The New Republican

Ever since the Obama reelection landslide last November, the Republican party has been trying to establish a cohesive creed. What should a Republican look like now? Is it time to abandon the way the party’s always done things?

The country I know and love was founded on several immutable truths stemming from the reality of a Creator who governs the affairs of men. There are natural laws that the government must respect for a republic such as ours to be successful, such as the right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, private property, etc. As of late, however, our country is increasingly taking on the appearance of a democracy. Not so much in the apparatus of government, but in that popularity of an idea trumps the moral value of that idea. Polls dominate the punditry. Majority opinion is the stuff of talking points. Sweeping election victories are seen as mandates. Principles are now, in many cases, subject to whims of increasingly degenerate constituencies.

And so it came to be that the names of the two American parties are now at war for the heart of the nation: Should our government be a democracy or a republic?

The GOP is filled with the vestiges of tradition and, in some cases, virtues of an era gone by. Some of those traditions and virtues are as old as our founding documents, such as defense of the right to life. Some came about later, such as championing civil rights in the 1960s. But the Republican platform has remained more or less steady in its virtue by focusing not on people, but principles. That is a strength that cannot be overstated.

The Democrats, on the other hand, shape-shift in order to mirror the shifting tide of morality in 21st-century America. True to their name, if a sea change occurs in the citizenry, the Democrats will have charted it and adjusted their target voter demographics accordingly. In stark contrast, the Republican party has sat like an old boulder on the shore. It has held firm on many of social issues now considered jurassic by the far left, and at the very least, fatally outdated by a strong majority that includes the moderates. It appears that sacrificing the principles of the republic in favor of receiving votes of a democratically minded majority might be the only move left.

Amnesty for undocumented immigrants, legalizing gay marriage, and “reproductive rights” (code for unlimited abortion) comprise the vanguard of the war the cultural movers and shakers are waging to try to relegate the GOP to the history books. It’s becoming clear that the only way to retain any sort of political clout in the future is for the party to embrace the “clear wisdom” of these issues and adopt them into the party platform.

Doing so will officially mark the end of our republic as we know it. Our republic was not built upon majority opinions (the very definition of a democracy), but upon the truth of the Bible and the rights that naturally follow from accepting its truth. That is a fact, not an opinion. What does the GOP have if not truth? Will it stand up to the great danger of our lifetimes, moral relativism, or bow down to it? Pay close attention to upcoming elections. The campaign lines you will hear from Republican candidates will indicate which choice they have made.

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A Government of Laws

In recent discussions with at least two different liberals, I have encountered variations of the following assertion after a discussion about federal individual assistance programs: “Government is you and me, not some nebulous, inherently ‘other’ thing.” Oh, really. And this supreme tidbit of insight was where, exactly, from 2000 to 2008?

John Adams once added the idea of “a government of laws, and not of men” to the Massachusetts constitution. Adams, who, along with thousands of others in his day, lived under the subjective edicts of King George, grew to realize that laws are universal, and (ideally) not at the whim of the current ruler. This idea became the very crux of our system of government. Laws must reflect the fact that all men are created equal. Preference cannot be made in the heat of the moment or based on temporary circumstances.

I think Adams’ concept has a second meaning. Government is comprised of men, yes, but only in the capacity to enforce laws that ensure liberty for all men. We drift towards dangerous waters when we think of the government as some organic, emotional creature like a human, or a group of humans. Men have a subjective bent and need constant magnetization to the truth. Has the decadence of great empires not taught us that cultures fade into complacency over time as men begin to accept gifts and subjectively-granted rights from their government? It is imperative that the federal government of America is not viewed as a collective gathering of men who seek to pool their resources for the common good.

Cliche as they are in today’s political discourse, the Constitution and its companion, the Declaration of Independence, still provide not only an excellent legal basis for our federal government, but also serve as a compass for our notion of government. What we have is a system that designates a necessary but highly dangerous entity to hold together individual and otherwise independent states. We have a system of restrictions on that entity, not empowerment of that entity for the very subjective idea of “greater good”. It’s vital to the long-term health of this republic that we do not succumb to our emotions and sympathies by consenting to an excess of “compassionate” programs.

“Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” – George Washington

Lost in Translation, Part 1: The Entitlement Mentality

American politics is a different animal. If you’re not careful, you might start believing, as many do without realizing it, that our state and federal governments are above the laws of human nature, economics, and finance. A lot of politicians and political aficionados might seem pretty normal talking about the weather or a recent doctor’s visit, but start discussing the federal government and you’re likely to witness some pretty amazing mental gymnastics. Somewhere in the development of a political philosophy, principles generally recognized as “common sense” begin to give way to what some call “Washington speak.” These next few articles will highlight just a few widely-accepted laws of nature governing personal and family issues that get “lost in translation” as people distort or simply ignore them when trying to reinforce their political argument.

The first is an entitlement mentality.

If you had even halfway decent parents growing up, you know that they sometimes said “No.” Ever considered why? At some point, we all came to realize that their refusal to give us everything we wanted was actually for our benefit. If you get what you want, when you want, every time, you come to expect immediate gratification in all areas of life. Your life becomes increasingly egocentric and artificial. And when you hit the real world and the gravy train stops, you’re left with lots of unanswered questions and an incredible sense of loss. Of course, the preventive cure is delaying pleasure and working hard throughout your formative years.

Do these principles hold true for people already out on their own? We all know they do. If that guy’s rich daddy bails him out every time he partied a little too hardy over the weekend, what would we say about him? “He hasn’t grown up yet.” If that girl’s credit cards keep getting maxed out and she runs to mom for a new one every time, would we think she was a well-rounded individual? Of course we wouldn’t. With a good upbringing that emphasized diligence and self-respect, it’s likely you’ll turn out okay, no matter your place in the rat race we call the American economy. You will probably be a self-starter and won’t view government entitlement programs as desirable. However, anything that comes free has the potential to addict. Money, especially, is no exception.

More food stamps have been handed out in the past couple of years than at any time in American history. Does this trend negatively or positively? Are entitlements now desirable? Politicians’ claims that unemployment benefits are the best stimulus for the economy still cannot change human nature: people will gravitate towards what is easy and free. Even the best of people. Those without the tools to deal with hardship and want will gobble up such benefits without a second thought. Those with a good work ethic will slowly be corrupted by the allure of entitlement. This irrefutable fact of life is crucial to a child’s upbringing, yet is routinely lost in the clamor of competing political worldviews. Does the passage of money through the hands of Washington politicians cleanse the currency of its addictive nature? If not, then why are there so many otherwise clear-thinking adults who favor a more robust social welfare net?

Entitlements make people of any age feel entitled. Obviously, people can fight off this crippling mentality, but the danger is nonetheless there. With the number and scope of federal entitlement programs on the rise, we must honestly assess the path that our nation is on. Will an entitlement mentality overcome our desire to help ourselves, or will we keep hoping that welfare programs will give us just the push we are looking for to get us out of economic malaise before the detrimental effects of free money fatally infect us?

Herman Cain: The Perfect President

GOP Presidential candidate Herman Cain’s face was a constant front-page fixture the last several weeks, thanks to a few women who have come forward to claim they were sexually harassed by Cain. I’ll make no bones about it, I’ve been a vocal Cain supporter thus far, and it pains me to see something of this nature surface. But I knew it would once Cain began consistently leading his Republican rivals in the polls. It is unknown who leaked the original story to POLITICO, but the details are still sketchy, and the allegations include behavior that is generally not inappropriate. One woman claims that Cain ushered her into a taxi following a night out with a larger group, after which she found herself in his corporate apartment the next morning. Funny thing is, no one saw what went on in the apartment or even specifically saw Cain hail a cab. As they stand now, the allegations are flimsy at best, and slanderous at worst.

Aside from the dirty, scattered, largely undocumented accusations, no one seems to be addressing the pink elephant in the room, and it’s a question Cain should be leveling at POLITICO: All this is a problem… How, exactly?

First of all, he is black. That makes him Presidential material right off the bat, if you’re a leftist who believes blacks in high office assuage the guilt we Caucasians all should feel for enslaving their ancestors. I mean, Obama was the best thing since… well, just since. It doesn’t get much better than him. He must be pretty darn golden, considering the number of questionable associations the media all but overlooked during the 2008 campaign.

Also, Cain is embroiled in sex scandal after sex scandal (though all seem to mysteriously come from the same small time period he worked at the National Restaurant Association – a very small time period in comparison to his rather impressive career as a whole. Nevermind that.). Bill Clinton, the darling of the left, was, well you know – he liked to get a little frisky. Lewinsky, Flowers, Jones… Clinton couldn’t keep it in his pants, and where did it get him? Sainthood. Obama has repeatedly consulted the 42nd President for advice, and Clinton’s voice is heard with relative regularity in political discourse compared with the now-elusive Bush. He’s still loved by Democrats for his “moderate” politics, his ability to reach across the aisle, his “surplus” (see my post on Social Security to get the skinny on that incredibly ill-conceived term for what Bill Clinton actually had), and his suave manner. The stain on the blue dress? Why, that was nothing more than a smudge on his sterling reputation. It’s the politics that count, man! Cain, on the other hand, for even comparing a woman’s height to that of his own wife (wow, what a pick-up line!) or casually inviting a woman to his hotel room (then dropping the matter when she refused), is a scoundrel wholly unfit for the Oval Office where Clinton, well, yeah we remember.

The rampant coverage of these accusations, therefore, begs the question: Are the media grooming Cain to be the perfect President? An alleged sexual deviant of African descent – does it get any better than that?

A Changed Perspective

The darkness was thick. I’d never seen a sky so black or filled with such brilliant points of light. “Light pollution” to the north, where my gaze was fixed, was non-existent. On this hot, steamy August night on the Atlantic coast, minutes from downtown Montecristi, Dominican Republic, as I considered how much electricity my hometown of Nashville, Tennessee must generate to outshine the stars, my Perspective changed.

When I slammed the old, metal rake onto the dirt floor of the church building I was helping to construct, I felt like my muscles had nothing left. I was running on fumes in the late summer heat. All morning and the entire day before were spent hauling 8″ x 12″ concrete blocks up to the roof. Today we were leveling the dirt for the cement slab they would be pouring when the funds came in. I used muscles I had forgotten since my first trip to Montecristi when we dug 119 holes out in the desert to pour homemade concrete footers for fence posts… Ugh, not a friendly memory at the moment… I just wanted to lay down for a bit… After some water, of course……….. Back to reality. We were just finishing up grading the floor. It had to be exactly four inches below the little cords we had strung tightly across the room. And the dirt was like particles of stone. There was absolutely no moisture in it. How did people manage to do this for thousands of years before the bulldozer was contrived? Sure, we were in the shade, but good grief, this was torture! I contemplated the incredible advances my own country had made during this return trip to Montecristi, and my Perspective changed.

“Don’t drink the water,” they said. “Oh, and make sure you don’t flush the toilet paper.” Ooookay? I stood in the cold shower, remembering the warnings they had given me before I landed in Montecristi and concentrating hard on keeping the water out of my mouth as it dripped at very low pressure from the shower head. What if I contract a water-borne illness down here? What if something like that got into the water supply at home? I hastily dried off and stepped away from the phobia-inducing water. My Perspective had changed.

I knew changes in temperature could really be nice. Stepping into a warm vehicle on a cold, windy day was pleasant. A cool swimming pool after a long day working outside in July was always a welcome treat. If I’m honest, though, I would admit I had never gone more than, heck, I don’t know, 16 hours? without returning to a nice 70-degree room. And then I stepped into the international airport in Santiago, Dominican Republic. Oh. My. Goodness. AIR CONDITIONING – for the first time in about a week. My Perspective changed in a hurry.

Tiananmen Square, Beijing – a vast space befitting a vast country full of human life. There was the Forbidden City, the flags, the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong. Such profound history, but my eyes kept returning to the sky. It was impossible to tell if the sun was behind a gigantic, homogeneous cloud, or if dense smog was responsible for the haze. Maybe the clouds and smog were one and the same. Anyway, in a city of 17 million people, with five gridlocked rings of superhighway enclosing the city, there was bound to be some pollution. I just didn’t realize how severe it could be. My breathing felt unimpeded. But I took note and mentally contrasted images of American cities to this immense Chinese metropolis. I walked around in that bleakness that should’ve been dazzling sunlight at 11 a.m. And my Perspective changed.

For the first 18 years of my life, all I knew was the pervasive comforts of good ol’ United States prosperity. I didn’t give much thought to the processes that were necessary to make my life not just good, not just really good, but really, really good. I wasn’t precisely ignorant about the years of innovation, raw man-hours, risk of capital, and resilient effort that led to the environment in which I had lived up to that point; I mean, I’m a reasonably intelligent individual, so I knew things didn’t just happen on their own. And sure, I knew about the starving children in Africa. I knew about the elemental hardships of many Middle East dwellers. I knew that millions of Asians are threatened by epic floods every year. I wasn’t exactly sheltered. But then again, when I got my fill of the harsh realities in the world beyond my air-conditioned, sanitary, insulated, protected bubble, I could always just utilize the steady power coming from the outlets in my spacious house and fire up the Xbox.

It would be dishonest to say I don’t sometimes mentally block out the unrelenting poverty and inconvenience that I know exists outside of my country. But I can’t “un-see” what I have seen. The chains of thought that rose to consciousness when those scenes of discomfort and wonder passed before my senses are now awake in perpetuity. There is no escaping them; the mental hiatuses I periodically engage in leave me feeling shallow at their conclusion. I also can’t say I’m grateful as much as I should be. I take much for granted. However, one thing is certain: these experiences have made me fall deeper in love with my country and the things that have granted me comforts I did not earn. My Perspective isn’t perfectly rounded. But one thing it’s not is rough around the edges. I know what I have here. I know what miracles surround me. I know what selflessness ushered in the comparably endless riches that I skim over every single day.

With this Perspective in mind, I look upon those currently protesting in the streets – the graded, finely paved thoroughfares that are nothing more than pothole-ridden stretches of rough concrete on some major highways of the world – and in the grass – ah, what a luxury that rich, green foliage is on the eyes for someone who lives in the scorched deserts of northern Dominican Republic – of our cities – our clean, relatively unpolluted population centers where garbage is generally kept in bins rather than stinking heaps in the corners of the street – and I am deeply moved. At one time, I reached only for anger at such people, and unfortunately I still do at times. But below that anger is profound sadness. Sadness for people who protest the gap between their own wealth and the wealth of the richest citizens of their own land. Sadness for people who have the ability to see what is happening around the world and instead narrow their field of vision to the relatively minuscule difference between their affluence and that of others in the skyscrapers – each one a veritable miracle of architecture – above them.

Sadness for people who do not yet have a changed Perspective.

A Union I Support

Unions have been on the decline for some time now. In 2010, about 12 out of every 100 Americans held union membership, down from just over 12/100 the year before. Some say this is a good thing, as unions have continued to grow fat on ballooning pensions and passing the costs on to taxpayers or fellow junior members of their organizations. Others say this is a sign that workers’ rights are being more and more threatened as union protection shrivels.

Those of the latter opinion are a fickle bunch. Not only did they excuse President Obama for calling for a temporary freeze in union wages while viciously condemning WI Governor Scott Walker for passing state union cuts that were far less harsh,  but they seem to be only for “unions” in the official sense of the word: the sense that implies Democrat loyalty, receipt of pensions and benefits regardless of cost, and “solidarity” with those of the same stripe. Any other type of union constitutes a threat, an enemy, a bought-and-paid mouthpiece for an evil corporation, or…. Just something really sinister, even if they can’t really explain why.

Late into the Bush 43 administration, the workers of main street, Wall Street, and a hodgepodge of others in between began to unite. It was a national movement but strangely had no substantive nucleus. Loose bonds linked groups across the country but centralization was kept to a minimum, and this helped make it the quintessential union: anti-establishment, pro-rights, advocacy for economic improvement, and demanding those at the top play fair.

The inauguration of President Obama galvanized this grassroots organization into decisive action. When it became clear on the campaign trail that our first black President-to-be would further the agenda of the Washington elites (the target of this union’s activism), the group’s rolls swelled exponentially. People who demanded responsibility and accountability from their federal and state governments flocked to the meetings of local chapters.

There were no membership dues; no one made unilateral executive decisions; and only general principles tied the wider movement together with loose bonds. The name of the game was localized solutions to national problems. The group has probably been the most dynamic union ever formed. Its action to reform the establishment to create a better America came in all shapes and sizes, from efforts to minimize voter fraud; to educational seminars on civics, the Constitution, history, and many other subjects; to vetting candidates in local races.

But ever since the organization hit its zenith during the passage of Obamacare last year, traditional union members (you know, the ones from whom you expected to have the most support, considering the popular rallying cry of “Solidarity”) and several Democrat politicians have come out in force to blast the young, unorthodox union. Yes, the AFL-CIO, SEIU, and other populous unions have waged a continuous assault on fellow American workers, almost solely because they were in an independent union that refused to blindly proliferate Democrat power.

By now, you have probably ascertained that the union of which I speak is the Tea Party. Yes, this most polarizing of all unions bears the brunt of mockery and vitriol in today’s political climate, and not just from other groups of workers in the Democrat-philic acronym-sporting organizations. Virtually every committed leftist hates – no, abhors – the Tea Party, despite its resemblance to their own faithful card-carriers. This leads to an obvious hypothesis: Maybe American unions exist primarily to feed a codependent Democrat party and don’t actually care about the long-term well-being of their members or others who use similar tactics. Just a thought.

Was Anwar Al-Awlaki’s Assassination Legal?

The assassination of Anwar Al-Awlaki, unlike that of Osama Bin Laden, creates some tricky legal dilemmas due to Al-Awlaki’s American citizenship. The once-moderate Muslim cleric who taught at a handful of mosques in the U.S. had ties to major terrorist events – ties that have slowly but surely come to light over the last few years. Like Bin Laden, he was linked to a couple of the September 11th hijackers, as well as Nidal Hasan (the Fort Hood shooter) and the underwear bomber of recent infamy.

His actions are, in essence, the same as Bin Laden’s, who was never primarily known for acts of jihad himself (at least not of the caliber of the Sept 11th hijackers or Hasan), but rather for providing the strategy and/or inspiration for these attacks. Several of the usual suspects cried “foul” at bin Laden’s assassination, but since he was no American citizen, the legal hubbub died in its infancy. Al-Awlaki’s targeted killing is quite a different story.

After careful consideration and study, I have determined that Al-Awlaki’s removal poses no substantive Constitutional problems. The biggest question is that of a declaration of war against Al Qaeda. There has been some confusion on this point. While there was never a nominal declaration against the terrorist network, it was implicit in the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), signed by President Bush one week after 9/11:

“The President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations, or persons.”

It’s obvious Al Qaeda is the focal point of this legislation. The controversial issues with this legislation regarding separation of and role of powers are the topic of another note. For the purpose of my point, the declaration of Congress appears to me to be sufficient in implicating Al Qaeda as an enemy of the United States.

As such, we are still faced with Al-Awlaki’s citizenship. I checked the U.S. State Department’s website, namely the section on loss of citizenship, and to simplify the legalese, it basically says that joining up with the enemy is a de facto declaration of intent to relinquish one’s citizenship:

“The premise that a person intends to retain U.S. citizenship is not applicable when the individual… serves in the armed forces of a foreign state engaged in hostilities with the United States.”

At this point, you might be thinking, “He deserves due process to determine if he did in fact join a hostile enemy army and if he actually did plan the attacks on America.” This is a petty and idealistic reach, in my opinion. We have fought numerous wars without individually questioning each and every soldier, strategist, and ruler of the enemy forces. Al-Awlaki blatantly and unequivocally chose a side by employing violent rhetoric towards the United States and fleeing to Yemen to consort with a known, declared enemy of his country of origin (the United States). In doing so, he forfeited his 4th Amendment protections. We are in a war, declared by Congress under the mandates of the Constitution. And if you are on the opposing side, you face the threat of violent death at the hands of the finest military force in history.

What about the slippery slope argument? For example, what is to stop the U.S. government from making another declaration of war against, say, Christians, in the future, based on the precedent set by broad-stroke measures like the AUMF? Again, I count this a far-fetched extrapolation. The Christian faith, aside from anomalies like the Branch Davidians or the People’s Temple, has for the last few hundred hundred years been one of peace, whereas Muslims have wreaked havoc more or less continuously since the time of Mohammed through singular acts of terrorism (such as 9/11), institutionalized domestic violence, and broad-based imperialistic warfare. A world in which Christians are the focal point of sweeping legislation like the AUMF seems highly improbable to me. And in a world whose condition is in such disrepair, implementation of said legislation would probably be accomplished regardless of precedent.