Take the Outsider Test

Through the Obama years, Democrats had no problem with his pen and phone approach. If he couldn’t get it his way with GOP support, he was determined to go it alone. And while he was doing this, there was zero opposition from members of his team. But now that Trump is in power and the GOP hold most of the cards in Congress, the Democrats are going nuts over Trump’s pen and phone approach. What gives?  He’s doing the same thing Obama was doing. It’s been real interesting seeing Democrats (and socialists alike) suddenly in favor of state’s rights and limited government.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Republicans made Hillary Clinton’s private email server the issue to go after her on. Commercials and talks about how she put American security at risk dwarfed just about everything else bad about Clinton. And the Democrats, in fact Clinton’s biggest rival, Bernie Sanders, declared they were done hearing about her damn emails. But now Trump is in office. And Trump has a lot of smoke related to ties with Russia, both financially and politically. And the GOP has decided it doesn’t care to hear anymore about Trump’s damn ties while the Democrats are now up in arms about security. Again, what gives?

In both cases we have the same problems. In our first discussion, we have authoritarian power. In our second, we have American security. And what we find is that the party of the guilty looks the other way as long as they’re of the same party. Only the opposition complains. So it’s not about authoritarianism or security. It’s about who has the ball.

This starts a dark road into tribalism where facts and decency don’t matter. So before we get there (even if we probably already are), it’s time for everyone to take the Outsider Test.

John W. Loftus, once a practicing ordained minister and student of none other than William C. Craig, is now an atheist, challenging others once like him to examine the Christian faith. In March 2013, his book, “The Outsider Test For Faith” was published. The subtitle is, “How to Know Which Religion is True.” The premise of the book goes back to David Hume as Hume used the same kind of argument against Islam and Catholicism. But it’s Loftus who wraps up the test perfectly.

The test is simple: Critique your religion as if you were not part of it. Then see if it holds up. You should ponder on your beliefs and consider what someone outside your religion thinks of them.

The Outsider Test doesn’t have to be with just religion. I believe both major political parties in the United States need to take the Outsider Test.

What if during the presidential campaign, the roles of Trump were reversed with Clinton. What if it was Clinton who was encouraging more leaks from the GOP and encouraging Russia to hack Trump’s email? What if it was Clinton who fawned over Putin? What if Clinton refused to release her tax returns? What if Clinton’s choice of National Security Advisor quickly resigned over contacts with Russia during the campaign?

I can tell you exactly what would happen. The reverse of what is happening today. It would be the GOP going after her, calling for an investigation and the Democrats would be ignoring it. How do I know? Because the GOP went after Clinton on her emails, calling out FBI Director Comey for claiming she engaged in no wilful crime, for Clinton’s husband meeting on the tarmac with Attorney General, Loretta Lynch shortly before Comey said there was nothing to see here.

Both parties, all parties, all peoples of these parties are descending into tribalism. And might I add, when their own side engages in what they’d hate from the other side, there’s been a lot of special pleading going on. The best approach is to be as consistent as possible.

Ask yourself, would you be okay if the other side was doing such and such? If you answer “yes”, then sit back, relax, you’re being consistent. But if you say “no”, it’s time to take the Outsider Test.

A few years ago, here and here, I called on members of my own political leanings to point out some areas needing improvement. It is more important to put on your own oxygen mask first before you can help others. I think this very simple test does the trick. The question is, are you good enough to accept the results?

Those Inglourious Wealthy Basterds

Polls are showing Bernie Sanders pulling ahead of Hillary Clinton. It’s something a lot of people didn’t think would happen. But I saw it coming months ago, before Clinton’s scandals. Clinton could be the best angel from here until the primary election but it won’t help. You see, she’s old news. She was in 2008 and she is now. The only reason anyone was considering her way back when for 2016 was because she was the only one with her hat in the ring; that is, until Sanders. And now Joe Biden is looking to hop in too. Which means, Clinton isn’t going to easily take the throne like she may have thought she would. Did anyone else notice that? All that build up to her announcement. It was like she lost unfairly in 2008 and felt the Oval Office is now due to her in 2016. That was my impression.

You see, she lost in 2008 due to a charismatic character, a promiser for Change. The media pandered to him. They pitched softball questions to him. It was so obvious, Saturday Night Live had a field day with it (and may I add, made that show funny for the first time in years). No one wanted to see him trip. Set aside the fact that he’s bi-racial. Plenty of people of color have run for president under the Democrat banner. But none were treated with kid-gloves as Barack Obama. Isn’t he so nice? I mean, seriously. Put aside politics. I think I’d get along with him on a personal level. And that’s how you get into office. Clinton doesn’t have that. But you know who does?

Bernie Sanders has held a government position for over thirty-years. He’s been at the federal level since 1991. He’s currently filling the role of United States Senator from Vermont. And I predict, he’ll deny Clinton the throne for the very same reason Obama took it. Character.

Sanders has been rather consistent with his views throughout his tenure in office. And I can respect that. That is rarely seen in politics. He brings social democracy to the table as a presidential candidate. He’s offering an economic and social model like that of Denmark and Sweden. He’s not shy at all to say we can learn from them. As if they’re lands of unicorns and leprechauns. This is Sanders’ version of Change. But is anyone fact checking to see if the Nordic Model does offer a better alternative?

This essay isn’t going to go after that model, show it’s faults, show that it won’t work here. It won’t even show it doesn’t really work there. You can google it out for numerous papers on the subject. I personally recommend seeking out Cato Institute papers and studies for a good analysis on why the Nordic Model isn’t a greener pasture. No, in this essay, I’ll tackle the one piece that trickles throughout the Democratic Party, even if the socialism aspect isn’t tagged on.

Wealth Redistribution.

It’s the theory that some people have more than they need and should be forced to let go of some and turned over to others who have less. This, the theory goes, would even the playing field. Everyone could then afford good housing, healthy foods, clean water, a secure living environment, proper healthcare and everything else that goes into a civilized society. Great, right? Why should some people live better lives than others? That’s practically feudalism. We have no kings and queens here.

So how do we do it? The Sanders Way, is to forcibly take it. And to use the power of government to do so. The Sanders model, the Nordic Model, is taking money from someone else, giving it to someone else deemed more responsible to spend it on a greater good, and setting it in motion.

Plato dreamed of a society ruled by the smartest people: The Philosopher Kings. These people would be the brightest, the best able to see what was good. Not subjectively, but objectively. They could see the true good, not an object thought to be good. For instance, a steak dinner is good but a Philosopher King would say that it’s not the steak that is good, it’s what the steak represents. It’s that abstract, ungraspable concept behind the steak. And then they go about philosophizing the properties of the steak that make it so.

But we don’t have Philosopher Kings. And you don’t want Philosopher Kings. Imagine someone else determining what is the best thing for you. Uh, wait. I almost gave away the conclusion. Let me divert a bit.

We have elected individuals with minimal qualifications to get those jobs. Speaking at the federal level, the President only need be at least thirty-five-years old, living in the United States for the past fourteen-years and be natively born. A United States Senator only needs to have achieved the age of thirty, a United States citizens for at least nine-years and living in the State represented at the time of the election. And a United States Representative in Congress need only have achieved the age of twenty-five, citizen of the United States for the past seven-years and a resident of the represented state at the time of the election. There are more qualification requirements on a McDonald’s application. Do you think the people who minimally fit the government job requirements have the ability to see the greatest good? Maybe. But look at how they spend the money already given to them. Now ask if more would be a good idea.

The overriding error, the glaring assumption in government mandated Wealth Redistribution is the expectation that State power is benevolent, made up of thinkers who are just and seekers of equal. The error, is in conceptualizing the State as a machine with a program uninhibited or encumbered by human emotion, politics, subjective reasoning and overall humanness. When you hear someone say government should force rich people to give up more money, what they’re really saying is some people should be allowed to forcibly take money from richer people and decide what other people should get it.

Sam Harris, an intellectual I greatly admire, imagined another option. A collective of billionaires, including Bill Gates and Warren Buffet (already engaging in such a collective), coming together to pool the money they have voluntarily chosen they didn’t need. And then, figure out where best to share it. This is a much better option than Wealth Redistribution run by the State.

First, it’s voluntary. All contributors are not being forced into a program that may or may not show results. This means if the money isn’t spent wisely (“wisely” defined by each contributor), they may withdraw. And if it succeeds, they may choose to contribute more. And success might bring other backers. The government option forces contribution regardless of results.

Secondly, there’s less of a political football involved. Or may I say, none at all. No one is trying to please a campaign contributor or lobbyist. And even if they do choose to spend their “surplus” on a favorite, personal program that doesn’t seem for the common good, so what? It’s their money.

The fact is, there are no purely altruistic people. Only people wanting others to be purely altruistic. Here’s the proof: When you’re doing your taxes, do you look for as many deductibles as possible? Do you shelter as much money as you can in tax havens? Everyone does. Everyone cuts corners, fiddles with the numbers, to keep what they’ve earned. I know of no one, and neither do you, ignoring all the options to keep more of their earnings. I know of no one, and neither do you, checking off every box to donate, donate, donate. Give, give, give. No one. But when they do give, they voluntarily do so but not with tax forms. They give to a program or person who can make something happen for them or their community. Now if the altruistic billionaire club could gather more members, that would be great.

I don’t yet have an answer as to how to increase membership in the Altruistic Billionaire’s Club. But I know that those with wealth already do give (See: Gates; See: Buffet). They just don’t give to the Jesus Point: That point at which they’re down to robes and sandals. This, I think, is what the Wealth Redistribution crowd wants to see before they’ll be appeased. They never recognize the contributions already given, always expecting more. But what I do know is that public shaming doesn’t seem to work. Exhibit A: Occupy Wall Street. It. Did. Nothing. It’s gone. It remains a bad memory of an angry, disorganized mob. It only encourages division. It makes those being attacked dig in, put up walls, not want to give anything to those yelling at them.

So I’m open to suggestions. If you think they should give more, how? How should you get more wealthy people on board? I’m open to ways of encouraging those with the wealth and means to join Bill and Warren and maybe give a little more. Just don’t tell me your idea is force. Because, well, we’ve been over that.

November 6th is our D-Day; or, How moderates never win

One of my heroes is George S. Patton, Jr.  I’m sure it’s beginning comes from the magnificent performance given by George C. Scott in the film, “Patton.”  I have since read and watched biographies, read histories and even had the privilege of interviewing a man who served in Patton’s 3rd Army in the European campaign, Arnold Whittaker.  As I began thinking about this topic, I realized Patton’s famous speech before the 3rd Army kept running through my mind.

Patton told his men he didn’t want to receive any word about holding position or staying on safe ground.  He said to let the German’s do that.  He wanted his men to know they were to be advancing all the time.  He believed all Americans love to win — love the sting of battle in whatever form.

“When you, here, everyone of you, were kids, you all admired the champion marble player, the fastest runner, the toughest boxer, the big league ball players, and the All-American football players. Americans love a winner. Americans will not tolerate a loser. Americans despise cowards. Americans play to win all of the time. I wouldn’t give a hoot in hell for a man who lost and laughed.”  (Patton, June 5th 1944)

To win, Patton knew he had to be decisive and committed.  So let’s apply this to the current political climate in this country.  I hear from many that the majority of Americans want to be in the middle — they want everyone to get along.  They don’t want to win the debate but settle for a “middle of the road” moderate point of view where everyone is a little right and a little wrong.

Politicians are given a special seat at the inside-the-beltway table if they can tout their “moderate” positions with pride.  Citizen’s in our country go through great lengths to claim they are not for either side, but remain “independent.”  This is a wonderful self-appointed title.  It sounds so erudite, so cultured and sophisticated.  You can imagine the voice of Thurston Howell III with his ivy league drawl saying, “I don’t choose sides.  I’m an Independent.”

This notion is anathema to an overwhelming majority of Americans and this can be demonstrated by looking at the last 40 years of presidential elections.

1980 – Reagan v. Carter

1980 Electoral College Results

In the run-up to the 1980 election, this nation was in a state of depression.  Not just in terms of economic and energy policy, but in how we thought of ourselves in the world.  We were filled with doubt.  The misery index was never higher at 21.98.  Interest rates were through the roof, lines at gas stations stretched for blocks, and inflation was ballooning out of control.

Would any argue with me if I said Jimmy Carter represented a clearly liberal way of governing?  That he was solidly identified as on the left?  Would anyone call him a moderate?

Enter Ronald Reagan.  Ask yourself the same questions?  Was he a moderate?  A maverick that walked that middle-of-the-road line to governance?  Or was he clearly right-wing and conservative?

When the electorate was given the choice between two very clear alternatives, the conservative won and won soundly.

1984 – Reagan v. Mondale

Presidential election results map. Red denotes states won by Reagan/Bush, Blue denotes those won by Mondale/Ferraro.

Four years later it was time for another race.  Again, Americans were given a very clear choice between a right-wing conservative in the incumbent president and the challenger, Walter Mondale.  The DNC convinced themselves that the reason Carter lost was due to not being liberal enough and Mondale would be the alternative to what they believed was a war-monger with his finger on the button. And, when the polls closed in November of 1984, Reagan managed to surpass his impressive landslide win from four years earlier.  Reagan won 49 of the 50 states.  A resounding win by anyone’s measurement.

Given the choice between a decisive conservative agenda and one that was liberal, American’s voted for the conservative.

1988 – George H. W. Bush v. Michael Dukakis

Presidential election results map. Red denotes states won by Bush/Quayle, Blue denotes those won by Dukakis/Bentsen. Bentsen/Dukakis received one electoral vote from a West Virginia faithless elector. Numbers indicate the number of electoral votes allotted to each state

Spurred by the red tidal wave of conservatism, the Republican primary was a no-brainer for Reagan’s Vice President, George H. W. Bush.  For most, Bush (41) was considered a vote for a third term of Reagan.  He ran on the same conservative record.

The left, believing their strategy was still correct, nominated the Massachusetts liberal, Michael Dukakis.  The thinking this time was to select a northeastern liberal rather than one from the mid-west or the south.  In one aspect, this was a more successful campaign in that Dukakis was able to win 10 states plus the District of Columbia.  Though a dramatic improvement over Carter and Mondale, it was a still a huge defeat as Bush (41) took the other 40 states with ease.

The American populace had been given a clear choice for three election cycles and when shown stark differences, opted for the unabashed conservative.

1992 – Bush v. Clinton v. Perot

Presidential election results map. Red denotes states won by Bush/Quayle, Blue denotes those won by Clinton/Gore.

Here’s where things begin to shift.  It will mark the first time in modern history when a president is elected without garnering 50% or more of the popular vote and an independent, third-party candidate, will cost a sitting president his bid for reelection.  Running for a second term, Bush (41) started to make noticeable shifts toward a more moderate stance.  He was labeled as disconnected from the ‘common man’ when he was incredulous over the cost of a loaf of bread during a photo-op at a grocery store.  In an effort to combat this notion, he began to support greater social spending initiatives and supported tax increases in an effort to gain support from the Congress.  His famous, “Read my lips,” mantra, about not signing any bill raising taxes, pushed to the side.

But, there was more to this race than just Bush moving to the center.  A third-party candidate, Ross Perot, was actually leading in the polls early over both Bush and Clinton, due to his fiscally conservative speeches, utilizing white pads and a no-nonsense delivery that never pulled punches.  He was a businessman, not a politician, and championed this as his best attributes.

Toward the waning months of the campaign, Perot inexplicably made a decision to drop out of the campaign, but returned later and attempted to regain his lost momentum.  It was too late.  The fiscally conservative candidate had lost the confidence of many of his followers, while the more centrist Bush was in a battle with the dynamic orator in Governor Clinton.  Clinton was very much a leftist candidate, but his great smile and mesmerizing charisma obfuscated his liberal underbelly.

The electorate was left to choose from an incumbent who had moved to the center, an untrustworthy fiscal conservative, or a dynamic, but liberal candidate with a clear message.  The voters opted for the latter, though Clinton became our 42nd president with only 43% of the overall vote.

The candidate with a clear stance, unmuddied by trying to be a moderate, won.

1996 – Clinton v. Dole v. Perot (again)

Presidential election results map. Red denotes states won by Dole/Kemp, Blue denotes those won by Clinton/Gore.

The 1996 presidential election was like a bad Hollywood sequel.  Bill Clinton?  Check!  An aging war hero?  Check!  The short Texan with the odd voice and no political experience?  Check! No one doubted the service Dole gave to his country, but similar to how the DNC failed to understand the country wasn’t looking for more liberal candidates from 1980-1988, the GOP made the mistake of thinking the country would vote for someone because they had served in battle and had been “around a long time.”  What it did was show the American people that Dole was chosen for no other reason than he was “entitled” to it — the elder statesman.

Clinton recognized the need to embrace the accomplishments of the heavily conservative Congress, a body he lost control over in 1994.  Welfare reform, acknowledgement that universal healthcare was a mistake, and lower taxes were all parts of his campaign.

And the high-pitched Texan, who believed everyone had forgotten about his last failed attempt, was ready and raring to do it again, this time to Bob Dole.

In the end, the numbers were almost identical for Dole as they had been for Bush (41): 39.2 million popular votes.  Bill Clinton actually received two million more popular votes over 1992 with a total of 47.4 million.  Perot lost support with only 8 million votes.  Everyone else stayed home.

Clinton showed he was happy accepting the conservative accomplishments of the Congress.  It wasn’t that the American people had much of a choice, so they opted to keep riding the horse they knew — the one that seemed to be okay being more conservative than he had been four years prior.

2000 – Bush v. Gore

Presidential election results map. Red denotes states won by Bush/Cheney,
Blue denotes those won by Gore/Lieberman.

Was there a more contentious race in modern history than Bush v. Gore?  Hanging chads.  Voters who admitted they didn’t know how to use the voting machines or line up the right names.  Results that were fought in the courtroom and escalated all the way to the Supreme Court. Bush took 50.5 million votes to Gore’s 51 million.  Yet, the electoral college went toward Bush with 271 versus Gore’s 266.

Gore pushed a much more liberal agenda.  Bush favored a more conservative one.  In the end, the nation opted to put their support behind the conservative, though by one of the slimmest margin’s in modern history.

One additional observation that may explain why that race was so close.  Bush’s selection for VP was Dick Cheney and he very well may have been the nudge that gave Bush the win.  He was a known, conservative entity with a wealth of experience.  On the flipside was Gore’s selection for VP.  Joe Lieberman had long been viewed as a hawk with some fiscally conservative leanings.  In a sense, Gore balanced out his own liberal leanings with a much more centrist (if not right of center) running mate.

Americans were given a choice of a double-conservative ticket versus one that had elements of both.  Though confusing to most, the conservative ticket won.

2004 – Bush v. Kerry

Presidential election results map. Red denotes states won by Bush/Cheney, Blue denotes those won by Kerry/Edwards. The split vote in Minnesota denotes a faithless elector’s vote counted for John Edwards. Each number represents the electoral votes a state gave to one candidate.

One could argue that with the terrorist attack of 9/11, an incumbent president who supported the military and espoused politically conservative principles would have little chance of losing a bid for reelection.  But, a war-weary nation was starting to reveal itself.  The DNC dove back into the back of their political playbook and opted for another northeast liberal in Senator John Kerry.  The American electorate was given a very clear choice (something they hadn’t been given in the last three elections) to make — the current conservative incumbent or embrace the much more liberal opponent. And, whenever there has been a clear-cut choice given to the American people, the conservative agenda ends up winning.  (Notice I say the conservative agenda versus a specific party?)  Though closer than any of the elections of the 1980’s, there was no doubt that George W. Bush had won a second term in office.

2008 – McCain v. Obama

Presidential election results map. Blue denotes states/districts won by Obama/Biden, and Red denotes those won by McCain/Palin. Numbers indicate electoral votes allotted to the winner of each state. Obama won one electoral vote (from Nebraska’s 2nd congressional district) of Nebraska’s five.

For some reason, political strategists seem to forget the age-old wisdom proffered by the American philosopher George  Santayana (1863-1952) who said: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” (from “Life of Reason I“).  It is beguiling to me that when the 2008 presidential election cycle was put before the American people, the GOP put a war-hero on the ticket who had “earned” the right by having been around awhile — one who was also known as a “maverick” for his tendency to break with his party.  John McCain was Bob Dole all over again with one notable exception, the title, “Maverick.” This was supposed to be the merit that would get those elusive ‘independents’ (moderates) to vote Republican.  Really?  Even though Bush (43) had been running to the middle(much like his father did) since the Democrats won majorities in the house and senate during the 2006 mid-term election, he wasn’t “middle” enough.  McCain was going to be the answer.

On the Democrat side, the young and well-spoken Barack Obama, with a dubious background, hidden college records, and questionable political associates and mentors could not have been more liberal.  From his own biographies, he grew up in a family that despised capitalism and colonialism, found relief with Marxist professors and groups in college, experimented with drugs and alcohol, and found a church home under the guidance of a pastor that embraced Black Liberation Theology.  There is no question that Barack Obama was a far left candidate for any who wanted to look past the his polished veneer.

Yet, the choice for Americans was for a liberal or for liberal-lite? Obama ended up winning the night with 365 electoral votes.  In essence, he mopped the floor with the hapless McCain and his “middle-of-the-road Maverick” reputation, who took only 173 electoral votes.

When Americans were given a choice between someone with a clear agenda and someone who was trying to be a self-described moderate, they opted not to support the centrist.  They wanted to vote for someone who wasn’t afraid to pick a side.

Obama v. Romney?

The 2012 election results will be known by the end of the night on November 6.  There is no doubt that the American voter is being given a choice between two very different candidates.  With the addition of Paul Ryan to the Romney ticket, there is no doubt about the fiscally conservative message being offered.  Ryan also has a history of supporting limited government, individual liberty, and has demonstrated a strong desire to reform the aged and overbearing tax code.  They are also going after the tabooed third-rail in politics — entitlement programs for seniors.

But, rather than serving up platitudes, cleaver campaign slogans, or empty rhetoric, the Romney-Ryan ticket has tangible plans and documents they can point to and let voters read.  They have objective financial data they can quote and use in front of an audience.  They are not afraid to articulate a clear position that is rooted in a conservative ideology.

The current administration is also providing a very clear difference.  They want to continue along the same path they have been laying out for four years.  They want Americans to accept the current status quo and to reward Obama with another four years of the same.  They are going to run on bigger government, more spending and more Americans living off the government dole.

There is no doubt Americans are being offered a clear choice between a liberal agenda and a conservative one.  Let’s remember our past, as Santayana reminds us.   We are being given a clear choice between two agendas and this time Americans will side, as they have over the last 32 years, with the conservative one.  Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a middle-of-the-road losing proposition.

It’s the message Patton evoked in his address to the Allied invasion force on the day before D-Day.  No one wins sitting in the middle of the road.  Winning requires a decisive and clear vision.  And history has shown embracing conservative principles is a winning strategy.

November 6th is our D-Day.  I’m going to keep taking advice from General Patton.  He seemed to know his history, too.