The Moose and the Elephant: Leaving the GOP

Lean a little more to the right, maybe?

Those who have been reading this blog for some time will notice that we have, once again, undergone a facelift. This time it is for more that aesthetic reasons: it is meant to signal a change.

For a long time, this site and my political activities have been devoted to the fruitless effort to rescue the wagon that is the Republican Party from its accelerating slide down the steep slope to the right. After five years, I have come to terms with the fact that this is a hopeless quest. Long before Donald Trump reared his bilious physiognomy above the political parapet, it was clear that the party was in deep need of change, and that far too few Republicans either acknowledged this or had the faintest inkling of what that change might look like.

But the past few months, culminating with Trump’s nomination at the most shameful political gathering since the last Reichsparteitag in Nuremburg in 1938, have provided sufficient evidence that the GOP is incapable of meaningful, deep reform, even in the face of its most severe existential crisis in a century. The party’s lurch beyond conservatism points our republic toward a dark and terrifying future. We can either get off the wagon and do something, or we will by inaction consign the nation to the darkness.

And while I consider myself to be a conservative, I have found that the term has become so abused as to be almost meaningless, and that I have as little in common with the vast majority of conservative pundits and politicians as I do with those of the left.

Political conservatism to me is a dedication to two things: first, the principles that motivated the Founding Fathers as embodied in their writings and in the Charters of Freedom (The United States Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights); and second, the proposition that even the best system of governance is infinitely perfectible and thus dynamic. Conservatism should not throw itself athwart the road to change, but should embody ongoing reform informed by a wise balance of caution and progress.

Sadly, the most vocal proponents of conservatism seek to twist it into something far more regressive, robbing it of its balance in the name of dogmatic orthodoxy or more nefarious motives. When slavish devotion to free markets leads conservative thinkers like Thomas Sowell to inveigh against Teddy Roosevelt, the right no longer stands for reform but for a backslide into the cauldron of laissez-faire capitalism, robber barons, corporate monopolies, corruption, and vast income inequalities. The future promised by this sort of conservatism is not America: it is decline and dissolution. Christian conservatism would see America declare itself a Christian nation, and impose Christian values in the classroom, the bedroom, and the examination room. A theocracy dominated by plutocrats is the promise, enough nearly to rename the GOP the Banana Republican party.

Either we consign the GOP to the past, or we consign ourselves to the dystopia it promises.

In an effort to be a part of a better future, one informed by a conservatism that captures the promise of the 21st Century while holding true to the enlightened vision forged in the 18th, I am today leaving the Republican Party. I do so with a heavy heart and great reluctance. But to paraphrase my wife when she speaks of her own roots, I love the Republican Party, but the GOP that I love does not exist anymore.

But I also do so with a belief that such changes are good for the country, if for no other reason than they compel us to cast off the fetters of short-termism and special interests and enable us to engage in a more visionary and constructive conversation. This is what motivated Ronald Reagan in 1980, Dwight Eisenhower in 1952, Teddy Roosevelt in 1912, Abraham Lincoln in 1860, and the men and women who put everything on the line 240 years ago to craft a new nation.

 

I will share more about where the Bull Moose is headed in the coming weeks.

Time for a New Security Order for Europe

Why, 70 years after the conclusion of World War II, 26 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and 22 years after creation of the European Union, are the Europeans still dependent on America?

Source: Should the U.S. Leave NATO? | The National Interest Blog

I tend to use caution with trial balloons from CATO scholars because I see the organization as a front for corporate interests. Nonetheless, Doug Bandow raises a valid question: why are the Europeans still dependent on the U.S. for their security.

The answer that you are unlikely to find in a CATO publication is this: Europe is dependent upon us because we wanted the Europeans dependent upon us – especially our large military contractors – and the Europeans were happy to have their defense subsidized by the US taxpayers in exchange for the occasional purchase of a few dozen fighter planes.

But that is not really what Bandow is asking. The real question is why are we still permitting the Europeans to depend upon us? Is it not time that we at last put the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to rest, to send Europe an unequivocal message that the subsidy is over? After 70 years in Europe, America is finally coming home. The Cold War, the raison d’etre of NATO’s existence, has now ended, and it is time to close the books on that august, well-intended, but outdated institution.

And it is time for us to reassess, in the view of a very different geopolitical environment and domestic political economy than those we faced when the NATO alliance was at its height, our needs for collective security and the limits of our ability to contribute to the defense of any region beyond our shores.

The process must be conducted with wisdom. We cannot simply abruptly disavow our obligations and go home. Rather, we need to view this as a process, beginning with informing the leaders of Europe that we are on this course, and that Europe must be prepared to step in and take up the burden of its own defense.

We also need to recognize that the process of re-framing our defense relationship with Europe must be conducted in a way that addresses both our legal and moral obligations under the treaty structure that gave rise to NATO. If our friends are to remain our friends, we must leave (or retire) NATO in a way that observes the diplomatic forms, and that gives the nations of Europe a reasonable amount of time to build the forces and doctrine to step into whatever breach we decide to leave.

Because that process is long, it must begin as soon as possible. The process is unlikely to be driven by an administration with a scant year left in office, but it should be at the top of the foreign policy to-do list for the next occupant of the White House. We can make that happen by starting the public discussion ourselves, right now.

 

Kudos to Glenn Greenwald

First sign of the Apocalypse: I agree with something Glenn Greenwald wrote:

For as long as I’ll live, I’ll never understand how people want to vest in the Government the power to criminalize particular viewpoints it dislikes, will never understand the view that it’s better to try to suppress adverse beliefs than to air them, and will especially never understand people’s failure to realize that endorsing this power will, one day, very likely result in their own views being criminalized when their political enemies (rather than allies) are empowered.

Glenn Greenwald, from A Dozen Things ‘The New Yorker’ Gets Wrong about Free Speech (And Why It Matters) | Greg Lukianoff

It is little signs like these that remind me that, whatever disagreements I have with those on the Left or on the Far Right, there remain many principles upon which we can agree.

America the Unexceptional

In the United States, babies are more likely to die and high schoolers are less likely to learn than their counterparts in other affluent countries. Politicians may look far and wide for evidence of American exceptionalism, but they won’t find it in the numbers, where it matters.

American Exceptionalism”
Vaclav Smil

IEEE Spectrum

Patriotism is not seeing only the good things about your country and loving it for those things.

Patriotism is not seeing only the bad things about your country, and loving it anyway.

True patriotism is the ability to see both the good and the bad, and fighting to fix the bad without throwing away the good.

The Gold Standard for Tolerance

“Of course, the ideas of different members of the University community will often and quite naturally conflict. But it is not the proper role of the University to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive. Although the University greatly values civility, and although all members of the University community share in the responsibility for maintaining a climate of mutual respect, concerns about civility and mutual respect can never be used as a justification for closing off discussion of ideas, however offensive or disagreeable those ideas may be to some members of our community.”

From the Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression of the University of Chicago, now UofChicago policy, via Wondering If I’m the Next Tim Hunt | Alice Domurat Dreger.

If there was ever a gold standard for tolerance, this is it. This should be the standard for all discourse, not just academic freedom.

 

Dropping the Partisan Mantle

My friend and foil Shannon recently touched on a matter that has been troubling me for some time, and I need to share this with you.

I originally began this blog as a forum to discuss practical ideas that would guide the Republic through one of the most politically tumultuous eras in its short history. The nation’s political bipolarity has begun to eat at the sinews of the fabric holding this nation together, but more important, the political process has been either frozen by this bipolarity or captured by special interests and passionate ideologues. That has left scant room for us.

What I – what we – should be focused on is how to create the kinds of policies and approaches that will unite the nation in an effort of self-betterment. Is this idealistic? I hope not, and I don’t think so.

But that calls into question a direction this blog has taken of late: the salvation of the GOP from the ravages of reactionaries. That effort has put me in the unenviable (if not untenable) position of having to defend individuals and positions that have no place in a common sense discussion about the future of the union. What is more, the effort of defending a party is a distraction from what is really important: the creation of a practical-minded political movement occupying the space vacated by the GOP’s post-1964 abandonment of the Eisenhower/Teddy Roosevelt Republicans, the Democrats’ more recent abandonment of their Blue Dog coalition, and the moderates Ike once called “the silent majority.”

The intention here is not to create a third party, but to establish a framework of ideas and policies that offer these United States a way forward that addresses the design of our founders and the needs of all Americans. It is my hope that the Republican Party, seeing the declining returns on the far right, will move this way. I do not think this will happen in 2016. I hold hopes for 2020. If that is going to happen, we all have to act, and now.

I want this blog to be a discussion about policies and ideas that can fix our problems, not another partisan battle distinguished solely by the fact that I am fighting it from a position closer to the ideological front lines. And as we slide into the 2016 elections, I have no intention of dragging this discussion into a battle over candidates and party loyalties. The discussion will be first, foremost, and hopefully forever about the ideas that define us.

I also want this blog to be a call to action. Words alone will not suffice.

There is a simple reason for this. If given the choice between saving a party or saving the Republic, I choose the latter. If that sounds pompous, I apologize: the point not that I can save the Republic or even incite its salvation. It is, rather, that we must choose our battles, and I would rather spend my limited time arguing for the future of the nation over the future of the GOP. And let us not quibble: we stand at a crossroads. We decide what the future of this country is going to look like. I have no intention of allowing it to slide into a permanent bipolarity that by default would place the future of the nation into the hands of those holding the largest economic levers. After that, we are Europe, and did we not fight a revolution to end that?

In the next few weeks, you are going to see some small but important changes to this forum. The masthead will change, and you are going to see a return to an emphasis on thinkers that offer ideas, not candidates that offer positions or parties that offer platforms.

I am, as always, grateful for your feedback. We are on this journey together.

And, by the way, hello from America: I’m in Boise, en route to Phoenix.

10 Truisms about our National Defense

The Five-Sided Foxhole

Defense needs to become an issue in the next election, but perhaps not in the way most people think.

Here are 11 truisms about our national defense to guide our thinking and that of the candidates:

1. We need to defend the United States and her possessions against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

2. We also have obligations to fulfill under a series of mutual-defense treaties with a handful of nations.

3. Doing both of the above does cost money, and we can reasonably expect to pay a bare minimum of 2% of GDP and as much as 4% of GDP on defense.

4. A ridiculous amount of money going into defense is being wasted.

5. Much of that waste can be eliminated, but only by dismantling much of the procurement bureaucracy created since WWII, while at the same time dismantling the effective chokehold that the top five defense contractors have built on the services.

6. There is a tremendous amount of Congressional pork built into the defense budget as well. This, too, must be eliminated.

7. The problems we face in fixing defense cannot be solved simply by slashing budgets, but with a realistic and sustainable defense posture.

8. All of this begins with a grand strategy promulgated from the top that provides the guidelines for the kind of military we must have.

9. This mess dates back to at least 1939, and it is unreasonable to expect it to go away in a period of less than two consecutive presidential terms. For that reason, the work cannot start too soon.

10. The first step is to elect a President who understands the above, and who places the well-being of the nation ahead of personal interest, and who has enough savvy and clout to compel a majority of Congress to lime up behind him/her.