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Where David Brooks Got it Wrong on Orthodox Republicanism March 9, 2016

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David Brooks, the in-house, right-leaning centrist for the NY Times, has written yet another thought-provoking article (this on March 8, 2016). This is not news.  He usually does this, and does so rather eloquently, though he lacks the true intellectual firepower and vocabulary of George Will.  This is not to be held against him:  who does have such capacity as Will?  Hands, anyone?

Thought-provoking as his most recent article may be, entitled “It’s Not Too Late,” there are some problems with his thesis.  Yes, he did get some things right, but he also got some key things wrong.  But in which respective areas?

Let us start with what the article is all about.  Brooks clearly recognizes the urgency within the Republican primary at the moment.  That is to say, the majority of the GOP electorate recognizes what a disastrous candidate Donald Trump would be in the general election, and his would-be GOP nomination must be thwarted at all costs.  Moreover, Brooks proceeds, further down in the article, to lay out the systemic problems behind Trump’s cult of personality.  He outlines that Trump’s populism is premised on an active, big government that is energized to help the American working class, but doing so in negative, defensive ways.  The blowhard wants to build walls, to close trade, to ban outside groups, and to otherwise smash enemies.  Put all your trust in Trump (half-sarcastically described in source-synonym form as “The Great Leader”), and he’ll take all enemies down.

This dovetails nicely into where Brooks made some very insightful observations, and also some caveats.  Let us look at where he “got it right” and “got it wrong” simultaneously.  He points out that Goldwater and Reagan positioned the Republican Party as that of those who are free-market and anti-government.  He got the first part correctly, the second part, not so much.

Goldwater and Reagan, for example, were trying to tackle the issues to make the marketplace freer after decades of Democrat interference via excessive regulation, excessively high taxes, union-friendly laws and trade-protectionist laws that ended up raising costs for consumers, allowing consumers fewer options, and stymying the economy in so doing.  Reagan helped re-energize America by doing away with most of such hindrances.  Today, the market is freer and taxes are much lower than they were prior to Ronaldus Magnus.

Since “Dutch” left office, most folks in the GOP have been searching for “the next Reagan”.  Here’s the problem, though:  since Reagan, new challenges have emerged.  Today, the economy has become much more unforgiving (“crueler” is Brooks’ adjective of choice).  Technology – particularly automation – has displaced workers and globalization has dampened wages.  Also, the social structure is far more atomized and frayed than it was 30 years ago, especially among the less-educated.  If that is not enough, demographics have also shifted, though to my mind, the previous item is part of this last item mentioned.

So far, Brooks is spot-on in listing some of the major domestic challenges that Americans face today.  Each one deserves lengthy, multi-installment analysis.  But where Brooks gets things wrong is by saying that “Orthodox Republicans” (embodied by Ted Cruz – Brooks describes him as the “extreme embodiment”, emphasis mine) are out of date.  Indeed, allowing free people to freely transact with one-another, abiding by sensible regulations and sensible laws, is never out of date.  Those were Reagan’s principles, and they still work today:  indeed, they work in any era, because human nature has not changed since the dawn of Man.

The other part of Brooks’ erroneous assertion is that Orthodox Republicans see no positive role for government.  Orthodox Republicans / doctrinaire conservatives do indeed see a positive role for government, but only in areas where they rightly recognize the things for which government is built to do effectively.  The Federal Government, for example, is built to defend our country, which is why conservatives call for a strong military.  Conservatives/Orthodox Republicans also recognize that the Federal Government is there to deliver the mail.  It can also help out with the national infrastructure (i.e., interstate highways, bridges, etc.), and is also there to regulate interstate commerce (see:  Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution), though vigilance must be maintained to keep said regulation sensible and thus to keep it from getting out of hand, as it is apt to do if we elect too many big-government liberals to Congress.  Beyond that, you leave it up to the States to decide, as it is written in the Tenth Amendment.

What Brooks has also overlooked is that, yes, while new challenges have emerged for America since Reagan’s time, some of these challenges can be addressed by Orthodox Republicans.  For example, lots of jobs have been killed by excess regulation.  It paralyzes innovation, it stymies companies trying to expand, and thus kills job growth.  Many of us want more manufacturing jobs in this country, but that will not happen with the EPA being allowed to run amok under the Obama Administration, for example.  An Orthodox Republican like Cruz would put a stop to that.  Same thing goes for the amazing potential to create jobs for the educated and under-educated alike in, say, the energy sector.

Another aspect of Orthodox Republicanism that could help meet the challenges of today would be to allow for more local control over education, so that educational reformers have more flexibility to be more innovative.  The idea behind this is that doing so could help us improve our human capital.  The part of American society that has atomized could improve themselves through fundamental improvements in education, but that will not happen under a top-down approach from the Federal Government, where innovation is stifled through bureaucracy.

Granted, Cruz has his own problems, but they’re more about him than the ideology.  He managed to alienate just about everyone in the Senate in both parties since he was elected in 2012.  These are the same people with whom he must build coalitions if he wants to accomplish anything through Congress so he could sign it into law as President.  His rigid, immoderate tone could alienate too many moderate voters as well.  Goldwater was way too rigid as a candidate, and that is why he lost as badly as he did in 1964.  Reagan, conversely, was just as conservative as Goldwater, but he was much more moderate in his tone.  This in turn allowed for the Gipper to successfully position himself as a pragmatic problem-solver, allowing him to win over enough moderates, who joined the conservative voters in allowing him to win comfortably in 1980, and even more so four years later.

Cruz likes to think that he is Reagan’s ideological heir, but to truly find his inner Gipper, he too must moderate his tone.  It remains to be seen whether or not he can.  At least Brooks, to his credit, was on to something when he pointed out that both Marco Rubio and John Kasich are viable alternatives to the rigid (at the moment) Cruz and to the authoritarian Trump.  He even proceeds to hint at the potential of both Rubio and Kasich as potential candidates to successfully position the Republicans as a party of reform, which is desperately needed at the Federal Government level for America to continue to be a viable power both at home and abroad.  I personally would, at this time, favor either over Cruz, to say nothing of Trump, who, just to remind everyone, must be stopped at all costs, lest the efforts to roll back big government be set back for a generation.

Nevertheless, Brooks conveniently overlooks some important tenants of the conservative ideology, and how they would still work today.  If he meant to say that Cruz’s tone was out of date, he was partly right:  it never has been palatable to the national electorate.  But Orthodox Republican/conservative principles are timeless because they recognize that the nature of mankind is permanent.  No doubt these convenient dismissals on Brooks’ part are ongoing symptoms of his Stockholm Syndrome to which he has succumbed after all those years with the New York Times.

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Looking Forward, Not Backward, through Conservatism November 6, 2015

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Ronald_Reagan1The essence of conservatism, in general (i.e., not through any particular nationalist lens) is defending the existing order of things.  Thus, conservatism means different things in different countries, depending on what is, or was until recently, the status quo.  In Russia or China, for example, being conservative means that you are a communist, and have disdain for the new order brought on my free[er] markets in those respective countries.  Same goes for the countries in the Balkans, where some people still, oddly, long for the days of communist rule because it guaranteed them some sort of employment.  Perhaps when one has been a serf for more than a millennium, one tends to be quick to sell off one’s birthright for even the most meager messes of pottage.

But in any case, the American version of conservatism is to defend that which you already have, that being, individual liberty and a free market, both defended by a limited government.  Indeed, the citizens of the original Thirteen Colonies already had this in the 18th Century, and was not until after the French and Indian War concluded in 1763 did the British have the bright idea to arbitrarily mess with this good thing the colonists in North America already had going at that time.  For example, the standard of living in the American colonies was already higher in the years leading up to the Revolutionary War.  Therein lies a key thing to remember, that the colonists did not separate from Great Britain and risk blood and treasure in so doing to create something radically new, but to defend that which they already had.

The same impulse in this shared ideology continues strongly today, as well it should.  After all, Thomas Jefferson famously reminded us in all times to come that eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.  The only problem is, electorally, it can sometimes be a double-edge sword.

Two recent examples are the redefinition of marriage and Obamacare.  Those who care for long-held traditions that have been established over millennia, and established for good reasons born out of experience through the ages, have been understandably dismayed at the development of five Supreme Court judges arbitrarily changing that sacred definition.  To suggest that marriage should be redefined as being legitimate if it is between two men or two women instead of the traditional definition of one man, and one woman, shows incredible arrogance in that this generation is wiser than all the collective wisdom of all of our forbearers.  Such a thinking is reckless for the present and outright destructive for the future.

Moreover, Obamacare has caused far more problems than it solved.  Yes, it allowed previously uninsurable people access to health insurance, but it has come at considerable cost.  Everybody’s insurance premiums have skyrocketed on account of this Orwellian-named Affordable Care Act.  One family can pay as much as $20,000 a year, and if you do not buy the insurance, you pay a fine (albeit much less than the aforementioned gouging).  This Act, which is considered to be Obama’s greatest achievement, gives many people the perverse economic incentive to pay the fine.

For those of us who were happy with the insurance we already had, we ended up losing some of our doctors on account of sudden changes in insurance networks, but our premiums continue to go up and up, not only on account of having to insure the expensively uninsurable, but, more to the point, having to pay for “options” we do not even want.  Why should men, for example, be forced to pay for an insurance policy that offers birth control?  Why should all of us, man or woman, we force to pay for a policy that provides for acupuncture?

So what to do?  The impulse to defend can misguide us to often look back.  But to be electorally viable, we must look forward.  Young people especially are not concerned with some supposedly idyllic past.  Even the recent past of Clinton and (eventually) Obama in the White House is certainly no past destination to return.  Moreover, it has been almost 27 years since the late, great, Ronald Reagan was in the White House.

Conservatism’s strength comes in two major dimensions:  its practicality, and its optimism.  For this piece, let us focus on the latter as a winning tool to win elections and to create a winning vision moving forward.

Start with marriage.  The institution of marriage has been the central unit of society since before recorded history (which started around 3500 BC, fyi).  It has proven, over the course of centuries and millennia, to be the cornerstone of solid, functioning families, which themselves are vital to a well-functioning society.  Within the institution of marriage, it has proven over the same immense span of time that the institution functions best when it is comprised of one man and one woman.  The reason is twofold:  for one, it takes a man and a woman to be able to get together so as to procreate.  For another, the partnership of a man and a woman is mutually beneficial to both sexes, as such a union helps both mates help curb the excesses sewn into the nature of both sexes.  Most importantly, the central reason for marriage is for the successful raising of children, so that society’s values and culture can be as successfully passed on through a married couple’s children. The different kinds of love that originates from father and mother respectively help put children in the best possible positions to be well-adjusted, productive members of society.  Family break-down hinders both the successful raising of children, and consequently it creates defective, instead of functional, cultures.  Just look at the high illegitimacy rates in the black-dominated inner city neighborhoods; such high out-of-wedlock birthrates, combined with an alarmingly high rate of absent fathers negatively affect those children’s lives.  Such family break-down those leads to the forming of bad-warped values that leads to high crime and poverty rates.

The solution?  As conservatives, we must not try to fight increasingly old battles about same-sex marriage, but rather work to strengthen traditional marriage, especially within the context of how it best benefits children in particular and families in general.  Fighting old battles is a losing proposition.  Looking forward is a winning one.

Concerning Obamacare, instead of fighting to repeal it, let us concentrate our energies to move forward by way of reforming it.  By doing so, we conservatives can seize an even greater macro opportunity by positioning ourselves as people who stand for reform in general.  Big government has proven not to work time and again, especially in an age where most companies are becoming less bureaucratic and more nimble, and technology gives us more options than ever before.  We are therefore perfectly positioned to fight to reform government by making it more streamlined, less bloated and rigid, and allow people more options.

Obamacare is a perfect place to start.  Its central problem?  In classic, big-government fashion, it is a one-size-fits-all model, and thus allows for no options.  We cannot decide what we want on our policy and what we do not want.  Government dictates what we must buy for our policies, even if it is too expensive for most discerning buyers.  If we do not like it?  Tough.  Why not allow for people to decide for themselves what they want to buy and what they do not want based on what they can afford and what they actually need?  Again, as conservatives, we are in the perfect position to offer reform policies in government that would thus allow for people to have these common sense options.  Doing so would be perfectly in line with government upholding liberty (a conservative tenet) by allowing for such common sense solutions-as-options.

Defending that which we have (our families and liberties) does not mean we must always look backward, either.  Being conservative does not, nor should it automatically equate to being reactionary.  Part of being a conservative is being practical:  that is to stay, understanding what works and what does not work, and to act accordingly.  The Constitution, for example, might not be a perfect document, but it certainly is a practical one, and has proven to be for more than two centuries and counting.  Moreover, the human being as an organism is goal-oriented in its very nature.  Such a nature was conveniently overlooked by Karl Marx, who, along with Friederich Engels, had his head in the clouds about an unattainable ideal of economic equality.  It never works because it ignores this central tenet to human nature.

But more to the point, being goal-oriented means that one instinctively looks to the future, since therein lies the goal that the individual wishes to attain.  Our Constitution was constructed on the idea to create the best possible system of government and economics within the confines of human nature.  Why not therefore use this conservative tendency constructively in the same way?

Therefore, look forward and sell the voting public on why conservative principles of a free market will create a better economic system now and in the future for people of all walks of life.  On the social side of the equation, we must, as cooperative individuals, work to strengthen traditional marriage.  Politically, we must dismantle policies that give perverse incentives for families to disintegrate so as to cut off what is in effect the funding of inter-generational social problems in the inner city and elsewhere.

Back to the free market side of things, we must look forward to a freer economy that creates better opportunities for people of all walks of life – including those in the inner city – by scaling back and streaming regulations so that people addicted to welfare who are otherwise able-bodied will have ample opportunity to act on another conservative tenet, that of self-reliance.  Looking at it another way, as a purely pragmatic way of looking at things, young people of today are becoming an increasingly large portion of the electorate, and their sole focus is looking forward, not looking back to try to recapture the past.

The genius to the central messages of Ronald Reagan was that conservatism works just as well in modern times as it did when America was founded in the late 18th Century.  Reagan was always optimistic about the future because he recognized that, as long as these same principles were headed now and in the future, things will continue to work well.

Though it was been more than three decades since Reagan was re-elected in an historic landslide, our best political solution as conservatives is to take the same approach and look forward with winning, practical policies that promise, and invariably deliver, a better future.

Some thoughts on the Bowls as of Dec. 28 December 29, 2012

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From azstarnet.com; try to ignore the Arizona player bumping into the ref and instead, focus on how cool their unis look, along the with the awesome color contrast between Arizona’s and Nevada’s helmets!

The New Mexico Bowl kicked off the season to a surprisingly auspicious beginning.  I say “surprisingly,” because let’s be honest; nobody thought that the first bowl game of the year would be that swell, and moreover,  it seemed as though Nevada had the game well in hand by the end of the 3rd quarter before Arizona managed to make a pretty good game out of things yet and scored 18 unanswered points to pull ahead at the end, 49-48.  And to think that I predicted that the Holiday Bowl on Dec. 27 would be the bowl season’s “offensive explosion,” yet so far, the results of the New Mexico Bowl have fit that distinction more than any other of the 2012-2013 bowl span.

But wait, there’s more!  As more teams unveil special bowl game helmets (read: Cincinnati, Virginia Tech), the jury will still be out until Jan. 7 to decide this ultimately, but thus far, the Arizona-Nevada matchup is definitely the “most aesthetically pleasing helmet contrast,” with the Wolfpack sporting their dark blue helmets on one side, and the Wildcats sporting their special red domes on the other!

Moreover, it will be very difficult for any other team to top the Wildcats for the “sartorial splendor” award, as they have set a new precedent.  Normally, if a team has dark blue and red for their colors (technically, Cardinal and Navy Blue, as is the case for both Arizona and Ole Miss), the modern precedents have been something along the lines of 1) dark blue helmets, dark blue jerseys, and either white or gray pants, or white helmets, or 2) white helmets and pants with dark blue jerseys, or 3), dark blue helmets, red jerseys, and white or gray pants.  What Arizona did was break through normal precedents and set a whole new one with red helmets, dark blue jerseys, and red pants.  It does not get much better than that!

Kirby Lee, USA TODAY Sports

Kirby Lee, USA TODAY Sports

Speaking of good games, this year’s MAACO Bowl of Las Vegas turned out to be a ‘dandy’ of a game, folks!  There are times when you swear that ESPN does actually have a crystal ball in some secret location on their Bristol, Conn., campus, because they sent their front-line crew of Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit to call the game, reflecting on the fact in real time that it was worth tuning in to see!  Either that, or it was an elaborate rouse to get Musburger in touch with Chan Lo and the Chinese Triads to settle his gambling debts:  who knows?  That having been said, what on Earth was Boise State doing wearing those god-awful matte black helmets instead of their pretty metallic blue domes?  Sometimes it pays to leave well enough alone; such is what Washington did with their tasteful combination of metallic gold helms, white jerseys and purple pants.

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Of all places, this pic came from Bengals.com!

The Belk Bowl also exceeded expectations in terms of a competitive, watchable game.  Only two things overshadowed Duke’s first bowl game since the mid-1990s:  1), Cincinnati’s garish, red, carbon fibre-colored helmets, a first in football helmet decor, and 2), the Bearcats ultimately won.  Still, it was nice that the Blue Devils wore their tasteful royal blue helmets instead of their generic-looking white ones, which overall made for a nice helmet contrast between the two teams as they played each other in Charlotte.  Moreover, keep in mind that the Bearcats pulled off the win with basically a five-man coaching staff (for purposes of comparison, college teams usually have about 10 coaches on staff, not including graduate assistants).

Another very interesting teams’ helmets contrast took place on Dec. 28 in the Russell Athletic Bowl, formerly the Champs Sports Bowl, formerly the reincarnated Tangerine Bowl (basically, the other bowl game they play in the Citrus Bowl before the real Citrus Bowl game, which is now called the Capital One Bowl.  Got all that?).  Rutgers put up one heckuva fight against Virginia Tech, but came up a field goal short in overtime of tying the Hokies after the first round in overtime.  But the contrast was nevertheless unique in that the Scarlet Knights had their newly characteristic chrome shells, while the Hokies sported new, matte maroon helmets with an orange decal of a “Hokie,” which, from what us fans can deduce, is basically a turkey bird on a roid rage.  Virginia Tech has undertaken numerous helmet styling experiments during the 2012 season, some kind of interesting, some downright head-scratching.  The white helmets with turkey feet clearly belonged in the latter category!

Oh, and the guys at EDSBS, you boys have some ‘splainin’ to do!  You ranked the Meinecke Car Care Bowl of Texas last among your list of the 35 bowls for this season.  In the words of Musburger, the game turned out to be a real ‘dandy.’  Thanks to the realignment of bowls, this Texas Bowl is about the only B1G vs Big XII matchup we have to look forward to, as the Alamo Bowl no longer affords us that luxury.  The game did not disappoint, as Minnesota and Texas Tech butted heads in dramatic form practically from the whistle giving the green light for kickoff.  The game remained close and competitive for the whole 60 minutes, though a turning point came when a Red Raider receiver pancaked a Golden Gopher defensive back in the end zone and walloped him — right in front of the back judge.  That led to the player, No. 22, to be summarily ejected from the game (and due to an arcane NCAA rule, he shall also have to sit out the opening game next year, too).  LeGarrette Blunt would no doubt be proud.  A third and goal near the one became a third and goal at about the fifteen.  The next play was botched, leading to a field goal.  Minnesota called a timeout just as the ball was snapped, and on the next, true snap, the Gophers blocked the kick!  A sure TD was reduced to, well, nothing.  Yes, in the end, the Red Raiders won on a last-second field goal.  Still, the game was riveting from the opening kickoff to the very last play, and that’s all we fans can ask for in any of these bowl games.

In all frankness and honesty, the 2012-2013 bowl season has been overall underwhelming this far.  The Little Caesars Bowl and the Independence Bowl (oh, my, have the mighty fallen!) have been nothing about which to write home, and similar things can be said for most of the other bowls up to this point.  But having said all that, it is worth pointing out that there have been some high points thus far, and odds are, it can only get better from here.  After all, Ronald Reagan himself was known to joke that if one searches through enough mounds of manure, sooner or later one is bound to find the pony!

A Time for Choosing November 3, 2012

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For weeks, I was trying to think up the almost-perfect editorial essay explaining why Obama must go and why Mitt Romney is the best guy we have to turn our government and our nation around.  I could have given a whole litany of problems America has experienced under Obama, and just as big a litany of positives in favor of Romney as the real man for the job (as opposed to the narcissistic man-child with which we have saddled ourselves for [almost] the last four years).  And I may yet write such a piece between now and Tuesday.  But as the old saying goes, in the brevity lies the spice, and there is hardly a ‘spicier’ editorial out there in Romney’s favor (and Obama’s consequent disfavor) than Charles Krauthammer’s latest piece.  What makes this particular column so “spicy” is that it gets to the very crux of the matter regarding this upcoming election.  Are we to remain freeborn citizens of unlimited individual potential, or are we to degenerate into serfs, able to do little more than serve an increasingly Leviathan state?  So read that article, then watch Ronald Reagan’s historic speech that he gave 48 years ago.  While you watch it, forget about Goldwater vs. Johnson and imagine Romney vs. Obama, and the speech will seem even more timely today than it was almost five decades ago.