Month: September 2019

Happy Citizenship Day and Constitution Day

September 17th marks Citizenship and Constitution Day. This day celebrates two powerful central strengths of our Republic and combines them. Mostly, this day is ignored, I hope a new party will embrace it and the principles represented today.

Citizenship Day was born as I Am An American Day. The holiday has its roots in the activity of a refugee from the then-Communist nation of Hungary. Clara Vadja founded the Americanization League of America in 1930. Having found the dream of liberty, she set out to provide citizenship education to help those who came behind her find an easier way into the country.

In addition to celebrating new citizens, the original I Am an American Day Act celebrated those who attained their citizenship by coming of age. This focus on new voters could be traced to Manotwac County Wisconsin which included a five-month program where those about to reach the voting age met to discuss the duties of citizenship.

I am an American Day was designated in 1940 as the Third Monday in May. In 1952 it was renamed Citizenship and moved to September 17th, which was also Constitution Day as this is the Day the Constitution was signed at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.

This combined commemoration may be overlooked by most on the calendar but is important a new political party observe it.

The Importance of Citizenship Day

Citizenship Day stands as a reminder of how a more traditional Americanism approached new arrivals with an open heart as opposed to the fear-based nationalism. This fearful nationalism views families fleeing from persecution, and those who go through the legal process to become citizens, as threats and dangers to political power.

A new political party should embrace the meaning of Citizenship Day and all that new immigrants bring to our shores.

The strength of America traditionally is that it is not a closed system. Its story is ever-continuing. If the story of people coming to America and finding opportunity and better lives for themselves and their families had ended with the Pilgrims coming to Plymouth Rock in 1620 or 19th Century with Irish immigrants, it would be a stale story and a much poorer country. Each immigrant who makes the effort to come to our country and proceeds to work hard through the laborious process of becoming a citizen writes their own page in that ongoing narrative.

This is a great day to celebrate the contributions these new citizens will make and an opportunity to reach out to them.

I also think it points out the need to encourage those who are newly eighteen to take seriously the responsibilities of citizenship. While our twenty-first-century world may not have time for five-month classes, we can definitely do a better job of civic education and helping new adults understand the responsibility and heritage being passed down to them than shallow efforts like “Vote or Die.”

Those who believe in traditional American principles should engage in youth outreach, knowing that Socialists and other radicals are more than willing to make up for our lack of effort.

The Importance of Constitution Day

The Constitution of the United States is something many citizens affirm and that all federal officials swear fealty to. However, it’s also a document that is under increasing assault.

Demagogues on the left and right find it inconvenient. It was written to make it hard to get your way on changes. In a country where we love instant gratification, the Constitution infuriates the entitled mentality that dominates our political debate.

Both the left and right are repelled by the amount of freedom it gives. Recently, the third most powerful Democrat in Congress James Clyburn (D-SC) observed there would be “strong support against the bill of rights” if it were voted on today.

There are so many know-it-alls on the Internet who are convinced our system of government is preposterous and antiquated and they have a better plan that we should follow instead.

Yet, this fact is missed: our Constitution has worked. Our country has many flaws, the state of our union is not perfect. Many have found ways to ignore the Constitution and get around its requirements. Yet, its framework frustrates most authoritarian and totalitarian impulses.

President Trump publicly admires and lauds dictators. Many of them such as Vladimir Putin came to power in countries that had more modern democratic constitutions, which were more easy to alter. These dictators were able to get around their pliable constitutions to set themselves up as a strong man. Trump can only admire them, because he is under the U.S. Constitution, he can never be them.

I won’t say the Constitution should never be changed, but we’d better be careful and respectful in any alterations we propose. We’re talking about a document that’s kept our country free for 230 years. We’d better know what we’re about when we try to change it.

“I don’t understand why the Constitution does this,” is not an argument for changing it, any more than, “I don’t know why the contractor put a ceiling support on that wall” is an argument for ripping the support out. Rather, not understanding is a good reason for finding out why.

Citizenship and Constitution Day are two very important days that have been combined. Whatever the intent of Congress in 1952, this combination has meant that they can both be ignored at the same time. I hope that a new political party will change that.

Breaking the Binary, Part Two: Thinking Realistically About Elections

In my last blog post, I called for us to stop viewing every election as an apocalyptic event and consider the consequences in a realistic way.

How do we do that? One way is to calculate the mathematical consequence of an individual vote. Partisans will guilt their friends with the idea, if they don’t sacrifice their conscience, they’ll be responsible for the election of the worst of the two evils. This is nonsense. The odds of an individual vote swinging a presidential election are infinitesimal. Steven Weese of the Foundation for Economic Education posted a great mathematical analysis on the issue in 2016.

However, mathematical arguments may avail little during the heavily emotional 2020 campaign.

Voters may view themselves not as “individuals” voting for a candidate they believe will do a good job but as part of a grand alliance to save the country from the radical left. The key to defeating this tendency is to be realistic. The first thing reality tells us is the idea of “saving America” by “stopping the Democrats” is a myth.

Whether we like it or not, America is a land of political parity when it comes to Presidential politics. From 1952-2016, the average length of time a political party has held the White House is eight years. The exceptions to this are the four-year run of Jimmy Carter and the twelve-year Reagan-Bush years. The Reagan-Bush success was built on two historic landslides where President Reagan averaged more than 500 electoral votes and 46 states in the 1980 and 1984 elections, a feat we’re unlikely to see again. The most wildly optimistic scenario for a Trump’s re-election is for him to win his 2016 and add New Hampshire and Minnesota, which would leave him at around 320 electoral votes, hardly a foundation for a third GOP term.

Thus, if conservative voters pull the lever for Trump in 2020 and “save America,” they will most likely wake up the morning after Election Day in 2024 to find the Democrats have won back the Oval Office.

The next question is, would a Democratic victory in 2024 be worse than one in 2020 for conservative values and causes? I think it would be. We’ve learned a couple of things about executive power over the course of the last two presidencies. First, Congress has abdicated too much power to the President (such as the ability to unilaterally impose tariffs and declare a trade war.) Second, there’s a limit to what a President can do without a significant legislative majority.

Democrats almost certainly will hold the House after the 2020 elections, but the Senate is another matter. While the GOP holds the majority of seats up, Democrats will have to run the table to win a Senate Majority. Likely, Republicans will still hold the Senate or there will be a narrow Democratic Majority where professed moderates like Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Krysten Sinema (D-AZ) will hold the balance of power and frustrate the Democrats’ most ambitious goals. In addition, the legislative filibuster will remain in place. So, if Democrats win the White House in 2020, they’ll either be blocked from enacting their agenda or have it severely hampered.

What about if Democrats win in 2024? Democrats will be significantly stronger in Congress. Generally, Presidents lose seats in their second terms and the last two Republican Presidencies don’t portend well for Republican Congressional hopes. President Trump, like Presidents Reagan and George W. Bush, didn’t lose any Senate seats in his first mid-term. Reagan and Bush both lost a significant number of seats during their second term. The GOP lost a total of seven seats in the 1986 and 1988 elections. They lost fourteen seats in the 2006 and 2008 Senate elections.

It’s unlikely Democrats will get sixty seats in the Senate, given Trump’s general unpopularity and his flaws in character. However, Democrats could make significant pickups in the Senate in 2022 and 2024. These could be so significant, they could find the votes to end the filibuster for legislation and ram their agenda through the senate with fifty-one votes, something unlikely to occur should Democrats win in 2020.

Note I’m not trying to make an argument that voting for a Democrat for President is ever a lesser evil. What I’m suggesting is there’s a severe folly in voting for bad candidates to “save America.” I’m suggesting the games people play with their votes make little sense in reality.

Elections do have consequences. However, they also have Newtonian questions. Newton said, for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. It’s as true in politics as it in physics.

For the last six decades, every party has planted the seeds of its own doom and guaranteed the right of the other party.

The historic trends and the facts of the Trump presidency show us that should Democrats lose in 2020, they’ll win in 2024. Further, they’ll win with a more radical nominee than they’re likely to nominate this year and they will gain a congressional majority that will do their bidding.

This is the most likely legacy of a “pragmatic” vote to save the country from the Democrats. If we want to make a truly positive impact, we need to go in a radically different direction.

Breaking the Binary, Step One: Stop Believing in Apocalyptic Elections

One of the less-remembered Disney films was the 1973 movie World’s Greatest Athlete. However, the beginning of the film stands out to me.

Coach Sam Archer (John Amos) is a multi-sport college coach and we get to see him giving a pep talk to each sports’ team he coaches and in the opening of each talk, the Coach declares each different sport to be his life. The movie was poking fun at overworn exaggerated sports clichés that coaches try to use to motivate their team.

There is a political equivalent to Coach Amos’ clichéd opening and here it is: “This is the most important election of our lifetime.” How many fundraising letters, blog posts, and speeches have begun with those words? We hear it every four years and if it’s fundraising letter, it’s followed by lots of scary lines with bold, underlined text or words screaming in ALL CAPS about how we have to beat the other side.

Of course, the declaration of the super importance of the election isn’t the end of the manipulation…oh no. You then get a list of horrible things that will happen if the other party should win the election which assumes that every policy priority that the other party has will be enacted should they win the Presidency.

As a voter, it’s easy to get brow beaten. You may not like or trust either candidate, your conscience may loathe them, but who are you to cast a vote for a third party or Independent Candidate in the “most important election of our lifetime?” Thus you end up picking between the lesser of two evils.

Let me be clear that in criticizing this rhetoric, I’m not saying that elections don’t have consequences: they certainly do. However, as long as we believe that every election has the potential to bring about the apocalypse, no one will ever find the courage to take the necessary steps to build a new party. It will always be, “In this election, we’ll back the lesser of two evils, but next time we’ll stand up for what we believe in and build a new party…” Only next time, we’ll find ourselves in an apocalyptic “most important election in our lifetime” and the cycle will never end.

I’ve written in a previous post about the importance of rejecting the political binary that says we have to choose between the Republlican and Democratic Nominee. The first step to this is to reject the apocalyptic nonsense foisted on us every four years by the political class.

In my next post, I’ll address a more realistic way to look at elections and their consequences.

We Must Reject the Political Binary

Are you ready to be manipulated? Are you ready for a dose of good old fashioned emotional blackmail?

If you’re a conservative who’s not a fan of the left-wing extremists in the Democratic Party or the fiscally irresponsible racially divisive Trump-led GOP get ready to receive pressure from all sides.

Most conservatives will tell you that a vote for anyone other than Donald Trump (such as Independent Congressman Justin Amash) will hand the country over to left-wing extremists.

Similarly, many anti-Trumpers like Tom Nichols, don’t want you to back someone like Amash because it will re-elect Trump, “..don’t let anyone – left or right – sell you on a 3rd party run against Trump in 2020. That only helps Trump. “

Whether its Amash or any other conservative Independent who appeals to you, you can expect pressure to pick between the lesser of two evils instead.

They’ll do this by trying to persuade you of absurdities. The most absurd idea is that you are responsible for delivering your vote, the politicians aren’t responsible for winning it. If the Democrats win with less than a Majority, Trump’s propagandists will not blame the fact that they fell into lockstep in renominating a historically unpopular liar whose lack of ethics, and racial divisiveness alienated the country. Instead, they’ll blame Independent voters who backed another candidate over the GOP’s anointed choice. Failing that, they’ll attack the candidate as if he or she were the pied piper of Hamlin.

Similarly, if Trump wins because the Democrats nominate a candidate who can’ t bring themselves to say third-trimester abortions are wrong, favor gun confiscation, and support radical “Medicare for All” plans that will effectively end private insurance, it will be the fault of Independents who wouldn’t vote for their horrible nominee.

Major party politicos love to blame Independent and Third-Party campaigns for their troubles because it serves a dual purpose. First, it allows campaign insiders and party bosses who blew elections to escape blame. Second, it serves to serve as an argument to discourage Independent voting.

Thus, we can understand Democrats who blame Jill Stein and Gary Johnson for their 2016 loss rather than Hillary Clinton running a Presidential campaign that included multiple stops on Broadway but avoided going to Wisconsin. It’s also why Republicans will blame their 1992 loss on Ross Perot despite abundant evidence that Perot wasn’t to blame for Bush’s loss.

It’s an insidious game both parties play that fundamentally flips our Republic on its head. In the next few blog posts, I’ll be talking about how to defeat this binary view of politics.