Feelings Trump facts? Four arguments against the Donald

Donald Trump is leading the pack for the GOP presidential nomination, and many attribute his popularity to the raw anger out there in America. I’ve never been one for unconstructive anger. So let’s say you are angry, and you don’t just want to emote, but want our country to be doing better again. What’s the way forward? Here are four reasons why it’s not Trump.

1. High unfavorable numbers

One recent poll reportedly puts Trump’s overall unfavorability at 59%, higher than even Hillary Clinton. What does it take to be even more unpopular than America’s robotic grandma, the secretive, defensive, and definitively Nixonian Mrs. Clinton?

2. Peforms worse than other GOP candidates in matchups

A recent swing state poll by Quinippiac showed not just that Hillary Clinton does worse than Joe Biden in head-to-head matchups, but that Trump consistently underperforms in those matchups compared to Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio. In Florida, Rubio and Bush comfortably beat Clinton and Biden in respective contests, while Trump eeks 2 percent past Clinton and falls to Biden by 3. In Ohio, Rubio and Bush best Clinton, but Trump trails her by 5, and goes down to Biden by 10. And in Pennsylvania, Rubio and Bush each beat the Dems while Trump loses to them. The pattern from this poll is clear: Rubio performs best overall, followed by Bush. Right now Trump doesn’t have what it takes to beat likely Democrat opponents. And given his stratospheric unfavorables, that is unlikely to change.


Tom Simpson / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

3. The stay-at-home conservative voter is a myth

There has been a “stupid myth” floating around since 2012 that three or four million conservatives stayed home rather than vote for patrician, RINO-squish Mitt Romney. Commentator Laura Ingraham has warned that conservative anger needs a chance to play itself out this cycle. According to common wisdom, Trump is the prime shot at that.

Before we buy this premise, let’s go back and check the numbers. According to Michael Medved, Romney gained more than a million votes over McCain. When I crunched Wikipedia’s numbers, Romney’s gain was 985,177. And this gain happened amidst a decline of three million total voters between 2008 and 2012.

If historical observations by Kim Strassel and Ed Morrissey are reliable, then the myth of disaffected conservative voters arose before all the votes had even been counted! As Churchill has been quoted, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to gets its pants on.” The snarling, anti-establishment Right is not as powerful or predictably peeved as typically touted.

4. Birthright citizenship trilemma: jobs, the rule of law, or unreasonable

Mr. Trump released policy statement last week that includes ending so-called birthright citizenship. This is an innovation in the debate on immigration, but it is a non-sequitur. Stopping illegal immigration has been, for conservatives at least, about a couple of more foundational principles: jobs for Americans and the rule of law. While I respect the drive to immigration reform that’s based on a concern for the rule of law, and the need to enforce laws, I don’t buy that ending birthright citizenship significantly increases job opportunity for American citizens. It is an arcane pursuit and any change to the job market will be indirect. So all of the energy for ending birthright citizenship must either come from a pure concern for the rule of law, or something more nefarious. Of course, many in the media and on the Left will gladly attribute xenophobia as the motivation. But if we give Trump the benefit of the doubt, his desire to end birthright citizenship must be about restoring some obvious mistake in interpreting the Constitution. He must be a candidate who champions the rule of law.

The problem for Trump is that he has bragged about paying off politicians and he trades off of the force of his personal charisma. He does not inspire confidence that he will uphold the rule of law. Someone who supports both Trump and ending birthright citizenship owes an explanation as to their priorities: jobs or the rule of law? If the rule of law, then why Trump and not a more principled conservative? If jobs, then why so fervent about the arcane task of ending birthright citizenship? The third alternative is that the supporter is not a reasonable conservative, but a xenophobe or just an unreasonable voter. The latter, sadly for America today, almost seems par for the course.

So, whether you are a Trump fan or suffer daily combat with a friend or relative who is one, I hope I’ve given you some food for thought. There are a lot of great candidates out there this cycle. Let’s be sure to elect one of them.

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Rubio’s rhetoric: Right or wrong?

Marco Rubio has taken a lot of flack from conservatives for pressing Senate Bill 744, the “Gang of Eight” immigration reform.  I have not been thoroughly apprised of the controversy’s details, nor do I especially wish to study a lengthy draft of legislation at this point.  I am curious though, as to how fellow my conservatives respond to the point of this ad that I saw while watching FOX New Sunday yesterday morning:

 

The outset of the ad is a powerful rhetorical turning of the tables.  We hear Senator Rubio say in a speech delivered April 20, “”Our current immigration system is a disaster.  What we have now is de facto amnesty.”

It’s hard to disagree with this.  The question for Rubio’s critics becomes, what is the better alternative to taking bipartisan action now?  Will there be some GOP tidal wave sweep of Congress in 2014, that will so shock President Obama as to paralyze him, rendering him incapable of vetoing their plan?  Will Congressional Republicans win the pubic opinion war if they are seen once again as obstinate bill scuttlers? Why should we live with the status quo, letting the perfect become the enemy of the good?

Conservatives should pride themselves for living in the real world.  President Obama is desperate for some sort of second term achievement.  Republicans have decent leverage with this incarnation of immigration reform.  It’s  the best opportunity to start fixing the “disaster.”  If we grandstand and fail to work out a politically practical solution, we’ll be subject to the old refrain: “You’ve made your bed, now lie in it.”

Immigration reform: of RINOs and Rubio

20130210.huntingrinosIt’s been a couple of weeks since the Senate’s bipartisan Gang of Eight preempted President Obama with a declaration of intent to tackle immigration reform.  I’ve not been totally on top of the news cycle since then, but I have sampled some of the conversation on the Right. I was heartened by Cosmoscon’s punctual endorsement of reform.  Charles Krauthammer’s more recent advice, with its retrospective “I told you so,” is a somewhat welcoming if wary analysis.

Yet, many other conservatives are beside themselves with complaints and grief.  They charge fellow Republicans with foolhardy electoral panic and lament the Charlie Brown naivete of working with Democrats.  In the worst instances, they let loose a cry of RINO–Republican In Name Only–against anyone they want to dismiss as spineless or traitorous.  For any conservative so tempted, do the rest of us a favor.  Vent your frustrations in private.  Try screaming into a thick pillow.  Such name calling has no place in a party of winners.

No one doubts the need for immigration reform.  But the rub lies in the long-running tension between enforcement and “amnesty.”  The National Review’s John O’Sullivan warns Republicans that amnesty would mean decades of Democratic domination.  He wants conservatives to realize that Hispanics vote Democrat for socioeconomic reasons rather than out of ethnic solidarity.  Although an astute observation, it’s only relevant if the proposed reform would result in illegal immigrants readily gaining citizenship.  But since it includes caveats like sending illegals to the back of multiple lines, that doesn’t seem to be the case.  Besides, O’Sullivan is working with a straw man.  Who in the GOP is actually contending that bipartisan reform will automatically garner Hispanic votes?

Victor Davis Hanson, also at National Review, lodges his own reform reservations.  He observes that “special interests” (hardly ever an actually helpful term) are too entrenched, whether they be liberal activists working in identity politics or business owners dependent on abusively cheap labor.  As he sees it, committed liberals will never budge for a fence or strict enforcement.  But there’s little reason to think Republicans won’t be able to leverage public support for sensible enforcement measures.  At least as long as any would-be Todd Akins of immigration keep away from the media.  Quick, someone check Tom Tancredo’s whereabouts.

Looming above all this are the career prospects for that shiniest senator of the Gang of Eight, Republican Marco Rubio.  Immigration will figure into his Tuesday response to President Obama’s State of the Union address.  From what I can tell, he won’t fizzle like Bobby Jindal did a few years back.  Rubio seemed to acquit himself well in an interview with the Weekly Standard this past week.

Whether he acknowledges it or not, Senator Rubio remains a very decent prospect for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination. Maybe a time will come to grill him on his record.  But for now I’d encourage you to channel those prosecutorial energies into Karl Rove’s Conservative Victory Project.  Consider its effort to defeat a Republican primary candidate who once declared evolution and the big bang to be “from the pit of Hell.” I suspect this puts Rubio’s “I’m not a scientist, man” comment in a slightly better light.  Such a clear-eyed initiative buoys the conservative hope that leaders of Rubio’s vintage will get better with age.  All the more reason for Republican purists to put down their RINO guns.

Let’s get real about immigration. That 11 million people live a shadow existence in America is inhumane to them, dangerous to us all, and completely unsustainable. No conservative wants an “amnesty” like the ill-considered 1986 reform signed by President Reagan. If it comes down to it, we can deal with President Obama’s obstinate political wrangling when we cross that bridge. Until then, let’s show America what good bipartisanship is made of.

The shell game of postmodernity

This week I’m drawing disparate threads together from recently digested media.  Hopefully these will inspire some critical thoughts on worldview, whether it be your own or of those around you.

In anticipation of the first Hobbit movie, my wife and I re-watched The Two Towers and The Return of the King.  This insightful quote by Gandalf struck me:

The old wisdom that was borne out of the West was forsaken. Kings made tombs more splendid than the houses of the living and counted the names of their descent dearer than the names of their sons. Childless lords sat in aged halls musing on heraldry or in high, cold towers asking questions of the stars. And so the people of Gondor fell into ruin. The line of Kings failed, the White Tree withered, and the rule of Gondor was given over to lesser men.

Can you think of a place like this?  Perhaps the ivory tower of the academy.  Or better yet, Europe.  This image captures the predicament of the post-industrial world.  There is a concerted effort among elites of the “West” to unlearn its culture and traditions.  The great project of social democrats in Europe, Canada, Japan, and beyond has built an edifice that’s more a civilizational masoleum than a regime to edify humanity.  This is the modern welfare state.

Rather than be bothered with commitments of marriage, the raising of children, and the fruits of free enterprise, people are more concerned with securing their siestas and thirty-five hour work weeks, to the exclusion of the dwindling numbers of youth annually pouring onto the unaccommodating labor markets.

And even those jobless youth lap up the same tired ideas.  I recently caught a few episodes of Portlandia, the sketch comedy that pokes fun at a city where the young move “to retire.”  The program, often crude and in keeping with the laughing-at zeitgeist of The Daily Show, illuminates nonetheless.  In gentrified cores of our cosmopolitan metropolises an army of grown kids paste pictures of birds on objects to self-soothe and are more concerned for the welfare of animals than of children.

This inversion of priorities gets to some of the news of the day.  We have a citizenry that is more concerned about feeling good than getting it right.  And so the silly story that Obama’s pardoned turkey ended up being euthanized anyway.  It speaks to the lesson that liberal intentions don’t guarantee results.  Take heed the next time a politician proposes to spend some trillions to end poverty, restore jobs, or save the environment.  That which was to be prevented will probably pass, and we’ll only have more debt to show for it.

All the while, the ethic uniting the masses of the well-intentioned is tolerance, or as is often seen on California bumper stickers, the relativistic imperative to “Coexist.”  But everyone’s got a dogma in the fight.  Just look at the controversy of Republican Senator Marco Rubio’s GQ interview.  Being asked what he thought the age of the earth was, he ducked with “I’m not a scientist, man.”  In this day, scientism–a narrow view where science is the only deliverance of truth–is a cudgel secular liberals deploy against any threat to getting absolutely everything they want.

Yes, the 24-7, self-reinforcing materialist culture is ascendant.  To quote another sage of Middle Earth, “What can men do against such reckless hate?”

There are baby steps.  In the hopes of starting an apologetics study group in my church community, I’ve been scouting William Lane Craig’s On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision.  The second chapter launches a reductio ad absurdum, a negative apologetic that comes from asking, what would be the implication of God’s nonexistence?  Dr. Craig notes Jean-Paul Sartre’s concession that life without God has no meaning.  Yet, he took up for himself Marxism.  The choice was subjective and merely arbitrary.   Without an objective point of reference, no life lived can be both happy and consistent in its worldview.

The great work of reshaping society to foster lives both happy and consistent remains before us.  Humanism will only find its logical end in a re-commitment to the sanctity of marriage and a valuing of children.  The partnerless Julia will discover her Obama-daddy culture to be utterly unsustainable.

There is a parallel reformation in showing that fulfilling livelihoods come not from the cold top-down transactions of the welfare state, but from an embracing of free markets under the rule of law.

There are those who will try hard to thwart this course correction.  A culture of relativism enables ultimate shell game.  If we point out the shell that holds objective truth, whether it be policy or morality, the Phrygian-capped ideologue can deny it or question whether there is even a game going on.  The task for the civic-minded will be to figure how to effectively expose and counter such silly moves.

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