“It’s kind of sad when normal love of country makes you a super patriot.”

– John Wayne

Forgiveness

In the name of national unity, after a war that killed more Americans than any before or since, Abraham Lincoln called for a national reconciliation with millions of his fellow Americans who not only disagreed with him, but hated him with an unmitigated passion: “With malice toward none, and charity for all…”

If Lincoln could utter those words after a disagreement that wrought unspeakable bloodshed, why is it not possible for so many of those who fought passionately for the legalization of same-sex marriage to do the same for their foes?

This nation was founded upon the concept of “E pluribus unum,” out of many, a single united entity. That did not mean that we stopped being “many,” or different. That did not mean assimilation. It meant that we came together and remained so in spite of our differences.

E pluribus unum remains the watchword of the nation. It must be the watchword of us all, or we will cease being a nation.

Erick Erickson and the GOP

Why This Fight”
Erick Erickson

RedState
19 February 2014

In this highly readable editorial, Erick Erickson of RedState joins the chorus of voices calling for a Republican Party that stands for something, not just against Barry O and the Democrats. I don’t agree with everything he says, but he is correct in so many places.

He is right – we must stand for something again.

  • We must stop being the party of big business, and start being the party of opportunity for all.
  • We must stop being the party of the wealthy, and start being the party of the Middle Class.
  • We must stop being the party of donors, and start being the party of voters.
  • We must stop being the party that stops the federal government, and start being the party that empowers local government.
  • We must stop being the party that writes blank checks to the military industrial complex, and start being the party that gives America the best defense for the dollar.
  • We must stop being the party bought and paid for by caregivers, and start being the party for a healthy America.
  • We must stop being the party that legislates morality, and start being the party that defends the right of all Americans to live according to their beliefs.

Where Erickson and I have a disagreement is over this fetish about government size .We must stop being the party of small government, because a government will grow and shrink based on what you task it to do. Instead we need to start being the party of efficient, effective, and accountable government.

Welcome to the fight, Erick.

The End of Tolerance

What troubles me most about this country is that we seem to have moved from the American ideal – “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,” to the Soviet ideal: “I disapprove of what you say, and I will fight to see to it that you are punished for saying it.”

 

One of the many serious flaws of neoconservatism is its excessive confidence in American power. This routinely leads its adherents into advocating aggressive policies without taking into account the possible and likely consequences of those policies, because they overlook or simply ignore how their policies might go wrong. That’s not unique to neoconservatives, but it is more perilous because they are constantly agitating for U.S. activism abroad.

via Why No One Should Still Be a Neocon
Daniel Larison
The American Conservative
April 8, 2014

Yes, yes, yes!

Once again, TAC shows that it is one of the few places where conservative thinking in America is finally beginning to emerge into the 21st century.

Moneyball Politics: SCOTUS is not the Problem

In a 5-4 ruling last week, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) reversed the decision of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission. The essence of the court’s decision was to invalidate section 441 of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, which set aggregate limits on the direct contributions that individuals could donate to national political parties and federally elected candidates in a calendar year.

This has set off two highly emotional spasms of political commentary, both of which are deeply biased in their approach to the issue. One side claims that this is the functional end of election reform, that money now owns American politics, and that the voice has been taken from the people. This is hyperbolic: limits remain on contributions individuals can make to individual candidates, and the majority – with the possible exception of Justice Thomas, who was for abolishing all restrictions – appear to seek a legal path between freedom of speech on the one hand, and the dangers of corruption on the other.

The other side, for its part, is claiming a victory for freedom of speech, and contends that money in politics does automatically lead to undue influence. The latter is naive at best, if not downright disingenuous, and it defies common sense. If contributions did not adversely affect the political process, why have generations of well-meaning politicians, including John McCain, Russ Feingold, and Fred Thompson, all sacrificed their political careers on the alter of finance reform?

At the Bull Moose, we are extremely uncomfortable with any restrictions on free speech. We are also uncomfortable with a ruling that makes money rather than votes the political currency of the land. The nation was founded on the principle of “one man, one vote” as part of an effort to prevent the rise of a political aristocracy who would use money to control power and protect their interests against those of the nation.

Originalists v. Purposiveists

Despite all of this we believe that the vituperative levied against the Supreme Court misses the point for two reasons. First, while the issue is an ideological one, the majority and the minority were actually split by two matters of principle.

  1. Does political corruption, which both sides deem bad, only occur when there is a clear “quid-pro-quo?” Or is the nature of corruption more broad, relying on the soft but firm tendrils of extraordinary access and, as a result, undue influence?
  2. What did the Founding Fathers, those men who framed the Constitution, believe about corruption? What was their intent? How did a reasonable person at the time of the Constitution’s framing feel about the issue?

The Supremes are in place to make rulings on law based on their interpretation of the Constitution, the law of the land, and not to determine the morality or advisability of the law. SCOTUS is not the problem here, and I long ago stopped assuming that anyone on the Court who disagreed with me was doing so out of evil intent: that is neither a positive nor a productive approach to the issue.

The real problem – the one that threatens to turn the American polity into a modern aristocracy – is a flawed electoral system that gives an unfair advantage to the candidate that raises the most money. Money has become the determinant of elections, so all candidates are compelled to pursue it.

The Way Forward

The challenge before us, then, is to take the following steps.

First, we have to enshrine a legal definition of corruption that defines and makes measurable undue influence. We must also do our homework and make an persuasive argument based on Originalism that corruption was and is understood to include influence. Justice Roberts is his decision contents that it is not, but a case can be made against his narrow interpretation based on his own means of constitutional interpretation, and it should.

But that is not enough. Second, we need to continue the effort to reform campaign finance, with the clear recognition that we will face constitutional challenges along the way. This may be a losing battle, but it is one that must continue if for no other reason than it keeps the debate around corruption and campaign finance reform on the agenda of the legislature land the electorate.

De-monetizing Politics

Finally, we need to recognize that we will not stop the flow of money into campaign coffers – this takes us too close to restricting freedom of speech for the comfort of too many Americans. A new approach is necessary.

What we must do instead is to act to ensure that money no longer buys influence in politics, but votes do. That requires a complete re-thinking of the electoral process and the way elections are financed and run. If we are going to take money out of politics, we need to change the way we choose our politicians.

Otherwise the billionaires, the corporations, the Unions, Greenpeace, and the US Chamber of Commerce will run our government, not the people. If you want to have an Originalist argument, ask yourself if this was the vision our founders held for America.

We Are the Guardians of the Truth

In order to serve their role as social and political watchdogs of the American system, we have long depended on US journalists to eschew bias in favor of reporting the facts. In truth, it is impossible for a human being to be perfectly unbiased, but the explicit agreement has been that this is the ideal to which journalism, as practiced in America, must aspire.

Objectivity is Dead

Commitment to that ideal has eroded over time, even more so over the past decade as editors and publishers have eschewed objectivity in an effort to cater (pander) to declining audiences. The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal have become respectively Left and RIght of center, and neither Fox News nor MSNBC have ever made a pretense of objectivity in their programming.

This more European form of journalism, intentionally building editorial bias into new reportage, can be disorienting for those of us who have grown up believing that US reportage is unbiased. There is no longer a single, reliable source upon which we can depend to give us a clear picture of what is the truth.

What then shall we do?

The burden is now upon us. We must now rely on a combination of four approaches:

  • Diversify: reading from a range of news sources, even those you know will disagree with you;
  • Source: knowledge of where there are unbiased sources of facts, like the CBO;
  • Analyze: the rigorous application of analysis to each fact, regardless of who presents it, and a personal commitment to be a filter, not just a parrot; and,
  • Be Intellectually Honest: the understanding of your own biases, your readiness to seek challenges to them, and the ability to admit when your point of view is disproven. Being open to challenge – from ourselves and others – is the determining factor of whether any of the above will work.

That’s a lot harder than just taking what the world feeds you, but that is the price of the information revolution: it obliges each of us to serve as a thoughtful the arbiter of truth.

And, in the end, this should be the standard to which we hold ourselves, our allies, and our opponents alike. It was once, and must be again, the hallmark of the Republican Party.