Buckle Up for a Bumpy Four Years

I declared last year that I would be a NeverTrumper, that I would vote third party before I voted for Donald Trump.

Then last July I realized that if Trump were to somehow win the Electoral College and Clinton won the popular vote, it would tear the country apart like never before. (I wish I hadn’t been right on that one.) So I asked NeverTrumpers to reconsider so as to ensure he won both popular and Electoral votes.

Later, I began to embrace the idea of Trump as a pro-life and conservative ally, albeit a personally odious one, even as it became more and more certain he would lose. And then suddenly, he had won.

Meanwhile, in the first week of his administration we have made more pro-life and conservative gains than we did in the entirety of the last Bush administration. Not only did Trump defund International Planned Parenthood again, he reiterated his promise to appoint a Supreme Court justice who is a strict constructionist (i.e. will not find the umbras and penumbras used to justify Roe v. Wade in the first place); the House took the first step to repeal the bloated mess of Obamacare and to defund the Planned Parenthood Federation of America; and Trump appointed cabinet secretaries with the mandate to start downsizing bloated bureaucracies like the Departments of Education, Commerce, Agriculture, and Energy, among others. In addition, by sending Vice President Mike Pence to speak at the March for Life and publicly chastising media for its annual failure to give the March its due, he ensured it would get unprecedented media exposure this year. For these actions, pro-life conservatives rightly cheered.

On the other hand, Trump has followed through on some of his less savory campaign promises. He got into a diplomatic Twitter war with Mexico over the border wall. He ordered a freeze on all government research grants in several departments and issued a gag order on public communications in all executive departments.1 And worst of all, he ordered a halt to all refugee arrivals for 120 days and permanent halt to refugees from a handful of majority Muslim countries and created a giant mess of chaos and recrimination and anecdotal stories of innocents caught in jeopardy and a media firestorm that has even those of us who voted for him shaking our heads.2 This was the part of Trump-as-president that made me a NeverTrumper in the first place.

My social media feeds have been filled with heads exploding all over the place, and not just the usual liberal friends sprinkled in the mix, but a broad spectrum of people. And while I think that many were and are overreacting (No, Trump is not an incipient Hitler), there is justification for anger from all sides for this last misstep.

So this is what I’ve been preparing myself for: The next four years are going to be very bumpy, whipsawing between joy at some advance of the conservative agenda and chagrin or outrage over some bombastic excess and then back again. I can console myself that this is certainly better than what we would have got under Hillary Clinton, but I fear for what the future brings. Will people get so fed up over the excesses that Congress shifts to the Democrats in 2018? Will they get so fed up with Trump that we get some populist ultra-liberal (like Elizabeth Warren) in 2020?

My hope is that Trump settles down and gets in a groove. He’s never held elective office before and so there’s a steep learning curve. But as a prominent real estate developer in New York and New Jersey, he’s certainly had to be a political wheeler and dealer. Let’s hope that part of his personality helps him overcome this other nonsense.

  1. Never mind that these are standard procedure and temporary. The hold is designed to allow the new administration to formulate and promulgate new policies for communications that reflect the new president’s priorities. It’s entirely justified, but the way it was done led to a media storm.
  2. As I write this, a federal court has ordered a temporary hold on the executive order while its constitutionality is challenged.

Why Non-Swing State Conservative Voters May Want to Vote Trump Anyway

I have publicly stated before that I didn’t plan to vote for Trump or Clinton or Johnson or Stein, that I might throw away my presidential vote this year.

After all, I live in Massachusetts, which has absolutely no chance of giving its electoral college votes to anyone but Hillary Clinton. As a pro-lifer, I won’t vote for Clinton or Johnson or Stein and while Trump has made some noises about being pro-life and appointing strict constructionist Supreme Court Justices, there’s too much crazy in his baggage train.

However.

However, a scenario has come to my attention that may make it more important that I cast a vote for Trump for the good of the country, even though it won’t affect the electoral college.

The FiveThirtyEight blog has an article that posits the circumstances in which Trump could win the Electoral College and lose the popular vote. I can’t think of anything worse for our country. If you thought the liberal reaction to Bush winning that way in 2000 was bad, it will be over the top in 2016. Our already fractured country will just dissolve into bits as liberals and Trump-haters of all stripes declare his presidency illegitimate and seek to overturn it or neuter it or overthrow it. It would tear us apart.

We need to make sure that if he wins, it’s both the popular and electoral college.1

  1. And, no, I won’t vote for Hillary for oh so many reasons, but not least because she loves abortion.

The End of the World and We Don’t Feel Fine

The media often touts economic news as the barometer for whether life is good in America or not. So when a new poll shows a majority of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track even as other news breaks that the middle class is finally starting to reap the benefits of economic recovery, they can’t make heads or tails of it.

Maybe, just maybe, that majority doesn’t base their sense of well-being for themselves or their country on how full their wallet is. Maybe they’re concerned about the breakdown of law and order, the division between races and between ideologies, the forced redefinition of fundamental realities like the nature of marriage or what it means to be a man or woman. Maybe we see violence and death and terrorism and incredible suffering around the world and are uneasy about how it will come to our shores and affect our children. Maybe we look at the media and government and corruption and lies and wonder whether we are self-governing citizens or merely dupes subjected to a ruling class.

As David French writes at National Review:

In other words, there are some problems that are beyond politics. Yes, good policies can adjust incentives, but — at the end of the day — good policies don’t keep families together or keep the needle out of a young man’s arm. As I wrote in the print edition of National Review a couple weeks ago, a true Ronald Reagan-style “morning in America” renaissance is made far more difficult when there is an increasing lack of cultural cohesion and family stability.

Chuck Schumer on the Excessive Burden of Taxes

N.Y. Sen. Chuck Schumer thinks federal taxes are an onerous burden on those who work hard and excel and thus should not be levied on them. Has the liberal Democrat taken a sudden conservative turn? Not exactly. Schumer is just pandering to fans of the Olympic Games.

“Our Olympian and Paralympic athletes should be worried about breaking world records, not breaking the bank, when they earn a medal,” said ‎Schumer. “Most countries subsidize their athletes; the very least we can do is make sure our athletes don’t get hit with a tax bill for winning. After a successful and hard fought victory, it’s just not right for the U.S. to welcome these athletes home with a tax on that victory.

Schumer is proposing that Olympians’ cash prizes should not be taxed. While it’s nice to see a liberal acknowledging the drag that excessive taxation causes on those who wish to excel, I wish he would see that the same principle applied to middle-class laborers and white-collar workers, and even to upper-class business owners who create jobs and capital.

The Democrat Party’s War on Religion

Democrat National Convention delegates were outraged last week that Chick-fil-A has a concession contract with the Wells Fargo Arena in Philadelphia and was allowed to sell its products during the DNC.

Liberals began their hate on Chick-fil-A several years ago over the Christian views of the Cathy family that owns the chain. CEO Dan Cathy has acknowledged supporting traditional marriage as part of his religious beliefs and the family is publicly pro-life. And of course, one of the defining features of their company is that its restaurants are closed on Sunday. That’s apparently beyond the pale.

They’re the type of company that closes on Sunday, puts money into lobbying against the LGBT community, and for that reason I will never support Chick-Fil-A until they change their ways,” Sacco said. [emphasis added]

That they close on Sunday is a reason not to support them? For a supposedly pro-labor party, I would think getting a day of rest would be a good thing. Of course, the reason the restaurants are closed is because the Cathy family takes seriously the Fourth Commandment and want to help their workers honor it. But public expressions of religious faith, more specifically expressions of traditional Christian religious faith, are forbidden among the liberal Democrats.

The veils are dropping and true natures are revealed. Like last week, when Nancy Pelosi blamed uneducated white men’s attachment to “guns, gays, and God” as the reasons why they support a Republican candidate over the Democrat “against their economic interests.” The lines are becoming clearer every day.

Living the Long Defeat

At the Republican convention last week, internet entrepreneur Peter Thiel echoed a lot of fiscally conservative Republicans today when he told social conservatives to stop letting things like bathroom gender policies (and presumably gay marriage and abortion and other social conservative causes) distract us from what’s really important.

I don’t pretend to agree with every plank in our party’s platform. But fake culture wars only distract us from our economic decline.

Rod Dreher counters Thiel’s claim that culture wars are fake or unimportant or that the important issues are about economics.

You hear this kind of thing a lot from social liberals who genuinely believe that nothing serious is at stake in the culture war. If conservatives would just roll over and accept that the liberal view is naturally, obviously correct, we could get back to our “real” problems. […] What people like Thiel — really intelligent people, let us stipulate! — don’t understand is that not everybody values the things they do. Real, important things are being struggled over.

And also:

Culturally speaking, to be born in many places in the US is to suffer an irreversible lifelong defeat. If you come from a culturally conservative region, or family, you understand that the people who make the decisions in this culture are on the other side. At best they regard you as irrelevant. At worst, they hate you, and want to grind your nose in the dirt. Whatever the case, the things you value, that are important to your identity, and your sense of how the world is supposed to work, are either fading away or being taken from you — and you can’t do anything about it.

Living in Massachusetts as a cultural conservative, an orthodox Catholic who hews to the Church’s moral teachings, is related, but different. This is a culturally liberal region, and everyone around me regards me as irrelevant and a relic and a Neanderthal on my most fundamental and non-negotiable beliefs.

In North Carolina, for example, there’s enough cultural conservatives to pass laws and try to hold back the tide. In Massachusetts, you hunker down and hope the tide misses you.

The Rise of the Demagogues

I’m convinced that in 2008, Barack Obama didn’t expect to win. At least at first.

When he began his run for the White House, he was a first-term junior senator after being a state senator in Illinois for three terms. No one seriously thought he was qualified for the top job, not in his first attempt. I’m sure they thought he’d put in a showing to increase his Senate profile and set himself up for a serious run later. But then his campaign gained steam as the media picked up the narrative of “Barack the messiah” who would save the world from ourselves.

Likewise, I don’t think Donald Trump ever expected to get the party nomination. He’s an entrepreneur whose success is debatable, but with such a huge ego that he convinces everyone he’s a success. He’s a reality TV star whose trademark is bombast and outrageousness. He’s never had, and still doesn’t have, a serious presidential campaign operation; he doesn’t raise money like a serious presidential candidate; and for the first part of the primary campaign he was the spoiler, the guy with nothing to lose who was willing to say the most outrageous things that the average Joe always hoped someone would say. And suddenly, with all that media attention and the disdain of the political class, he was winning and kept winning.

That doesn’t mean I think Trump will win the general election. He’s a political novice whose mistakes will probably catch up to him, although Hillary is such a horrible candidate that he still has a fighting chance.

But it’s an interesting commentary on the state of our nation that the highest levels of our political process, the contest for the Office of the President of the United States, has become a prize to grab for whichever demagogue and/or clown rises up to tickle the ears of the people and provide fodder for the gaping maw of the 24/7 news cycle monster.

One Year After Obergefell

At the end of another disastrous Supreme Court term, one in which the judicial giant, Antonin Scalia, was lost, the Court handed down a terrible decision written by Justice Anthony Kennedy that overturned Texas’ law that put abortion clinics under the same sort of regulations that other surgical clinics have to abide by. This sets back the cause of saving live of babies yet again and puts even more women at risk of another Kermit Gosnell mass murder situation.

It’s been a year since the end of the previous Supreme Court term, in which they disastrously created a constitutional right to marry someone of the same sex and so I wanted to revisit some of my thoughts from then to show how terrible the current bench is and why it’s so important we get better justices.

"In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were." – Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing in the majority opinion of the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling that legalized same-sex marriage.

Yes, that's called "children". The whole point of the State protecting and promoting marriage was to protect and promote children, which are vital to the continuation of the State. But ever since we legalized contraception, divorce, and abortion, we've eroded the reason and meaning of civil marriage. So now we come to this: Marriage now exists to magnify the most important thing of all: The All-Glorious Me! And children, for many people–heterosexual and homosexual alike–exist for the same reason: to reflect on Me! and how they make Me! feel.

The State will soon issue each of us a reflecting pool in which we can gaze at ourselves to our heart's content while everything crumbles around us, unheeded.

(Yes, infertile unions are still valid civil marriages because they bear the potential and the meaning of childbearing. It's a complicated philosophical thought. Just turn on MSNBC and don't worry about it.)

Let’s also heap scorn on Justice Kennedy's purple prose at the end of his majority opinion: "Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness." Yep, that's right. Suddenly the US Constitution's job is to ensure that people aren't lonely.

It's not the Nanny State. It's the Yenta State, validating your love and making sure you aren't lonely.

By the way, I wonder how all those happily single people feel about being "condemned to live in loneliness."

Finally, a few quick thoughts:

  1. It’s time for the Church to get out of the civil marriage business. See the Justice of the Peace to get the legal document, then go to the church for the sacrament.
  2. Homosexuals make up less than 3% of the population of the US. It’s not going to be a large number of marriages. But be prepared for advertisers and Hollywood to have them show up everywhere.
  3. We lost this battle when no-fault divorce was legalized and with the acceptance “sweet mystery of life” clause (so-dubbed by Justice Antonin Scalia) in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, not coincidentally also written by Kennedy: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” By that way of thinking, anything at all is permissible.

End the Divide

Andrew Langer gets to the heart of my post last week about the increasing inability in our nation for people to disagree and remain civil and friendly.

I read, and one thing became abundantly clear: the 24-hour social media cycle has caused the various factions to become even more entrenched, their immediate reactions betraying a driving need to balkanize people still more. No breathing room. No time to process events. No time to allow people to show their humanity to one another.

In the public policy world, we are in the business of solving problems. Solving those problems has become more difficult as the chasm between political viewpoints has virtually exploded — both in width and depth — and that balkanization makes it impossible for people to find common ground.

This is more dangerous to the future of our nation than any of the other issues being debated, more than guns, more than even terrorism, because if we can’t even talk to one another, how will we stand together against a common enemy?

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