Paul Ryan: The Silent Speaker

Paul D. Ryan was one of the few reassuring touchstones for traditional Republicans, assuring them that the GOP hadn’t completely imploded. As a result, many of the pieces written about Ryan’s decision not to run for reelection in 2018 conflate his exit with the end of a Republican Party once characterized by people like Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp. As the party ambles through the Donald Trump wilderness, its experienced navigators continue to fall away, most notably in sight of an unfavorable wave election. Pew Research Center notes that about 38 Republican House Members will not seek reelection–a near record high. Add to that list, Paul D. Ryan whose announced departure from the House of Representatives has inspired numerous articles about his legacy.

Poring over the pieces recounting his triumphs and failings, I have found the most mystifying articles those castigating the Speaker for not “speaking out” more strongly against President Donald Trump. I truly struggle to understand this critique, if it is, in fact, made in good faith.

I think it is important to note that these articles come from a liberal perspective (there may be conservative writers criticizing Ryan on similar grounds, but I have not seen them yet). This observation matters for two reasons: first, liberals tend to overestimate the power of protesting.

For example, Ronald Brownstein writes in The Atlantic:

“Ryan blinked at confronting the president’s appeals to white racial resentments. Pressed for reaction to comments like Trump’s reported description of African nations as ‘shithole’ countries, Ryan managed to mumble the bare minimum of plausible criticism: ‘The first thing that came to my mind was very unfortunate, unhelpful.’ For most people genuinely distressed by Trump’s remarks, ‘unfortunate’ and ‘unhelpful’ were probably not the first words that came to mind; ‘racist’ and ‘xenophobic’ were.”

What exactly Brownstein believes a more forceful condemnation would have done escapes me. Donald Trump would not reflect on those comments and apologize. In fact, when Ryan said that Trump’s comments about Judge Gonzalo Curiel were an example of textbook racism, nothing changed. Of course, a decent person does not wear the label “racist” as a “badge of honor,” but I suspect that Brownstein would not characterize the President as a decent person. Who would?

On the other hand, what we do know is that President Trump works with people who “say nice things” about him. So, besides obliterate any possibility that Ryan could achieve his own legislative ends, those policies once associated with Republicans, what would harsher criticism have accomplished?

This, of course, is the point, and is the second reason why this particular criticism comes from the left: Liberals want a crippled GOP. A crippled GOP can’t pass tax cuts, or curtail government spending. A crippled GOP can’t reform entitlements, and it cannot do so in Ryan’s image if Ryan is feuding with a mercurial president who has no grand vision. In other words, goading Ryan and other traditional Republicans to follow the Jeff Flake model is a surefire way to ensure that no part of a conservative agenda is served. In the face of criticism Trump doesn’t change. He tweets. The offending politician may lose his or her job, and the GOP distills, becoming even more Trumpian–even more difficult to defend.

Furthermore, Paul Ryan is not a commentator. His role in the political process is to compromise with people with whom he disagrees to win legislative victories for the people who elected him. Ryan worked with President Barack Obama and with the House Freedom Caucus to accomplish as much as he could, a task that required him to speak strategically, not emotionally. Not symbolically. Perhaps in a new role he will have the freedom to speak for himself and to solely bear the responsibility of what he says. Perhaps he will choose, still, to refrain. Either way, he hadn’t that freedom before.

As for the articles suggesting that the Trumpian changes in the GOP are forcing out thoughtful conservatives like Ryan, there can be no doubt.

Right Noise [A Tale of Two (Ancient) Cities]

Donald Trump is almost heroic–really.

Find out what our philosophical, cultural, and religious ancestors recommend we do to weather the Trump Era.

 

Credits:

  • Music: “From Then to Now” by Cutside; “I and I” by Downbeat; “Huzzam Oyun Havasi” by Seyyah; “Vari Hasapiko” by The Rosen Sisters; “Mary Celeste” by Kevin MacLeod; “Outside Poolside” by Lasswell; “Fossils” by Kyle Preston

Right Noise ShortCut [Bipartisan Support for Sexual Assault]

Have both political parties made a Faustian bargain that threatens sexual assault victims? So far, it appears so.

Credits:

Music: “She Gave You Everything” by ABSRDST; “1969” by Matte Black; “Ignorance is Bliss” by MindsEye and Dr. Rinkel

Trump Proves Me Wrong, Yet Again

Rarely am I happier that I lack a larger audience than when I’m dead wrong about politics. My most recent piece wrongly predicted an easy victory for Hillary Clinton. I did so here, as well. With certainty, I declared Donald Trump “a loser.” In fact, so depressed was I about our nominee, that I rarely wrote articles beyond mid-summer. Personally, I abstained voting for president, as promised. The day after the election, though, America witnessed a political upheaval like no other–Donald Trump overcame the prognostications and won the 2016 election–“bigly.”

Trump needed to outperform Mitt Romney’s 2012 efforts in order to win, and it appears that he did so by calling the Democrats’ bluff on the numbers of Black and Latino voters they expected to rally around Clinton. In battleground states like North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan, fewer Blacks voted this year than in the last presidential election. In 2012, Romney won 59% of the white vote nationally, leading me to argue that Trump needed to do significantly better among whites–an unlikely scenario–or make inroads among Blacks and Latinos in order to offset whatever whites he lost to Clinton. Surprisingly, he did the latter–outpacing Romney among Blacks; winning 8% to Romney’s 7%, and Latinos; winning 29% to Romney’s 27%. Unfortunately, Trump’s victory may further postpone minority outreach efforts.

But now that he’s proven me wrong in the primaries, and general election, what lies ahead?

Republicans control the House, Senate and the White House starting in January 2017. Now in control of the federal government, the GOP must seriously shift from being naysaying spectators to being active problem solvers. Within the first two years of a Trump term, the Republicans could end federal funding of Planned Parenthood; a minor, but symbolic feat. They could nominate and confirm a conservative jurist to replace the late, great, Antonin Scalia. They could repeal Dodd-Frank.

But what could they do to positively connect their leadership with the lives of the average American? How will they prioritize larger, more complicated goals, like repealing and replacing Obamacare, or rewriting the tax code? Americans will be looking for meaningful results, and the Republicans have promised (or perhaps, over-promised) to accomplish a great deal. Can they pursue these items without risking political capital needed to survive the midterm elections in 2018?

Also, what will come of the Trumpian initiatives: renegotiating NAFTA, sinking NATO, mass deportations of illegal immigrants, the Wall? All of these items were staples of the Trump campaign. Given the pressure Trump has placed upon himself to immediately pursue these goals, he’ll be expected to deliver–and fast. By my estimation, pursuing these idiosyncratic ends threaten to cost Republicans congressional majorities in 2018, dooming his presidency early on.

Or maybe I’m wrong, again.

Maybe the country cares less about a simpler tax code, and more about a symbolic gesture along the Southern border. Maybe we don’t really care about a nuclear Japan as much as we care about ripping up NAFTA.

In light of the 2016 election, Americans everywhere struggle to predict what comes next. Perhaps Mr. Trump will serve as a simple conduit through which thoughtful Republicans can filter policy. Maybe Republicans will continue their nasty infighting in the most public of venues. At this point, only two certainties exist: First, the Trump victory shines a spotlight on the disconnect between the public at large and the political elites. Second, nobody knows what the hell is going to happen next.

Least of all, me.

Republicans’ Trump Card…is a Joker

Say What You Will, Donald Trump is a Republican Nightmare


“[Donald Trump is] the personification of the Republican id, saying forthrightly the things most of them want to finesse, embodying their worst impulses, and doing it all with a spectacular if unwarranted confidence. Other Republicans may recoil from him, but when they look at Donald Trump, they’re only looking at a version of themselves.”

Before I criticize The Week’s Paul Waldman for writing an insulting article predicated on his ability to read Republicans’ minds, I must admit that I concur. However, concurrence does not equal agreement.  If your cat tells you that fish tastes delicious, you may think you agree. When the two of you discuss why you like the taste; your cat highlighting how much he loves the taste of the fins, crunchy pin bones, scales and blood; you learn the definition of concurrence.

So, is Donald Trump the GOP’s id? In many ways, yes. Just look at his polling: Real Clear Politics’ poll average shows Trump ahead of Senator Lindsey Graham, Senator Rick Santorum, Governor Rick Perry, and Carly Fiorina. Each of these candidates has earned serious attention for their campaigns because each has shown dedicated support to conservatism and to the Republican Party. Governor George Pataki, another announced GOP candidate, does not even register on RCP’s poll average. Clearly, many conservatives like what Trump offers. They even prefer him to many serious candidates.

Trump’s visceral disgust for Mexico and South America resonates with many Republicans even while others are trying to broaden the party’s appeal among Latinos. While most Republicans may say that they do not feel as harshly as Trump’s clearly racist rhetoric suggests, the xenophobic writings of Pat Buchanan, Michelle Malkin, and most recently, Ann Coulter (author of “Adios, America”), enjoys large audiences among conservatives.

Even Trump’s remarks on trade with China impressed Republicans in spite of the fact that his policy prescriptions run contrary to the free market principles that conservatives champion.

Waldman goes astray, eating halibut guts, when he tries to elucidate what Republicans truly believe. “It is the investors and inheritors…to whom we must attend–showering them with favors, relieving their burdens, tiptoeing around their tender feelings–for they are truly the best of us,” Waldman writes, mischaracterizing Republican arguments against the Democrat’s punitive tax schemes. He goes on to compare Trump’s self-aggrandizement to Republican belief in American exceptionalism–a ridiculous comparison. Finally, he finishes by comparing Republican ideas to the Birther quackery that Trump pedalled for years. Again, Waldman seems to know Republicans about as much as Trump knows subtlety.

Still, though, his piece offers some sobering insight, if we, Republicans, can be smart enough to benefit. That Mr. Trump; who donated copious amounts of money to Democrats, took cheap shots at other GOP candidates and pundits, paid actors to cheer on his 2016 presidential announcement, and publicly grifted foolish people with the Obama birth certificate fraud; polls better among Republicans than so many of our serious candidates, brings shame upon our party. If, in fact, Trump represents our collective id, though, we are not completely doomed. We’re humans, after all. We are not ruled completely by our ids. We have to rely on our superegos to deal with the problems posed by Mr. Trump, and elect a respectable nominee.

The first step in solving a problem is recognizing that one exists. In Trump, troubles abound: He’s garnered enough attention, on name recognition alone, to crowd out serious candidates from the debates. He’s prideful enough to recklessly spoil the GOP field by hurling insults and baseless charges, damaging the eventual nominee ahead of the general election. He’s wealthy enough to launch a third party campaign that could siphon votes away from the eventual Republican candidate. He could cause all of this mayhem without losing a wink of sleep. Donald Trump is a liability.

The next step is for Republican candidates to deal with him in a way that doesn’t raise his profile or his inclination to launch a third party bid. On the debate stage, Rick Wilson, a national Republican media consultant and campaign adviser, offers solid advice. Republican candidates, Wilson argues, must engage with Mr. Trump in a very delicate fashion that keeps interactions to a minimum, but doesn’t ignore him. Ignoring Trump could create the outsider vs. insider (establishment) dynamic that could play in his favor.

Finally, Republicans inclined to vote for, volunteer for, or donate to Donald Trump should be seriously dissuaded. Irresponsible conservative news outlets will treat him favorably because his controversial status boosts ratings. But serious coverage doesn’t equal serious ideas. Remind Trump supporters that he is an unprincipled fraud. David Graham, writing in The Atlantic, points out that Trump may not last beyond mid-October because disclosing his financial worth–a worth he claims is 9 billion dollars–will reveal that he is lying.

Whether or not Trump represents the GOP id, this nightmare scenario can only be defeated by our superego.

3 Reasons Why Republicans Should Keep an Open Mind about Jeb

After months of Hamlet-like vacillation, John Ellis (Jeb) Bush decides to join the 2016 Presidential race. The leader among all of the declared and undeclared Republican presidential candidates, Bush offers something most of the candidates do not–executive experience running a state that the GOP must win in order to win the 2016 election. Still though, many Republicans remain skeptical of Mr. Bush, some flatly refusing to vote for “another Bush.” Here are 3 reasons why Republicans should keep an open mind about the Jeb Bush candidacy.

 

Reason One: Jeb Bush Joins the Race Enjoying Advantages the Other Candidates Envy


Martin O’Malley, Carly Fiorina, and Ben Carson share a common first hurdle to a successful White House bid–earning widespread name recognition. For some candidates, their relative obscurity serves them well: Senator Marco Rubio, for example, can define himself on his own terms. Martin O’Malley, on the other hand, struggles to get any attention at all. For Jeb Bush, name recognition cuts both ways: on the one hand, Bush enjoys the benefits of belonging to a respected political family that Americans feel as if they know. After all, the only Republicans to win the White House since Ronald Reagan were Bushes. Still, though,Jeb must make the case that he is his own man, worthy of the job on his own merits, not just because of his last name. That task represents an opportunity similar to Senator Rubio’s.

 

Being from such a successful political family brings with it two more important advantages–networking and money. Leading up to his announcement, Bush has been cobbling together an enviable campaign team of big names like Danny Diaz, Heather Larrison, and Alex Lundry. Many of these people worked on Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign and worked for George W. Bush as well.

 

Heather Larrison leads Bush’s dynamic fundraising team that has been greatly outpacing his rivals’. Mr. Rubio, also from Florida, has been struggling to build his fundraising base upon Florida donors, because Bush’s influence in the state is deeper and wider-reaching. In fact, whichever candidate performs worse in Florida’s winner take all primary will likely end his White House bid immediately thereafter.

 

Name recognition, deep political networks and strong fundraising abilities are important aspects to running a winning campaign.

 

Reason Two: America Values Individual Accomplishment More than Bloodlines


By far, the most braindead “argument” against a Jeb Bush presidential run (and in fairness, against Hillary Clinton as well) is “Not Another Bush.” This reticence to support Mr. Bush purely based on his last name indicates immaturity and irrational thinking. For those of us who have siblings, would it be fair to say that knowing one of you is the same as knowing the other? Do you think the same as your siblings on all matters? Do you think the same as your father on all matters? Most matters?

 

Most bothersome about the “Not Another Bush” line, is that it runs contrary to America’s greatest ideal, that which sets us apart from our European kin: America values the individual more than the bloodline. And we should continue to do so. Betraying that idea betrays the notion that anyone can “make it” in America if he or she just works hard and plays by the rules.

 

By this standard, Jeb Bush has earned his right to be taken seriously along with the other candidates because he governed Florida successfully and conservatively. At present, he appears to be an upstanding man with a good family (all families face challenges, of course). He holds his own policy positions that may vary from his brother and father, and still fall within the conservative spectrum. On these elements should he be judged, not on his family lineage.

 

Reason Three: Jeb Bush Falls within the GOP Mainstream


The 2016 GOP candidate will surely need the support from the broadest coalitions of the conservative movement. He or she will need to speak most of all to social conservatives, economic conservatives, and defense-minded conservatives. On the issues most important to these constituencies, Jeb Bush falls within the mainstream. Unlike George Pataki, Bush holds a consistent record opposing abortion. Unlike Mike Huckabee, Bush does not need to defend himself against allegations of reliance on federal funds during his governorship. Unlike Rand Paul, Bush speaks clearly about reinstating a forward-leaning foreign policy.

 

Furthermore, for Bush’s conservative bona fides, he strikes a moderate tone–an important ingredient for any GOP candidate to win the general election.

 

Without a doubt, Mr. Bush faces a list of challenges and formidable candidates in his 2016 bid. While he leads the pack in most polls, his lead wanes–most notably, in Florida. Still, though, Bush represents a serious candidate in whom Republicans can take pride. A welcome addition to the large field of candidates, Jeb Bush deserves serious consideration in his own right.

3 Reasons Why a Big Republican Field is a Good Thing in 2016

or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the 2016 Candidates


Every day, it seems, a new Republican enters the 2016 nomination race. Media reporting on announced, as well as potential candidates, like Jeb Bush and Scott Walker, adds to the wall of noise and to the anxiety for Republican voters interested in winning the White House and improving the Grand Ol’ Party’s reputation. As 2016 shapes up with Governor George Pataki, Governor Rick Perry, Senator Rick Santorum and Senator Lindsey Graham among the most recent entrants to the race, I would like to share 3 reasons why my anxiety is subsiding, and if you’re a Republican, why yours should too.

Reason One: A Crowded Field Indicates an Optimistic Outlook

Especially when you consider the expenses involved with running for president, candidates must believe that he or she can conceivably win the nomination and the general election before getting involved in the race. Governor Mike Huckabee and Senator Santorum, specifically, know how much money presidential races can cost. Surely, Rand Paul has experienced this vicariously through his father’s perennial races.

Marco Rubio may face the greatest sacrifice, as Florida law precludes candidates from appearing twice on a ballot. That means that if he loses the nomination for president, he’ll also lose his senate seat.

Still, though, these men, and the throng of other candidates, choose to spend their own money, time and reputations on a bet they believe will pay off.

The Democrats, on the other hand, enjoy a particularly weak field aside from their frontrunner who enjoys name recognition and deep pockets. Even Hillary Clinton, though, exudes an air of vulnerability (rather than inevitability), and the Republican bench senses that.

Reason Two: RNC Changes Diminish the Prospect of a Protracted Intra-party Fight

The spectre of 2012 still looms in Republican minds, and we remember the crowded stage of 10 candidates (11 if you count Gary Johnson) debating “vulture capitalism,” a manned trip to Mars, and a $10,000 bet. President Barack Obama smartly looked on while Republicans did his bidding–eviscerating each other publicly so that he could sustain the attacks on the eventual nominee simply by parroting his primary opponents’.

RNC Chairman, Reince Priebus, well aware of the effect the vicious primary debates had on Governor Mitt Romney, the party nominee, has taken steps to avoid that this time around. First, the RNC shortened the primary season so that the party has more time to coalesce around a nominee. Second, instead of holding 20 debates, as we did in 2012, 9 are scheduled with no more than 3 more discussed as possibilities. Finally, Priebus plans to make better use of the thresholds needed to participate in debates. In other words, a candidate must have a certain percentage of support before he or she can grace the debate stage.

Reason Three: The Large, Diverse, Field Quells Anti-Republican Stereotypes

Though Democrats incessantly work to paint the Republican Party as one hostile to racial minorities and women, that argument continues to lose steam every time one looks at the GOP office holders and presidential field. With Republican women like Governor Susana Martinez, Governor Nikki Haley, and Senator Joni Ernst in the forefront of our party, presidential candidate Carly Fiorina appears much less like an outlier. Furthermore, Martinez and Haley share their statuses with Senators Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio; and accomplished Neurosurgeon Ben Carson as people of color.

Compare the Republican field to the Democrat’s (all white, mostly male and mostly rich) and what the GOP offers better resembles the diversity of America.

More Republicans will enter the race, and the GOP is a richer party for it.

To What Degree Does College Matter?

Usually, presidential candidates hail from an incestuous web of elite universities–Yale and Harvard, predominant among them. Wisconsin Governor, Scott Walker, however, wishes to become president of the United States without that distinction. In fact, Walker dropped out of college, never earning a bachelor’s degree (So did Rand Paul, by the way). For some, Walker’s missing sheepskin disqualifies him for serious consideration in the presidential race. That view is wrong.

Susan Milligan writes a piece in U.S. News and World Report that reflects some of the apprehension felt about potentially nominating, and even electing, the degree-less Governor Walker. Chidike Okeem, a conservative blogger, more vehemently rejects Walker’s candidacy in light of his academic deficiency. He calls the notion “beyond absurdity,” and writes that conservatives who dismiss Walker’s degree-critics as elitists “show the embarrassing way in which anti-intellectualism is treated as a sought-after virtue within mainstream conservatism.”

In truth, Milligan, Okeem; and others who believe that Walker does not deserve serious consideration as a presidential candidate without a college degree; make an erroneous assumption based on a misunderstanding of what a college degree communicates. (Hint: college degrees make no claims upon a graduate’s intelligence or ability to perform work outside of the classroom.)

Milligan argues that the baccalaureate degree serves as evidence that one is qualified to work.

“Would we choose long-distance runners for the U.S. Olympic team who couldn’t run faster than an 11-minute mile, just to show that the team is reflective of the American populace as a whole,” she writes.

Clearly, the answer to her question is “no.” But her analogy fails because there is little (if any) correlation between finishing college and running the free world. A more appropriate formulation of Milligan’s question would be: “Would we choose long-distance runners for the U.S. Olympic team who run as fast as everyone else on the team, but do so barefoot?” I’d imagine that the answer to that question is, “Maybe.” So, too, should be the appropriate approach to Walker’s (hypothetical) candidacy.

Okeem’s argument particularly resonates with me because I worry about anti-intellectualism infecting the conservative movement.

Okeem asks, “Are those who suggest that college dropouts should be routinely considered for the office of President…arguing that the presidency is less tasking or important than the plurality of jobs listed on Craigslist that specify only holders of a baccalaureate degree should apply?”

Again, the answer is no. But Okeem’s question demonstrates a lack of understanding about why many employers require degrees of their applicants. Clarifying that distinction requires me to lean on the work of Dr. William Irons, a leading social anthropologist, and one of the professors I studied under at Northwestern University (where I did graduate, by the way).

Irons categorizes weddings, military boot camps, and college degrees as Hard to Fake Signals of Commitment (HFSC). HFSC demonstrate a dedication “to behave in a particular way even if it is contrary to self-interest.” In other words, employers do not know what level of commitment an applicant will display toward an organization, but they do know that an applicant’s commitment to an organization is easy to fake, as one may simply state that he is committed to show up and perform his assigned duties satisfactorily. Talk is cheap. A word can be easily broken. But a college degree signals to an employer that an applicant was willing to spend time, money, and mental energy–often foregoing immediate gratification–in order to attain a certificate that may prove beneficial in the future. A college degree, in the amount of energy required to attain it, proves a much better indicator of the level of an applicant’s commitment.

Therefore, any criticism about Walker’s lack of a college degree can only be useful if it questions Walker’s sense of commitment. Arguing, as some have, that Walker’s quitting college with so few credits needed to graduate indicates a lack of commitment, is a point worthy of debate–a point to which I counter by saying that while the education gained in college can be enriching and lead to a more complete understanding of a range of topics, what a graduate learns in college–even if he or she takes certain classes and earns good grades–cannot be presumed. We all know political science majors who do not understand Hobbes’ Leviathan, Plato’s Republic, or Rousseau’s Social Contract; whether they read these pieces or not.

That said, a college degree serves to communicate a HFSC. Through his work as a governor, his clear understanding of policymaking and politics, and his many successful years of public service, Walker has demonstrated his commitment to performing dutifully the role of an executive. His record makes up for his missing degree.

Carson for Fuhrer

Ach du Liebe, Dr. Carson!


From the moment Ben Carson entered the public eye, bashing Obamacare at the National Prayer Breakfast in 2013, many conservatives clamored for him to run for president. Even when Carson indicated that he would not run, groups–often nefarious groups–collected money in his name, claiming that they needed the money to urge Carson to run. His soft-spokenness, unapologetic appeal to principle and religious dedication endear him to conservatives tired of the self-promotional bombast of typical politicians. For Republicans looking to change the Party image, the black Carson offers a rebuttal against the stereotype that the GOP regards blacks with hostility. Carson writes about his successful career as a neurosurgeon in “Gifted Hands,” the most popular of his books. Before him, no one had ever successfully separated craniopagus twins. That said, it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to see that Dr. Carson’s newly announced presidential campaign’s greatest weaknesses may be the candidate himself.

In any presidential campaign, the potential nominee must be supremely accomplished, as is Dr. Carson. However, Americans have yet to decide what kind of experience best translates to being a good president. So far, we appear to favor Ivy League lawyers (sorry, Scott Walker), governors (sorry, Rand Paul), and distinguished military service personnel (sorry, John Kerry). Each of those fields, and elements of others, correspond to some responsibility of the Executive office. This means less to Dr. Carson whose success in an admirable profession will hardly disqualify him. The point, though, is that in the absence of knowing what profession best predicts the skill set necessary to be a successful president, Americans faced with fields of accomplished candidates look for more superficial traits–namely those that make a candidate a good campaigner. Dr. Carson, for all of his accomplishments, fails where it matters the most–as a politician.

“I gotta tell you something. I’m not politically correct,” Carson said during his official presidential announcement. “I’m not a politician. I don’t want to be a politician. Politicians do what is politically expedient. I want to do what’s right.”

Carson’s line, appropriately striking a populist tone, attempts to cover him for some egregious remarks he’s made–remarks that he must renounce. Saying that “Obamacare is really…the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery,” and then doubling down, saying that “it is slavery,” represents a monumentally stupid statement. Todd Akin stupid. (Abortion ranks higher than Obamacare on the spectrum of morally reprehensible policies, I think.) In March, Carson apologized for saying that prison turns straight men gay. This statement brought such a backlash, that Carson refuses to address gay rights issues (a pivotal topic in America right now) for the rest of the presidential campaign.

Then, there is his comparing America to Nazi Germany–implying that the IRS equates to the SS or the Gestapo. One needn’t be Jewish to take offense to a comparison that trivializes the most sinister part of Nazism–the genocide. Still, Carson stands by his comments, and this represents a problem for Republicans who want to win the 2016 election.

Clearly, Democrats have a problem: their wealthiest candidate also has the best name recognition and potentially gives the Party four more years to develop new talent that is sorely lacking. This candidate, though, is Hillary Clinton: the secretive, corrupt, overly-ambitious, unaccomplished Hillary Clinton. Democrats look across the aisle and see formidable Republican candidates assembling to take control of the third branch of our three branch government, and potentially secure further control in the Supreme Court by replacing aging conservative judges and perhaps even Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The left’s best chance to denigrate the Republican Party is to paint the candidates as out of touch extremists, as clowns, as unserious. Just as Akin’s comments hurt the entire Republican field in 2012, forcing candidates outside of Missouri to speak to Akin’s gaffe, Democrats are always on the lookout for another candidate that can help them advance their narrative and direct the electorate to discuss a stupid statement rather than the issues at hand. Alexandra Jaffe, writing about Carson’s Nazi Germany statement for CNN.com, writes: “Carson’s unapologetic, outspoken style has contributed to his meteoric rise within the conservative movement and the Republican Party more broadly…” The subtext of Jaffe’s statement  is that conservatives like Carson’s crazy statements, and his egotistical refusal to walk them back. Between Ted Cruz’ government shutdown and Ben Carson’s “wrong-but-strong” proclamations, Democrats have strong opportunities to smear the party–perhaps even well enough to damage our aspirations.

While I hope that Dr. Carson contributes positively to the 2016 race, I highly doubt that Republicans will make the mistake of nominating him to represent the party in this important election. The accomplished, Dr. Carson may do well as Surgeon General; or as a beloved conservative speaker, campaigner, and writer. Whether or not he wins the nomination, though, I don’t foresee him leading the United States into a Fourth Reich.

Baltimore: Cops and Robbers

Blacks, Whites, Boys in Blue, and the Unsolved Mystery of Freddie Gray


I’ve lived, my entire life, in one of the most violent cities of America–Chicago (known by some as “Chi-raq” because of the high number of shootings). I’ve experienced racial profiling: I’ve been harassed by police officers who insisted that my car was stolen–that my white friend and I were looking for drugs whenever we visited my relatives who lived in blighted parts of the city. And while I have many friends who are police officers, these events shape the way I view police–with gratitude and respect for the difficult job they do, simultaneously understanding what mayhem arises when the power of life and death rests in the hands of fallen man.

When I drive past police cars, I sit a little straighter, keep my hands at 10 and 2 and watch the cruiser in my rear view mirror until it’s out of my sight. I surely share a fear that many black men do: that having an encounter with a police officer on a power trip is a likely enough possibility–one with deadly consequences. Unlike being faced with a similar encounter with any other person employed in virtually any other line of work, I can’t win. I can’t defend myself. I can’t protect my dignity without fear of facing grave consequences. Even with the proliferation of cell phone videos and social media, my side of the story may never be heard. I can be brutalized unjustly while my family and friends sustain the unhealable scars. My only recourse is to wait until the negative interaction ends, and then complain to the cop’s supervisor (colleagues) in mostly futile hopes that some future citizen will be spared whatever ordeal I have experienced.

“Behavior that might land some defendants in jail, such as beating or even shooting another person, are not just permitted for police officers but are assumed to be part of their work,” writes Michael Wines in the New York Times.

That’s no way to live in America, and my sense is that police officers, by and large, do not want citizens to feel that way about them.

Slowly–hesitatingly–police departments across the country are starting to do the right thing in wearing body cameras. This partial solution, still in its nascent stages, may change things for the better, but is only a small step in the right direction. Had the Baltimore police officers charged in Freddie Gray’s murder been wearing body cameras, the devices likely would not shed much  more light on the mysterious events leading to Gray’s death. Still, though, body cameras would have served Officer Darren Wilson quite well, and more quickly dispelled the myth that Michael Brown raised his hands in surrender when Officer Wilson shot him.

Another legislative change that can improve the relationship between police and citizens would allow citizens to record arrests from their cell phones and other devices given that they are not interfering with police activity. Youtube and Liveleak show scores of videos in which police officers discourage filming, sometimes threatening force against the recorders, or arguing erroneously that the filming violates the law in states and localities in which the filming is actually lawful. Without these videos, like that capturing Officer Michael Slager shooting Walter Scott in the back, the public loses some context that undergirds black fear of police officers. Furthermore, these recordings, coupled with those produced by department body cameras, may serve to exonerate police actions.

The most important change necessary to alleviate tension between police and certain communities may elude legislators and policy makers. This change in the “code of silence,”  which finds police officers refusing to report bad behaviors committed by fellow officers, would reinforce the desired impression that police forces support the most important aspect of American law–its universal application. The “code of silence” among police officers frustrates the efforts of our legal system to punish wrongdoers similarly to the way “no snitching” hampers justice for victims in troubled communities. The “code of silence” would have protected Chicago Police Officer, Anthony Abbate, a 12-year police veteran who savagely beat a petite female bartender, Karina Obrycka, in 2007–if not for the bar’s security camera that captured the attack. Obrycka reported receiving death threats from Chicago police officers, urging her (unsuccessfully) to drop her charges. This culture of corruption and intimidation sows fear in the minds of citizens, relegating our police forces to tax-supported street gangs. Failure to dispatch with that reputation; and reluctance, by police forces, to adopt common sense solutions aimed at increasing transparency and accountability; threaten the legitimacy of the entire justice system. In many communities, especially communities of color, skepticism about the justice system’s fairness abounds.

Deservedly or not, police departments throughout the country face increased scrutiny while high-profile cases of unarmed black men shot by police officers mount up. Rather than allowing these challenges to further tarnish the front line of our legal system, police departments should proactively address public concerns about their transparency and tactics, show a sign of good faith with the communities they serve and distance themselves from the few incidents of a few departments that may cast a pall over all law enforcement.

Enter Baltimore, Freddie Gray, and the ensuing riots.


Some Baltimore residents argue that Freddie Gray’s arrest (perhaps an unlawful one) and death at the hands of six Baltimore police officers represented the tipping point in an increasingly tense situation between citizens and the police. In 2010, a jury acquitted a Baltimore police officer for shooting an unarmed fleeing man in the back. In 2011, a judge in Baltimore acquitted three officers charged with kidnapping and false imprisonment after driving two teenagers miles from their homes and leaving them in a different county without socks and shoes. Last fall, the Baltimore Sun released the results of an investigation that showed that over the last 4 years, Baltimore paid about $5.7 million to more than 100 people who won court settlements related to police brutality and civil rights abuses.  Today, allegations that police severed Gray’s spine, killing him, when they placed him face down in a transport van and drove recklessly–a tactic known as a “rough ride”–confound Baltimore’s police department as they deal with the resulting indictments, riots and violence.

While the rioters’ rage may be understandable, the riots themselves are not.Of course, not everyone agrees with my claim.  Salon’s Benji Hart argues that the looting and violence is a legitimate black political tactic, and that calling the rioters uncivilized is racist. I hold that arguing that blacks should uniquely be expected and encouraged to victimize others out of frustration, dehumanizes blacks–reducing us to opportunistic thugs, ticking time bombs, using perceived injustices as reason enough act antisocially. One might ask what it means to hold such a flippant, ugly, view of blacks, while not expecting whites to riot after the 2012 elections, for example.There is no logical link between Gray’s death and looting.

Jason Riley writes a brave and important piece arguing that protesters and apologists excused the violent riots in Ferguson because the racial makeup of Ferguson’s city government contained too few blacks. By contrast:

“Broad diversity is not a problem in Baltimore, where 63% of residents and 40% of police officers are black. The current police commissioner is also black, and he isn’t the first one. The mayor is black, as was her predecessor and as is a majority of the city council.”

Unsurprisingly, the riots’ biggest supporters are liberals. Michael Eric Dyson, writing in the New York Times, lays the groundwork for why Baltimore offers such a rich environment for rioting:

“The unemployment rate in the community where Mr. Gray lived is over 50 percent; the high school student absence rate hovers at 49.3 percent; and life expectancy tops out at 68.8 years…these statistics are a small glimpse of the radical inequality that blankets poor black Baltimore. it’s no wonder that black Baltimore erupted in social fury.”

These statistics interest me because so often, liberalism plays a sick joke on Americans who fall for it: liberal policies loot the wealthy (local businesses, big box stores, citizens, etc.) to give to the poor, but when they rule cities, as they have ruled Baltimore for years, the poor live in appalling privation. As a result, according to liberals, citizens of liberal cities resort to stealing from the wealthy (local businesses, big box stores, citizens, etc.) to do what liberal policies failed to do in the first place–equalize the rich and the poor. In other words, liberalism’s thieving policies fail to benefit its constituents, and actually beget more thieving.

Of course, I recognize that the Baltimore riots stem from more than just liberal ideas and policies. Distrust of police forces, and of the justice system it serves, stems from some real grievances that police departments must address. The answer is never to compound the injustice, either by rioting, looting, or convicting officers on flimsy charges. The answer is for police departments to get serious about transparency, kill the “culture of silence” that protects racist emails and violent cops like Abbate, and begin to take seriously the effect bad practices can have on eroding the rule of law. Citizens, of every race, must protest injustice without victimizing others. Excusing further victimization as somehow intrinsic to blackness or sound black political action fuels the suspicions that blacks are latent criminals deserving of disproportional scrutiny.