ever made, including on the border and the courts… that would not surprise me. But on the other hand, he may not.

Yes, we know that Donald Trump may shiv us in the shower, but there’s a chance he won’t. With Hillary Clinton there is no such chance. Not will she shiv us, she’ll bring her gang of thugs with her to make sure that the job gets done and conservatism is left bleeding and dying on the floor, never again to see the light of day.

Goldberg is right, Trump would be a terrible, horrible, liberal president… but on the two most important issues of our time, the courts and immigration, there is a speck of hope that he will do the right thing. With Clinton there is none, and the country can’t survive to lose on them.