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.

Selma & History

This weekend saw the commemoration of the Selma march in 1965. It was one of those pivotal moments in the struggle for civil rights for blacks in America. This is the kind of commemoration that should be free from modern-day politics, one in which all Americans can point to the positive changes that have been made in American society against racial animus.

That is the ideal. The practice was something else. First, it is a shame that Barack Obama should be the face of this commemoration. He has done more than anyone in the last six years to re-divide our nation along racial lines, turning every conceivable incident into a charge of racism.

I also watched a video of Obama giving a speech in 2007 in which he claimed that Selma is what gave rise to his father coming over from Kenya, marrying his mom, and giving birth to the man who would one day be president. There’s only one problem with that. Selma took place in 1965; Obama was born in 1961. I’ll let you figure out the problem.

There also has been a media theme that Republicans refused to take part in this commemoration. Not true. George Bush was prominent in Selma for this event. Here’s a picture showing his participation in the march.

Obama participates in a march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama

You can see him and his wife, Laura, on the right. Yet when the vaunted New York Times, the supposed newspaper of record, put a photo of this re-created march on its front page, Bush was cropped out of the picture. Subtle hint?

Tim ScottBut Bush was not the only Republican representative there. One of the co-sponsors of the event was Republican senator Tim Scott of South Carolina. Scott is a conservative black senator, elected in a state that once was the cornerstone of slavery and racism in the country. Isn’t that called progress?

A Republican congresswoman from Alabama was another co-sponsor. Others, including Republican Majority Leader in the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, were also present. So the media theme is incorrect, and one can assume the inaccuracy was deliberate.

One also has to set aside history. The Republican Party began in 1854 as a result of disagreement with the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which opened the territories to the possibility of slavery. The Republican Party led the charge for the Reconstruction amendments to the Constitution that abolished slavery and opened up voting rights for blacks. Republican Theodore Roosevelt invited Booker T. Washington to have dinner with him in the White House, outraging Democrats everywhere. And the Republican Party supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in greater percentages than the Democrats. It was the Democrats who controlled the Southern states during the time of segregation. Probably the most racist American president was Democrat Woodrow Wilson.

But all of that is not relevant, I guess.

A couple more points to make about Obama’s participation. I can understand why he wants to be associated with this historic event, but let’s be honest. His mother was white and not subject to any racial animus. His father was from Kenya and had no real experience with American racism. His stepfather lived in Indonesia, again with no direct connection to the Civil Rights Movement. Obama himself grew up with all the privileges a young child could have—private school, scholarships to Columbia and Harvard. I doubt he faced any genuine persecution.

Alveda KingHow about a different face for this commemoration? How about the niece of Martin Luther King Jr., Dr. Alveda King? She suffered racism in her younger days. She remembers her uncle personally, unlike Obama. She is quite articulate. There’s a problem, though. Alveda King is a strong pro-life conservative. She doesn’t fit the current narrative. Too bad. She is more a representative of the Civil Rights Movement than Barack Obama ever will be.

We have come a long way. It’s time for those who continue to stir up racial strife to stop using the problems of the past for political gain today.

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.

A Post-Martin/Zimmerman World

We’re a few weeks away from the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman trial now. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson’s big day of protest didn’t go as well they’d hoped. Media attention has turned elsewhere, seeking out the next manufactured outrage, all the while missing the real stories:

See It Again

There are those, though, who are trying to keep things stoked. A group demanding the repeal of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law is occupying the state capitol in Tallahassee. For some reason, they are being allowed to do so. The governor, Rick Scott, has even met personally with them to talk and explain why he disagrees with them. He’s actually being very courteous to those who aren’t intent on reciprocating courtesy. One of their number even showed up with a painting the other day:

Mural

Anyone notice the rather slanted message? Zimmerman is portrayed as a cold-blooded killer; it hardly even looks like him. It’s more like artistic license to transform him into pure evil. And notice the incorporation of Martin Luther King. Civil rights is the supposed victim. The whole thing is pretty ludicrous, particularly when all those most involved—Trayvon’s defense team and his family—acknowledge that race was not an issue in the incident. For some, it has to be race; in their minds, there’s no other rationale.

Unfortunately, one of those with that mindset is still, for some reason, the head of the Department of Justice. I think Eric Holder has had to face reality and let the matter drop simply because there’s no evidence he can use to bring a federal indictment against Zimmerman. But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t tried:

Get Even

 Sneaky

I guess it’s “If at first, you don’t succeed . . . “

Put this fiasco to rest. Let Zimmerman lead his life; he was acquitted. Gently, but firmly, remove the occupiers in Florida. Not so gently and very firmly, remove Eric Holder from the DOJ. Accomplish all three, and law and order may be restored. It’s time to live in a post-Martin/Zimmerman world.

When the Department of Justice Undermines Justice

This has to be the most politically partisan Justice Department in American history. I want to be cautious in making such a bold statement; as a historian, I need to be careful not to exaggerate—there’s a whole lot of history to review. Yet consider the latest moves. In my state of Florida, the governor, Rick Scott, tasked the Florida Secretary of State to clean up the voter rolls to ensure that only American citizens were actually voting in elections. That sounds like common sense, doesn’t it? Only American citizens have that privilege, and if people are voting who should not be, that would be against the law. Also, based on the 2000 election—surely that hasn’t faded from anyone’s memory yet—it’s evident that even 500 invalid voters could determine the next president of the United States.

So what does the Justice Department, under Eric Holder, do? It is suing the state of Florida for moving forward with the effort to guarantee that only real voters are voting. Frankly, this is a stunner. The DOJ tries to justify its action by saying the effort was not approved by the Voting Rights Act. This is ludicrous, and only those who are hopeless Obama partisans can really believe the rationale. The DOJ declares, without proof, that this is discriminatory, aimed at minorities, especially Hispanics, since Florida has a large number of illegal immigrants. It implies that the effort is an attempt to purge the voter rolls of genuine Hispanic citizens who can vote. There is no evidence that this is behind the cleanup process; it’s merely a duty of government to make sure those who are ineligible to vote don’t break the law and unduly influence elections.

What does the DOJ want here? It’s not hard to believe the political appointees at the top, starting with Holder, want to look the other way if illegals vote. They know where those votes will go. To its credit, the government of Florida is now suing the Department of Homeland Security for refusing access to its database of illegals. Governor Scott has declared the cleanup will proceed. He is right to stand up to this obvious political ploy.

This comes on the heels of Holder’s attempt to stop states from requiring a photo ID for voting. Again, the old canard is dragged out to justify it: this is an attempt, they say, to depress minority voting. It’s fascinating where Holder sees discrimination and where he doesn’t. He’s the one who killed the prosecution of Black Panthers who stood outside a polling place in Philadelphia threatening voters. How are we to believe this isn’t political?

It was kind of funny last week when it became known that anyone wanting to meet the First Lady at a book signing had to provide a photo ID to be allowed access. So people need a photo ID for that, but not for voting? In fact, a photo ID is required for lots of things in our society:

It’s time to call their bluff. Florida has chosen to do so. More power to Governor Scott and his administration for standing up to federal bullies who misuse the authority of their offices for partisan purposes.

Obamacare & the Supremes

No, my title today is not the name of a new rock band. Today marks the opening arguments on the constitutionality of Obamacare before the Supreme Court. Good news would be a decision declaring it unconstitutional. Bad news would be a decision upholding it. But the worst news of all is that it comes down to nine people who may determine this for the whole nation, regardless of the ruling.

We have resigned ourselves to the idea that when the Supreme Court speaks, mere mortals must step aside. Yet the Court itself is comprised of mere mortals, not demi-gods. Some of them don’t even have any desire to inquire into the original intent or exact wording of the Constitution. A few have even suggested we look at what other nations do as our guide.

We didn’t used to have this awe over Supreme Court decisions. We used to believe we were a government made up of three co-equal branches, each of which was charged with maintaining constitutionality. When the president takes his oath of office, he says he will protect and defend the Constitution. That document gives Congress authority to remove certain types of cases from the federal purview in the courts. To my knowledge, Congress has never used that authority as leverage against unjust Court rulings.

This is what “check-and-balance” is all about.

Back in 1857, the Supreme Court ruled on the freedom of a black slave named Dred Scott. He was from Missouri, but his master took him into Illinois and Wisconsin, where they lived for a number of years. Both areas banned slavery, so later Scott sued for his freedom, saying he shouldn’t have been held as a slave because of his residence in those places. This was seen by slaveholders as a severe threat to their “right” to their “property.” Seven of the nine justices on the Court at that time were from the South, and all sought to uphold slavery.

The Chief Justice, Roger Taney, decided to use this case to lecture the nation on his concept of the Declaration of Independence, the supremacy of the white race, and the place of blacks in American society. In denying Scott his freedom, he said the Declaration didn’t apply to blacks and that no black person, slave or free, was to be considered a citizen of the United States. Consequently, Scott had no right even to bring the lawsuit. Further, the Congress had no authority to pass any law that limited slavery in any way throughout any state or territory in the Union.

This was a rather breathtaking decision. Did the entire nation bow down before the Supremes and meekly follow the “divine word”? Hardly. The new Republican party spoke out against the ruling, declaring it null and void. It had unconstitutionally denied the rights of all black persons, many of whom were free citizens who had voted in the past. It had said the Congress had no authority to pass laws about slavery when, in fact, it could pass whatever laws it saw fit for territories. The Supreme Court, dominated by a false ideology, had been wrong.

The Supreme Court today can be just as wrong. If it rules Obamacare constitutional, it will have trashed the Constitution. But that doesn’t have to be the final word. In November, we can elect enough members of Congress and a new president dedicated to repealing and replacing that dreadful healthcare bill.

Do we have the intelligence and desire to effect this change? Balance can be restored if we choose wisely. We can once again become a nation of three co-equal branches of government.

Personal Election Highlights

The high points in the past election for me center on the three states that I have called home throughout my life: Florida, Virginia, and Indiana. I’ve been a Floridian now for a little more than four years and am thrilled with Tuesday’s results here.

The whole nation was watching the Florida Senate race, wondering if Marco Rubio could succeed in a divided field—divided because current governor Charlie Crist, running as an independent, was attempting to take Republican votes away from him. While that might have been Crist’s original strategy, he had to shift over time to concentrate more on scraping together Democratic votes instead since most Republicans repudiated him and stayed loyal to Rubio. But hey, “shifting over time” is one of Crist’s talents:

If this signals the end of Crist’s political career, I will shed no tears. Rubio, meanwhile, is already perceived as a “rising star” in Republican circles. He needs to be careful and not let this go to his head. If he can remain as optimistic and as humble as he has been through this long campaign, his principled leadership can be a tremendous plus for the country. As long as he stays principled, he will continue to be effective.

The Florida governor’s race was extremely tight, but Republican Rick Scott pulled it out in the end. He had to overcome the challenge of a bitterly divided party after the primary. While some resentment remained, and he didn’t get the same level of support as Rubio, enough healing took place for him to eke out the victory by about one percentage point. The size of the victory doesn’t matter now, as long as he fulfills his promises. He wants to bring business expertise to the governor’s role and create a Florida that is business friendly. If he can do what is in his heart, state government will be leaner and more effective, and the state’s dismal unemployment figures will turn around. In my view, if anyone might be able to accomplish this, it will be Scott. His slogan for the campaign was “Let’s Get to Work.” Now he has his chance.

The Lakeland area also will be sending a man to Congress that it was an honor for me to support: Dennis Ross. I had lunch with him a few months ago just to get a feel for who he is. I came away convinced that his passion was for upholding the Constitution and maintaining integrity in government. It’s not often you have the opportunity to rally behind a person who understands the Founders’ concepts and who seeks to keep the federal government within its appointed boundaries. Dennis, I believe, is such a man. He not only will represent his district well, but by doing so, he will do what is best for the nation.

Honorable mention: Daniel Webster practically destroyed Alan Grayson, thereby kicking out of Congress one of the most obnoxious members ever to hold the office of representative. I will trade a radical, self-centered socialist for a Christian gentleman any day. Adieu, Mr. Grayson.  

On to Virginia, where my former state completed the transformation it began one year ago when it elected Bob McDonnell as its governor and Ken Cuccinelli as attorney general. This past Tuesday, three Democratic congressmen were given the door and replaced by conservatives who want to stand up to the Obama agenda.

Then there’s Indiana, which duplicated Virginia’s move by replacing a number of Democratic congressmen. In addition, it added a new old name to the Senate—Dan Coats. Coats had served previously in the Senate, then set aside politics for a number of years. He is a fine Christian gentleman who always served with integrity. New blood doesn’t have to come only from those who have never served before. Experience is also a valuable commodity.

Florida, Virginia, Indiana—all states that went for Obama in 2008. Now they are all overwhelmingly “reddish” in color. What a difference a mere two years can make, particularly when the president tries to fundamentally change the nature of America. Based on his press conference the day after the election, I still don’t think he grasps what really happened, and the part he personally played in this stunning defeat for his party:

If he stays the course and continues living in his fantasy world, 2012 could be just as devastating for him. If it is, I wonder if he’ll notice?