Fire, Fury, Flailing, and Frustration

David French wrote a piece in National Review that speaks for many Republicans in the post-Trump GOP who find ourselves gobsmacked by President Trump’s remarks following the clashes in Charlottesville over the weekend. Those of us who read the 2012 autopsy report and took heart that the party may finally do what it takes to attract more voters and slough off the smear that the Republican Party offers safe haven for white supremacists and racists, excitedly backed every other 2016 primary candidate–except the one who won. The candidate who won traffics in alt-Right conspiracy theories (prominently, in the Birther Conspiracy Theory), prejudged a judge’s ability to do his job based solely on his ethnic background, and dragged his feet to disavow the support of open racists–namely David Duke. His defenders insist that we ignore these data points, attributing them to the inevitable ugliness of modern presidential campaigns; and to consider as coincidences that his Attorney General is named after Confederate heroes, and the head of his legal team shares the name of the most overtly racist baseball player in American history. Indeed, these may be coincidences. However, given the president’s bizarre inability to assure the country that he resents racism as much as he does Mika Brzezinski, that once-tenuous smear against the party that ended slavery appears more tenable. Responsible Republicans resent this.

 

What the hell do you have to lose,” Trump asked a black audience who he hoped to sway to support him in the general election. What blacks (and other decent Americans) have lost thus far is a head of government with the moral clarity to reflexively denounce our most embarrassing citizens–you might call them “deplorables.” These Nazis, Klanners, and terrorists, attacked and killed counter protesters; and while one may argue that the counter protesters may have started some of the physical altercations, there is proof that a large contingent of them came to protest peacefully. That cannot be said for the racists, who appeared carrying shields, helmets and firearms.

 

Responsible Republicans know that the Trump Administration is the disaster we predicted long before it started. Rather than uplift the party and direct it toward a common goal, it has exacerbated Republican infighting, confirmed the worst stereotypes about conservatives, and marginalized the best members of the Party for those Buckley expelled decades ago.

 

White House personnel sniping, the Russian investigation, dismal poll numbers, and embarrassing responses to world events (think North Korea), fueled a spate of reporting, last week, hinting at a Republican coup against the president in 2020.

 

Add Charlottesville to the fire.

 

Worse than the harm the Trump Administration brings to the GOP is the damage it continues to do to the country: we have no Afghanistan strategy. We have no North Korea strategy. We have no Venezuela strategy. We have no Syria strategy. We have no health care replacement. We have no tax reform plan.

 

We do have Trash TV White House appointments. We do have Twitter wars. We do have an opioid epidemic. We do have an idiotic war against the media. We do have rising suicide rates. We do have a gridlocked Congress. We do have a resurgence of American terrorism–white supremacists–emboldened by what Colin Powell called the “Dark Vein of Intolerance” in the Republican Party.

 

Most depressingly, though, we have a president ill-suited to constructively address these issues.

The Polls are Wrong, and Even if They Aren’t…

Reporters and Donald Trump supporters alike have been touting the results of two new polls showing Trump in a dead heat with his Democrat rival, Hillary Clinton. A Reuters/Ipsos survey finds the two tied with 41 percent of likely voters supporting Clinton to 40 percent supporting Trump. A Quinnipiac University poll has the duo tied in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida. Reuters’ Chris Kahn said that, “The results could signal a close fight between the…White House rivals.” Trump, himself, says that he’s “Very happy to see these numbers.” These polls may even goad reluctant Republicans to relax, and embrace the Trump nomination. However, they shouldn’t.

 

For starters, these polls, appearing just shy of 6 months before the election, hold no predictive value. Eight May polls in 2012 predicted a win for Mitt Romney. Three in 2008 called the election for John McCain. Even the polls at that time that predicted an Obama victory broadly missed the margins of victory. In short, those polls were wrong.

 

Furthermore, by simply comparing the 2012 exit poll numbers with Trump’s current polling numbers, one can understand Republicans’ despair.In order for Trump to win in November, he must outperform Romney’s 2012 effort and pick up all three swing states–Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania. If he matches or falls below Romney’s numbers, he loses.

 

Romney won 59% of the white vote, including 56% of the white female vote. Given Trump’s competition (a white woman), his open sexism, and his resulting unfavorability rating among women (70% unfavorable), Trump stands to fall below Romney’s white, female support numbers. If all else remains static, that means Trump loses.

 

Then, again, Trump theoretically could gain ground where Romney was weakest. Romney lost Latinos, for example, 27% to 71%. Unfortunately for Mr. Trump, his taco bowl outreach to Hispanics may not make up for his 77% unfavorability rating among Hispanic voters. Without outperforming Romney with Latinos, Trump loses.

 

Romney won 7% of the African American vote. Trump’s unfavorability among blacks is 68%. If Trump fails to win considerably more than 7% of the black vote, Trump loses.

 

Finally, if Trump optimists insist on accepting the two rosy polls showing a tie between him and Clinton, they must consider some other, more unsettling, polling: Mitt Romney lost each of the swing states he needed to win, but he handily won Republican stronghold states–especially across the South. In contrast, Donald Trump only ties Clinton in Georgia and Mississippi. If these polls are predictive (however doubtful that may be), Clinton could be the first Democrat in decades to win these states. If he loses Georgia or Mississippi, Trump loses.

 

Throughout the Republican primary race, Trump supporters have ignored negative polls while his opponents have ignored polls positive to the bombastic hotelier. Perhaps, in other words, Team Trump has reason to celebrate these outlier polls. Perhaps they see something the rest of us don’t–a glint in the garbage that turns out to be gold. Even that should not lull Republicans into resignation. A Trump victory prevents a dishonest, big-government liberal, in Hillary Clinton, from ascending to the White House. In her stead, a dishonest, big-government liberal, in Donald Trump, will enter the White House and wreak havoc in the name of Republicanism, delegitimizing conservatism along the way.

 

In the (perhaps, apocryphal) words of Henry Kissinger, “It’s a pity they can’t both lose.”

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.

Take Our Country Back from the Plantation: 2 Things Republicans Should Stop Saying Immediately

Good politics pertains as much to good policies as it does to good rhetoric. If Republicans learned nothing else from the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, we should have learned that image and rhetoric matters–perhaps more than anything else. Our mission, to increase the number of Republican voters, begins with a careful analysis of our public statements. To that end, we should avoid mindless cliches, and statements so inflammatory that they detract from their own message.

 

I’ve created a long list of things Republicans say (and shouldn’t), along with my rationales.

 

Here are the first two:

 

Take Our Country Back

 

Both Rand Paul and Rick Santorum launched their 2016 presidential bids with these words. Liberals, like ex-Attorney General  Eric Holder, erroneously claim that this phrase contains racial undertones–serves as a dog whistle, a microaggression–when juxtaposed with the presidency of the first non-white to hold the office. Like much of what the left says, this bears little resemblance to the truth. Lesley Clark scoured the annals to produce the ancient origin of this phrase, employed, first, in 2003 by presidential candidate, Howard Dean.

 

Even when employed by a Democrat, the phrase is silly, at best, and insulting at worst.

 

What does it mean to “take the country back?” America belongs to Democrats, Republicans, and everyone in between–even the politically unaffiliated. Besides, if one party “has it,” does that party take it for exclusive use, like a petulant child?

 

For conservative Republicans, this phrase fails for another reason. “Take Our Country Back” can connote a chronological shift–a vow to take America back in time, to an era marked generally by better social morals, but also by egregious civil rights shortcomings. This undermines our assertion that conservatives believe in moving America to a brighter future, even as we do so via time-honored traditions and values.

 

Better phraseology exists (e.g.: “Win back the White House,” “Win back the Congress,” etc.).

 

Republicans should bury this hackneyed trope.

 

Democrat Plantation

 

This one is very problematic.

 

Herman Cain boasted, in 2012, of having “left the Democrat Plantation a long time ago,” echoing similar statements by former Florida Representative, Allen West. Louisiana State Senator Elmer Guillory likened the Democrat Party to a plantation. Republican presidential candidate, Ben Carson, said that liberals hate him because he dared to “come off the plantation.” The list of Republicans equating the Democrat Party to a plantation runs unfortunately long. What you may notice about these speakers is that they are all black–and all wrong.

 

As a black conservative, I empathize with the general frustration that they feel. To them–to us–black allegiance to a party that does little more than pay lip service to a desperately struggling people can be vexing. Just as Frederick Douglas, in his autobiography; decries slaves’ ready willingness to drink, fornicate, fight and waste their precious little money during Christmas celebrations, rather than conspire to break from the shackles of unjust servitude; conservatives (of all colors) detest seeing blacks living in deep privation in Democrat strongholds like Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore and Oakland.

 

Republicans, black Republicans in particular, should make the case that we are the party founded on love for black people. Instead, though, by invoking the Democrat Plantation rhetoric, we insult black Americans (calling them stupid), and our enslaved ancestors (downplaying slavery).

 

Chris Rob explains this nicely in a piece posted on the DailyKos:

 

“I’ve never really understood the argument. Black people trade their votes to Democrats for the ability to sit home and collect government checks or something like that, right? But you know that doesn’t sound like slavery at all, right? I mean, first, you argue that black people just want to be taken care of and do nothing all day, except cast a couple of votes when the time comes. And in exchange, we get free food, housing, and health care. That’s insulting enough. But then you suggest that such an arrangement would be akin to the slavery of our ancestors. As though American chattel slavery consisted of slaves lolling around all day watching t.v. and waiting for the next election. The first claim is infuriating, the second, unforgivable.”

 

 

I note that the greatest offenders of this rule are often, themselves, black. Imagining the firestorm that would engulf a white public figure for claiming that blacks voting Democrat do so out of a plantation mentality suffices to show the daftness of the phrase.

 
Republicans, don’t say it. Leave stupid sayings to the Democrats.

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.

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.

Rand’s Gambit

Another Dash of Salt?


Rand Paul’s campaign announcement, while not a surprise, has appropriately electrified the media and the Republican Party. This Paul campaign promises real change for American politics and for the GOP, in part, because Rand, unlike his father, stands a chance to win Republican delegates. Pegged as a libertarian, Paul fancies himself a different kind of Republican–one who aims to broaden the Party by moving it toward classical liberalism and one focused on welcoming newcomers. This hope relies on two assumptions: one–a large libertarian political block lies dormant, awaiting a candidate who speaks to their values. Two–Mr. Paul epitomizes the libertarian savior.

Libertarians argue that the reason conservative and liberal claims of an untapped electorate favorable to their views never seems to materialize, indicates that the unmotivated voters actually hold libertarian views. David Boaz, the Executive Vice President of the Cato Institute, makes the case:

“Events of the past few years have pushed voters in a libertarian direction, causing some observers to talk about a ‘libertarian moment’ in American politics…A 2006 Zogby poll for the Cato Institute asked respondents, ‘Would you describe yourself as fiscally conservative and socially liberal?’ Fully 59 percent said yes…That’s a huge untapped market for a candidate who can cut across red-blue barriers.”

This rosy assessment belies too many other indicators to hold water. For example, Gary Johnson and Ron Paul ran libertarian campaigns that never gained traction. Johnson failed to attract enough support to participate in most of the GOP nomination debates. Furthermore, if the Zogby poll supports Mr. Boaz’ assertion, then with 59% of all voters holding libertarian views, some of them would be in the Democrat Party pushing it rightward on economic matters.One may ask, then, where are those libertarians in the Democrat Party calling for more conservative fiscal policy–like a balanced budget amendment?

To be gracious, let us assume that 58% of those libertarian voters find their home in the GOP, while the remaining 1% struggles to get a word in edgewise in the DNC. That could argue that a sizeable number of Republican voters are libertarians. New York Times writer, Nate Cohn, offers the best refutation of that myth by way of empirical evidence:

“In one sense, you could argue that the libertarian wing of the Republican Party barely exists at all. According to a large Pew Research survey in 2014 of 10,000 respondents, 11 percent of Americans and 12 percent of self-identified Republicans considered themselves libertarian…If we take a different tack and use issue positions, rather than self-identification, to identify libertarian voters, we still find only a small number of Republicans who consistently agree with Mr. Paul’s libertarian views. Only 8 percent of self-identified Republican-leaners in the Pew data take the libertarian position on four issues that [Rand Paul] emphasizes: disapproval of the National Security Agency’s surveillance program; support for a more restrained American role in the world; skepticism of the efficacy of military intervention; and a relaxation on drug sentencing.”

As for the second assumption of the Paul campaign, that he personifies the libertarian savior (for the small number of libertarians existing in peril)–perhaps a second look is warranted.

For starters, Paul never referred to himself as a libertarian, but rather as libertarian-ish. Boaz points out that Paul breaks from libertarians on gay marriage (he opposes it), abortion (he opposes it), and drone strikes against ISIS (he supports them). These positions Boaz believes work to “nudge the GOP in a libertarian direction” and make libertarianism more palatable.

On the topic of palate, the best analogy I know regarding libertarianism comes from a Northwestern professor of mine, Jeffrey Rice. Rice said to me, “libertarianism is like salt: a little bit can be good. Too much can spoil the meal.”
It’s impossible to say how well Rand Paul will fare in the GOP primary. Paul’s intelligence, passion, and courage should go a long way to endear him to many voters inside and outside of the Republican Party. Of the many challenges he faces, though, he must reconcile his appeal and his philosophy. A move to the Party’s mainstream represents a safe bet at the risk of altering his rogue image. A gamble for a large libertarian contingent, that may not exist, could ultimately spell humiliating defeat.