Ingratitude Begets Trump

Whenever possible, one should think about the Republican Party in relation to its first successful leader, Abraham Lincoln. Like many of his quotes that possess a haunting, enduring, quality, one of my favorites so aptly applies to the 2016 Republican nomination race that it deserves repeating:

 

“Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.”

 

Oh, how the skin blisters!

 

Hillary Clinton’s inauguration day began no later than when Ted Cruz and John Kasich exited the nomination race. With Donald Trump topping the GOP’s November ticket, Republicans will lose the Senate, if not the whole Congress. We will lose the Supreme Court. We will lose credibility as a Party.

 

And we deserve it.

 

Americans will surely look back at this election, and lay blame at the liberal media’s feet for facilitating Trump’s rise. Blame will make its way to the conservative media for treating the liberal Trump like a conservative while castigating other Republicans for not being pure enough.

 

The lion’s share of the blame, though, belongs to large swaths Republican voters and conservative talk radio show hosts. By fomenting ingratitude for their own personal gain, these people have fueled the intraparty turmoil that has led to its imminent collapse.

 

Conservatives, once known for a sunnier disposition than their liberal counterparts, have complained for years that Republican politicians have “sold them out.” This asinine complaint, simply an echo of desperate talk radio hosts, shares no grounding in reality. Regardless, the storyline formed the basis of the Tea Party movement, became the platitude of self-serving politicians, and lives on in the spirit of the rancorous and dysfunctional House Freedom Caucus.

 

In order to believe the lies that the Republican Establishment “doesn’t listen to the people,” “goes along to get along,” and “sells out the people who elected them,” we must ignore the myriad victories this despised cabal won in the service of conservatism. Former House Speaker John Boehner worked with fellow Republicans to cut the Democrats’ federal spending by three quarters. The House Republicans fought President Obama, and won, to keep two thirds of the Bush Tax Cuts enacted. Republicans in both chambers of Congress stood up to the President’s efforts to violate the 2nd Amendment. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell worked with Republican Senators to deny Justice Antonin Scalia’s vacant seat from being filled by a liberal justice.

 

If you listen to conservative demagogues, though, these Republican heroes are “capitulators,” “traitors,” “RINOs,” and worse.

 

Just ask Ted Cruz.

 

To his great detriment, Senator Cruz embraced and peddled the mindless pablum–billing his government shutdown as a stand on principle, and intoning that those of us skeptical of his naked fundraising ploy were enemies–“weak,” RINOs,” and “unprincipled.” With this momentum, created by sliming his colleagues, Cruz launched his presidential bid, often naming himself the only principled Republican of the vast field of options. He lied, saying that the more than half of all Republicans who support comprehensive immigration reform actually favor “amnesty.” He lied about the 2012 election, saying that Mitt Romney lost because he wasn’t sufficiently conservative.

 

Needing Republican support to overcome Donald Trump, Cruz unsurprisingly struggled to find support among the people he built his career castigating.

 

Donald Trump, too, furthered this narrative. He and Cruz shared the same support base–a base they created by fabricating vague, mythological slights to fuel unrighteous indignation. As a result, Republican voters in 2016 have been described as “angry,” and their anger was respected, when it should have been challenged.
If we could be honest with ourselves–the way we were briefly after the 2012 loss–we’d admit that those of us who care about issues have no right to be angry with the “Republican Establishment” (whoever that is). Instead, we’ve given a great deal of undeserved grief to decent, hard-working, principled, allies. And for our ingratitude in light of all of their successes–our successes–we have reaped the bitter fruits of our spoiled-brat temper tantrum–namely, The Donald.

Our Vain Toils

Julian Castro dropped his copy of “Paso a Paso” and staggered, like a punch-drunk boxer, catching himself with one arm against a wall. It was as if he felt Hillary Clinton cross his name from her list of potential vice presidential candidates to flank her this summer. She doesn’t need him anymore: Republican voters turned their back on the Democrats’ greatest threat by choosing Donald Trump over the young, Spanish-speaking, Marco Rubio–a man bludgeoned with a one-word caricature of his reasonable approach to immigration reform– “amnesty.” With John Kasich facing practically no chance at winning the nomination, the GOP advances two candidates whose immigration proposals will drive Hispanics into the warm, welcoming arms of the Democrat Party. They were ours to lose, and we gave them away.

 

Corey Booker, too, stamped his foot. Clinton need not contact him to consolidate the black vote. Ted Cruz demonstrates no interest in courting black voters, and the remaining alternatives are two, old white men–the most popular of whom encourages violence against Black Lives Matter protesters, while perfunctorily denouncing his white supremacist support. The Democrats can relax a bit now. The Christian conservative blacks who voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 can tap the screen one more time, and make history again. Our efforts to attract these voters, in light of the GOP postmortem–vanity.

 

Barack Obama scoffs smugly as he looks at the election results. He shakes his head and puffs out his chest as he prepares to publicly shame Senate Republicans for refusing to hold any confirmation hearings on Antonin Scalia’s replacement.Mitch McConnell’s brave declaration of defiance presupposed much better odds of a Republican winning the White House in November. That presupposition vaporized with Rubio’s exit from the nomination race. Obama gleefully spent much of his presidency winding up the impotent Republican mob, only to see them embarrass themselves, cannibalize themselves, and show themselves for what they really are–disorganized reactionaries draped in the thin, tattered, wisps of an intellectualism long past. From Edmund Burke to Russell Kirk, from Brent Bozell to Bill Buckley; all roads lead to “The Donald” now, or to his minion, Ted Cruz. Now, Obama may nominate a Supreme Court justice as liberal as he pleases. Senate recalcitrance only  postpones the inevitable: a liberal will replace Nino whether chosen by Obama or Clinton. Even better, Mitch McConnell suffers another crushing  public humiliation. His bravery–vanity.

 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg chases her nighttime cocktail of colorful pills with a rich, blood-red table wine. She lies on her back, staring at the ceiling waiting to be overcome by sleep, either of the temporary or metaphorical variety. Warmed by the wine, she smiles as she watches the Republican vultures leave their perch above her bed. They will starve after all. “Go find carrion elsewhere! Feast upon the rotting elephant flesh, from the bodies senselessly trampled in the stampede.”

 

“I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun…”

 

Consider the sacrifice of millions of patriots who formed this conservative movement which has; together with its political vehicle, the Republican Party; freed millions of unfortunate black slaves from bondage, lead the fight for women’s suffrage, reduced the number of babies murdered in the womb, created the Americans with Disabilities Act, saved countless lives by supporting strong and just law enforcement tactics.

 

“…seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool?”

We leave our toil to a man who sided with the Democrats while we weathered attacks in the name of conservative principles. We leave our toil to a man who does not know what conservatism actually means.

 

“…Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. So I turned about and gave my heart up to despair…”

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.

Ryan’s Reformicons Lead the Way

In an election year, politicians tend to be light on policy specifics (closer to Donald Trump’s platitudes than to Mitt Romney’s 59-point jobs plan). That’s because revealing too much too soon creates a target that opponents can attack for a longer period of time. Paul Ryan recognized this in 2012 when Romney approached him about joining the presidential ticket.

 

“When he [Romney] asked me, I said, ‘you do realize that I’m the guy with all the budget cuts. If you put me on the ticket, you own this budget.'”

 

Romney accepted Ryan, budget cuts and all, but lost the 2012 election anyway.

 

This time around, Speaker Ryan looks to push a congressional reform agenda he describes as “propositional” not “oppositional.” His goal is to have a tangible plan laid out this spring–before the 2016 general election. In other words, whoever becomes the Republican nominee will own Ryan’s congressional agenda.

 

I want our party to be the party of opportunity, upward mobility and the party with better ideas for fighting poverty…[and] since I want our party to be that, it goes without saying I want the House Republicans to do that, as well.”

 

Inspired by the late Jack Kemp, Ryan addresses poverty, an issue on which Republicans have traditionally led from behind. Preliminary insights suggest that the Speaker wants to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and to consolidate the sprawling federal funding for various poverty initiatives into “opportunity grants” that can be managed by the states. In addition to the poverty proposals, Ryan’s reform priorities include erecting a sturdier firewall to prevent an overactive executive from usurping Congress’ legislative duties.

 

But will Paul Ryan’s reform agenda burden the Republican presidential nominee? That depends on who wins the nomination, of course.

 

Ryan’s tone competes with the angry voices vowing to buck “establishment RINOs” who “don’t fight back” against “amnesty.” On the presidential campaign trail, this tonal divide is clear: Governors Jeb Bush and John Kasich join Senator Marco Rubio in Ryan’s eagerness to transform the GOP from loyal opposition party into a forward leaning majority party. In fact, when Ryan held a three day retreat in Baltimore to discuss the 2016 agenda, each of these gentlemen attended. Notably absent from the retreat, the two candidates most identified by anger, Donald Trump and Senator Ted Cruz.

 

Let’s be frank about it: Paul does not want Donald Trump or Ted Cruz speaking for the party,” says one Republican leadership source, who requested anonymity to speak candidly.

 

Herein lies the problem. Many Republicans believe that Democrats benefit by framing their policies in an affirmative fashion. Democrats want to “give” people health insurance. They want to “give” people free college education. They want to “give” women the right to choose an abortion. Republicans, on the other hand, appear to be “against” healthcare, free college and reproductive choice. Most voters want more of everything, not less. This puts Republicans at a disadvantage, unless we learn to reframe the conversation.

 

Marco Rubio, John Kasich, and Jeb Bush, appeal to the Republican mainstream because they speak in terms of aspiration and optimism. They speak with the very tone Paul Ryan would like to advance. By contrast, Ted Cruz regularly uses verbs like “annihilate,” “destroy,” and “dismantle.” Donald Trump’s ban on Muslim visitors and immigrants, his staunch desire to erect a physical barrier to immigration, and his promise to punish businesses who choose to operate in a friendlier climate, all use threatening language that does not advance a positive view of conservatism.

 

Speaker Ryan understands that he and Mitt Romney won the 2012 election on issues, but lost on empathy. He understands Jack Kemp’s axiom: “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” That is why Ryan is working tirelessly to unite the Republican Party and grow it, by showing the country what positive politics looks like.
If we nominate the wrong candidate, though, we may do more than lose the election–we may significantly damage the conservative movement.

The Art of the Pointless

Is politics still the “art of the possible?” In America, today, it appears as if politics has become the art of the pointless. Congress finally passed a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, along with a defunding of Planned Parenthood, and sent it to President Barack Obama–for veto. None of the lawmakers who supported the bill thought the president would sign it, but Republican constituents would have still demanded it be done. John Boehner’s House of Representatives passed an ACA repeal about 40 times, knowing the Senate would never bring the bill to a vote.

 

Why fight unwinnable battles? Apparently, futility is good politics.

 

Donald Trump sits atop the Republican polls, a seemingly unstoppable force–at least until actual votes are cast. His plan to fix the immigration crisis consists of building a giant wall along our Southern border and “making Mexico pay for it.” The wall will cost upwards of $20B, face eminent domain challenges across multiple states, and will do nothing to staunch the sizeable minority of immigrants who fly into America and overstay their VISAs. In short, it’ll never happen.

 

No matter. Mr. Trump’s supporters also like his policy proposal to curb domestic terror attacks by restricting immigrants and visitors who confess to being Muslim. If you ignore that a cunning jihadist can lie about his religious orientation and gain access into his target, the idea is almost plausible. Except that such a policy would run so far afoul of the law that crafting the language of the legislation would be an exercise in futility.

 

Perhaps Donald Trump isn’t such a viable candidate.

 

Luckily, then, there’s Ted Cruz–the Senator from Texas who led a government shutdown that did not (because it could not) achieve the goal he intended. Then again, Cruz’ goal may have been to raise money for himself, in which case, the government shutdown worked perfectly. In the last debate, Mr. Cruz ended a sharp spat with Marco Rubio by saying that he would not support a path to legal status for the tens of millions of undocumented workers already living in the United States. Refusing such a path means either accepting the status quo, a broken immigration system, or deporting each of the illegal immigrants.

 

Deporting 12 million illegal immigrants would cost somewhere between $166B and $285B. These figures neglect the less tangible costs of businesses closing, industries taking a serious hit, and the bad press we would receive as we broke up families to send more than 32,000 people out of the country every day. Imagine how the photographs from the largest forced migration from America will adorn future liberal history textbooks.

 

It will never happen, though. That won’t stop Cruz from suckering people into believing in impossibilities to his self-serving ends.

 

Before concluding that futility politics exists solely on the right, turn your attention to President Obama’s executive orders on firearms. Look, too, to his “common sense” policy prescriptions–none of which would have done a thing to stop any of the recent mass shootings or curb gun deaths, as most are the result of suicides. Still, though, gun control measures soothe Democrats’ consciences.

 

Both Democrat Presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, propose to make college tuition free, at least for students attending state schools. The cost of such a plan begins at more than $70B annually. This wouldn’t be a good investment even if it weren’t paying to send people to college who can already afford to go by their own means.

 

Combine this idea with Sanders’ plan for universal health insurance (Medicare expansion), his federal jobs programs for disadvantaged youth, his $1T infrastructure policy, and his expansion of Social Security benefits, and the likelihood of any of these plans coming to fruition matches that of Ammon Bundy’s standoff ending in his victory.

 

If American voters are so frustrated with politicians, why do we settle for and insist upon feel-good, doomed-to-fail, kamikaze, gestural politics?
There ought to be a law…

RINO Hunters’ Circular Firing Squad

The 2016 Republican Nomination race, simplistically cast as a competition between “Establishment RINOs” and the “True Conservative” base, illustrates a destructive psychosis currently infecting the GOP. Paranoid voices on the right insist that the party is under siege by a liberal cabal of kamikaze Republicans–RINOs, The Establishment. Stemming from political messaging, which, by nature, emphasizes oppression and persecution in order to connect voters emotionally to candidates and policies, this narrative divides Republicans and paves the way for Democratic victories.

John Hayward, at Breitbart, begins a particularly daft piece by defining the Establishment thusly:

 

“There is a part of the GOP power structure,” Hayward writes, “that has always been most happy to serve as the permanent minority, personally enriched by serving as minor, ineffective obstacles to the ruling Left. They win elections by cadging millions from conservatives desperate to Do Something about the mess in Washington, then sink comfortably into that mess as though relaxing in a jacuzzi, rousing themselves only to display true fury against the occasional cage-rattling, boat-rocking conservative insurgent.”

 

Enter the straw man argument. (Thanks, Obama!)

 

Who, in the “GOP power structure,” is “happy to serve as the permanent minority?” Who is “personally enriched” by powerlessness?

 

The immediate response RINO Hunters gave to these questions used to be Speaker John Boehner, the man  who tearfully wrested the Speaker’s gavel from Nancy Pelosi in 2010, heeding the call from the “cage-rattling, boat-rocking conservative insurgents” known as the Tea Party. Boehner promised to curb federal spending, and he delivered–cutting the deficit by three quarters during his tenure. He rallied every single Republican House member to vote against Obamacare. He protected the Bush Tax Cuts from expiring on all Americans.

 

This wasn’t enough to placate Pharisaic Republicans, though. The Daily Caller’s Guy Bentley reports that Boehner left the Speakership with only 24% of Republicans viewing him favorably. A YouGov word cloud showed that the most common words used by Republicans to describe Boehner are “quitter,” “spineless,” “weak,” and “RINO.” Given that level of gratitude for successfully stymying President Barack Obama’s agenda from one house of Congress, it is no wonder the GOP struggled to replace Boehner.

 

But, we eventually did–turning to young, Republican budget hawk, Paul D. Ryan.  His credentials, used to quiet RINO Hunters who had recast the 2008 conservative standard bearer Mitt Romney into the role of the 2012 RINO, haven’t protected him from the cannibalistic right-wing media. Breitbart’s Alex Swoyer calls Ryan “unchained.” Vox Day, of the bizarre World Net Daily, calls Ryan a RINO. So does syndicated talk show host, Joe Walsh. And on and on the monkey chases its tail.

 

So, “Where Have All the Conservatives Gone?” asks satirist Paul Shanklin.

 

Ask Hayward’s “cage-rattling boat rockers” who 2016’s true conservatives are, and they will likely to point to the two current Republican frontrunners: Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. Understanding how these two candidates have come to epitomize a conservative ideal requires one to know nothing of conservative principles at all.

 

Trump, who openly boasts about his massive donations to politicians on both sides of the spectrum, somehow eludes the Establishment stamp. Beneath his crass, classless ad hominem attacks lie his big government fairy tale policy “ideas.” Not only will building a wall along the southern border do nothing to stop the more than 40% of immigrants who overstay their VISAs, but it cannot be constructed (on Mexico’s or our dime) because of eminent domain issues and its prohibitive costs.

 

Trump’s plan to Institute a ban on all Muslims entering the country is even stupider. If you were an Islamic terrorist bent on killing Americans, would you tell a customs agent that you’re a Muslim? If you weren’t a terrorist, but just a Muslim, who would pay for your return flight?

 

Debating his “wrong-but-strong” policies is pointless because they can never happen.Finally, and most importantly, Trump loses to Hillary Clinton (whom he paid to attend his most recent wedding) in every single poll Real Clear Politics uses in its aggregates. Interestingly, the Republican Establishment that is “happy to serve as the permanent minority” doesn’t support Trump.

 

Ted Cruz came to fame by vacuuming up money from gullible donors during his 2013 government shutdown. To this day, he offers no explanation as to how shutting down the government would have defunded Obamacare–a piece of legislation that was already paid for via past appropriations. After a closed-door meeting with Republican Senators yielded no strategy answers from Mr. Cruz, one Senator said:

    “It’s pretty evident it’s never been about a strategy–it’s been about him (Cruz)…I think he’s done our country a major disservice. I think he’s done Republicans a major disservice.”

 

Then, again, even if the shutdown could have produced a budget that slashed Obamacare, no one (not even Cruz) believes that President Obama would have signed it. Yet, despite this, Hayward didn’t include Cruz in his admonitions of Republicans who are “…personally enriched by serving as minor, ineffective obstacles to the ruling Left.”

 

And herein lies the problem: The constant bleating about RINOs and the Republican establishment smacks of insanity when scam artists and Establishment candidates are forwarded as the answers to this so-called problem. The very conservatives who argue that “words have meaning,” abandon the very meanings of words like “amnesty,” “RINO,” and “Establishment,” if doing so allows for masochistic catharsis.

 

And so, RINOs and Establishment Republicans pose no threat to the conservative cause, and the monikers mean nothing. RINOs and Establishment Republicans are those who believe that we advance conservatism by winning elections. We win elections by broadening the Party. We broaden the Party by connecting sound, productive, conservative ideas with people in need.

 

RINO Hunters are true RINOs (as they don’t care about the Party) who wish to shrink the GOP by way of purity tests and fanciful policy prescriptions that feel good, but do nothing. Trump led gullible conservatives down the Birther path, and Cruz down the government shutdown path– both for self aggrandizement. RINO Hunters are “happy to serve as the permanent minority,” and their banner candidates revel in being “personally enriched by serving as minor, ineffective obstacles to the ruling Left.”
Enough already.

Can Marco Do the Job?

In the CNBC debate, Governor Jeb Bush damaged his campaign by attacking Senator Marco Rubio’s missed votes. In part, Bush harmed himself by taking a picayune line of attack. After all, would you notice if one of your U.S. Senators was missing 30% of his or her votes? We live in political gridlock that renders pointless much of Congress’ activities. The second reason his attack harmed his campaign lies in the characteristically deft manner in which Rubio answered the charge. Like a man punching at the air after sustaining a staggering uppercut, Bush parroted the criticism of Rubio’s missed votes for days afterward, even as his poll numbers fell inversely to Rubio’s. Now, with a more solid footing, the bloody-nosed Bush insists upon taking down his protege with attacks on his youth and inexperience. This new line of attack reveals an unbecoming characteristic Jeb shares with his brother, George–mulishness in the face of failure. Attacking Rubio’s inexperience can only work if Republicans demonstrate that we have similarly failed to learn from Barack Obama’s presidency that experience has very little bearing on political success.

 

To be sure, judging a senator’s tangible accomplishments proves a difficult task. Senators’ primary responsibilities include participating in committees, crafting legislation, analyzing policy and voting. To that end, Rubio served on the Senate Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee; the Committee on Foreign Relations; the Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship; and the Select Committee on Intelligence. He worked with Mike Lee to craft a tax plan and worked with seven other senators to create a comprehensive immigration plan. In short, he’s been hard at work.

 

Furthermore, Governor Bush cannot be allowed to escape his own words in 2012, when he urged Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, to consider Senator Rubio for the vice president position.

 

“Marco Rubio is my favorite [choice],” Bush told Charlie Rose in a PBS interview. “He has more experience than Barack Obama had when he ran, and…he’s certainly got the intelligent acumen and fortitude to be a good president.”

 

Bush made these remarks when Rubio had even less experience than he has now. But, regardless of whether one believes that Mr. Rubio possesses enough governmental experience to be president, the very nature of the question neglects one of the most important lessons of the Obama presidency: governmental experience doesn’t matter.

 

Barack Obama ascended to the presidency after voting “present” throughout his short stint as Illinois’ junior senator. In office, Obama passed sweeping health insurance reform, redefined marriage, named two Supreme Court justices and filled the federal judiciaries with liberal judges. His lack of experience, in other words, did nothing to prevent him from serving the leftist agenda. Similarly, whatever experience Mr. Rubio has (or lacks) in 2016 will be irrelevant as he stares down 31 of 50 Republican governors, 68 of 98 Republican controlled state legislative houses, and a Republican House and Senate.

 

What should matter most to Republicans, and to Mr. Bush in particular, are the nominee’s values. More important than an incoming president knowing where the payroll department is located, is a president who knows that an expansive federal government shrinks individual freedom, that American retreat invites anti-American advances, and that expanding opportunity for all Americans will help us grow our way out of our economic stagnation and general malaise.

 

Again, Rubio meets these criteria.

 

As the campaign goes forth, I hope that Mr. Bush abandons his inane attacks on Rubio. At least, if Bush refrains from doing so in the upcoming debates, he can avoid suffering further embarrassing  tongue-lashings from a man he named “the most articulate conservative elected official on the scene today.”

 

We shall see.

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.

Opposing Political Correctness without being a $#@*!

To be sure, Trump’s candidacy tarnishes the Republican brand by playing into a caricature of us: dumb, boorish, mean, wealthy, white and misogynistic. Trump doesn’t act alone, though. He graced the debate stage because more Republicans prefer him to Carly Fiorina, Rick Santorum, or George Pataki.

 

What’s wrong with us?

 

Frank Luntz’ debate focus group highlighted how many Republicans walked into the debate viewing him positively, but were disgusted with him by the night’s end.

 

“I was repulsed by it,” one respondent said.

“He was mean, he was angry, he had no specifics, he was bombastic,” said another.

 

Most Republicans are surprised that they were surprised. Of course, Trump lacks substance. Of course, Trump is bombastic. This is why we detest him.

 

When asked about his abrasive, offensive style, Trump offers the red meat his supporters gobble up in droves.

 

“Mr. Trump,” Megyn Kelly asked at the debate, “one of the things people like about you is that you speak your mind and you don’t use a politician’s filter…You’ve called women you don’t like ‘fat pigs,’ ‘dogs,’ ‘slobs,’ and ‘disgusting animals.’…Your Twitter account has several disparaging comments on women’s looks. You once told a woman on the Celebrity Apprentice that it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees…How will you answer the charge from Hillary Clinton, who is likely to be the nominee, that you are part of the war on women?”

 

To this question, the crowd roars in amusement. Trump pouts and delivers:

 

“I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct…What I say is what I say.”

 

In spite of Trump’s ugly rhetoric, the crowd cheered. Luntz’ focus group ticked positive. And 24 million people saw the Republican frontrunner defend vile comments against women. Luntz, himself, says that conservatives were not responding to Trump’s sentiments about women as much as to his negative feelings about Rosie O’Donnell, but his point is largely irrelevant.

 

This moment in the debate highlights a problem we have on the right. Political correctness represents a legitimate problem sometimes. The problem with political correctness is that the essence of what is described gets lost in euphemism. Islamic terrorism becomes “workplace violence.” Baby becomes “fetus.” Retreat becomes “redeploy,” etc. To Trump supporters, and too many other Republicans, though, opposing political correctness offers cover to say offensive things without reproach.

 

What Trump said about Rosie O’Donnell is cruel, disrespectful and unnecessary. What Trump said about the woman appearing on Celebrity Apprentice is deplorable. When he says these things, and gets a high-five from his Amen-choir at the Church against Political Correctness, it puts him in the position of defending ugliness. When we cheer him on, condone his antics and make him our frontrunner, we endorse the “crass frat boy” behavior, when all we really wanted to do was defend truthful language.
Republicans must be more mindful about our perception. Yes, we need to fight for our principles. Yes, we must be brave enough to deliver unpopular news. Yes, we must stand against political correctness. But the opposite of political correctness isn’t hate speech–it’s truth.

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.