Archive for the ‘Presidential’ Category

Republican Senator Mike Lee suggests Donald Trump could kill the Republican Party

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

Originally published at Rare

As an original tea party organizer, I participated in our movement’s growth from an act of street protest into an organized, albeit decentralized political force. By 2010, we had managed to elect some of the most impressive liberty Republicans seen in generations.

I was optimistic.

Rand Paul, Justin Amash, Raul Labrador, Mick Mulvaney, and David Schweikert, these were Republican leaders of integrity.

But one of the best remains Mike Lee.

Sen. Lee is a brilliant constitutional conservative — who also happens to be one of the most down to earth people you’ll ever meet. As the Republican National Convention unfolds — or more accurately, erupts into chaos — Lee has been thrust into a position of influence both logistically and intellectually.

The mild-mannered Utahan, who has expressed concern about the presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, is Chairman of the RNC’s Rules Committee this year. And as he told Politico, “I have never in all my life, certainly in six years in the United States Senate, prior to that as a lifelong Republican, never seen anything like this.”

Lee was referencing pro-Trump forces running roughshod over delegates who wanted a chance to vote on rules they found unfair and silencing. A critic of Trump himself, Lee hoped Republican delegates — by the nature of their positions longtime Republican activists — would be allowed more say over the direction of their party.

As he told The Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes: “There’s a lot of support for reforms within the Republican Party, particularly changing the rules to make sure we remain a vibrant party, a party that welcomes grassroots participation and nurtures activists rather than shunning them.”

And Hayes accurately described Lee, writing, “In his short time in the U.S. Senate, Utah Republican Mike Lee has distinguished himself as a policy innovator and a constitutional conservative who actually knows the Constitution.”

The intellectual backbone Lee has provided the Republican Party in the six short years he’s been in office has been invaluable. As a liberty Republican activist who hoped we could harness conservative disapproval of Washington forlibertarian populist ends, Lee’s work has stood out as a policy beacon.

Unfortunately, this project has been severely disrupted in the near-term by Trump’s more authoritarian form of populism. As the New York Times’ Ross Douthat observed:

This is of course, in reference to Lee’s last stand, flanked by other delegates highly skeptical of Trump; who represent a majority of Republican voters. As Rare’s Yasmeen Alamiri reported, Lee stood with the convention-goers demanding a rules vote, per traditional RNC protocol.

Instead, Lee and his allies were silenced; their mics literally turned off by party bosses.

It’s impossible to describe this as anything but a setback for constitutional conservatives who have been working to harness grassroots passion for limited government purposes. If you were to freeze 2016 in time, it would appear that our work has decisively failed.

But I do believe — and Mike Lee is one of the many wonderful conservatives at the center of this — despite this unfortunate detour, constitutional and liberty Republicans are laying the groundwork for a generational shift.

As Lee said, “The Republican Party has been known as the natural refuge of the conservative. If we find ourselves with a candidate who doesn’t maintain that status, I don’t know what happens. I don’t know how to live in that world. I don’t know how the Republican Party maintains its vitality. I don’t think it does.”

This speaks to the fact that political parties are empty vessels absent principles. Sure, the Republican Party can be shaped into a more liberty friendly entity. We’ve seen strong evidence of that as a possibility in the past decade. At the same time, we’ve seen how a party can easily be taken in a more authoritarian direction.

This is why the project of liberty conservatives in Congress remains crucial; a truth Mike Lee is keenly aware of. As he told The Weekly Standard, “I look forward to the day when it’ll no longer be news when Congress is actually taking steps to rein in executive overreach, to rein in the federal regulatory system and to do so with a mandate from the people who are made to understand number one Congress has cause this problem.”

This work is paramount whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton becomes our next Commander in Chief. A Congress that acquiesces to a president’s every whim has abdicated its basic function as a representative body.

If prospects for liberty look grim in the immediate future, we can take solace in the fact that Congress seems keen on asserting its supremacy in the face of both Trump and Clinton. Constitutionally speaking, that’s the best outcome conservatives can hope for.

Luckily, we have men like Mike Lee to lead us.

With Trump as the GOP nominee, some Republicans are looking to the Libertarian Party

Wednesday, May 4th, 2016

Originally published at Rare

After Trump’s win in Tuesday’s Republican primary, it became clear that there was no path to victory for the two remaining candidates. Ted Cruz dropped out that evening, and it was announced that John Kasich would suspend his campaign the following afternoon.

In the wake of Trump’s final ascent, interest in the Libertarian Party (LP), the country’s largest third party, has spiked.Ed Krayewski at Reason provided a screenshot of a Google Trends graph showing that after Trump’s Indiana victory, searches for the Libertarian Party increased dramatically.

And it seems this interest has translated into new members for the LP.

As Ashe Schow reported at the Washington Examiner, “Between 7 p.m. Tuesday evening and noon on Wednesday, the Libertarian Party received 99 new memberships. For the same time period a day earlier, the LP received only 46 new memberships.”

Schow spoke with the LP’s Executive Director Wes Benedict, who said, “Of course [Republicans] are scared of Trump. Trump sounds like an authoritarian. We don’t need a secret deal-maker. We need more transparency, and a smaller, less intrusive government that provides a level playing field for all and has fewer deals for special interests.”

Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party’s current presidential frontrunner, is working to capitalize on this momentum. His campaign sent out an email saying that after Cruz dropped out of the race, searches for “Gary Johnson” increased by 5,000 percent. And Johnson, a former Republican Governor, released this video in an effort to court disaffected conservatives.

Personally, I’ve had my differences with the Libertarian Party, largely because many of its members are focused on ideological purity to a point that I think makes governing impossible. I do believe though, if Gary Johnson is in fact the nominee (which will be decided at the LP national convention this month) that he’d be a viable alternative for many #NeverTrump diehards.

Johnson is after all, as his video explains, a former Republican Governor with a stellar record. And while some conservatives understandably have a problem with the fact that Johnson is personally pro-choice, I’d suggest they consider that he’s opposed to Roe v. Wade on constitutional grounds.

This means the matter would go back to the states, as was the case pre-Roe.

Ultimately, I’m not convinced that a LP candidate would actually be able to win the presidency. But if the LP polls at 15 percent, their nominee will be on the debate stage with Clinton and Trump.

It would certainly be refreshing for voters to see a third option, especially if it’s a pro-liberty one.

Bernie Sanders vs. The Superdelegates?

Wednesday, April 13th, 2016

Originally published at EveryJoe

If the 2016 presidential primaries have been united by one theme, it would be dissatisfaction with politics as usual. On both the Republican and Democratic sides, disillusioned voters have put their faith in perceived outsiders Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. And given that these candidates’ supporters aren’t party regulars, they’re learning the hard way about the arcane obstacles surrounding delegate acquisition and convention preparation.

There’s no easy way to summarize how the processes work on either the Republican or Democratic side. Delegate allocation and the procedures around voting for them vary from state to state. Some require multi-layered convection processes that span months. But the Democrats have an arguably un-democratic tradition the Republicans don’t: Superdelegates. And nearly all of them are in the tank for Hillary Clinton.

Given the contentious nature of the Clinton-Sanders race – in which 33% of his voters say they won’t support her in a general election – many people are asking, what is a superdelegate? And will they make a difference at the Democratic National Convention if Clinton and Sanders are still locked in a close battle? The answer: It depends.

As the New York times recently described them, superdelegates are, “[M]ajor Democratic elected officials like governors and members of Congress; national and state party leaders; and notable party figures like former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.” Presently, 469 of them support Clinton, and only 31 are backing Sanders.

Naturally, this has drawn the ire of Bernie Sanders supporters, who back him precisely because they feel the system – on both an economic and political level – is rigged to favor elites. Given the pervasiveness of corporate welfare and the fact that the rich are getting richer as middle class wages stagnate, they aren’t wrong in diagnosing the problem. Sanders supporters are, understandably, sick of politics as usual – and nothing could be a better manifestation of their anxiety than the superdelegate count; especially as Sanders has swept Clinton in the last 7 contests.

This led an eager Sanders supporter to create a “Superdelegate Hit List,” filled with the names and contact information of the unelected party elites. Liberal website America Blog chronicled this effort, with writer John Aravosis noting that the list “[I]ncludes the apparent home addresses of several superdelegates, including at least one woman.” Aravosis also said, “[The creator] is urging fellow Sanders supporters to ‘harass’ Hillary Clinton’s superdelegates, in order to get them to change their vote to Bernie Sanders.”

Questionable tactics aside – because “harassing” a superdelegate isn’t likely to change his or her mind – this effort embodies the angst felt by many Sanders supporters. (A feeling shared by Trump’s backers as Cruz out-organizes him on the delegate-collection front.) And while Sanders supporters have every right to question the undemocratic nature of superdelegates in a party that prides itself on promoting democracy, the truth is that Clinton is still ahead – at least for now – with or without these party bigwigs.

As Philip Bump pointed out at the Washington Post, “[B]y every possible democratic measure, Clinton is winning. She’s winning in states (and territories) won, which isn’t a meaningful margin of victory anyway. She’s winning in the popular vote by 2.4 million votes — more than a third more than Sanders has in total. In part that’s because Sanders is winning lower-turnout caucuses, but it’s mostly because he’s winning smaller states. And she’s winning with both types of delegates.”

This does make sense, because not all states are equal in terms of voting population – and in turn, delegate allocation. “Sanders won Oklahoma by 10 points; Clinton won North Carolina by about 13. But Clinton won 14 more delegates than Sanders in North Carolina. He won 4 more than her in Oklahoma,” wrote Bump. As he noted, Oklahoma is a smaller state than North Carolina, and of course as a deep red state, has fewer Democrats. “Where Clinton has won big, there have often been a lot of pledged delegates at stake. Where Sanders has won big, there often haven’t,” concluded Bump.

So yes, it is likely that Clinton will win the Democratic nomination, although it won’t be the drama-free coronation she’d hoped for. But Bump does concede that, “In Clinton’s case, she probably won’t get [to the nomination] without superdelegates tilting her way.” And it’s easy to see why this upsets Sanders supporters. But the fact remains, from a purely democratic standpoint, that she does have the backing of more voters than he does – to the tune of millions. If superdelegates didn’t exist and Clinton did have to fight on the convention floor, it’s nearly impossible to imagine a scenario where she wouldn’t still come out on top.

Ultimately, while Sanders is putting up an admirable fight, it doesn’t look like he’ll be able to oust the woman that, quite frankly, most political observers originally thought would be the president 8 years ago. The New York primary will be held on April 19th, and Clinton, the former U.S. Senator from the state, is favored to win – by a 53-37 point margin per a recent Fox News poll – despite the fact that Sanders originally hails from Brooklyn. A total of 291 delegates are at stake – 44 of which are superdelegates.

While Sanders and his supporters have legitimate points about rigged systems, and it’s true that the convention processes for both the Republicans and Democrats aren’t the most democratic in the world, there are always two sides to a story. Sometimes, people forget that political parties are technically private clubs. That’s why they get to make their own rules as far as the nominating process goes.

Typically, those rules and the democratic process aren’t in conflict. But insofar as they are, the system is built to work through those kinks. To the extent that the outcomes favor the party elites, yes, Sanders and Trump supporters have a right to be upset. As things stand on the Democratic side however, Clinton has a majority, and likely will continue to. If Democrats are in fact concerned with democracy, then majority rules; and Sanders’ supporters are out of luck this time.

This report confirms that our national debt is unsustainable and politicians can no longer ignore it

Sunday, April 3rd, 2016

Originally published at Rare

In an election cycle dominated by talk of Donald Trump’s yuge wall, it seems the last thing on many voters’ minds is fiscal responsibility.

Yet whether or not our national debt is at the forefront of political discussion, the federal gravy train chugs on and the consequences pile up. Unfortunately, the situation is bad enough that it’s not just staunch budget hawks concerned about the fiscal cliff the U.S. is careening toward.

Writing at the Wall Street Journal, David Wessel of the Brookings Institution – hardly a bastion of right-wing extremism – said, “[T]he trajectory of the debt is worrisome for one inescapable reason: When you owe a lot of money and interest rates rise, your interest tab mounts.” As he explained, current interest payments on our $19 trillion-and-counting national debt amount to slightly more than 6% of federal expenditures.

And while 6 percent isn’t an eye-popping number on its face, bigger trouble is brewing on the horizon. As Wessel explained:

“[The] latest Congressional Budget Office [CBO] baseline projections suggest that, without new tax or spending legislation, interest will account for more than 13 percent of all federal outlays in 2026.”

This will occur in part, says Wessel, because interest rates, which have been kept artificially low for some time as a result of Federal Reserve policy, are expected to rise in the future.

“CBO expects the average yield on 10-year Treasury notes, now around 1.9%, to climb to 4.1% over the next decade,” he noted. “There will also be more debt on which to pay interest because the government will be borrowing each year to cover the deficit.”

This is a problem because, as Wessel noted, “The federal debt … is huge by historical standards: bigger as a share of the economy than at any time in U.S. history except for World War II.”

But post-World War II, after an obviously chaotic period, the government did manage to get its act together as far as spending was concerned.

“In 1944, government spending at all levels accounted for 55 percent of gross domestic product (GDP),” wrote The Mercatus Center’s Cecil Bohanon. “By 1947, government spending had dropped 75 percent in real terms, or from 55 percent of GDP to just over 16 percent of GDP.”

Today, the political will to enact reforms that would yield a similar outcome appears to be severely lacking.

What does this all mean for the future?

As Wessel explained, “Congress and the president … or his successor … could raise taxes or cut spending. That would mean less debt and thus lower interest payments.”

That could work, right? Not so fast.

“[T]he latest CBO scoring of President Obama’s budget suggests that even if Congress accepts each of his tax and spending proposals, interest in 2026 still would account for 12% of federal spending.”

Ouch.

“That’s a lot of money,” added Wessel. “[M]ore than the White House projects for annually appropriated spending in 2026 by all government agencies combined outside of the Pentagon.”

Talk about unsustainable! And the way this presidential election is going, it’s difficult to believe the next occupant of the White House will prioritize balancing the budget.

Sadly, like much about the current state of politics, this is liable to make a fiscal conservative miss Senator Rand Paul’s contribution to the presidential discourse. Paul, and to his credit, Ohio Governor John Kasich, have truly been the only two candidates this cycle to focus on balancing the federal budget.

Paul is fond of saying, “The greatest threat to our national security is our debt.” The Congressional Budget Office is, if indirectly, acknowledging this point. When debt payments crowd out other priorities, national security, along with countless other functions, could also be crowded out.

It’s time for Washington politicians to heed this CBO report, harness their latent common sense, and get serious on spending. Our nation’s future depends on it.

After being “Against Trump,” this famous conservative magazine has made an endorsement

Saturday, March 12th, 2016

Originally published at Rare

National Review made waves earlier this year when they dedicated an entire edition of their magazine to opposing the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump. Twenty-two conservative writers produced essays explaining why they are, as the issue was titled, “Against Trump.” This helped spark the #NeverTrump campaign, that has taken hold in many corners of conservative social media.

Now, National Review is endorsing Ted Cruz for president.

As the magazine’s editors explained, “Conservatives have had difficulty choosing a champion in the presidential race in part because it has featured so many candidates with very good claims on our support. As their number has dwindled, the right choice has become clear …”

While this helps Cruz, there’s a deeper story about how it’s disappointing for Senator Marco Rubio, who continues to underperform electorally and so poorly that it’s hard to see a path to victory for him.

As of this writing, Trump has 458 delegates, Cruz has 359, and Rubio has only 151. A candidate needs 1,237 delegates to win the nomination. National Review’s editors, some of whom seemed more inclined to support Rubio, are likely seeing the writing on the wall as the 2016 primary season unfolds.

Rubio’s home state of Florida votes on March 15th. Delegate-wise, it’s a winner-take-all contest, and a do-or-die moment for the junior senator. Real Clear Politics’ polling average for Florida puts Rubio behind Trump at 39.9 percent versus 25.2 percent, with Cruz in third place at 18.2 percent.

While some recent polls indicate that Rubio is on an upward swing in Florida, it may not be enough for him to eke out a crucial victory in what some believe should be a slam dunk contest for him.

This is largely why, despite many Republicans’ reservations about Cruz, many are beginning to see him as the only candidate capable of stopping Trump. Even Senator Lindsey Graham, who ran unsuccessfully for president this cycle and eventually endorsed Jeb Bush, has softened his anti-Cruz stance. This has become more common as a desperate Republican establishment scrambles to find a Trump alternative. For example, just this week, Jeb Bush’s brother Neil joined the Cruz finance team.

Of Cruz’s conservative credentials, National Review’s editors write:

“We supported Cruz’s campaign in 2012 because we saw in him what conservatives nationwide have come to see as well. Cruz is a brilliant and articulate exponent of our views on the full spectrum of issues. Other Republicans say we should protect the Constitution. Cruz has actually done it; indeed, it has been the animating passion of his career. He is a strong believer in the liberating power of free markets, including free trade (notwithstanding the usual rhetorical hedges). His skepticism about ‘comprehensive immigration reform’ is leading him to a realism about the impact of immigration that has been missing from our policymaking and debate. He favors a foreign policy based on a hard-headed assessment of American interests, one that seeks to strengthen our power but is mindful of its limits. He forthrightly defends religious liberty, the right to life of unborn children, and the role of marriage in connecting children to their parents — causes that reduce too many other Republicans to mumbling.”

The editors did hedge their bet slightly though, adding that, “He has sometimes made tactical errors [in the Senate], in our judgment; but conflicts have also arisen because his colleagues have lacked direction, clarity, and urgency.” They also noted that, “No politician is perfect, and Senator Cruz will find that our endorsement comes with friendly and ongoing criticism.” They then cited issues with his tax plan, lack of clarity as to what he’d replace Obamacare with, and questioned his strategy for mobilizing conservatives in a general election.

Nevertheless, National Review has concluded that Cruz is currently the best candidate to stop Trump, to the extent that it’s even possible.

The March 15th primaries promise to determine what’s possible. If Trump does in fact win Florida and Ohio, both winner-take-all states, the efforts of National Review and the #NeverTrump crowd may have been in vain.