Further Thoughts On ‘The Deplorables,’ and Pepe Memes

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The above photo is of Hillary Clinton emerging from her daughter Chelsea’s apartment after her fainting episode on Sunday morning at a 9/11 memorial event.

What is interesting about the photo is the irony of the sign in the foreground. On it reads a well known quote from Mike Tyson. “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.”

If the general election has been a boxing match so far, the first rounds were about even, up until the end of the Democratic convention. After that, all hell started to break loose for the Trump campaign, or at least that was the manufactured perception.

As I outlined in my recap of the summer that was in the election, the media was able to create almost constant drama over various things Trump had said, from the Khan fiasco, to the ‘second amendment people’ comment, among other things. These side issues were enough to continually distract attention from the issues at large and focus them on ‘gaffes’ which would have buried most candidates.

Trump is not most candidates, however, and as such he was able to come out the other side with minimal damage. To continue the boxing metaphor, the Clinton campaign and their sidekicks in the media got a flurry of early punches to the Trump body, but nothing that really hurt him. They expended a lot of energy in doing so, which leaves them susceptible to wearing down into the later rounds.

To be sure, Trump did change his management team, and rolled out a more buttoned up approach which still remained consistent to his views and his tone. Things were ticking along nicely for the Trump campaign, having picked up some momentum from his statesman-like trip to Mexico, his immigration speech, and his outreach to minority groups.

Then Clinton made the ‘deplorables’ comment. Speaking to a group of wealthy donors last week, she declared that half of Trump supporters could be placed into a ‘basket of deplorables.’ She said that these were the racists, sexists, homophobes, and so forth. The other half were those who she said has lost hope economically and were just hoping for a Trump miracle to save them.

In short, she declared that Trump’s support consisted of either bigots or hopeless people.

On Monday, responding to Clinton’s comments, Trump said the following in a campaign speech:

Clinton was using a very deliberate page from the Democratic Playbook – smearing someone with one of those names in order to scare them out of voting for change. She just took it to a whole new level by applying it to tens of millions of people.

 

She used these vile words in order to bully and intimidate honest citizens out of seeking government reform.

 

People who want their immigration laws enforced, and their borders secured, are not racists. They are patriotic Americans of all backgrounds who want their jobs and families protected.

 

People who warn about Radical Islamic Terrorism are not Islamophobes. They are decent American citizens who want to uphold our tolerant values and keep our country safe.

 

People who support the police, and who want crime reduced, are not prejudiced. They are concerned and loving citizens whose hearts break every time an innocent child is lost to preventable violence.

Trump captured a point which I articulated in my initial post on the subject, namely that for years the left has tried to pathologize anything that they disagree with. You simply couldn’t just be wrong if your views differed, you were somehow evil. Hillary Clinton even used the word ‘irredeemable’ in her description of some of those in that Basket of Deplorables.

Given the punishment for harboring bigoted views is generally social ostracism and ridicule, and the threshold for being considered a bigot becoming increasingly easier to satisfy, what Clinton calls for entails the ostracism of people for wanting simple things like a strong border, for example.

In other words, it is an overplay of the leftist hand, which may start to get them into trouble with everyday Americans who don’t appreciate being called a bigot just because they exist.

In attempting to deflect attention from the huge mistake Clinton made making that comment, her campaign has focused on these threads over the last 5 days:

Pepe The Frog Memes

A few days ago, Donald Trump Jr. posted this image on his Instagram:

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It’s a photoshopped riff on the movie The Expendables, but what caused a stir was the green frog. That frog, is a cartoon character called Pepe. It was created back in 2008, and became an internet meme on the message board 4chan some time later, well before the campaign.

The meme has quickly spread, and it has been used in a myriad of ways. One thing about memes is that they are very much used for different purposes, by different people. Consider these Kermit the Frog memes:

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The same meme, used by different people, for different reasons.

Now that you sort of understand memes, let’s look at the Pepe meme. According to the media, the Pepe meme is a ‘white nationalist symbol.’ Here’s Chris Matthews giving a news report on the Don Jr. Instagram:

While it is true that the Alt-Right has adopted Pepe, and while there are plenty of Nazi/White Nationalist themed memes floating around the internet, it is important to understand them for what they are.

Trolling, plain and simple.

This goes back to the ‘basket of deplorables’ comment, and her entire campaign before that. It has been about calling any and everyone who happens to agree with anything Trump says a bigot. The culture in general has conformed to that sort of standard, with Trump’s candidacy being such a breath of fresh air in large part because of the way it eschews politically correct discourse and sanitized ideas.

The memes are essentially saying ‘if you’re going to stand there and scream racist/sexist/homophobe all day, I’m going to give you something to actually scream about.’ Case in point:

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Here we have a Pepe meme, which is a depiction of a scene from the movie American History X, about a neo-Nazi. The swastika tattoo, and the portrayal of violence against a woman combines themes like racism, sexism, and anti-semitism all into one image. It is designed to give oversensitive individuals a conniption, and if you got one from looking at that image, the image did its job. You’ve been trolled.

In the Chris Matthews clip, after he gets done, an analyst comes on and starts hyperventilating about how much of a concern it is that Don Jr. posted that meme. That exact reaction is the only reason these memes were posted in the first place. The fact that mainstream media outlets threw fits over this was exactly what the people on 4chan wanted to see. The pained reaction was the prize.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign fell right into this trap face first when her campaign officially put out an ‘explainer‘ for  the Pepe memes.afafaead

It’s especially rich considering Clinton never tires of calling Trump ‘thin skinned’ and declaring that his Twitter battles may pose a national security risk.

Yet it is her campaign which has been riled up over a cartoon frog meme.

Birther Rehash

Yesterday the Washington Post did an interview with Trump, and decided to bring up the birther issue:

In the interview, conducted late Wednesday aboard his private plane as it idled on the tarmac here, Trump suggested he is not eager to change his pitch or his positions even as he works to reach out to minority voters, many of whom are deeply offended by his long-refuted suggestion that Obama is not a U.S. citizen. Trump refused to say whether he believes Obama was born in Hawaii.

 

“I’ll answer that question at the right time,” Trump said. “I just don’t want to answer it yet.”

 

When asked whether his campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, was accurate when she said recently that he now believes Obama was born in this country, Trump responded: “It’s okay. She’s allowed to speak what she thinks. I want to focus on jobs. I want to focus on other things.”

 

He added: “I don’t talk about it anymore. The reason I don’t is because then everyone is going to be talking about it as opposed to jobs, the military, the vets, security.”

Clinton got wind of the interview, because shortly after it was published, she brought it up at an event she was doing. She stated:

He was asked one more time where was President Obama born, and he still wouldn’t say Hawaii. He still wouldn’t say America.

 

This man wants to be our next president? When will he stop this ugliness, this bigotry? Now, he’s tried to reset himself and his campaign many times. This is the best he can do. This is who he is.

The Trump campaign responded with an excellent reframe, blatantly reminding everyone that it was the Clinton campaign – back in 2008 – which first raised the questions as to where President Obama was born:

Hillary Clinton’s campaign first raised this issue to smear then-candidate Barack Obama in her very nasty, failed 2008 campaign for President. This type of vicious and conniving behavior is straight from the Clinton Playbook. As usual, however, Hillary Clinton was too weak to get an answer. Even the MSNBC show Morning Joeadmits that it was Clinton’s henchmen who first raised this issue, not Donald J. Trump.

 

In 2011, Mr. Trump was finally able to bring this ugly incident to its conclusion by successfully compelling President Obama to release his birth certificate. Mr. Trump did a great service to the President and the country by bringing closure to the issue that Hillary Clinton and her team first raised. Inarguably, Donald J. Trump is a closer. Having successfully obtained President Obama’s birth certificate when others could not, Mr. Trump believes that President Obama was born in the United States.

 

Mr. Trump is now totally focused on bringing jobs back to America, defeating radical Islamic terrorism, taking care of our veterans, introducing school choice opportunities and rebuilding and making our inner cities safe again.” – Jason Miller, Senior Communications Advisor

Both this and the Pepe fiasco both serve the same end. These episodes, to the extent they stick, allow Hillary Clinton to attempt use the same bigot/racist/sexist canard she was trying to use when she made her Basket of Deplorables comment. The issue she might have is that the general public may be at their wits end when it comes to this kind of thinking.

Thus far the Clinton campaign’s response to being pegged back by Trump is to double, triple and quadruple down on the ‘You’re Racist!’ argument. It is extremely weak, as none of this has anything to do with the real issues of employment, trade, the economy, national security and immigration. That Clinton is trying ever so hard to keep the discussion away from policy is telling. It suggests that Trump’s message is catching on.

 

 

“You’re Racist” Is Losing It’s Grip as a Control Technique

In my piece on the fall out over Matt Lauer’s performance at an NBC presidential forum earlier this week, I made the point that the outrage is founded on an ever shifting understanding of objectivity as it pertains to the media. Of the outrage, I wrote:

Herein lies the crux of the angst from the media, and those on the left over Lauer. Those parties have all declared Trump to be an uncouth buffoon who says offensive things and thus isn’t fit to be president. That basic assertion is a given, a concrete foundation from which everything else follows.

To this end, Matt Lauer’s greatest sin on Wednesday night was that he didn’t spend the entirety of his 30 minutes with Trump calling him a racist, sexist, bigot, homophobe, Islamophobe, Transphobe, whatever phobe repeatedly. That would have been ‘doing his job.’

I’d like to expand on this a bit further, if I may.

Back in January, the Huffington Post decided that a disclaimer should accompany each and every article it posts which relates to Donald Trump. It reads like this:

Note to our readers: Donald Trump is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, birther and bully who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.

It serves as a Surgeon General-esque warning to readers: ‘You are consuming content the subject of which is a really bad person. Be careful.’ On the back of that declaration, many mainstream journalists feel no compunction in writing about Trump and his supporters in increasingly disturbing ways.

They’ve declared Trump and his supporters to be deluded, and as such the ‘sane’ leftist has a direct duty to ‘un-delude’ the Trump supporter, as one would do if one had a friend or family member who obviously needed Institutional care. Some have taken the route that Trump and his candidacy represents the extinction of democracy, and thus is a threat to the Republic. More worryingly, others have advocated outright violence at Trump rallies.

The leftists’ recent self described abandonment of objectivity in the face of a supposed existential threat would make perfect sense if there was objectivity in their viewpoint in the first place.

On the surface, there is. The main charges against Trump – racism, sexism, xenophobia, and Islamophobia – are real phenomenon with clear definitions. The issue is that none of them actually apply to Trump, objectively speaking.

The charge of racism is based on Trump’s stance on immigration, in particular his comments on illegal immigrants from Mexico. Regardless of Trump said, the bottom line is that ‘Mexican’ isn’t a race. The charge of sexism is largely based on public comments Trump has made which ultimately amount to the same type of locker room talk men have had with each other in one form or another since the beginning of time. Women have their own version of this sort of crude talk as well. Neither of it is sexist.

Showing affection to one’s own country, wanting to advance its interests while preserving its culture and history is not xenophobic. Wanting to curb immigration from a group of people which have inflicted disproportionate amounts of terror against us does not amount to Islamophobia.

This is all objectively true, yet those on the left are steadfast in their condemnation of Trump as a bigot. Consider this  from former President Bill Clinton from a stump speech earlier this week:

In it, he says of Trump’s Make America Great Again campaign slogan that ‘if you’re a White Southerner, you know exactly what it means…What it means is that I’ll move you back up on the social totem pole, and other people down.’

Never mind that Clinton also used the phrase Make America Great Again during his 1992 presidential run, as is shown in the end of that video.

His stance on illegal immigration, as shown in the following video from the his 1996 State of the Union address, is almost Trumpian:

So why isn’t Bill Clinton, himself a white Southerner, and thus must have known what Make America Great Again ‘really meant’ when he used phrase himself, who took a tough stance on illegal immigration, a racist?

Well in some circles, he is. This is because of his 1994 crime bill which stiffened penalties for drug violations, which had a disproportionate impact on black communities and increased the black incarceration rate as a result. One of the themes of Hillary Clinton’s campaign was how she was going to distance herself from the ‘racism’ of that bill in order to assure the black community that she is on their side.

Bill Clinton is not the only leftist icon which has his legacy re-litigated in our new age of hyper political correctness and social justice. Figures such as FDR and Martin Luther King have been criticized by leftists for racism and homophobia, respectively. The Washington Post has been called for the expunging of Woodrow Wilson, one of the most progressive presidents ever, from official places of honor. This is in light of protests, ongoing at the time of this writing, over the fact that Wilson’s name still adorns one of the departments at Princeton University. The ferocity of some of the reporting suggests they would like to expunge Wilson from history entirely.

This sort of judgement of historical figures by today’s standard of safe spaces, trigger warnings, and microaggressions leads me to believe that no president in history, up to and including the 2008 version of Barack Obama, is electable in 2016. The vast majority of past presidents would have been disqualified for their racism and/or sexism. The rest, including 2008 Barack Obama would be disqualified for not having the ‘right’ stance on gay marriage.

Obama eventually got with the program, and by 2012 he was singing the correct tune. He had to do so in on order to conform to an ever changing, ever ‘progressing’ culture. The modern left is infused with the Marcusian belief that anything goes as long as it feels good, and doubly so if it represents a break with moral traditions of the past. If Hillary Clinton were to win, I have no doubts that in four or eight years, the candidate that stands before us now will look like an extremist bigot compared to the politician she will end up being in order to conform to the future cultural zeitgeist.

These continual shifts in interpretations and after the fact declarations of bigotry ultimately cheapen those terms, especially since the threshold for being a bigot is continually lowered. If wanting strong borders is now bigotry, there are now hundreds of millions, even billions around the world who now can be described as bigots. The term itself is rendered near meaningless as a result.

This sets the stage for Friday, when Hillary Clinton decided to delineate  Trump supporters in the following manner:

You know, just to be grossly generalist, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables.”

 

“Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people — now have 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive, hateful, mean-spirited rhetoric.

 

That other basket of people are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they’re just desperate for a change. They don’t buy everything he says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won’t wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroin, feel like they’re in a dead end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.

She said these remarks at a campaign rally, but she made similar remarks in a television interview that aired earlier in the day, suggesting that these remarks were well thought out, an perhaps even focus group approved.

In trying to demonize half of  Trump supporters (a figure in the tens of millions domestically, perhaps hundreds more globally) using terms such as racist, sexist and homophobic, she is trying to levy a serious charge on hundreds of millions. Some outlets have tried to defend Clinton, claiming that because she was disparaging something negative, so it the comments were fine.

As previously discussed, the utter meaningless of those terms owing to their overuse has weakened the charge considerably. To deem Trump supporters racists or sexists is to attempt to attach the stringent punishment for those transgressions, ostracism from society and de-legitimization, to views as simple as having a strong country with strong borders which follows the law.

In other words, you should be silenced if you don’t like illegal immigration, or, you have ever disagreed with, or said something nasty about a woman or a person who is not white. Her remarks then come across as nothing more than a declaration that a whole group of people is unworthy, hence ‘deplorables.’ It is an insult, pure and simple.

Ultimately, this is all those on the left seem to have. The charge of racist/sexist/homophobe was once so grave that it forced society to conform to the leftist dogma in order to avoid those damning labels. In 2016, we’re finally beginning to see the Law of Diminishing Returns reduce that stranglehold. People are no longer scared of those labels, not because they are more emboldened to be bigoted by a person like Trump, but because the terms themselves have less and less meaning when they’re applied to every single transgression, big or small.

In short, when everything is racist, nothing is.

Matt Lauer, and The Receding Tide of Media Objectivity

On Wednesday night, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump participated in a televised Commander-in-Chief forum moderated by NBC’s Matt Lauer. What has overshadowed the event was the performance of Matt Lauer. He was almost universally criticized by the left leaning media for appearing to be overly tough on Hillary Clinton, and comparatively light on Donald Trump (‘appearing to be’ is the key phrase here – as we’ll see in a bit).

A summary of the critique of Lauer’s performance is found in this New York Times article. It begins:

Charged with overseeing a live prime-time forum with Donald J. Trump and Hillary Clinton — widely seen as a dry run of sorts for the coming presidential debates — Mr. Lauer found himself besieged on Wednesday evening by critics of all political stripes, who accused the anchor of unfairness, sloppiness and even sexism in his handling of the event.

 

Granted 30 minutes with each candidate, who appeared back-to-back at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in Manhattan, Mr. Lauer devoted about a third of his time with Mrs. Clinton to questions about her use of a private email server, then seemed to rush through subsequent queries about weighty topics like domestic terror attacks.

 

When an Army veteran in the audience asked Mrs. Clinton to describe her plan to defeat the Islamic State, Mr. Lauer interjected before the candidate could begin her reply.

“As briefly as you can,” he said, one of several moments where the anchor spoke over Mrs. Clinton to remind her that their time was running short.

 

Mr. Trump stormed onstage in his familiar motor-mouth style, often talking over Mr. Lauer and declining to directly answer many of his questions. At times, Mr. Lauer — who has conducted fewer adversarial interviews with Mr. Trump than his colleagues on NBC’s political desk — appeared flummoxed by his subject’s linguistic feints.

….

“Lauer interrupted Clinton’s answers repeatedly to move on. Not once for Trump,” Norman Ornstein, the political commentator, wrote in a Twitter message, adding: “Tough to be a woman running for president.”

Michael Grynbaum, the author of this article, as well as many of his ideological bedfellows throughout the media all seemed to have a problem with the way Lauer constantly interrupted Clinton, asking her to hurry her answers along, while supposedly not doing it once for Trump.

This is technically true, Lauer did not interrupt Trump once to speed him up. He interrupted Trump several times to engage in active debate with Trump, which he categorically did not do with Clinton. Consider the following video:

It shows quite clearly that all of Lauer’s ‘interruptions’ of Clinton were merely in the interest of moving things along to fit as much as he could in a 30 minute segment. He was stern, yes, but he wanted to move things along. There nothing of value in the rambling non-answers Clinton was giving to warrant a waste of precious time.

In contrast, when Lauer (more frequently) interrupted Trump, it was in order to push back against something he said. At stages Lauer was outright debating with Trump point for point, back and forth, in a manner he didn’t do with Clinton. To the extent he didn’t keep going and going down some of the rabbit holes he could have was down to the fact that he was keen to fit a lot into the 30 minutes he had with Trump.

For all the tears in the media over how unprepared Lauer was, he did come armed with a couple obvious ‘gotcha’ setups at the end of Trump’s alotted time. Trump simply did a good job of avoiding those traps, hence the description of Lauer as ‘flummoxed’ by Trump’s ‘linguisitc feints.’

Grynbaum continues:

On social media, surrogates for Mrs. Clinton began mounting a sustained attack on the anchor. “Imagine if @NBCNews had done its job,” wrote Nick Merrill, her press secretary, on Twitter. Neera Tanden, a close Clinton ally, was even harsher: “I guess the good news is that Matt Lauer isn’t moderating an actual debate,” she wrote.

 

The criticism captured what has become a common complaint about media coverage during this election: that news organizations and interviewers treat Mrs. Clinton as a serious candidate worthy of tough questions, while Mr. Trump is sometimes handled more benignly.

Herein lies the crux of the angst from the media, and those on the left over Lauer. Those parties have all declared Trump to be an uncouth buffoon who says offensive things and thus isn’t fit to be president. That basic assertion is a given, a concrete foundation from which everything else follows.

And what follows is this, from the perspective of mainstream media: Given the disaster Trump is, how do we cover him, given he has gotten this far?

Jim Rutenberg of the NYT asked this question, and sought to answer it in this popular column from last month.

If you’re a working journalist and you believe that Donald J. Trump is a demagogue playing to the nation’s worst racist and nationalistic tendencies, that he cozies up to anti-American dictators and that he would be dangerous with control of the United States nuclear codes, how the heck are you supposed to cover him?

 

Because if you believe all of those things, you have to throw out the textbook American journalism has been using for the better part of the past half-century, if not longer, and approach it in a way you’ve never approached anything in your career. If you view a Trump presidency as something that’s potentially dangerous, then your reporting is going to reflect that. You would move closer than you’ve ever been to being oppositional. That’s uncomfortable and uncharted territory for every mainstream, nonopinion journalist I’ve ever known, and by normal standards, untenable.

The idea that just now, in 2016, mainstream journalists are struggling to deal with having to be more oppositional to a Presidential candidate is quite laughable, given the fact they’ve been oppositional to every Republican candidate for decades. Mitt Romney faced the same charges of bigotry, sexism and so forth that Trump does now. The difference is that Trump is completely and utterly unapologetic, while Romney tripped over himself to get in the good graces of the media.

This is why there is a new level of ‘danger’ attached to Trump. He truly can’t be coo-opted, and is unfazed by the Power of the Pen which the media has used to criticize its ideological opponents into submission. It does not have such power over Trump, hence the public brainstorming about what sort of strategy it should employ to defeat him.

And make no mistake, despite the waffling journalists like Rutenberg does in his article and others, defeating Trump is the goal, not figuring out how to nobly maintain objectivity in the uncharted seas of the 2016 campaign. Brian Stelter of CNN confirmed as much with this outburst on his show last month:

Journalists cannot just play these soundbites, quote these claims and then move on to the next subject. We can’t just let it seep into the discourse like it’s normal. We have to stop and fact check and contextualize… Right now, it’s the Republican candidate for president who is trying to delegitimize our democratic process without proof. It is unpatriotic for any journalist or any interviewer to help him.

To this end, Matt Lauer’s greatest sin on Wednesday night was that he didn’t spend the entirety of his 30 minutes with Trump calling him a racist, sexist, bigot, homophobe, Islamophobe, Transphobe, whatever phobe repeatedly. That would have been ‘doing his job.’

Given the media has painted Trump as a threat to the world as we know it, they deem this sort of biased criticism, which is supposed to be out of bounds in the journalistic realm, to be acceptable, necessary even.

Furthermore, the Lauer outrage has the potential to set the tone for the Presidential debates, for which the NBC forum was considered a dry run. Consider what David Axelrod, political commentator and former Obama administrative operative, had to say on the matter:

So there we have it. The leftist media has branded Matt Lauer a journalistic failure for not constantly bashing Trump over the head as moderator. The fact that he only bashed him some of the time wasn’t good enough. The message to Lester Holt is clear: If you don’t essentially play Robin to Hillary’s Batman during the debate, we’ll come after you.

From what I know of Holt, he might be hesitant to acquiesce to the baying crowd, regardless of his natural amenability to the leftist worldview. And it might actually be a smart play, for the public as a whole are starting to tire of mainstream media and their complete inability to sympathize with most of America.

Should Holt, or any of the moderators be too transparent in their allegiance to Hillary Clinton, and are too eager to attack Trump, they will run the risk of confirming the stereotype that they are heavily biased, and Trump’s specific critique that the media is dishonest. This will taint any subsequent analysis it offers, which said differently, means it taints the pro Clinton message.

Was Trump Really Against the Iraq War From the Start?

One of Donald Trump’s biggest claims during this election is that he was against he Iraq war. This places him in opposition to Hillary Clinton, George Bush, basically the entire government and the public at large, who sanctioned the war. In the end, the war was proven to be a mistake, at least in terms of execution, if not the decision to start it in the first place. That the outcome of the war was so bad has opened a lane for those to play the ‘I told you so’ card.

With respect to the 2016 election, Trump has been chided for his lack of experience and judgement, which renders him unfit to be the president, so the argument goes. Trump points to his call about the Iraq war as proof that his judgement is sound. This would be a great argument, if indeed it were true. But proof has been lacking.

Many in the media have pointed to the following interview Trump did with Howard Stern back in 2002, and declared it the smoking gun that definitively closes the issue and confirms beyond a reasonable doubt that Trump is a big liar (start at 1:30):

Stern asks Trump point blank: “Are you for invading Iraq?” Trump responds, “Yeah, I guessss….soooo.”

Anyone who hears that, and  has a modicum of understanding of human beings can hear the doubt in his answer. The phrase ‘I guess’ is one of the most non-affirming affirmations in the English language, and the way he drags out that 4 word answer is further indicative of his uncertainty.

At the very least Trump was conflicted. At most, he was against the war but was wary of giving an answer which would have been extremely unpopular in 2002. Given that it’s Donald Trump we’re talking about, arguing that he might have shied away from a controversial comment is hard to believe. However, even the most fervent anti-Trump diehard must clearly see that his response is hardly a full throated endorsement of an Iraq invasion.

Trump points to this Esquire interview as his proof that he was against the war at the time. It is (to my knowledge) the only recorded evidence of his claim. The problem for him was that it was in August 2004, nearly 18 months after the Iraq war began in March 2003. Esquire has conveniently added a disclaimer to the article to make sure the reader knows this, and coming just short of outright calling him a liar.

The interesting thing is that even despite this, Trump does come off very well in the interview. Consider the following passage (emphasis mine):

My life is seeing everything in terms of “How would I handle that?” Look at the war in Iraq and the mess that we’re in. I would never have handled it that way. Does anybody really believe that Iraq is going to be a wonderful democracy where people are going to run down to the voting box and gently put in their ballot and the winner is happily going to step up to lead the county? C’mon. Two minutes after we leave, there’s going to be a revolution, and the meanest, toughest, smartest, most vicious guy will take over. And he’ll have weapons of mass destruction, which Saddam didn’t have.

 

What was the purpose of this whole thing? Hundreds and hundreds of young people killed. And what about the people coming back with no arms and legs? Not to mention the other side. All those Iraqi kids who’ve been blown to pieces. And it turns out that all of the reasons for the war were blatantly wrong. All this for nothing!

 

I would have been tougher on terrorism. Bin Laden would have been caught long ago. Tell me, how is it possible that we can’t find a guy who’s six foot six and supposedly needs a dialysis machine? Can you explain that one to me? We have all out energies focused on one place—where they shouldn’t be focused.

 

When I look at some of the things that happened in government, I can’t believe it. Countries that we’re protecting are screwing us on oil prices. It’s unthinkable. I wouldn’t stand for it. How would I handle that? That’s what it feels like to be me.

He shows what proved to be superior understanding of the situation, both in terms of the basic flaw with our Middle East adventures, and the strategic implications of our skirmishes. On the first front, he is correctly arguing that the US trying to bring democracy and liberal Western values to places which do not value them, and never have, is an exercise in futility.  Secondly, he accurately understood the destabilization involved would lead to the most vicious assuming power. Which is exactly what happened, with our Regime Change philosophy producing ISIS and Iran on the path to full nuclear capabilities.

At the end of the day, I’d say Trump is shooting par. While he did answer in the affirmative to the question of invading Iraq, the answer was clearly tinged with conflict and doubt. His more full throated disapproval came after the war had already started, yet it did show a superior understanding of the situation and Middle East dynamics than can be expected of a civilian.

This is not an insignificant point. To date, the argument over Trump’s Iraq war stance as it pertains to the election has ignored the fact that Trump was a civilian at the time, while Hillary Clinton was a member of the Congress that carried out the war, and who personally voted for it. Thus, Clinton at best can only try to bring Trump down into the realm of the Incorrect as it pertains to this issue.

And even if she is successful, and it is proven that Trump was for the war at first and then changed his mind later, it does absolve Hillary Clinton, and those who voted yes for the colossal mistake they made in sending our troops to Iraq. Whether the decision was made on an outright lie, faulty intelligence, or a combination of the two, there’s no hiding from the fact that the blunder that was made calls into question the judgement and leadership abilities of the establishment, of the incumbents, of the old guard that guided us during that time. And the end result isn’t favorable for that lot.

In this way, this episode of the campaign is a microcosm of the decision Americans will have to make. From a strictly political perspective, are we going to go with the old guard candidate, which has proven to be a failure, simply because she has ‘been there before?’ I would think not, but you never know. At the very least, this country will have had a real choice for once.

The “Trump Just Doesn’t Know What He’s Talking About” Argument is Based on a Flawed Analogy

In my view, one of Donald Trump’s biggest hurdles to the presidency is the idea that he has no idea what he’s talking about with respect to many issues, but mostly in terms of foreign policy. Since Hillary Clinton has spent nearly three decades in and around Washington DC as First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State, during which time she’s flown around the world to meet with leaders and diplomats, and actually been in the ‘war room’ when key decisions were made, she is the candidate we should trust with the nuclear codes. Donald Trump, on the other hand, is a buffoon business tycoon who shoots off at the mouth with little regard for any fall out.

Or so the story goes.

Last night at NBC’s Commander-in-Chief Fourm, Matt Lauer touched on this point with Trump, asking him the following:

So many of the issues that we’ve talked about with you, Mr. Trump, tonight, and Secretary Clinton, are so complex that even career military people and career diplomats and politicians have trouble getting their arms around them….You’ve had a very different background, in business. So nobody would expect you to have taken over the last 20 years really deep dives into some of these issues. But I’m curious about what you’re doing now. What kind of research are you doing now? What kind of homework are you doing? What kind of things are you reading as you prepare for the day in two months where you might be elected the next president of the United States?

On the surface, it’s a good question. Trump really does have no experience in the narrow arena of Geopolitics and military conflict, at least compared to Hillary Clinton. The issue is that in this case, Clinton’s experience may actually be a big negative. Thus the premise of the question is flawed.

The root of the flaw is the false equivalence being made between foreign policy and a discipline like physics. Physics is a scientific discipline which is founded on universal principles and phenomena in the natural world which are known to be true. Foreign policy is the extension of a political ideology onto a world stage.

In other words, people are wrong to be making the following analogy:

Trump is to Hillary Clinton in Foreign Policy, as a Physics 101 student is to Stephen Hawking in Physics

Again, this would hold if foreign policy was based on falsifiable arguments and hypotheses the way physics is. The reality is that it simply isn’t.

Donald Trump is extremely ignorant, when looking through the tinted lens of the post WWII US foreign policy of interventionism, nation building, and soft imperialism. He sings an unabashed America First song, in direct contrast to what he correctly terms the ‘false song of globalism.’ His views on the place of the US military in the world seems to be ‘Peace Through Strength,’ rather than the more passive aggressive, relative half measures the US has currently been undertaking in war.

This doesn’t represent ignorance, but a complete difference in views. Which is fine when we’re dealing in an ideology based arena such as foreign policy. Trump is not arguing that Bernoulli’s Principle doesn’t exist. He is arguing that the current ideology has failed us and we must try something different.

And on that point, there is little to argue about.

Regardless of what you think about the intentions, the bottom line is that the ‘Russian Reset,’ the Syrian Red Line, toppling Ghadafi in Libya, the Arab Spring, Benghazi, and setting the foundation for the Iran deal had disastrous outcomes. The destabilization created room for ISIS, which now has a gigantic swath of land in the Middle East from which it is fanning out terror operations worldwide.

This is not a partisan argument either – the Bush administration had numerous blunders in the foreign policy arena as well, chief of which being the handling of the Iraq War.

Trump stands against both Republicans and Democrats, which is why he’s been pilloried by both sides. Just last month, 50 former GOP national security officials wrote an open letter imploring Americans to steer clear of Trump because of the ‘danger’ he represents.

 

This merely confirms the fact that Trump is a true agent of change. Both the Republican and Democrat establishments have been happy to feed the Military Industrial Complex for decades, despite the warnings of President Eisenhower. To people like those who wrote that open letter, the ‘danger’ is that the status quo is disturbed.

Regardless of the outcomes of the wars and skirmishes America has been involved with over the last few decades, regardless of the bloodshed and the lives lost, the elites in the government and those in the defense industry have reaped rewards.

Trump doesn’t care about the status quo. He cares about America engaging in foreign policy that benefits the people, as opposed to the special interests in government and the defense industry. As such, his advisers are outsiders, just like he is.

Consider Michael Flynn, a retired lieutenant general who served in the Obama administration as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. He was ultimately forced out of the role in 2014:

Stars and Stripes said Flynn “did not leave the Obama administration on warm terms,” adding that, “in 2014, he was effectively forced out of the Defense Intelligence Agency as part of a leadership shake-up after clashing with officials over his management style and vision for the agency.”

 

Flynn explained his firing, according to the New York Post, by saying he “knew then it had more to do with the stand I took on radical Islamism and the expansion of al Qaeda and its associated movements. I felt the intel system was way too politicized, especially in the Defense Department.”

Despite being a Democrat, he has been one of Donald Trump’s key advisers, even making the short list to be his Vice Presidential pick. The reason for this is that Flynn, like Trump, disagrees with the the way the establishment is taking to foreign policy, if not the basic ideology itself.

That Trump may not be well versed in some of the political lingo, some of the more detailed strategic points, or arcane historical facts which may affect policy is not automatically disqualifying. After all, Barack Obama was similarly cast as inexperienced, and ill-informed on matters of foreign policy – by none other than Hillary Clinton back in 2008.

Given Obama’s election, the country obviously didn’t think those claims were valid. It is rich, however, that the same Obama-turned-Clinton supporters are now claiming that Trump has no clue what he’s doing, and doesn’t have the experience.

This is because Obama, of ‘adequate’ experience, exercised that wisdom to put Hillary Clinton in the Secretary of State position, which led to the aforementioned failures of her tenure. These failures are currently being touted as the evidence of the requisite experience needed to be president, that Trump lacks. It’s not a very convincing argument coming from Obama and Clinton.

The bottom line is that the type of experience matters. Trump’s experience has been in business, overseeing large complex problems by giving it direction, and making sure the right people are in charge to take care of things at a more local level. This translates almost directly to what he would have to be doing as a President. It is up to those underneath a President Trump to carry out the day to day grunt work involved in getting the job done. Trump’s job is to hire the best people, who will give him the best information, to then devise strategy based on this information within the framework of an overarching goal, and then to implement it. In short, true leadership is the ultimate job of the President.

Trump has been doing this for his entire adult life, to great success. In that respect, he is far more qualified than the perpetual failure Clinton has ever been.

MSNBC ‘Unskews’ The Polls – Thinks 2016 Electorate = 2012 Electorate

In my article recapping the election as it unfolded over the summer, I took some time to break down why the mainstream media making fun of ‘Poll Truthers’ could potentially backfire. More specifically, I explained why the comparison between Trump supporters’ distrust of the polls in 2016 and that of Romney supporters in 2012 was off base:

Back in 2012, Republicans were convinced that polling which showed President Obama leading were heavily skewed in favor of Democrats. They were made to pay for that optimism on Election Day, and in pointing to that experience, the likes of Perino and others have been quick to point out that the polls were right in 2012, and as such they are Gospel now.

 

The issue with that analysis starts with the fact that in 2012, Republicans had the Tea Party shake up of 2010 midterm election fresh in their memories. This, to many, marked a repudiation of President Obama’s agenda, and as such a torrent of Republicanism would sweep the nation in 2012. Romney was assured to ride on in that wave, and thus, the fact that the polls said otherwise meant they were faulty.

 

The disconnect was that Romney as a candidate was nowhere near the Tea Party ideal, to put it mildly. Thus, he didn’t come close to capturing the momentum the Tea Party had generated. In the end, he marginally improved on McCain’s effort in 2008, which meant that Obama won comfortably, despite having a lower turnout than he had four years earlier.

 

Those who took the polls as Gospel earlier in this summer are making the inverse error as Republicans made in 2012. Whereas Republicans then thought the electorate had shifted from where it was in 2008, those giddy about Clinton +12 polls in early August might prove to have been erroneous in thinking that the electorate hadn’t shifted from 2012.

Right on cue, this article from Politico confirms part of my thinking – that mainstream polls are skewed towards the 2012 electorate:

MSNBC ‘unskewed’ a CNN national poll on Tuesday that showed Donald Trump leading Hillary Clinton by two points, re-weighting the results to match the 2012 electorate and showing a four-point lead for the former secretary of state.

 

The poll of likely voters, released Tuesday by CNN/ORC, showed Trump ahead of Clinton nationwide in a four-way contest, 45 percent to 43 percent. But MSNBC host Chuck Todd explained that the poll, in his network’s estimation, may have oversampled white voters without a college degree, one of Trump’s strongest groups.

 

“Whites without a college degree appear to make up nearly half of their sample. In 2012, by the way, whites without a college degree was slightly more than a third of all voters,” Todd said. “The point is, your numbers may not be wrong but your weighting may be, your assumptions. So the CNN folks assumed an electorate that is not an impossible scenario for Trump, but it would be an historic shift if it occurred.”

 

With the numbers adjusted to reflect how the electorate shook out four years ago, Clinton’s two-point deficit shifted to a four-point lead, 46 percent to 42 percent.

It is my view that thinking the 2016 electorate will end up looking like the 2012 electorate is a recipe for failure, yet this is what most mainstream polls do. I believe that the 2016 electorate, owing to the large number of new/disaffected voters Trump is bringing to the table, is far more amenable to the Republican candidate than it was for Mitt Romney.

Data from that CNN poll bears this out:

CNN-Polling_2_Enthus

According to that, the electorate as a whole is less enthusiastic about going to vote than it was four years ago. But given the choice between Trump and Clinton, there is more enthusiasm for the former.

Despite that major flaw in mainstream polls, they have tightened, to the point where many of them show at best a Clinton lead within the margin of error, if not a dead heat. Given that those polls refelct the 2012 Obama friendly electorate, the Clinton campaign should have some serious concerns. Because once the relatively large, and more enthusiastic Pro-Trump portion of the electorate is truly reflected, those polls might look a lot different. Indeed, we might not find out the true extent of that until election night.

Why the ‘Resolution’ of Hilary Clinton’s EMail Scandal Helps Trump

This morning, FBI Director James Comey held a press conference in which he declared that the FBI was to recommend that the Department of Justice did not pursue criminal charges against Hillary Clinton for her handling of classified information via her personal email system.

There is nothing particularly surprising about that on it’s own. Very few people actually expected Clinton to be indicted. What was surprising is the fact that Comey laid out a detailed explanation of the evidence that they did have of her wrongdoing. The following is a snippet:

Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.

 

For example, seven e-mail chains concern matters that were classified at the Top Secret/Special Access Program level when they were sent and received. These chains involved Secretary Clinton both sending e-mails about those matters and receiving e-mails from others about the same matters. There is evidence to support a conclusion that any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton’s position, or in the position of those government employees with whom she was corresponding about these matters, should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation. In addition to this highly sensitive information, we also found information that was properly classified as Secret by the U.S. Intelligence Community at the time it was discussed on e-mail (that is, excluding the later “up-classified” e-mails).

 

None of these e-mails should have been on any kind of unclassified system, but their presence is especially concerning because all of these e-mails were housed on unclassified personal servers not even supported by full-time security staff, like those found at Departments and Agencies of the U.S. Government—or even with a commercial service like Gmail.

To be sure, the use of the term ‘extremely careless’ is a synonym for ‘gross negligence,’ which in fact is a felony crime when applied to the handling of classified information, as per 18 U.S. Code § 793, section f. Indeed, the mere fact that Clinton had set up a private email server to house what is essentially government property is a violation of that code.

Long story short, the director of the FBI admitted point blank that Hillary Clinton committed a felony, however it was not going to recommend any sort of indictment to the DOJ.

The Clinton campaign predictably was relieved by it, and moved quickly to intimate that that the matter was now put to bed.

I wouldn’t be so hasty. In fact, I believe that Trump has been handed a gift here.

In being so explicit, the FBI has essentially destroyed many of the outs the Clinton campaign, and indeed the media who undoubtedly leans her way, would try to employ. Had Comey come out and given some sort of boilerplate statement full of legalese, any Clinton surrogate could merely point to the fact that an investigation had been done, and there was no evidence of wrongdoing.

By saying there was evidence of wrongdoing but no charges forthcoming, the FBI has basically confirmed to the American public that one of Trump’s main talking points – that the system is corrupt and rigged – is absolutely true. Furthermore, Hillary Clinton is the poster child for that corruption and she is running for president, thereby leaving Trump as the more honest candidate by default.

Trump already had plenty of staying power thanks to his status as the ‘outsider’ versus the ‘establishment’ representative that Clinton is. To the extent that there are any fence sitters who didn’t buy the claim that there was a group of insiders colluding against the public from within the chamber halls of Washington DC, they have now been shown an incontrovertible, in your face example of the system at work. One set of rules for the insiders, another for the rest of us. Crooked Hillary indeed.

To focus more on the election, Comey’s report rubbishes the main Clinton campaign rationale for voting for her over Trump. According to that view, Clinton’s experience, steady hand, competence, and extensive understanding of global politics built up over 20 years was vastly superior to Trump. The rationale was that we needed someone who knows what he or she is doing to guide us through the treacherous waters of modern geopolitics.

The simple rebuttal to that now is that were Hillary Clinton to apply for a job in the government today, she would be barred from access to sensitive information of any kind, owing to the ‘carelessness’ she displayed with classified material in the past. Comey said as much, saying:

To be clear, this is not to suggest that in similar circumstances, a person who engaged in this activity would face no consequences. To the contrary, those individuals are often subject to security or administrative sanctions. But that is not what we are deciding now.

In short, part of the penalty for doing what Clinton did would be ‘security or administrative sanctions.’ In other words, termination or a loss of security clearance. Given that Clinton is now running for an office which holds the ultimate security clearance, Comey is essentially saying that any other person would be disqualified from seeking any position involving sensitive information, let alone the presidency. But Hillary Clinton isn’t any other person. One rule for the establishment, another for the rest of us.

Once again, Comey stated that:

There is evidence to support a conclusion that any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton’s position, or in the position of those government employees with whom she was corresponding about these matters, should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation.

According to Comey, Hillary Clinton did not act in the way a reasonable person should have in that position. This is important because it speaks to Clinton’s competence and professionalism.

If she is indeed the most qualified, wisest, most experienced person to run, as is the argument posed by her supporters, how is it that she failed in such a fundamental aspect of her job as Secretary of State? This episode has shown that Clinton is either stunningly incompetent, or stunningly corrupt. Pick one.

As time goes on, expect the Clinton campaign, and indeed the media, to shut down those who would bring this criticism. There would be an attempt to marginalize it by saying it was old news, or a tired Republican conspiracy, or something of that nature.

And to a certain extent, they will have a point. At a certain point, the average voter will tire of hearing about emails and will perhaps start to tune out when the argument is made.

It’s potency lies in the fact that it is a destroyer of Clinton’s main argument – that she is the cool, experienced head, the adult in the room as it were. Trump must focus on the point that competent, experienced leaders don’t put the safety of Americans at risk via negligence.

Cool heads don’t try and destroy evidence after the fact, as Clinton has done deleting emails. Honest players don’t set up servers specifically to house government property outside the purview of government eyes, and lie about it repeatedly afterwards.

And speaking of lying – Comey’s admission casts further doubt on everything Clinton had said before in regards to this issue. Breitbart ran a piece deconstructing how what Comey relayed this morning was different than what Clinton had been telling the public about the saga:

1. FALSE: Hillary Clinton never sent any classified information, or emails containing information marked “classified.”

2. FALSE: Hillary Clinton turned over all work-related emails to the State Department.

3. FALSE: Hillary Clinton was allowed to use a private e-mail server.

4. FALSE: Hillary Clinton’s server was not hacked by foreign adversaries.

5. FALSE: Hillary Clinton had only used a single mobile device for email.

Does this mean that Clinton may have perjured herself in the various hearings she engaged in on this matter, and others? Who else in the Obama Administration knew of Clinton’s setup and said nothing about it? Did Obama himself know? If so, there would be grounds for further legal action. The web of disaster for Obama and the Democratic party threatens to be vast if a domino such as this fell.

As such it is entirely possible that Comey, feeling ‘pressure’ had to stall and eventually shut it down so as to not turn the wrath of the entire DC machine on his head. It further goes to the view that our government is hopelessly corrupt, and their only interest is in themselves, rather than the American people. Episodes such as this should make it clear as day that an outsider is needed, to clean up the vast mess that is American politics.

The failures of the post WWII status quo are starting to pile up higher and higher. It is up to the public to act accordingly.

 

More On ‘Principled Conservatives’

In my Open Letter to Principled Conservatives, I described the profile of a ‘Principled Conservative’ politician in 2016. It is a politician with an exemplary ability to shout Reagan aphorisms from the rooftops while voting to increase the size of and scope government, acquiescing to Leftist ideals.

There is a cultural root to this issue, and while I touched on it in my open letter, the man behind Conservative Pundit, a Twitter parody account, hit the nail on the head. In an interview with The Daily Caller, he said the following:

…I don’t think that the problem with respectable conservatism is just that they’re afraid of being called racist or sexist or homophobic. They certainly are afraid of that, yes, but I think that the deeper problem is they’ve fully internalized a whole raft of premises about race, about gender, about “sexual orientation” that are extremely recent, extremely radical, leftist, and in many ways totally incompatible with the traditional American worldview that they purport to cherish.

 

The contemporary conservative pundit is in a precarious position. On the one hand, he agrees with his liberal friends that the United States prior to, say, the 1960s was a frightfully bigoted and hateful place, full of all sorts of phobias and -isms and other such indefensible attitudes. On the other hand, he wants his liberal friends to respect the political and cultural principles we’ve inherited from that evil and benighted past. It’s a weak position, and I don’t think many people besides other professional conservative pundits find it very compelling.

 

 

These professional pundits, such as George Will, Bill Kristol, and David Brooks, among others, have spent decades crafting a ‘Principled Conservative’ ideology on this basis. Republican candidates for office trip over themselves to adhere to it, rendering Republican elections purity contests.

These ideological battles are useless, as the policies which come of them continue to harm America. Trump has come on like a house on fire because he stands in opposition to what these Principled Conservatives have actually achieved in office, as opposed to the things Principled Conservatives purport to believe in.

That is a big difference. Take for example, the National Review and their criticism of the Omnibus bill which Speaker of the House Paul Ryan passed in December:

Since Democrats have hastened to embrace a policy of de facto open borders, come what may, it falls to Republican officeholders to offer a more sober assessment of our immigration policy — which they should. It’s good policy and — given that 9 out of 10 Americans want immigration levels either kept where they are or reduced — it’s good politics. Republican leaders should be attempting to halt illegal immigration, reduce legal immigration (especially from countries that pose a particular threat to American security), and figure out ways to assimilate immigrants who are already here and to reform the failed procedures by which we evaluate those who want to come.

Sounds great, yet the National Review is staunchly in the #NeverTrump camp, despite Trump being the only candidate who speaks to the concerns they’ve addressed. One could be mistaken for thinking the aforementioned quote was written a Trump supporter, rather than his most fervent detractors.

That is exactly the problem many on the right have with ‘Principled Conservatives.’ The only consistent principle they seem to have is to do what it takes to keep power within the Leftist Frame. This is why the likes of Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, John Kasich, Marco Rubio and others do not engender enthusiasm.

They are vanilla actors who will play by the Leftist rules. Trump says to hell with those rules, we’ve go a job to do, let’s do it in the most efficient way we can. Trump is less concerned by ideology and more interested in what works.

An Open Letter to Principled Conservatives

Dear Principled Conservatives,

I suspect that today, the 4th of May 2016, most of your greatest fears have been realized. Donald J. Trump is going to be the Republican Nominee for President of the United States. The immediate fall out has been intense, with many on social media burning their Republican cards, literally and figuratively. Many have pledged to support Hillary Clinton in the fall, and feel no compunction in doing so. In their eyes, a guaranteed continuation of the Obama Doctrine in all respects is superior to Donald Trump.

I understand your line of reasoning, because the fact of the matter is that Donald Trump is not a principled conservative, at least in the Ronald Reagan mold.

The Reagan Revolution, which many of you cite as the foundation for your conservatism, probably began in 1964, with Reagan’s famous ‘Time for Choosing’ speech. While it was full of memorable quotes, I’d like to highlight the following:

…And this idea that government is beholden to the people, that it has no other source of power except the sovereign people, is still the newest and the most unique idea in all the long history of man’s relation to man.

 

This is the issue of this election: Whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American Revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capitol can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.

From this sentiment grew an ideology based on economic and social conservatism. Added to this was a military toughness which developed as a response to the threat of communism spreading across the globe. Most of those views are what the self-styled ‘Principled Conservative’ of 2016 purports to hold.

In my view, two strains of Conservatives apply this label to themselves – the ‘Establishment’ Republicans who have descended from the Reagan/Bush political family tree, and their supporters – and the Tea Party types who rose up at the beginning of this decade, partly in opposition to those Establishment strain.

Both groups have failed, for different reasons.

The failure of ‘Establishment’ Republicans is rooted in the discrepancy between the rhetoric and the actions. As much as you might recoil at the sound of terms like ‘neocon’ and ‘RINO,’ the potency of those terms come from the fact there is some truth in them.

Over the last four plus decades, Republican administrations and Congresses have overseen massive increases in the size of government, exactly what Reagan spoke so steadfastly against in 1964. During election season, many Republicans trip over themselves mentioning Reagan, weaving his ‘government is the problem’ threads into the fabric of their campaigns.

Yet when the final figures are tabulated, government is always bigger. The amounts the average taxpayer, present and future, are to be responsible for, are always larger.

Any attempt at serious cuts in government spending can’t be done because even slowing the advance of government would be admitting that the campaign promises can’t be kept, which in turn would be effectively ceding power to the Democrats.

This is the frame establishment Republicans have ended up working from. The desire to maintain power became superior to the desire to do what is right for the American people.

It’s been much the same trend with respect to social conservatism. In this regard, mainstream Republican candidates have often played lip service to ‘Judeo-Christian values’ and vowed to stand up for the traditional family. Yet it was Reagan himself who introduced no-fault divorce in 1969 as Governor of California, ushering in a wave of broken families and ultimately a fatherless generation. Once again, the actions didn’t match up with the rhetoric.

To the tea party strain of Principled Conservatism, your failures have been more operational in nature. Where the establishment strain talks the talk but doesn’t walk the walk, you talk the talk and run the walk.

If the United States is an aircraft carrier which is going in the wrong direction, you are attempting to turn it around by tying a rope to a row boat, tying the other end to the aircraft carrier and paddling with all of your might. It’s a futile effort.

Free Northerner wrote a fantastic post about why right-wing activism in its current form will fail. I suggest you read it in full.

The gist of it is that the cultural and political zeitgeists are dominated by progressives. They currently hold the power, and determine what is and isn’t acceptable.

Because of this, a true adherence to the Reaganesqe tenets of Principled Conservatism, to the letter, is becoming more and more unacceptable. Establishment types have come to understand this over the years, which is why they’ve evolved to betray those principles once in office in an attempt to hold on to power.

In many ways, I can sympathize with these politicians for behaving this way. After all, they are human, and as such are subjected to the observations of Lord Acton with respect to power. This is why the Founding Fathers were so torn over the idea of giving the government lots of it in the first place.

If you as Principled Conservatives are actually prepared to walk the walk in terms of the ideology, you will first need to have a culture which is amenable to such an ideology. How, for example, do you expect to actually cut spending enough to run a balanced budget, when roughly half the country doesn’t pay taxes, and thinks the half that does isn’t paying enough?

How do you expect to cultivate a society of strong families and tight knit communities when nihilism has replaced faith, and the idea that there is something larger than oneself is foreign to most?

Andrew Breitbart famously said that politics is downstream from culture. That means that the culture has to change before the politics. Both strains have failed to understand this. The Establishment strain has tried to mold its politics to the culture, while the Tea Party has tried to jackhammer the culture with its politics.

The end result is Establishment candidates who end up adopting non Principled Conservative views, or a handful of hardline Tea Partiers who are easily marginalized and dismissed. Both strategies are losing strategies.

If you actually do want to implement true, principled conservatism, as opposed to merely using the idea as an avenue for power, the only way to achieve it is to reshape the culture.

The quickest way of doing that, believe it or not, is a Donald Trump presidency.

As I mentioned before, the culture is controlled by progressive ideals. Despite what you may feel about Trump, the bottom line is that he is a winner, and has a winner’s attitude. You simply don’t acquire billions of dollars and then seemingly on a whim walk into the most crowded Republican Primary field ever and come out the victor, all the while being a rookie, without having some sort of predilection for success ingrained in you.

That habit of success, when applied to the country writ large, is going to transform it positively. Recall that this is an America which prefers to be apologetic to the rest of the world about its exceptionalism, a stance directly opposite to what Reagan held.

The course modern politicians, including Principled Conservatives, have set us on is one that makes America more like the rest of the world. Trump, on the other hand has been explicit in his wish to repudiate the ‘false song of globalism.’

Trump’s campaign seeks to free America from the chains which it has tied to itself over the course of the last 50 years. These chains include phenomena like political correctness, globalism, excessive regulation, the transformation from an economy resting on savings and investment, to an economy resting on credit expansion and conspicuous consumption.

If, and only if such trends are reversed, Reagan style conservatism will both be palatable and effective in the United States once again.

*****

It was Jeffery Lord, a Trump supporting political commentator on CNN who had the most poignant remark in the aftermath of the Indiana Primary last night. Paraphrasing, he stated that the Reagan/Bush domination of the 80s elections ushered in a certain complacency in the GOP. The growing web of lobbyists, donors, strategists and so forth created a DC echo chamber which grew further and further away from the public at large. In short, the GOP became the very ‘little intellectual elite in a far distant capitol’ which Reagan had feared. When the average American thinks of the GOP, they think of images like the following:

republicans-laughing

It screams ‘out of touch.’ Yet the GOP remained supported, by a constituency who saw them as their only hope, for simply being less bad than the Democrats.

And then they stopped supporting.

The canary in the coal mine was the defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in 2014. His defeat by a Tea Party candidate in a primary was the first of a sitting Majority Leader in history. John Boehner was next to fall, and finally the heir apparent to the throne of GOP Establishment politics, Jeb Bush, was eviscerated by Donald Trump.

I implore you, Principled Conservatives of all stripes, to heed the call. Understand and accept the change in trend, or get left behind. To the Establishment strain, you are holding a losing hand. To the Tea Party strain, you are holding a winning hand, which is being played poorly. The sooner you understand this, the sooner you will be able to seize the opportunity that comes with a Trump Presidency.

This opportunity is to actually restore Principled Conservatism. For example, media and entertainment entities which promulgate political correctness and other leftist culture staples are starting to struggle and will need replacing.

Instead of hand-wringing, Principled Conservatives should be working to build alternatives, molded in the image of the truths that Principled Conservatism speaks to. The likes of Milo Yiannopoulos, Mike Cernovich, Steven Crowder, and others have built impressive outlets for views consistent with many of Reagan’s views, despite not being Principled Conservatives by the letter of the label.

As it is with Trump. I completely disagree with him on some of his major positions, in particular on trade. I don’t agree with the GOP Establishment view which supports ‘Free Trade,’ because their version of it is a falsehood. Real Free Trade doesn’t involve government decree at all.

I still support Trump, because I believe that at a fundamental level, his candidacy is an catalyst for course correction. Once the aircraft carrier has been turned in the right direction, we can concern ourselves with the details of how we move forward, in that right direction.

You, Principled Conservatives, want to be there when that discussion is had. Getting behind Trump is the first step. There is still time to punch your ticket to the Trump Train. Don’t wait too long though.

So It Begins – Donald Trump is the Presumptive Republican Nominee for President of The United States

Tonight was a potentially historic night in the modern history of the United States. Donald Trump won the Indiana Primary tonight, but more importantly, Senator Ted Cruz, Trump’s most fervent challenger, suspended his campaign.

This leaves Donald Trump as the presumptive nominee – confirmed by RNC chairman Reince Priebus:

Of course, John Kasich is still involved, but at the time of this writing he is literally fourth in a two man race. It doesn’t get more pathetic than that, and his official elimination is but a formality at this stage.

The focus now shifts to the general election, but before giving my early take, I think it’s instructive to examine my own path to the #TrumpTrain.

I’m generally a minimal government, pro free market type of guy, and as such I’ve had little to pick from in the elections I’ve been old enough to vote in. When the 2016 process got going, I was resigned to going with Rand Paul, a guy who had a good background, being Ron Paul’s son, but ultimately was lukewarm in terms of the ‘oomph’ needed to rally people around him and embrace his ideas.

Paul did have a small sliver of fervent grassroots, Tea Party types, most of whom he inherited from his father, but beyond that he was very much a lone wolf doing his best to fight against the system from within it. I knew he had little chance, but I still stayed interested in the event a miracle happened.

I had little time for candidates such as Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Rick Perry, and even Chris Christie, all of whom I saw as ‘more of the same.’ More of the Mitt Romney/McCain/Bush/Dole set, whom the US electorate as it stands in 2016 has no time for. I posited that if one of those ‘establishment’ types won the nomination, the Clinton coronation was all but assured, despite how poor a candidate she is.

When Trump announced his candidacy, I laughed him off like everyone else did. In truth, I knew very little about him; I never watched The Apprentice or read The Art of The Deal. I knew of him, only through his real estate empire and his status as a media figure. He’d have the odd interview on CNBC or CNN that I’d happen to catch in passing, but I wasn’t totally knowledgeable about him.

I believed the stock opinion about him that everyone put forth, namely that this was a publicity stunt, he was only doing it as promotion for a new TV show, and so on. I certainly didn’t take him seriously.

That all changed when Trump went after John McCain, and the whole row over Trump’s ‘war hero’ comment. I didn’t really care for the remark so much as the response to it from all involved. Nearly to a person, Trump was admonished. The liberals and conservatives, in all forms of the media and the candidates running, all called for him to apologize, and Trump refused. And his poll numbers went up.

My interest in Trump was piqued in that moment, simply because everyone I had come to disagree with over the years – liberal and conservative pundits, the aforementioned establishment candidates, John McCain himself – was united against Trump. That simple fact made me want to take Trump’s side.

That was in mid July 2015. During the final two weeks of that month, many commentators and pundits continued to attack Trump, declaring his candidacy over. While his steadfast defiance in the face of that assault was admirable in my view, I still had reservations about some of his views, and still do to this day.

At the time, I thought that Trump could be useful in the sense that, paired with a Rand Paul as running mate, for example, a lot of good could be done in the view of small government conservative types. My rationale was that Trump, being the showman that he is, would draw the American public under the tent.

Once there, he could sell the limited government, conservative principles that a guy like Rand Paul would be all about. In other words, Trump would filter through the message of Republicans like Paul so as to be more palatable to the American electorate. This was my hope in those late July days.

Then came the famous Fox News debate in August.

With the first question of the debate, Bret Baier asked the candidates if there was any one of them who would refuse to sign a pledge not to run as a third party candidate. Trump was the only one who raised his hand.

Then, Megyn Kelly asked him a loaded question about his relationship with women generally, pointing to some boorish remarks he had made on TV and on social media.

These questions, asked of the front-runner at the time, pretty much exposed the game to me. It looked like an attempted hit job, and it confirmed to me what the McCain episode had brought to my attention – the ‘establishment,’ as it were, was ALL aligned against Trump, even from within his own party.

In those first five minutes of that first Republican debate, I punched my ticket for the #TrumpTrain.

The rest of the debate was also memorable for the way Rand Paul tried extremely hard to take shots at Trump. He was totally out of his depth, and my hopes soured on his chances. When he dropped out of the race, it was of little surprise to me.

At that stage, I had fully understood what was going on. Donald Trump, while perhaps far form perfect, was the first candidate I’d come across that had the potential to affect true change. As I’ve intimated earlier, I’ve long been of the view that Republicans and Democrats were two sides of the same coin in many respects. I personally rejected that coin.

Trump is an enigma, a phenomenon that has not been seen in American politics in decades, perhaps ever. Many commentators have run themselves ragged trying to explain it, but to me it is clear as day. Trump represents the ‘reject the coin’ view that many Americans share, but so did past candidates such as Pat Buchannan and Ross Perot.

What separates Trump is his unparalleled skill in persuasion and charisma. I mentioned as much in an earlier post describing the cultural implications of a Trump presidency:

The combination of his wealth, business expertise, virtually 100% name recognition, multi decade exposure to the media and charisma has enabled Trump to dominate discussion. Once in that position, he has used it to put forth an unambiguously anti-Marxist, anti-establishment message, to the horror of the elites.

Scott Adams, known for his Dilbert cartoons, has done a great job describing Trump’s persuasive efforts in detail in a series of posts which has spanned the last 6 months or so. I’d highly suggest you read them, as they are instructive.

This is incredibly dangerous for those who want a Democratic president, especially if Hillary Clinton is going to be the nominee. Although at the time of this writing, many are suggesting that Clinton is the favorite, I don’t buy it. I believe Trump will win, and even go as far as to say that in the end it won’t be very close.

I say this because I believe that my own path to Trump support will be mirrored by millions by the time November rolls around.

Again from the Cultural Implications post I referenced earlier:

Consider that from 1980 to 2013, a member of either the Clinton or Bush family has been in the White House or among the President’s Cabinet. To the extent that the United States has deteriorated over that time, the establishment from both parties has directly overseen it. The bottom line is that modern day Republicans and Democrats are two sides of the same coin. Their continued underwhelming performance in service of the American people is leading many to repudiate the coin entirely.

 

Yet it is that establishment in politics, as well as the media, which has opposed Trump almost universally. Although he has addressed many of the realities facing Americans, Trump has been shouted down as racist, misogynistic, and Islamophobic. He has also been ridiculed as an unhinged, clownish bully.

There are two phenomena here, both of which have been waning of late, at least in my view. The first is the Red Team/Blue Team dynamic which has been exacerbated by cable news. I do believe that we’re entering an age when rigid political labels cease to matter, and people will care more about what ‘works.’

More importantly, the second phenomenon, Political Correctness Fatigue will set in. We live in a world in which the threshold to being called a bigot is crossed by correcting someone’s grammar. At some stage, normal human beings will tire of having normal human interactions being regulated by a handful of thin skinned individuals.

The only thing preventing the vast majority of normal people from making their disgust for political correctness known is the fact the PC Police is firmly in charge at the moment. If you step out of line, your employment could potentially be on the line. We’ve seen various reports of people being fired over things they’ve said on social media. PC mobs have even become proactive in tracking down the employers of miscreants on social media with the sole purpose of getting them fired.

In the current setting, nobody will speak up against overzealous social justice warriors. That angst has certainly been bubbling under the surface, as evidenced by the overwhelming anti-PC views espoused by those who post in comment sections all over the internet. It is telling that many of the politically correct set have closed down comment sections over the last 18 months in response.

Donald Trump is, in my view, the catalyst which will bring the backlash offline into the real world. His brash, anti-PC comments, which will surely persist, will continue to help him in the polls, let alone do him no harm. These ‘ABSOLUTE MADMAN‘ moments will serve as the ‘coast is clear’ signal for normal thinking people to log off the internet and speak freely in public.

Despite this, Clinton’s main strategy still will be to use the gender politics part of the PC machine, bludgeoning the public about how great it will be to have a female president. Her continued failure to see the light on this, and many other topics will cement her as the ‘establishment,’ old order, status quo candidate.

In being the epitome of Democratic establishment politics, Clinton mirrors the position Jeb Bush held for the Republicans. While beating her won’t be as easy as it was to beat Bush, Trump is still the ‘outsider’ candidate, running in an ‘outsider’ year. One only has to look at the way Bernie Sanders is running Clinton to the wire to understand this.

I don’t think this dynamic can be overstated going into the general election. Donald Trump is the candidate who represents change, change from the two party establishment which ha been so comfortable for nearly 40 years.

He’s won the Republican Primary without outside donors, without pandering to anyone but the American people, and without speaking in political tongues like any other candidate would have. This is going to present, perhaps for the first time in my lifetime, a real distinction between the candidates.

Ultimately Clinton will dispose of Sanders, owing to the fact that the establishment’s ‘unbound’ superdelegates are all in Clinton’s pocket, further highlighting the difference between her and Trump as the establishment insider. Where Clinton has an inbuilt advantage over Sanders, Trump had to fight off schemes of all sorts to prevent a contested convention. This will set up a battle royale for the presidency.

Political Correctness vs Reality > Feelings

Establishment vs ‘The People’

Feminism vs Traditional Values

Globalism vs America First

The importance of this election can’t be overstated.