Archive for category 2016 election

Why an electoral revolt is a really bad idea

How are we all supposed to get along at this point?

In a few days, the electoral college will cast its vote for President, and everyone is freaking out that they might follow the rules. I’m spooked that so many people think they shouldn’t. Because this is bigger than 2016, and bigger than Donald Trump. Our electoral process is the common ground we all agree to meet on. It may be the only common ground left at the end of this year, and that makes it pretty dang important. I don’t want Donald Trump to be president either, you guys, but in a more bigly way, I don’t want our whole system to fall apart, and that seems to be the endgame of these petitions and letter-writing campaigns and death threats going to the electors.

Put any other name in, and imagine your honest reaction to what’s going on right now. Hillary Clinton wins the election, but Republican voters are now harassing the electors to try to convince them not to elect her. Imagine the outrage. Seriously put yourself in the scene reading stories of Clinton electors getting death threats in the midst of a coordinated campaign to keep her from reaching the office she had won.

For one thing, it would confirm in the minds of many the picture they have of backwards, violent right-wingers. Keep that picture in your head, but now realize that every political stripe has backwards, violent asshats, and we all ignore the ones in our own house. Please remember that for the future. Your hats are showing.

But I digress. Because my concern isn’t the violent crazies on the fringe, it’s the millions in the middle that think an electoral revolt would be just fine. Somehow the same people have gone, in a matter of weeks, from fainting at the thought that Trump would not accept the results of the election (tearing down the foundation of our democracy!), to advocating a total rejection of the results of the election. With a pit stop mid-week to scream in protest that Trump suggested without evidence that there was voter fraud, while literally at the same time signing Jill Stein’s recount petition which suggested without evidence that there was voter fraud. On neither issue can one be standing on principle both ways. If you find yourself there, you are no longer standing on principle.

But if you’ll stick with me while I wind my way to a conclusion, a cornerstone of this blog and of my philosophy is that principle really, really matters. And this principle on this day matters a whole lot, because as I said, I fear it may be one of the last remaining bits of common ground, and if we tear it up too, I literally don’t see a future for America. A week ago we were arguing over whether or not the electoral college was a good idea any more, because it’s possible for someone to win the popular vote and lose the electoral vote. What are we going to do when we all go cast our votes and end up electing someone that wasn’t even on the ballot? You can think the electoral college is a bad idea, but it at least follows rules, and we all know them. What future is there for democratic elections when we throw out the rules (and the votes!) just because people say “I don’t like the results!”?

The President of the United States isn’t King. Trump can’t do all the crazy he says, and we all know it. If you hate his policies, you have a voice, and at least three other people in the federal government that literally answer to you and will take your call. Trump didn’t make friends in this campaign, and I don’t see the Republicans giving him a lot of room to crazy, much less the Democrats (who I believe will have always been in favor of a stalwart opposition, a “party of no”, perhaps. Four legs good…). There’s also the Constitution, which despite the efforts of the last few administrations, still restricts the power of the government. I look forward to liberals remembering why that’s a good thing.

Now, the argument goes that the electoral system was designed so that chosen representatives would deliberate and select someone worthy, someone unlike Donald Trump, to keep the unruly mob from choosing a populist demagogue, someone like Donald Trump. Well, yes, frankly, that’s true. But the electoral system today has evolved and been modified. The system was also designed to keep actual people from voting for their senators, and in many cases, simply to keep actual people from voting. If you like women’s suffrage and no longer counting some people as 3/5 of a person, you should be ok with the system evolving. None of us voted for an elector based on the idea that that person was capable of wisely choosing the president. None of us even voted for an elector by name. We voted according to the rules as they stand today, having developed over time, and having been modified in response to problems that arose in the original plan.

These rules are our common ground, and having common ground is our way forward. I know, I make my jokes, I like to point out when liberals are being hypocritical and all. But my desire really is for us to move forward together. This is important. This is bigger than 2016, bigger than the next four years. This isn’t about Trump or Clinton or Kasich or What Would Alexander Hamilton Do. This is the foundation. This is where we come together, even angrily, and where we know we can angrily stomp back to in four years, but we do it together. But if we tear up this remaining common ground, we’ll have nowhere left to meet.

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An open letter to the Republican Party

Today I received an email from my state’s Trump campaign. It presented the current controversy as “locker-room” talk, inappropriate of course, but nothing compared to Hillary Clinton’s ensuing list of awful deeds. While I’m on board with the list of #NeverHillary arguments, this letter was an insult. Clinton doesn’t deserve a single vote. Neither does Trump. Because I think it’s important, and I hope I can play a part in salvaging conservatism, what follows is the body of my response.

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What a deeply troubling letter to receive.

[name], I apologize, I’m not sure if we’ve met. I was previously a committeeman, generally inactive due to a regular work conflict at the same time as your meeting. I did not file for re-election this year as I hoped someone could take the position who had more time to participate. I seem to have remained on the mailing list. I don’t know if the below letter reflects your opinion, or the official position of [my county GOP], or if you simply forwarded it as a statement regarding the party’s nominee from his local spokesman.

I cannot stand with Donald Trump, and I cannot say how profoundly I disagree with this request to do so. I hope I can express how strongly I think these arguments harm the American conservative movement. If you care about conservative values as I do, please do not associate the GOP with such a flippant dismissal of this man’s abominable words and actions. And if you care about human decency as I do, then please don’t defend someone’s bragging about sexual assault as if it were mere “inappropriate language”.

Nobody cares about anyone’s use of “foul language” in private. But everyone, everyone should be concerned with a powerful man bragging proudly about abusing women. This is not about language. This is about abuse. This is not about the opposition. This is about our own house.

To pretend that this uproar is over rough language is an insult to my intelligence and that of everyone this intends to persuade. Donald Trump bragged about forcing himself on women, about being in a position of such power that women would let him do it. This isn’t frat boys ogling women. This isn’t simply offensive or off-putting. It’s contemptible.

We–conservatives, Republicans–can never argue again that we stand on the side of right, of morality, if we defend this. Point out everything that’s wrong with Hillary Clinton, yes, convince the nation why she doesn’t deserve a single vote, yes–I’m trying my best to do the same. But that does not mean we must minimize sexual assault and defend evil when it’s in our own house. On the contrary: if we defend Donald Trump’s behavior, if we pretend for political gain that this is not evil, then we give up any grounds for being taken seriously on any moral issue, ever, for as long as anyone remembers this election.

And, far, far worse, if we pretend that this is not evil, we participate in the victimization of every woman who has suffered abuse, or could, at the hands of someone like him. When men and women observe abusive behavior and dismiss or ignore it, WE. PARTICIPATE. When Hillary Clinton intimidated her husband’s victims into silence, she participated in their abuse. If we ignore the same behavior from Donald Trump, we do the same. And I will not participate in that.

This is not about being offended or being politically correct. This is about real people suffering real abuse, and our choice to either stand up and say no, or to ignore it out of political expediency, or cowardice, or both.

No matter who wins the Presidency this year, the entire country has already lost the White House. Barring divine intervention, the office will go to a well-connected narcissist who will abuse his or her power. Far more important now is Congress. Good men and women in the House and Senate will be our only voice and only defense, no matter who wins the top of the ticket. These races are more important now than ever before. Even the fight over Supreme Court nominations still hinges on the Senate. Let’s fight for these all-important positions, and let’s continue to convince the country that we’re on the right side. I will stand and fight with you. But if we begin to defend evil, we have lost our way, and none of the rest will matter.

My heart breaks for our country, and for our party. It doesn’t have to be this way.

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A Christian, a Muslim, and Ben Carson walk into a bar…

Well, sometimes it all feels like a joke.

Dr. Carson stepped in it last week. From Huffington:

Carson, who placed third in the CNN/ORC poll of the Republican presidential field released Sunday, said a president’s faith would matter to him depending on what that faith is.

“If it’s inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter,” he said. “If it fits within the realm of America and is consistent with the Constitution, I have no problem.”

He said that Islam, as a religion, is incompatible with the Constitution.

“I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that,” he said.

Commentary has followed two lines so far. One is just sort of flat out wrong. The other, I don’t know how to think about.

1. Everyone saying Ben Carson doesn’t understand the Constitution, doesn’t understand the Constitution.

I am actually surprised, in a disappointed way, that this comes up in every left-wing response. “The Constitution says there will be no religious test for public office!”

To those on the left, this apparently means that voters are legally required to ignore a candidate’s faith when deciding whether they support the candidate. I’ll remember that next time someone attacks a conservative for sounding too Christian.

In actuality, this simply means that the states can’t write a law saying “ONLY EPISCOPALIANS ALLOWED ON OUR BALLOTS”. But if Larry the Lutheran can’t abide voting for Episcopal Earl, that’s his vote and he can do with it what he wants. Individuals are still allowed their religious convictions and their own opinions in the US.

So, what Dr. Carson said was, at least, fully in line with the Constitution. He didn’t say a Muslim shouldn’t be allowed to be President. He just said he wouldn’t personally support a Muslim candidate. He’s allowed that opinion.

2. Islam and the Constitution.

Here’s where I confess ignorance. Rather than knee-jerking out a response on either side–either cheering the courageous stand, or condemning the blatant bigotry–I want to actually consider the question. Is Islam incompatible with the Constitution? Let’s back up in his statement.

Carson, who placed third in the CNN/ORC poll of the Republican presidential field released Sunday, said a president’s faith would matter to him depending on what that faith is.

“If it’s inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter,” he said. “If it fits within the realm of America and is consistent with the Constitution, I have no problem.”

This, as a standard, ought to be uncontroversial. Someone’s faith is part of who they are. If a candidate’s religion dictates that he must act in a way that would violate his duties in office, Ima say maybe he shouldn’t hold that office. Yes, I’m looking at you, Kim Davis.

So where does Islam fit into this question?

I think it’s important to remember that we vote for individuals, not religions. That would have been a decent answer for Dr. Carson to give, by the way. What does this individual’s Muslim faith mean to him or her? Because, of course, ask ten experts on religion how Islam may or may not be compatible with the Constitution, and you’ll get ten contradictory answers. I imagine you could ask ten Muslim theologians and have the same result. Islam, like any major religion, has broken into denominations and factions, and different leaders seem to have different interpretations of some pretty significant points.

I’m sensitive to the idea that there is unfair mistrust and misunderstanding of Islam. I’m familiar with the phenomenon. Atheists accuse Christians of believing in a magic sky fairy and think they’re stuck in the dark ages. Protestants accuse Catholics of worshiping statues and think they’re stuck in the dark ages. Is the idea that Islamic sharia law would trump the Constitution for a Muslim President a similar mistake?

I honestly don’t know how to actually answer that. Many experts, including many Muslims, are of the opinion that the separation of Church and State doesn’t really fit within Islam. Many others disagree. In Muslim countries, wide majorities favor making sharia the law of the land. But then the people of Egypt–though 74% polled in favor of sharia at the above link–basically rioted to throw out Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood after they started trying to implement sharia law. Given situations like that, I’m unwilling to accept a broad claim that authentic Islam automatically means taking the position that secular governments should be run according to sharia law.

I wouldn’t have said what Dr. Carson said. But whether or not the statement is justifiable depends on a greater understanding of Islam than I can claim, so it seems to remain an open question.

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Is it 2016 already?

Halloween displays are looking stale in the stores and Christmas decorations are already starting to appear. Time to decide who we’re going to vote for in November 2016 before it’s too late!

Having a couple of kids has made writing… and remaining fully informed… and, to be honest, caring about politics as much… more difficult. I’m planning to use this space to keep notes on my thoughts as they occur, and open them up for discussion.

First off, the driver of this clown car. I can’t. I just can’t. Donald Trump, really?

Polls show the top three GOP frontrunners are all three of the non-politicians in the race. Republicans nationwide have said, “Anyone, ANYONE but another politician!” Yesterday’s announcement by Speaker Boehner is encouraging to me. It implies that there is, maybe, finally, an awareness in the Republican party that GOP voters are fed up with the way Republican officials have behaved. Enough of politics as usual, right?

I get that. No more of this nonsense, let’s throw the bums out. Anyone but a politician. I’m sympathetic to that point of view.

But Trump!?

Here’s what I would #askTrump. If I hadn’t missed it. After two debates and a bunch of interviews, he’s made it clear that he isn’t deeply familiar with many of the potential issues facing our next President. His response has consistently been, I’ll be an expert by the time I sit in that chair, just you watch. And I’ll hire the best people.

Mr. Trump: would you, as a businessman, hire a CEO to run one of your companies, if the candidate demonstrated a lack of familiarity with the business and the industry, but insisted only that he’d become familiar after you agreed to give him the job? Would you be impressed by his confidence, or would you laugh at his arrogance as you show him the door?

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