Third-Party Options?

With respect to my stated conviction that I will not be voting for either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, I’m repeatedly asked about options. They are few, and yes, I understand that no one on a third-party ticket is going to win the presidency. Yet it’s worth looking briefly at what some consider to be third-party options—a place to go without violating one’s conscience.

Gary JohnsonMost of the third-party attention is focused on the Libertarian Party and its nominee, former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson.

Johnson was the Libertarian nominee in 2012 and earned only about 1% of the vote nationally. Some are saying that could change this year due to the overwhelmingly bad poll numbers for Clinton and Trump. Polls that show which one is leading the other must be understood in the context that, for many, that choice is between two equally disliked candidates.

I once flirted with libertarian ideology, mainly because I was drawn to its commitment to the free market and limited government. I attended a libertarian conference two decades ago that gave me greater insight into the ideology. I saw that, even though I could agree with libertarians on economic issues, there were other serious deficiencies in their thought.

Most of the libertarians I have met and have read about since then are so adamantly devoted to their definition of liberty that it is more like licentiousness. On what are normally called the social issues—abortion, sexuality, marriage—most libertarians believe you should just let people do whatever they want. It’s fine with them to allow abortion as a “freedom,” to be openly homosexual, and to endorse same-sex marriage.

Johnson fits into that category of libertarians. He is opposed to abortion restrictions and announced that he will stop smoking pot while running for president. Really.

Johnson is on record as saying Christian bakers should be forced to bake cakes for same-sex weddings. In an interview on Fox Business Network, he even stated that Jewish bakers should be forced by the government to bake cakes for Nazis.

This is libertarian? It’s certainly not limited government on that issue.

Overall, I think libertarianism is in conflict with basic tenets of the Christian faith and the Libertarian Party is not one that should receive support from Christians. I’m as opposed to it and to its nominee, Johnson, as I am to Clinton and Trump.

Darrell CastleAnother option might be the Constitution Party. It used to be called the National Taxpayers Party. I recall meeting with an official of that party in the 1990s and telling him that the name was too narrow, that it seemed to indicate an interest only in economic matters, while the party itself stood for the Constitution. I encouraged him to push for a name change. I suggested Constitution Party.

Well, a few years later, that’s exactly what it became. Did I do that?

I’ve always been interested in this party and have hoped, over the years, that it might develop more. If you peruse the party platform, you find that it is staunchly pro-life and devoted to the original intent and meaning of the Constitution. The only part of the platform with which I’m not fully in tune is its more isolationist foreign policy that seems to discount even support for Israel.

However, I’m willing to live with the party’s foreign policy because of its overall perspective on government. It doesn’t say we cannot go to war; it simply seeks to follow the Constitution’s precise language that a declaration of war by Congress must come first.

Its nominee, Darrell Castle, is a lawyer and a former Marine who served in Vietnam. Interestingly, he trained under an officer by the name of Oliver North. He has been married to the same woman for 38 years. He and his wife founded a Christian mission to homeless gypsy children in Romania.

The problem with the Constitution Party is that it has never seemed to be able to garner enough support to be on the ballot in all states. I also have been looking to see if it will begin fielding candidates for Congress and state-level offices. Unless I’ve missed something, that isn’t happening. If it were to do so, could it be a possible successor to a Republican party that seems to have lost its way?

If the Constitution Party is on the ballot in Florida, I may very well vote for Castle. If it is not, then what will I do?

I’m not sure if the Florida ballot allows write-ins, but if it does, I will consider that. If neither write-ins nor the Constitution Party are options, I will simply have to decline to vote for anyone for president.

That doesn’t mean I won’t be voting. I will gladly vote for Marco Rubio as senator and for Dennis Ross, my current congressman and a man of integrity.

There is still talk of the rise of a protest party among conservatives. We’ll just have to see if anything comes of that. But whatever transpires, I have to follow my conscience before God.

If Donald Trump wins, the Republican Party may never be what it was, and I may have to cut ties if it becomes even more Democrat-light. If Donald Trump loses, there may be hope that the party has learned a valuable lesson and will regroup with a firmer commitment to its purported principles.

Christians just need to keep praying that God isn’t finished with this nation yet.

On Political Courage

Here’s a thought. What if, at the Republican convention next week, the powers-that-be allowed a secret ballot to choose the nominee? What if the delegates truly had the freedom to vote according to what they believed best for the party and the country instead of being pressured by their political leaders to fall in line with Donald Trump?

Would that secret ballot vote be different than the public one? If so, what would that say about those delegates? What would it say about their adherence to principle? What would it say about their personal character? Where are the spines? Where is courage when it is needed?

History affords us examples of courage in voting. One comes readily to mind for me. President Andrew Johnson was brought to the Senate for an impeachment trial in 1868. The Republican party at that time, which controlled the Senate, sought to remove him from office over disagreements in policy.

Edmund RossIt would take a two-thirds vote for that removal. Everyone knew the vote would be close, and one Republican senator, Edmund Ross of Kansas, would not commit to voting for removal. No one knew exactly what he might do.

Two days before the first vote, Ross had received a telegram from his home state that read, “Kansas has heard the evidence, and demands the conviction of the President.” It was signed by “D. R. Anthony, and 1,000 others.” Ross responded,

I do not recognize your right to demand that I shall vote either for or against conviction. I have taken an oath to do impartial justice . . . and I trust I shall have the courage and honesty to vote according to the dictates of my judgment and for the highest good of my country.

Not to be outdone, Mr. Anthony and his “1,000 others” retaliated. “Your telegram received. . . . Kansas repudiates you as she does all perjurers and skunks.”

The roll call began. Ross had been warned by fellow Radical Republicans that a “no” vote would end his political career. When his name was called, Ross stood and quietly cast his vote—for acquittal. His vote effectively ended the impeachment proceedings.

Some newspaper editorialists decided that Ross could best be compared to Benedict Arnold, Jefferson Davis, or Judas Iscariot. As predicted, his political career did end swiftly; he lost his reelection bid.

In a letter to his wife one week after his momentous vote, Ross declared,

This storm of passion will soon pass away, and the people, the whole people, will thank and bless me for having saved the country by my single vote from the greatest peril through which it has ever passed, though none but God can ever know the struggle it has cost me.

Where are the Edmund Rosses in the current Republican party? Where is the courage needed to stop the most foolish nomination in the party’s history?

Donald & Hobbes 1

Donald & Hobbes 2

We need to be looking out for the nation instead. It’s time for real principle to come to the forefront.

What About Impeachment?

Talk of impeachment is beginning. President Obama’s latest power grab, declaring publicly that he will act without Congress to get done what he considers his priorities, is rankling those who are committed to the delicate separation of powers established by the Constitution. Is this just talk? Are there sufficient grounds for impeachment? Is it even politically feasible?

Impeaching a president is a big step. Two presidents have been formally impeached: Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. A third, Richard Nixon, resigned before it could come to a full vote in the House of Representatives. To be impeached simply means to be accused by a majority of the House of actions warranting removal from office. In both cases when the House approved articles of impeachment, neither president was removed from office after a trial in the Senate. The Senate has the final say on articles of impeachment, and in the case of a president, two-thirds of that body must vote for removal.

The vote for Johnson’s removal was very close. It fell just one vote short, so he completed his term, which was less than a year anyway. For Clinton, a Republican-controlled Senate had a majority for removal, but not the two-thirds necessary; not even one Democrat joined the Republicans in favor of turning the White House over to VP Al Gore.

If you study the history of impeachment proceedings, both in Britain and America, you find that causes for removal from office can range from actual violations of law to non-criminal activity that simply brings disgrace and/or dishonor to the office. It’s not essential to find that someone has broken a law; if continuation in office is deemed to be detrimental to the proper functioning of the government, that is sufficient grounds for dismissal.

Because the Clinton impeachment is so near to us historically, that’s what most people will use as their comparison with the current president. What were Clinton’s actions that led to the impeachment? He was formally accused of perjury and obstruction of justice, both violations of law. In the background, of course, were his unseemly sexual inclinations. At the time, accusations of sexual relations with a young woman working in the White House and a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by a former Arkansas state employee formed the context for his violations. The whole thing was tawdry. I was in favor of his impeachment and removal due to the dishonor he conferred upon the presidency, not just because I disagreed with his political agenda.

ImpeachableAfter the Senate trial ended in his acquittal, I interviewed all the House Managers who argued before the Senate for his removal. It led to a book that gave their side of the story. Nowadays, conventional wisdom says they were wrong and/or foolish to proceed with the impeachment. Even though the Senate had a majority of Republicans, getting the two-thirds vote was considered a real long shot. However, I thought it was worth the fight, if for no other reason than to stand for principle. There was at least a glimmer of hope for success, given that Republicans did control that chamber.

My interviews also revealed to me a group of congressmen who fought this fight for the sake of principle: no man, not even a president, is above the law. Everyone is equal before the law, and all must be held accountable. I continue to honor them today for the stand they took.

So what about President Obama? There are two considerations: has he committed impeachable offenses and is there any realistic hope that impeachment proceedings will result in his removal from office?

On the first consideration, I am of the decided opinion that he has overstepped the lawful boundaries of his authority on many occasions. He is currently attempting to rule by executive orders, a clear violation of the constitutional limitations on a president. With respect to the IRS targeting of his political foes, is there anyone who, deep down, believes this was the result of a few rogue agents who acted without the approval—either directly or with a smile and a nod—of the president? Using a federal agency to undermine political opposition is the very thing Nixon was accused of. Democrats, at that time, didn’t think it was unjust to use that as a reason for impeachment.

Obama Arrogant Look 3Then there’s Benghazi. Regardless of whether the military could have gotten there in time to help the besieged, the massive coverup afterwards is reprehensible. Blaming the attack on some obscure video when it’s obvious now that Obama and everyone else around him knew it was a planned terrorist action, is inexcusable. Throwing the producer of the video in prison was unconscionable. And doing it all during an election season to hide the truth from an electorate deciding whether to keep Obama in office was deception of the highest order.

So, yes, he has committed clearly impeachable offenses. His disregard for the Constitution seems limitless; his desire to do whatever is necessary to remain in power renders him unfit for the office.

But that brings us to the second consideration: is there a realistic hope that the Senate actually would remove him? I don’t think there’s any hope of that at all. Not only is the Senate controlled by his own party, it is more bitterly partisan now than ever. If not even one Democrat senator could bring himself or herself to vote to remove Bill Clinton from office, how is there any reasonable expectation that twenty-two of them would do so today? Any impeachment proceeding against Barack Obama would be futile.

So what can be done?

First, I applaud Sen. Rand Paul’s lawsuit against the president over the misuse of the NSA’s intelligence-gathering. How about some more lawsuits aimed at the president’s unconstitutional power grabs? Not all the courts are corrupt. There are still some judges out there who revere the rule of law.

Second, focus laser-like on the upcoming congressional elections. If Republicans can take back the Senate, and if a few more of those senators can grow the spines they currently lack, legislation can be passed to curtail unconstitutional activities. Yes, the president will veto all such legislation, but this will be a vital educational experience for the general public as they see a president flaunting the law so openly.

Education of the public in the principle of rule of law will provide an opening for a Republican presidential candidate who has the stomach and integrity to stand for what is right. If Republicans can unite behind a bold, principled leader, there remains a hope that the present drift of the nation politically can be turned around.

I realize a lot has to come together to make this happen. I’m not naïve. And at the root of any great reversal of national fortunes must be a spiritual revival that calls people back to foundational truths. Although we need to take the proper steps in the political realm, ultimate success rests with a Biblically grounded people. Will we be such a people?

False Faith & A New Reality

I’ve commented before on the unrealistic expectations some of President Obama’s supporters had for him as he assumed the office. As historian Paul Johnson has noted, the loss of Christian faith in the Western world has allowed all sorts of false messiahs to rise to the top. People want to have faith; they simply choose the wrong gods. There is only one. Consequently, it’s not surprising when disillusionment sets in.

Many promises were made. The most outlandish had to do with lowering the oceans and healing the planet. Perhaps it would have been better to just handle the manageable problems correctly. That hasn’t happened either.

The “solutions” enacted have actually done more damage. In some cases, as illustrated above, they have targeted precisely the wrong sectors. The corruption in Fannie and Freddie goes untouched, while the small businesses that create most of the jobs in society bear the brunt of the penalties.

The Obama administration has been a disaster for the nation on so many fronts I can hardly begin to enumerate them. Yet if you’ve been reading this blog for some time, you know about the most egregious actions and attitudes.

Is it possible he doesn’t realize the reality of his situation?

For the sake of the country as a whole, let’s pray for a new reality—beginning in November.

Education Requires Work?

It’s been three months since I lasted posted on the subject of the history of education and its effects on us today. I’d like to take a few days and develop that topic a little more.

In a previous post, I spoke about a woman named Marietta Pierce Johnson who followed the teachings of John Dewey, Father of Progressive Education. Johnson set up a school that had no exams, no homework, and no grading system. No child was allowed to fail. Of course, if there is no such thing as failure, there’s also no such thing as success. The Dewey approach, which Johnson adopted, was to delay formal learning as long as possible.

Another Dewey disciple, Caroline Pratt, started the City and Country Day School in Greenwich Village. With her idea that every child was a creator, she simply wanted to draw that creativity out of each child. Now, I agree that God made us creative beings. Education, though, is more than creativity; it requires someone in authority leading children into what they need to learn. Handled properly, this does not inhibit creativity but places it in a framework within which it can succeed. Unlimited creativity with no design or guidance is often just misguided selfishness.

If anyone has any question about Miss Pratt’s moral and theological perspective, all you need to know is that she was a close friend of Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, the foremost promoter of abortion in the world.

Overall, the progressive education movement tended to downplay academic achievement and reward unstructured, experience-oriented methods. How does this prepare students for taking their place in society? 

Education does require work. Some of my students seem surprised by that. My job isn’t to make it easy for them, but to challenge them to do their best. I guess I don’t make a very good progressive educator.

Dewey's Disciple

Dewey Disciple Johnson

I’ve been commenting on the history of education on and off now for a couple of months. Recently, I’ve pointed out that John Dewey is considered the “Father of Progressive Education.” He had many disciples who put his ideas into practice.

One of those was Marietta Pierce Johnson who started a school in Fairhope, Alabama, in 1907. She called it the Organic School. Here were her basic tenets:

  • There were no achievement groupings for students
  • Children were never be compared
  • No homework or exams were part of the education process
  • “Play” was a central component of learning, particularly folk dancing; only folk dancing and classes in the arts were required for all students
  • No child was allowed to fail (which wasn’t hard, considering there were no exams)

Sound like fun? Well, yes, but that’s all it really was—fun. Dewey was impressed, however. He commented,

Her main underlying principle is Rousseau’s central idea, namely: The child is best prepared for life as an adult by experiencing in childhood what has meaning for him as a child; and, further, the child has a right to enjoy his childhood.

Quoting Jean Jacques Rousseau is hardly the means to winning my support. He’s the philosopher who fathered illegitimate children, and rather than take the responsibility to raise them himself, turned them over to an orphanage instead. Of course he would focus on the rights of a child—he never grew up himself. He was childish in all his ways.

While I can’t say that Johnson’s ideas have taken over education completely today, her imprint—and that of her mentor Dewey—is clearly evident. How does this educational approach prepare anyone for real life?

 And then, of course, there’s the need for actual effort on the part of the students.