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.

Dirty Hands

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

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

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

Then, came 2016.

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

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

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

So, who am I now?

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

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

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

Why I Oppose the “Wexit”

“I joined [the GOP] because I was a conservative, and I leave it for the same reason: I’m a conservative,” George Will said on Fox News Sunday.

 

Will joins many Republicans, myself included, who refuse to vote for Donald Trump under any circumstances. His exit from the Republican Party, though, is wrong, however understandable.

 

Every day arise new reasons for we members of the #NEVERTRUMP movement to despair that Trump is the Republican presidential nominee: He knows virtually nothing about conservatism, and he cares even less. His most tepid supporters, like Dennis Prager, argue that his potential for choosing conservative Supreme Court nominees serves as reason enough to hold one’s nose and pull the Trump lever. However, we fear that even as Mr. Trump indicated that he would fill the Supreme Court with conservative judges (some of whom whose names he could not properly pronounce), his tendency to renege on promises undermines his credibility. Moreover, the Supreme Court means little if the liberal world order that America created unravels as a result of trade wars and unnecessary rivalries. In November, most voters faced with the choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, will recognize that Clinton would make a better president than Trump, and will wisely choose her to lead the nation.

 

Adding to our humiliation, #NEVERTRUMP, suffers routine castigation from many of our fellow Republicans. Presidential candidate, Ben Carson, accuses us of demonstrating an “incomprehensible level of arrogance.” Former House Speaker, Newt Gingrich, argued that we threaten to harm the country. Grant Strinchfield wrote a particularly regrettable piece in The Federalist calling us “anti-American” hypocrites.

 

Then, House Speaker, Paul Ryan, endorsed Trump, opening wide the door for Will to exit the Party. Without a doubt, Ryan’s endorsement dealt a serious blow to the GOP’s credibility. Ryan, who built his career on the moral authority of conservative principles, was a glimmer of hope that the GOP hadn’t completely gone Ann Coulter-Crazy. A dim light having been extinguished, Will left the political party he so honorably shaped.

 

“After Trump went after the ‘Mexican’ judge from northern Indiana then Paul Ryan endorsed him, I decided that in fact this was not my party anymore,” he told an audience at a Federalist Society luncheon.

 

Shared disconsolation notwithstanding, George Will should not have left the Party.

 

For starters, if Republicans finally learn the lessons we should have learned after the 2012 election, and not repeat this mistake again, we can rebuild and bounce back. If those of us who detest Mr. Trump leave the GOP, then only the irresponsible will remain, and the Party will collapse. There will be very little hope of returning it to the timeless conservative principles it needs to rescue America from the postmodern Democrat Party.

 

Secondly, Will should understand that the pressures on Paul Ryan (the highest ranking Republican in America) to endorse Trump differ dramatically from those on him (an unelected commentator) to do the same. Ryan took over the Speakership in a badly divided House, and has been working heroically to keep the focus on policy ideas, messaging and making meaningful progress. In spite of his efforts, there is a cadre of Republicans waiting to undermine him, and they would have their chance if they could blame him for Trump’s impending loss in 2016. Furthermore, given Trump’s propensity to declare war on those who do not endorse him, Ryan needed whatever leverage he could muster to make a semi-respectable candidate of the insecure buffoon that is Donald Trump. His endorsement, therefore, fused some in the responsible wing of the Party with those in the irresponsible wing of the Party in order to keep peace through what will certainly be a calamitous election, and to try to steer Trump, as best he can, toward the Party mainstream.

 

By contrast, Will’s refusal to endorse Trump, a decision lacking in equally consequential implications, bears little gravity.

 

Finally, every Republican has to acknowledge that unity matters most in 2016. While we cannot agree to support our presidential nominee (I, certainly, will not), we should encourage as many people as possible to support Republicans in races further down the ticket. A Clinton presidency with a principled Republican Congress is better than both, a Clinton presidency with a complicit Democrat Congress, and a Trump presidency with a lapdog Republican Congress.  Will said so, himself, at the Federalist Society luncheon. Rather than leave the GOP, Will should have turned his eye from the top of the ticket to the principled Republicans who need support in spite of Mr. Trump.

Of course, I understand Will’s impulse. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve stayed up late nights, and have even wept, lamenting this election and its implications for the conservative movement. But, the GOP and the nation needs principled conservatives right now. That means you, too, Mr. Will. The Cubs are doing great this year. The GOP is still “your party”–our party–and it needs our valuable attention now more than ever.

The New American Threat to World Order

Gideon Rose wrote an impassioned, yet wrongheaded, defense of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy, arguing that his policies keep America, and the world, on a positive track.

 

“The key to Obama’s success has been his grasp of the big picture: his appreciation of the liberal international order that the United States has nurtured over the last seven decades, together with his recognition that the core of that order needed to be salvaged by pulling back from misguided adventures and feuds in the global periphery.”

 

Rose, then proceeds to absolve Obama’s failures by relegating them to “feuds in the global periphery,” while elevating Obama’s obscure successes to the pinnacle of foreign policy genius–all in the name of maintaining the liberal international order.

 

As problematic as Rose’s evaluation is, his argument continues to fail on its own merit, especially in light of our changed approaches to rogue and dictatorial regimes. The liberal international order that the United States created after World War 2, enticed illiberal states to change their ways in order to enjoy the spoils of cooperation. Participation in the World Trade Organization, International Monetary Fund, G20, and other intergovernmental organizations required member states to pursue liberal institutions that secure peace. Free press, free elections, representative governments and open societies make for peaceful, predictable partnerships–the kinds of partnerships that have led to the relative peace of the post World War 2 era, and the worldwide rise in economic prosperity. Failure to insist upon the adoption of liberal institutions rewards despotism, and can even enrich tyrants.

 

Yet, that’s exactly what Obama’s foreign policy has done.

 

In 2008, Senator John McCain criticized Obama’s desire to legitimize rogue states by opening diplomatic ties with them. Obama called McCain’s charge an appeal to the politics of fear. He went further, saying, “we need to…use all elements of American power – including tough, principled, and direct diplomacy — to pressure countries like Iran and Syria.” This rejoinder sounds consistent with what Rose, and others concerned with preserving the liberal international order, would welcome. However, even if Rose considers the Iran Nuclear Deal, the normalization of relations with communist Cuba, and the lifting of the weapons embargo with communist Vietnam, peripheral items, these Obama policies do not support the liberal international order. They do, in fact, quite the opposite.

 

Rose argues, for example, that Obama exercised sound judgement by responding tepidly to Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2013, in part, because Ukraine (not a NATO member) didn’t deserve our protection.

 

“This policy seems eminently sensible,” Rose writes. “NATO members have an ironclad security guarantee of American protection, which Washington will unquestionably enforce if necessary…Ukraine will probably join the liberal order eventually, when circumstances permit. But it is not the United States’ job to fight to bring it in before then.”

 

Contrast this with our new stance with Vietnam. Vietnam persists as a communist nation, replete with political prisoners and basic injustices. Hours before Obama landed in Hanoi, the Vietnamese people held an election in which more than 98% of Vietnamese citizens voted to legitimate the illegitimate and oppressive regime. Still, Obama strengthened this regime–promising to sell it F-16s, drones, surveillance equipment and electronic warfare capabilities so that “Vietnam [can] fully link its kill chain between ‘see-ers’ and ‘shooters.’”

 

If this effort were meant to “pressure” Vietnam into liberalizing, then Obama would be serving the liberal international order. However, as Politico’s Edward-Isaac Dovere notes, “neither the Americans or [sic] the Vietnamese spent any time pretending the change had anything to do with actual democratic reform. Obama didn’t make a show of calling for it. President Tran Dai Quang didn’t make a show of pretending he was for it. They both knew it would have been a joke.”
What incentivizes nations to pursue liberalism–often reducing the power of the ruling class–when the benefits of the liberal global order fall upon illiberal states as well? Doesn’t Obama’s approach to these hostile states undermine the liberal international order? Or do a stronger Iran, Cuba, and Vietnam exist only in the periphery?

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.”

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.

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.