Archive for the ‘Donald Trump’ 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.

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.


After Super Tuesday is a Brokered Convention on the Horizon?

Thursday, March 3rd, 2016

Originally published at EveryJoe

Supporters of Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have spent the past couple of months making the case that their preferred candidate is in the best position to dethrone Trump. Backers of the two candidates have made compelling arguments. And as I noted prior to the polls closing on Super Tuesday, many people made calculated voting decisions with the purpose of stopping Trump, depending on how the polling looked in their state, rather than necessarily picking their favorite candidate.

As a Texan, I admit to doing this myself, reluctantly pulling the lever for Cruz despite months of criticizing him for his appeasement of Trump. Although Trump ultimately swept the Super Tuesday states of Georgia, Vermont, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Arkansas, Alabama and Virginia, while Texas, Oklahoma and Alaska went for Cruz and Minnesota went for Rubio, Trump hasn’t yet earned enough delegates to be the Republican nominee outright. This has stoked talk of a possible brokered Republican National Convention, which would lead to a floor fight over which candidate is nominated.

As Jim Ellis of Ellis Insights explained:

Though Trump has a clear lead in delegates, in no state has he obtained majority support, and in only three did his victories top 40 percent. Therefore, in all but Massachusetts and Alabama, more than 60 percent of voting Republicans have chosen another candidate. Conversely, of the committed delegates through the various state apportionment systems, Trump has secured 46.4 percent of the available delegates.

It appears the March 15 primary day will likely tell the tale. Should Trump win the key Winner-Take-All states of Florida (99 delegates) and Ohio (66 delegates), he will likely be unstoppable.

On the other hand, if his three major opponents strategically form an alliance and allow Rubio to challenge Trump virtually one-on-one in Florida, Kasich to have an unencumbered chance in Ohio, and Cruz the same in North Carolina (also on March 15), and they successfully top the leader in all of those places, the brokered convention becomes a clear reality.

This presents an interesting scenario to be sure – but it doesn’t seem as though Cruz would be willing to dial back in Florida. After all, Rubio campaigned in Cruz’s home state of Texas – and he still came in a distant third place with 17.7% of the vote to Cruz’s 43.8% and Trump’s 26.7%. Nevertheless, the strategic alliance route to prevent a Trump nomination, if possible to obtain, seems like the best option at this point, especially because Rubio doesn’t show any signs of heeding Cruz’s call for him to drop out of the race.

The truth is, polling shows, as I’ve suspected, that many of Cruz’s supporters would support Trump before Rubio. I assume this has to do with “anti-establishment” sentiments and hardline immigration views. As Kate Grumke wrote at Rare, “When it comes to second choices, more Cruz supporters say they would switch to Trump over Rubio (30% to 21%), according to an NBC News/Survey Monkey poll. But Rubio supporters would actually go to Cruz over Trump (28% to 9%). And Rubio and Cruz are almost tied for second place in many of the upcoming states, which doesn’t exactly pick a clear candidate to drop out.”

I hate to admit it but, as I wrote after the Nevada caucus, it seems like a Trump nomination is highly likely at this point, no matter what the other candidates do. A brokered convention is hypothetically possible but Rubio will have to exceed his polling in Florida by miles. Currently, Real Clear Politics has Trump with 43.3% of the vote in Rubio’s home state, who’s in second with 23.7%. Turns out that fellow Floridian Jeb Bush’s departure didn’t do too much for the junior senator.

If Trump is in fact the nominee, what this means for the future of the Republican Party is still anyone’s guess. As I wrote recently, I tend to believe that Trump won’t open the door to the kind of radical change that would blow up the GOP, as some libertarians and anti-establishment conservatives hope. More likely is that the Party will, with some exceptions, line up behind him and defend his big government agenda. I believe that Chris Christie’s endorsement of Trump, and the way he stood behind him on Super Tuesday, is indicative of that.

It’s true that some high profile elected Republicans are coming out and saying they won’t support Trump if he’s the nominee. Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan and Rep. Scott Rigell of Virginia are four such men. But will the rebels be enough to drive the Party? Both Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, the leaders of the GOP in congress, are currently struggling with this – yet have both said they’d support the eventual nominee. Realistically, nobody knows what will come next.

Rare Exclusive: Would Justin Amash run for president?

Friday, February 26th, 2016

Originally published at Rare

Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) is considered the most high profile libertarian Republican in Congress after Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.), making national waves with his staunch opposition to the National Security Agency’s controversial metadata collection program. Along with libertarian firebrand Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), Amash is one of two congressmen who are generally considered the most beloved by the Ron Paul-inspired liberty movement.

After originally supporting Sen. Paul’s presidential bid, who has since left the race, on Tuesday Rep. Amashendorsed Senator Ted Cruz for president. Amash noted in his endorsement in an op-ed at IJ Review, “Ted is not a libertarian and doesn’t claim to be.”

“But he is a principled defender of the Constitution, a brilliant strategist and debater who can defeat the Democratic nominee in the general election,” Amash said, adding that Cruz is “the only remaining candidate I trust to take on what he correctly calls the Washington Cartel.”

Some of Amash’s libertarian supporters cheered his Cruz endorsement while others seemed disappointed. Sen. Paul and Rep. Massie have said they’re not making any presidential endorsements during the Republican primary. Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC), also a leading libertarian Republican in the House, has endorsed Cruz. Former Rand Paul supporter Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Id.), a liberty-friendly leading member of the House Freedom Caucus and frequent Amash ally has also moved over to Cruz. Other former Paul supporters have also began to support Cruzin various states.

On Friday, Rep. Amash sat down with Rare to discuss his endorsement and what the future holds, both for him and the liberty movement.

Also: Does Justin Amash have any presidential ambitions?

Rare: Is there any context you can provide about the interactions you’ve had with Sen. Cruz that you allude to in your endorsement op-ed that make you believe he’s the remaining presidential candidate most likely to give liberty issues a hearing?

Justin Amash: I’ve seen Ted stand with Rand for hours on the Senate floor in opposition to U.S. drone policy. I’ve watched him vote against the NDAA, knowing he’d face attacks from people like Rubio, McCain, and Graham. I’ve spent time with him discussing our government’s failed interventions in Libya and Syria.

Ted cares about the Constitution, and that makes him a strong ally for libertarians despite our disagreements on some important issues.

Rare: Some of your libertarian supporters seem convinced that there’s no difference between Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. You reference Rubio once in your article. Could you expand upon why you think they’re so different from your vantage point as a libertarian Republican congressman?

Justin Amash: While campaigning, Ted and Marco often use rhetoric that unfortunately conflates their very different records. Marco Rubio comes from the McCain-Graham school of foreign policy and surveillance policy. Ted Cruz’s voting record, while not libertarian, more closely aligns with Senators Paul and Lee. When an issue arises relating to war or privacy, I can usually count on Ted to stand with me or at least thoughtfully consider my position. I can usually count on Marco to take the anti-liberty position.

Rare: On one hand, Sen. Cruz opposed Obama’s regime change in Libya and Syria. On the other, he’s talked about carpet bombing and “making sand glow.” What are libertarians to make of those statements?

Justin Amash: We shouldn’t be happy about those statements. And those statements don’t do justice to his voting record, which has been much better than most senators on matters of foreign policy.

Rare: You’ve long said that your work in House has helped to persuade your colleagues toward a more libertarian vision. What would you say to those in the liberty movement who are convinced that working within the Republican Party is a fruitless endeavor?

Justin Amash: Our work in the Republican Party has made a difference. My colleagues in the House Freedom Caucus have told me many times that I’ve made them more libertarian. And it’s evident in the votes. They’ve stood with me against corporate welfare, against unconstitutional NSA spying, against encryption backdoors, against wasteful Pentagon spending, and against arming Syrian rebels. Recently, when a cyber-spying bill was slipped into the omnibus, the House Freedom Caucus jointly offered an amendment to strip that section. We have stood together in support of liberty and the Constitution. With each new Congress, our numbers grow.

Rare: If Trump or Rubio were to become president, do you think that would make the liberty Republican faction even more crucial? To stop them from undermining the Constitution?

Justin Amash: Yes.

Rare: Many libertarians are dying to know: Would you consider running for president some day?

Justin Amash: It’s important that we have a strong libertarian voice running for president. And it’s important that we win. So, yes.

If Trump is Unstoppable, What Happens Next?

Thursday, February 25th, 2016

Originally published at Every Joe

It’s time for Republicans to dispense with the wishful thinking. For all the hype about Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, for all the breathless calls to narrow the field, Super Tuesday is in less than a week and Donald Trump is dominant. He has won three out of the four early contests by wide margins, and even though Cruz technically beat him in Iowa, he earned 8 delegates and Trump earned 7. Not exactly a huge difference there.

New Hampshire was a fluke, we told ourselves. It’s just that Trump appeals to Northeastern moderates given his New York City background. Cruz was able to hold Trump back, even if slightly in evangelical Iowa, so he should be able to do the same in South Carolina, right? And Rubio grew up in Nevada. Surely his connections there and his appeal to Latinos will help him, no? We were wrong. And I fear we will continue to be.

There are no more excuses to be made. No more hypotheticals to be formulated. Jeb Bush spent $150 million, failed to crack into the top three, and dropped out after the third contest. Rubio was endorsed by South Carolina’s Gov. Haley, Sen. Scott and Rep. Gowdy. Cruz is the self-described savior of evangelicals, many of whom populate South Carolina’s rural counties. Yet Trump blew both senators out of the water in a state where it was said they could hold him back.

Super Tuesday is around the corner and polling shows Trump, once again, dominating. He’s even close to giving Cruz a run for his money in his home state of Texas, where the near entirety of the state’s political machine backs him. We can no longer tell ourselves that the polls overestimate Trump’s support, that his backers aren’t motivated or that he has no ground game. Conventional wisdom has been tossed aside in nearly every possible fashion this cycle. It’s time to face the music.

We are staring at the very real possibility of a vulgar, narcissistic, Obamacare-loving, Planned Parenthood-supporting, anti-trade, conspiracy-peddling, authoritarian demagogue as the Republican nominee. Realistically, what happens next? Some grassroots libertarians and conservatives, though they disagree with Trump’s policies, believe the Republican Party brought this schadenfreude upon itself and welcome what they see as a necessary destructive force. I wish I agreed with this outlook because I could then convince myself that something good could arise from the ashes. But I just don’t see it that way.

Hours prior to the Nevada caucus, I wrote a piece at directed toward the libertarians who have embraced the aforementioned operation chaos theory. While I appreciate that they believe a fractured Republican Party could clear a path for much needed liberty leaders, I can’t imagine circumstances heading in that direction. Rather, I tend to believe that Trump would pull the Republican Party further to the left than its establishment already is and that it would stay there for the foreseeable future.

As I explained, “Donald Trump as president will not usher in some kind of radical change. He will govern as he’s running: A left-wing narcissist with a disturbing record of racist and misogynistic commentary … If Trump were to … become president, we would simply have two Democratic parties: One focused on big government and identity politics for people of color and women, the other, on big government and identity politics for angry, white working class men … Donald Trump would basically be Hillary Clinton with an even bigger ego. Not to mention Trump’s fringe white nationalist supporters, who mimic their leader’s penchant for insulting anyone who dares to dissent, would be emboldened.”

Perhaps it’s true, as Conor Friedersdorf wrote at The Atlantic, that a portion of the Republican base could mount a third party challenge to Trump if he’s the nominee. As he wrote, “It is hard to imagine any die-hard Bush loyalists supporting Trump after his attacks on Jeb and George. Indeed, it is easy to imagine them delighting in denying Trump the White House. Putting them altogether, that’s quite a diverse anti-Trump coalition.”

Added Friedersdorf, “If Trump wins, there will be a lot of establishment campaign professionals who’d benefit financially from a third-party challenge by a movement conservative (and who wouldn’t fear being branded disloyal for staffing one).” He also notes that this type of scenario might help down-ballot Republicans who would suffer if conservative voters stayed home absent a decent presidential choice.
But where exactly does that leave libertarians and conservatives who oppose both the welfare-warfare state mentality of the Bush era and Trump’s racially-animated left-wing economics? In my view, even further behind than we were in the darkness of the post-9/11 era. If our choices are Trump’s borderline fascist Republican Party and a Bush establishment alternative, that doesn’t exactly sound appealing. Some might argue that this fracturing leaves room for a Libertarian Party candidate to make a splash. Maybe? But I don’t think it’s likely.

In my view, this cycle has unfortunately proven that there’s little to no appetite for that message on a presidential scale right now. Trump sucked up nearly all of Rand Paul’s oxygen. What makes libertarians think the populace wants to listen to Gary Johnson talk about marijuana policy? We have Bernie Sanders for that. And frankly, evidence shows that a lot of left-libertarians, who care primarily about social and foreign policy issues, are already in his camp. When Sanders loses to Hillary, those types most likely won’t vote at all.

Call me crazy, but for a libertarian, I’m just not that much of a radical. I prefer watching Rand Paul and Justin Amash influence the Republican Party from the inside, working for change in an institutional context. I know that’s not sexy enough for people who want to wield torches and pitchforks, but I think there’s evidence that it’s working – even if the voting populace is busy embracing a demagogue on a presidential level. I fear that with Trump as the GOP nominee, Republicans will lose the Senate handily, and that even the House could be in jeopardy.

I just see very little good coming out of a Trump nomination, but we do have to start bracing for the reality. I hope my libertarians friends who think the chaos will ultimately help us are right that something good can come of this. But I tend to think Trump will do nothing but irreparably damage the Republican brand for decades to come, and we’ll get eight years of Hillary – likely without being able to retain our congressional majority; the one thing that would make her even vaguely tolerable as president. Nevertheless, it’s time to strap in and face the facts. The Trump train might have no brakes. And we’re in for a bumpy ride.