In Saturday's Washington Post, Hunter Schwarz commented that Mormons, the most Republican religious group in the U.S., are "moving to the right," and that unlike in most groups, older Latter-day Saints are most likely to be Democrat, suggesting that this trend may continue for a while. While this may be the case in Utah, it isn't nationwide.Read more
After the November 2012 election, Republicans across the country were understandably frustrated. Conservative media outlets had been predicting an easy win for former Governor Mitt Romney. The right-wing media and blogosphere kept telling Republican voters that the polls were biased towards President Obama. Well-renowned conservative pundit George Will famously predicted that Romney would win the Electoral College in a 321-217 landslide. Conservative televangelist Pat Robertson told his followers that God had informed him that Mitt Romney would win and become a two-term president. Instead, Barack Obama was handily reelected and Democrats gained seats in both the Senate and the House. Demographers’ predictions of the expanding importance of minority voters, especially Latinos, in presidential elections were spot-on.Read more
So we lost the Senate. Yea, it hurts. Pick yourself up. Dust yourself off. And get ready for the storm – the real storm -- coming in two years. You know, the political storm where Democrats take back the Senate and retain the White House. No, I’m not being overly optimistic. No, I am not riding on dancing unicorns jumping through candy-covered rainbows. I am saddled on a brute horse charging through the political lines of defeat. The Electoral College is on our side. The popular vote is on our side. The Senatorial election map is on our side. 2014 will be a contest quickly forgotten and 2016 will be our triumphant return to Rome.Read more
Most Americans claim they are tired of bitter partisanship and Congressional gridlock in Washington. The non-stop manufactured crises, including the show-downs over the federal budget and debt ceiling, the more than 40 House votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and the unprecedented use of the filibuster in the Senate to block even routine executive and judicial appointments, are just some of the ways politicians have log-jammed our democracy. Last October’s unpopular government shut down led to the furlough of nearly 1 million workers, while another million were compelled to work without pay. Any astute observer of American politics knows that one of the primary reasons for this Congressional dissonance is hyper-partisan redistricting, or gerrymandering.
Most Americans support raising the minimum wage, comprehensive immigration reform, and universal background checks on gun buyers. Americans do not want subsidies for oil companies and tax breaks for corporate jet owners. And Americans are in favor of balanced deficit reduction that includes both new revenues and spending cuts. Yet, partisan gerrymandering is why these and many other highly popular proposed reforms have no chance of passing in the current Congress.
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.
Several changes in voting laws are dramatically impacting women in Texas. Women that have been voting for years are now being asked for additional documentation to cast a ballot. Just imagine going to your local voting precinct, the same one visited for the last 40 years, and having the authenticity of your vote questioned? Now imagine that you are an elected judge and because of name discrepancy an affidavit is required to sign.Read more
The current shutdown of the federal government and upcoming showdown over the debt ceiling has caused many people to ask who is to blame for this gridlock. The media, in its effort to try to report both sides of the story, often end up giving balanced treatment to an unbalanced phenomenon. What we have is an extremist element within the minority political party that refuses to accept the results of the previous elections. Leading up to the shutdown, House Republicans demanded defunding of the Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare) in exchange for passing a continuing resolution budget that would fund the rest of the federal government for a brief period. Republicans also threatened to prevent the debt ceiling from being raised that could result in a catastrophic default on our national debt if their demands are not met. In making these demands, Republicans are attempting to thwart the Constitutional order of our government while threatening financial and economic chaos.Read more
"You will see the Constitution of the United States almost destroyed. It will hang like a thread as fine as a silk fiber.... I love the Constitution; it was made by the inspiration of God; and it will be preserved and saved…” – Attributed to Joseph Smith, May 1843
Across congregations of the Mormon Church the above quote has become a rallying cry among the conservative members. I have been approached by several wanting to discuss the destructive nature of the Constitution by our current administration. “Today the constitution hangs by a thread,” always concludes each episode as the definitive reason for their political posturing. Stepping aside from the fact that the bloody Civil War was on the horizon in 1843, which truly challenged the foundation of the Constitution, there is merit to this quote today.
The Framers designed the Constitution to equalize representative power across the states, strengthen the voice of the minority, and drive equality. The Senate functions as a contained democracy using majority rule, with equal representation across the states regardless of population. The House is designed to represent the people, equalizing votes across the collective population of our country. The House Representatives are “of the people” with short two year terms to align with the changing demands of the constituents they represent. The Framers designed our government with an inspired balance of power, representing the minority to a point, and using the legislative branch as a check for executive power.
Two changes in rules and actions threaten the balance of the Legislative Branch and the Constitution today. The filibuster changes the entire intent of the Senate and gerrymandering has removed the representative equality of the House. Our government has moved to an extreme representation of the minority which suffocates the will of the majority. In the Senate, Senators representing a mere 20 percent of the population can stop legislation and bring the chamber to a crawl. In the House, a populous minority retains control and abuses their influence to table popular legislation and misdirect funding.
The Senate filibuster is not found in the Constitution and was first used in 1837 exploiting a change in debating rules made in 1806. The filibuster was used just a handful of times until 1970, and as a last resort. Today it is part of the process on almost every bill or appointment. What the Framers intended to be a simple majority in the Senate has now become a 60 vote super-majority. Couple this with the already imperfect representative balance of the Senate, and it is easy to understand why gridlock has ensued.
Today Republicans use the filibuster to oppose legislation and bring the legislative process to a crawl. There have been several bills these past four years, that after receiving the 60 votes needed to end the filibuster, passed 99-0. One of the most egregious examples came last December when Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell filibustered his own bill wasting time and tax payer resources. The real problem with this obtuse Senate rule is 40 minority Senators can represent less than 20 percent of the US population. Eliminating the use of the filibuster still meets the intent of minority representation as 45 Republican Senators represent 30 percent of the population.
On the other side of the Legislative Branch the House has deviated from Constitutional intent due to progressive gerrymandering by Republican governors. As the majority of the states were controlled by Republicans after the 2010 census, a $30 million dollar redistricting action plan was executed further skewing the House’s representative characteristics. In 2012 there were 1.5 million more votes for Democrats yet there are 33 more Republican Representatives in the House. The US is 64 percent white but 4 percent of Republican Congressman are minorities. 51 percent of the population are women but only 8 percent of Republican Representatives. The abuse of redistricting is so widespread I see little chance of overturning House control even with a healthy voting majority in the near future.
Between the House and Senate actions by the minority party it’s easy to understand why the Constitution is being tread on. The American government has been hijacked by a party that relies on abusing rules and redistricting to push an unpopular agenda. Legislation like firearm background checks and immigration reform should be a slam dunk given the overwhelming support by the majority of the people, but the government has failed to perform even the most mundane functions. The Constitution is crippled and the balance of power upset because the minority party does not respect the Framer’s intent.
In Mormon congregations across the country my Republican friends are correct; Joseph Smith’s quote is just as applicable today as it was at the time of the Civil War. The Constitution hangs by a thread and they are the ones holding the scissors.
The primary election process is the greatest cancer on our political landscape. They have become a moral issue, driving politicians to make choices based on survival instead of reasonable policy and personal conviction. Primaries have driven moderate thinking out of the mainstream, and created an environment where compromise is the new four letter word. Primaries are the breeding ground for ideologues who pander relentlessly to the small selection of voters showing up to the preliminary polls. The primary system trades strong candidates for weak ones, swaps reasonability with extremism, and switches compatibility for hostility.
Although both parties are faced with the primary gauntlet, the Republican Party seems to be disproportionately impacted. Over the last two elections Republicans have given up potential control of the Senate, two presidencies, and the potential ousting of Majority Leader Harry Reid due to Tea Party meddling. There have been five different Senate seats that have either flipped or maintained Democrat control due to weaker Republican candidates beating stronger, more electable, Republican candidates in the primaries. For example, in the race for the presidency, both McCain and Romney had to move away from their moderate rhetoric seeking party election, which crippled their electability in the general election. Romney specifically moved from a being a “compromising moderate” to "severely conservative".
The Media National Journal has tracked conservative and liberal members across parties for several decades. In 1982 the Senate had significant overlap in their political leaning. The eleventh most liberal member of the chamber was a Republican, Lowell Weicker. The thirty-first most conservative member of the chamber was a Democrat, Edward Zorinsky. In between these two men fell fifty-eight Democrats and Republicans, each committed to their party and to their constituents. The House of Representatives shared a very similar markup, with over 60% of the members falling between the most conservative Democrat and the most liberal Republican. It was under this environment that President Reagan found significant compromise with Speaker Tip O’Neill passing tax laws and social reform.
Today there is significant polarization in political representation which accentuates gridlock and divides government. Political representatives know that any give and take will be fodder for the next primary, and grounds for unemployment. One idea to cure Washington’s curious dysfunctional behavior is opening up primary elections to independents. We should also consider California’s primary system where the top two vote-getters run against each other in the general election. Whatever the solution, we voters need to line up at the polls in the summer like we do in the fall. We need to elect candidates that will be reasonable and thoughtful government representatives, beholden only to those that elected them, rather than a proscribed ideology.
When Barack Obama was re-elected to the presidency last November, House Speaker John Boehner observed, "the American people have spoken. They have re-elected President Obama. And they have again elected a Republican majority in the House of Representatives." Republican House Minority Leader Mitch McConnell noted that the voters, "have simply given [Obama] more time to finish the job they asked him to do together with a Congress that restored balance to Washington after two years of one-party control." President Obama was re-elected with nearly 5 million more votes than Mitt Romney. Democrats deepened their grip on the Senate by capturing two additional seats. Democrats also gained 8 seats in the House, but were far from recapturing it.Read more