Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Energion Political Roundtable: Election Postmortem



The people have spoken and President Obama has been re-elected. The House stays in Republican control. The Senate stays in Democrat hands but they are well short of the 60 votes needed to invoke cloture so filibusters are quite likely on any major legislation.

So what happened?

First the purely partisan political observation. It is easy to make the case, and many will, that this election is proof that what Mitt Romney indelicately said in a private meeting of donors might be more true than many will admit. There is a large and growing class of people in this country that are dependent on the government and who carry a strong sense of entitlement, from the government being responsible for "creating jobs" to free Obama-phones. As I have said before conservatives in this country have been winning battles but losing the war for decades. The GOP wins an election here or there but the growth of government and the parallel growth of the dependency class churns forward unabated. I try to never underestimate the extent to which people think that others owe them something. The more people the Left can hand out goodies to, the more built in voters they can count on. Asking hard questions like who is going to pay for all of this, how do we deal with the debt and avoid become Greece writ large are left unasked and unanswered.

Really Republicans have themselves to blame and you can be sure that the circular firing squad blood letting is about to begin in full force. Barack Obama should have been one of the easiest incumbents to defeat since Carter. His policies have been a disaster, the economy is in the toilet, debt is skyrocketing. A decent candidate would have demolished him. However the GOP didn't put up a decent candidate. Instead we had yet another example of the GOP putting up a weak, lowest common denominator candidate

Barack Obama is an ideologue and makes no attempt to hide it. Heck he flaunts it with talk of "revenge"! The same was true of Reagan, a man with convictions who was unafraid to speak passionately and clearly. While I don't like Obama and disagree with him on every conceivable issue I respect that he at least seems to have some convictions, misguided and dangerous though they might be.

To face an ideologue Republicans sent in an empty suit, a man chameleon-like enough to win both the GOP Presidential nomination and the governorship of leftist Massachusetts, a guy who was "pro-choice" and advocated for government health care when governor then had a change of heart when the political winds blew, a man who won primary after primary for no other reason than he was the "most electable". How did that work out? Granted the other choices were not great either. Rick Perry who seemed lost behind a microphone. Serial adulterer Newt Gingrich, a man run out of town in shame the last time he held a leadership position. Rick Santorum who was pretty much a culture warrior and nothing else. Hermann Cain (nuff said).. Tim Pawlenty and Michelle Bachmann who both quit way too early. My choice, Ron Paul, who never stood a chance because he was insufficiently interventionist. Not exactly a who's who of solid candidates which explains why we are about to have four more years of Barack Obama.

What happens next?

I expect to start seeing the initial jockeying for 2016 to start....right about now. Just for fun I "liked" the Rand Paul 2016 page on Facebook this morning but you can be sure that the wheels are already turning: Paul Ryan. Chris Christie (who may have killed his chances with his 24 hour Obama bromance). Marco Rubio. Mitch Daniels. Bobbie Jindal. The list is pretty lengthy and most of them on my initial list off the top of my head are fairly conservative. There are others like Sarah Palin that for some reason people seem to think is qualified to be the leader of the free world that will test the waters. With a country that is heavily divided and both parties getting a fresh shot at the Presidency with no incumbent it is going to get ugly early and often.

I also expect to see a whole lotta nothing happening in the next four years as a result. Nothing on immigration reform. Nothing of debt and deficit reduction. Nothing on common sense reduction in military spending. Not even a whisper about entitlement reform. Campaign 2016 is starting very soon and there are a lot of people on both sides looking to be the nominee for their party. In spite of Obama's contention that he will have more flexibility in his second term, the reality is that he has nowhere near a mandate and faces a hostile majority in the House and an unbreakable filibuster in the Senate, both chambers featuring people who want to run for President in 2016 and will be eager to make their mark. Nothing is going to get done and I would be OK with that if we weren't already $16 trillion in debt. Given how dire the situation is, a lame duck President and a gridlocked Congress doesn't bode well for our future.

What about me?

I am not sure what I am doing politically. The more I think about it the more I see politics as an idol for the American church and that is not getting better any time soon. Like a heroin addict we cannot help but get entangled in politics and we worship our politics like a golden calf. If only we can elect *this guy*, even if that guy is an empty suit and a blasphemer, then we will protect marriage/end abortion/support Israel/etc. The reality that this never actually happens doesn't impede our fantasy just as the girl in the pornographic image is never going to be interested in you. The illusion is the thing and politics is pornography for many Christians but one we can feel noble and self-righteous about.

I am thinking about shutting this page down. The Energion Political Roundtable has been fun and helped me think through some issues but I don't see my political musings being very helpful or edifying for others or myself. Still not sure, perhaps I will just write about issues of the church and politics on my main blog. We'll see.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Energion Political Roundtable Closing Statement: Gary Johnson for President

As I mentioned in my previous post I am going to the polls tomorrow and casting my first vote for a non-Republican in my lifetime as a voter. My vote tomorrow will go to Libertarian Gary Johnson for President and Judge Jim Gray for Vice-President. As our closing post before election day, Henry at Energion has asked us to make our case for who we are voting for and why targeted at the mythical undecided voter that is open to be swayed so here it goes!

My choice to vote for Gary Johnson, a Libertarian who has no chance of winning, is bewildering to most of my circle of friends. I doubt many of them will be persuaded by any my arguments as some of his positions are outside of the scope of “conservatism” and most Republicans have bought into the “any vote other than one for Romney is a vote for Obama” malarkey. The "wasted vote" line that keeps being trotted out is best countered by something Gary Johnson has often said: a vote for liberty is never a wasted vote.

Certainly Gary Johnson is far more “liberal” on social issues than I am or the conservative electorate in general. On a few issues especially his positions are kind of jarring, from decriminalizing marijuana to “gay marriage”. When you look at them from a broader perspective they make a lot more sense and especially when you look at them in the framework of a true Constitutional limited Federal government.

I have given up on the culture wars that have consumed the Republican party and the "church" in America for the last few decades. While useful for getting evangelical voters to the polls and electing Republicans it has done little to stem the tide and done far less to advance and indeed done great harm to the mission of the church. Unbelievers by and large see the church as a political beast that is always hungry for money and obsessed with telling other people how to live. Sad as it may be to say, they are right. Rather than being a beacon to the vast majority of Americans by living in a different way from the world, we try to force unregenerate people to live in a way that we ourselves by and large fail to do.

“Gay marriage” is a prime example of an issue that I used to get incensed about but now see as an issue that we need to move beyond. A homosexual couple that wants to throw a “wedding” and declare themselves married is about as legitimate as a homeless man declaring that he is Napoleon but the issue for conservatives shouldn’t be which types of relationships get the government goodies in the massive generational redistribution schemes known as Social Security and Medicare but rather the very existence of these programs at all. I don’t want to preserve Social Security as the sole benefit of married heterosexual couples, I want to eliminate the current unconstitutional system completely!

As far as the other issues like decriminalization of marijuana, whatever your personal opinion of it there is no defensible reason for it to be a Federal issue. If a state chooses to make marijuana illegal that is acceptable but the Federal drug war has done little to stem the use of drugs, enriched drug dealers, filled our prison with petty criminals and overstepped the bounds of the Constitutional mandate of the Federal government.

The issue of abortion is the one issue that troubles me the most about Johnson. If I honestly thought that Romney was sincere about his sudden conversion to a pro-life (at least so far as unborn children in America go) position I would be more likely to vote for him but at best he is a wishy washy man of weak convictions and at worst and more likely he is a political opportunist who parrots the words we want to hear to get our votes. I am actually far more trusting of Johnson to nominate strict Constitutionalist judges than Romney even though Gary Johnson is clearly not going to have that opportunity in the next four years. The naïveté of many conservatives who think that Mitt Romney of all people, a human weather-vane, is going to champion the end of abortion in America would be hilarious if the issue were not so serious. Perhaps we will stop subsidizing Planned Parenthood, a worthy goal. Perhaps we will cut off funds to international groups that support abortion, another worth goal. None of that will do a thing to end abortion. After four years of a Romney presidency abortions will still be performed in America and many church going people will still do nothing to minister where it matters, preferring instead of put a political yard sign out front.

When it comes to fiscal issues, Johnson is the only major candidate that talks honestly about the financial and fiscal crisis we are in. Obama promises to double down on job killing regulations and taxes. Romney talks about being responsible but at the same time promises massive increases in our already ridiculous military budget. We are way beyond the point where Republican incrementalism or Democratic expansionism will work. Neither of the two major parties will have a serious conversation about the debt and the size of the government because they both depend on government to keep them in power. Big government spending by a Republican is not much of an improvement over big government spending by a Democrat.

Perhaps Johnson’s greatest sin in the eyes of “conservatives” is his advocacy for a smaller military and a less interventionist foreign policy. It is this issue that kept Ron Paul from ever gaining widespread traction among Republicans. It is an article of faith among Republicans that we need to “support the troops” by spending hundreds of billions of dollars a year to base them where they are not needed, deploy them where they are not wanted and equip them in ways that make little sense. Any suggestion of shrinking the size of our military is met with shrieks of hysteria about “gutting the military”, a military that nearly outspends the rest of the world combined. Similarly suggesting that we ought not interfere in every foreign conflict is met with cries of “isolationism” and dire references to World War II (a war ironically brought on in large measure by our intervention in World War I). Rather than negatives I see Johnson’s stance as an incredible positive. It is disingenuous to rail against the Federal government when it appears as a Federal bureaucrat but cheer that same government when it wears a military uniform. We spend too much on the military, we interfere too much in the affairs of other nations where we are not wanted and we bury too many of our young men and women. It must stop and it must stop right now.

In short this is not a vote as much for 2012 as it is for the future, a future where the statist two party stranglehold is broken. My hope is that a strong showing by Johnson will wake up the Republican party and force the GOP to take seriously issues of liberty, of militarism and of the folly of incrementalism. If Mitt Romney loses tomorrow in part because of votes for Gary Johnson so be it. I don't say that lightly because the last four years have been a disasters but if that happens I anticipate four more years of gridlock in D.C, better than letting Obama run amok but not what we need. If Romney wins tomorrow I expect four more years of similar gridlock and a few minor changes while the status quo remains in control and the country continues to careen over a cliff, perhaps more slowly but just as surely. Also not what we need. In some ways I think a Romney loss coupled with a Republican majority in the House and an increased Republican presence in the Senate, if not an outright takeover, would be better for the long term and set the stage for an actual conservative to run in 2016.

Those who vote tomorrow based on fear for either Romney or Obama will get what they asked for, more statist control, more government, more debt, more of the same. The only way to make a lasting change is to start changing direction radically right now and for me and many others that starts with a vote for Gary Johnson tomorrow.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Why I No Longer Trust The Republican Party

I am a long time, dyed in the wool, GOP guy. Since I was a small child I have been conservative even before I knew what that meant and for most of my life I associated conservatism with the Republican party. If you were conservative, if you believed in smaller government and more freedom, you naturally voted Republican. For the 20+ years that I have been eligible to vote I have never missed an election and always voted for Republicans exclusively. Heck I even have a son named after The Gipper!

This year for the first time in my life I will cast a vote for a candidate that is not Republican. Although I am probably going to vote for the Republican candidates in our Senate, House and Governor races I will not be voting for Mitt Romey for a lot of reasons.

At 40 years of age, and with what I hope is a recent and fresh perspective, I look at the GOP and don’t see a party of smaller government and more freedom. I see a different face to the same political problem of an essentially statist organization, a political party that is at the core concerned with power and influence. That is understandable but it hardly inspires me.

President Obama has been an unmitigated disaster and is wrong on virtually every issue and even when he is right (i.e. withdrawing troops from Afghanistan) he sees those savings as an opportunity to spend more on pet projects, managing to be wrong even when he is sort of right. On the other hand the big “selling point” for Romney is that he is less wrong on some issues than Obama. That used to be good enough for me. Not anymore. We cannot afford incremental changes, replacing social welfare spending with military spending and a general acceptance of virtually every unconstitutional government program. In spite of frequent victories by the GOP the government has gotten bigger and bigger. We are continually presented with cruddy candidates that we are expected to line up and support no matter how mediocre they are.

Let’s look at the GOP candidates for President in my life time, starting in 1972 (I was born in 1971).

In 1972 the GOP nominee was one Richard M. Nixon. We know how that one turned out.

In 1976 we had Nixon’s vice president who assumed the Presidency upon Nixon’s resignation. Gerald Ford seemed like a decent guy but he was doomed by association.

In 1980 we entered the hallowed ground of Ronald Reagan who crushed Carter in 1980 ( 489-49 in the electoral college) and then managed to top that by embarrassing Walter Mondale in 1984 by a total of 525-13, Mondale only winning by a narrow margin his own home state of Minnesota and the District of Columbia.

Reagan is the gold standard for conservatism and while he accomplished some great stuff he is not a saint and he certainly made errors. To suggest that today is blasphemy among Republicans and we are presented with contemporary candidates who all try to claim the “Most Like Reagan” mantle. Here is a heads up. We don’t need another Reagan. He is dead and gone and the world is very different. We need a leader up to a new challenge and I don't see many Republicans who fit that description.

In 1988 we got George H.W. “Read my lips, no new taxes” Bush, a weak and ineffectual President that lost to a hillbilly womanizer in his reelection bid. Yes he was nice and a war hero but that is about it.

In 1996 we were presented with Bob Dole mainly because it was his turn. Dole again is a nice guy and a war hero but he was a horrible candidate and not terribly conservative. He had about as much chance of beating Clinton, who should have been very beatable, as I did.

In 2000 and 2004 we got George W. Bush and his brand of “compassionate conservatism”. Bush would have been a one term President if it were not for 9/11. Bush wasn’t much of a President other than his forceful response to September 11th and he managed to get us into a war in Iraq based on poor intelligence and fears of a Middle Eastern nation getting a nuclear weapon. Huh. That sounds kind of familiar.

In 2008 we were presented with another “moderate” Republican war hero. Seeing a pattern here? McCain was another terrible candidate with an equally horrible and divisive running mate.

2012 and we have another moderate Republican, a weak candidate selected by the lowest common denominator and because he was “able to win”. This election should be a slam dunk given how terrible the last four years have been. Instead we have a nail biter and even if Romney wins I have zero confidence that he will do what needs to be done because he will start day one with an eye to the November 2016 election.

So for my entire lifetime we have been presented with one mediocre “Republican” after another and the country has been sliding in the toilet. Each year we are warned of dire consequences if we don’t fall in line and vote for the GOP. This year is no different. Obama is going to “gut the military!” or “Obama will be even more radical in a second term!” (ignoring the fact that he will face a Republican house and a diminished Democratic majority or even a Democratic minority in the Senate). We must vote for Romney because a vote for a third party candidate is a vote for Obama! It kills me how many allegedly conservative Christian voters keep barking about our sacred duty to vote for a pagan unbeliever that is a Johnny come lately to conservatism, a man who seems content to switch his position on everything from health care to abortion at any change in the political winds. Sure Romney would be a less terrible President than Obama but just how long are we going to content ourselves with a lesser evil? Just a quick note for all of the pragmatic “Vote for Romney!” people…

There is nothing noble or mature about trading deeply held convictions for political pragmatism.

As we have gotten closer to the election I have been heading in this direction. I voted for Ron Paul in the GOP primary even though that was futile and I will be voting for Gary Johnson next Tuesday since it sounds like write in candidates don’t really get counted. I have some qualms about Johnson but compared to Rombama he is a dream candidate.

With $16 trillion in debt, civil liberties eroded by both parties (remember who was President when the TSA was created and the Patriot Act was passed?), a bloated military that spends almost as much as the rest of the world combined and government agencies that interfere in every aspect of our lives, we find ourselves in a nation that would be unrecognizable to the Founders (of course women and blacks being allowed to vote would also be stunning to them). We are less than a generation from being past the point of no return and Romney is not the man to lead the sort of change of direction we need. I am under no illusion that Gary Johnson will win or even break 5% of the vote but if we don’t start making a stand now it will never happen and 20 years from now with riots in the streets that will make Greece look like a preschool birthday party the GOP will put yet another cruddy candidate up that we "have to" vote for. No thanks.

Next Tuesday I urge you to vote based on your conscience, not on which mediocre politician would less bad.