Ingratitude Begets Trump

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

 

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

 

Oh, how the skin blisters!

 

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

 

And we deserve it.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Just ask Ted Cruz.

 

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

 

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

 

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

Our Vain Toils

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

The Krazy Konservative Kleavage

Seventy-two percent of the voters in 2012 identified as white. Thirty-five percent of the electorate self-identified as conservative. Mitt Romney won these groups 59% and 82% respectively. Still, though, Romney lost. He lost because President Barack Obama won three quarters of the non-white vote, including a staggering 71% of Latinos. This led to the Republican “post mortem” report, an exhaustive examination of the many challenges that face the party, especially in Presidential Elections. The report named many areas of improvement, but the most controversial prescription called on the Party to increase its minority outreach.

 

“If we want ethnic minority voters to support Republicans, we have to engage them and show our sincerity.” Furthermore, “we must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform. If we do not, our Party’s appeal will continue to shrink to its core constituencies only.”

 

Many Republicans–Big Tent Republicans–agree with these findings. Romney’s vow to make life for illegal immigrants so difficult that they would “self-deport;” failed to comfort the millions of immigrants and their families, and sent the message to Latinos that Republicans don’t “care about people like me.”  Moreover, Romney’s approach failed to address the complexity of the illegal immigration problem.

 

On the other hand, many other Republicans reviled this conclusion. They argue, instead, that Romney lost the 2012 election because he wasn’t–like them–a “true conservative,” ignoring that he represented the “true conservative” choice in 2008, when he ran against John McCain. “True conservatives” say that they believe in absolute ideological purity, but that does not appear to be so. Instead, “true conservatives” are singly concerned about Mexican immigration. These Republicans believe that across the nation, white conservatives simply refuse to come to the polls to vote for Republican candidates who are not conservative enough, and until a “true conservative” becomes the nominee, Republicans will continue to lose elections.

 

The numbers, however, belie this conclusion.

 

By “true conservative’s” estimates, for example, George W. Bush is more conservative than both McCain and Romney. In 2000, 29% of voters self-identified as conservative, 34% in 2008, and 35% in 2012. Bush earned 82% of the conservative vote in 2000, McCain earned 78% in 2008, and Romney won 82% in 2012. In other words, Romney won more conservative votes than each of these recent predecessors, McCain earned more conservative votes than Bush, and fewer self-identified conservatives came out for Bush than did for both McCain and Romney.

 

Was George W. Bush not conservative enough to attract these phantom “true conservatives?” Why did so many more conservatives come out to support a “less conservative” Mitt Romney? Impervious to evidence, “true conservatives” dig in their heels.

 

As candidates entered the 2016 Presidential Race, the dichotomy couldn’t be clearer: Among others; senators Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Governors Jeb Bush, Scott Walker and John Kasich; conspicuously represented the Big Tent Republicans–the Republicans who got the memo in 2012. Senator Ted Cruz, and hotelier Donald Trump represented the “true conservative” wing of the Party.

 

In an appeal to his Republican constituents, Trump attacked Jeb Bush for speaking Spanish. Cruz did the same to Marco Rubio. This line of attack meant to elicit visceral concerns about Mexican immigration, also suggested that the Big Tent candidates shared a secret agenda to serve the interests of Hispanics over American (white) interests, and implied that neither Bush nor Rubio can be trusted. In fact, Cruz openly accused Rubio of saying one thing on Univision–in Spanish–and another to the American public–most of whom do not speak Spanish and cannot fact check Cruz’ claim with certainty or ease. Interestingly, in 2012, Newt Gingrich argued that he was the “real conservative,” as opposed to Romney, and he employed this very same kind of attack, arguing that Romney’s bilingualism (French, in his case) raised questions about his fealty to America.

 

Big Tent Republicans, on the other hand, make the case, as did Rubio, that speaking Spanish helps deliver the conservative message to more people. In keeping with the Big Tent goal of expanding the Party, Bush and Rubio argued that bilingualism was a tool to welcome new people into the GOP.

 

“True conservatives’” favorite attack against Big Tent Republicans regards immigration policy. Rubio faced intense castigation for working with a bipartisan team of Senators to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill. The bill would have penalized, with a fine and repayment of back taxes, any of the 12 million illegal immigrants living in the United States who chose to accept this punishment. Then, this group could earn legal status–even citizenship. The bill strengthened the E-verify program, and mandated businesses to participate. It passed the Senate with 68 votes, but died in the House.

 

“True conservatives” cheer the bill’s failure, calling it “amnesty,” as if the word has no definition. Rubio bears the scars for participating in The Gang of 8 (not to be confused with the Gang of 14 that “true conservatives” hung around John McCain’s neck in 2008). “True conservatives” believe that law enforcement officers should hunt illegal immigrants, take them from their houses and places of employment, send them to immigration courts, detain and deport them. Both Trump and Cruz say that they will do all of this and build a 50 foot wall along the Southern border.

 

At this point in the 2016 election, half of the 4 remaining candidates are “true conservatives,” while the other half are Big Tent Republicans. Unfortunately, the “true conservatives” are winning.

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This schism suggests that Republicans have learned nothing from their 2012 defeat. “True conservatives’” appeals to xenophobia have unsurprisingly attracted support from the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke, and other white supremacist groups. Trump’s reticence to denounce this wing of his supporters further validates the fears minorities have about the GOP. If ever one would wonder whether or not Republicans “care about people like me,” one only need remember that rather than trying to appeal to minorities, the Republican Party prefers to court nonexistent white people.

 

Most of the candidates who worked to expand the Party have dropped from the race for lack of support. While some conservative commentators may argue that a majority of Republican voters do not agree with Donald Trump, the fact remains that Ted Cruz represents the same wing of the divided Republican Party. Neither candidate works to welcome new members to the GOP rolls. In fact, they both push minorities away. As a result, millions of potential Republican voters will vote Democrat, and the Democrats will win another Presidential election.

 

Voting for Marco Rubio, on the other hand, presents the Democrats with a true challenge: no longer can they take minority votes for granted, because Rubio actively courts them. For every Democrat surrogate sent to speak in Spanish on behalf of their white candidate, Rubio, himself, can answer on his own behalf. The image of Rubio sharing a stage with Governor Nikki Haley, Senator Tim Scott and Congressman Trey Gowdy will be a galvanizing image for the Republican Party.

 
As it happens, though, “true conservatives” continue to win more Republican votes. So when Republicans lose in November, prepare for another hand wringing report about the lack of minority outreach. Prepare for the accusations that the GOP nominee was ideologically tainted. For had he been a “true conservative,” millions upon millions of whites would have shown up to vote Republican.

Ryan’s Reformicons Lead the Way

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Sour Grapes, Slings and Arrows

Governors Jeb Bush and Chris Christie join forces with Senator Ted Cruz to attack the most popular Republican running for president in 2016–Marco Rubio. Both Bush and Christie struggle to get campaign momentum, and hope New Hampshire will offer a breath of new life and an end to the donor hemorrhaging. Senator Cruz, on the other hand, appears to have wounded Donald Trump’s candidacy by beating him in Iowa, and expects–as many do–that Trump’s time atop the field will wane as voting continues. His next most credible threat comes from Rubio, the consensus candidate who has been scooping up high profile endorsements–even from former 2016 contenders. For Rubio’s part, he must decide how to respond to the attacks: either by breaking with the aspirational tone of his campaign to return fire at his detractors, or by rising above the noise in hopes that his strategy will continue to bear fruit as his competitors fall away.

Rubio’s choice will be evident beginning with the only debate between the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary. What should also be evident is how weak and petty his attackers’ cases purport to be. Christie and Bush plan to attack Rubio’s inexperience–a route the more junior senator, Cruz, cannot pursue. Cruz, in his typical fashion, wishes to score points by attacking Rubio’s immigration stance. Assuming Rubio remains poised and positive, none of these attacks should draw blood.

 

On Rubio’s Experience

If Republicans should have learned anything from Barack Obama’s candidacy and presidency, it should have been that inexperience is an overrated line of attack. For starters, the attack failed when employed by Senator John McCain in 2008 and by Governor Mitt Romney in 2012. Especially in an election year in which the media narrative names 2016 the year of the outsider. Rubio can turn the inexperience argument into a derivative of Ben Carson’s and Carly Fiorina’s speeches about career politicians’ culpability for America’s woes.

 

More to the point, though, inexperience has not harmed the Obama presidency. None of Obama’s most egregious acts resulted from his lack of experience. Rather, his worldview is to blame. Inexperience did not lead to the failed Stimulus Package–a belief in big government did. Inexperience did not lead to the Affordable Care Act–a belief in big government did. Obama’s failed foreign policy did not result from a lack of executive experience. Instead, he was led by the liberal belief that America should be less involved in world events.

 

Marco Rubio’s lack of executive experience says nothing about what matters most–his conservative convictions. A conservative as experienced as Barack Obama was in 2007 can still offer hope to a movement looking to turn the country in a better direction.

 

On Immigration

Senator Cruz’ attacks on immigration will likely fall flat for a few reasons. First, Rubio is right in insisting that the 12 million illegal immigrants to this country cannot be deported. The cost to detain, try and ultimately deport costs too much money for very little (if any) benefit. Furthermore, the economic costs of uprooting large swaths of the American workforce and home owners only compounds the impossibility of such a policy. Senator Cruz either knows this, and is promising to do so anyway (lying), or does not know this–making him stupid. Cruz is not stupid, but he does have a reputation for bending the truth for political gain.

 

Secondly, Rubio’s approach to immigration varies neither from Christie’s nor from Bush’s. Rubio can easily deflect Cruz’ criticism by using his enemies as a shield.

 

Thirdly, immigration ranks much lower on the list of issues most pressing to Americans at large than it does on Republicans’ priority list. New Hampshire; being less conservative than Iowa, and being a state that allows independents to vote in the primary; likely will not punish Rubio for whatever heresy he has committed on this issue.

 

Finally, Rubio has claimed to have learned his lesson from the Gang of 8 experience (which, incidentally passed in the Senate, unlike any legislation Ted Cruz was a part of). His stance on immigration falls within the mainstream of the Republican Party and within the country on a whole.

 

The attacks on Rubio have been loathsome, not just because they threaten to damage him if he becomes the nominee, but also because they lower the stature of some very good conservative patriots. Governor Christie has so much to boast about without resorting to negativity. Bush, too, possesses unmatched substance and intelligence to continue to bring to the conservative cause and the Republican Party. These attacks are beneath him, especially as Rubio’s mentor. The Republican Party–indeed the nation–needs unity now, more than ever. Republicans can neither win nor govern effectively without unity. Attacking a young, rising star will do more damage to the party, the attackers’ reputations, and to the country than perhaps Rubio’s detractors realize.

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.

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.

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.

The Free Exchange (15-008)

The Free Exchange is a series dedicated solely to answering comments from you. I appreciate your reading and always enjoy hearing from you, even when you disagree. Thank you for your participation.


(Entirely Negative) Thoughts on Ted Cruz’ Candidacy

Black and Red Fan writes:

Holy cow, I can’t believe it’s been so long since I wrote any comments on any of your pieces. I’ve been reading them, loved them, and had lots to say but life got in the way and to my delight, you’ve been so productive that I can’t believe how much time has passed. I hope you’ll forgive me commenting on past pieces since many of the comments have closed on those pages.

You and I have always disagreed on this guy. I am sure that you and I both agree with Cruz on many things but I know that it is his methods that you don’t like since they hurt our cause. And I am coming around to more of your point of view. I think the problem is that I just may not be as aware of the negative effects that he has on the conservative movement. I probably care less about what the press says than you but maybe I should. What I appreciate about Cruz is his willingness to fight, engage the enemy, and him being fearless in articulating our conservative position without any shame or caution. After suffering through the disappointing decision of President George W. Bush to not fight back during the majority of his second term, it seems like we conservatives lost our mouthpiece. Since they already dominate the media, Hollywood, and the schools, I felt like a handicapped mute without a champion on our side. Cruz is one of the few that courageously speaks out and doesn’t care about the consequences. I realize that’s not necessarily a good thing but it speaks to my huge thirst and appetite for someone to stand up for us.

The following is a good example

Nonetheless, I’m surprised that he is running for president and wished that he wasn’t. He has no chance and he could serve more effectively as a senator. I just hope he doesn’t start tearing down other GOP candidates like Rick Perry did in 2011. But the specific examples you mention in your piece are all true, as well as what you wrote about how Cruz plays into the leftists who paint us as extreme lunatics. And so your piece is a sobering one that was good for me to read and put Cruz in perspective. But I wanted to let you know why I cheered for him when he was gathering attention, although I realize now that he was being counterproductive. I don’t think I am alone in us conservatives wanting someone to fight back fearlessly and boldly. And on a side note, my vote for Republicans who I publicly detest are Mike Huckabee, Donald Trump, and Rick Perry. That would be a interesting topic one of these days.

J Hunter:

It’s always good to hear from you. Thank you for your perspective on this piece.

I’ll begin by saying that there are things about this essay that I regret–mostly that my piece is entirely negative. I don’t like dumping on other Republicans, but I want to be honest as well. With politicians like Ted Cruz, it’s a tough balancing act for me.

There’s no doubt that Cruz rubs me the wrong way:  I find him repulsive, slimy and recklessly self-serving. But, still, I regret not writing more about some of his positive qualities.

He is, without a doubt, a brilliant man. He understand political issues and he understands the importance of conservative remedies. Mr. Cruz can speak compellingly and connect with many conservatives, including those of us (like you and me) who have been starving for a fighter.

As it happens, though, my general feelings about Mr. Cruz are overwhelmingly negative. I don’t see him as a “brave” fighter any more than Nancy Pelosi is a “brave” fighter. He represents a Republican stronghold, unlikely to disagree with him. Scott Walker, Bruce Rauner, Chris Christie: these people are brave. They face opposition and vitriol on a daily basis and stand up for conservative principles. Bravery, is not telling your friends what they want to hear. Furthermore, bravery is not leading good troops into a losing battle. And that’s what Cruz’ “fight against Obamacare” was–a kamikaze mission.

Cruz’ doomed-from-the-start filibuster against Obamacare was aimed squarely at raising his personal profile.  He undermined then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who was winning a budget fight with President Obama, to do something that would have had absolutely no effect on Obamacare. The funds for Obamacare had already been appropriated, so there was no possibility of his filibuster defunding it. If Cruz is no fool, then, he knew this before he started. A government shutdown would not have (nor did it) affect the program one iota. That didn’t stop Cruz from equating good Republicans who didn’t stand with him to “Neville Chamberlain, who told the British people ‘Accept the Nazis.’”

Charming.

So, Cruz says that voting against Obamacare (as every single Republican in Congress did), but not endorsing his self-aggrandizing publicity stunt was the same as appeasing an anti-Semitic, genocidal, socialist dictator.

Even if Harry Reid would have allowed a separate, clean, bill defunding Obamacare to go to the President’s desk (BIG if), everyone in America (Cruz included) knows that Obama would not defund his signature piece of legislation. So what was the point?

Ted Cruz used the filibuster–reading “Green Eggs and Ham,” discussing Ashton Kutcher, and bootlicking Rush Limbaugh–to raise money for himself (no surprise, he’s running for president). In other words, like a sleazy televangelist, he snookered frustrated Republicans across the country, who believed the lie that he pedaled, that he could bring an end to Obamacare with his stunt, into parting with their hard-earned money.

That is despicable beyond words. And unforgivable.

Moreover, Republicans need unity more than anything right now. Ted Cruz, in my estimation, is far too polarizing within the Party to make him our nominee. Add to this a further complication: our mission in every election is to persuade independents to vote for us. We cannot win with just Republican supporters anymore than Democrats can win with just Democrat partisans. Mr. Cruz will alienate (scare away) the voters that we’re trying to enlist. Our job as Republican voters is to nominate the most conservative candidate who can win. That man is not Ted Cruz.

If, we have the unfortunate pleasure of welcoming Cruz as our Party nominee, I will rally for him, sing his (2) praises and convince everyone I know to vote for him, because a Cruz White House beats any Democrat White House. I pray, though, that we don’t put ourselves in such a perilous position.

Thanks for the comments.


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