Archive for the ‘Conservative movement’ Category

Are We Really That Foolish?   Leave a comment

By now, everybody has heard that Sarah Palin has endorsed Donald Trump. I am still not voting for him.

I used to like Sarah quite a bit and I still wish she’d stayed governor of Alaska for a full two-terms. We could have missed out on Sean Parnell’s incredible stupidity and this downturn in the price of oil would be a concern only in that our non-Permanent Fund savings would be going down. You see, Sarah refused to grow the State of Alaska during the high oil prices and she put the extra revenue in savings for a day very much like what Alaska is going through now. Sean Parnell immediately began increasing the size of the state government and spending that savings as soon as he became governor. Had Sarah remained governor (term limited in 2014), we wouldn’t need to discuss an economy-killing and population-draining income tax. I blame John McCain and the GOP establishment for dragging her away (and still wonder if that was not planned). I blame her own greed for turning her into a caricature of her former self. Power corrupts and, apparently, power denied and then redirected corrupts even more. I knew there was a reason why I never wanted to run for political office. She is Exhibit A.

But enough about what if … this is what is. She endorsed Donald Trump. Why?

Donald Trump is not a conservative. Of course, neither was Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon or, truthfully, either of the Bushes (which ought to tell you something about Jeb).  These Republican presidents were not fiscal or political conservatives. Eisenhower had such broad support from both sides of the aisle because he was a moderate who championed the Interstate Highway System that more than any other program of the federal government has taken away the sovereignty of the individual states, but was also a huge boondoggle that spent lavishly from the public treasury.

Richard Nixon was arguably the most liberal president between LBJ and Barack Obama. He considered the conservative movement to be a “threat more menacing” to the GOP than the John Birch Society. He told his aide John Whitaker, “There is only one thing as bad as a far-left liberal and that’s a damn right-wing conservative.” Nixon created the EPA (the Employment Prevention Agency – thank you, Marco Rubio, for that), institutionalized affirmative action, loved regulation, and pushed for huge increases in domestic spending, including a massive government takeover of health care.

Bush 1 is known for raising taxes after he promised he wouldn’t and Bush 2 ran on a platform of “compassionate conservativism.” The new drapes had not been hung in the Oval Office when he began working with Ted Kennedy on education (No Child Left Behind). He passed the biggest expansion of entitlements since the Great Society (Medicare Part D), increased the federal workforce, and increased federal spending per household. Yes, he lowered taxes. So?

That brings us to Trump, who some (including Palin) are saying pits the GOP conservative base against the presumably more liberal GOP establishment. So lets get some terminology straight here.

Contrary to what MSN wants to portray, conservatives are generally for very limited government and strict adherence to the Constitution, which results in reduced spending, less need for taxation, a reduction in regulation, and more individual freedom. By that definition, Eisenhower, Nixon and the Bushes were not conservatives and neither is Donald Trump. Sarah was definitely a fiscal conservative while she was governor of Alaska, but let’s be honest about that … Alaska is the most socialist state in the union, not by choice, but by Congressional design (with a lot of input from the Eisenhower administration, by the way).  Thanks to oil wealth, Alaskan have been shareholders in the 13th largest government-owned petroleum resource development corporation for the last 40 years. If not for oil, the socialism of this state would and will bankrupt us. Sarah understood that the State of Alaska needed to be run like the corporation it is and she did that. When I vote for a governor, I am selecting a CEO … and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that in the reality that has been impressed upon Alaska through the Statehood Compact.

In a similar way, Trump appears to view the United States of America as a business that can be run just like his real estate and media empire.

Of course (and this is my #1 reason for not voting for Donald Trump) you can’t take the United States government into bankruptcy so you can reset and start anew.  What works for business when there is a government that lets businesses get away with that will not work with the largest economy in the world. I suspect Sarah knew that when she was running for Vice-President, but I doubt Trump has ever understood the catastrophic effects of an economic crash on everyone who isn’t a billionaire.

So Sarah endorsed Trump. I suspect someone paid her to do so – maybe Trump, maybe whoever else is giving to SarahPAC. Because I don’t walk in lock-step with any candidate or political figure, I don’t care that she endorsed Trump. I’m going to hold to my own principles and shake my head sadly at what has become of one of the best governors Alaska ever had. Trump will not be getting my vote.

Until yesterday, I honestly thought that the American voters might like Donald Trump from his entertaining populism when the telephone pollsters called, but they’d think better of their choices when they got into the polling booth.

I’m no longer that sure. If I look at recent history, I have to be honest. People are dumb. They gave Barack Obama a second term after he spent us into multi-generational debt, forced an unconstitutional health care bill down our throats, divided the country along racial lines, orchestrated the illegal sale of guns to Mexican drug lords, and left four Americans on the ground in Benghazi. And that’s just the highlight reel.

So maybe we really are stupid enough to elect Donald Trump as nominee to the GOP. We’ll see what happens in the next few months. But, for the record, I will not be voting for Donald Trump. I plan to explain that soon.

We Must Protect the 6th Amendment?   Leave a comment

Mark Dice managed to get people to sign a petition to repeal the 6th Amendment, proving that Californian Americans are not terribly bright.

criminal jury trial in california, criminal trial lawyer in california, california criminal lawyer, california criminal defense lawyer, closing argument to jury, media presentation to juryThe 6th amendment recognizes the right of American citizens accused of a crime to a speedy and public trial before a jury (rather than a judge or some other agent of the government), in the area where the alleged crime took place. The accused must be told what the charges are against him/her and who is accusing him, so that he can cross-examine these people — even if they don’t wish to be questioned — and the accused has a right to legal counsel of his own.

The idea is to prevent the government from arresting someone “suspected” of a crime and holding him forever without a trial. It introduces a neutral non-governmental party (the jury) into the proceedings and it forces accusers to “go public” with their evidence rather that whispering from behind a curtain.

Shaeffer Cox went a year and a half in administrative segregation (essentially solitary confinement) from his arrest to his trial. The venue was moved 400 miles from Fairbanks (where the alleged crimes took place) to Anchorage , thus allowing the federal government to select a biased jury. Thanks to Frank Turney here in Fairbanks, jurors here know their rights to judge the law as well as the evidence and we’re much more likely to hang a jury because of it. Federal juries are not fully informed of their rights as jurors, so the tainted jury in Anchorage found him guilty because they were told to find him guilty. I’m not saying Schaeffer wasn’t guilty of shooting his mouth off without thinking and, yes, he had a non-functioning semi-auto rifle that he had tried (and failed) to convert to full-auto, but talking about what you might do IF society collapsed around you is not the same as plotting the actual deaths of actual government officials, which is what the federal goverment insisted he was trying to do. Schaeffer had the best lawyer he could afford, but that’s not saying much since he was in jail for 18 months prior to trial and unable to earn any income. His more-recent court-appointed attorney was openly hostile to him, which makes total sense since she works for the federal government … as does the prosecutor and the judge.

Cox is one man among thousands who face the same system stacked against them both at the federal and state level every day.

Is the 6th Amendment still functioning in the United States?

dog rolling on backAgain, we can be afraid these protections will go away if we open them to discussion, but they’ve already been infringed, so what are we losing by having the discussion? The state legislatures probably wouldn’t ratify a substantial revision and the discussion of the 6th amendment might give the American people ownership of it so that we’d stop letting the government abuse our right to fair trial.

Sure, the problem is infringement of our rights, but the infringement wouldn’t be possible if we didn’t allow it.

2nd Amendment Does Not Protect Guns   1 comment

In looking at the risk to the 2nd Amendment from a convention of the states, I had to admit that there are some risks already aimed at our right to bear arms. Our liberty in this area is at risk without the Constitution even being touched.

The Constitution of the United States acknowledges pre-existing liberties that are founded on something greater than the Constitution. It doesn’t grant us these liberties. It was meant to protect those liberties. And, it’s not working anymore in that capacity.

Congress may not make any laws that restrict our right to bear arms, but by clever use of terms, it has allowed states to restrict those rights for more than half a century. That trend appeared to be on the reverse with Supreme Court cases like Heller in recent years, but there are vocal advocates for a constitutional amendment to repeal and replace the 2nd amendment.

And I don’t necessarily oppose such an effort. Let them propose an amendment to repeal the 2nd amendment. Do we seriously believe that 75 separate state legislative bodies are going to vote to ratify it? And, if they do … that doesn’t take away our RIGHT to bear arms. Whatever a court or legislative body may decide, RIGHTS cannot be taken away because rights are inherent in your existence as a human being. Decisions by lesser bodies like Congress, the Supreme Court or even 75 state legislative bodies does not amend your RIGHT to bear arms. Such decisions should merely serve to convince us that it is necessary to exercise our rights – all of them, including the right to bear arms.

The Constitution is a foundational document to our republic, but it does not establish our liberties. It merely acknowledges them. Furthermore, the Constitution is not a sacred text. It was meant to be amended because our Founders recognized that it was man-made law of a self-governing people. Attempts to amend the Constitution in Congress used to happen all the time. Most such efforts failed because the state legislatures didn’t agree with Congress.

Why do we think this would be any different?

What An Originalist United States Might Look Like   Leave a comment

I’m posting these NYT op-eds to shed some light on what the “other side” of an Article V debate thinks. Lela


If Scalia Had His WayBy JEFFREY ROSEN

Published: January 8, 2011
  • Constitutional originalism is all the rage these days. In Congress, the new Republican House majority opened the session with a reading of the Constitution and a requirement that every proposed bill cite the specific constitutional authority on which it relies.
And the Supreme Court begins its new session this week with renewed energy on the originalist wing. Justice Antonin Scalia, the court’s leading originalist, has agreed to address the House Tea Party caucus on the separation of powers. He has also delivered speeches recently outlining his original understanding of the Constitution in areas like sex equality and the death penalty.

How would America change if the Scalia originalist vision — embraced by many Tea Party members — were enacted by the Supreme Court? Justice Scalia believes that the Constitution should be interpreted in light of the original understanding of its 18th- and 19th-century framers and ratifiers. That, he has stressed in recent speeches, would change our constitutional universe dramatically.

But he is not proposing a return to segregation and powdered wigs. In a 1989 article called “Originalism: the Lesser Evil,” he called himself a “faint-hearted originalist,” adding that he could not imagine “upholding a statute that imposes the punishment of flogging,” which the constitutional framers approved.

No to flogging, but what next? What would the country look like in an originalist universe? Liberal bloggers often like to set off alarm bells, and in certain cases, the law would become more conservative. But consensus among originalists is rare on any issue, and conservative justices often disagree among themselves about what the founders intended. And in many cases, liberal justices and advocates can argue plausibly that the constitutional text and history point to progressive rather than conservative outcomes.

Conservatives embrace originalism for many reasons, not least because it is supposed to help judges separate their legal conclusions from their personal views. But in practice, the version of originalism embraced by conservative justices often points in a conservative direction.

For starters, Justice Scalia said a return to the founders’ vision means states could impose the death penalty on anyone — including juveniles or the mentally retarded, for example — and there would be no abortion rights or rights of assisted suicide for the terminally ill.

“We don’t have the answer to everything, but by God we have an answer to a lot of stuff,” Justice Scalia said in an interview on originalism in September at the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law.

Justice Scalia also insisted that the equal-protection clause of the 14th Amendment wasn’t intended to apply to discrimination based on sex or sexual orientation, and that the Supreme Court has erred by regulating both. “Nobody ever thought” that the Constitution banned sex discrimination, he said.

Sometimes, originalists agree about the founders’ intentions but disagree about overturning deeply rooted precedents that may clash with those intentions. Since the 1960s, for example, the Supreme Court has banned school prayer.

Drawing on the work of liberal and conservative scholars, Justice Clarence Thomas has argued that those decisions are inconsistent with the intention of the framers of the First Amendment, who wanted to prevent the federal government from interfering with established state churches, rather than requiring a wall of strict separation between church and state.

Justice Scalia doesn’t dispute these historical conclusions, but he said that unlike Justice Thomas, he wasn’t ready to reverse the decisions applying the First Amendment’s restrictions on religion to the states. “I’m not going to rip all that up; it’s water under the dam,” he said in a 1997 speech. “In other words, I am an originalist. I am a textualist. I am not a nut.”

Today, the most heated controversy over originalism centers on health care reform. The justice most likely to strike down the new law is Justice Thomas, who has argued that the framers intended for Congress to have far narrower authority to regulate interstate commerce than the modern court has allowed.

His vision might call into question much of the post-New Deal regulatory state, and for pragmatic reasons, Justice Scalia and other conservatives have so far refused to embrace it. “Part of the problem is that we’ve already come so far from the original understanding that I don’t think we’re going to go back very far on this,” said Michael McConnell of Stanford Law School, a leading conservative constitutional historian.

In addition to disagreeing about the value of previous precedents, the conservative justices disagree among themselves about what the founders would have thought about technologies and institutions that didn’t exist when the Constitution was written.

In a November oral argument about a California law restricting minors from buying violent video games, Justices Scalia and Samuel A. Alito debated whether the ratifiers of the First Amendment would have thought that it protected portrayals of violence.

“What Justice Scalia wants to know is what James Madison thought about video games,” and if “he enjoyed them,” Justice Alito said sarcastically. Justice Scalia shot back, “No, I want to know what James Madison thought about violence.” The dispute will be resolved in the opinion, to be issued later this year.

Even when there’s broad scholarly agreement about original understanding, the conservative justices sometimes ignore it.

In a decision last year holding that the states are bound by the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms, the five-member conservative majority — Justices Scalia, Thomas, Alito and Anthony M. Kennedy as well as Chief Justice John Roberts — ignored the consensus among liberal and conservative scholars that framers of the 14th Amendment intended to apply the Second Amendment to the states not through the “due process” clause but instead through the “privileges or immunities” clause, which the court has long overlooked.

Resurrecting this forgotten clause might lead to greater protection for a range of individual rights. “Recently, originalism has taken some serious hits on the court not because of its opponents,” said Professor McConnell, “but because of its proponents, who manifested a distinct lack of interest in following the original understanding when it became inconvenient.”

For this reason, many liberal scholars have concluded that originalism is more of a rhetorical argument than a consistent, principled approach to constitutional interpretation.

“If you took the originalists at their word,” said David Strauss, a liberal University of Chicago law professor, “you could punish people for criticizing the government, the federal government could discriminate against anyone it wanted to, and there’s a real argument that the interstate highway system is unconstitutional. The federal prison system and criminal law would be in serious question, and forget the Federal Reserve. It would be gone.”

In the end, however, many liberal scholars believe that if the court took seriously the text and history of the entire Constitution — including the 16th Amendment, authorizing the income tax, and the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote — then originalism should just as often lead to liberal as conservative results.

On issues like campaign finance, health care, financial reform and gender discrimination, these scholars say, taking the 20th-century amendments as seriously as those passed in the 18th and 19th centuries would guarantee a constitutional originalism that upheld modern visions of liberty and equality.

“I hope Scalia and Thomas succeed in making their colleagues care more about text and history,” said Douglas Kendall, the president of the Constitutional Accountability Center, which argues that originalism can favor progressive causes. “But if they’re honest in reading and considering these sources, it won’t always yield the results the Tea Party wants.”


(Oddly, because I’m liberty-minded, I agree with this last statement and I think it’s a good thing — although I suspect that court cases based on originalism would have to consider the unintended consequences of their decisions, which would usually damage progressive causes, because liberty in the original sense did not mean what progressives often want it to mean. Lela)

Posted February 19, 2014 by aurorawatcherak in Conservative movement

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Slaves Don’t Need to Be Smart   Leave a comment

Fairbanks just had its local elections. We were voting on the City mayor, some School Board seats, some Borough Assembly seats and some bond issues.

I think local elections are far more important than presidential elections because what happens locally affects us way more than what happens in DC. DC can pass all the administrative lunacy it wants and it wouldn’t matter if local officials had backbones and told them to go pound sand.

So, this election had a clear choice of City mayor. The current mayor is a business man who wanted to serve the community for a couple of years and then go back to his business. He’s done that and he’s doing that. Neither candidate, in my opinion, was of the same caliber as Jerry Cleworth, but there was a clear choice. The fiscally conservative small business owner who had a fairly consistent conservative voting record while on the City Council or the labor lawyer who never saw a spending ordinance he didn’t like while he was on the City Council. The conservative said she would follow a policy of not increasing the budget or dipping into the municipal savings account. The labor lawyer said he was planning to give the city employees (already the highest paid workers in town) a raise and that he saw no problem with this because we have a savings account. The newspaper comments showed people pretty much didn’t like John Eberhart’s spending plan, but they thought Vivian Stiver didn’t have enough experience running large businesses to be qualified as mayor. Which was odd because Jerry Cleworth was also a small business owner with no large business experience and he’s been great, according to almost everyone except the labor unions.

School Board and Borough Assembly seats are non-partisan. It was a mixed bag on the people who won. Some will be good. Some will be bad.

The bond issues were the most worrisome. The School District wanted us to bond to replace a school that is only 40 years old because, they said, it was structurally deficient and not earthquake safe. Except that in 2002, Ryan Junior High withstood a 7.9 magnitude quake and suffered ZERO damage. That’s the largest quake Fairbanks has experienced in recorded history. So what’s the problem with Ryan. The bond issue would more than double our indebtedness and come to the highest level of indebtedness that the Borough has ever had, including during the Pipeline days when we built multiple schools very rapidly because of incredible population increases.

Seems like a no-brainer. Vote for the fiscal conservative for City Mayor and vote down the bond issues. If you read the newspaper comments, you’d have thought that would be the outcome.

But …

Only 14% of registered voters showed up for the election. The bond issues passed with 60% margins and John Eberhart will be our new mayor. There goes the City’s savings account. We’re now deeply in debt as a community (or will be by spring, anyway). We’re going to give overpaid workers a raise.

I previously posted that I thought Fairbanks had finally begun to reap the benefits of years of fiscal sanity.

Guess not.

And that, folks, is why the whole system from DC to Podunck is going to come crashing down. It’s pretty to think that a return to federalism will fix things, but I’m starting to think it won’t. We as a people are apparently too stupid to come in out of the rain. Maybe we’ll get smarter after the UN allows China to annex us for the purposes of paying our debt.

Of course, how smart we become then won’t matter. Slaves don’t need to be smart.

Why Rural Communities are Conservative   Leave a comment

The last four presidential elections have revealed an urban-rural cleavage that is hard to ignore. The “red” vs. “blue” Election Night maps really mask a rural-urban divide within states that has increased in recent years.  

Rural populations are not well represented in most national polls. The 2004 American National Election Studies indicated a 20-point gap in presidential preference between inhabitants of counties with more than a million people and those in non-metro counties of less than 25,000. This gap was significant enough that Democratic Party strategists were alarmed, prompting Howard Dean, then-party chairman, to urge his party’s elites to study and address their “rural problem.” In some sense, the Obama victories of 2008 and 2012 are the offspring of this effort, but the new understanding is not as great as the Democrats would like us to believe.

First, let’s admit that Republican does not necessarily mean conservative and Democrat does not necessarily mean liberal. The two major parties do a poor job of actually representing their respective constituencies. Generally speaking, those who vote with the Republican Party tend to be more conservative than those who vote with the Democratic Party, but if I had my druthers it would be a three-color and at least six-shade map. I don’t really love the color yellow, but if we’re going with primary colors, I think the conservative movement could claim it, but that’s off topic.

Political scientists admit they are ill-prepared to study what makes rural Americans tick. For all the research on urban politics, there is no remotely comparable body of accumulated wisdom on rural populations. Yes, there are compositional differences between the two populations that make them politically distinct from one another. Areas with low population density may stand out from other locations because only certain types of people have come to reside there. If so, there is nothing magical about place-of-residence, per se, but the peculiar economic and demographic traits of resident populations identify rural behavior and beliefs.

Major national surveys show that rural voters are, on average, more white, Christian, evangelical, religiously devout, elderly, less educated, and less affluent than urban and suburban populations. They also own more guns, are more likely to oppose abortion rights, and hew to more traditional family arrangements than those living elsewhere.

A few other traits of rural voters are less obvious. Rural voters are not more Republican in party identification than suburban voters, although they are much more so than those living in central cities. Rural voters are also much more likely to be homeowners, and to be self-employed, than non-rural residents. Contrary to widely held hillbilly stereotypes, they are not entirely Southern – only 29% of the nation’s rural voting-age residents reside in Deep South states, with another 21% residing in Border states.

In summary, the profile of the rural American contains potential cross-pressures. Rural voters tend to be morally and socially conservative, but there are observers who believe rural Americans should have good reasons to vote with Democrats on matters of economic import. They just can’t understand why rural voting loyalty is growing more Republican, while people in America’s most populous locations head in the opposite direction. 

We’ll discuss suburbs some other time.

In 2004 Thomas Frank contended that the wily deployment of religious and moral symbols by business-oriented Republican elites had  displaced economic vulnerability as an issue among rural Americans. Foolish rural voters, Frank contended, had become distracted from their legitimate economic grievances and enticed into voting with the most affluent segments of society.  The result had been the formation of a coalition on the American right of working-class rural voters and corporate business interests, with the latter wielding the greater influence. In Frank’s view, rural voters mindlessly elect people who follow the business interests of Wall Street, unwittingly undermining their own economic position for nothing in return. This, according to Frank, is why some of the poorest counties in the nation in predominantly rural states gave over 80% of their vote to Republican candidates in recent presidential elections.

Frank’s contention that rural citizens are ill-bred dimwits who vote incorrectly resonated with metropolitan readers, most university faculty and political elites in both parties. The unflattering views that urban sophisticates harbor toward rural Americans (which are mutual, by the way) have dredged a wide moat. City dwellers evidently believe that rural Americans are rubes, just waiting to be fleeced and, obviously, in need of guidance from their betters.

I think the urban-rural divide is rooted in much more than morality politics. Frank’s 2004 argument that rural Americans are easy to fleece politically was challenged a 2006 study that soberly insisted that Frank’s evidence was flawed because economic conditions continue to be important to Americans, regardless of place-of-residence. Might it be possible that the economic struggle in rural areas has been exaggerated, rural self-image is not well understood by urban elites, and/or there is widespread misunderstanding of rural Americans’ adaptability to and perceptions of changing economic circumstances.

Perhaps rural Americans are not laboring to choke down their economic misery. This is not so difficult to believe if accounts of rural economic collapse have been exaggerated, or if economic conditions and the experience of economic conditions are separable. Republican voting habits may be sustained throughout rural America because it is not so evident to rural residents that economic conditions have worsened dramatically under Republican leadership more than they did under Democratic leadership, or more than they have in other geographic locations. In spite of globalization and the move to market-based corporate farming, the sky has not fallen on rural and small-town Americans, rather few of whom actually are employed in the agricultural sector anyway. Economic decline in some sectors has been met with improvements in others. The upshot is that rural residents may see little compelling reason to revolt against their Republican representatives, at least from a pocketbook perspective.

A number of studies of life and job satisfaction show that people who live in rural areas are more satisfied with their lives and jobs than those in urban and suburban locations. Much of this happiness appears to be anchored in self-employment or an enlarged scope of job responsibility. Socialization also has shaped subjective judgments about the meaning and value of work. Data from the 2000 ANES indicated that rural residents working for an employer other than themselves were more likely than those living elsewhere to say they were completely satisfied with their lives. Rural residents who were self-employed were far more likely to say they were completely satisfied than self-employed individuals in non-rural areas. In other words, your world view may have a lot to do with how you perceive the world around you .

Imagine that!

Evidence shows no groundswell of discontent in the remote hinterlands. In areas of employment, economic security, and general happiness, rurals rate their own comfort a great deal higher than do their urban counterparts. Maybe the real puzzle is why so many unhappy urban and suburban citizens are not translating their high levels of discontent into political demands.

People who live in rural areas are no different than other Americans in that they discriminate between those who deserve government assistance and those who do not. Additionally, rural residents express the same desire for lower taxes, less regulation, and free markets as do residents of wealthy suburbs. Why is this so? A strong sense of self-reliance anchored in an individualistic ethic is traceable to the earliest days of the republic. This ethic is tied closely to a preference for little or no government regulation of business and belief that those who succeed in a competitive marketplace owe nothing to those who fail. Economic individualism shows up in the indisputably conservative attitudes of rural Americans toward welfare, while also reinforcing two cornerstone aspects of the rural economy: self-employment and widespread property ownership.

As business owners and homeowners, rural dwellers’ commitment to private property thwarts many policy sentiments that run counter to an individualistic and competitive ethic.  The small independent owner-operated has shaped rural areas and their economies. High levels of self-employment and homeownership have prevented a widespread sense of class oppression. According to the 2004 ANES, for example, 3.1 rural residents worked for someone else for each one who reported to be self-employed, but in non-rural areas, this ratio was more than double that: 6.3 Many rural families own land or other capital items such as buildings, equipment, and store inventories, and are in entrepreneurial control of the allocation of these resources. Farm and small business owners naturally operate in a competitive marketplace subject to commodity price shifts, interest rates, and commercial lending practices and regulations because their reliance on largely unpaid family labor allows them to absorb market downturns that might crush a corporate farm .

Rural reporters see themselves as independent business persons rather than on-the-clock wage slaves. Their self-perceived economic status plays a larger role in their political sentiments than their actual monetary income.  As long as these rural owner-operators view their own success as contingent upon market forces, individualistic beliefs and attitudes will be sustained. Cultural difference aside, rural entrepreneurs share more in common with the denizens of boardrooms of corporate America than they do urban service workers or industrial laborers, who pay exorbitant rents for modest housing, punch a time clock, and must ask permission to take a bathroom break, go to see a physician, or attend a school play.

Survey researchers have suggested that the commitment to self-reliance and small government is somewhat at odds with the value of equality. I disagree. One of the signal facets of rural life is its relative income equality, typified by a narrow income distribution and a smaller gap between rich and poor than what prevails in metropolitan areas. It is this level aspect of rural life that allows a fierce commitment to individualism to thrive. Rural voters express relatively little systematic concern about the concept of equality in response to survey questions.

Who needs economic leveling when it exists already?

Homeownership is an especially strong influence on individualistic attitudes favoring less government intrusion and greater resistance to egalitarianism. Self-employment generally has a positive impact on individualism and a negative impact on egalitarianism. In other words, rural residence does not matter independent of the geographic distribution of self-employment and homeownership. If rural areas do stand apart from other locations in their propensity to favor individualism and express skepticism about leveling policies, it is primarily because there are more homeowners and self-employed workers in rural areas than in more urbanized areas.

Corporate America has extended its reach from farming into small-town banking, wholesale and retail trade, and, increasingly, service delivery. Corporate interests, such as agricultural middlemen in meatpacking and food processing, are sometimes at odds with the interests of farmers and ranchers, but other rural Americans have come to depend on employment with these companies. The economic consequences of globalization have been mixed. Large corporations are often viewed as hostile to the interests of Main Street. When a “big-box” store moves in, one person’s loss is someone else’s gain. Rural residents appreciate shopping in big-inventory stores with a wide range of inexpensive merchandise. Consistent with their self-image as independent entrepreneurs, small retailers often will close their struggling enterprise, leaving town to find employment elsewhere, or finding another enterprise that can compete effectively in the remote market.

Population mobility allows labor market supply and demand to remain in equilibrium in rural America. The next time a pollster calls rural residents, a large share of those who have failed economically in the preceding decade may no longer be there to answer the telephone, while those who remain report that the local economy has remained about the same. Political discontent in reaction to economic downturn is difficult to gauge because different people constitute the rural electorate in each successive election.

The challenging task for the student of rural economic grievance is to locate the displaced rural workers who would be more likely to express economic discontent. Economic decline in rural areas typically has been accompanied by steady population losses, whereas this has been less true of metro areas facing the same extent of decline. It is the change in unemployment that drives out-migration in rural areas, not the absolute level of unemployment or income. Residents of many rural counties that have experienced sustained high unemployment rates over long periods have learned to live with a modicum of joblessness. As long as it is not too steep, they cope rather than complain.

Metropolitan locations, however, saw no corresponding drop in migration as a consequence of rising unemployment. Because of the stigma associated with public assistance, rural Americans who struggle economically and have no family to draw upon for support usually leave. As long as one has the means to pack up, travel, and afford a first- and- last-month’s rent payment at the destination, labor market migration can proceed with some efficiency. The massive 20th-century outflow of labor surpluses from the rural South to northern cities and from the Midwest and southern plains to the nation’s west coast are clear examples of the human capital generalization that people move from areas of poor opportunity to places where jobs can be found. Rural locations consistently have lower unemployment rates than big cities, not because the rural economy is always better, but because of the way in which rural workers respond to hard times.

Nearly all contemporary surveys show that rural Americans are more religiously and morally conservative than those living elsewhere. They are more family-oriented and adhere to traditional values. These are not the only reasons why they have been less inclined to vote for Democrats in contemporary presidential elections. In spite of prevailing low income, their individualistic ethic and legacy of self-employment and home-ownership inclines them to adopt the self-image of the independent entrepreneur and property owner rather than that of the laborer in need of state regulation and protection.

Rural Republican voters are not daft. Serious inquiry into a subject must not begin by taking a prejudicial posture toward it. Common stereotypes may be easy to believe, but they aren’t necessarily correct. To the extent that we can say that the electoral color of rural America is Republican red rather than Democratic blue, we can cite a variety of concrete explanations for this trend. Moral views, religious beliefs and economic considerations all play a role. The Republican emphasis on personal effort, limited government, and free markets fits comfortably within this self-image.

The Democrats are not an attractive party for rural Americans, not only because of their positions on commonly understood issues of morality politics (gay privilege, abortion, or prayer in schools) but also because many rural Americans doubt whether typical Democratic economic positions fit with what they believe is true about themselves and the world.

Conservatism Works in Cities … If they let it   1 comment

If conservatism wants to transform our nation from the ground up, we first have to start at the local level. How to do that when 69% of the big city vote went for Barack Obama in 2012? Yeah, big cities often have large minority populations who historically vote overwhelmingly Democratic, but clearly the upscale white urbanist crowd isn’t comfortable with either Republican policies or conservative principles … or possibly both.

That bodes ill for Republicans, but it’s not good for the cities either. Communities that labor under a single-party system, liberal or conservative, suffer and America’s big cities are no exception. Chicago doesn’t have a single Republican member of its city council. Republicans dominated the suburbs at one time, but no more. In the meantime, as the state has gone solidly blue, state and city finances have cratered, leaving Illinois a national basket case. Clearly, the Democrats – unhampered by conservative policies – are failing at running the state.

The question is – could Republicans – or, better yet, conservatives — do a better job?

I think, if people were honest (and they aren’t) they would admit that liberals haven’t exactly done a stellar job in the cities. Detroit, Chicago, Washington DC … not exactly good advertising for liberal management of cities. On the other hand, Rudy Gulliani turned New York into the safest big city in the world (terrorist attacks being out of mayoral control).

Successful cities like New York and Houston surge with ambitious strivers and entrepreneurs who instinctively gravitate toward the GOP’s faith in private industry, economic freedom, competition and law and order. Many cities helmed by liberals have found private industry and economic freedom diminished (think, Detroit) and school quality lost, primarily because Democrats tend to be in thrall to the teachers’ unions who bear much of the responsibility for the failure of urban public schools. Conservatives and the conservative arm of the GOP correctly promote choice and accountability as key principles in making better schools. The monopoly that public schools hold on urban education leaves no incentive to excel or improve, letting schools get away with selling a lousy product. Private schools and charter schools (public schools that operate largely free of union contracts and other bureaucratic restrictions) can change that equation by break up the monopoly. Republican efforts in this regard have begun to make inroads in the cities, but they remain limited in number by law, which may largely speak to the GOP owing somewhat to the unions as well.

Free enterprise can offer a lot of good lessons to the education sector as well. For example, good teachers should be rewarded for their performance, skills should be developed and employers (the schools themselves) should be free to fire those employees who can’t improve. Currently, union contracts make all of the above difficult.

City dwellers naturally want and require greater governmental services than surburban and rural dwellers. It frightens them when conservatives talk about reducing city services. Yet there are examples (Indianapolis is one) where private companies have bid to provide services that had previously been monopolized by public workers. The success of these programs show that properly managed private provision can bring huge efficiencies and help reduce the daunting high labor costs that are bankrupting many cities.

Transportation congestion, which costs city drivers trillions of hours of time, is another problem where conservatives have had better policies. Most American cities operate largely on a Soviet-style transportation policy, providing free access to valuable city streets, creating traffic jams. In London and Singapore, market based solutions make drivers pay for the congestion they create, improving traffic flow.

Similarly, cities need market-based solutions for urban housing. In indigo-blue Massachusetts Democrats constantly proclaim their commitment to providing affordable housing for the poor, but Massachusetts remains one of the least affordable states in the nation for housing because its suffocating regulations restrict building, thus driving up prices. In Texas, a very conservative state where leaders rarely talk about affordable housing, residents enjoy lots of affordable housing. Texas’s housing affordability isn’t the result of any top-down government program; it reflects the might of the free market and the Texan aversion to regulation.

Cities succeed mainly due to private entrepreneurial energy, yet many American cities continue to impose arcane rules on would-be entrepreneurs, restricting the formation of new businesses. Cities like Cleveland and Detroit have imposed costs that severely stymie entrepreneurship and they show the decay of their economies as a result. Their economies will recover only if they’re able to attract new start-ups, which (among other steps for the government) means shredding every unnecessary regulation in sight.

Conservatives can do better at the local level than liberals. We’re proving that where we’re in the majority, and not just in rural and suburban areas, but also in cities such as:

  • Provo, Utah
  • Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Wasilla, Alaska
  • Boise, Idaho
  • Mesa, Arizona
  • Clarksville, Tennesee
  • Wichita, Kansas
  • Colorado Springs, Colorado
  • Abilene, Texas
  • Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
  • Plano, Texas

Posted September 10, 2013 by aurorawatcherak in Conservative movement

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Conservative Values   Leave a comment

From time to time, I try to quantify what conservatives believe and value. I’m not talking about what Republicans believe and value or what conservative media is focused on, but what people like myself think makes the world tick.

We’re about 40% of the voting population, which says what we value ought to have some influence in the society, but all around us, we see reasons to despair because our values seem so undervalued. Is it the values or is it how we communicate them? For now, I’m going to speak broadly because we’re talking principles, not specific examples.

Conservatives believe in stewardship, preserving our common inheritance and protecting that which possesses lasting value. Some things are permanent and transcendent and worthy of enduring protection. Some things are transient and change of those things cannot only be accepted, but embraced. We can foster change that enhances rather than undermines truth.

Conservatives, knowing that there is objective truth, tend to be skeptical of contemporary utopianism. Flavor of the Month works at Baskin-Robbins, but those of us who respect received wisdom recognize the passage of time does not automatically render the wisdom of our forebears invalid. Hindsight is 20-20 for a reason and historically, the Last Theory of Everything ended up sunk in a swamp.

Common sense teaches that actions have consequences, privilege entails responsibility, there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and accounts must balance. Those teaching otherwise sound like fools who are rushing unawares toward a thousand-foot cliff.

Conservatives honor community and understand that the most basic community is the family, which is increasingly under assault by those who overemphasize autonomy and sex over community and intimacy.

We also believe that human beings are messy and perverse, so it is imperative to train and educate young people in civilized behavior, to maintain appropriate mechanisms to restrain and correct those who resist that training.

Almost paradoxically, conservatives are wary of concentrated power in all forms. Human perversity is well-displayed in Washington DC and on Wall Street, in the executive suites of major institutions (including churches and universities). Conservatives reject the argument that centralization promotes efficiency and effectiveness. We favor the local over the distant. We prefer interacting with our representatives personally, where we can see their eyes and know that they hear us.

We love our country, but we do not confuse country with state. America is not its military or the myriad federal agencies. Our country is the people who live here, who contribute to our culture, interact with neighbors, and raise their children next to ours.

And when we look over our nation from that perspective, we feel ill because so much is broken, seemingly beyond repair.

The question is – what to do about it?

Posted September 9, 2013 by aurorawatcherak in Conservative movement

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Building on a Foundation   1 comment

If conservatism wants to transform our nation from the ground up, we first have to start at the local level. Here in Alaska, there’s a tale to tell. In 1990, a local motel owner found her property taxes going up yet again and in frustration she called the local talk radio station. Bill Wally, the Fairbanks business owner who hosted the week-day show Problem Corner, listened to Donna Gilbert and thought there had to be something to do to fix what many of us saw as tax Armageddon. Our mil-rate was going through the roof, our Borough and City government employees were making incredible wages and there didn’t seem to be any end in sight. Off the air, Donna encouraged Bill to run for mayor, which at the time was a ceremonial position. The city was run by a city manager and the borough (our county) was also. Bill decided to run as mayor and use his position as a bully pulpit. The town’s people submitted an initiative that changed the major into a strong mayor position and shortly thereafter another initiative passed that put a tax cap in place, forcing the city to stay within budgetary limits and only raise taxation levels by a vote of the people. Not too long later, the borough also got a strong mayor and a tax cap.

The battle that followed was not an easy one. The city chose not to plow the streets for a winter in order to get us to vote down the tax cap, but every two years the voters reinstate both caps and we’ve held the line on spending and government growth. Today, the City of Fairbanks actually has an emergency fund AND a tax cap.

Slowly, but surely, that conservative ideal has permeated Fairbanks politics. For a long time, we sent Republicans to Juneau where they immediately became progressives, but recently we’ve sent conservative Republicans to Juneau. The GOP in Fairbanks is strongly conservative and it is having an effect on the state level GOP, though one the party is wholeheartedly resisting complete with political dirty tricks. As a non-partisan, I find the in-fighting annoyingly stupid and it tempts/prompts me to vote non-partisan, but I also see it as a sign that there is a debate happening in the Alaska GOP that might lead to some substantive changes – eventually.

During the last few years, the Alaska Senate was evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, but a handful of Republicans caucused with the Democrats and voted as a bloc – tying up legislation that Interior communities needed – natural gas trucking, a gas pipeline, etc. Interior voters helped to force a sea change last year and now the Senate is solidly Republican, but not just Republican – conservative Republican. They’re the ones who have fought for nullification of federal laws, more freedom with fire arms, and a reduction in regulations.

Alaska is a small population state with a well-educated, politically involved population, so changes here are perhaps easier than in other states, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. By targeting local offices where candidates often do not even need to declare a party, conservatives can teach their fellow citizens about our principles without scaring the unlearned with that word “conservative”. Our principles make incredible sense if they are not approached with presuppositions and local politics is the best place to prove that they work in the real world.

That done, it is much easier to conquer state and national elections because success at the local level brings supporters to our cause.

All Politics is Local   Leave a comment

What holds up conservativism from sweeping the nation?

When my dad, the classical liberal, used to tease my mom and call her a “conservative”, she was one of a tiny group of self-described conservatives in America. In the 1960s, the entire national “convention” could have been held in the hockey arena in Fairbanks Alaska.

Things have changed. Today, 40-45% of the nation’s voters describe themselves as “conservative”. That makes us the largest voting bloc in the nation. But as I explained in my earlier post, mostly we’re supporting the Republican Party in electing moderate progressives who then give “conservatism” a bad name by acting in pretty liberal ways. The Republicans say we should moderate our positions in order to attract people, but becoming progressives does not seem like a viable way to advance the cause of conservatism. In fact, I could argue that is what we’ve been doing since the 1990s and look where we are today.

I don’t think our principles are the problem. Poll after poll says people are largely conservative on a whole host of topics. I think it is our communication of those principles that cause us difficulty. When the Republicans got waxed in the 2012 election, it seemed as if they might self-analyze, but they’ve decided to look more like Democrats, so conservatives need to start looking a lot more like conservatives than Republicans.

If, as a conservative you’re still hanging onto the GOP, there are some things to consider about the 2012 election. The Republicans lost the minority vote, the women’s vote, and the city vote, but they also lost a large number of conservatives – and then they lost the election. Conservatives are propping up the Grand Old Party and if we withdraw our support, poof, the GOP goes the way of the Whigs. In a 3-way election, if conservatives vote as a bloc, we win. But how do we pull that off?

The American Conservative Party has a good idea. Concentrate on local elections and let the federal level go for now. Why? Because the two major parties have a stranglehold on the federal election … for now. Ballot access laws prevent third parties from getting on the ballot in most states. However, by concentrating on each state individually, third parties can get on local school boards and city councils and then into state legislatures, so that by the time they declare for the Presidency they won’t be unknown to the people in at least a plurality of states.

All politics is local anyway and much of it is non-partisan, so that candidates do not have to overcome negative party images and simply run on the issues. If we can prove to our communities that conservatism works, then we can move onto transforming our state governments and then our nation.

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