Establishment: What Does It Mean?

The media keeps throwing around the word “establishment.” In the almost-immortal words of The Princess Bride, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

What is the Republican establishment, and once we have identified it, does it really hate Donald Trump?

The problem is that the Republican party is particularly divided right now, and analysts keep insisting on confusing different groups who have different concerns.

Divided Elephant

They insist the “establishment” is trying to deny Trump the nomination. By that, they mean the power brokers in the party, the leadership of the Congress, and the donors. Perhaps they are trying to dump Trump, but I’m not entirely convinced. I think they are all too ready to be won over to his side simply because they are beginning to believe his Trumped-up claims of being a winner.

Yet those same analysts seem to lump into the establishment people like me. I fit into their predetermined classification of establishment because I’ve always gone along with whoever was chosen as the nominee, no matter how disappointed I’ve been with the picks.

But I’m not that easily categorized. You see, I will never be bought off like the established establishment might be. My concerns for the Republican party are secondary. Instead, I vote primarily for who most closely corresponds with the principles I believe in.

And if the Republican party crowns a nominee that undermines those principles, I will be AWOL.

So there are two different groups within the Republican party that are concerned about a Trump nomination. The first seeks power and influence above all, and if convinced Trump will allow that power to continue, no problem.

The second, to which I belong, says that if that power will corrupt constitutional principles, it would be immoral to lend support to anyone who will advance that corruption.

So, please, mainstream media, don’t lump me in with the first group. I am motivated differently. My concerns are not identical with those more devoted to party than principle.

As I’ve been saying in previous blogs and will reiterate here, I identify as a Christian principled constitutional conservative. That is who I am, and that identity will determine my vote.

Why I Am NeverTrump: An Apologetic

Increasingly, I’ve had people ask me, both in person and in writing (via Facebook, primarily), what I will do if faced with a decision between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in the general election. That question deserves a sober answer, and I will do my best today to achieve that. What I say won’t convince everyone, but it will be an honest response.

In the manner of good writing, as I teach my students, I begin with my thesis: I will never vote for either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump in a general election.

That stance will obviously raise genuine concerns and objections. I know, because I have raised the same concerns in the past. Let me provide that background and then do my best to explain my current position.

As a historian, I show my classes how a divided party and/or support for a third-party candidacy leads to someone else winning who might not have done so normally.

In previous elections, often saddled with a nominee I did not prefer, I would dutifully vote for that person anyway because the alternative was unthinkable. That’s why I voted for John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012.

I’ve always maintained, though, that if I could see no difference between the candidates, and if the Republican candidate was going to destroy the basic principles in which I believe, that I would have to consider other options.

That’s where I am today.

I’ve often said, when speaking to Republican groups, that I am first and foremost a Christian, secondly a constitutionalist, and then a Republican, and I will remain a Republican as long as my Christian constitutional beliefs are fairly represented by the party and its leaders. With Donald Trump as the presidential nominee, I believe my views would no longer be an essential ingredient of Republican politics and policies.

I look at Hillary Clinton—for whom I could never vote, not only because of who she is but because of what her party stands for—and Donald Trump, and I see so little difference in the potential for disaster that I cannot, with a clear conscience before God, vote for either one.

Hillary vs. Trump

The greatest objection is, of course, that it would be far more damaging to the country if a Clinton once again occupied the Oval Office. Surely, we are told, Trump can’t be nearly as bad as that.

I certainly have sympathy for that objection, and the prospect of a Hillary presidency sends chills down my Christian principled constitutionalist conservative spine. But after months of watching Trump’s antics, listening to his words (the same ones over and over), and reading his ongoing Twitter Tirade, I have concluded that he not only is just as awful as Hillary, but potentially more disastrous for the country.

I have written a litany of my concerns in other posts. I would recommend you go to my February 22 and March 14 posts (see the calendar on the sidebar for easy access), but I can summarize here:

  • Trump’s personal character is abominable, both in the past and now. He is both immoral and amoral, depending on the circumstance, and has no concept of repentance and the need for God’s forgiveness for his many sins. Instead, he is an arrogant braggart of the worst variety.
  • His past support for anti-Christian and anti-conservative policies and politicians is more the mark of the inner man than any current protestations of “conversion” to constitutional and conservative principles. He is basically unprincipled.
  • He displays an unfettered bitterness toward anyone who questions him seriously (e.g., Megyn Kelly) and carries on a juvenile stream of consciousness on Twitter wholly unbecoming of a presidential candidate.
  • He exemplifies the stereotype of the con artist who thinks he can sell to anyone, and unfortunately, with far too many of the electorate, he is proving his point.
  • He thinks he is smarter than anyone else. When asked with whom he consults on foreign policy, his response was (and I quote): “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things. . . . But my primary consultant is myself and I have, you know, a good instinct for this stuff.” I kid you not.

Meeting with Advisors

Those are only the outlines of my issues with Trump. As I said, for more specifics, go to those other posts.

Further, I believe a Trump candidacy will destroy what remains of principle in the Republican party. Both Hillary and Trump will be bad for the nation, but only Trump can take down the party with him. When both parties are then corrupted, we may be facing our own American Armageddon.

I do not answer to any person for my vote. I answer to God only. If I cannot, in good conscience, justify voting for Donald Trump, I would be unfaithful to God if I proceeded to do so anyway. I could not live with that.

There is talk of the rise of another party to counter the Republicans should the inexcusable occur and Trump becomes the nominee. The only time in American history when that worked was when the Whig party, divided over the issue of slavery, bit the dust. Out of the ashes, another party emerged: it was called Republican.

If the current version of the Republican party fractures itself in the same manner as the Whigs did in the early 1850s, there is the possibility that a new party could rise up to take its place, but that is just speculation for now. I’m not yet ready to sign on for a new party; I would prefer that Republicans come to their senses instead.

This campaign season is not over. There still is a chance that Trump can be derailed on his way to party domination. No, the answer is not John Kasich.

Aced It

He lives in the fantasy that everyone will turn to him in a contested convention. That will not happen. Even most Republicans are a little tired of him:

Mailman

Our only hope is Ted Cruz, who is a strong Christian, who stands on principle, who believes in and defends the Constitution wholeheartedly, and who truly understands the conservative philosophy of government and life.

We’re told he cannot win enough delegates prior to the convention. That may be true. But if he wins enough to keep Trump from the magic 1237 number, the convention can then decide between the two, and it is still possible that principle will prevail and the Republican party won’t commit suicide.

By the way, when people say to me that not voting for Trump in a general election will guarantee a Clinton presidency, and that I will be to blame for that, my response is this:

No, your support of Trump in the primaries is what caused a Clinton presidency. You chose to jump on board a train that was destined to crash and burn. I am not to blame for that. Rather, you put me in a position where I could not conscientiously vote for a man who is uncategorically unfit for the office of the presidency. Before God, I could do no other than withdraw my support.

I come to this conclusion with a heavy heart, but we are not yet at the point of despair, or at least we shouldn’t be. The primary season looms before us still. Many states will make their choice between now and the convention. If we can avoid a Trump nomination, a Republican presidency, with a man who may be the best nominee the party has put before the voters since Ronald Reagan, is yet within reach.

And on the Democrat Side . . .

More attention has been given to the Republican race for the nomination than what’s happening on the Democrat side. Yet I want to give the Democrats their due. If the Republicans can put forward such a woeful frontrunner, why not the Democrats as well? And they have a doozy of a frontrunner with quite a record:

Hillary's Lies

For a while, Bernie Sanders gave Hillary a minor scare, but everyone knew the fix was in regardless. With all the so-called “super-delegates” in her corner, he never had a chance. Not that I want an old socialist to have a chance at the brass ring, but when it comes right down to it, there’s little difference between Sanders and Hillary. She just takes more money from Wall Street (while saying she doesn’t).

It looks now as if Sanders is an also-ran, but there’s a new race Hillary’s in, whether she’s willing to admit it or not:

Left Bernie

Yes, that pesky FBI investigation continues, along with the threat of an indictment. Other political cartoonists have picked up on the same theme as illustrated above:

Frontrunner

Running Mates

Her campaign slogan, “Ready for Hillary,” has a new twist:

Ready for Hillary

One can hope.

Yet, if an indictment is held off long enough, she may have an ace in the hole:

Pardon Myself

I know that the mainstream media likes to promote the idea that Richard Nixon was the epitome of political corruption, while ignoring what other presidents of the Democrat variety have done (anyone remember another Clinton?), but the allegations against Hillary, if proven legally, will dwarf anything Nixon did to protect members of his administration:

Big Shoes

The last thing I want is for both parties to put forth the most corrupt, most immoral candidates possible. I’ll conclude with the same cartoon I used yesterday to explain where I stand:

Wall We'd Pay For

Another “Just Say No” Program

Missouri is still too close to call between Cruz and Trump. Other than that, Kasich took his home state of Ohio and Trump took Illinois, Florida, and North Carolina. There’s no denying Trump got the majority of the delegates and is closer than ever to the nomination. That’s truly sad. It’s the Republican party’s version of something that I think is going on in sports this week:

March Madness

Madness is not too strong a term for what is transpiring. Republicans are on the cusp of nominating the most corrupt, most immoral, most arrogant candidate in the history of this fabled party. He’s closer in temperament and character to a juvenile delinquent (are we still allowed to use an esteem-damaging term like that?) than to a serious candidate with answers to the governmental problems we face.

Ask him what he would do—and this applies to any issue—and he will respond that he is so amazing he can cut a great deal and he gets along with everyone and America is going to be great again and anyone who thinks otherwise is nasty and the wall with Mexico just got ten feet higher and he will surround himself with the best people and did he mention how amazing he is and everything will now be tremendous and everyone will love what he will do and did he forget to mention that he gets along with everyone and his supporters are the most loyal in the country and they will vote for him even if he shoots someone dead on Fifth Avenue. And he’s amazing.

I'm Amazing

No one can be allowed to criticize The Donald without being warned of dire consequences and if the Republican convention should nominate someone else if he hasn’t reached the 1237 delegates needed to gain the nomination outright, there might be riots. Not that he’s hinting to his most rabid followers that he would approve such a measure. Of course not.

And all that talk about business failures and lawsuits for fraud is just “little stuff,” nothing to be bothered about:

Belly Up

What has come over Republican primary voters? What is missing here?

Common Sense

Marco Rubio, after losing his home state of Florida by about 20 points, finally faced up to the truth that he had no path to the nomination. His concession speech was superb and I appreciate the strong Christian message it contained.

Yet it came a few weeks too late. His decision to remain in the race probably cost Cruz North Carolina and possibly Missouri, thereby giving Trump more delegates than he would have earned in a direct one-on-one with Cruz.

Studies show that 47% of Rubio supporters will probably now go for Cruz, while only 13% will migrate over to Trump. Another 27% would go to . . .

Oh, yes, there is still another person in the race. John Kasich performed a valuable service in denying Trump Ohio’s delegates, but he has done his job for the good of the country and needs to step aside. However, he is saying he will go all the way to the convention and eventually get the nomination when they all turn to him as the savior of the party.

Kasich is living in a dream world now. He is already mathematically out of the running for enough delegates. His stubborn resistance to the reality of his situation will only drain more votes from Cruz, the only candidate left with any chance at all to derail Trump.

The party of Lincoln is about to commit suicide. One wonders what Lincoln would have thought of these developments.

No

Another “Just Say No” program would be very welcome at this point.

Are we doomed to endure a Trump-Clinton choice?

Wall We'd Pay For

I’m not content to settle for that. I will continue to hope and pray for the Cruz alternative.

On Being Christian, Principled, Constitutional, & Conservative

On this day after Super Tuesday II, I would like to simply review what I wrote a couple of days ago about how I believe we should make our voting decisions. In that earlier post, I wrote about a Christian principled constitutional conservatism. In summary, I stated the following:

  • If you claim to be a Christian, you ought to seek out a candidate who shares your Christian faith and has the life to back it up. At the very least, you should find someone who respects Christian faith and will promote religious liberty.
  • If you say you are principled, you should examine carefully the principles of those wanting your vote. If they are opposite to what you say is essential, or if the person seems to have no principles except “winning,” you should avoid supporting such a person.
  • If you express devotion to the Constitution and the rule of law, your candidate should do so as well. If that candidate rarely mentions either one, and seems to admire other leaders who are powerful, that should be a distinct warning sign that you should look elsewhere for a standard-bearer.
  • If you say you are a conservative, you should want someone who is steeped in conservative thought, understanding the foundations of that approach, and clearly enunciating conservative policies. If, instead, that candidate has never shown any connection to real conservatism, you probably shouldn’t believe any recent professions of conservative values.

Donald Trump fails on all four of these criteria. He doesn’t just fail marginally; he is a total wipeout in all of these areas. Yet he is now on the cusp of becoming the Republican nominee for president.

There are certain dangers we ought to avoid:

Trump Ballot

I’ll offer a more comprehensive analysis in tomorrow’s post, but I just wanted to sound the alarm today. Is anyone listening?

Another critical election looms. With each new round of presidential elections, I tend to be astounded by the way people vote—usually without any solid foundational thinking. So I decided to publish how I approach this very serious responsibility.

Here, therefore, is my attempt at a personal manifesto.

I believe in Christian principled constitutional conservatism. Let me now explain what that means to me.

Christian

Jesus Christ is Lord of all aspects of life. My own life would have no meaning without His love, His forgiveness, and His direction for me. Politics and government fall under His Lordship. Consequently, whenever I think on those issues, I do so with a desire to ensure that His truth is the cornerstone for all governmental policies.

Biblical WorldviewI want to see all of the vital questions before us through the lens of Biblical faith and solid doctrine. I want a Biblical approach to the way government is organized and I want, as much as possible, people serving in that government who are dedicated Christians. Where that is not the case, I at least want to support those who are not hostile to Christian faith, but have respect for liberty of conscience.

I seek to help put into practice a Christian worldview on all manner of legislation, whether that be right to life/abortion, religious liberty, marriage, taxes, education, welfare, immigration—well, that’s the short list. I believe that no matter what the issue, there is a Biblical way to understand that issue.

Principled

PrinciplesI shouldn’t have to make this a separate section. Christians ought to be, simply by the nature of their relationship to God and truth, naturally principled. However, I am dismayed by how often those who profess the name of Christ make disastrously unprincipled decisions. They allow emotions or self-interest to set aside what they claim to believe.

What principles mean the most to me?

  • The inherent value of human life—we are all created in the image of God.
  • The concept of self-government—God has so designed us to grow into maturity and make most decisions ourselves without the oversight of civil government. Not only individuals, but families, churches, voluntary organizations, etc., should be free of undue government influence.
  • The sanctity of private property—government has no mandate from God to be our overlord on economic matters; He instead, as part of our maturity, seeks to teach us how to be His stewards of all types of property: money, material goods, our minds, and the free will He has given us.
  • Voluntary association without the force of government coming down on us—people only unite when they are united, and that unity is internal, not provided by government coercion.
  • Christian character—God intended us to carry out our lives as reflections of Him; the world only works correctly when we do things His way.
  • Sowing and reaping—man is accountable for his actions, and he will receive back what he has sown: if obedience to God, blessings; if disobedience, dire consequences; we can’t blame society and claim victimhood status in God’s eyes because He will always hold us personally responsible for our choices, whether right or wrong.

Constitutional

I believe in the concept of the rule of law, meaning no man, regardless of high rank in society, is above the law. We all are to be judged by the same standard.

Constitutional ConventionI believe in the system set up in this nation through the Constitution that gave us a solid basis for the rule of law.

I believe we need to hold firm to the original meaning of those words in our Constitution and not allow judges, legislators, or presidents to stray from the limited authority granted in that document.

Changes to the authority given to our federal government must go through the proper constitutional channel: the amendment process as outlined in the Constitution. A judge’s gavel is not a magic wand.

Anyone running for the presidency or for Congress, and anyone nominated for a federal judgeship, at whatever level, all the way to the Supreme Court, must pass muster as constitutionalists. No one who denigrates the rule of law should ever be supported for public office.

Conservative

Nash BookThis is a relative term. In a totalitarian system, a conservative would be one who wants to conserve totalitarianism. But in our system, a true conservative is someone who seeks to conserve what the Founders established. Often that can happen only by acting to overturn or reverse what has been done to destroy the Founders’ ideals. If a revolution has occurred, a real conservative might have to take on the nature of a counterrevolutionary in order to reestablish the foundations.

Conservatism does not merely conserve the status quo—if that status quo is a deviation from the constitutional system bequeathed to us.

Conservatism is not “reactionary”; it is a positive movement to secure the blessings of liberty to us and to future generations.

Application

As I survey the political field in this upcoming election cycle, and as I think through everything I wrote above, this is where I come out.

First, I can never support the Democrat party. Its very tenets are antithetical to my basic Christian beliefs; its principles are the opposite of mine; its radical anti-constitutionalism is in the process of destroying the rule of law; and rather than seeking to conserve the Founders’ ideals, it instead foments a secular, Marxist revolution against those ideals.

On the Republican side, I find that the current frontrunner, Donald Trump, has no real grasp of Christian faith and only pays lip service to its tenets, as far as he may understand them—which is not very far. I also don’t trust him to protect religious liberty.

Ted Cruz, on the other hand, has a Christian testimony that I believe stands the test. I don’t see lip service only, but a commitment to the truths of the faith.

Trump-Cruz

Trump, with respect to principles, falls far short. In fact, it seems to me the only principle he follows is whatever promotes himself. Does he really believe in the sanctity of life when he defends Planned Parenthood? Can we trust him on religious liberty? Will he use the government to strongarm people who disagree with him, or perhaps prosecute them for their disagreements? I have no confidence in him on any of those issues.

Cruz, though, is about as principled a politician as I can find at the presidential level. When I look at those principles that I listed above, I see him as solid on them all. Why? He has proven to be faithful to them in public office thus far.

Does Donald Trump even know we have a Constitution that set up a limited government? He never talks about it. It’s obviously not a priority for him as he seeks the highest office in the land. He has even hinted—well, more than hinted—that maybe there should be some curtailment of political expression, that maybe there should be more lawsuits against the press.

Now, as much as I may criticize the American press—in print, on television, and on the Internet—any curtailment of political opinions sends a chill up my spine. Under a Trump administration, would this blog be considered a target if I should deign to criticize our fearless leader?

Ted Cruz is a staunch defender of the Constitution as intended by the Founders. How do I know? Again, look at his record. Restoring constitutional thinking and practice has been his life’s work.

Donald Trump is no conservative, at least as defined in the American context. He has not been schooled in conservative thought and has a record of supporting key Democrats throughout his career. When you give a lot of money to Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Barack Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, etc., etc., you are not only not conservative, but you are helping the enemies of constitutional conservatism propagate their radical revolution.

Ted Cruz, meanwhile, is the most consistent conservative left in the Republican presidential field. I am entirely comfortable with his understanding of how conservatism should play out in our constitutional system.

This, then, is how I approach thinking about politics and government. This determines how I vote.

I only hope these few thoughts will prove helpful to those who are trying to make sense of the decision before us.

Last Night’s Miami Showdown

The Republican debate in Miami last night was a substantive event, especially for Cruz and Rubio. They ran rings around Trump when it came to knowledge of policy while he repeated his tired old lines about how everything in a Trump presidency will be “great” and how he will ensure that all the deals he will make will be “good.” Thesaurus anyone?

Trying very hard to look presidential, Trump refrained for the first time from interrupting the others (except for one swipe at Cruz). That actually allowed a genuine debate to take place.

March Miami Debate

For Rubio, this may have been the last gasp, and he took advantage of it, having his best debate ever. He was relaxed and confident, at ease in his home territory and schooling Trump on the problems with Cuba, in particular.

Cruz turned in a fine performance—solid, steady, and knowledgeable, as always. He may have stumbled a couple of times when appealing to people to join his campaign as the only one that can beat Trump. Not that he wasn’t correct, but it was a departure from the issue orientation of the evening.

In the same way as Rubio gave a lesson on the Cuban dictatorship to Trump, Cruz showed the frontrunner that a senator with a sharp legal background knows more about trade and tariffs than the supposed successful businessman. The Frank Luntz focus group gave Cruz a 100 on their dials when he explained how he would deal with the corrupt Washington establishment.

Cruz also scored with his impassioned support of Israel and the foolishness of being neutral between Israel and Palestinian terrorists. Trump then declared that he was the greatest supporter of Israel on the stage—without any corroborating evidence other than having Jewish friends and relatives. It was kind of humorous, in a sad way.

I’ll even admit that Kasich was better than usual, less annoying overall. But even if he wins his home state of Ohio, that will be the high point of his campaign.

Although Trump did put on a more presidential veneer, his constant air of superiority never diminished. It’s just so hard to watch that demeanor without wanting to shake the man and remind him he’s only a human being, not a mini-god.

And he apparently couldn’t help himself when he decided to step on Ben Carson’s news, to be broken today in a press conference, that he will support Trump. He couldn’t wait to allow Carson to make that statement first; he announced it in the debate.

So Ben Carson, whom Trump basically accused of being a child abuser, has no problem forgiving him for such comments, yet somehow can’t forgive Cruz for what overeager supporters did in Iowa?

Carson, the one who constantly called for civility in the campaign, is now endorsing the chief proponent of incivility?

I’ve always respected Carson, but this endorsement, following on his unwillingness to accept Cruz’s apologies, has diminished the man considerably. I hope he will eventually see the error of his ways.

Will this debate have any effect on Tuesday’s primaries? Will it give Rubio the surge he wants in Florida? Will Kasich hold off Trump in Ohio? Will Cruz be able to grab the huge delegate pool in North Carolina (larger even than Ohio’s)?

We await the results. The future of the republic may depend on what transpires next week.