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01 December 2017

Republicans - Give Us Tax Cuts this Christmas

Despite some last-minute scrambling, it appears the Republicans in Congress might actually accomplish something this year and get a form of tax cuts passed.  While I don't like some parts of the proposed changes--particularly the insistence that the cuts be revenue-neutral, with mechanisms to trigger tax increases--cutting the corporate tax rate from 35% to 20-22% is worth the compromise.

The cut in the corporate rate alone will supercharge the economy, as companies relocate to (or stay in) the United States and begin employing more Americans.  Even if some Americans see a modest increase in their personal tax liability over time, the increased employment and wages from domestic investment and corporate expansion should offset most of the unpleasantness.

"[Cutting] the corporate [tax] rate... will supercharge the economy."

If I had my druthers, we'd have a slashed corporate and personal rate across all brackets, as well as the simplification of the brackets contained in the Republican plan.  With those reforms should also come substantial cuts to federal expenditures.

I've always wanted to fan a stack of these around.

I'm an extreme budgeter, and and I strenuously disapprove of deficits.  I also suspect that the national debt and mandatory entitlement spending have grown so immense that it is increasingly difficult to grow ourselves out of the problem with tax cuts.  Nevertheless, I'm all for "starving the beast," and I'm willing to see spending cuts put aside for a time if it means slashing taxes.

Regardless, the current tax reform bill, while flawed, is good enough.  Just don't delay the cuts until 2019, as one version of the Senate's proposal suggested; that's just asking for a recession.

Make the cuts immediate effective 1 January 2018.  Then get to work on cutting federal expenditures--with an ax, not a scalpel.

For a more thorough dissection and defense of the tax bill, read Michael Barone's piece at National Review:  http://www.nationalreview.com/article/454240/republican-tax-bill-serious-reform

29 November 2017

Moore Updates - 29 November 2017

Some quick updates on the special Alabama Senate race:

- After Democrat Doug Jones rose above Moore in the RealClearPolitics average of polls late last week, the current RCP average puts Moore at a 2% lead.  That's still within the margin of error, but as I argued in a previous post, unless Jones is ahead by more than 3-5% in the polls, Moore is probably safe.

- Other polling shows Moore further ahead, including one that puts Moore up by 5 points over Jones.

- D.C. McAllister at The Federalist makes a strong case for why Christians are justified in voting for Moore, regardless of the veracity of the particular allegations brought against him.  It's a long read, but interesting, and good food for thought.  Read it here.

Unless there are some serious new allegations closer to election day on 12 December, Moore should win the race.  At this point, the intensity of the allegations have died down, and voters are back to considering the issues.  Conservative Alabamans are likely to support a flawed conservative who had some unusual sexual peccadilloes forty years ago over a ultra-progressive Democrat.

Mid-Week Musings: A New Homestead Act?

I teach at a small private school here in rural South Carolina, and every day I drive past fields of cotton, corn hay, and various other crops.  Besides making for a scenic drive, these fields call to mind Thomas Jefferson's vision of America as an "empire of liberty," a nation of small yeoman (independent, family) farmers.

Jefferson's contention was that a virtuous republic could be maintained only if a substantial potion of the people were involved in the strenuous work of agriculture.  Such a life would instill within the farmer virtues such as thrift, honesty, and hard work.  Further, it would ensure that those men who voted would own a piece of their State and nation, and would make wiser policy decisions because they had a direct, visceral investment in the nation's governance.

A final, crucial part of Jefferson's theory was that the alternative--a nation of wage slaves crammed into urban centers--would breed corruption and dependence, as a small wealthy political and economic elite could enjoy power through the simultaneous bribery and exploitation of urban proles.  The specter of the Roman Empire's "bread and circuses"--the bought acquiescence of a non-productive urban population with entertainment and food--haunted Jefferson.  Such a world would bring death to liberty.  The farmer would always have his land to provide; the urban worker may not always have his wages, and had no land on which he could depend to provide sustenance in lean times.

While I don't believe America as a whole should begin a massive "back to the land" movement in America today, Jefferson was certainly onto something, and his nightmares are at least partially fulfilled in the modern welfare state, which "enslaves" generations of Americans, transforming otherwise productive members of society into politically-useful leeches, living meaningless-but-materially-secure lives in depressing Section 8 housing.  While we certainly have an obligation to provide for those who are incapable of doing so for themselves, our social safety net was never intended to be a hammock.

This sod hut in North Dakota would still make a better home than most housing projects (Source:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homestead_Acts#/media/File:Hultstrand61.jpg)

Which brings me, at last, to the point of these musings:  could we not break the indolence and moral turpitude of the modern welfare state by restoring, in modern form, the Homestead Act of 1862?  The Homestead Act opened millions of federal lands in the Old West to settlement, providing a Jeffersonian foundation and boundless opportunities for tens of thousands of Americans.

Rather than cramming unproductive welfare-recipients into poorly-maintained housing projects in congested inner cities--or relegating them to dilapidated trailers on rented land in the middle of nowhere--we could open up millions of acres of federal lands in the West--or elsewhere--for homesteads.  With some training in agricultural techniques and some seeds and equipment, poor whites, blacks, and Hispanics could earn a new lease on life--and break out of a cycle of dependence and meaninglessness.

Some will no doubt object about the cost or the environmental impact, and I'm sure the historically-ignorant will see in it a form of racism ("why do you want to turn black people into sharecroppers, TPP?").  The racism objection is particularly groundless, and ignores the thousands of former slaves who, after emancipation, moved west as "Exodusters" to make a life on the hardscrabble frontier.

"[Participants] would enjoy a sense of pride and accomplishment from taming the land and providing for themselves and their families."

Cost is certainly a consideration, but could it really be any more expensive than the unwieldy welfare bureaucracy we currently have?  Besides, welfare can create a moral void, and while this solution would require a great deal of hard work on the part of the participants, those same participants would benefit from the virtue-building nature of that work.  In time, they would enjoy a sense of pride and accomplishment from taming the land and providing for themselves and their families.

This is just a preliminary sketch--an idea that's been percolating in my mind for a few years, inspired both by a conversation with a friend who has done police work in dangerous housing projects, and by the golden fields I drive past every day--and I know there are many complications and facets to consider.

That said, America is blessed with abundant lands even now, and a chance at the strenuous life could give tough hope to millions of Americans trapped in dependency.  Imagine young men, formerly destined for gang membership or indolence, owning and operating their own farms.  Imagine the opioid addict sweating the poison of his habit from his brow.

Such a program is radical, to be sure, but it could be radically transformative--far more so than a new Civilian Conservation Corps--and it would constitute a government program that would actually catalyze the economy, rather than just shifting resources from one victim group to the other.

***

What do you think?  Could such a program work?  What are its promises and pitfalls?  Leave a comment below!

Happy Wednesday,

TPP

27 November 2017

Monday Morning Update for 27 November 2017: Let Us Give Thanks

We have much to be thankful for this Christmas season--I certainly do--but it's easy to forget how much America's situation has improved since President Trump took office.  The improvement goes beyond the record-breaking stock prices, however; massive, unprecedented deregulation from the executive branch has super-charged growth and expanded liberty.  The boot heel of an oppressive federal government has given way to a pro-growth, pro-American government that believes in catalyzing, not crippling, American businesses, workers, and organizations.

President Donald J. Trump:  A Smirk Well-Deserved

Fortunately, Deroy Murdock has detailed President Trump's substantial policy successes (most of them, unfortunately, coming from the executive branch; Congress, especially the Senate, is still asleep at the switch).  Just when I thought National Review had totally gone over to the noodle-wristed "decorum" crowd (barring the occasional dose of courage from Victor Davis Hanson or Conrad Black), it was refreshing to read this piece of unadulterated triumphalism.

Without further ado, I give you Deroy Murdock's "This Thanksgiving, Thank Donald J. Trump":  http://www.nationalreview.com/article/454028/donald-trump-accomplishments-thanksgiving

Happy Monday!

--TPP

23 November 2017

It's a Thanksgiving Miracle!

This past Saturday, I fell from a ladder while hanging Christmas lights at my girlfriend's home office. I shattered my left wrist--it's called a distal radius fracture--and gashed my left leg. My head was also hurt, but there was no damage to my brain.

The fall was about 10-12 feet onto concrete. It could have been much, much worse; I am very thankful it wasn't.

The doctor at the ER and the nurse practitioner both told me I would almost certainly need surgery due to the nature of my fracture. I saw the orthopedist Tuesday, and he was able to set the fracture to an "acceptable" state.

America's Favorite Food

Setting the fracture without surgery was a major answer to prayer. I go back on 5 December for a follow-up; if the setting takes, I'll get a flexi-cast. If not, I'll have to have surgery.

That's all to say that my posting will be typing for a time, as typing is rather tedious (I'm "typing" this post on my cell phone--the predictive text actually makes it faster). I'll continue to do my best to deliver quality content and thoughtful analysis, just in shorter and less frequent chunks.

I am very thankful to our Creator, the Lord Jesus Christ, for extending His Hand of protection and healing; He has already worked miracles during my recovery through the prayers of many friends and family (not to mention the capable hands of my excellent orthopedic surgeon). I'm grateful to be alive!

God Bless, and Happy Thanksgiving!

--TPP

20 November 2017

Alabama Special Election - Poll Predictions

In my previous post, I laid out a defense of Judge Roy Moore, Republican candidate for US Senate in Alabama's special election.  Prior to a series of lurid sexual allegations, Moore was hugely favored to win the deep-red State's senate seat.

In light of these allegations--and amid cowardly calls from the Republican Establishment to withdraw from the race--Moore's poll numbers have wavered.

That's not surprising.  What is more interesting, however, is that Moore's numbers have not changed substantially; rather, his opponent, Democrat Doug Jones, has enjoyed a bump.

At the time of writing (Thursday, 16 November 2017), the RealClearPolitics average of polls (link) has Moore ahead by a meager 0.8%, with 47.2% of likely voters.  Jones has the support of 46.4% of likely voters (in one Fox News poll, Jones enjoys a six-point lead!).

Just a week prior (Thursday, 9 November 2017)--before the bulk of the accusations against Moore materialized--Moore sat at 48%, with Jones at 42%.

Note that Moore's average poll numbers have only fallen by 0.8%--hardly a catastrophic slide.  Jones's numbers, on the other hand, have seen a 4.4% boost.

Even on 9 November, 10% of likely Alabama voters were undecided.  Now, that number has fallen to 6.4%.  In other words, in one week, 3.6% of undecided voters have "decided" for Jones, while only 0.8% of Moore voters have flipped.

That infamous Fox News poll?  It had a sample size of about 500 voters, and polls tend to skew toward Democratic voters (presumably, they have the free time from guzzling sweet, sweet government bennies to answer phone polls).

Meanwhile, a local Fox affiliate in Alabama, Fox10, commissioned its own poll with Strategy Research (link).  That poll has a healthier sample size of 3000, and puts Moore up over Jones by a respectable six points, 49% to 43%, respectively, with 8% of voters undecided.

Of those polled, 35% said the allegations made them more likely to vote for Moore.  Among undecided voters, 6% said the allegations made them more likely to vote for Moore, 44% less likely to vote for Moore, and a whopping 51% were either undecided or said that "the allegations make no difference in their vote."

Doug Jones, Democratic Candidate (top) and Judge Roy Moore, Republican Candidate for Senate (bottom; Source:  https://realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2017/senate/al/alabama_senate_special_election_moore_vs_jones-6271.html#polls)

What does this all mean?

For one, the election will come down to undecided voters.  If any of the truly wicked allegations against Moore are proven (it's unorthodox, to be sure, but I don't consider respectful courting of legal-aged women--with their mothers' permission!--in the late 1970s as particularly wicked), that 51% of the 6-8% of undecided will likely push Jones over the top.  However, if no plausible evidence emerges to indict Moore decisively in the public mind, then he should win over enough of those undecided voters to get the Senate seat, although I predict he'll take a hit among women either way.

Support from his existing supporters remains solid.  Take a look at that 35% who are more likely to vote for Moore after the allegations.  Surely a solid third of Alabama Republicans aren't supporting Moore because he's said to have dated teenagers (and to have inappropriately groped a half-naked fourteen-year old).  Why would they stick with him?

The answer:  they smell a rat.  Media bias reeked throughout the 2016 election, when Donald Trump--whom Alabamans supported in droves--fought off sexual harassment allegations of his own.  Those allegations looked like they would swamp Trump's candidacy when they aired in October 2016--a month before the election.  He batted them away by turning the tables on Secretary Hillary Clinton's lothario husband, former President Bill Clinton.

Moore is in a nearly-identical situation:  he's a lovable culture warrior who has put his career on the line for his principles.  He's bucked the Establishment of his own party, and his allure goes beyond policy specifics.  He's a Jacksonian hero who, while he may be rough around the edges, appeals to everyday folks with his common sense and tenacity.  While Trump was a household name throughout the country, Moore is a household name in Alabama.

So when these allegations emerged almost exactly a month before the 12 December election day, Moore supporters naturally had to be skeptical, especially coming from the Washington Post, an outlet that endorsed Doug Jones.

When Senate Majority Mitch McConnell, "Republican" Senator John McCain, and other Establishment heavies began calling for Moore to withdraw from the race, more than a few Moore voters had to suspect that the machinery of the Trump-skeptical GOP congressional leadership was either involved, or gleefully hoping to oust a damaged candidate.

When faced with the prospect of voting for a partial-birth abortion-supporting Jones or a potentially flawed conservative Christian culture warrior with a penchant for younger women, many Moore voters must have drawn the conclusion--as they did with then-candidate Trump--that a flawed conservative is better than a pure, progressive Democratic.

"[Moore is] a Jacksonian hero who, while he may be rough around the edges, appeals to everyday folks with his common sense and tenacity."


I have another--controversial--theory that, if correct, could wreck any poll numbers that put Jones up by less than 3-5%:  just as Trump enjoyed more support than the polls--even exit polls--suggested, I believe Moore will experience a similar phenomenon.  Right now, few people want to tell a phone pollster (even a computerized voice) that they support a man accused of, at best, dating teenagers.

This reluctance will be most prevalent among men (again, I suspect that Moore will take more damage from women, regardless of what revelations the future holds).  There are probably thousands of men in Alabama tonight who are thinking, "Well, I wouldn't want a 32-year old dating my daughter, but I can see why he would have dated younger women."  They can never utter this aloud, but they're thinking it.

Finally, just look at any comment thread on any story about Moore, especially one a local website.  The pro-Jones folks are invariably insufferable Lefties from out-of-state lecturing to the good folks of Alabama to "not be stupid" and the like.  The Moore supporters are grassroots and ready to back their candidate to the hilt.

While anything could happen, I think the trends on the ground will favor Moore.  If he can fight back the accusations, he can turn the election into a fight against Democratic outsiders attempting to influence the election, AND the Republican Establishment trying to keep him down.

We're in the age of the outsider, and Roy Moore is the ultimate outsider.  Let's see if he can pull a Trump and do some good in the Senate.

17 November 2017

The Alabama Special Election, Principles, and Persecution

The campaign of Alabama Senate candidate Judge Roy Moore is reeling after allegations that, in the 1970s and 1980s, Moore dated several teenage girls.  The Washington Post article that broke the news focuses on Leigh Corfman, who alleges that Moore approached her at the courthouse in Etowah County, Alabama, when she was only fourteen-years old.  After obtaining her phone number, Corfman claims Moore met with her and forced her to touch him over the underwear.

Several other women also told the Washington Post that they dated Moore while he was in his early 30s and they in their late teens.  These other women were between sixteen and eighteen (sixteen is the legal age of consent in Alabama), and report that their dates with the young deputy district attorney were respectful, involving no physical contact beyond hugging and kissing.  One of the women even said her mother was thrilled that her daughter was dating a successful attorney.

Judge Moore denied all of the allegations, but each day seems to bring some fresh revelation or twist.  He has since said that he may have dated some teenagers of legal age when he was younger.  The truth is difficult to discern, but here is what we do know:
  • Four women--all above the legal age of consent--reported that Moore was respectful (one noted that after her mother forbid her from dating an older man, their relationship ended, apparently without any further fanfare).
  • Leigh Corfman, who was fourteen at the time of the alleged groping, was the only woman accusing Moore of any explicitly illegal and illicit sexual activity.
  • Tina Johnson emerged a few days into the controversy, alleging that Moore grabbed her butt in 1991. (Link)
  • Judge Moore has been married to his wife, Kayla Moore, who is younger than him by fourteen years, for decades.  She has defended her husband fiercely in the face of these accusations.
  • Moore has run multiple local and statewide campaigns--many of them controversial--and no allegations have emerged during any of these (highly contentious) campaigns.
  • Moore is a boogeyman for the political Left, and something of a Jacksonian folk hero for the Right.  He famously refused to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from the grounds of the Alabama Judicial Building after a federal court ruled it constituted an establishment of religion (Alan Keyes eloquently denounced that federal court order in a classic essay--and, for my students, perennial Government class assignment--entitled "On the Establishment of Religion:  What the Constitution Really Says"), leading to his removal from the Alabama Supreme Court in 2003.

    He was reelected to the Alabama Supreme Court ten years later, only to be removed again in 2016 for refusing to comply with the Supreme Court's dubious decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, the landmark case that read into the Constitution a heretofore unwritten and unrecognized right for same-sex couples to marry.
  • Moore was favored by the Bannonite-wing of the Republican Party (if such a thing exists) in the intense Republican primary run-off battle against Senator Luther Strange, who had been appointed to fill the vacant seat after Jeff Sessions was tapped to serve as Attorney General in the Trump administration.  The Republican Establishment--notably Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, but also President Trump--supported Strange, while Moore was cast as the "Trumpian" candidate.
Those last two points raise my eyebrows.  Here's a man who is no stranger to (political) controversy, the consummate culture warrior in an age when every political battle seems to connect to cultural and social values.  Moore's firm religious convictions make him evil in the eyes of progressive Democrats, and embarrassing to well-heeled, Establishment, country-club Republicans.

It's no secret that the Washington Post endorsed Moore's opponent, Democrat Doug Jones.  Then the Post sought out women who claim to have had encounters with Moore.  For a heavily left-leaning publication hoping to humiliate the sitting president and the Republican Party in a deep red state, the temptation to go after a popular but controversial populist figure would have to have been palpable.

The disdain of the Establishment Republicans for Moore (and, by extension, President Trump) could explain the fervor with which they have gone after Moore, calling for him to resign within mere hours of the Post's story breaking.  It's as though McConnell was just waiting for something like this to cross his desk, so he and other RINOs could rush out to denounce Moore and try to twenty-three-skidoo in their preferred candidate.

It seems that Republican leadership has succumbed to the same mania for virtue-signalling that dominates the Left.  I can barely read National Review--formerly one of my favorite publications--because of its consistently noodle-wristed editorializing whenever any populist-oriented Republican speaks out of turn.  Just read David French's off-putting essay on "creepy Christianity" here.  With friends like these, who needs enemies?

Judge Roy Moore in 2011 (Photo Credit:  BibleWizard, extracted from YouTube, accessed 16 November 2017 from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Judge_Roy_Moore.jpg)

The worst of the accusations--the groping of the fourteen-year old and the incident in 1991--don't seem to fit the pattern of the stories the other women told the Post.  I'm fully willing to concede that, based on what we're learning now, a young Roy Moore dated some girls in their late teens.  He married a woman fourteen years his junior.  Clearly, he had a taste for younger women, but he hasn't committed adultery, as one of his most vocal critics, Senator John McCain, did, and his relationships, by all accounts, were above-board.  He's remained faithful--as far as we know--to his wife.

"For a heavily left-leaning publication hoping to humiliate the sitting president and the Republican Party in a deep red state, the temptation to go after a popular but controversial populist figure would have to have been palpable."

It may seem unorthodox now--and I am certainly not advocating that thirty-two-year old men start dating sixteen-year olds!--but such age-disparate relationships were more common and socially acceptable forty years ago.  For a fuller examination of this point, I refer you to Frank J. Tipler's piece at American Thinker; read it here.

Regardless, the Left has no logical grounds for objection.  How can a philosophical and political movement that endorses every sexual arrangement imaginable stand against legal, age-disparate, consenting relationships and maintain even a modicum of internal consistency?  Again, this is no endorsement of such relationships, but if you're the party of transgender, bisexual, polyamorous, gay, lesbian, queer, inter-species rights, how can you draw the line here?  You've already run miles past it.

Ultimately, squeamish National Review-and-Establishment types are claiming the moral high ground, arguing that a US Senate seat isn't worth sacrificing principles.  At this point, though, their haste to condemn Moore smacks of moral cowardice and political opportunism.  Are they not going to at least entertain the idea that the man is innocent, or was just a bit unorthodox in his dating habits forty years ago?  Rather than try to scuttle a still-popular candidate before he barely has a chance to defend himself, could not McConnell and other Senate Republicans attempt to reach out to the Moore campaign?  Even if he's not your style of Republican, you could learn to work with him, rather than prome to expel him from the Senate if he wins!

This video from Stefan Molyneux (below; WARNING--NSFW) gets down to brass tacks:  preserving the Republican's razor-thin majority in the Senate is worth showing some political backbone, rather than allowing a partial-birth abortion-supporting Democrat to snag the seat.



This election suggests that Establishment Republicans, for all their talk of decorum and principles, are sometimes little better or different than their Democratic opponents.  They don't want a scrappy culture warrior  And despite some dire poll numbers, the accusations may not stick:  according to RCP polling, Moore was up 3 points over Jones (as of 14 November), though he has fallen to a far more dicey 0.8% lead (as of 16 November, the date this post was written).  That's within the margin of error, though certainly not the double-digit lead Republicans want in Alabama.  More on those poll numbers, and my analysis of them, to come.

If we learn that Moore did indeed assault Leigh Cofrman, than I'll retract my defense of him immediately.  But for now, we have no consistent pattern of bad behavior, and what appears to be some very powerful opponents arrayed against a man who has suffered professionally for his beliefs.  From where I'm sitting, Judge Moore's treatment looks more like persecution than justice.

31 July 2017

Kid Rock - The People's Senator

This piece will (probably) be published soon at American Patriot Radio (Link).  You can read some of my other writings there; I recommend "Pat Buchanan's America." 

Political wags and armchair pundits--like yours truly--have been abuzz about the possibility of a Kid Rock Senate run in 2018.  He'd be running against Democratic incumbent Senator Debbie Stabenow--if he can win the Republican primaries--in a Trump-style insurgency campaign.

Immediate speculation focused on Kid Rock's website, www.kidrockforsenate.com, and whether or not the Detroit rocker was serious, or just boosting publicity for his music.  Kid Rock (real name Robert Ritchie) is offering campaign apparel on the website, including bumper stickers.

I purchased a bumper sticker ($5... plus $6.99 shipping) and it billed to Warner Brothers, not a "Kid Rock for Senate" campaign committee.  Nevertheless, Kid Rock appears to be serious:  he's made an announcement at www.kidrock.com (link).

The announcement is straight out of Trump's playbook:  he goes after "fake news," promises to be "a voice for tax paying, hardworking AMERICANS," and invokes "We the People."

Kid Rock is a populist at heart, and we're living in a populist moment.

There's not much to add to what's already been said, but I'll go out on a limb and say that Kid Rock should definitely run--and I think he can win.  As Michigan native Jordan Gehrke writes at The Federalist:

"The Michigan Senate race will be the most-watched campaign in America in 2018 if he runs. It’s got everything: celebrity, a battleground Trump won in 2016 and must win again to get re-elected, a conventional, disciplined, well-funded Democrat, a re-run of 2016, and a trailer for 2020, all rolled into one."  (Link)

Naturally, the Establishment is poo-pooing Kid Rock's potential run as the "dumbing down" of America.  Sure, he's crude, he's crass, he's kind of trashy--but he really seems to care about the people of Michigan.  And they love him.  While it's unlikely that any Republican will ever win Detroit in its current state, none has the opportunity to suck up votes in the city better than hometown hero Kid Rock.  With the support from rural Michigan--bona fide Trump Country--Kid Rock could best a powerful, well-funded Democratic incumbent.  A new poll from the Trafalgar Group has Kid Rock winning the Republican primary against potential opponents handily, and within the margin of error against Stabenow

Kid Rock is a populist at heart, and we're living in a populist moment.  His care for the common man shows in his music career; for years, he's been giving big concerts (with some big-name opening acts, like Foreigner) for just $20 a ticket.  In the face of ever-rising concert ticket prices, that concern for his fans' wallets spoke volumes.  That's the same kind of connection with the "little guy" that could propel him into office on a platform of government transparency and reform.

Regardless, one thing is for sure--if Kid Rock runs, 2018 will be the most exciting midterm election season in years.

13 June 2017

A Portly Politico Update; Site Re-Launch (Coming Soon)

Hi there, Portly Fans.

Since last summer, I've only made one post--my 2016 election guide--and I have definitely missed out on some major events.  I'd originally planned to write about the presidential election and its aftermath, covering the ups and downs of the process.  Unfortunately, teaching obligations--and, I'll admit, the unusually heated rhetoric of the campaign trail--kept me quiet during a very loud election.

I hate to confess it, but this election was the first time I didn't relish debating my progressive friends and colleagues.  The gulf in worldviews, as well as the overall rancor toward then-candidate Trump, dampened my enthusiasm for dialogue, debate, and discussion (that didn't stop me from wearing a bright red "TRUMP" hat to school the morning after the election, but that's a story for another time).  That might make me weak, but I opted to work quietly rather than talk to an ideological brick wall.  Apparently, millions of Americans did the same, and made their voices heard at the ballot box.

Regardless, here's a recap of (most) everything that's occurred since last summer:

- Donald J. Trump won a convincing Electoral College victory, proving once again the wisdom of that institution.  Hallelujah!

(I don't know which is better--Trump winning, or Secretary Clinton losing--but I'm thrilled either way.)

- Donald J. Trump was inaugurated President of the United States.  I still feel like I'm living in a dream.

- Republicans maintained control of Congress (not that it's done much good, but we got Neil Gorsuch).

- Speaking of, President Trump--mmmm, it's soooo good to type that--nominated Neil Gorsuch, a constitutional originalist, to the Supreme Court.

- Insufferable Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) have lost a LOT of ground culturally, and globalist elites are gnashing their teeth.  I don't want to relish in Schadenfreude--and, honestly, the day-after-the-election reactions were so ridiculous, they took the fun out of good-natured ribbing--but it's refreshing to win one, especially when it seemed so unlikely.

(On the note of the culture wars, many more Americans--as well as some of the youngest Americans--are red-pilling; don't pop the bubbly yet, but radical feminism and post-modernism are taking a beating.  Here's a bit of my favorite kind of evidence--anecdotal:  while I witness some gender-bending, I overhear some conversations among students that lean heavily toward a traditional worldview.  Girls want to be treated like ladies and to be feminine; boys want to be men... in general.  One of my former students transformed from a Sandersnista into a Trumpster in less than a year; that's how rapidly the battle lines are shifting.)

- National conservatism took some lumps, however, in France (and, most recently, in Britain with Prime Minister Teresa May's humiliating showing in the special election), but Brexit rolls on (woo-hoo!).

While history happened, I ate burgers in Hawaiian t-shirts.  Even this picture isn't new--but it is ALL-AMERICAN.  Make Lunch Great Again!

- SC Governor Nikki Haley became the United Nations Ambassador, putting Trump supporter Henry McMaster into the Governor's Mansion.

- The Left has continued to persecute the Trump Administration, but he keeps winning (maybe not legislatively, but he slayed incompetent FBI Director James Comey, and he's all but beaten the increasingly desperate claims that he colluded with the Russians).  It feels like we're living through the Nixon era again (but that's not a bad thing--it's Pat Buchanan's America, baby).

- Our constitutional system faces a major threat from the "deep state"--the "swamp" of Trump's campaign rhetoric, coupled with the powerful intelligence agencies that influence (control?) the government outside of constitutional and democratic accountability.  That's a terrifying topic for a future post.

- The future of conservatism is up in the air, but it is probably due for an update.  We've ignored the working class for too long.  Nixon won a landslide in 1972 reaching out to the Silent Majority.  Trump played the exact same playbook and had a 1968 outcome.  If he can weather the Left's storm--and if they continue to radicalize leftward--2020 might be a repeat of 1972 (except that the country is far more divided in its worldview now).  2016 demonstrated that Americans were fed up with eight years of a progressive administration that kept spiking the football after every political and cultural victory.

***

Naturally, I've got a lot of catching up to do.  Here's my vision for the future of The Portly Politico:

- A new platform.  I've enjoyed using Blogger, but I've hit a wall with the features I'd like to implement.  In the near future, I'll be moving to a new website, and will maintain this page as an archive for older essays.

- Short posts.  In the meantime, I'll be making short posts to the existing Blogger site.  These posts won't be as long as my output from Summer 2016, but they'll offer quick commentary on current events.

- eBooks.  I'm working on an eBook about the importance of social and cultural conservatism.  I'm also planning a series of books on great historic leaders, drawing lessons from their lives that are applicable to morality, ethics, and politics today.

- Podcast.  I'll be introducing a weekly, 20-or-30-minute podcast.  More details to come.  Maybe Audible will become a sponsor?

- Public speaking.  Especially after the eBook launches, I hope to book talks with local groups.  I've already worked up two good talks, one a reassessment of Samuel Huntington's "A Clash of Civilizations?," the other a general overview of contract theory.  Exciting stuff.

- American Patriot Radio (www.patriotic-radio.com).  I've been associated with the good folks at APR for a few years now.  I'm also a guest contributor, and I've linked to some of my pieces there throughout this post.  My hope is that I'll contribute a few shorter pieces there a few times a week, and I'll provide links from my new site when it launches.  In the meantime, you can check out submissions from various writers here.

***

That's just a sampling of what's to come.  What would you like to see from the TPP?  What's your take on the past seven months?  How's Trump doing?  Leave an angry comment below and let me know!

08 November 2016

The Portly Politico's Hastily-Written, (Mostly) Unbiased Guide to the 2016 Election

Hi faithful TPP Readers,

I've been gone for awhile--nearly three months. My plan was to write post on a weekly basis, covering the presidential election and other events as they occurred.

Unfortunately, life and work have a tendency to take over during the school year, and I've been woefully behind in updating the blog. As such, my planned eBook on social conservatism has been delayed, as had a campaign-oriented book about the rise and worldview of Donald Trump. I anticipate working on both in the near future.

For my brief comeback, I thought I'd share with you a a brief election guide that I write every election year for my colleagues and students (those that are eligible to vote, that is). As noted, I've been very delayed in putting it together due to various disruptions, mostly related to Hurricane Matthew. As such, this year's guide is much briefer (and more hastily-written) than my expansive SC Presidential Primaries Election Guide. That being the case, I'm only going to focus on a few races (note--for readers primarily interested in the presidential election, scroll down, as I start with some local races; also, note that some of my assessments of local candidates are admittedly broad; finally, I do not link extensively to corroborating stories in the presidential section, so you feel free to do some additional research. In short, these summaries are impressionistic sketches of the races and candidates. I have not received any compensation from any candidates or candidate committees for these reflections):

Florence (SC) City Council

There are two "at-large" seats up for grabs this cycle, with three candidates: Democratic incumbent Octavia Williams-Blake; Democratic contender (and former Republican Councilman) Glynn Willis; and Republican hopeful Chris Wegmann. Because there are two seats available, you can vote for two of these three candidates.

Councilwoman Blake seems to be a competent individual, but otherwise I don't know much about her.

I know both Glynn Willis and Chris Wegmann personally, to varying degrees. Willis served on the Council for two years as a Republican, before losing a re-election bid to Democrat George Jebaily (whose son I once taught). Willis switched parties for several reasons, not just political opportunism, but one has to suspect that, the demographics of urban races being what they are, Willis calculated that he'd do better with a "D" after his name than an "R" (currently, there is only one Republican on Florence City Council, Councilman Robbie Hill, who is leaving at the end of his term). Willis is a nice guy, but his party-swapping might smack of careerism to voters.

Chris Wegmann is a Government teacher and coach (women's golf and men's track, I believe) at West Florence High School. He is a sharp, intelligent, perceptive individual, and is very passionate about improving Florence. He seems to be on-board with the Downtown Revitalization Project, and has done a good job of reaching out to all voters, not just Republicans. He recently garnered the endorsement of Tony McElveen, Sr., which demonstrates either his ability to win over traditionally Democratic black voters, or represents a serious political liability; it depends about what you think about Tony.

I strongly recommend Chris Wegmann to those of you that live in Florence's city limits. I also think Councilwoman Williams-Blake will continue to do a fine job.

To learn more about the candidates, read this piece from The Florence Morning News: http://www.scnow.com/news/election_2016/article_45961960-8d99-11e6-b7e9-e30dfcfaa711.html

Florence County Sheriff

Again, I don't know much about the candidates in this race, but I do know it's very difficult to defeat an incumbent sheriff, especially a popular and good sheriff. That's the situation in this race: incumbent Sheriff Kenney Boone enjoys a great deal of respect through the community, and his office seems to be handling the post-hurricane recovery fairly well (you may disagree).

His challenger is Jody Lynch, an Air Force veteran who would be the only female sheriff in the State of South Carolina. Her platform seems to focus on community outreach and looking at the long-term rehabilitation of criminals. Mostly, I've just noticed her annoying, hot pink campaign signs, which seem not-so-subtly to advertise, "vote for me because I'm a girl." I don't care if the sheriff is male, female, or a demiqueer otherkin; I just want him/her/xyr to be good at his/her/its job.

This one is up to you. You can read more about the candidates here: http://wbtw.com/2016/11/04/florence-county-sheriffs-race-candidates/

US House District 7

I honestly had to spend about five minutes Googling just to figure out who incumbent Congressman Tom Rice's (R) opponent is. That does not bode well for Democratic challenger Mal Hyman. Rice was first elected in 2012--the first year that District 7, which comprises most of the Pee Dee, as well as Horry and Georgetown Counties, elected a representative--and has done an admirable job. He currently sits on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. Through his position, he convinced the White House to designate Florence a "disaster zone"--and, therefore, made it eligible for FEMA assistance--after Hurricane Matthew. His main focus since 2012 has been "jobs, jobs, jobs."

On a personal note, Congressman Rice is one of the most down-to-earth, endearing individuals I've ever met. He's very laid-back--he often shows up to swanky campaign events wearing jeans--and loves giving lengthy tours to students and adults of the Capitol Building. But when it comes time to work, he works hard for his constituents.

That's all to say that I know very little, if anything, about Mal Hyman, so I can't be too much help. Look for Tom Rice to win in a landslide (unlike his first run against Gloria Tinubu in 2012). The 7th District has grown redder since he was first elected.

US Senate

The US Senate race features another charismatic and personally-likeable Republican, the affable Senator Tim Scott, against a relatively unknown Democrat, Thomas Dixon (you can also vote for the awesomely-named Rebel Michael Scarborough of the American Party, or the less-awesomely-named Bill Bledsoe, who is running under both the Constitutional and Libertarian Party banners).

Senator Scott was appointed by Governor Nikki Haley to fill a vacancy left by former Senator Jim DeMint when he left to head up the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank. He has subsequently been on the ballot every two years, and I believe this is the first time he'll be running for a full term in his own right. He is the first African-American Republican to be elected to the Senate from a southern State since Reconstruction. Despite being (because he is?) very conservative, he enjoys immense popularity and favorability throughout the State, even among Democrats. He's an effective Senator and has done well in the role. His remarks about his experiences with police--while a Senator!--as a black man struck a chord in the midst of numerous controversies over police conduct.

Again, I don't know much about Thomas Dixon or the third-party candidates. To learn more about the US House and US Senate candidates, check here: http://www.sciway.net/sc-elections/

US President

I am very reluctant to include this section, as it's almost guaranteed to make everyone upset, but it's obligatory. There's another reason I haven't posted much this election cycle: like many voters, I'm not particularly comfortable discussing the presidential election in anything but the broadest terms, as I don't particularly relish being yelled at in public (that reluctance is at the heart of the "Trump Effect" theory, which we'll get to test today). That being said, here are my summaries of the two major candidates:

- Hillary Clinton (D): The odds-on-favorite until a few days ago, Clinton is a former Senator from the State of New York; served as Secretary of State under President Obama from 2009-2013; and is a former First Lady. Her husband, President Bill Clinton, served during a period of unprecedented peace and economic expansion. Some voters appear to support her because of her husband's legacy (she mentions it frequently, and has alluded before that he would be a central part of her decision-making process--though at other times she has backed away from this implication). Other voters are excited about the prospect of electing the first woman president. Finally, some simply don't want to risk electing Donald Trump, her Republican rival.

What kind of president will Clinton be? She will likely continue President Obama's policies in incremental fashion. She's made big promises to her base--the result of running harder to the left because of popular primary challenger Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders--such as free college tuition and an increase in the minimum wage.

Ultimately, however, it's difficult to discern what Clinton will do. She seems to be more concerned with maintaining the current political establishment--and her own vast system of political influence, funneled primarily through the controversial Clinton Foundation--than with any sort of ideological consistency. For example, as a Senator she was strongly in favor of school choice (but not vouchers), arguing that semi-public charter schools provided an opportunity for underprivileged children to gain a better education. When far-left school unions indicated dissatisfaction with this position, however, Clinton backed off, adopting a hard, public-school-only line in her run for president.

That's just one of many examples that demonstrate how Clinton has shifted previously-stated beliefs to suit contemporary political needs. Another is her shift on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal that she touted as the "gold standard" of such arrangements, until reversing her position during the Democratic primaries.

That's not to mention the various scandals involving her use of a private e-mail server to send and receive classified information, the investigation of which was re-opened last week. FBI Director James Comey cleared her (again) of any wrong-doing on Sunday, but it does call into question her judgment.

- Donald Trump (R): Bold, brash, politically-incorrect, (probably) sexist: if the mockumentary This is Spinal Tap were about political campaigns instead of 80s hair metal, Donald Trump would be the main character (and he'd probably say, "What's wrong with being sexy?"). Trump descended from a golden escalator at Trump Tower over a year ago to announce his candidacy, immediately sparking controversy over his suggestion that some illegal immigrants are rapists and criminals (which, taken at face value, is objectively true). His positions have shifted, from his once sweeping (and, while not technically unconstitutional, probably impractical) ban on all Muslim immigration (he now calls for "extreme vetting" of refugees from terror trouble spots) to his immigration plan (he still claims Mexico will pay for the wall, which he plans to do through ending remittance payments--basically wire transfers of money--from Mexican nationals in the US to their countrymen back home).


One gets the impression that his shifts, unlike Clinton's, are more due to his pugilistic, shoot-from-the-hip approach to policy formulation, rather than sheer political calculus (although that certainly is part of it): The Donald tosses out an idea, doubles down on it, then lets his surrogates work out the details. Surprisingly, that approach has tended to work.

Trump's platform is essentially a mix of Theodore Rooseveltean "good government" reformism, Jacksonian populism, and old-fashioned American (perhaps Polkian?) nationalism. His campaign's slogans are a hodge-podge of past ideas, from "Make America Great Again" (an idea from Reagan's 1980 campaign) to Nixonian "Law and Order" to "America First." His primary concerns seem to be reforming government to make it work more efficiently; reorienting government programs to benefit American citizens; ending illegal immigration and (possibly) limiting legal immigration; and pursuing a more traditionally realist approach to foreign policy. He has cast himself, in some ways, as the anti-Clinton: an outsider who knows how the game is played, but who wants to fix it so the little guy can play again.

Many voters are concerned that Trump is a "loose cannon," someone temperamentally incapable of serving as president. Others don't think he has a consistent program, or that he's too unpredictable. At best, Trump seems to be a pragmatic nationalist, one who throws ideas at the wall and sees what sticks (in this way, he's not too different from Democratic deity Franklin Delano Roosevelt), but always with the goal of doing what's best for the nation.

Regardless, Trump is a controversial figure (I won't recount his many, many controversies here), and that gives many voters pause; thus, the massive uncertainty that still exists in many polls, even as voting begins.

***

So, what do you do you? If you think President Obama has done a good job; if you're broadly in agreement with a push for greater globalism (and, perhaps, less American sovereignty); if you want more sweet government bennies; and if you think massive immigration and ratification of illegal immigration are positive, then Clinton is for you.

If you think President Obama's legacy has undermined constitutional order; if you're a critic of globalism and believe that American nationalism is healthy and natural; if you want to maintain Social Security and Medicaid, but don't want to expand other social programs; if you're skeptical of the claims of pro-immigration policies and/or want to see illegal immigration curtailed; or if you simply want to blow up The System, then Trump is your man.

Of course, there is third-party Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, who is a soft-leftist at heart--not an appealing choice for conservative Republicans or progressive Democrats. Evan McMullin is running as a conservative alternative to Trump, and may--but probably won't--win Utah, which could create all kinds of havoc in the Electoral College. I won't even discuss Jill Stein, whose claim-to-fame as the perennial Green Party candidate seems to be getting arrested every four years.

Or, you can simply not vote the top of the ballot, and vote for all the other deserving individuals mentioned herein.

As for me, well... let's just say I'm voting for Milo Yiannopoulus's "Daddy." Kaboom!

God Bless America!

--TPP