Florida in the Limelight . . . Again

I didn’t live in Florida in 2000 when the nation was focused on the presidential recount. I was one of many who found it simultaneously concerning and amusing. There was a photoshopped meme at the time that I still use in class.

Along with that one, I share this:

It’s funny, but now that I live in Florida, I would really like to see my state not be the focal point once more when it comes to election miseries. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Of course, not all of Florida can be blamed for this. My county apparently knows how to count votes. Broward County? Well, not so much. And the supervisor there, Brenda Snipes, can credibly be accused of having what one might call a “slight” slant toward Democrat hopefuls.

Oh, I believe in counting every vote—every legitimate vote. I hope I, and countless others, can be excused for wondering how legitimate this current recount really is.

Gov. Rick Scott, seeking to be the next senator, seemed to have a clear victory over incumbent Bill Nelson, but this recount has narrowed his lead from 50,000+ to less than 15,000. For the record, such a drastic change is unprecedented in recount history, leading to a strong charge of some kind of fraud being perpetrated. Knowing what I do about Democrat tactics, please allow me to be one of those who has, shall we say, grave suspicions about the integrity of this recount.

All that is not to say that Democrats haven’t made gains nationally this time around. They now will control the House of Representatives. While not exactly an overall Blue Wave, to say this is negligible is to deny reality.

Are there any other optimistic signs?

What might this portend for 2020?

I’m being facetious, as I think cartoonist Ramirez is also. Yet I do believe that Republicans need to take seriously what this election means. Many suburban voters abandoned the party, allowing the House to fall to Democrats. Races that should have been won going away were extremely close. There is reason to believe a major factor is perception of the man who currently sits atop the Republican establishment.

Election Fallout, Trends, & the Christian Witness

There are different layers to the midterm elections. We can look at the superficial results—who won, who lost—we can analyze what this means for the near future politically, but we also need to look at the long-term trends.

On the surface, we see kind of a wash where Democrats took over the House while Republicans have increased their numbers in the Senate. What this means is that Nancy Pelosi and crew will use their power position to begin an unending series of investigations of whatever they deem corruption.The new chair of the Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler, is already more than hinting that he will seek to impeach newly confirmed Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh.

In other words, prepare for the ongoing circus. No vote for impeachment in the House, though, will ever be favorably received by the Senate, nor should it be. Any impeachment attempt will fail.

By keeping control of the Senate, the Republicans can go forward with the appointment of more judges who will, hopefully, have respect for the Constitution. And that’s no small thing.

In my state of Florida, the Republican candidates for governor and senator won, despite what the polls showed. Ron Desantis will be the new governor and our current governor, Rick Scott, will now be in the Senate. Both victories were razor-thin, but they were victories nonetheless.

The Scott win throws out Democrat Bill Nelson, who had thought he could be senator for life. The Desantis triumph keeps Florida from going into the pit, as his opponent, Andrew Gillum, was a Bernie Sanders acolyte.

Nearly all the polls showed Nelson and Gillum winning, which makes one wonder about polls (as if you weren’t already wondering about them).

Neighboring Georgia escaped the same fate as Republican Brian Kemp narrowly edged out Stacey Abrams, who, as a state legislator, had voted to confiscate guns, and who was running a race based quite a bit on race.

So, at least for now, conservatives can breathe a kind of sigh of relief. The barbarians have not yet broken through some of the walls.

But the trends are not optimistic. Florida and Georgia nearly going the Bernie Sanders route? Ted Cruz having a scare in Texas before pulling out a late win there? Many state legislatures and governorships switching to Democrat control? That reverses the Republican wave of state gains over the past decade.

Why does this concern me so much? Just look at how radical the Democrats have become. This is certainly no longer the party of Truman and JFK. This isn’t even the party of George McGovern in the 1970s. We thought he was radical; he might not even get nominated today.

The deepest concern for me is the spiritual. Democrats have all but abandoned any pretense of caring about Christian beliefs and morality. Wherever they have the upper hand, they will attempt to force into compliance those who disagree with their vision of the perfect society.

For all the talk on the Left of the fantasy of some kind of right-wing theocracy, the truth is more on the side of a totalitarian state of the Left:

  • You will promote abortion regardless of your religious beliefs;
  • You will accept homosexuality and same-sex marriage as normal or lose your business;
  • You will become social justice warriors or face retribution by being stigmatized as racist, sexist, and whatever other “ist” our fertile imaginations will conjure up.

That is not society I wish to see. The only consolation, and it is real, is that the Christian message will be shining in the darkness.

If we are faithful to that message.

Let me end with a Scripture that just came to mind. Jesus, speaking to the Pharisee Nicodemus, after that most famous of all passages about how God so loved the world, ends with these words of stark truth:

And this is the verdict: The Light has come into the world, but men loved the darkness rather than the Light, because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come into the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever practices the truth comes into the Light, so that it may be seen clearly that what he has done has been accomplished in God.”

We should always expect resistance to God’s message of love because that same message points out people’s sins. They will never like that. Therefore, we need to be prepared for evil people acting out of the evil that exists in their hearts. Yet when they do, our task is to continue to offer God’s redemption from evil.

We are to love even our enemies.

Tuesday’s Elections: Not a Conventional Analysis

Primary ElectionsFour states on Tuesday held either a caucus or a primary. As with last Saturday’s results, one can again go with the conventional analysis and give the night to Donald Trump or one can look a little deeper. I choose the latter.

Now, there’s no denying that Trump won three of those four states and that it moved him closer to the nomination. But it didn’t get him as far as one might want to think. Neither are the trends going in his direction.

Let’s look at each state individually.

Mississippi

This was a two-man race only. Kasich and Rubio were so far behind as to be nearly nonexistent. As with Louisiana, according to reports, more than 40% of the voters had already turned in ballots early, meaning they had made up their minds prior to witnessing the last two debates, both of which were problematic for Trump. In Louisiana, those who voted on primary day went for Cruz over Trump. I have to wonder if the same scenario played out in Mississippi. How many early Trump voters regretted their haste afterward?

Michigan

This one was quite interesting in that Cruz didn’t put any effort into the state. According to one report, his campaign spent about $1100 overall. In election terms, that’s like spending nothing. Yet he came in second, overtaking Kasich, who had labored to make Michigan his lead-in to Ohio next week. It’s amazing to hear some talking heads remark about Kasich’s “strong” showing in Michigan while seeming to miss the fact that he came in third out of four candidates. Comments about Cruz’s surprise finish, when he had pretty much written off the state, were few and far between.

I know it has become fashionable to blame the media for how much time they give Trump over Cruz, and I don’t want to jump on a bandwagon just for the sake of jumping on, but . . . the accusation is all too true.

Rubio, by the way, took last place by a convincing margin.

Ted Cruz 3Idaho

This was a runaway victory for Cruz, pulling in more than 45% of the vote; Trump was under 30%. Yet somehow it gets lost in the shuffle. Cruz spent more time here, giving an indication that when he concentrates on a state, he can make significant gains. Again, neither Kasich nor Rubio were major factors.

Hawaii

No one knew what to expect here. Trump won over Cruz by about 42% to 32% in a state known to be one of the most liberal in the nation. Cruz won liberal Maine, so that 32% in Hawaii may indicate more strength than some are willing to admit.

Delegates

As I noted in an earlier post, the number of states won, at this point, means less than the delegate total. While Trump won more delegates on Tuesday, it wasn’t a massive take. In fact, Trump, despite winning three states to Cruz’s one, earned only 12 delegates more than Cruz on the night.  Overall, he now has either a 458-359 or 459-364 lead over Cruz (depending on which network is doing the calculation), still within striking distance.

The Media

Okay, I have another comment to make about the media’s role. After Trump won Mississippi and Michigan, he staged (I use that word advisedly) a so-called press conference that turned into an infomercial for his business “successes.” Yes, I put that word in quotes. He had steaks on the stage, but his steak business went bust; he had water and wines, but he doesn’t really manage those anymore. The water bottles on stage were just the typical kind you get at the nearest grocery store.

Donald TrumpHe then boasted that his defunct and fraudulent Trump University would rise from the ashes of the current lawsuits and be “great.” Have you noticed how often he uses certain words—great, tremendous, wonderful, etc.? Have you noticed that instead of substance, he simply keeps repeating the same words and sentences over and over?

Yet the media never broke away from his ramblings. They gave full coverage to this lovefest for himself. He truly is a media creation. And a juvenile one at that.

What Next?

The big states next week are Florida and Ohio. I really don’t mind Kasich staying in the race right now if there is any possibility he could take Ohio away from Trump. It won’t be the start of Kasichmentum no matter how often he says it will be.

In Florida, I sincerely doubt that Rubio can win. I live here. I have access to a lot of disgruntled people who believe he betrayed them on immigration, and they are not very forgiving, even a few years later. Rubio won’t step down before Tuesday, I’m pretty sure, so he risks his entire political future if he ever decides to run for governor. Losing a presidential primary in one’s own state is a badge of dishonor that will stay with a candidate for a long time.

Cruz’s decision to make a stronger play for Florida might be too little too late, but he is on an upswing while Rubio is heading in the other direction. Trends do matter. Even if Cruz cannot win Florida, if he puts in a surprisingly strong showing, that could help propel him into victories elsewhere.

If Rubio should lose Florida, his run is over, and he will need to acknowledge it, sooner rather than later. That will be the only hope for Cruz to overtake Trump. Despite some of the bad blood between the two campaigns, I find it hard to believe that the majority of Rubio supporters would migrate to Trump.

As far as I’m concerned, nothing has been decided for sure yet, no matter what you may hear in the media.

The Shifting Political Climate

I haven’t yet commented on a special election from last week here in my state of Florida. Many are seeing it as a portent for what awaits Democrats this November. In a race to fill a congressional seat in the Tampa area left vacant by the death of a long-time Republican representative, Democrats thought they had a slam dunk with Alex Sink, a woman who barely lost the governor’s race in 2010. In that race, she had won this congressional district, and the district, despite having the Republican congressman, had gone for Obama in both presidential elections.

David JollySink was running against a largely unknown Republican, David Jolly, who had to battle the image of being a lobbyist. Polls all along predicted a Sink victory, only to find the real poll on election night was more accurate. Jolly won the seat, primarily running against Obamacare. All Sink could do about Obamacare was offer some vague promise to “fix” it, whatever than meant.

The result was somewhat of a shock. Immediately, Democrats said the loss had nothing to do with Obamacare, that this was somehow a stolen election because Jolly got so much funding from groups nationwide. Never mind, of course, that Sink outspent him four-to-one; that fact is inconvenient.

Those who didn’t use the “election stolen” line tried the other old tactic: this race is not an indication of what’s coming; it was simply one insignificant special election in a district that already had a Republican congressman and Obamacare had absolutely nothing to do with the loss. Doubling down, one Democrat consultant, Bob Shrum, has now told Democrats to boldly run on Obamacare in the November elections. Shrum, by the way, is primarily known for running losing campaigns at the federal level.

Well, I would like to echo Shrum’s advice: please run on Obamacare.

Dems Sinking

In case Democrats haven’t noticed, the political climate is shifting:

Then-Now

It’s hard to say whether Obama or Obamacare is more unpopular—they’re running neck-and-neck. Democrats’ great hope now is that they can put forward another “historic” figure for the next presidential cycle. They’re counting on the idea that it’s a woman’s turn and that Hillary Clinton will waltz into the White House. I’m sure they’re already busy working on some winning campaign themes:

Barack Who

They’re also counting on collective amnesia:

Best Possible

The only real question remaining is whether Republicans will put up a challenger who has a strong message and can deliver it in a way that will attract voters. I’m not yet prepared to say who I think that person will be. Watch and pray is a Scriptural admonition; it applies in this situation as well.

Making Life Difficult: It’s Disgusting

“It’s disgusting.” Who said that? A National Parks ranger when asked to comment on the directives the National Park Service has received from the Obama administration with respect to shutting down national monuments and parks and closing off access to the public. Here’s his full quote:

It’s a cheap way to deal with the situation. We’ve been told to make life as difficult for people as we can. It’s disgusting.

I commented last week on the shutdown of the WWII Memorial, a move so blatantly political that it astounds even the most cynical amongst us. That memorial is an open-air monument to those who served in WWII. There’s really nothing to “close.” People walk through it if they are on the National Mall. The only explanation is the one provided by that Park Ranger, who, I hope, has not lost his job for speaking the truth.

Mt. RushmoreBut the outrage at the WWII Memorial was only just the beginning. Mt. Rushmore is the chief tourist attraction in South Dakota. Not only are the trails closed, but cones were placed along the highway viewing areas, keeping tourists from pulling over and taking pictures of the mountain.  The Secretary of the South Dakota Department of Tourism stated, “They won’t even let you pull off on the side of the road. I just don’t know what they’re trying to accomplish.”

I can tell you, Mr. Secretary. They want the annoyance to be so great that the public will blame those the Obama administration wants them to blame—Republicans in Congress. Of course, those are the same Republicans who have passed out of the House seven separate bills funding key agencies; those bills, however, are not even being allowed a vote in the Senate, and President Obama has vowed to veto them even if they should pass through Congress.

So who’s to blame?

Let’s don’t stop itemizing those “disgusting” actions. I have a few more.

Mt. VernonMt. Vernon, George Washington’s home, is a privately owned and operated historic site. The only connection to the federal government are some jointly owned parking lots. That, apparently, was enough to order rangers to close off those parking lots, keeping visitors from going to Mt. Vernon. Meanwhile, a lesser-known historic site, the Claude Moore Colonial Farm in McClean, Virginia, was closed, even though it receives no federal funding at all. To our federal government, there seems to be no distinction between public and private.

In my state of Florida, charter guides received a message from the National Park Service that they can’t take clients fishing in Florida Bay, which is more than 1,100 square miles from the tip of the Florida mainland to the Florida Keys. So that means even the ocean is off limits? Can anything be more absurd?

Well, they’re making an attempt at greater absurdity. In Nevada, people who have lived in their privately owned homes for nearly forty years have been turned out and not allowed access to them because they sit on federal land by Lake Mead. One couple, aged 80 and 77, have had to live in a family-owned ice cream parlor for days now, and won’t be allowed to return until the shutdown is over. I’m glad they had an ice cream parlor to go to, but that’s hardly a home, certainly not the one they’ve lived in since the 1970s. Funny how no other government shutdown—and there have been about 17 of those over the years—ever required that citizens lose access to their homes. This has happened only under the Obama administration.

REIDMaybe one of the senators from Nevada could help this couple. Let’s see, who represents that state in the Senate? Oh, yes, that would be Harry Reid, erstwhile Majority Leader. You know, the one who won’t allow a vote on funding. This is strange. We all know it’s Republicans who hate children and old people, always starving them and throwing them out on the streets. At least that’s the rhetoric we always hear.

I’m also a little tired of the moral equivalence game being played, where both sides are held equally to blame for this situation. It’s the president who says he won’t negotiate, not the Republicans. It’s the Democrat Senate that won’t fund separate bills, not the Republican House. This is the height of political manipulation aided amply by the Obama media.

The mainstream media will do all in its power to promote the Obama propaganda. Alternative voices must be raised to counter the propaganda. I will do my part, however small my audience. If we all do our part, perhaps enough people will hear the truth and confront the real culprits. I will do what I can; I will not remain silent in the face of such massive manipulation and dishonesty.

The Obama minions are doing all they can to make life difficult for Americans. I agree with the aforementioned park ranger: “It’s disgusting.”

The Real Critique of Common Core

Common CoreUp until now, I’ve not written anything specific with respect to the Common Core program being promoted from on high and apparently accepted as a guideline/goal by more than forty states. The promise is that it will set standards to prepare students for college and the workplace. Thus far, standards have been set for math and English language, with plans to extend them to other subject areas.

One reason why I’ve not waded into this field prior to now is that I have almost no interest in it. I realize that may sound strange, coming from an educator. As a university professor, shouldn’t I care about this? Well, I do care. It’s just that I’ve never had any faith whatsoever in any “plan” to raise educational standards, especially any plan imposed from those who consider themselves to be the experts. Above all, I’ve never accepted the rationale that education is a legitimate function of the government, whether at the federal or state level. Therefore, my interest level in what they propose is naturally low.

I have seen the critiques of Common Core from the perspective of those who believe it actually lowers expectations rather than raising them. The critiques sound reasonable. Even though there are some cultural conservatives backing this initiative, I think they are misguided in their support. They mean well; they want higher standards in theory. Yet there are solid reasons to doubt that Common Core will provide them.

Rotten Common Core

That’s the practical level of criticism. My critique, as I’ve already noted, is more basic. I’m opposed to any government-sanctioned and/or government-funded plan. Education is the responsibility of the parents who, ideally, should have a market in the private sector from which to choose the source of their children’s education. We messed that up in the mid-nineteenth century when we began to set up state educational establishments called boards of education.

All studies show that children educated at home or in private schools perform significantly better on standardized tests (another bugaboo of mine, but I’ll set that aside for the moment). As public policy, government at both the federal and state levels should be expanding the private sector in education, not seeking to curtail it or force it into a predetermined mold like Common Core.

Robert Small ProtestProponents have sold Common Core as a grassroots movement; it’s anything but that. All one has to do is look at an incident last week in Maryland where one parent, Robert Small, stood up and raised his objections to the orchestrated meeting parents were attending to learn more about the plan. He was frustrated by the lack of interaction allowed at the meeting; everything was prearranged to push parents into approving the new standards, with no other views allowed to be expressed. For his “repugnant” act of standing up to the educational establishment, he was ushered from the room by security and threatened with prosecution. A little bit of common sense prevailed when that specific threat was withdrawn.

Stop Fed EdThis is the face of the Common Core establishment in action. I cannot support it. I’m pleased to report that Rick Scott, governor of my state of Florida, shortly after that incident, withdrew our state from the Common Core testing regimen. Hopefully, that is the first step toward complete disengagement from the plan. I have a feeling, as protests mount, that a number of states who originally signed on to this initiative will have second thoughts and withdraw as well.

Early Americans were always cautious about handing over control of their children’s education to the government. Their concerns were specific:

  • The threat of the government dictating the type of education, and of determining what is acceptable and what is not, thereby opening the door for tyranny.
  • The threat of removing the responsibility of education from the proper sphere of family, church, and locality.
  • The threat of higher taxes to pay for whatever the government deemed to be “legitimate” education.

In other words, they feared government control over the minds and pocketbooks of citizens.

By the way, search as you might through the federal Constitution, you will never find any authorization for the federal government to legislate or spend even one cent on education. It’s time to get that level of government out of the education business. Then we can work on getting states out of it also. The private sector will do just fine educating the next generation, particularly if we return all that tax money to the parents and hold out tax privileges to those who wish to contribute voluntarily toward helping those who might not be able to afford tuition.

Yes, there is a path toward better education, but it doesn’t come via Common Core.

The Christian Response to Zimmerman-Martin

I’ve made pretty clear in my last two posts that I don’t think race had anything to do with the events on the night Trayvon Martin was killed. Yet we are now mired once again in racial tension over the verdict in that trial. America doesn’t need this. We’re already a severely divided nation; this only increases that divide.

Black & White

Unfortunately, there are some who want to foment unrest over the trial’s outcome. One of the premier agitators is the Rev. Al Sharpton, who is calling for massive protests in one hundred cities. He’s also calling for a boycott of Florida, as if all of Florida is responsible for what happened. Does he not realize it was Florida’s government that went forward with the Zimmerman prosecution? He also insists this was a racial thing, despite all the evidence to the contrary—or more correctly, the complete absence of any evidence that points to racism.

Stand My Ground

I’ve watched the Rev. Al for many years. He has been responsible for foisting fraud upon the American people—anyone remember Tawana Brawley? Look it up. His inflammatory rhetoric also incited a mob to riot, leading to one death in the Jewish community in New York City. Now here he is again. Frankly, I don’t mind if Al Sharpton decides to boycott my state of Florida. I would rather he not grace us with his presence.

What has disturbed me most about Sharpton is his title: Rev. I find nothing in his spirit that is consistent with the Holy Spirit. Many use the name of Christian, but their actions belie their words.

How should a genuine Christian—one who seeks to honor the Lord in everything he/she does—respond to what has transpired in the George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin incident?

First, we need to recognize that God has created only one race, and it’s called “human.” Within that one race is diversity. God likes diversity. He also wants us to judge one another, not on outward features such as skin color, but on inward character. Isn’t that what Martin Luther King said in his “I Have a Dream” speech? This means that all prejudice based on what our society deems as “race,” must be banished from a Christian’s heart.

Second, we all live under, and are responsible to, God’s eternal law. He is always just in his judgments, so we, as His hands, feet, and voice on this earth, must also be just. Any white person who names the name of Christ, yet assumed Zimmerman’s innocence before having any evidence, would be violating God’s standards. Conversely, any black person who claims a Christian testimony, yet assumed Martin was innocent prior to hearing both sides of the story, would also be in violation of God’s justice.

Third, anyone who furthers attitudes of bitterness and resentment—whether white, black, or any shade in between—does not have God’s heart. We are called to do all we can to bring reconciliation, which requires repentance for any wrong attitude. No one can incite others to violence and have any credibility as a Christian.

What we have before us now is an opportunity to show the world that Christians of all colors can unite as one in Christ. I’m a member of a church that is multiracial; everyone is welcome regardless of ethnicity. Why? Because we recognize that we are all sons and daughters of the Most High. We will spend an eternity together, so we might as well get used to one another now. I teach classes comprised of white, black, Hispanic, and Asian students. While I know we all have different backgrounds and cultures, I also know that for those who are true Christians, there is no real divide.

Now is the time for those who have taken up the Cross and committed themselves to discipleship to stand out and be noticed for their love and unity. That’s God’s call to us in these troubled times. We need to be faithful to that call.