Look Away! Dixieland

The Party of Lincoln Should Not Defend the Symbol of the Confederacy


Last week, disturbed, racist, Dylann Roof, shot 9 black Christians in South Carolina. The attack has led to Republicans facing myriad questions about gun control, racism and the tangential issues that arise when complex crimes like this occur. One of the foci of the tragedy is the Confederate Battle Flag that flies on the grounds of  South Carolina’s Capitol building in a Civil War memorial, and adorned Mr. Roof in many photos he took before the massacre. The Confederate Flag has long been a point of contention between Northerners and Southerners, liberals and conservatives, blacks and whites. That said, Republicans should take a firm stance against the Confederate Flag not just as a sign that we welcome blacks into our ranks, but because the flag symbolizes everything our Party is against.

In 2008, presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee addressed an audience in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina saying:

“You don’t like people from outside the state coming in and telling you what to do with your flag. In fact, if somebody came to Arkansas and told us what to do with our flag, we’d tell ’em what to do with the pole; that’s what we’d do.”

Michael Cooper of the New York Times reports that an independent conservative group used Huckabee’s comments to attack Senator John McCain (then, running for president; and an opponent of the flag flying over the state capitol), and praise Huckabee. The group ran an ad saying:

“John McCain assaults our values…Mike Huckabee understands the value of heritage.”

Using states’ rights to dodge questions of the flag’s morality, Huckabee said in 2008 that the decision to fly the flag over the capitol is one best left to the state and not to any president. He reiterated his position this year as he runs for president again, and the flag controversy resurfaces. Governor Scott Walker, expected to run for president, refused to answer what should be done with the flag. So far, only Mitt Romney (not running for president in 2016) and Jeb Bush say that the flag should be removed.

Are Republicans so clueless to the negative symbolism the Confederate Flag portrays–especially to blacks?

A moderate understanding of history acknowledges that the Confederacy wanted not just to enslave people, but to expand that enslavement throughout the new territories. Slavery runs contrary to our American ideals, yet Southerners at that time were so willing to enslave blacks that they killed whites in order to do so. The late Christopher Hitchens encapsulates the ugly symbolism of the flag thusly:

“Under this fiery cross of St. Andrew, the state of Pennsylvania was invaded and free Americans were rounded up and re-enslaved. Under this same cross, it was announced that any Union officer commanding freed-slave soldiers, or any of his men, would be executed if captured. (In other words, war crimes were boasted of in advance.) The 13 stars of the same flag include stars for two states—Kentucky and Missouri—that never did secede, and they thus express a clear ambition to conquer free and independent states.”

The ugly heritage of the Confederate flag continued even after the fall of the Confederacy. Various white supremacist groups and terrorist groups like the Ku Klux Klan flew the flag proudly. Even Dylann Roof understood the implications of the controversial banner.

So what is the “heritage” that Southerners want to preserve with the Confederate Battle Flag? Why do Republicans honor that “heritage?” South Carolina (and the GOP) should abandon the Confederate Battle Flag because it represents anti-Americanism and appropriately alienates blacks.
Republicans representing the Party of Lincoln should understand that better than anyone.

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.

To What Degree Does College Matter?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rubio in the Running

Yesterday is Over


Standing before a throng of supporters chanting his name, Marco Rubio delivered his inspiring campaign kickoff speech. The young Florida senator spoke movingly about his family’s history and about how that history coincided with the American Dream. The most important parts of his speech illustrate the everyday people Rubio’s campaign seeks to champion–among them: maids, janitors, bartenders, single mothers, and students. These illustrations demonstrate his superb ability to connect with people beyond cold statistics. Touching on policy positions, highlighting his ability to speak Spanish, expressing his Christian faith and defining his campaign as forward-looking did much to connect his message to Republicans who want to grow the party and win the 2016 presidential race. National Review’s editors rightly declare Rubio “the most charismatic potential Republican nominee,” and “the most articulate advocate of strong American leadership in foreign affairs.”

But, can he win the nomination?

Jamelle Bouie, writing for Slate, argues that Rubio will likely fail.

“It’s not that [Rubio] can’t win. It’s that he’s almost no one’s first choice…56% of Republican voters say they could vote for him,” but “just 5.4% list him as a top choice.”

Bouie argues that a phenomenon Republicans typically regard as a strength–the vast field of candidates–may harm Rubio’s ability to stand out from the pack.

“…depending on your place in the GOP, there are potentially better options. If you’re a conservative who wants consensus and a more inclusive message, you have Jeb Bush, who melds Rubio’s potential appeal to Latino voters (his wife is Mexican, and he speaks fluent Spanish) with executive experience, fundraising prowess, and the all the benefits (and burdens) of the Bush name. Likewise, if you want a more aggressive choice—someone with the chops it takes to beat Democrats and advance a conservative agenda—you have Walker…If you’re a conservative evangelical…there’s Cruz (and potentially Mike Huckabee)…if you want a more libertarian choice, there’s Paul. Rubio may appeal to every base, but every base is already covered.”

Crystal Wright’s editorial appearing on CNN laments the potential crowded field:

“Instead of sitting on the sidelines and helping the party win the White House with a small, electable candidate pool, Republicans are threatening to dive into 2016 like spawning salmon,” she writes.

“When the Republican nominee finally emerges in the middle of 2016, the public’s perception of him or her will be negative, like it was of Romney, because the candidate will have had to defend against accusations of being a RINO (Republican in Name Only) from ideologues like [Ted]Cruz.”

Wright’s comments concern Rubio, whose first order of business before launching a presidential bid was to offer a mea culpa on immigration reform that sets him right with the Party, but wrong on the issue.

However, these hurdles facing Rubio may not embody the challenges skeptics predict. While Jeb Bush (still unannounced) boasts the deepest pockets and a similar ecumenical appeal, Bush lacks popular support. Rand Paul must square many of his positions–especially on foreign intervention at a time when the GOP has reaffirmed its hawkish foreign policy views in the face of ISIS, Iranian nuclear talks, Russian aggression, and decline in Syria, Libya, Egypt and Yemen. Cruz’ short Senate tenure is marked by a long list of enemies within the GOP, and Walker may lack the appeal to Latino voters that the GOP wants to attract to the party.

In short, if Republicans take Wright’s advice and refrain from damaging each other in the primary, everyone comes out on top–possibly even Marco Rubio.

David Harsanyi writes:

“the most vital skill any candidate can have is the ability to transcend coverage and make his case to voters…is there any other Republican who could do that more effectively than Rubio?”

We shall see.