The Supreme Court of the United States struck down aggregate campaign limits for individuals in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission. This, combined with their decision in Citizens United v FEC, represents what some have suggested is a bit of a problem. But why should we care? What is so bad about people being able to give money to the candidates and causes they believe in?
I hope to explore, if not answer, these questions in this post. As has been well documented in previous posts, Mormonism is a faith especially attuned to issues of the negative social and spiritual effects of income inequality. Mormon scriptures routinely decry income inequality and preach about the importance of fighting against it. And when big money is allowed to not only participate in, but dominate, the system of creating laws and regulations in this country, there is little doubt whose interests will be served by those laws and regulations.Read more
I think it’s safe to say I am very politically active in large part because of my upbringing in the Mormon Faith. My own father, who is a constitutional law professor, probably took as much interest in the Constitution as he did because of the importance placed on the document in our faith.
It is an interesting time for the Mormon Church to speak up about citizenship in a recent statement released to the public. I found the emphasis on religious freedom particularly timely. It’s an issue gripping and dividing our nation as we speak. While the Church takes no position on any individual bill right now, particularly the Arizona Bill vetoed by Governor Jan Brewer, this statement goes to lengths to emphasize the importance of not only religious freedom, but also for the need of the people of this nation to be a religious people to maintain freedom itself. No doubt Ayn Rand would totally disagree… but I digress.
Lately I have been engaged in several debates and discussions with my conservative friends. I am often entertained with how they use words or phrases to exemplify a position or undercut my arguments. Since I find many of these tactics somewhat humorous, I decided to share some of the user's perceived definitions and place them against the litmus test of reality. Enjoy!
2nd Amendment: The right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed. Reality: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. The Framers were opposed to standing armies and felt it was the people’s role to defend the Free State (which is ironic given our current military structure). There was purpose in gun ownership and the Founding Brothers always supported moderation in all things.
Birthers: Those who oppose any presidential nominee born outside of the United States as per the Constitution. Reality: This view really only applies to Democrat nominees. Currently one of the GOP presidential front-runners is Tea Party favorite Ted Cruz who was born in Canada. John McCain was born in Panama and George Romney was born in Mexico.
Communist: (also see Socialist) Conservatives are not really sure of the difference between a Socialist and Communist. Reality: Communism is COMPLETE governmental control of capital and resources. Nobody supports this, not liberals, not even Hitler.
Constitution: Our nation's founding document that can only be correctly interpreted by conservatives. Reality: The Constitution is cherry picked by conservatives to fit their agenda. Appointing judges, nominating cabinet positions, controlling the executive branch, and conducting foreign policy fall squarely under the President’s command but is undermined by conservatives on a regular basis. Advice and Consent by the Senate is being abused and the House of Representatives does not represent the majority of the people due to gerrymandering.
Gun Control: The belief that government is coming for your guns and undermining your rights. Reality: Gun control is common sense solutions to help curb the rampant violence being experienced in our country. Ideas such as the Brady Bill, background checks, concealed carry permits, resources for the ATF to enforce current laws, and gun dealer inventory requirements are all solutions that can help prevent a portion of our 30,000 gun related deaths each year.
Entitlements: The giving out of free handouts to the lazy and parasitic by the government. Reality: 60% of all entitlements go to seniors, 20% go to the disabled, 10% go to working families, and another 10% go to non-working individuals and families (including college students). It should also be noted that red states take more entitlements per capita than blue states.
Executive Orders: A power grab by the President of the United States as a way to circumvent the Constitution. Reality: The President of the United States has the authority to regulate how the executive branch functions.
Family Values: The basis for America’s greatness and the aspiration of how we should live as a society. Reality: Conservatives use family values as an ambiguous argument trying to suppress any diversity in social norms.
Food Stamps: Free handouts to the lazy. Reality: 50% of all food stamps go to children, and another 15% to seniors. 1 in 5 veterans are also recipients of food stamps.
Liberal: Any person that expresses a difference of opinion with a conservative. Reality: A liberal is any person who fights for individual liberties. The definition has been twisted by conservatives and misused to represent any person offering a difference of opinion. Being labeled a liberal brings full discredit in any political conversation or debate with a conservative.
Liberal Media: Any media outside of conservative news sources. Reality: This term is used when conservatives lack a coherent response to any data being sourced. This could be viewed as the ultimate debate cop-out which, by disregarding the source, immediately invalidates all arguments.
National Debt: The amount of money we have to borrow due to the President’s budget. Reality: The Debt is a function of multiple administrations impacting mandatory expenditures that cannot be changed unless reversed by the House, Senate, and President working together.
National Deficit: The same as the National Debt (really – I hear this all the time). Reality: The National Deficit is the annual (not total) gap in spending vs. receipts.
Pro-Choice: A liberal position that encourage woman to seek abortions for their poor choices. Reality: Pro-Choice does not mean pro-abortion. Abortion is a complicated choice and the decision cannot be lumped into one generic stereotype. Pro-Choice should be left up to the individual’s doctor, religious authority, family and not directed by government influence. It should also be noted that 30% of all abortions are by married women and the abortion rate has been declining rapidly since 1980.
Pro-Life: A position that believes the embryo is a living person, and the sanctity must be protected at all costs. Reality: Pro-life arguments typically end at conception.
Ronald Reagan: The ultimate conservative and the gold standard for Republicans. Reality: Ronald Reagan supported gun legislation, signed pro-choice legislation, passed two of the largest tax hikes in American history, tripled the National Debt, passed full access for the uninsured to use emergency rooms, provided amnesty for three million undocumented workers, and signed several pieces of social reform legislation into law. I’m pretty sure he would be kicked out of the Republican party today.
RINO: Republican In Name Only Reality: Name given to any Republican that does not maintain total loyalty to party ideas and platforms. I have seen Republican legislators who vote with the party 95% of the time and still be labeled a RINO.
Science: A selective explanation of data and theory that can be opposed for political justification. Reality: Public opinion does not trump scientific data.
Socialist: (also see Communist) Any person who supports government programs, fair taxation policies, or pretty much anything that is associated with the Democratic Party. Reality: Socialism is governmental control of capital and resources. The police, fire department, public schools, libraries, national parks, roads and bridges, judicial system, and the military are all socialist organizations. Our country has always been a mixed-market economic system balancing socialism and capitalism.
Tea Party: A political movement that is holding our leaders responsible both fiscally and conservatively. Reality: A political movement that brings little to no ideas to the table and uses opposition as its only weapon. The Tea Party takes extreme stances on every conservative issue and has been detrimental to the party when it comes to elections (Republicans would have control of the Senate today if it wasn't for Tea Party candidates). The Tea Party creates gridlock and then points to the same gridlock as to why government doesn't work.
Tyrannical Government: Our nation’s leadership making obsessive power grabs to suppress the ideas of the majority. Reality: A conservative narcissist phrase used as fear-mongering to generate divide among our citizens. Simply refuted, ask any believer why a tyrannical government would willingly submit to public elections.
The other night while surfing various political sites and social media groups I came across a troubling Facebook page; “Democrats Done with Jim Matheson”. For those of you unfamiliar with Representative Matheson, he is a Democrat Congressman from the reddest of states, Utah. Matheson has been a political chameleon as of late, voting with the Republicans on several issues including the shutdown and the countless repeals of the Affordable Care Act. He represents Utah’s 4th district which overwhelmingly voted for Governor Romney over President Obama in 2012 by double digit margins. He also won a razor close election edging out his Republican rival Mia Love by .3%. Ms. Love has already announced she will run again, and this time Matheson does not have the help of a presidential election.
This Facebook group’s premise explains the reason for rejection, “This page is for Utah Democrats that are sick and tired of Jim Matheson. We see him for the real man he is. A DC politician only worried about reelection.” I completely agree -- Matheson is worried about re-election, and as a vocal Democrat, I am too. However, I am more worried about losing the seat than any floor vote Matheson casts. In fact I ENCOURAGE Matheson to vote with the Republicans every single vote where a majority is established (and with the Hastert Rule, that is every vote). For those of you balking at such a position let me explain further.
Irrelevance is being a minority party in the House of Representatives. A minority party cannot decide the floor agenda, appoint committee chairs, direct debates, or initiate votes. In setting up our government, the Framers designed the representative body of the House to work in a democratic setting. Unfortunately, what they did not take into consideration is the rampant gerrymandering that has undermined the intent and balance of the Constitution. In 2012 there were 1.5 million more votes for House Democrats yet today there are 33 more Republican Representatives. In order to return appropriate balance Democrats will need to flip those seats, many of which are anchored in steadfast red districts, to return the balance of power back to the majority.
Any primary challenger that successfully defeats Matheson will cost Democrats a congressional seat. Even an unsuccessful primary challenger will force Matheson to the left, which will be leveraged against him in the general election. Even more problematic than losing Matheson’s solitary (and inconsistent) vote is the daunting challenge for Democrats to flip one more seat and regain control of the House. If by small chance Democrats do achieve majority, and Matheson continues to vote with the Republicans, Democrats would still be in a much better place.
For all my Democrat friends in red districts the same strategy applies. Vote with the furthest right leaning candidate in primaries or the candidate that polls strongest against a Republican challenger. No one candidate is above control of the House, which should be the only priority for Democrats in 2014.
The recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and allowing lower court decisions to stand overturning Proposition 8 in California makes for a dramatic shift in American society. This brief analysis is to consider some of the possible ramifications of the decision. While not a full legal analysis, it does have a lawyer's insight in areas potentially impacting Mormon practices past, present, and future. The purpose of this post is not to advocate for gay marriage.Read more
Many Mormons reading this might be thinking the Mormon Church believes marriage is between a man and a woman (well it does now anyway. If you remember, it used to be a man and women). Certainly that appears to be the case if you look at canon and statements made by Church leadership in terms of what we as Mormons should practice.
That said, I don’t recall canon or Church leaders anywhere or anytime telling politicians how they should make law.Read more
In the aftermath of any mass shooting in the U.S., an all-or-nothing rhetoric about guns typically infects the public discourse regarding what ought to be done to prevent such tragedies in the future. In many communities, inhabitants are warned that the government has a hidden agenda seeking to ban all future gun sales and intends to confiscate privately owned firearms. “Obama wants to take your guns away,” we are warned. Far too many Americans have accepted the all-or-nothing gun law paradigm, and believe that any attempt by government to place even the most modest of restrictions on how guns are acquired, what firearms can be sold publicly, and where they are carried, as an egregious intrusion on a supposedly inalienable right.Read more
Opponents of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010 frequently criticized the law’s central component -- the individual insurance mandate -- and argued that if Congress was permitted to compel everyone to purchase health insurance, it could also pass other laws that compelled Americans to buy products such as broccoli. In his ruling against ACA, Judge Roger Vinson, a conservative Reagan appointee to the Pensacola, Florida Federal District Court, argued that if ACA were upheld, “Congress could require that people buy and consume broccoli at regular intervals… because people who eat healthier tend to… put less of a strain on the health care system.”Read more
Mitt Romney’s nomination as the 2012 Republican candidate for President is an important and historical moment for me and many other members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints across the U.S. and the world. A thick glass ceiling was shattered when Romney, a prominent member of my faith, overcame anti-Mormon bigotry prevalent in parts of the Republican primary electorate to clinch the GOP nomination. During the past twelve years we have been witnesses to a triumph over a wide array of social prejudices in American politics with the nomination of Senator Joseph Lieberman, who is Jewish, as the Democratic Party’s vice presidential candidate in 2000, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s historic run as the first serious female contender for the White House in 2008, and Barack Obama’s election as the country’s first African-American president. We may very well have a Mormon as our President starting next January. While I admire Romney’s dedicated unpaid service in my church as a bishop and stake president, believe that he is a good family man who also cares deeply about our country, and am thrilled by Romney’s ascension to the GOP nomination in this Mormon moment, I am confident that he is the wrong person for the job of President of the United States.
Does Spending in Elections Influence Outcomes?
You'll be hard-pressed to find anyone who believes that money isn't absolutely crucial to running an effective campaign for political office. It costs money to rent campaign offices, travel, run phone banks, rent speaking venues, print leaflets, film commercials and purchase television ad time, and otherwise publicize a candidate's message or attack his or her opponent. Additionally, spending by outside groups, most commonly in the form of super political action committees (or super PACs) have had a significant effect in elections. There is an abundance of reporting documenting the influence of these super PACs in our recent elections, most notably in the 2012 Republican Presidential Primary. Examples can be found here, here, here, and here.
Nonetheless, in its 5-4 Citizens United decision, the Supreme Court ruled that there can be no restrictions in political expenditures of third party groups. The decision indicated that anyone or any group, including corporations, wealthy individuals, unions, and so forth, can spend unlimited amounts of money in electioneering communication, including political advertisements, robo-calls, and mailers. In theory, these third party groups (super PACs) are forbidden from coordinating directly with any political candidate or campaign. In practice, however, super PACs have become de facto attack arms of individual candidates' campaigns.
Can a candidate without a supporting super PAC succeed in a major election? The latest GOP presidential primary casts serious doubt on the notion that any candidate could be competitive in a presidential primary without the support of a super PAC.