Someone is Wrong on the Internet…and Everywhere Else

Brie and Joe created SWOTI and host the SWOTI podcast. The two, self-described “Millennials of Color” wrestle with race, politics, relationships, and myriad items swimming about in the popular culture. In doing so they discover that, well, SWOTI–“Someone is Wrong on the Internet.”

 

Someone is wrong, indeed.

 

Someone is wrong on the internet when Megyn Kelly fears for her life because internet trolls threaten her for asking then-candidate Donald Trump a challenging question–you know, doing her job. Someone is wrong on the internet when crazy websites like World Net Daily, and Breitbart, and Infowars hold the same prominence among a large swath of the American public as The New York Times, or The Washington Post. Someone is wrong on the internet when the conspiracy theories promulgated by honest-to-goodness fake news sites lead to violence. Still don’t think someone is wrong on the internet? You haven’t spent enough time in unmoderated comment sections on YouTube.

 

Or maybe you have.

 

But in truth, what is wrong on the internet correlates with what is wrong in American society; and not to be too grandiose, but this points to what is wrong in the human condition.

 

Confirmation Bias causes us to look for ideas that support our preconceived notions. The Dunning-Kruger Effect means that we’re most confident when we’re most wrong. The Backfire Effect sees us persisting in error especially when offered evidence to the contrary.

 

And to top it all off, we insist that we can understand the unspoken motives of others who disagree with us. This, in spite of an argument I make in a Right Noise episode that states that our ability to understand the motivations of others is even more challenging than our ability to understand our own motives.

 

And so, politics and political affiliation must be understood as an imperfect vehicle of our attitudes, philosophies, and expressions of our life experiences. Therefore, attacking those who disagree with us politically as morally depraved, insincere, or worse, becomes a tiresome self-righteous exercise, devoid of self-awareness (not that I do not make this mistake sometimes, myself).

 

Moreover, it’s unproductive. It’s noise. It’s the white-hot heat of anger in place of the illuminating light of empathy.

 

My opposition to some abortions is not a proxy for a deep-seated misogyny. My skepticism of the wisdom and efficacy of certain government programs does not betray a secret desire to see vulnerable people suffer. My belief in the traditional definition of marriage–however inconsequential politically–is not rooted in a desire to see gay people harmed.

 

Or is it?

 

Maybe politics provides a convenient narrative, wrapped in the flag, that allows me to cling to confirmation biases that insist that the races are created unequal, that women should not be trusted to forge their own destinies, or that gays should be hanged and stoned as they are in so many other places around the world.

 

For some folks, this may very well ring true. Just as there are some people on the left who truly hate the United States and want to see it obliterated.

 

But it’s not true of me, nor is it true of literally millions of conservatives and Republicans who agree with me.

 

Still, insisting that bigotry; or even ignorance; accounts for ideological differences amounts to a naivety that is both overly pessimistic and exceedingly optimistic.

 

My politics is a blurry reflection of my beliefs, experiences, faith, philosophy, privileges, upbringing, ideals, and sense of justice. Not the other way around. These elements tug at each other, and compete with human frailties and sinful failings. I always assume the same is true of my political opponents as well.

 

Understanding that this identity soup simmers in each of us should dissuade you from shooting at Congressmen at a softball practice, or threatening an Iraq War veteran who writes for the National Review. That which is wrong on the internet, and in American life, is not our politics, but the unwarranted assumptions about what our politics say about our personal morality.

 

The mouth betrays our passions. The pen betrays our thoughts.

These are some of the points I hope to have conveyed in my interview with the SWOTI Podcast.

Dirty Hands

In Jean Paul Sartre’s “Dirty Hands,” two Communist revolutionaries argue about politics. Hoederer, the leader of the faction, believes that rhetoric and principles serve as vehicles to deliver a political reality that comes as close as possible to an ideal. He is a tough pragmatist who understands short term trade offs can serve long term ends. Hugo; his secretary who, unbeknownst to him has been sent to kill him; believes passionately in the Communist rhetoric and principles. He believes that compromising those principles with rank politics so undermines the movement that it loses its right to exist.

As a Republican in the “Era of Trump,” I ask myself: “Who, in this analogy, am I?”

For years, I railed against “RINO Hunters,” arguing Hoederer’s point, that imperfect messengers who delivered incremental victories were worth more than political losses delivered by principled grandstanders. Besides, I argued, the America that the so-called RINOs want closely resembles that which the conservative zealots envision. It was the naive ideologues who cheered on Senator Ted Cruz’ “Green Eggs and Ham” filibuster, or Ron Paul’s half-baked immutability. These ideologues rejected Senator John McCain and Governor Mitt Romney–both men more conservative than their Democrat opponents, but deemed not sufficiently pure. For nearly a decade I wrote Black and Red, touted the supremacy of conservative principles, and supported “the most conservative candidate who could win,” even when the candidate was less conservative than my ideal.

Then, came 2016.

The GOP primary, and election of Donald Trump as President, caused me to reconsider my place in the GOP; and to rethink the Party’s desired goals. For years, I defended my tribe against liberal attacks that Republicans’ advocacy of principles like a smaller federal government, supply-side economics, and federalism, were nothing more than a Trojan Horse designed to deliver on darker, more sinister ends. I found these critiques the lowest of political demagoguery. Then, Trump wooed Republican voters, appealing directly to these dark impulses; while paying only cursory lip service to the grander principles the Party ostensibly supported. Clare Malone writes an incisive piece for Five Thirty Eight that reads in part,

“Many have assumed that adherence to a certain conservative purity was the engine of the GOP, and given the party’s demographic homogeneity, this made sense. But re-evaluating recent history in light of Trump, and looking a bit closer at this year’s numbers, something else seems to be the primary motivator of GOP voters, something closer to the neighborhood of cultural conservatism and racial and economic grievance rather than a passion for small government.”

One of Five Thirty Eight’s findings, which took into account multiple polls that gauged immediate feedback, found that among Republicans, candidate Trump’s approval ratings increased whenever he said the most outrageous things (e.g.–Judge Curiel couldn’t be impartial because of his Mexican heritage). Quite notably, his approval rating among Republicans has not dipped below 81%, in spite of his heretical views on conservatism.

So, who am I now?

Am I Hoederer, the pragmatist, who (if he weren’t a communist) would see Trump as a political means to an end?

Or am I Hugo, the idealist, convinced that this political concession threatens to entirely obliterate our shared ends?

That depends on who the GOP is–who we have become. Are we bigger than one man? What are our long term goals? How do we propose to improve Americans’ lives? What vision do we have for the country? Currently; between a White House perpetually embroiled in self-inflicted damage control, and a Balkanized Republican Congress; it appears that the conservative agenda (whatever it really is) has stalled.

The Krazy Konservative Kleavage

Seventy-two percent of the voters in 2012 identified as white. Thirty-five percent of the electorate self-identified as conservative. Mitt Romney won these groups 59% and 82% respectively. Still, though, Romney lost. He lost because President Barack Obama won three quarters of the non-white vote, including a staggering 71% of Latinos. This led to the Republican “post mortem” report, an exhaustive examination of the many challenges that face the party, especially in Presidential Elections. The report named many areas of improvement, but the most controversial prescription called on the Party to increase its minority outreach.

 

“If we want ethnic minority voters to support Republicans, we have to engage them and show our sincerity.” Furthermore, “we must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform. If we do not, our Party’s appeal will continue to shrink to its core constituencies only.”

 

Many Republicans–Big Tent Republicans–agree with these findings. Romney’s vow to make life for illegal immigrants so difficult that they would “self-deport;” failed to comfort the millions of immigrants and their families, and sent the message to Latinos that Republicans don’t “care about people like me.”  Moreover, Romney’s approach failed to address the complexity of the illegal immigration problem.

 

On the other hand, many other Republicans reviled this conclusion. They argue, instead, that Romney lost the 2012 election because he wasn’t–like them–a “true conservative,” ignoring that he represented the “true conservative” choice in 2008, when he ran against John McCain. “True conservatives” say that they believe in absolute ideological purity, but that does not appear to be so. Instead, “true conservatives” are singly concerned about Mexican immigration. These Republicans believe that across the nation, white conservatives simply refuse to come to the polls to vote for Republican candidates who are not conservative enough, and until a “true conservative” becomes the nominee, Republicans will continue to lose elections.

 

The numbers, however, belie this conclusion.

 

By “true conservative’s” estimates, for example, George W. Bush is more conservative than both McCain and Romney. In 2000, 29% of voters self-identified as conservative, 34% in 2008, and 35% in 2012. Bush earned 82% of the conservative vote in 2000, McCain earned 78% in 2008, and Romney won 82% in 2012. In other words, Romney won more conservative votes than each of these recent predecessors, McCain earned more conservative votes than Bush, and fewer self-identified conservatives came out for Bush than did for both McCain and Romney.

 

Was George W. Bush not conservative enough to attract these phantom “true conservatives?” Why did so many more conservatives come out to support a “less conservative” Mitt Romney? Impervious to evidence, “true conservatives” dig in their heels.

 

As candidates entered the 2016 Presidential Race, the dichotomy couldn’t be clearer: Among others; senators Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Governors Jeb Bush, Scott Walker and John Kasich; conspicuously represented the Big Tent Republicans–the Republicans who got the memo in 2012. Senator Ted Cruz, and hotelier Donald Trump represented the “true conservative” wing of the Party.

 

In an appeal to his Republican constituents, Trump attacked Jeb Bush for speaking Spanish. Cruz did the same to Marco Rubio. This line of attack meant to elicit visceral concerns about Mexican immigration, also suggested that the Big Tent candidates shared a secret agenda to serve the interests of Hispanics over American (white) interests, and implied that neither Bush nor Rubio can be trusted. In fact, Cruz openly accused Rubio of saying one thing on Univision–in Spanish–and another to the American public–most of whom do not speak Spanish and cannot fact check Cruz’ claim with certainty or ease. Interestingly, in 2012, Newt Gingrich argued that he was the “real conservative,” as opposed to Romney, and he employed this very same kind of attack, arguing that Romney’s bilingualism (French, in his case) raised questions about his fealty to America.

 

Big Tent Republicans, on the other hand, make the case, as did Rubio, that speaking Spanish helps deliver the conservative message to more people. In keeping with the Big Tent goal of expanding the Party, Bush and Rubio argued that bilingualism was a tool to welcome new people into the GOP.

 

“True conservatives’” favorite attack against Big Tent Republicans regards immigration policy. Rubio faced intense castigation for working with a bipartisan team of Senators to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill. The bill would have penalized, with a fine and repayment of back taxes, any of the 12 million illegal immigrants living in the United States who chose to accept this punishment. Then, this group could earn legal status–even citizenship. The bill strengthened the E-verify program, and mandated businesses to participate. It passed the Senate with 68 votes, but died in the House.

 

“True conservatives” cheer the bill’s failure, calling it “amnesty,” as if the word has no definition. Rubio bears the scars for participating in The Gang of 8 (not to be confused with the Gang of 14 that “true conservatives” hung around John McCain’s neck in 2008). “True conservatives” believe that law enforcement officers should hunt illegal immigrants, take them from their houses and places of employment, send them to immigration courts, detain and deport them. Both Trump and Cruz say that they will do all of this and build a 50 foot wall along the Southern border.

 

At this point in the 2016 election, half of the 4 remaining candidates are “true conservatives,” while the other half are Big Tent Republicans. Unfortunately, the “true conservatives” are winning.

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This schism suggests that Republicans have learned nothing from their 2012 defeat. “True conservatives’” appeals to xenophobia have unsurprisingly attracted support from the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke, and other white supremacist groups. Trump’s reticence to denounce this wing of his supporters further validates the fears minorities have about the GOP. If ever one would wonder whether or not Republicans “care about people like me,” one only need remember that rather than trying to appeal to minorities, the Republican Party prefers to court nonexistent white people.

 

Most of the candidates who worked to expand the Party have dropped from the race for lack of support. While some conservative commentators may argue that a majority of Republican voters do not agree with Donald Trump, the fact remains that Ted Cruz represents the same wing of the divided Republican Party. Neither candidate works to welcome new members to the GOP rolls. In fact, they both push minorities away. As a result, millions of potential Republican voters will vote Democrat, and the Democrats will win another Presidential election.

 

Voting for Marco Rubio, on the other hand, presents the Democrats with a true challenge: no longer can they take minority votes for granted, because Rubio actively courts them. For every Democrat surrogate sent to speak in Spanish on behalf of their white candidate, Rubio, himself, can answer on his own behalf. The image of Rubio sharing a stage with Governor Nikki Haley, Senator Tim Scott and Congressman Trey Gowdy will be a galvanizing image for the Republican Party.

 
As it happens, though, “true conservatives” continue to win more Republican votes. So when Republicans lose in November, prepare for another hand wringing report about the lack of minority outreach. Prepare for the accusations that the GOP nominee was ideologically tainted. For had he been a “true conservative,” millions upon millions of whites would have shown up to vote Republican.

How Real RINOs Threaten to Ruin the Party

However much we tell ourselves that voting in the Republican primary is light years away, the polling remains stubbornly depressing. Month after month, Donald Trump sits high atop “the best candidates the GOP has ever fielded.” Trump’s most ardent supporters argue that he enjoys this success because he is a “true conservative”–tough, decisive, honest. By contrast, Trump’s opponents are RINOs (Republicans in Name Only)–the “go along to get along” gang. Real Republicans, according to this group, are conservative to their core, people like Mitt Romney (in 2008, not 2012) and Rick Santorum (in 2012, not 2016). The only other “true conservative” running for the 2016 GOP nomination is Senator Ted Cruz, the firebrand who stood up to the John Boehner-Mitch McConnell “establishment wing” of the Republican Party by petulantly leading charges to shut down the federal government whenever he didn’t get his way.

Talk radio host, Hugh Hewitt, notes that “Frank Luntz…says he believes that the Trump voters are as solid as voters can be and that those committed to Cruz are just a touch less devoted.” These supporters, Hewitt calls “True Believers.”

Trump and Cruz “True Believers” support their respective candidates out of a sense that conservatism is under attack as much from liberals outside the party as from liberals inside the GOP–RINOs. Ironically, though, both Donald Trump and Ted Cruz fit the original definition of RINOs. For this reason, chief among others, most Republican voters do not trust them.

Phil Edwards writes a fascinating article for Vox describing a brief history of the term RINO as a pejorative. In it, he notes that its roots refer to the classical definition of republican (small “r”). Originally, the term referred to people and “governments that claimed to be representative, but were actually autocratic.”

In this sense, Cruz and Trump fit the bill perfectly. Senator Cruz, for example, crafted his image by leading the charge to shut down the federal government to protest Obamacare. Even though funds for Obamacare had already been appropriated, and the legislation came into being because the American people elected Democrats to represent them, Cruz used the Senate (futilely, but in an autocratic manner) to derail legislation that he opposed.

If not for Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell’s clever strategizing; and the Senate’s bipartisan exasperation with the obstreperous Cruz; Cruz would have shut the government down again to protest Planned Parenthood funding, and the Iran Nuclear Deal. Using what essentially amounts to one-sixth of the federal government, to override the will of the people as expressed through elections, to impose the will of a minority, represents an autocratic impulse–not a republican one.

Circumstances protect Mr. Cruz from being the biggest RINO running for president this cycle. He likely would have been the most despised Republican running for president if not for Donald Trump–a blathering, uncouth, empty-headed, showboat. Examining Trump’s anti-republican impulses requires a survey of his statements rather than his political actions, as Trump has never held political office.

In his announcement speech, Trump promised to use the power of the federal government to coerce businesses to do his bidding, much like Republicans decry Democrats for doing.

“I would call up the head of Ford, who I know. If I was president, I’d say, ‘Congratulations. I understand that you’re building a nice $2.5 billion car factory in Mexico and that you’re going to take your cars and sell them to the United States…’ So I would say, ‘Congratulations. That’s the good news. Let me give you the bad news. Every car and every truck and every part manufactured in this plant that comes across the border, we’re going to charge you a 35-percent tax, and that tax is going to be paid simultaneously with the transaction, and that’s it.”

When National Review editor, Rich Lowry, castigated Donald Trump, Trump called on the federal government to punish him.

“He should not be allowed on TV and the FCC should fine him,” Trump tweeted.

If a Democrat prescribed the federal government to fine a journalist who voiced a political disagreement, conservatives would rightfully cry ‘foul.’

On the subject of the Syrian refugees, Mr. Trump promised to autocratically forego immigration laws and rules regarding asylum seekers.

“I’m putting the people on notice that are coming here from Syria as part of this mass migration, that if I win, if I win, they’re going back.”

Don’t Republicans detest President Obama’s executive action on immigration, precisely because it is autocratic?
Today, the term RINO refers to what used to be known as “Me too Republicans.” In this regard, RINO is a silly term that serves to stifle debate more than to accurately describe living, breathing Republicans. The GOP enjoys more solidarity on issues than it ever has, and the only real differences we face concern tactics and priorities. In the meantime, though, there are those who wish to divide the party with this scurrilous slur–RINO. Ironically, they, and their “True Believers,” best fit the description of a RINO, and their autocratic impulses threaten the legitimacy of republican philosophy.

How the Left Dodges Personal Responsibility

Republicans have a problem in a candidate who will not win the nomination–Donald Trump. Democrats have a problem in a candidate widely expected to win their nomination–Hillary Clinton. This reality worries Democrats, because Clinton continues to run an embarrassingly opaque and inept campaign. Ron Fournier in National Journal writes a brutal plea to Clinton, laying the embarrassing elements of her bumbling campaign at her feet.

“We can’t make it any plainer,” Fournier writes. “You’re the problem, Hillary.”

Interestingly; amid falling poll numbers and a general worry among Democrats that Mrs. Clinton lacks the liberal credentials or ethical principals of her longshot rival, Bernie Sanders; Clinton rejects Fournier’s assertion, blaming her political misfortunes on institutional discrimination. Nowhere can Clinton’s reticence to accept responsibility for her perception be more visible than in her CNN interview with Brianna Keilar. Fournier remarks on Clinton’s interview, calling it cringeworthy.

Keilar asks, “We see in our recent poll that nearly six in 10 Americans say they don’t believe that you’re honest and trustworthy. Do you understand why they feel that way?”

Clinton bristles and blames Republicans for this “misperception.”

“I think when you are subjected to the kind of constant barrage of attacks that are largely fomented by and coming from the Right…”

Keilar interrupts, pushing further.

“Do you bear any responsibility for that,” Keilar asks. At this, Clinton tries to pivot and talk about her election history and her current commitment to fight for “everyday people” (as opposed to us every other day people), but Keilar heroically refuses to give up.

“Trusting someone to fight for them,” she says, “and trusting someone, these are two different things. Do you see any role that you’ve had in the sentiment that we’ve seen, where people are questioning whether you’re trustworthy?”

Clinton denies her contribution to her own negative ratings three times before the cock crows. This time, blaming the media.

“I can only tell you, Brianna, that this has been a theme that has been used against me and my husband for many, many years…I mean, people write books filled with unsubstantiated attacks against us…But of course, it’s your job to cover it. So of course that’s going to raise questions in people’s minds.”

Keilar does a good job at pushing Clinton on the issue of trust, making the interview more difficult for Clinton supporters, like Fournier, to stomach. For me, a conservative, Clinton’s answers point to a destructive liberal tendency–an inability or unwillingness to self-critique, and to, instead, blame structures for personal failings or poor outcomes. To Fournier’s credit, he recognizes this tendency as it pertains to Mrs. Clinton.

“You’ve made some poor choices,” he writes, “and, rather than fix them, you blamed the GOP and the media. You wouldn’t let Chelsea say the dog ate her homework, so why do you think this is a good idea?”

In truth, this strategy of blaming structures rather than individuals characterizes the liberal mindset. Blacks, according to liberals, face longer prison sentences and troubles with law enforcement not because of personal decisions to commit crimes, but because of a structural deficiency with the American legal system. Women make lower wages than men, not because they tend to enter the workforce later than men and interrupt their work life to meet other demands, but because, says the liberal, a sexist system discriminates against women. Poverty cannot be explained by bad personal choices; like failure to graduate high school, parenting children out of wedlock or drug or alcohol dependence; but rather, poverty emanates from the structural deficiencies of our capitalist economic system.

On issue after issue, liberals tell their constituents that “the dog ate their homework.” After a while of these excuses, the student fails the class. This terrifies the left about Clinton, and it is my hope that their fears are actualized.

Men and Women Seek Truth

Postmodernism, a prevailing philosophy in the United States, argues that Truth cannot be objectively known. Truth consists of narratives constructed by people biased by their own ascribed statuses. Therefore, what may be true for one may not necessarily be true for another, but both people’s truths, even when mutually exclusive, hold equal validity.

If this makes no sense to you, much of the world around you might not make much sense to you either. As it happens, this young philosophy fuels the madness of transgender identity and the movement to affirm it as a valid lifestyle.

After Bradley Manning, Bruce Jenner becomes the latest high-profile person receiving gender reassignment surgery. Jenner, a track and field Olympian, born a man, dominated headlines recently because he mentally identifies as a woman. With the help of modern medicine, Jenner plans to live the rest of his life pretending to be a woman. Postmodernism argues that because Jenner believes himself a woman, he is so. My argument that Jenner can never be a woman, but can only be a mutilated man, offends the postmodern sensibility. On the political left, where postmodernism thrives, activist groups pressure lawmakers and society to recognize gender dysphoria as a legitimate lifestyle, instead of a mental disorder fed by postmodernist tenets. Their work, aimed at helping the gender-confused by convincing society to be complicit in a lie, may do more harm than good.

Dr. Paul McHugh, a retired psychiatrist in chief from Johns Hopkins Hospital, wrote a bold piece for the Wall Street Journal describing gender dysphoria as a mental disorder that leads to dire consequences when treated with gender reassignment surgery. To this end, McHugh quotes a 30-year study from the Swedish Karolinska Institute.

“The study revealed that beginning about 10 years after having the surgery, the transgendered began to experience increasing mental difficulties. Most shockingly, their suicide mortality rose almost 20-fold above the comparable nontransgender population…The high suicide rate certainly challenges the surgery prescription.”

A prescription that Johns Hopkins, America’s premier medical institution, refuses to condone.

Other studies, too, highlight the same phenomenon. The Williams Institute, an LGBT research group at UCLA, finds that the transgendered attempt suicide at twice the rate of lesbians and gays combined. Transgendered men, like Jenner, lead the pack. Transgender rights activists pounced on McHugh, making mostly ad hominem attacks. The statistics, though, speak for themselves.

The reach of this aspect of postmodern thinking even affects young children. 5-year-old Mia Lemay insisted, since she was 2, that she identified as a boy. Her parents, Mimi and Joe–who presumably would not allow Mia to eat ice cream for breakfast as she willed–decided to rename their daughter Jacob, cut her hair, and insist that her preschool treat her as a boy.

“Ultimately, Jacob made that decision in his mind and his heart,” Mimi says. “If we don’t come out now and talk to people and… show people that transgender children are normal and wonderful…then I’m afraid that he will go into the world and meet with hostility.”

Mia/Jacob did not receive gender reassignment medication or surgery, but some parents pursue this course for their children. McHugh explains:

“…[T]here is the subgroup of very young, often prepubescent children who notice distinct sex roles in the culture and…begin imitating the opposite sex. Misguided doctors at medical centers including Boston’s Children’s Hospital have begun trying to treat this behavior by administering puberty-delaying hormones to render later sex-change surgeries less onerous—even though the drugs stunt the children’s growth and risk causing sterility. Given that close to 80% of such children would abandon their confusion and grow naturally into adult life if untreated, these medical interventions come close to child abuse.”

Parents convinced to submit to the will of a toddler, a grown man’s decision to mutilate himself so that he can better pretend to be a woman, and the many people working ardently to change society’s view of the transgendered, do so under the powerful sway of an utterly silly ideology–postmodernism. A 5-year-old girl is not a boy because she says so anymore than Bruce Jenner is a woman, or than I was Luke Skywalker as I proclaimed as a little boy. Truth exists, despite what postmodernists say. Understanding postmodernism for the sham that it is will reintroduce us to clarity and sanity. Or maybe that’s just my own, personal truth.

America Untethered

“For the first time in my 72 years, I have no idea what’s going on,” writes Pulitzer Prize winning writer, Henry Allen, in the Wall Street Journal. “We are all outsiders with no inside to be outside of…What a strange time it is to be alive in America.”

What a strange time indeed.

Since President Barack Obama and the Democrats committed to “fundamentally transforming the United States of America,” Americans find themselves increasingly perplexed by events–untethered to the immutable, reliable reality of life in an ordered society. Police are the enemy. Marijuana is legal. Marriage is redefined. Iran is a negotiating partner.

What’s happened?

The American Left increasingly exchanges its championship of liberal virtues for support of the avant garde. Ronald Brownstein and Libby Isenstein of National Journal provide a series of charts showing how the Democrat Party has realigned politically while the Republican Party changed much more modestly. These charts, sourced with data gathered in Pew Research Center surveys, show that the percentage of Democrats self identifying as “very liberal” has dramatically increased since 1996. On some issues, too, Democrats have “evolved” more substantially than the general public.

Judging by Obama’s drive to normalize relations with Cuba and to broker a nuclear deal with Iran, there appears no slowing of the Democrats’ trend.

This helps make the 2016 election so crucial.

Fred Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard, makes this very case.

“The importance of a presidential election depends on what’s at stake…Now…the stakes are even higher than 36 years ago. Not only is the economy unsteady but threats to American power and influence around the world are more pronounced and widespread.”

Barnes’ assertion rings true. But how does it connect to Democrats’ unmooring America from once accepted social norms and order? The answer rests in the courts–specifically, the Supreme Court.

“Four justices are 76 or older. Two…are liberals. Antonin Scalia (79) is a conservative. And Anthony Kennedy (78) is a swing vote.”

Control of the Supreme Court affects lower court rulings and much of America’s character for generations. Liberals understand this and cheer whenever their agenda is codified by courts. The implications of these decisions will outlast us–and likely our offspring as well.

Unfortunately, pundits deem every election “The Most Important Election in the Entire History of Civilization.” Americans, myself included, tire of the superlative and consider it nothing more than talking heads crying wolf. Considering the Democrat Party’s sharp leftward turn, though, there is something to be said about using the 2016 election to take stock of where we are, where we came from, and where we want to go, before these changes are cast in stone by a liberal Supreme Court.

A Republican president elected in 2016 will likely preside over the retirements of justices Ginsburg, Scalia, Kennedy, and Breyer. With a friendly Congress, these judges could be replaced with strong conservatives. At the end of one term, Justice Thomas will reach 70 years old and Alito will be 69, granting the next president the opportunity to replace six Supreme Court justices.

On the other hand, a Democratic president could do the same, if he/she enters the White House in 2016, leaving us to collectively ponder the rest Allen’s quote:

“I worry that reality itself is fading like the Cheshire cat, leaving behind only a smile that grows ever more alarming.”

A Letter to Ms. Julia Cohen

Dear Ms. Cohen,

I spend a significant portion of my life participating in politics. When I’m not reading about it, I’m listening to it on the radio, otherwise I’m thinking about it. Likewise, I come across many articles on the subject, but rarely do I feel compelled to respond directly to columns. Yours is different. “What about the Moderates?” strikes me as a particularly important piece because you touch upon an issue that every American wrestles with if he/she is politically inclined–where do I fit into the binary party system? I’d like to argue, first, in favor of our two party system, and then, in support of one of those parties. I hope to offer you some clarity on your political journey.

You and I share some commonalities: I started my political journey on the Left and moved rightward when I was young, for example. To give you an idea of how liberal I was, I was torn between voting for Ralph Nader and Al Gore in 2000. I emailed my professors about my dilemma, and talked to my entirely liberal family about what I should do. 2000 was my first election. It meant something to me–about my integrity, my values, and my commitment to my country. I wanted to make the right choice.

Like many liberals, I found the Democrat candidate too far to the right, too beholden to corporate interests, too timid to fight for liberal values and to stop the right-wing hate machine in its tracks. Ralph Nader made his career on these liberal values. He championed the people as a consumer advocate. He always thought outside the two-party box on political issues, even though he spent the majority of his political life ensconced in the Democrat Party. He represented the real liberal choice for 2000, but he didn’t stand a chance.

When I hectored my liberal professors and family members for advice, they told me not to “waste my vote.” They told me that I had to compromise my values for a candidate who can win. They told me that American politics moves incrementally, and that if I wanted to advocate a leftward shift in the Democrat Party, I would have more success doing so from within the party rather than from the outside.

They were right.

But what lesson does this impart to the independents, moderates and radicals who find no home in our political parties, but want to express their patriotism by affecting positive political change?

The lesson is blunt–Get Real.

“Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable,” Otto von Bismarck famously states. The United States consists of more than 300 million people with twice as many competing preferences and values–each nuanced and based in strongly-held beliefs of varying degrees of rationality. Boiling these preferences down into like categories, and then creating coalitions–parties–around people who share the same preferences would lead to thousands of parties. To some, a multiparty system would represent a positive development in American politics, a reality akin to that in countries like Italy. In practice, what results is dysfunction: hordes of frustrated people who, for some reason or another, never create enough momentum among the disparate parties to move the country in the right direction. In short, politics becomes futile–unable to realize “the possible,” unable to attain anything.

I support our two party system because it represents a logical stasis point. Our two party system is not divided along issue lines, rather it is divided between two competing philosophies of rights and the proper role of the State. The Left–liberals, Democrats–believe that rights derive from the State, and that the hierarchy of rights can be affirmed by a consensus of philosophy and theory. The Right–conservatives, Republicans–believe that an external Creator bestows rights upon us. These rights cannot be curtailed by a government, lest that government forfeit its legitimacy. Through religion, and tradition, we discover and protect these rights, thereby upholding social order by avoiding the chaos associated with the Left’s capricious definition of rights.

In other words, actual policy positions are subordinate to the overarching philosophy on how to order society. The question independents, moderates, and radicals need to ask isn’t “Which party represents my values,” but rather, “Which party agrees with the way in which my values should be argued and implemented?” Once that question is answered, the best thing to do is to choose a party and work to push it in the direction of your choosing.

That’s what I did. I voted for Al Gore, and lost.

As I wrestled with the philosophy of rights, my political journey took me rightward, into the welcoming arms of the Republican Party where I happily reside today. Our Republican Party is a big tent, Ms. Cohen. You can be “a good Republican” and disagree on some policy points. There’s plenty of room for you and I to debate marriage equality–and I hope we do. Most importantly, I enjoy the opportunity to stand alongside a fellow Wildcat, working together toward a strong foreign policy, lower taxes, a better party, and a better country.

A Constructivist Approach to Iran Spells Certain Disaster

A Deadly Double Down


Peter Baker writes, in a New York Times piece, that President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran represents a pivotal “moment of truth” for his “ambitions to remake the world.” Baker refers to the deal as a “gamble,” a “prospect,” a “holy grail.” This language of tantalizing evokes a sense of teasing, baiting, and peril. Combine Iran with the words “nuclear” and “peril,” and the stakes of Obama’s failure equal death on par with that seen last century. Welcome to Constructivist Foreign Policy Theory–the least-trusted foreign policy approach respected only within liberal academia.

Admittedly, the optimism of Constructivist Theory (or Constructivism) provides an alluring argument capable of ensnaring the naive and the desperate. Constructivism holds that a table is only a table because we recognize it as such. Stand on that table and sing a song and the table becomes a stage. Likewise, a rogue nation is only a rogue nation because it is viewed by others as such. Therefore, treat the nation as a responsible one, and it will rise to its new designation.  While the theory does an excellent job creating stage props for a play, its application in foreign policy presents many more limitations.

Its adherents point to terrorist groups turned respectable political parties as proof of Constructivism’s success and potential. Sinn Fein, Hamas, and increasingly the Taliban, evolved from shadowy butchers to doughy politicians. Neo-Realism itself, another foreign policy theory, shares some Constructivist assumptions while avoiding Constructivism’s skeptics and critics. Of course, not only do theorists argue about Constructivism’s role in transforming these groups, but the consequences of getting the answer wrong–of misapplying the pollyanna theory–equal violence. Baker highlights this point by detailing Iran’s troubling recent history:

“[Iran] has been the most sustained destabilizing force in the Middle East–a sponsor of the terrorist groups Hezbollah and Hamas, a supporter of Shiite militias that killed American soldiers in Iraq, a patron of Syria’s government in its bloody civil war, and now a backer of rebels who pushed out the president of Yemen.”

Why pursue this strategy with Iran?

Mr. Obama’s coziness with Constructivism comes as no surprise: The president fashions himself a product of the Elite American University. Here, political hypotheses live artificially long lives, protected from their certain death by a lack of implementation. Obama also posits that with Benjamin Netanyahu’s reelection, peace between Israel and Palestine, the true Holy Grail for American presidents, and one that if attained would justify his Nobel Peace Prize, appears impossible. Reforming Iran represents the last hope to offset his prolific use of drone strikes.

Then, there is the question of Obama’s desperation and naivety. Cliff Kupchan, an Iran specialist speaks to the former:

“Right now, he has no foreign policy legacy…He’s got a list of foreign policy failures.”

Peggy Noonan echoes this point:

“Syria, red lines, an exploding Mideast, a Russian president who…made a move, upsetting a hard-built order that had maintained for a quarter-century since the fall of the Soviet Union–what a mess.”

Baker piles on:

“Rather than building a new partnership with Russia, he faces a new cold war. Rather than ending the war in Iraq, he has sent American forces back to fight the Islamic State…Rather than defeating Al Qaeda, he finds himself chasing its offshoots. Rather than forging peace in the Middle East, he said recently that is beyond his reach.”

Indeed, the Administration seeks a “win” to salvage its foreign policy reputation.

On the topic of naivety, Obama loyalists disagree that it applies to him. His own words, though, undermine these defenders:

“Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.”

The cute line, with its tone ripped from his 2008 campaign, fails to recognize that Iran rightly inspires reason to fear. Moreover, a Constructivist approach threatens to strengthen and embolden Iran–pitting an intangible goal, a foreign policy pin on his empty chest, against a tangible alternative, the millions of charred bodies of our allies, if not some of our own.

Obama’s “gamble” with Iran is a fool’s bet.