Archive for the ‘Conservative movement’ Tag

How the GOP could Trump the Left’s Rhetoric and Win in 2016   2 comments

I have no plans to vote for Donald Trump. Currently, I have no plans to vote for any candidate of a major political party and Donald Trump will not get my vote in any case.

But he is getting my attention and the temporary support of many conservatives in the nation. He’s bombastic, rude, politically incorrect and I’d likely need to restrain myself from shooting him if he were my neighbor. I think that’s what most people think of him. He’s also a former registered Democrat who gives liberally to both parties, has expressed support for single-payer health care and abortion … in other words, the antithesis of what most conservatives want in a president. So why is he a leading contender in the Republican presidential race?

I don’t think it has much to do with Donald Trump actually. He is getting a lot of attention because of his style, not his substance (of which there doesn’t appear to be much). I suspect he’s pursuing this election not because he particularly wants to be president, but because he sees it — and rightfully so — as a huge advertising campaign that will build his monetary empire. But really, why do conservatives like him at the moment?

Why do I, despite being absolutely certain that I will not vote for him, like his advertising campaign?

Trump is running like he has nothing to lose, which is true enough. I don’t think he expects to become the nominee. That’s not the goal for him. His goal is to get attention and he’s doing that by branding himself in a certain way. It is that certain way I think the candidates who want to be president ought to buy a clue from.

Trump unabashedly champions America and her citizens. The Democratic Party has branded conservatives and libertarians as racists, sexists, Islamophobes, homophobes and bigots and fairly effectively tongue-tied most reasonable voices in our end of the wading pool. Shouting “I am not!” doesn’t appear to be working, so instead, they dissemble and apologize and backtrack while the left is now using the full force of government to force compliance with a whole range of activities that conservatives and particularly Christians find abhorrent. Many Americans are fed up with having our tax dollars stolen from us to pay for an agenda that turns us into the enemy and seeks to teach our children that they live in an evil country and that their parents worship a racist, homophobic god. Worse, no amount of reasonable debate is allowed. We just are what we’ve been deemed unless and until we agree to violate our beliefs to be allowed to have a voice … except then we’ll have nothing to say. Along comes Trump and instead of saying “I am not a racist, homophobe, sexist and let me beg for the opportunity to show you that is true by agreeing with you”, he shouts “I don’t care what you think” and conservatives think “YEAH!” When Trump says “Stop making Americans the enemy”, Americans take notice. It is a message that resonates with us. Yes, it resonates with me, even though I will not be voting for Trump.

But, oh, my, the GOP could woe my vote back if they’d only learn from Trump’s advertising campaign. If a GOP candidate or three would learn to not care about the left’s agenda, to be unapologetic in the left’s attacks, to stand on facts and refuse to cave to PC intimidation tactics … yeah, I could be convinced to vote Republican again.

When Trump’s outrageous comments about Mexico and illegal immigrants — predictably — made folks mad , he faced a media storm and even lost business partners, but he refused to apologize because …. well, he’s mostly right. It’s a verifiable fact that 71% of non-citizens in the United States federal prison system are from Mexico. Mexican citizens make up 16% of our federal prison system population. And if you live in a state with a large illegal immigrant population, you know someone — often a teenager or young person fresh out of school — who has tried to find work and can’t while the primary language in the businesses they apply to is Sonoran Spanish. His facts are right, so why should he apologize?

Trump is a verbal pugilist who says what he means (or at least what he’s decided his campaign means) and means what he says and he has the courage to stick by it. He points out what most of us already know — that while the professional political class works to retain its ruling power, America is eroding faster than a beach during a hurricane. Trump isn’t the only American who believes that the 2016 election is the last chance to wrest the country’s political system from the jaws of statism. The Donald gives voice to that fear and frustration and the anger that comes with it. He’s willing to fight back when so many of us feel like we might end up in the statists’ prison if we do.

Trump doesn’t sound like a politician. He makes statements that are true, but not couched in weasel phrases. We haven’t heard that sort of honesty from the governing class for a very long time. From Trump we hear “China is eating our lunch” and “Mexico … is killing us at the border and on trade”.

Trump also speaks to a growing anti-establishment ethos among conservative voters who feel deeply betrayed by a GOP establishment who has relentless marginalized them. When Reince Priebus asked Trump to “tone it down”, we feel the ancillary pressure for conservative voters to be quiet as well.

Just let the governing class take care of everything and don’t worry your dumb little heads about $18 trillion in debt and a 23% long-term unemployment rate that hasn’t budged in six years. Just let the GOP rule and all will be well. Well, we tried that and got eight years of George Bush, $10 trillion in debt, two wars that appear never ending, a gigantic pre-takeover of health insurance (Medicare drug expansion) and a federal takeover of local schools (No Child Left Behind). That is got worse under the Obama administration does not mean we have forgotten what happens when the GOP is allowed to follow a “centrist” agenda.

When Trump’s fellow GOP candidates criticize him for these stances, it makes them look “establishment”, conciliatory, weak, ignorant, and downright sympathetic to the left. They SAY they’re on our side, but they act like they might not be.

I’m standing back and saying they’re all statists and I’m not going to vote for any of them (Ben Carson, I think may be the only non-statist in the entire race including Trump), but for those conservative voters who still believe in the party system — the GOP mainstream looked lukewarm on issues conservatives care about BEFORE Trump started making these outrageous statements that so agree with the conservative experience.

Donald Trump doesn’t need the presidency. Being really rich means he has liberty to say and do things that lack nuance, subtly and grace, but that resonate strongly with an electorate that is exhausted by being lied to by the political class.

I’m currently not voting for anyone with a major party affiliation, and I would not vote for Trump in any case, but the other candidates in the GOP race might want to take note of what he’s doing and why it’s working. He’s running as if he has nothing to lose. Either voters will like what he has to say and vote for him or they won’t. And right now he’s leading the Republican pack.

Maybe voters are looking for some truth and some honesty about the situation we’re in and Trump is the only candidate out there telling the truth.

The other candidates should take note: Running as if you have nothing to lose may, in fact, be the way to win.

Posted July 20, 2015 by aurorawatcherak in politics

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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.

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.

Definitely Not Astroturf   Leave a comment

If conservatism wants to transform our nation from the ground up, we first have to start at the local level. Why? Because the “blue regions” think we’re nuts, so talking to them over the Internet isn’t really going to convince them of anything and the media won’t give the straight talk on our principles, so face-to-face, where they can see your eyes and your life is the best way to go. This doesn’t mean a national message will never get through, only that all politics is local and you are going to see your greatest harvest if you start there.

Here in Alaska, there’s a tale to tell about this. 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, also by citizen initiative.

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. The city gave up coercion as a tool and now actually has a savings account and the streets get plowed.

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 this last fall 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.

American Conservative Party   Leave a comment

I was leery of the Conservative Party when it first got started in 2008. For one thing, it seemed a bit cheeky to call themselves the American Conservative Party before conservatives had a chance to decide if they had earned that title. And, frankly, there was no time for them to build any sort of consensus by the November 2008 election. I gave them a cursory glance in 2012, but felt that the issues Obama presented were too important to allow him to win while I voted on principle. So, now, assured that there are three years to consider a new direction for the country, I am ready to say I like their platform.

As a Christian who also believes in civil liberties, I like their stand on religious freedom, which is that they don’t have much to say about it other than that it is a right and therefore protected. I like that they aren’t going for the presidency in 2016 and plan to focus on city councils and school boards in 2014 and maybe Congressional races in 2016. All politics is local and this sounds like a true grass-roots movement. When, if, they’ve established a track record at the local and state levels in enough states, they can become a true national party. That is far more sensible than wasting time, energy and money getting certified for a presidential election at this point.

On the other hand, the ACP seems a bit uncomfortable with allowing non-partisans like myself access to some of their state sites. They want money first. That could explain why my fellow Alaskans don’t appear to have formed a state site yet. Most of us are unwilling to buy a pig in a poke.

So, it looks like, at this moment, I am going to remain a non-partisan … for now. If they have a booth at the Alaska State Fair in Fairbanks, I’ll stop and talk with them. If not, well, they’re missing an opportunity here and not just with me, because as I said, most Alaskans are high-information voters.

Farm Bill Revolt   2 comments

Explain to me why we subsidize farms? Explain to me why our government gives farmers money not to grow food when our food prices have increased incredibly in just the last few years? The law of supply and demand states that if supply is good, price are low, but our government pays farmers not to grow food and then promises them a price support if the price of commodities still goes down.

Oh, my! It’s enough to make you dizzy.

America is broke, but politicians in Washington DC contrived another piece of Rube Goldberg legislation that is nothing more than a cynical merger of food-stamp and agricultural subsidies designed to garner enough votes to hide the lunacy of both programs.

The House defeated the latest farm subsidy bill last week, thanks to a band of fiscal conservatives, including House Budget Chair Paul Ryan. It was the usual product of shameless logrolling. Direct payments to farmers would have ended, but Congress then expanded a program of subsidized crop insurance in which farmers pay a fraction of the premiums. We pay the rest.

The farm bills now before Congress… attest, if nothing else, to the inertia of politics. There is no “public interest” (a phrase often meaningless in Washington) in having government subsidize farmers. Food would be produced without subsidies. Robert Samuelson, author and economics journalist

Samuelson, an economist at Iowa State University, argues that the crop insurance program is more like “a farm income support program”. Farmers’ premiums cover only 40% of the costs. You and I pay the rest. The CBO estimates the 10-year cost at $89 billion.

Meanwhile, farmers, on average, have incomes higher than most Americans. The majority of farms are big corporate operations run from distant city financial districts. Many others are “hobby farmers” – doctors, lawyers and investors who are basically absentee owners. I know a psychiatrist who owns a fairly large farm in Kansas. For years he’s spent about five months of his year there hanging out with his manager pretending to farm and the rest of the time he’s worked in the medical field. Now that he is retiring, he is going back to his roots as a farmer (Dad was a farmer and the nucleus of his farm is Dad’s old farmstead), but he doesn’t need subsidies and is in fact opposed to them and says he’s never taken any, though the government offers strenuously and often.

Last week, the Wall Street Journal editorial page ran a great rant entitled “The Farm Bill Revolt“. Commenting on the stunning defeat of nearly $1 trillion farm-subsidy-and-food-stamp bill, the Journal hoped that the vote indicated a decoupling of the long alliance between Democrats who support food stamps and the rural Republicans dependent on crop subsidies. It looked to me more like some liberal Democrats voted against a bill that gave too little money to food stamps and some conservative Republicans voted against a bill that spent too much period. It was a happy convergence of radically different goals, but the outcome was a good one.

The defeated bill continued ridiculous milk and sugar price supports, extended price support guarantees at no lower than 85% of current levels (a sweet deal since commodities prices are at record highs), and maintained subsidies for high-income agribusinesses and wealthy “farmers”.

Hundreds of millions of dollars were earmarked for such indispensables as… sheep and goat herder “marketing” subsidies, price controls on olive oil, and the promotion of “healthy plants.” Of course, true conservatives hated it.

Conservatives have supported smart reforms to farm policy for a while now, advocating to separated the food stamp program into a nutrition bill or sending food-stamp money back to the states to let them innovate and also considering a long overdue reform to commodity programs. This bill had none of that. It was a big giveaway, crafted by farm-state Republicans to continue to buy off their constituents. It too closely mirrored the bill passed by the Democratic Senate. The conservatives sank it, oddly with the help of liberal Democrats.

The good news, said the Journal, is that “The farm revolt suggests that these are the kinds of politically productive battles to fight.” Congressman Marlin Stutzman from rural Indiana agrees, saying his rural constituents “care more about out-of-control spending and the debt than they do about farm subsidies.”

Robert Samuelson believes that the survival of farm subsidies is “emblematic” of a much larger problem, that America’s priorities are completely out of whack, as evidenced by our failure to reform runaway entitlement spending and rationalize the tax code, both individual and corporate:

Government is biased toward the past. Old programs, tax breaks and regulatory practices develop strong constituencies and mindsets that frustrate change, even when earlier justifications for their existence have been overtaken by events. It’s no longer possible to argue that ag subsidies will prevent the loss of small family farms, because millions have already disappeared.

It is no longer possible to argue that subsidies are needed for food production, because one major agricultural sector — meat production — lacks subsidies and meat is still produced. 

So diehard GOP voters, conservatives who insist that the only option is the Republican Party – when will you admit that the Republican Party has not acted on your principles and this is the first sign in decades that they intend to stand up to the farm lobby against subsidy-driven overspending?

This time the conservative wing of the Republican Party had accidental Democratic help in doing the sensible thing, but next time …?

Listening to the Libertarian Party   2 comments

So I’m working my way through conservative political parties in an attempt to find one that meets me most of the way. I’m told by all sorts of people – this being Alaska – really all sorts – that I’ve just got to check out the Libertarian Party because Ron Paul used to be a Libertarian and it’s just so Alaskan.

The Libertarian Party isn’t really a conservative party. It’s a fiscally conservative party that advocates for leaving the other guy alone. On the surface, I like that idea, but I’ve got some reservations. When I scratched beneath the surface of the Republican Party I did not find a party committed to republicanism as I understand it – and I understand it in a Jeffersonian way … more or less. When I scratched beneath the surface of the Constitution Party, I found a few places where they aren’t all that constitutional. So, I have reservations about the deeper structures of the Libertarian Party. I’m a small l libertarian.

I agree that government exists to protect the rights of every individual and should not be engaged in choosing groups of individuals for special protection.

First, I have some good friends who were strong members of the Libertarian Party for over 20 years who withdrew several years ago because of the LP stance on the legalization of drugs and abortion. As a Christian who believes that murder is murder even if the victim is pre-born, I don’t think I can vote for people who say it doesn’t matter. I don’t find the constitutional argument for privacy holding any water in this instance. Our founders never would have agreed that murder was okay so long as it was private. The taking of human life is murder. Maybe I wouldn’t be comfortable with women and doctors who perform abortions being prosecuted as aggressively as people doing driveby shootings, but I still hold with the moral concept that abortion is murder and that the Constitution doesn’t give us a special right to commit murder under special circumstances. “All men are created equal” except if “they’re a black person living below a certain geographical line and then they’re not.” That was a special right granted white southerners by the Supreme Court and it was still wrong.

I agree that the military is way larger than it needs to be and that the United States should not attempt to act as global police officer, but when researching the LP, I also believe we must maintain our ability to wage war on foreign soil and not just react after the fact to aggression that comes against us. I believe that stance will leave us at the mercy of our enemies, fighting on Main Street USA instead of “over there”.  I don’t think that makes me a progressive, but it may make me a realist.

I strongly disagree with allowing an open-borders immigration policy on the grounds that the United States has a right and obligation to its people to protect them not only from military foreign invasion, but also from cultural foreign invasion. The United States of America will not remain the United States of America if we allow ourselves to be overrun by citizens of other countries who have no interest in assimilating to our culture. While we should strive always to be welcoming to those who wish to immigrate to our country, we should remember and they should be reminded that it is OUR country. If they want to join us, they should do it in an orderly and legal fashion. Even legal immigration needs to be measured to allow for assimilation of new immigrants without overwhelming the existing culture. Immigrants should add to our culture, not transform it.

So, while there are parts of the LP platform that I agree with, I cannot agree with enough of it to feel comfortable with it.

Onward in my search.

Mead Treadwell for Senate   Leave a comment

Mead TreadwellSo, Alaska’s Lieutenant Governor is running for the GOP nomination for US Senate from Alaska. If he wins the nomination, he gets to run against Mark Begich.

For now, I am only interested in finding a GOP candidate who can beat Mark Begich, who is considered vulnerable. Most Alaskans are non-partisans (52%) or Republicans (38%), so Democrats have a tough time. There is a strong libertarian streak. This is why a candidate like Mead Treadwell appeals to us.

My campaign will focus on three principles:

• Fighting for liberty by reversing the Obama Administration’s relentless assault on our families and our freedoms.
• Fighting for fiscal sanity in Washington, D.C. We borrow too much, we spend too much, and we tax too much.
• Fighting for Alaska. The federal government must deal with Alaska’s issues on Alaska’s terms. Ted Stevens fought every day to bring power and decision-making home, and so will I.

His approval ratings as Lt. Gov. are high, his business background and pro-development stance resonate with us, and his past association with Wally Hickel makes him something like Alaskan nobility.

But I don’t know if he should be Senator — not yet. I need to investigate more, way the pros and cons between him and Joe Miller, check out if there are any others running. And, even after one of them wins the primary, there are still other parties to consider for the general. I promised Mark Begich when he voted for ObamaCare that he would NEVER get my vote and I am absolutely committed to getting him out of office this time around. Otherwise, he’ll play the “I-have-seniority” card and, like Lisa, we’ll never get him out of there.

So Joe Miller, Mead Treadwell or someone else, who ever I vote for has to have a good chance of winning against Begich.

If you’re interested in this race, do check out my earlier post on Joe Miller and compare the two candidate websites.

http://www.treadwellalaska2014.

http://joemiller.us/

 

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