Thursday, February 4, 2016

A Culture of Name-Calling

     Young children on a playground will often participate in a favorite juvenile tradition, i.e. name calling. Usually the target of such an activity is one who is perceived to be different from a norm imposed by the standards of the group. Other times the target is another child who is perceived to be weaker or stronger than the name caller. The act of name calling is meant to achieve two results; a) to marginalize the target from the rest of the group, and b) to make the name caller feel superior. Our recent political debate, especially on the Right, has degenerated into a hyper-version of the school yard tradition of name calling.
     The reckless abandon with which some on the Right have succumbed to the ignorance of name calling is an alarming development. We see this behavior being enacted by some in talk radio, so-called conservatives on social media, and in the general population of those on the Right side of the political spectrum. I have grown ever so weary of the ease with which the insult of Rino (Republican in name only), or "establishment" is withdrawn from the intellectually lazy holster of those who disagree with a Republican leader on even one issue.
     To Witt: Consider the case of Marco Rubio. Here is a guy who most conservatives agreed was the kind of candidate they would want to represent the Republican Party in a presidential election. Senator Rubio makes the "mistake" of trying to work with the majority Party in congress at the time, the Democrats, and a Democrat President, to achieve the best result he could under those conditions to solve the issues surrounding illegal immigration. For that "mortal sin" he has forever been labeled a Rino/member of the establishment.
     The real dichotomy of the position of those who call Senator Rubio a Rino for supporting the Gang of 8 bill, is that they also say the same thing about former Speaker John Boehner, who opposed the Gang of 8 bill and essentially kept it from coming to a vote in the House of Representatives. But this is exemplary of the complete capriciousness of the name calling Right. There is no real rhyme or reason to their tactics. They are more about demoting the esteem of those with whom they disagree in the eyes of others, than they are about promoting any superior ideas or values of their own.
     Another prong of the name calling strategy is to mis-characterize a person's position as something that it is not so they can be figuratively tar and feathered with an untrue accounting of their beliefs. Again, taking the example of Marco Rubio and the Gang of 8 bill, those name callers on the Right characterized the bill as amnesty. This of course is the dirtiest of words for those one-issue voters who think illegal immigration is the most serious issue facing this great nation. But the Gang of 8 bill was not about amnesty at all, as any intellectually honest person who read the bill would acknowledge. But the name callers do not deal in truth, but narratives that they create which advance their political agenda.
     The Democrats and those on the Left have always populated the school yard of political debate. It is just a shame that so many on the Right have now followed them to that playground of the weak-minded and intellectually immature. We can measure our dedication to our Founders' values, and the principles enshrined in our founding documents, by the honesty and decorum with which we conduct ourselves in the public arena of political debate. Under those terms, some of the members of our conservative movement have failed miserably.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Politics of the Extemporaneous

     If there is one thing I deplore it is pettiness. The pettifoggery of focusing on the insignificant, even if it may contain a kernel of truth, is in my opinion dishonest and a betrayal of the truth. It seems as though the single-minded focus on the extemporaneous has become a mainstay of our politics on the Right. The Left of course has engaged in this practice for many decades, in fact their entire ideology is centered on diverting the public's attention from what is truly important to that which is much less significant. But this behavior, or more to the point, this bad behavior, has grown into a cancer on the Right which threatens to destroy the healthy tissue of our principles.
     I submit as evidentiary to my thesis the recent campaign to nominate a Republican candidate to challenge the Democrat nominee to become the next President of the United States vis-a-vis this November's election. There is myriad issues being discussed and debated in the campaign, that is a fact. But the main thrust of focus in both the Left stream and Right stream media are the issues that run contrary to the tenets of importance as they relate to choosing another president to lead this country through the next four years.
     The entire campaign of the front runner, Donald Trump, is built upon the foundation of frivolity. And that inconsequential-ality of frothy rhetoric has spilled over into the other campaigns in the Republican presidential race. It is the substantial support for Donald Trump and his methods of campaigning that has caused the other campaigns to devolve into the kind of childish behavior that many of the practitioners of such behavior have criticized. To Witt: the incessant focus by some on whether or not Ted Cruz is even eligible to run, in consideration of his Canadian birth to an American mother.
     Then there is the recent dust-up over some Cruz campaign staffers forwarding an erroneous media story about his fellow candidate Ben Carson dropping out of the race. Anyone who reads my blog on a regular basis knows I am no Ted Cruz fan. But I can believe in a major campaign inundated with the thunderstorm of media and information, erroneous information could be forwarded about a fellow candidate. And while Ted Cruz's staffers were guilty of not properly vetting the story they received from CNN, I do not believe it was a deliberate attempt to sabotage the Carson camp.
     Conservatism has always been about accepting the truth whether or not it may support the conservative goals in the short term, because it will always support the principles of Liberty in the longer term. I am chagrined to see many of my conservative brethren boarding the train of devolution that is fueled by the extemporaneous. The petty bickering and name-calling that has become more prevalent on the Right recently is not worthy of the conservative principles of Ronald Reagan, William F. Buckley Jr, Jack Kemp, et al. We would be wise as conservatives to once again set ourselves apart from the Left by living the values of the constitution and the intellectual temperament of the aforementioned individuals.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Hash Tag: RancherLivesMatter

     The Oregon standoff that started with anti-government separatists occupying federal property because their "principles" gave them permission to do so, and ended with one of the ring leaders of the group, Levoy Finnicum, receiving his wish to "die for the cause," is exemplary of what happens with the break down of the rule of law. The very nature of groups like the Oregon vigilantes is that they become demented by the delusion that their "cause" is above the law. It is the path for all extremists to become hopelessly drunk on the wine of their own self-righteousness and empowered by their mangled interpretation of shared values.
     I am not here to prosecute the merits of the grievances that lead them to such heights of irresponsible and anti-social behavior, but rather to evaluate how it worked out for them in the end. These ranchers may have a legitimate gripe against an ever encroaching federal government, but they lost any support from the general public when they allowed themselves to occupy not only federal property, but a pedestal that sits high above the rule of law. If there is one thing the average American dislikes more than out-of-control government telling them what to do, it is out-of-control zealots who break the bonds of civilized society to prosecute a war against what they see as oppression.
     I suppose the sparse supporters of Levoy Finnicum and his gang would point to the rugged individualism of the western ranchers as the motivation for their behavior. But rugged individualism does not translate into an excuse for anarchy. Whether that anarchy is in the wide open spaces of a wild life preserve in Oregon, or the tightly populated city of Baltimore Maryland. When believers in a cause become the purveyors of violence, their cause ceases to be of importance and their behavior becomes paramount.
     I am not much of a Twitter user, but I fully expect (if it has not already happened) for a new hash tag campaign to emerge named #RancherLivesMatter. They already have their own version of "Hands Up, Don't Shoot." As repulsive to the values of the rule of law the actions of the BlackLivesMatter group are, as consistent conservatives we must also find just as repulsive the actions of the RancherLivesMatter folks. The seeds of anarchy which germinate into the full fledged flower of tyranny, must be opposed by all those truly interested in the cause of Liberty and the continuation of the values enshrined in this great nation's founding documents.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Misdirection of the Trump No-Show

     Tonight is the final Republican debate before the first salvo in the primary voting, i.e. the Iowa caucuses. It will proceed, sans the front runner in the race, Donald Trump. The Donald has made a very public display that he will not attend the debate being hosted by Fox News, and in part moderated by Megan Kelly. Mr. Trump has spared no decency or decorum in expressing his dislike for Megan Kelly, who in the last Fox debate had the unmitigated gall to ask Mr. Trump some pointed and tough questions. But as is the habit of a well practiced Alinsky-ite like Donald Trump, his absence is not so much about harming Fox, but the Republican Party.
     Candidate Trump's strategy from the beginning, I believe, has been to run third Party. He said as much in the beginning, and then pulled back from that position because it was too early for him to do so successfully. He first needed to secure the far Right vote of the Republican Party, and the moderate vote in the Democrat Party. He has successfully accomplished the former and is now working on the latter by not only skipping the Fox debate, but holding his own event at the same time on MSNBC, the mouth piece network for the Left.
     Donald Trump's vociferous whining about "not being treated fairly," first by the Republican Party, then by Fox News, has a certain appeal to those on the Left and their constant emphasis on victim status. After all, they elected Barack Obama in large part because he is a member of one of the Lefts victim groups and deserved to hold the highest office in the land. So Mr. Trump's appeal to those moderately on the Left can be attributed to the same victimology which elected our current Commander In Chief. In other words those on the Left see Republicans as the enemy, and the enemy of my enemy, i.e. Donald Trump, is my friend.
     No one could argue that Donald Trump is not a narcissist. And what more spectacular way to feed the narcissistic hunger in a man than to create and head a new political Party that he thinks, in his own narcissistic mind, is going to start a national movement to elect him president? At worse Mr. Trump can play spoiler to the Republican Party, the members of which he accuses of being unfair to The Donald. That would ensure an electoral victory for the enemy of his enemy, Hillary Clinton. A second best to he himself becoming the president. And besides he can run again in 2020 to dethrone the Queen of emails when the nation becomes weary of her and her husbands antics.
     So whether Fox News suffers tonight in the ratings from a Trump no show, or whether they do not, the real target of the Trump strategy is the Republican Party. And I am surprised by the number of those on the Right who support his efforts. They have been softened as targets for such a strategy by the constant drumbeat against the Republican "establishment" by the Alinsky conservatives like Mark Levin, et al. I would like to ask these folks who is going to defeat the Democrat nominee other than a Republican nominee? The dream of a third Party coming out of nowhere and sweeping the nation is the fodder of the narcissistic mind of Donald Trump and his supporters.

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Emotion-Over-Intellect Syndrome

     Well the wild-eyed, locust-eating, cave-dwelling Trump supporters are at it again. They have previously ignored the positions that their candidate has taken that do not fit their wishful thinking about him. On every issue, from amnesty to xenophobia, Trump supporters seem not so concerned about the position their candidate takes, but how loudly he takes it. And their only reasons for supporting the billionaire real estate developer seems to be his money and his mouth. The former, in their opinion, makes him somehow more saintly than other candidates, the latter makes him somehow more authentic. This would be all fine and good if they allowed for the same from his detractors.
     The recent dust-up among Trump supporters over National Review's symposium issue, Against Trump, is illustrative of the complete hypocrisy endemic in support for The Donald. It appears from the stand point of Trump supporters that their candidate is the only one who is allowed to speak his mind and have an opinion. Those who would pierce the thin vale of reality that surrounds his candidacy are persona non grata in the opinion of the robotic crowds that slavishly follow Mr. Trump from campaign stop to campaign stop.
     I can not say that I have never seen anything similar in American politics to the disconnect between Donald Trump's supporters and the reality of the man himself. I saw the same devotion to an empty slate in 2008 as it applied to Barack Obama. In both cases the votaries of these two candidates are supporting what they hoped their candidate would be, and not what they actually are. They wish so hard for a savior that they attach that label to a man who plies the electorate with platitudes and manipulates the emotions of the malleable. After all, emotions are a very powerful force in the human, much more powerful than the intellect.
      And so it is the emotions-over-intellect syndrome that causes Mr. Trump's supporters to demonize National Review's contributors for having a different opinion. And it is the emotion-over-intellect syndrome that causes otherwise smart people to twist themselves into pretzels when asked to explain their support for Donald Trump. The emotional argument that he would be better than Hillary, not necessarily the best candidate. Or the emotional argument that he does not need specifics because he will "figure it out" when he gets into the Oval Office. Or the emotional argument that he is somehow beyond corruption because he is self-funding.
     But the most detrimental and most emotional outburst is the one that aims to shut down the free speech of those who would dare oppose The Donald. Instead of dealing with the substance of the National Review's contributors, the Trump supporters react like snarling dogs protecting the fenced-in area of their candidate's fragile and vapid candidacy.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, and the Political Gamble In Which They Engage

     Presidential campaigns have ebb and flow. Leaders emerge and fade, supporters for one candidate change their allegiance to another, and in the end when the dust settles it is the candidate who is able to inspire support among the greatest number of primary voters who wins the prize. The Republican race to become the Party's representative in this November's general election is no different. With one caveat, there seems to be a conspiracy afoot in Right-Wing talk radio. Now, as a rule I am not susceptible to lending credence to conspiracy theories. But the recent, sudden, and jarring switch of support from Donald Trump to Ted Cruz by Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin leads me to believe there is something more present than just a come-to-Jesus moment for both men.
     For the last several months both "conservative" talkers have been evangelists for the Trump campaign, even in the face of the candidate's own non-conservative views and behavior. And then as if a switch was activated, both Limbaugh and Levin have become Cruz backers. The excuse given by both is the recent attacks by Mr. Trump aimed at Mr. Cruz, and the formers support for ethanol subsidies in the all important caucus state of Iowa. Both reasons have been present in the race for sometime and hold very little credence to the intellectually honest.
     And then of course there is the Sarah Palin endorsement of Donald Trump in the campaign, which I think has played a bigger role in the alacrity engaged by Mr. Levin and Mr. Limbaugh in switching support from Mr. Trump to Mr. Cruz. Sarah Palin, for those that do not remember, endorsed Ted Cruz in his race for the senate way back in 2010. Back then it was the conservative values of the Tea Party that Mrs. Palin brought to bear in helping Mr. Cruz become Senator Cruz. For that moment in time the Tea Party was a benefit to the Reagan conservatives, since, they have moved quickly into the liability column as a result of their evermore radical views.
     Mark Levin and Rush Limbaugh are both entertainers and businessmen first, and defenders of the Reagan conservatism faith second. Being lead by ratings also causes one to become somewhat of a gambler in political talk radio. Both Limbaugh and Levin gambled that Trump was going to become the Republican nominee, so they fell in step behind the Left-leaning real estate developer. Both men (maybe after meeting with each other and mulling the polls) have now switched their bets to Cruz, seeing Trump's popularity fading to the fringe. Helped along by the intellectual lightweight and fringy Right-Wing maven of conservative fluff, Sara Palin, and her endorsement of The Donald.
     Of course none of my theory can be proved, that is why it is a theory. It just seems awful suspicious to me that both men would be so in-the-bag for Donald Trump, and then both switch their allegiance to Ted Cruz in lock step. If it is not part of a larger conspiracy, it is one of the great coincidences in American politics. We shall see once the voting begins next month in Iowa whether or not Mr. Levin and Mr. Limbaugh's bets on Cruz pays off, or if they will once again have to change their bets to another candidate they see emerging. Both men risk looking even more foolish as the wheel slows down and their bets are still so fluid.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Broad Brush Syndrome

     There seems to be an inordinate amount of emphasis in our current political climate being placed on the activity of over-generalization, i.e. painting with a broad brush. This destructive behavior is found on both the Left and Right sides of the political ideology circle, and it is at the core of the modern Lefts bible, Saul Alinsky's Rules For Radicals. The most disturbing aspect of this sickness to me is that it appears to have spread among those on the Right at an alarming rate, metastasizing in the current campaign to choose a presidential nominee to represent us this November. I can not help but acknowledge that those who paint with a broad brush have willingly replaced art with artifice.
     I have glanced this issue in other blog posts, such as my post of yesterday, Establishment: The New Scarlet Letter. I can not imagine any intellectually honest person refusing to recognize the polarization of our politics, not only inter-Party, but intra-Party. The Broad Brush Syndrome has been applied to every serious issue facing this great country, and even to some inconsequential ones as well. From Muslim immigration to President Obama's birth certificate, one only has to spend 10 minutes on social media to find zealots who proselytize one or another extreme views on myriad political subjects.
     The inter-Party polarization is somewhat understandable, although not entirely productive, but the intra-Party polarization is the most severe form of political suicide. Nothing good can be achieved for the people of the United States of America when the political leaders of an ideology are daily painted with a broad brush by the media representatives of that ideology. The Broad Brush Syndrome is illustrated on a daily basis by the falling in and out of political favor simply by a candidate or politician giving support for a point of view that has been defined to be treasonous by the keepers of the faith in talk radio or other media.
     The artifice of painting with a broad brush is a necessary function of it, as those afflicted by the Broad Brush Syndrome must engage in a corollary activity, i.e. piling on. Piling on has become the bread and butter of some political pundits, surpassing their primary function of informing intellects, and drifting headlong into shaping opinion. And in an effort to shape others opinions to their own twisted views they must paint with a broad brush and engage in artifice. Which takes the form of committing the sin of omission (ignoring anything good about their intended target), and the sin of commission (deliberately misrepresenting the actions or words of their intended target).
     The Broad Brush Syndrome is by far a greater destructive force than any of the issues painted by it. It eats at the very heart of self-government, civil political discourse, and even Liberty itself. As the great writer, producer, and creator Rod Serling once said, "In order for civilization to survive, man must remain civilized." The current state of politics, both on the Left and the Right, has become uncivilized to the detriment of our republic. And the Broad Brush Syndrome is an essential aspect of that downward spiral.