“Politics” Category

The Party After Trump

We are only a few weeks away from the 2016 general election. Unless the polls are fundamentally wrong, Donald Trump will lose, and he will lose by a significant margin. Trump and the movement he represents will go down to ignominious defeat.

I am no fan of Hillary Clinton. I find her corruption to be repulsive, her exposing classified information dangerous and characteristic of her narcissism, and her platform to be little other than more government as the solution to every problem.

And yet, when Trump loses next month, we should all have a small moment of celebration. Trump is uniquely dangerous to our nation, and to the world, and we are fortunate that he appears too incompetent and appalling an individual to defeat as poor a candidate as Hillary Clinton.

That moment will be short indeed.

After Trump loses the election, what Trump represents will not fade. While Trump’s outright racism, affection for authoritarianism, and desire to subordinate the United States to Russia are new, the seeds of Trumpism precede him. Trumpism was not created whole cloth by Trump. He saw a large contingent of the GOP that was frustrated with the Republican Party’s failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act and to slash immigration, after the GOP made promises to its voters that leaders knew they could not keep while President Obama was in office, and a GOP in Congress that was largely unresponsive and uncaring to the economic difficulties of Americans; a contingent of voters still obsessed with the idea that President Obama was not born within the United States and therefore is ineligible to be president; a president that used an executive order to force through changes to an immigration system he did not have the votes in Congress to make; a contingent of voters that distrust the media and increasingly the GOP, and who were increasingly defined by no beliefs besides opposition to immigration, and to Democrats, separate from disagreements over ideology. Instead, politics calcified into little more than fighting the enemy for no other reason than because they are the enemy and must, by definition, be defeated.

Racism on the right did not begin with Trump’s announcement in June 2015 that he would run for president. Despite many Republicans’ protests that the GOP is the party of Lincoln, the party has had a long history of racism within it. In the last decade, many Republicans did not just see Barack Obama as a poor candidate for president, but someone that is not eligible to be president, and that does not have our interests at heart. The birthers based their skepticism on no evidence besides chain emails, his name and skin color. John McCain, to his lasting credit, pushed back against it when confronted with it at a campaign event during the 2008 race, but Republicans generally did not forcefully confront it. Many on the right oppose welfare spending based on blatant anti-black racism, arguing that blacks who live in poor neighborhoods have no excuse for being poor but their own failings, and that those failings may be caused by characteristics of blacks. Those arguments are based on a willful misunderstanding of our history and are a re-packaged version of the idea that blacks are inferior to whites. The right’s opposition to illegal immigration itself, although not inherently racist in nature, certainly is supported by some based on bigotry against Hispanics. “They’re taking our jobs” is little more than xenophobia, even if there are good reasons to oppose lax immigration rules, both legal and illegal. Trump did not create racism in the GOP. He exploited it.

The appeal Trump made to Republican voters in the primaries was that he recognized their plight, and would make America great again. That slogan is integral to his appeal, because it speaks to every complaint this group of voters has. It implies that “real Americans” (and all that phrase implies) were screwed over by globalists in both parties that pushed for free trade deals which, in their mind, gutted the American economy of well-paying industrial jobs for lower-skilled workers, and for lax immigration rules and enforcement of them, which allowed millions of illegal immigrants to enter the U.S. and steal their jobs. It implies that we must re-assert security within the country against foreigners, the immediate descendants of immigrants, and in our cities. It implies that America has been weakened and reduced by a black president, someone that isn’t “really” American, and whose loyalties lie with foreigners. And it speaks to their desire to “take” control of the country from the “elites”—the people in the Republican and Democratic parties, in the media, and who run corporations; the people, they believe, that conspire to send jobs overseas and bring foreigners here to water down the power of “real” Americans (whites).

That slogan, along with his call for building a wall across the U.S.-Mexican border, deporting all illegal immigrants, banning Muslims from entering the United States, slapping stiff tariffs on all trade with China, penalties for companies that move jobs overseas, and asserting “law and order” in our cities, speak directly to this group of voters. The bare nature of it—the illegal immigrants, the Mexicans and the Chinese stole your jobs, and I’m going to stop them—along with his insistence on describing illegal immigrants as “drug dealers” and “rapists”—was directed at them: The United States is now a third-world nation, your life is terrible, and it is not your fault. Our country is terrible because of the Mexicans, because of the Chinese, and because of the conniving elites that plotted to screw you over so they could get wealthy. He stiffened his appeal by pointing out that he knows what the elites do, because he has participated in their corrupt system. He turned his own corruption into an asset with the crowd that was increasingly angry with our institutions.

Making his appeal that way also framed his opponents as part of the problem. They are all officeholders, and did not deliver for this group of voters. In his telling, they not only did not deliver (because they are ineffective politicians), but also plotted amnesty for the hated illegal immigrants. They are simultaneously incapable and nefarious.

The group of voters, and the elements described above, preceded Trump. He saw them, exploited them ruthlessly, and amplified them. For him, they should not just be skeptical of the GOP leadership and distrusting of the media, but they should resist the “rigged” system by voting for change—for Donald Trump. They should not just support a stricter immigration policy and a secure border, but they should abhor immigrants, see them as the cause of our problems, and see free trade and immigration as a conspiracy to impoverish and debase whites. They should not just be skeptical about President Obama’s place of birth and his legitimacy as president (as shameful as that skepticism is), and question his refusal to acknowledge the threat of Islamic terrorism, but they should see the truth before their eyes that Obama is working for our enemies to weaken the United States.

Trumpism will not dissolve after November 8 because the conditions that gave birth to it already existed. As such, we must affirmatively decide what the GOP will be in 2017 and beyond.

The Future of the GOP

After Trump secured the Republican nomination in May 2016, Republican leaders—no matter how critical of Trump they had been prior—began falling in line behind him. The party apparatus swung hard in his favor, denying attempts to reform the GOP, and put down an effort led by Mike Lee at the Republican National Convention to call for a roll call vote on new rules. The GOP threw in with Trump.

Most of the party’s leaders have supported Trump. Reince Priebus, Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, John McCain, and Ted Cruz offered their support, and claimed that while they disagree with Trump on many things, they believe Hillary Clinton is a fundamental threat to the country and must be defeated. Often tacitly, but sometimes explicitly, they argued that Trump’s brand of racist, xenophobic, conspiratorial and authoritarian populism is preferable to Hillary Clinton sitting in the Oval Office.

Many in the party did so either out of fear that the contingent of voters described above would not vote for them if they did not back Trump, and so they could try to hold together the Republican coalition. They feared that without giving in to Trump, they, and the party, would be finished. They feared that group of voters—”the base.” Regardless of whether they believe the above to be true, they have, with their actions, threatened to make Trump president.

That is unacceptable.

Trump is fundamentally not conservative. Trump represents an active disdain toward limited government and individual rights, toward the rule of law, and toward an aspirational view of the United States. Trump’s implicit—and often explicit—appeals to white nationalism, and his attacks on non-whites, reject an America defined by a shared love of liberty and belief in the power of the individual and community. In its place, Trumpism substitutes a respect for “white” culture and history, where whites have given light to a world in perpetual darkness. Institutions are not to be trusted because they are rigged against whites. Instead, Trump—the champion of disaffected whites—should be trusted, and he should be trusted with extraordinary powers to make this country great again.

In the last few weeks, Trump has made much of the subtext explicit, and extended it. In a speech on October 13, Trump claimed that there is a “global power structure” that has conspired to rob the working class of wealth and jobs, and to end our sovereignty as a nation. Citing documents leaked by Wikileaks, Trump says that Hillary Clinton is a part of the conspiracy, and has plotted with international banks to plunder the nation and destroy our sovereignty, and is rigging the election with her co-conspirators in the media. What was once (crude) subtext in his slogan and statements is now just the text itself. Trump uses the words of a dictator: there is a conspiracy against the people, to impoverish them and disenfranchise them, and only a strongman like Trump can fight them.

The conservative vision of the United States—generally speaking—is we should dream big, and be free to work tirelessly to achieve those dreams. We should work together, voluntarily and within our communities, to help people in need and improve our communities. It is a view of the world where individual rights are sacred, and where respect for people—all people—is integral. It is a view of the world where our country is defined not by a shared ethnicity, but a thirst for liberty and self-determination. Our vision is not to be ruled by a strongman, or need the leadership of a great leader as president.

Fundamental to this view of the world is the rule of law. Without a set of laws that are comprehensible by all, and that are applied equally to all, there can be no limited government whose primary role is to protect individual rights, and provide space for a flourishing civil society. Without respect for our institutions, the rule of law will ultimately whither away.

Thus, Trumpism damages conservatism on two fronts. First, Trumpism challenges the idea that our nation is defined by ideas, and therefore challenges those ideas themselves. If our shared identity is not tied to a shared love for liberty, then what binds our nation together falls away. Doing so inherently breaks down the United States into its constituent ethnic, religious and cultural communities, and encourages people to fight for their communities to be empowered over others. If there is no shared identity, there is no reason to push for work to benefit everyone as a whole. Trump’s supporters offer a window into what that world looks like when they tell Hispanic Americans to “go home,” and when they threaten to intimidate non-white voters on election day, because for many of his supporters, being “American” is tied directly to ethnicity and culture. Second, Trumpism undermines faith in our institutions, and thus weakens the rule of law. If “the system”—the political parties, the government, the economy—are all “rigged” against us, why should the Constitution be seen as anything more than an old piece of paper? Why should we not support a strongman that will right the system, provide real Americans (whites) with jobs and dignity, and send the “foreigners” back to “their” country?

I admit that causation does not only flow in one direction; Trumpism is a response to a decline of faith in our institutions, caused by many of the reasons described earlier in this piece. However, while Trumpism is a response, it is also an amplifier, and a sharpening of distrust of our institutions into conspiracy theories. Trumpism is also not only a threat to conservatism, but a threat to our form of government, through the same mechanisms described above.

Our party’s leaders have tried to placate Trumpism’s supporters, to save their own jobs and to try to hold together the Republican coalition. But a coalition that includes people who seek to undermine the party’s and country’s values is not a coalition worth having.

Trumpism cannot be worked with, it cannot be directed toward productive ends, and it cannot be negotiated with. It must be called what it is: racist, xenophobic, authoritarian, anti-American. It must be fought, and it must not be accepted into the party. As conservatives, we cannot let Trumpism control the party. Our party leaders’ support for it is unacceptable.

Either the party will be pushed back toward working to solve our country’s problems with conservative ideas, or it will give in to the ethnic authoritarianism of Trump. There is no middle ground, and the party has made its choice.

Either the Republican Party stands for conservatism, and for respecting all Americans, or it stands for ethnic authoritarianism. If our party will not stand for conservatism, it is incumbent upon us to abandon the party, and start over. Today, the party has refused to abandon Trump after he called all illegal immigrants rapists, drug dealers and criminals; after he said John McCain is not a war hero; after he called for religious tests to be administered for immigrants, and a ban on all Muslims entering the country; after he repeatedly praised Vladimir Putin; after he repeatedly said he would compel the military to target wives and children of terrorists; after he sought out the support of white supremacists; after it became clear he has assaulted women; after Trump charged Clinton with being part of a global conspiracy to rob the working class and destroy the United States’ sovereignty; and after he insisted that our democratic system is rigged and illegitimate. The party has stood by him, and supports putting him—a demagogue that believes in nothing besides his own self-aggrandizement and the power of government—in the White House.

It is time for us to recognize the truth: the GOP is not a party worth saving, and not a party that anyone can support with their conscience intact.

I will not vote for leaders that did not repudiate Trump, and that did not repudiate Trumpism. I will not donate to them, I will not volunteer for them, and I will not offer them public support. It is time to support people who stood with dignity, people like Ben Sasse, Mike Lee, and Justin Amash, and to make room for new leaders that won’t bow to a vile authoritarian because of the letter next to his name and for fear of losing their position.

It is also our responsibility to help define what our new party does stand for after the election. Most importantly, the party must represent all Americans—Americans of all ages, cultures, ethnicities. Too often in the modern era, Republicans have given in to the idea that conservatism cannot appeal to non-whites, to the working class, and to the young. In 2012, we turned that idea into a campaign plank: Romney’s “47%” comment reflected the idea that conservative ideas fundamentally cannot appeal to a large part of the country, and thus that we should not even try. When Romney accepted Trump’s endorsement in 2012 (it is worth noting that the Romney campaign did not exactly enthusiastically embrace Trump’s endorsement, however—quite the opposite), and joked about President Obama’s birth certificate, he threw a bone to the group of voters that believe President Obama is not a “real” American. Romney certainly did not believe there is doubt about Obama’s fidelity to America, but giving those voters a knowing wink did not just “excite the base” a little ahead of the election—it legitimized racism in the party and in the country, and said that our party stands with them.

Those were shameful moments for Romney, a good man, but those ideas, and our leaders’ willingness to condone and encourage them, are part of the reason we now have Donald Trump as our nominee for president. That is both because we breathed life into those ideas and voters, and because that thinking is self-fulfilling: if we believe that non-whites, the working class and the young will never support conservatism, then that is reflected in our proposed policy, goals, focus and tone. If you all but tell non-whites that this party is not for you, why would they ever entertain the idea of supporting it? If you refuse to genuinely listen to other people’s experience living in America, what they care about, and what ideas they have, how can you expect them to take your ideas seriously? How can you expect that your proposals reflect the experiences and concerns they have?

The future of conservatism begins with something simple: listening. Listen to blacks, Hispanics, Asians, homosexuals, the middle class, the poor, the young. Listen, and try to understand what their experience in America is, what issues affect them, and what they believe.

Listening to other people and discussing with them will provide the grist for re-thinking what conservatism means in today’s world, and how we can address problems affecting all Americans. There already are many conservative thinkers doing precisely that. People like Reihan Salam, Yuval Levin, and Charles C. W. Cooke, have dealt seriously with the United States as it is in 2016. We need to do so as a movement.

No matter what specific policy you advocate for, starting with a respect and love for all Americans, and by genuinely listening to their experiences, is where our future begins.

October 17th, 2016

A Danger to Our Political System

After defeating the British in the Revolutionary War, General George Washington almost certainly could have seized control, and made himself dictator. Washington was revered, the Continental Congress was weak, and the argument that the colonies needed the stable leadership of a tested leader in the post-war period would have been an easy one to make. But he did not.

Washington’s insistence on civilian control of the military is now a bedrock of the United States’ political system. The very thought of the military intervening in our country’s political decisions, much less overthrowing a democratically-elected Congress or president, sends a shiver down the spine of Americans, and would cut to the deepest level of what it means to be American. That idea—that elected civilians are our leaders, and the military answer to them—has held strong throughout our history.

There is no physical barrier, however, that prevents the military from intervening in the political process, or even from removing elected leaders from office. There is no wall, no defense. The military controls the weapons, and could do so if they pleased.

What has prevented it here is the norm created when Washington relinquished power to Congress. It hasn’t happened because it violates an idea of what is acceptable in our country, and one that defines our country.

That is not the only norm we depend on within our system. We have depended, too, on the idea that even if we wholly disagree with officials elected to office and want to see them unseated as soon as possible, they are afforded the respect of holding office. They were elected to office through our political system, and while we may think they should not be in office, we at least acknowledge they were elected. Similarly, elected leaders have respected a norm that they will not use their new powers to persecute the people they have replaced.

Together with the Constitution, which slows down and impedes the ability of majorities to enact sweeping changes to our laws, these norms (more numerous than the three discussed above) limit the scope of change possible for a single election. One general election year will not mean that the previous administration will be thrown in prison and minority groups’ freedom of speech will be denied. It will not mean that the economy will be nationalized. It will not mean that all members of a racial group will be rounded up and placed in internment camps.

By doing so, it turns down the temperature on our political debate. When people’s rights are not being directly decided by a single election, or whether the last administration will be imprisoned, there is much less incentive for people to make drastic decisions, like for a president to refuse to transfer power to the elected candidate. Such norms help ensure stability.

I fear we are well down the path of weakening the very norms that have girded our democracy.

I am, of course, writing about Donald J. Trump, who will be the Republican Party’s nominee for president.

Trump, though, did not start this erosion. We can trace it in its current form back at least to the 2000 election, and certainly to Obama’s presidency, with the right’s courting of birther conspiracy theorists that insisted President Obama is a foreigner and thus incapable of holding office. We can lay blame on President George W. Bush for expanding the scope of executive power, legitimizing torture, and on President Obama for enshrining Bush’s expansion of power and expanding it further still. There is much blame to go around.

Trump is something altogether new, however. Whereas the past two presidents have undermined our norms at the edges while still paying respect to them (the role of the executive in our system, respect for the rights of all Americans, and the legitimacy of our political system itself), Trump has undermined our system’s norms whenever he has found it politically advantageous to do so.

Shadi Hamid writes:

His commitment to the protections enshrined in U.S. constitution are questionable, at best, and if we assume the worst, downright frightening (the difficulty with Trump is that he’s not precise with words, so it’s sometimes hard to make sense of what he’s saying). He has expressed support for registering Muslims in a database, elaborating that they could “sign up at different places.” When a reporter asked how this was different from requiring Jews to register in Nazi Germany, Trump said “you tell me,” prompting The Atlantic’s David Graham to note that “it’s hard to remember a time when a supposedly mainstream candidate had no interest in differentiating ideas he’s endorsed from those of the Nazis.” Trump, for good measure, has also refused to disavow President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s internment of Japanese-Americans.

That is not even close to an exhaustive list, and Trump has added to it since, by stating that Gonzalo Curiel, a federal judge presiding over a lawsuit he is involved in, should Curiel should recuse himself from the case for impartiality because Curiel is of Mexican descent.

By doing so, Trump is using his position as a candidate for president to threaten a sitting judge, and is undermining the legitimacy of the judiciary. When a candidate for president uses his position to question a judge’s impartiality, the judiciary’s stature is weakened. What good are court rulings if the president states rulings that run counter to their interests are biased and illegitimate? Through his statements, Trump lessens the standing of the judiciary, and raises the specter of ignoring rulings altogether if he is elected. After all, why should the president respect “biased” and illegitimate rulings from an unelected body of judges?

Trump, too, is fond of threatening people he finds disagreeable. He has threatened the Ricketts family and David French’s family with consequences if they do not fall in line, and has used lawsuits as a bludgeon against people in the past. Those threats appear to be part of who Trump is and what he believes a good leader to be. He is, after all, the man that complimented the Chinese Communist Party’s strength for putting down the 1989 Tiananmen democracy protest with tanks and bullets, and the man that said he would compel the U.S. military to carry out unlawful orders, even if they refused.

Is that our norm of what the executive—the body of government that signs and enforces laws drafted by the democratically-elected legislature—is? Someone that questions the impartiality of a federal judge because of the judge, and uses his race as an excuse? Someone that doesn’t recoil at the idea of placing American citizens of one religion in a database so they can be tracked by the federal government? Someone that finds murdering the wives and children of terrorists as an intentional strategy morally acceptable, and believes it is “leadership” to force the military to carry out such atrocities? Someone that thinks it is not beneath a president to threaten private citizens for crossing him?

Those are not the norms we have established, or the norms that have provided remarkable stability in our political system since our founding. They are the signs of someone that fancies himself an authoritarian, and of a person that believes anything, or anyone, that stands in his way are to be crushed. They are the marks of a demagogue willing to do anything in the pursuit of power.

Trump will likely not be elected president. Despite that, by allowing this man to be the nominee for president for the Republican party, by allowing him to say and do the things he does, we are doing damage to our system of government. We are normalizing Trump’s behavior, normalizing his blatant use of racism and threats. He is raising the specter that things we did not think people would ever do, could be done as a result of a single election.

Trump will not be the end of our system, even if elected. But he is accelerating the decline of what has helped make our form of government so strong and resilient. And for that, we—members of the party that has elevated this man to be our nominee—should be deeply ashamed.

There is no honor in sticking by a party that makes Trump our standard bearer, no good to come from party unity.

June 7th, 2016


The United States is a country founded on ideas. Ethnicity and religion are not what have bonded us from our founding. It is the fundamental ideas expressed in our Declaration of Independence, and in our fight for independence, that run through our country’s history. Our founding set forth that individuals are ends unto themselves, and deserve to be respected as such; that government’s role is not to be the ultimate source of authority and power within society, but merely to protect the people’s pre-existing rights; and that through our will and determination, there is no limit to what we can accomplish.

We have not always honored and lived up to those ideas. Our founding itself was stained with the deepest of shames, the enslavement of human beings, while our founders argued for the dawn of a new beginning. We subjugated the Indians, and cruelly abused them like non-humans. We let the cancer of slavery metastasize, until war was the only option remaining; and after slavery was broken, we allowed Jim Crow to replace it. We have not yet entirely grappled with what our country’s greatest shame means, nor have we left the effects of slavery to the pages of history. They remain here with us today.

And yet America is a tremendous miracle. From British colonialism and abuse, we won our independence as a country, and forged one of the greatest works of humanity: the Constitution. The Constitution not only explicitly laid out the extent of the federal government’s powers, and enumerated the rights of the people that must not be infringed, but created a political system that, through separation of powers and the pitting of different power centers against each other, limited the ability of the government to fall under dominance of a single group and single passion of the time, to limit the ability of the government to be used as a tool of repression, even if it represented the will of the majority. It is a marvel of all time.

Through our unique genesis, we forged an identity separate from ethnicity and religion. Our identity, what it is to be American, centers around our belief in respect for each other as individuals, and for our right to pursue our dreams. By doing so, our country has been able to adopt waves of immigrants, people utterly different from the people already here, and integrate them into our nation. Whatever our race, religion and culture, if we share the same fundamental ideas, we are one people. Our identity is our ideas.

We have not always lived up to that, either. But it is remarkable how many different peoples have immigrated to the United States since our founding, and in the ensuing decades became as “American” as anyone else. That is the strength of our country: We will take anyone, if they believe there is a better tomorrow through work. We can all have different skin colors, follow a different religion (or none at all), eat different food, have differing ideas for what the good life is, even speak different languages—and be unified as a single people. That is a miracle, and despite not always living up to it, it also aptly captures something fundamental to our country.

Our country, at its best, is not about “staying with our own kind,” or taking from others to increase the lot of “our people.” Our country is about being different, having different ideas—but being on the whole unified under an assumption that we can create a better tomorrow for everyone through work.

That is also why I have found Donald Trump’s campaign for president so disturbing. Trump has built his campaign—to “make America great again”—on the belief that America is lost, that we are an embarrassment, that we are weak, and that we can only return to “greatness” on the back of a great leader. Trump has made his appeal not by arguing for how we can empower all of us, as Americans, to pursue our dreams for a better tomorrow, but by appealing to the ethnic and religious differences between Americans. He has not just argued that open immigration could be harmful and we should be cognizant of it, but that Mexicans are rapists, drug dealers and killers. He has not just pushed for being mindful of the threat posed by Islamic terrorism, but has flirted with the idea of registering all Muslim Americans in a database so they can be tracked, and with barring Muslim Americans traveling abroad from returning to their own country. He is a man that has played on conspiracy theory and overt racism.

Trump has praised the “strength” of repressive dictators such as Vladimir Putin and repressive governments such as the People’s Republic of China, and has said—often on the same day he threatened an individual or company with consequences if he is elected—that he would open up libel laws so journalists could be sued for writing or saying what he finds to be misleading or false.

Trump claims he is conservative. What I see is a man that, in order to rise to the top, willfully pulls on the ethnic and religious differences in our country, and uses and amplifies prejudice and hatred, to garner the support of whites. He is intentionally dividing us as a nation, pitting white Christians against Hispanics and Muslims, regular people against the wealthy and “media elite,” “Americans” (by which he means white people) against foreigners, which includes not only foreign nations, but American citizens that have descended from immigrants of foreign nations. Trump is tearing at the very fabric of our nation.

He tears at it, while also undermining the bedrock idea that the government does not lead our nation, but that the individuals do. Ideology may not be fundamental to Trump, but a belief in the supremacy of great leaders, and in their necessity for a country to do great things, is. That belief underlies his fondness for Putin, a man unafraid of using the power of the state toward his ends, and to crush his opposition. It underlies his praise for the PRC in 1989, when the PRC crushed a budding protest movement in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. And it underlies his support for the use of torture and for killing the families of terrorists—great leaders do what is necessary to win.

Trump, then, is a man willing to divide us as a people, so that he can lead us to “greatness.” Trump’s idea of leadership is not to respect the limits of the federal government’s power, and the presidency’s power, but to do whatever he thinks is necessary (laws, morals, and individual rights be damned) to show our strength and impose his will, both on the world and at home. Trump does not see himself as the leader of a country defined by its rights, but as someone smarter and stronger than everyone else, and thus entitled to impose his will on whomever he pleases. There is a reason that “little,” “loser,” “low-energy,” and “weak” are some of his most-used insults for his opponents, and he speaks so often of being a “winner.”

I cannot support Trump because he is fundamentally destructive of what our country is. Trump is willfully tearing at what holds our country together and what defines us as a people. I cannot, and will not, support a man that appeals to our fears, to our baser instincts, that turns every issue into one of us versus them, and that peddles in conspiracy and racism. I cannot, and will not, support a man that fancies himself an authoritarian, a man that threatens people that say things he doesn’t like, and threatens to undermine the first amendment. I cannot, and I will not.

I will not support Donald Trump if he is the Republican Party’s nominee for president. If the GOP is remade in his image, I will leave the party. I owe the party no obligation, if the party has become destructive of what I cherish most. I cannot, and I will not.

I promise that I will fight Trump, the demagogue, now, and if he wins the nomination. I will not accept it, and nor should you.

If, like me, you are a Republican, I appeal to you to vote in your state’s primary, and to vote against Donald Trump. He has not won yet, and we can still fight. Let us defeat him. Let us win a victory for what we love about our country.

February 29th, 2016

“I own guns. Here’s why I’m keeping them”

Jonathan Blanks writes on why he owns guns and believes gun ownership is everyone’s right:

Like many Americans, my family history is closely tied to firearms. I was raised with a sense of duty to protect my loved ones. Danger wasn’t something that was abstract or imaginary in my family history or my upbringing, and so we had to learn to deal with it.

I’m not a Second Amendment absolutist, and I am open to changes to our gun laws. But gun ownership is important to me, and responsible individuals must be allowed to make the choice for themselves and their families if they want to own firearms.

Absolutely worth reading, especially with Twitter full of righteous stupidity like this:

So if you define “liberty” as the right to own a gun, go fuck yourself. You are a disgrace to all that’s good and right about America. – Mike Monteiro

Monteiro’s indignant tirade is representative of a sentiment that, in typical fashion, swept across Twitter and fell away in a matter of days—all anger, hate and righteous assurance that the speaker is absolutely right, and that the people they disagree with are not only wrong, but utterly stupid or evil. But for all of this righteousness, all of this anger, it is all hot air.

This sort of thing replaces thinking about an issue, reading about it and reading what other people think and actually considering it, with posturing. It is, ultimately, self-aggrandizing. It accomplishes zero, besides make the person feel good about themselves for their 140 characters.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is Jonathan Blank’s piece. He doesn’t argue by denigrating people he disagrees with, or questioning their intelligence or motivations—he makes a calm, reasoned argument for what he thinks.

Blanks argues that, as a black family in Indiana, guns were vital to his family’s defense from the KKK, and that having a gun was necessary to defend his girlfriend’s friend from an abusive husband. His thesis is that people have the right to protect themselves, and a gun is often the only way to do that.

That doesn’t just extend to defending yourself against other individuals, but also against an abusive state. The left is fond of arguing that gun ownership as a check against government violating our liberty is absurd because no one with a shotgun or AR-15 could successfully take on the U.S. military. This argument is absurd. The goal is not simply to defeat an abusive government, but to make it prohibitively difficult and bloody for the government to become tyrannical. And, indeed, it would certainly be possible to defeat an abusive government—the Afghan wars, Iraq war, Vietnam war,… and on and on show what guerrilla fighters can do against an overwhelmingly superior force.

But Blanks makes an even more important point: even if defeat was certain, it would not matter. Individuals have the right to defend themselves against violations of their rights, whether it comes from individuals or the government, and whether or not they will win. And guns are vital to that. There is no liberty if people cannot even attempt to protect themselves.

October 12th, 2015

Shouting Fire in a Theater

Today is an excellent day to re-read Ken White’s excellent overview of the Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr’s oft-referenced “shouting fire in a theater” quote:

Holmes’ quote is the most famous and pervasive lazy cheat in American dialogue about free speech.

January 7th, 2015

Discriminating Between Discriminations

Julian Sanchez:

I’m perfectly open to the notion that it may be wise and justifiable to extent the protections of anti-discrimination law to groups not currently covered—but I also wish supporters of such reforms would acknowledge that there’s a genuine impingement on associational freedom involved in such extensions, and that no simple sweeping principle can obviate the need for a close examination of the tradeoffs in each case.

March 1st, 2014

Sean Penn Wants Chavez Critics Imprisoned

Sean Penn:

The Oscar-winning actor and political activist accused the US media of smearing Venezuela’s socialist president and called for journalists to be punished.

“Every day, this elected leader is called a dictator here, and we just accept it, and accept it. And this is mainstream media. There should be a bar by which one goes to prison for these kinds of lies.”

Not only does Sean Penn defend authoritarianism, but he suggests that critics should be imprisoned for calling Hugo Chavez a dictator.

Lovely guy.

February 22nd, 2014

Shoddy, Dangerous Thinking (GMO Edition)

Amy Harmon wrote a terrific article for the New York Times about a Hawaiian town’s “debate” over whether to ban genetically-engineered crops, and the insanely stupid things said about them:

A report, in an obscure Russian journal, about hamsters that lost the ability to reproduce after three generations as a result of a diet of genetically modified soybeans had been contradicted by many other studies and deemed bogus by mainstream scientists.

Mr. Ilagan discounted the correlations between the rise in childhood allergies and the consumption of G.M.O.s, cited by Ms. Wille and others, after reading of the common mistake of confusing correlation for causation. (One graph, illustrating the weakness of conclusions based on correlation, charted the lock-step rise in organic food sales and autism diagnoses.)

The left’s global warming.

January 28th, 2014

“Inequality isn’t ‘the defining challenge of our time’”

Ezra Klein:

That doesn’t mean inequality isn’t hurting growth. It just means it’s difficult to find firm proof of it. But if inequality really was the central challenge to growth, would proof really be so hard to come by?

December 18th, 2013

Ponnuru On the Contraception Mandate

Ramesh Ponnuru:

From reading the New York Times, you might think that religious conservatives had started a culture war over whether company health-insurance plans should cover contraception. What’s at issue in two cases the Supreme Court has just agreed to hear, the Times editorializes, is “the assertion by private businesses and their owners of an unprecedented right to impose the owners’ religious views on workers who do not share them.”

That way of looking at the issue will be persuasive if your memory does not extend back two years. Up until 2012, no federal law or regulation required employers to cover contraception (or drugs that may cause abortion, which one of the cases involves). If 2011 was marked by a widespread crisis of employers’ imposing their views on contraception on employees, nobody talked about it.

Characterizing opposition to government-forced provision of contraception by employer-provided health insurance plans as an “imposition” of religious views is almost Orwellian; the only imposition being made here is by the government and supporters of the measure, such as the Times’ editors.

December 3rd, 2013

“Obamacare’s Secret Success”

Paul Krugman’s latest column, “Obamacare’s Secret Success,” has this to say:

Still, the facts are striking. Since 2010, when the act was passed, real health spending per capita — that is, total spending adjusted for overall inflation and population growth — has risen less than a third as rapidly as its long-term average. Real spending per Medicare recipient hasn’t risen at all; real spending per Medicaid beneficiary has actually fallen slightly.

He argues (and his title makes explicit) that “Obamacare”—ACA—is responsible for health spending declining. Except all he does is point out health costs have declined, and that ACA may be responsible. And he buries something important in a ho-hum “obligatory caveats” paragraph:

O.K., the obligatory caveats. First of all, we don’t know how long the good news will last. Health costs in the United States slowed dramatically in the 1990s (although not this dramatically), probably thanks to the rise of health maintenance organizations, but cost growth picked up again after 2000. Second, we don’t know for sure how much of the good news is because of the Affordable Care Act.

Acknowledging that he has no idea how much ACA is responsible for declining spending seems rather more important than an “obligatory caveat” in a column titled “Obamacare’s Secret Success” which argues that ACA is reducing health spending. It kind of sort of means that the entire column is speculative.

But it’s worse than that. The CMS estimates that ACA will increase national health expenditures.

November 30th, 2013

A Most Interesting NYT Article

In Colorado, voters defeated a measure to raise taxes in order to increase education spending. Here’s how the New York Times characterize the vote:

Had the referendum passed, the current flat state income tax rate of 4.6 percent would have been replaced with a two-tier system. Residents with taxable incomes below $75,000 would have paid 5 percent; taxable incomes above $75,000 would have been taxed at 5.9 percent. The measure would have poured money into poor, rural school districts, expanded preschool, bought new technology and encouraged local innovations like longer school days and school years, supporters said.

But the promise of higher teacher salaries and full-day kindergarten failed to resonate with voters, even in many reliably blue corners of the state and areas where the money would have had the greatest benefit. The state voted 65 percent to 35 percent against the overhaul, known as Amendment 66.

“It was a statement of a loss of faith in government,” said State Senator Mike Johnston, a Democrat and architect of the measure. “The reality may just be that Coloradans just deeply prize being a very low-tax state.”

“…Where the money would have had the greatest benefit.” This is ostensibly a news article about the measure, but it presumes something that isn’t at all a fact. Whether increasing funding would be beneficial is a contention, something that must be supported by a logical argument and evidence. It has no place in being a description of the events. There’s an importance difference between “[where funding] would have had the greatest benefit” and “where much of the funding would have went.”

That’s a subtle framing of the issue that guides readers to a conclusion that isn’t overtly stated by the article’s author, Jack Healy, and for which no evidence is provided.

Which is problematic, especially, because one voter quoted in the article contradicts that entire reasoning for why the measure was rejected, starting with the presumption that increased funding would necessarily benefit their communities:

Erin DeMarco, a political science student at the University of Colorado Boulder, was one of the voters Amendment 66 supporters needed to win over. A registered Democrat who voted for Mr. Hickenlooper and Mr. Obama, she said she wanted to see better schools, but balked when she saw the size of the tax increase.

“I felt a little guilty when I voted against it,” she said. “It tugged at my heartstrings. I just don’t always believe that money solves problems. It’s difficult for me to write a blank check to the government.”

“I just don’t always believe that money solves problems.” That’s a reason for voting against the measure that Healy’s “…where the money would have the greatest benefit” off-handed statement of fact rules out as a reason for why voters rejected it: if the increased funding necessarily benefits the communities, then voting against it because you don’t think increasing spending will solve problems by it’s very nature is not possible.

Words do indeed have meaning, and whether intentional or careless (or just an unintentional reveal of the author’s own viewpoint), his choice of them framed the issue to make one argument for why voters rejected the measure appear more reasonable.

November 7th, 2013

Markets and Health Care

Ezra Klein argues that consumers restrain costs for consumer goods by being able to “say no”—that is, they can refuse to purchase, say, a television from Sony if they charge too much. Klein continues that because for health care consumers cannot “say no,” market forces cannot restrain health costs. But government can, Klein says, and that’s ACA’s intent.

Reihan Salam responds:

But surely the cost of televisions (and most other things, including many necessities) is kept relatively low not because people can do without them but because people have a huge range of options in a very competitive market. Sony can’t charge you too much because you’ll just buy a television made by someone else. Health insurance (let alone care) can’t always be treated like that kind of commodity in every respect, of course, but I think (as conservatives tend to) that they can be to a far greater extent than most people on the left seem to believe.

October 22nd, 2013

Where Are Health Costs Headed?

Yuval Levin summarizes recent reports from the CBO and HHS actuaries on what they expect health costs to head over the next few decades:

They suggest that the slowdown in health inflation we have seen over the past decade is likely at an end, that Obamacare will not be bending the cost curve downward (as its champions promised it could), and that we are in dire need of health-care and entitlement reform that could better help contain costs. They also help us see just how daunting a challenge that really is.

The “Affordable Care Act” makes our health cost problem—already a disaster—worse, not better.

October 22nd, 2013

Policy and the G.O.P. Civil War

Ross Douthat on the Tea Party:

Yet at the same time, to the extent that policy differences are driving the current intra-G.O.P. fight, the populists tend to have 1) decent ideas and 2) a better sense than their establishment rivals of how to brand the party as something other than just a tool of rich people and business interests. Their strategy is disastrous, but their substance has something to recommend it. Which is part of the reason why it isn’t enough, for the Republicans to escape their current cul-de-sac, for the party leadership to “win” and the populist base to “lose” — let alone for the leadership to somehow jettison the base.

That’s the GOP’s conundrum: the Tea Party in the House is doing terrible things to the party, but there are the seeds for positive—even transformative—change of the GOP in the Tea Party with good leadership.

October 15th, 2013