Tag Archives: Presidential

#127: New Jersey 2016 Election Results

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #127, on the subject of New Jersey 2016 Election Results.

We provided some advance explanation of the two Public Questions which were on the ballot, and did a quick rundown of the major candidates in the twelve congressional districts, and now we’re following up with the election results.  After all, with a lot of these events there is a great deal of coverage in anticipation of the moment, and then if you blink, you miss the outcome.  That shouldn’t be.

In the Presidential race, New Jersey consigned its fourteen electoral votes to the loser, Democrat Hillary Clinton, as Republican Donald Trump won comfortably.

Map of New Jersey's Electoral College vote, from Google, 3:00 Wednesday morning.
Map of New Jersey’s Electoral College vote, from Google, 3:00 Wednesday morning.

Public Question #1:  Constitutional Amendment to permit casino gambling in two counties other than Atlantic County, went down hard, about four to one against.  That means for the present casino gambling will be confined to Atlantic City, and the city will have to figure out how better to manage what it has.

Public Question #2:  Constitutional Amendment to dedicate additional revenues to state transportation system, ran very close, but sometime after midnight had clearly passed by a narrow margin, under fifty-five percent of the vote favoring it.  That means the state government will be forced to put the gasoline tax revenue into a dedicated account strictly for use by the Department of Transportation, which was the justification for the tax originally.

In the House of Representatives, all the incumbents were re-elected easily except in Congressional District 5, where Republican incumbent Scott Garrett was hurt by Libertarian Claudio Belusic in his race against Democrat Josh Gottheimer.  The Libertarian’s two-point-two percent of the vote was the best of any Libertarian candidate in the state (Libertarian Presidential candidate Gary Johnson took two percent of the vote in the state, the best showing of any third-party candidate), but even apart from that Gottheimer would have edged out a victory, with fifty-point-five percent of the vote in his favor.

This tips the balance of New Jersey’s Congressional delegation, which for the past several years has been evenly split with six Republicans and six Democrats; with Gottheimer replacing Garrett we will be sending seven Democrats and only five Republicans to Washington.  Nationally the Republicans still hold the House, with two hundred thirty-six seats, a few lost from their current majority.  In the Senate, Republicans also lost one seat (in Illinois), but still hold a bare majority at fifty-one.

Here are the incoming United States Congressmen from New Jersey by district:

  1. Donald Norcross, Democrat, Incumbent.
  2. Frank Lobiondo, Republican, Incumbent.
  3. Tom MacArthur, Republican, Incumbent.
  4. Chris Smith, Republican, Incumbent.
  5. Josh Gottheimer, Democrat, Newcomer.
  6. Frank Pallone, Democrat, Incumbent.
  7. Leonard Lance, Republican, Incumbent.
  8. Albio Sires, Democrat, Incumbent.
  9. Bill Pascrell, Democrat, Incumbent.
  10. Donald Payne, Jr., Democrat, Incumbent.
  11. Rodney Frelinghuysen, Republican, Incumbent.
  12. Bonnie Watson Coleman, Democrat, Incumbent.

That gives us the shape of our Federal Government for the next two years.

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#125: My Presidential Election Fears

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #125, on the subject of My Presidential Election Fears.

I mentioned (originally in #68:  Ridiculous Republicans back in March, most recently this past week in #123:  The 2016 Election in New Jersey) that this election was going to be about whom you vote against.  A lot of people are afraid, very afraid, that one of these candidates will win–probably equally applicable to both candidates, and some voters are afraid of both.  I have thought about it, and agree that there is reason to be afraid, but I think I am afraid of only one of them.  So permit me a moment to explain.

img0125candidates

I am not afraid of a Donald Trump Presidency.

I recognize that Trump presents a lot of bluster and arrogance.  He is perceived as a buffoon, a cartoon, a joke.  However, he probably has laughed all the way to the bank more than once.  He is a successful businessman, with experience in the real world both nationally and internationally.  He knows how to run a business, even several businesses.

The perception of Trump from the outside is that he will make many rash decisions.  One does not become ludicrously wealthy by making rash decisions–bold, yes, rash, no.  Rather, there are two things which someone successful in business learns very early, or he does not continue to be successful for long:

  1. Hire experts who know their subject, listen to their advice, and follow it.
  2. Hire executives who know their jobs, and let them do them.

This, incidentally, appears to be how Ronald Reagan ran his White House:  surround yourself with people who know what they’re doing, and trust them to do it.  I don’t say that Trump is another Reagan; I do expect that he would follow that same effective pattern.  Presidents who think they know how to do everything and try to control it all are generally viewed as lesser successes–Wilson, Carter.  Those who know how to obtain good advice and delegate important tasks and decisions prove to be the best executives–and the President of the United States is ultimately an executive, not different in kind from the president of a multi-national corporation.

I don’t know that he has always been completely honest, but I believe that he has avoided doing anything illegal, and I think that he means what he says even if he’s a bit dramatic at times.  I think in those senses he is trustworthy.  He might rattle the big stick quite a bit, but under the bluster he obviously has enough sense to make things work.

As far as some of his “crazy policies”, well, despite the nonsense our present President has tried with his executive orders attempting to end run the legislature, Presidents do not get to do whatever they want.  I don’t see even a solidly Republican Congress rubberstamping his ideas, and I’m doubtful we’ll have a solidly Republican Congress.  The laws that do get passed will be no more nor less ridiculous than those passed in the past, because we have a good system that works well in that regard.  The legislative branch is totally independent of the executive, and has a fair amount of influence over executive appointments and actions, so there is a check in place for all of that.

I am afraid of a Hillary Clinton Presidency.

The simple reason is that I do not trust her.  I believe that she lies to obtain power, wealth, and fame.  I don’t see that changing simply because she gets it.  There are serious concerns about whether she and her staff are guilty of treason in leaking classified information through carelessness–and while one might thereby excuse it because everyone makes mistakes, there are also serious allegations of influence peddling when she was Secretary of State.  There is the potential that she will be indicted for any of these offenses before she can take the oath of office.

I do not want our President to be available to the highest bidder.

I do not want our President to lie to us about her intentions or her actions.

I do not want our next Supreme Court nominee, or appointee to the State Department, or any other government official to be selected from the short list of Clinton Foundation donors.

I have had enough of government corruption and overreaching with the present administration, and would like to see it ended.  A Clinton Presidency would more likely escalate it.  There is good evidence that she has lied, cheated, and stolen in the past, and no evidence that she will do otherwise in the future.  I would prefer not to give her that opportunity.

I believe that we are all in God’s hands; that does not mean He will protect our nation.  We will get either the government we need or the one we deserve.  That might not be the one we like, but God knows what He’s doing.  My fears might become reality, or they might be allayed; I might be wrong in my assessment of the dangers in either direction.  However, I am going to vote against the candidate I most fear.  We do not need a Democratic version of Richard Nixon.

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#120: Giving Offense

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #120, on the subject of Giving Offense.

A couple days ago I was asked whether I had again offended a Specifically Named Person by writing another piece on homosexuality.

img0120fox

I had no idea how to reply to this.  I was unaware that I had offended this individual previously by my writing; I have no reason to believe he identifies as homosexual.  I obviously know that some people in my circle of relationships disagree with me on any subject you care to name, and this is one on which there are some significant disagreements–but I don’t keep track of who holds what positions on which issues, so I could not have told you that he disagreed with my views on this one.  It does not surprise me if he does; I know he disagrees with me on some issues, but then, everyone disagrees with everyone on some issues.  As the anonymous wise Quaker is quoted as having said to his closest friend, “Everyone’s a little queer ‘cept me and thee, and sometimes I’m not so sure of thee.”  I know of no one with whom I am in complete agreement about everything.  That does not bother me.  After all, I know that everyone is wrong about something, and I know that that includes me, but it also includes everyone who disagrees with me.  The trick is figuring out where you’re wrong and where you’re right, and not being more certain of it than you can justify.

What bothers me is that he would be offended by my opinion, or perhaps by my expression of my opinion.

I have probably written about tolerance before.  Being tolerant does not mean not caring about an issue.  It means having a strong opinion but treating others respectfully who hold a different opinion.  Many people who are not religious believe that they are tolerant when they are actually indifferent and condescending.  That is, their attitude is “all religious ideas are nonsense, so it really does not matter what nonsense you believe.”  However, changes in society are forcing these people to recognize that this is not true–that it really does matter what one believes about God, because that in turn controls what one believes about many practical issues, such as abortion, homosexuality, and the “norms” of society.  The criticism is that some religious people–those who disagree with the current attitudes on specific issues–are intolerant; the truth is that those who hold to those current attitudes are proving to be less tolerant.

Being tolerant does not mean that we all agree.  It means that we agree to disagree amicably, and to allow each other to hold differing opinions, to live by them as our own beliefs dictate, and to discuss them openly.  That’s all First Amendment:  the absolute protection of religious and political opinion.  Today those who hold certain viewpoints also hold the opinion that to disagree with those viewpoints ought to be criminal.  We encounter it in the homosexual marriage debate; it is rampant in the environmental field; it appears in issues related to reproductive choice.  If you do not agree with the approved opinion (whether or not it is held by the majority), you will not be tolerated.

On the specific issue of homosexuality, I agree that homosexuality is “natural”; it is as natural as heroin addiction:  you can encourage it, and once you’ve got it you probably can never really be fully rid of it.  There is sufficient evidence that homosexuality is not fixed in the genes, but involves environmental factors and choices on some level.  The position that the unborn are as human as their mothers and deserve equal protection equal to that extended to their mothers–and probably then some, as they are the more vulnerable class–is certainly defensible.  The issue of whether global warming is heading us into an environmental disaster, or whether it is instead staving off potentially disastrous global cooling and an ice age, can also be debated.

I hold some opinions which are apparently minority viewpoints, but I hold them honestly because of what I consider solid rational bases.  To say “I am sorry if that offends you” is not really an apology; it is more an expression of compassion for your disability, that you are such a person as would be offended by the expression of an opinion with which you disagree.  I think better of you than that.  I respect you and your opinions, even, or perhaps particularly, where I disagree.  I am willing to hear your evidence and your arguments.  I expect only the same courtesy in response.

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#105: Forced Philanthropy

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #105, on the subject of Forced Philanthropy.

Somewhere in the archives of Charles Schulz’ wonderful Peanuts comic strip is the one (shown below) in which Linus says, “When I get big, I want to be a great philanthropist!”  Charlie Brown observes, “You have to have a lot of money to be a great philanthropist…”.  After a moment of consideration, Linus clarifies, “I want to be a great philanthropist with someone else’s money!”

We laugh.  It is funny because it is absurd.  There is nothing particularly charitable about giving away money that belongs to someone else, regardless of who benefits.  It is completely absurd.

img105Linus

Yet when politicians say it, for some reason no one laughs.

That’s probably because politicians have demonstrated that they are quite able to do exactly that:  They have the power to take money away from some people and use it to help others.  We have given them that power, and there is a degree to which we are pleased with the outcome, as programs like food stamps and medicaid have reduced poverty in this country to the point that very few Americans are really truly poor.  That is, the kind of poverty we see in Third World countries including India and parts of Africa just does not exist here; we have relatively isolated cases of people “falling through the cracks”, not cities packed with homeless people mobbing the streets and refugee camps bursting at the seams.  We could do more, and we are doing more, but what we have done has been accomplished in significant part because politicians have decided to be philanthropists with our money, and we have approved that.

Yet when Hillary Clinton starts talking about how she would use Donald Trump’s money claimed by the Estate Tax he wants to eliminate, it bothers us.  As Mitch Album (Detroit Free Press) says,

The whole image of the government rubbing its hands as you take your dying breath should creep you out.

We have seen it in Blackadder, as the wealthy nobleman is dying and the King and the Archbishop are drooling over who should get his estates.  Hurry up and die, Donald:  Hillary is already counting the share of your money she is going to give to the less fortunate.

Let’s be clear on this.  It’s one thing for us to agree, however reluctantly, that all of us who are scraping by will sacrifice a little money we could really use for something else, and let the government use it to help those who are not scraping by.  It is entirely different for all of us who have enough to be comfortable to decide to gang up on the few who have more than we do, take their money, and give it to the less fortunate.  The former is almost altruistic, and with bit of stretching can be made to appear as if it is our generosity helping the poor.  The latter is simply criminal–and however much we want to admire Robin Hood, we would have little sympathy for a modern criminal waylaying everyone driving expensive cars and giving the money to farmers who feel their tax burden is too high.

However, somehow politicians have persuaded us that it is a noble idea to rob from the rich and give to the poor, that in doing so they are being charitable.  Like Linus Van Pelt, though, they prove to be philanthropists with someone else’s money.  It is not admirable to take money from the rich and give it to the poor when it is not your money.

I don’t know what Donald Trump has done that counts as charity.  I’m told that Hillary Clinton and her husband own and operate a major charitable fund, and accept contributions from many very wealthy donors.  I gather, too, that they have both personally profited substantially from operating that fund.  She seems to have demonstrated a talent for taking money from other people and making it appear she is a philanthropist.  I suspect she has made more money on her philanthropic activities than she has contributed from her own independent income.

However that is, though, it does appear that she is ready to take money from anyone who has it.  I can only be grateful that I don’t have enough to catch anyone’s attention.

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#96: Federal Non-enforcement

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #96, on the subject of Federal Non-enforcement.

Someone mentioned recently that he and a mutual friend were planning to start a business.  The friend was going to liquidate his inheritance and together they were going to move to Colorado and become farmers.

If you’re planning to become a farmer and moving to Colorado to do it, your intended crop is pretty obviously marijuana; he did not have to say so.  I pointed out that there were some hazards with such a plan because although marijuana has been legalized in Colorado, it is still illegal at the federal level.  That has impact on a number of aspects of running a business, most notably the banking, since all banks are federally regulated and they are quite reasonably concerned about violating regulations intended to thwart drug trafficking.  It isn’t just that you can’t get loans; it is difficult to get business checking accounts.

His concern was what would happen if a Republican won in the fall, and that is certainly a concern; there is, however, another significant concern which might well matter regardless of who becomes the next President of the United States.

img0096Marijuana

The concern about the Presidential election is certainly obvious.  Federal drug laws related to marijuana production, sale, purchase, and use are not being enforced in Colorado because the Chief Executive has decided not to enforce them.  There is some merit to this decision, since we have a definite conflict of laws situation and part of the concept of the federal/state divide is that states become experimental petri dishes for solutions to problems.  In that sense, letting Colorado experiment with legalized marijuana as a solution to part of the drug trade and associated crime is a very American approach.  The next President might decide otherwise, though, and then enforcement will resume.  However, the question is raised as to whether the President can turn a blind eye to violations of federal law in any of the states.

That question has already been raised in a different context.  The same administration that has decided not to enforce federal drug law in Colorado has also decided not to enforce certain aspects of federal immigration law, and quite a few states particularly in the southwest have sued in federal court–and thus far, the states seem to be winning.  If the President can’t pick and choose what laws to enforce in relation to immigration, he probably can’t do so in relation to drug law.

Of course, the situation is not exactly the same here.  States like Arizona want the federal government to enforce immigration law, and to allow them to do so in the absence of federal enforcement, and the administration is fighting to prevent the enforcement of those laws.  Colorado, by contrast, wants the federal government to refrain from enforcing certain aspects of federal drug law within its own borders, and the federal government is cooperating with that.  Colorado certainly is not going to file suit to have the law enforced.

However, already several of the state’s neighbors have done so.  They claim that failure by federal agencies to enforce federal drug law in Colorado has resulted in illegal drugs crossing state lines more readily, and given them more trouble with their own drug enforcement efforts.  That has not progressed far, but the concept is the same:  can the President of the United States unilaterally decide not to enforce specific federal laws in specific ways or specific places?  Can the executive say no, we will not enforce federal drug policy in Colorado, and we will not enforce federal immigration policy in the southwest?  The courts are already saying no to the latter; the connection is obvious enough that they will probably say no to the former.

If they do, it won’t matter who becomes the next President of the United States:  the federal courts will decide that Colorado can’t prevent enforcement of federal drug law within its borders, and the federal executive cannot choose to ignore those violations.

It might turn around, but at this point the two policies are almost certainly going to be linked, and in a way that decides the degree to which the President of the United States can decide what laws actually get enforced and which ones can be ignored.  It is a dangerous policy to give the executive that much power, and the framers of the Constitution seem to have tried to avoid doing so, but you can never be certain which way the courts will go or on what basis they will make their decisions.

For myself, I would not bet on the Colorado experiment escaping federal intervention for more than a few years, unless Congress decides to change federal law.

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#68: Ridiculous Republicans

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #68, on the subject of Ridiculous Republicans.

In a previous post, mark Joseph “young” blog entry #67:  Dizzying Democrats we commented that both sides of the current presidential race are ludicrous.  We gave some consideration to the nonsense on the Democratic side, and promised to return to the Republicans.

So let’s look at the Republicans.

img0068Trump

If the Democrats have lost control of their primary process to someone who is not even a Democrat, the Republicans may have it worse:  they have lost control of their primary process to someone who is not even a politician.  He has been called a clown and a buffoon, and there are people who are literally frightened that he will become the next President of the United States.  He is not a buffoon; he is a professional businessman and an amateur actor:  Donald J. Trump.

Despite his seeming popularity, it should be noted that most Republicans have been voting against him–if we compare the tallies of votes for Trump against “all others” combined, he never has the majority.  The professional politicians have all been doing what politicians do in these processes:  sniping at each other in an effort to emerge as the best of the rest.  The field has been shrinking, but it’s still too large for a head-to-head between Trump and “Not Trump”.  It is agreed that were the Republicans to unite behind a single alternative candidate, that candidate could defeat the loud-mouthed juggernaut and take the nomination.  The problem is, neither the remaining candidates nor the Republican voters can agree on who that ought to be.  The splintering within the party has resulted in disagreement concerning who truly represents Republican values–the right wing for whom Cruz or possibly Rubio are the best choices, or the centrist moderates for whom Kasich and Romney are the best remaining choices.  (Romney is not actually running, but it has been suggested that he could take the nomination in a brokered convention, that is, one in which no candidate enters with a delegate majority so negotiations work toward the selection of a compromise candidate.)

Some argue that Trump is not even a Republican–but that’s a problematic argument.  Unlike Sanders, who has always declared himself not to be a party member, Trump has never run for office and so never had to declare his party affiliation before.  Republicans in their current state constantly argue that various prominent party members are “Republican In Name Only” (RINO), and although Trump does not stand clearly for everything the party believes, he does oppose at least some of what the Democrats promote, and no one fits any party platform exactly except the people who write it, and usually not even all of them.  He says he is a Republican, and has persuaded enough Republicans that he stands for what they want to support that claim.  Republicans are not flocking to support Bernie Sanders; they are supporting Donald Trump.

Besides, it is not unknown for politicians to change their views or their party affiliations.  One of the best Republican Presidents in my lifetime began his political life as a Democrat and union organizer; by the time he was Governor of California, Ronald Reagan was a Republican beloved by the party’s conservative wing.  He, too, was an actor, although he did have government experience before running for President, and in fact had run and lost in the primaries previously.  People are afraid of Donald Trump, and what he might do as President–but many were similarly afraid of Reagan, and he not only did not start World War III he ended the Cold War, and there is at least evidence to support the claim that his economic policies sped the recovery and stimulated job growth.  Trump is not Reagan, but often the good Presidents are the ones no one expects will be good, and the ones expected to be good crash and burn.  No one expects Trump would be a surprise good President–but then, that’s the point of “surprise”.  I don’t know that I agree with Trump about much, but I am less afraid of him than I am of the extremist socialist policies of Bernie Sanders, even while I agree with Sanders on at least a few ideas.

So the Republican party nomination is still in the air as much as the Democratic, and the party leadership is struggling for that place of the appearance of impartiality that still allows them to guide events to an outcome they believe represents the true values of the party, and we are looking toward a highly polarized election which at this point looks like the exit poll question will be, “Whom did you vote against?”

Other posts and articles on presidential politics include web log posts #10:  The Unimportance of Facts, #13:  Governor Christie’s Debate Jab, #41:  Ted Cruz and the Birther Issue, and #42:  Politicians and Statesmen, and site articles Coalition Government, Polarization, Christie’s Early Potential Presidential Aspirations, The Republican Dilemma, Re-election Incongruity, and Election Law.

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#67: Dizzying Democrats

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #67, on the subject of Dizzying Democrats.

With the Presidential election looming and the primaries in full swing, it might be expected that there would be plenty of serious material for a political column; yet although I’ve published several political pieces over the past month or so, the race has fallen off the radar.  The problem is not that nothing is happening; the problem is that the entire race, on both sides, seems completely ludicrous.

Let’s look at the Democrats.

img0067Hillary

Before there really was a race, one candidate entered the ring and was expected to emerge with the Democratic nomination.  She was, of course, Hillary Rodham Clinton, former First Lady, former United States Senator from New York, former Secretary of State.  The Democratic Party machine wanted her.  Indeed, throughout the primary race there have been charges that party chairman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz was attempting to rig the system so that no one could seriously challenge the Chosen One they hoped they could claim was the first woman President of the United States–limiting debate opportunities to keep competition from getting exposure, scheduling the few debates for times when few would watch.  It was supposed to be a royal promenade to the nomination.

It has been anything but that.  Bernie Sanders entered the race.  He might not be winning, and there are still pundits claiming that he can’t win, but he has surprised and outperformed her repeatedly in this race.

What makes this the more ridiculous is that Sanders is not a Democrat, and the Democrats are not really supporting him.  He has always claimed to be a Socialist, who votes with the Democrats because they (at least theoretically) stand between his extreme leftist views and the right wing views of the Republican party; he is, as it were, allied with the Democrats, but not one of them.  Analysis of the primaries shows that he tends to attract independents to the Democratic primary–people who do not call themselves “Democrat” are signing up to vote for Sanders, and tipping the balance against the majority of regular registered Democrats who mostly support Clinton.  Sanders is in essence stealing the party by flooding it with ringers.

And it seems that the Democratic machine, devoted as it is to its “everyone gets to vote” philosophy, is helpless against this onslaught.

Worse, at least from the perspective of the old school Democrats, is that their candidate is in trouble quite apart from the race.  People want to write it off as a minor indiscretion, but it appears that the lax treatment of the security of top secret information in Secretary of State Clinton’s e-mails is, under the law, treason.  The investigation is ongoing, but it seems more likely than not that the government is going to have to indict her and put her on trial, and before she can become President.  It’s got to be a damper on a political campaign to have to conduct it while defending against federal charges, and that’s only assuming that she’s not convicted.  Clinton has this looming over her, and a lot of people are skittish about voting for her because of that threat, and because of the implications of the investigation.

It could go away.  The Democrats could in fact make it go away:  the President of the United States could issue a pardon.  Gerald Ford demonstrated that it was possible to pardon someone for any and all crimes they might have committed, without them ever having been charged.  Obama could simply decree that Clinton has been pardoned, and the charges vanish.  So, given how much trouble this has been, why doesn’t he?

It would be a bad move politically, because of the Nixon stigma:  as soon as the President says that she has been pardoned for any involvement in any kind of illegal activity while serving as Secretary of State, a huge number of people will conclude that he knows she is guilty and needs to be pardoned.  She already has a trustworthiness issue:  most Americans, and even a substantial number of Democrats, believe she lies constantly and will say whatever is politically expedient.  A presidential pardon will only confirm those suspicions, increasing the level of distrust.

Yet the machine is still trying to put her in front, and it might succeed.

So really, the Democratic party is in shambles at the moment.  Anything could happen, but probably the party leadership will not like it, whatever it is.

We’ll look at the Republicans later.

Other posts and articles on presidential politics include web log posts #10:  The Unimportance of Facts, #13:  Governor Christie’s Debate Jab, #41:  Ted Cruz and the Birther Issue, and #42:  Politicians and Statesmen, and site articles Coalition Government, Polarization, Christie’s Early Potential Presidential Aspirations, The Republican Dilemma, Re-election Incongruity, and Election Law.

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#42: Politicians and Statemen

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #42, on the subject of Politicians and Statemen.

19th century American James Freeman Clarke left some memorable and sometimes Tweetable quotes behind.  Perhaps the most famous of these reads

A politician thinks of the next election. A statesman, of the next generation.

  He was apparently not a politician, being a clergyman, educator, and activist reformer.  He may have been a statesman.  However, it is clear that he approved statesmen over politicians.

img0042Clarke

I read something recently that brought the quote back to mind, causing me to wonder who in the nation today are the statesmen and who the mere politicians.  Of course, that’s not simple to assess.  If we look at the Democrats, we see a lot of policies that seem to be aimed at pleasing voters–free or low-cost healthcare, food and welfare programs, as well as policies to protect minority benefits.  It has been argued, and not entirely unreasonably, that this party is attempting to buy votes with government money and other generosity.  On the other hand, despite the fact that the Republicans pioneered such policies as protecting the rights of blacks and protecting the environment, the Democrats have managed to make those their issues, becoming the “progressive party” after for decades being the party of oppression with people like George Wallace spearheading the fight against civil rights.  Democrats are the ones who push for taking steps against climate change (although Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger has spoken on that subject as well), insisting that present economic hardships, whatever they might be, are small compared to a potential future crisis.

Of course, many argue that the Republicans are using government money to buy the votes–and the pockets–of big business and Wall Street.  Forget that Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton has close ties to the financial markets and backers from that group, it is maintained that the Republican party is bought and paid for by big business.  On the other hand, the Republican party coalition (we talked much about how coalition government works at the party level in the United States) contains several groups that focus on principles:  the pro-life coalition fighting against the rampant killing of the unborn, the gun lobby focusing on Second Amendment rights, Christian groups upset about First Amendment protections in the changing moral landscape, Originalists pressing for the America of our ancestors.  These are issues focused on the future and the betterment of the nation.  You might not agree about them, but they are the thoughts of statesmen looking to improve the nation, not of politicians seeking to buy votes.

Of course, both parties are packed with politicians.  There is a degree to which they have chosen the party with which they are most in agreement, but also a degree to which they mold their own messages to appeal to the voters of that party.  Politicians are always thinking of the next election; the next generation is a distant second in most cases.

However, what intrigued me about this article is not the politicians but the voters.  In brief, correspondents for a news organization swapped jobs for a week–the one covering the Republicans tackling the Democrats, the one working the Democrats turning to the Republicans.  They both noticed the same difference in the voters.

Republican voters frequently talked about issues.  They were invested in questions like originalism, abortion, homosexual marriage, gun rights, free speech, et cetera.  They wanted to know what candidates were going to do to protect and advance these principles, these policy positions, for the perceived good of the nation.

Democratic voters by and large were concerned about their own needs:  what was the candidate going to do about my welfare check, my medical care, my housing problems.  The Democratic voters were personally invested in putting people in office who would give them what they perceived as their wants and needs.  They were strong-arming their candidates into that supposed position of promising giveaways.  They, in the main, fit the stereotype Republicans have of Democrats, of trading the future of the country for a paycheck.

It seems that whatever we can say about the politicians, among the voters, the Republicans are the statesmen trying to think of the next generation, and the Democrats are the politicians extracting promises for the next election.

This may be too harsh.  After all, it does appear demographically that poorer voters tend to vote Democratic, and if we consider Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we recognize that people who have trouble putting food in their stomachs and a roof over their heads don’t care so much about such esoteric questions as the rights of the unborn or freedom of expression or the right to bear arms.  They care about meeting those fundamental needs.  One of our founding fathers quipped that the democracy would end the moment the voters realized that they could all vote themselves money from the Federal coffers.  That’s been happening for quite a while, but the situation is worsening.  It’s probably also the reason why early voter regulations required that the voter prove he had real property and an education–that he was intelligently invested in the future of the country.  There are problems with that arrangement, certainly, in its tendency to maintain the status quo; but there is also something to be said for its ability to resist the tendency toward candystore giveaway politicking.  The fact that poor people are more interested in what the government is going to do to alleviate their situation and rich people are more interested in what the government is going to do to ensure long term economic and social stability is perfectly logical.  It also suggests that the former breeds politicians and the latter statesmen, at least to the degree of short-term versus long-term economic stability.

Republican politicians might be merely politicians, and there might be statesmen among the Democratic politicians, but if we want the party whose members are most concerned about the longer-term future, it might be the Republicans.  In contrast to the politicking for personal gain among the Democrats, the Republican membership might be the statesmen.

Assuming statesmen are still to be preferred….

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#41: Ted Cruz and the Birther Issue

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #41, on the subject of Ted Cruz and the Birther Issue.

The unabashedly liberal Huffington Post has reported that a Texas attorney has filed suit against Ted Cruz, claiming that the Republican United States Senator from Texas is not eligible to be President of the United States because he is not a “natural born Citizen” as required by the Constitution.

img0041Cruz

This is ground we covered in detail quite a few years ago; in fact, it was this issue that launched our political writing at The Examiner–only then the object was Barrack Obama.  We have preserved those articles as The Birther Issue elsewhere on this site, and we’ll look at that.

The problem for Cruz is that he was not born in the United States.  People argued whether Barrack Obama was or was not born in the United States, and whether the birth certificate published by the White House asserting a Hawaiian birth was in fact a forgery.  The issue this time is not whether or not he was born in the United States–it is clearly established that he was born in Canada, to a mother who is incontrovertibly a United States citizen, and a Cuban-born father who fled to the United States and became a Canadian citizen a few years after the birth of his son Ted, then became an American citizen just over a decade ago.

Thus the question is whether Ted Cruz is a “natural born” United States citizen as required by the constitution, based on the fact that his mother being a United States citizen gave him U. S. citizenship at the moment of his birth, or whether he is not “natural born”, based on an interpretation of that phrase that requires that the President was actually born in these United States.  It is a perennial issue–before Cruz of course it was raised concerning Obama, but it has also been raised in connection with Mitt Romney (born in Mexico to American parents), John Cain (born to a U. S. military family stationed on the U. S. military base in the Panama Canal Zone), Mitt’s father George Romney (born to U. S. citizen parents in self-imposed exile in Mexico), Barry Goldwater (born in the United States Territory of Arizona before it became a State of the Union), and quite a few others.  In many of these controversies, scholars have asserted that the Supreme Court has never said what the Constitution means by the words “natural born citizen”.

They are only half right.

In United States v. Wong Kim Ark, 169 U.S. 649 (1898), the Supreme Court addressed a citizenship case.  In that case, they cited Dicey’s Digest of the Law of England with approval, quoting that

“Natural-born British subject” means a British subject who has become a British subject at the moment of his birth.

They then quoted from a case which cited Blackstone to the effect that

a person who is born on the ocean is a subject of the prince to whom his parents then owe allegiance….

It seems quite evident that Wong Kim Ark asserted that “natural born citizen” of the United States meant no more and no less than that at the moment of birth the individual was a United States Citizen–something that clearly applied to Obama, both Romneys, and Cain, at least.  By the standard set forth by Dicey and Blackstone cited by the Supreme Court in Wong Kim Ark, because Mrs. Cruz was a United States Citizen at the time that her son Ted was born, Ted Cruz is a natural born citizen of the United States, and eligible to become President of these United States.

So what’s the problem?  How can anyone say that the Court has not decided this question, if the court has decided it?

The problem is that the court stated that, but did not decide it.  It falls into the category of what is called “dicta”–statements made by the court that are not directly relevant to the decision in the case but express what the court probably would decide about such an issue.  Wong Kim Ark had nothing to do with presidential eligibility.  It was about the California-born son of Chinese citizens refused admission to the country on returning from a visit to foreign relatives abroad because of a California anti-immigration law, and decided only that the child of anyone born in the United States to parents who were legally present in the United States at the time of that birth was a citizen of the United States at the moment of his birth.  The cited passages in Dicey and Blackstone were part of a more general discussion that supported that conclusion, and although they clearly support the conclusion that anyone who was a citizen at the moment of his birth, wherever born, is a natural born citizen, the decision of the case technically only supports its own conclusion, that anyone legally born on United States soil is a United States citizen at that moment.

So technically the critics are right:  the issue has never been “decided” because it has never been raised as such.  However, the reasoning of Wong Kim Ark leads inexorably to the conclusion that people in the position of any of these politicians, including Ted Cruz, are “natural born citizens” under the intended meaning of the Constitution, and eligible to be President of the United States, and there is no reason to imagine that the Supreme Court would decide otherwise given that precedent.

Cruz is right:  the issue which did not matter half a year ago is being raised now because he has become a serious contender for the Republican nomination.  It is not, and should not be regarded, a real issue.

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#23: Armageddon and Presidential Politics

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #23, on the subject of Armageddon and Presidential Politics.

A popular atheist recently suggested that Presidential candidates, and particularly Republican candidates, needed to be asked a theological question:  do you believe that the end of the world is imminent, and if so is that a good or a bad thing?  If war in the Middle East is positioned to blossom into Armageddon and the return of Christ, do we want to prevent the war, or encourage it?

Austrian forces ascending Mount Zion in World War I
Austrian forces ascending Mount Zion in World War I

That might be a good question for a potential leader of the most powerful military forces in the world, but it might also be a good question for the rest of us.  At least, we should consider what answer our leader ought to give.

Despite what many prophecy teachers say, the sequence of events leading to the end of the world is not at all clear–some predictions touted as major parts of some theories are almost certainly predicting the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. by Titus.  I have briefly reviewed the major theories (in The Sandy Becker Theory of Eschatology) along with some of the strengths and weaknesses of each and why I believe we cannot resolve the matter.  However, there are many who are quite persuaded of one theory or another, and the one currently in ascendancy, indeed since early in the twentieth century, has been a version of “pre-millenialism” (if you do not know what that is, read the other article and return) in which Israel plays a major role and there is a massive world war centered in the Middle East.  Every skirmish that occurs in the region, from the battles which took the territory from the Ottoman Empire in World War I to the Yom Kippur War to the current Islamic State battles, sparks anew the expectation that this might be the fight that brings all the armies of the world together to be defeated by the return of Christ.

The return of Christ is an event which Christians around the world have been anticipating for nearly two millennia, whatever our beliefs concerning what precipitates it.  Late in the first century, the book variously known as The Revelation (from the Latin for “unveiling”) or The Apocalypse (from the Greek for “uncovering”) introduced to the faith the word which in English we make “Maranatha”, “Come, Our Lord” (although whether the original was marana tha, “Come our Lord”, or maran atha, “Our Lord has come”, is a question that cannot be settled from the manuscripts).  We are instructed to watch for that coming, to anticipate it, to be prepared for it, even to want it and to work to hasten it–and in times when the world is falling into chaos and wickedness and darkness, it is easy to want it more.

On the other hand, we are told by Peter that the delay is an expression of God’s mercy:  the moment Jesus returns, the door closes, and anyone who has not entered may not do so.  It does not seem to be our place to call for the end of mercy, the closing of the door, and many of us would not do so merely because we have family or friends or colleagues who have not turned to Christ for forgiveness and salvation.  I would rather not see strangers excluded from grace, and while I often note that there is no one apart from myself I am completely certain without any doubt has been forgiven and accepted by God, with varying degrees concerning other specific persons from “almost certainly” to “probably not”, I am not really in a hurry to have God terminate the free limited-time offer of acceptance into His family, and I don’t think that other believers should be so, either.  Don’t get me wrong:  I would love to have gone home already, if I were the only person who mattered.  I just don’t think that I’m the only person who matters, even to me, nor to most believers in the world, and certainly not to God.

How, then, do we hasten the return of Christ and the end of the world, without hastening the end of the world as a path to the return of Christ?

The first thing we need to understand is that the one leads to the other, but the other is not the path to the one.  That is, whether or not theories about a literal military battle at the Valley of Megiddo (har-megeddon) in which all the armies of the world are defeated in combat against an angelic host led by the resurrected and returning Jesus, we do not make that happen, indeed, we are completely unable to cause that to happen, by leading the world into war in the region.  The return of Christ brings the end of the world as we know it, but it is possible that the world as we know it could end without bringing the return of Christ–indeed, arguably that has happened several times in history, most notably with the fall of the Roman Empire.

The second thing to grasp is that if such a battle is in fact the solution to the mysteriously metaphorical explanations of future events in John’s great apocalyptic vision, we will not be able to prevent it–but that does not mean we are not obligated to attempt to do so.  “God has called us to peace,” and while that was Paul’s reason in I Corinthians for why a Christian whose spouse had been unfaithful should let the unfaithful spouse decide whether to preserve the marriage or get divorced, it is used as a fundamental principle of Christian conduct:  we do not pick fights.  We were instructed once by Christ to take swords with us if we had them, so we certainly have a basis to justify fighting when it is clearly necessary (and to debate just what fights are clearly necessary and when the right choice is to suffer the injury, to “turn the other cheek”).  Yet our preference should always be for the peaceful resolution, even while keeping our sword within reach.

So for our Presidential candidates, the “right” answer to the question is probably this:

I eagerly anticipate the return of Christ, and whatever events will lead up to that, but I do not know with any certainty what those events are and will not be party to a war we can avoid honorably for any reason other than it is necessary for the safety of this country and the world in terms that persons of every faith or no faith can at least recognize as plausibly legitimate.

That is also the answer we should give if we are asked that question.

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