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Political Thoughts 2016 04 06


Russel Jacoby wrote a thought provoking book titled Bloodlust tracing the biblical roots of our personal violence towards one another. He used the phrase, “narcissism of minor differences”, to describe the violence not between groups that are the most different, but between groups that display relatively minor differences.  We can view the conflicts between the Catholics and the Protestants, and the Sunnis and the Shiites and see stunning violence between groups with very similar core religious beliefs and cultural heritage.

I wonder if this is what we are seeing now in the conflicts within both parties.

It seems not to be a conflict of ideologies but conflicts hinging on the absence of ideologies allowing voters to focus more on mere emotional triggers. The willingness of intra party factions to bolt even if it means the opposition party wins displays a greater hostility to fellow allies with similar but different ideas than to the other party with fundamentally different ideas.  They seem more inclined to lose than to compromise.

Retired Mercer University President Kirby Godsey once spoke of leaders who allow themselves to be “crucified on a six inch cross”.  Sometimes an ineffective leader suffers from too many principles and expends far too much political capital fighting for an issue that should have been compromised. This powerful metaphor also seems at play.


In customer service, Dean Young , the sales manager at General Steel, astutely observed that a customer would forgive a single error if it was fixed quickly and cheerfully, but that after a couple of errors they would be looking for short comings  and respond to transgressions that may have been previously too minor to notice.

I see this in the GOP circular firing squad posing as a primary. Many soft Republicans tolerated religious fundamentalists and other elements because we still thought the dominant ideologies were capitalism and constitutional conservatism.  Trump has proposed policies that seem antithetical to both ideologies and gets substantial traction from his stance. The objectionable elements have retained or strengthened their hold and the positive elements seem to have greatly retreated.  Republicans have never been as loyal to their party as the Democrats, and this current conflict makes it easier for conservative voters to reject the republicans as any coherent political philosophy.  Even if Trump is not the nominee the damage to what weak sense of party loyalty the Republicans ever had will be severe.

This leaves a lot of very unenthusiastic voters. The Democrats offer no home. They remain addicted to the growth in government from a century of Progressive policies that have evolved to a point where their leaders and voters are unable to articulate any difference between the modern Democrat and a socialist.  It is as stunning that an avowed socialist can do as well as Bernie Sanders as it is that a candidate as ethically flawed as Hillary can be the front runner.

The politically correct lunacy on the left has abandoned some of our most sacred intellectual principles  and is at least as  anti-intellectual as those that cling to their bibles and guns, and noticeably less tolerant.


Normally I fear that blind optimism obscures threats that seem obvious in hindsight. In  this campaign it is hard to see any road that leads to an acceptable leader.  The only surprise would be that everythings turns out reasonably well.


By far my favorite shareholder annual report I read is the Berkshire report written by Warren Buffet.  It strikes me this year, considering the political background, that Buffet remains quite optimistic and focuses on the bright prospects of his many successful companies.  Buffet’s attitude is not just to be above the fray, but to render it irrelevant.

That is not to suggest that we should drop out politically and not vote, but it does recommend that we spend more of our time focusing on the areas that we can influence and improve.


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The Class War

from The American Conservative Rob Dreher writes  Trump: Fishtown’s Champion Against Belmont:

The Davos elites of the Democrat and Republican parties didn’t get the teenage daughters of Fishtown pregnant, or didn’t get the Fishtown sons busted for possession or fired from his job for failing a drug test. Those elites didn’t make them stop going to church, or break up their marriage, and don’t tell them to sit on their butts playing video games all day instead of trying to hustle up a living. But those elites did, in many cases, have a lot to do with why they got laid off in their fifties and can’t find work, and why their adult children have to make do with crappy service industry jobs instead of manufacturing jobs that paid well, and on which a family could build a future.

Dreher links to a few other pertinent articles:

from JD Vance in USA Today, Trump speaks for those Bush betrayed

Trump’s voters, instead, wear an almost existential sense of betrayal. He relies onunmarried voters, individuals who rarely attend church services and those without much higher education. Many of these Trump voters have abandoned the faith of their forefathers and myriad social benefits that come with it. Their marriages have failed, and their families have fractured. The factories that moved overseas used to provide not just high-paying jobs, but also a sense of purpose and community. Their kids (and themselves) might be more likely to die from a heroin overdose than any other group in the country.

Cruz’s voters dislike Jeb Bush because he has strayed from conservative orthodoxy. Trump’s voters loathe Jeb Bush because their lives are falling apart, and they blame people like him.

In The Daily Beast Joel Kotkin writes We Now Join the U.S. Class War Already in Progress

The reasons for this opposition are obvious. Progressive policies like higher minimum wages and stricter environmental and labor laws hit small businesses harder than bigger firms, which have the staff and resources to adapt to the regulatory vise. Once seen as the leading, creative edge of the economy, small business has not done well under Obama: For the first time in modern history, more firms (PDF) are going out of business than staying solvent.

But there’s another, more ascendant part of the middle class—highly educated professionals, government workers, and teachers—who have done far better under President Obama. In 2012, professionals generally approved of his regime, according to Gallup, by a 52 to 43 percent margin. These voters have become a critical part of the Democratic coalition; indeed, eight of the nation’s 10 wealthiest counties—including Westchester County in New York, Morris County in New Jersey, and Marin County in California—all went Democratic in 2012.

These middle-income workers increasingly do not work for the private economy; they occupy quasi-public jobs dependent on public dollars rather than private markets. Universities, a core Democratic constituency, have been hiring like mad: Between 1987 and 2011, they added 517,636 administrators and professional employees, or an average of 87 every working day.

This educated and often well credentialed middle class tends toward progressive politics; in fact, university professors have become ever more leftist, outnumbering conservatives six to one. Indeed, those voters with advanced degrees were the only group of whites by education to support Obama in 2012.

In modern America, these people serve largely as a clerisy, hectoring the public and instructing them how to live. A bigger state is not a threat to them, but a boon. No surprise that public unions and academics have emerged as among the largest and most loyal donors to Democrats.

The bulk of this population belongs to what some social scientists call the “precariat,” people who face diminished prospects of achieving middle-class status—a good job, homeownership, some decent retirement. The precariat is made up of a broad variety of jobs that include adjunct professors, freelancers, substitute teachers—essentially any worker without long-term job stability. According to one estimate, at least one-third of the U.S. workforce falls into this category. By 2020, a separate study estimates, more than 40 percent of Americans, or 60 million people, will be independent workers—freelancers, contractors, and temporary employees.

This constituency—notably the white majority—is angry, and with good cause. Between 1998 and 2013, white Americans have seen declines in both their incomes and their life expectancy, with large spikes in suicide and fatalities related to alcohol and drug abuse. They have, as one writer notes, “lost the narrative of their lives,” while being widely regarded as a dying species by a media that views them with contempt and ridicule.

In this sense, the flocking by stressed working-class whites to the Trump banner—the New York billionaire won 45 percent of New Hampshire Republican voters who did not attend college—represents a blowback from an increasingly stressed group that tends to attend church less and follow less conventional morality, which is perhaps one reason they prefer the looser Trump to the Bible-thumping Cruz, not to mention the failing Ben Carson.

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The Democratic Totalitarian State

Kevin_Williamson (1)

From Kevin Williamson at National Review, The Democrats’ Theme for 2016 Is Totalitarianism:

Donald Trump may talk like a brownshirt, but the Democrats mean business. For those of you keeping track, the Democrats and their allies on the left have now: voted in the Senate to repeal the First Amendment, proposed imprisoning people for holding the wrong views on global warming, sought to prohibit the showing of a film critical of Hillary Rodham Clinton, proposed banning politically unpopular academic research, demanded that funding politically unpopular organizations and causes be made a crime and that the RICO organized-crime statute be used as a weapon against targeted political groups. They have filed felony charges against a Republican governor for vetoing a piece of legislation, engaged in naked political persecutions of members of Congress, and used the IRS and the ATF as weapons against political critics.

On the college campuses, they shout down unpopular ideas or simply forbid nonconforming views from being heard there in the first place. They have declared academic freedom an “outdated concept” and have gone the full Orwell, declaring that freedom is oppressive and that they should not be expected to tolerate ideas that they do not share. They are demanding mandatory ideological indoctrination sessions for nonconforming students. They have violently assaulted students studying in libraries and assaulted student journalists documenting their activities. They have staged dozens of phony hate crimes and sexual assaults as a pretext for persecuting unpopular organizations and people.They have sought to use the FCC to revoke the broadcast licenses of Rupert Murdoch and other political hate totems, and have long dreamt of using federal regulation to shut down conservative talk radio. They have gone to the Supreme Court to argue that they should be empowered to ban books, films, magazines, and newspapers when they desire to do so for political reasons. They are energetic suppressors of free speech.


Read the whole article.  While I vary between disappointed and dismayed at much of the GOP, their circular firing squad and Trumps big microphone obscures the dangerous trends from Democrats, more specifically Progressive Democrats as Hillary identified herself.  When they took this path starting with Woodrow Wilson they deemed the constitution a flawed document that prevents necessary government action instead of limiting government and protecting individual rights as it was intended. The current leaders of the Democratic Party have shown little respect for the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.

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A Government of Laws


from Karl Rove in the Wall Street Journal, Clinton is Already Vowing to Overreach:

This is no small matter. “The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive and judiciary in the same hands,” James Madison warned in Federalist 47, “may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.” Madison goes on to paraphrase Montesquieu: “There can be no liberty where the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person.”

Or we might consult Thomas Jefferson, namesake of the Iowa Democratic dinner where Mrs. Clinton spoke. In his “Notes on the State of Virginia,” Jefferson writes that “the concentrating” of the legislative, executive and judicial powers “in the same hands, is precisely the definition of despotic government.”

Progressives long ago came to view the Constitution as a quaint document with no binding power. But until recently, they never were so baldly contemptuous of it. Now liberals consider running roughshod over our governing charter not only fashionable but mandatory. No constitutional niceties will stand in the way of their vision. Which explains why this election will decide whether America will remain, in the words of John Adams, “a government of laws, and not of men.”


When one condones such power being accessible to an elected official, they would be wise to pause and imagine that power in the hands of their worst nightmare from the opposition. How would she feel about the same power in the hands of a Donald Trump?

This is a good example of pragmatism as a political philosophy at its worst.  Every problem is a crisis and something must be done, the constitution be damned.

The dominant political debate today, after you cut through pieties and the noise is constitutionalism vs progressivism.  The progressives since Wilson have viewed the constitution as a dated document that inhibits needed government action, not as a document designed to restrain government power and protect individual natural rights.  While there is clearly room for interpretation in the lights of two and half centuries of progress, the fundamental precepts of liberty and the problem with concentrations of government power remain and should be respected.

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A Hard Shift Left

from The Wall Street Journal, Fred Barnes writes The No-Growth Democratic Party

In 1997 President Bill Clinton signed the Taxpayer Relief Act, cutting the tax rate on capital gains to 20% from 28%. Senate Democrats voted 37-8 in favor of the bill. House Democrats backed it 164-41. In 2015 Mr. Clinton’s wife, Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton, wants to raise the current 23.4% rate on capital gains, nearly doubling it for wealthy investors.

In 1982 Sen. Bill Bradley and House member Dick Gephardt, both Democrats, unveiled an ambitious tax-reform plan that would spur economic growth by eliminating loopholes, broadening the tax base and reducing the top rate on individual income to 30% from 50%. What Mr. Bradley and Mr. Gephardt started, President Reagan and Congress finished in 1986. A bipartisan tax-reform package was enacted, with a top rate of 28%.

Now Democrats have a new definition of tax reform. “They want to broaden the base and raise tax rates,” says Douglas Holtz-Eakin, the former head of the Congressional Budget Office. Rather than promote economic growth—a goal of Mr. Bradley and Mr. Gephardt—this approach is almost certain to hamper it. After nearly seven years of sluggish growth during the Obama era, the party seems to think that even an anemic 2% annual increase in GDP is too much.