Where I Come From & Where I Am Today

I’ve been musing the past few days on the roots of my political and/or governmental philosophy. Why am I where I am today in my understanding of what’s best for the governing of this nation?

I wasn’t raised in a home that taught me what I now believe, so it’s not a matter of merely copying what my parents thought. In fact, I grew up thinking the Democrats were the party to support.

I was conservative as far as I understood what conservatism was, but didn’t grasp the drift taking place in that party. I thought that because I was sympathetic to the civil rights movement, I was a good Democrat.

Liberal-ConservativeIt took a conversation in college with someone knew the difference to show me I was truly a conservative in outlook and that my views lined up better with the Republicans. That actually surprised me.

Yet I didn’t just follow the advice of that person blindly. I began to investigate what I should believe and why. Two factors guided my thinking: my growing Christian faith and the influence of certain writers I was beginning to enjoy reading.

First, I began to learn about Biblical principles and how they should be applied to society, including government. Those principles continue to guide me today.

William F. Buckley Holding BookSecond, two periodicals honed my thinking in accordance with those Biblical principles: National Review and The Freeman. The first offered witty and insightful commentary on the current political scene, and I greatly admired William F. Buckley, the founder of the magazine; the second grounded me in free-market concepts.

When I decided to pursue my doctorate in history, I was in a time of uncertainty spiritually. I was searching to see if anything else could fill that void. My professors, generally speaking, were far more liberal than I, and some of the reading I was given allowed me to test my convictions. Would they stand?

They did. I was now grounded in what liberals thought, as I expanded my understanding of both worldviews.

My advanced degrees offered no answers for life; God mercifully drew me back to Himself. Yet that pursuit of higher education did prepare me to better define what I believed and why.

My path to what I believe is not everyone’s path, by any stretch. My spiritual quest combined with my educational quest to make me what I am. It was a fascinating integration of intellectual and emotional satisfaction.

TextbooksI have been in higher education circles ever since. Seven of my years of teaching were at the graduate level; another five at a college that stressed classical education.

In my courses, I try to communicate to my students a worldview that is spiritually and intellectually sound.

I’ve always approached politics from this foundation of Biblical principles and solid reasoning from a well-grounded conservative philosophy. I don’t repent of any of this, but I do think my approach has left me a little bewildered by the politics of 2016.

As I meditate on what has developed politically over the past year, I have been astounded by what seems to me to be a devastating loss of principle in both the Christian world and the corresponding conservative world.

Donald Trump at DebateI’ve been trying to understand why this is so. You see, for me, the first time I saw Donald Trump on the stage with all those other candidates, I came away thinking that this was the biggest con of recent political history and that no one would take him seriously. Why? Because I didn’t perceive him as a serious candidate.

Trump had no command of the issues. He was an egotist who blustered, interrupted, and insulted anyone he thought was in his way. His entire history was as a liberal Democrat, and now he was trying to convince everyone he was a Republican.

I thought everyone would see through this charade. I’ve been sorely disappointed.

True, he didn’t get the majority of Republican votes in the primaries. I console myself with that fact. But once he became the nominee, so many who had previously said he was unacceptable suddenly decided he was now worth supporting, and anyone who disagreed should be shamed and guilted (is that a word?) into abandoning their principles and declaring their undying allegiance.

My entire background and training doesn’t allow me to board this train. I’m dismayed that so many others have decided to do so.

PrinciplesI’ve learned a valuable lesson, though. I have to realize that not everyone makes decisions based on principles only. Sometimes emotions carry the day. The emotion that leads some to vote for Trump now is fear—fear of a Hillary Clinton presidency.

I understand that fear. What I don’t get is why those same voters don’t see the danger of a Trump presidency as well. In my view, both are equally undesirable.

Some probably wonder why I continue to warn about Trump when it is clear that one or the other—Trump or Hillary—will be the next president. The answer is this: I’m looking beyond this election; I’m trying to keep us thinking about what comes next and whether there will be a Christian witness left to the nation after this, and whether there will be any conservative movement to build upon and salvage the disaster that is sure to come regardless of who wins this particular election.

We need to be principled people. My task, I believe, is to stay true to that calling and convince as many others as possible to do the same.

The Most Dispiriting Presidential Election in My Lifetime

Let me dream, please. In my dream, I see Hillary Clinton so tarnished that the Democrats decide they can’t really offer her up as their nominee. I see a party that finally comes to the realization that a woman who can’t be trusted with official documents should never be president.

Also in my dream, I envision a Republican party that actually looks at the platform it just created and shakes off the spell put on it by the Trump circus, acknowledging that he is no more than a Democrat in Republican clothing. In that dream, the delegates come to their senses and deny him the nomination next week at the convention. They will turn, instead, to someone who really believes in the stated goals of the party.

Now, back to reality.

Donald Trump is doing what he can to head off a delegate revolt by readying his announcement of his VP running mate, supposedly tomorrow. He’s been vetting people, doing things like asking for their tax returns—you know, the very thing Trump himself refuses to release. Of course, if he had his first choice for VP, it would be an unconventional pick:

Vice

In the running, presumably, are Newt Gingrich, Chris Christie, and Mike Pence. Gingrich is smart, but his personal reputation is almost as smarmy as Trump’s. Between them, they would be the first team to “boast” of six marriages, three apiece. Gingrich led the Republicans to victory in the 1990s, then fell from grace and had to resign from Congress. This is a positive choice?

Christie was my next-to-the-last choice during the primaries, second only to Trump. He’s not that different from Trump in personality, and he also wouldn’t be wedded to the platform.

Pence has a solid background as a conservative stalwart and Christian man with principles, but he’s let those principles slip in some startling ways lately, particularly with his rather spineless action in backing off the religious liberty bill in Indiana. Although he endorsed Cruz in the primary, it was a tepid endorsement, again betraying a disturbing trend toward loss of principle. In my view, Pence would be lowering himself to attach himself to Trump. He needs to regain his reputation.

Regardless of whom Trump chooses, that person will have one major job: having to defend Trump’s artless statements and actions the rest of the way, often being put in the position of defending the indefensible:

Shovel-Ready Job

Hillary has recently received the coveted Bernie Sanders endorsement, which isn’t going over too well with those fanatical Sanders supporters:

No Establishment

Whichever candidate wins, the inauguration will be a grand joke on us all:

I Do

Nightmare Inaugural

If you follow the latest developments closely, you know that Trump has now said he wouldn’t mind the Republicans losing control of the Senate—he likes the idea of being a free agent.

He’s also initiated a lawsuit against a former campaign senior consultant, Sam Nunberg, for allegedly outing ousted campaign manager Corey Lewandowski for having an affair with campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks. Nunberg also alleges that Trump set up a fake company for the campaign and misused the funds in that company. Stay tuned for more on that.

This has got to be the most dispiriting presidential election in my lifetime, and that’s saying a lot, considering we’ve suffered under two Obama elections. For the first time, the Republicans are not offering a viable candidate, if indeed Trump escapes the convention intact.

Is this really the best America can offer?

Uncle Sam's Head Bag

Divine intervention is sorely needed. I cannot vote for either of these two people. I have to put my complete trust in God’s mercy.

Clinton-Trump: Real Moral Equivalence

Historians and political scientists have used the term “moral equivalence” to describe things they hold to be about the same morally. I’ve taken them to task on some applications of the term. For instance, I see no moral equivalence historically between a power-hungry, genocidal Soviet Union and a United States that attempted to defeat totalitarianism and free people from tyranny. The Cold War was not the result of moral equivalence but of a communist regime declaring its goal of dominating the world.

I’ve also rejected all along the idea that there isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between the Democrat and Republican parties, regardless of how often I’ve been disappointed by how Republicans let down their supporters. Publicly, the party platforms couldn’t be more at odds on issues like abortion and marriage. That divide also can be seen in the majority of elected officials: Democrats don’t win the nomination of their party if they are pro-life; Republicans risk losing support if they stray from pro-life.

This election is changing the argument I’ve always made against a false moral equivalence. By nominating Donald Trump, Republicans have take a big step away from their platform; by endorsing him, many Republican officeholders have declared that his character and views don’t matter, even if they ultimately destroy what the party has stood for historically.

Trump-ClintonWith Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton now the presumptive nominees, there is a moral equivalence that comes to the forefront. Trump’s latest foray into foolishness (the “Mexican” judge controversy) has some Republicans now backing away from outright support, for which I’m glad. However, his many antics—which won’t change because he won’t change—are highlighting just how reprehensible he is.

Here is the real moral equivalence: there is no difference in character and/or temperament, and I’m not at all convinced there is any real difference in policy. Trump’s character is not trustworthy, so I don’t believe the promises he makes now.

Some cartoonists are making this same point.

Meet the Authors

A number of cartoonists seem to be making the comparison on the foreign policy side:

Joker-Mediocre

How Bad

Trusty Server

Democrats are thrilled that Trump is the Republican nominee because they believe he is eminently beatable—and they are right. However, to extend the moral equivalence argument further, when they really stop and think, they realize they have just nominated the most eminently beatable person in their party:

Ha

They have to come to grips with just whom they have made the image of their party:

History Made

In the same way, many Republicans are coming to grips with what they have done:

Leap of Faith

Yes, moral equivalence is an appropriate term for what we are experiencing now.

Giving Bernie His Due

I feel bad for focusing so much on Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. I’ve given short shrift to the other candidate still in the race—Bernie Sanders. Since today’s primaries may be Sanders’s last hurrah, I’m now going to make up for this oversight.

Bernie’s candidacy is historic. It reminds me of a particular historical era that I lived through long ago (unfortunately, though, it wasn’t in a galaxy far, far away):

Take Party Back

Never have we had a candidate who is so proudly and vocally associated with the failed philosophy of the twentieth century as Bernie Sanders:

Comrade

I’ll give Sanders credit for not hiding what he really is, unlike the current occupant of the White House and his Democrat opponent in the primaries. He is fiercely loyal to a system that has never worked, and he has energized a significant portion of the Democrat base to follow him, zombie-like, into the failed economies of the past. Well, not all are in the past; we have a wonderful example today of what Sanders’s policies would do for us. And if his supporters are genuine, they should want to live in such a place:

Moving to Venezuela

Sanders rails against the evils of capitalism and extols the wonders of such socialist havens as Venezuela, where people are rioting over not having food and other necessities. If we put Sanders in charge, he will make sure those evil capitalists will be held in check:

Not Right

Of course, if we really desire Bernie’s outcomes for our society, there is another way to get them:

Sanders-Meteor

What is it that attracts people to his philosophy? Ignorance? Greed? Loss of historical perspective? Downright stupidity? I think we might be able to check all of those boxes, but resentment over what others have and the desire to take it from them is probably at the top of the list.

Against Greed

This basic selfish instinct is captured perfectly in this classic Calvin and Hobbes cartoon:

Bigger Piece

Once Sanders officially loses the Democrat nomination, he can continue to stay in the news cycle if he decides to run as an independent. That would cause quite a commotion in the Democrat ranks, the equivalent of the angst currently being experienced by Republicans.

Run, Bernie, run?

Our Developing Culture

Surely you have noticed how we are living in an upside-down world lately. Today, I thought I would simply offer some wonderful examples of how our culture has been developing.

Since we have a reality TV person now as the Republican candidate for president, I thought this might be fitting for some of his supporters:

Gov't Funding

That speaks to the reality of “reality” programs as well as the idea that government has some kind of stockpile of funds to pay for virtually anything and everything.

Which leads me to this:

Popular with Kids

And speaking of liberals:

Liberals Who Believe

Here’s the solution for liberal thinking on the gender front:

Bathroom Problem Solved

There’s no way I can leave out my own profession in this litany of what’s gone wrong in America:

Director of Admissions

When College Is Free

Well worth pondering today.

A Crisis of Unfathomable Proportions

These Democrat primaries have been quite interesting if, that is, you find a race between one candidate who may be prosecuted and another who promotes a philosophy that has ruined every nation that has tried it to be an interesting race.

Hillary just barely beat Sanders in Kentucky last night, with both getting 46% of the vote; meanwhile, Sanders continued to act as a spoiler to the coronation by beating her in Oregon. The only reason Hillary is going to be the nominee is that she has this huge stockpile of “Superdelegates” who will get her to the finish line:

Finish Line

When she achieves this “victory,” she will act as if it is the voice of the people in her party, but she truly is one of the weakest candidates for president imaginable. Why the surge for Sanders? First, Democrat voters seem to like undiluted socialism, which means they have no sense of history, economics, or how life in general actually works.

Second, the cloud over Hillary is substantial, and Democrats are unsure they want to promote someone who may be on trial. Of course, her campaign is dismissing the seriousness of this FBI investigation, even to the point of saying it’s not an investigation at all.

Forbidden Words

With Trump and Hillary as the two probable nominees, this might make for unusual polling this year:

Hold Their Noses

I won’t have the problem because I will be voting for neither. My reasons for that have been spelled out in previous posts, so I won’t go into them here. But one political cartoon does come close to how I see our current political crisis:

Lemmings

The bigger problem, of course, is that this is not just a political crisis, as if it exists in one little corner of the nation and doesn’t affect everything else. Sadly, it does affect everything else, which makes it a crisis of unfathomable proportions.

And on the Democrat Side . . .

I’ve spent more time analyzing the Republican field than the Democrat. Of course, one reason is that there’s really no “field” on the Democrat side, but it has become more interesting. This was supposed to be a Hillary coronation, but it hasn’t quite worked out the way she expected.

I admit I never thought Bernie Sanders would get any traction anywhere. Maybe I was living in a dream world where I never imagined that even in the Democrat party an outspoken socialist would be a threat to Queen Hillary. Keep in mind that Sanders has not run as a Democrat for many years; he has preferred the title of “independent.”

Yet here he is as a possible nominee in a party he eschewed. One thing you can say for him is that he is consistent: as an avowed socialist, he is promising the sky—free this, free that, free everything:

Slackers Like Me

The little secret that his followers don’t understand of course is that nothing is free; somebody is going to pay for all of that, and that somebody is the rest of us who aren’t getting those freebies.

Hillary, realizing the threat, has become even more outspoken as a progressive. Those who know her (and the party as a whole) aren’t surprised by this; she’s always been a progressive but hasn’t been quite this open about it for fear of losing votes. Now, in a tight race, she feels she has to pull out all the stops.

What all of her rhetoric about the evils of Wall Street hides is just how tied in to Wall Street she is. Where does she receive much of her financial support? Reports show exactly where:

Definition of Progressive

Why the Sanders surge? Could this have anything to do with it?

Slow Speed Chase

I freely admit I would love to see Hillary (and Bill) finally get what they deserve. The FBI seems poised to recommend indictment. If the Obama Justice Department—a misnomer if ever there was one—declines to prosecute, she could still get the nomination. With that hanging over her, she should be easier to beat. If Sanders gets the nomination, America would have finally bottomed out if he is elected, but I believe he would be even easier to overcome.

The key now is whether Republicans are wise in their selection of a nominee or whether instead they will turn to Donald Trump. A Trump-Clinton or a Trump-Sanders race would be the worst of all possible scenarios because no matter who wins, the nation would lose.