Republic

Trump’s Nomination Doesn’t Mean Libertarians’ Involvement in the GOP Has Been Misplaced

[Editor’s Note: This commentary by former Federal Election Commission Chairman, Center for Competitive Politics Chairman and Founder, and Capital University Josiah H. Blackmore/Shirley M. Nault Professor of Law Bradley A. Smith is reprinted here with his permission.]


A libertarian professor friend of mine took the opportunity of Trump’s nomination to write on Facebook:

The fact that the GOP appears to be nominating Trump, and the fact that libertarian-leaning conservative intellectuals in the GOP are (rightly) frothing at the mouth the most about it, only provides more evidence for my long-standing view that libertarian intellectuals who thought their (our?) home was in the GOP were making a very risky “pact with the devil.”

He went on a bit but that gets the mood and core message of the piece.

My response, which I’ll reprint here with light edits, was this:

Can Obama’s Campaign Get Any Freakier?

Obama_handsigns

I’m going to admit, I’ve been pretty freaked out by the Obama campaign this year. I’ve seen them ask people to forgo birthday presents and instead ask for money to be donated to the campaign. That one gave me chills, honestly (Ha Ha, my pretty! All your presents are belong to me!) We’ve had some pretty creepy emails earlier in the year, including “Wishing Michelle Obama a Happy Mother’s Day.” (Some sound like they were written by a dejected stalker.)

And now we have this very creepy image of Obama campaign manager Jim Messina, and this photo of celebrities with hand signs of loyalty to the president.

Isn’t this just beyond the pale, just a little bit?

I hate to say this, because I know every single person is going to say “GODWIN!” but back in the thirties there was this political demagogue in Germany who had his fans give a very distinctive hand salute, and they all used it, and they became something of a cult. Yes, I’m talking about Hitler. And while I don’t think that Obama is a fascist, the similarities are kinda hard to ignore.

Who Has The Party Delegates?

What all the GOP candidates are after, are so-called ‘delegates.’Elected officials that will broker the convention of either party this fall. Officials are parcelled by the amount of votes, the candidates receive in the primary.

During Michigan’s primary recently, for instance, there were 30 official delegates, state-wide. Two were ‘at-large’ candidates, which meant they could be assigned individually to any winning candidate. The other 28 were ‘proportional’ ones, alotted through 14 congressional districts. During the push for the nominations in Michigan last night, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum spent millions of dollars to influence the voting population; with TV ads, pamphlets, media, interviews, rallies, stickers, and much more. Michigan’s grand sum of politcal expenditure was near six million bucks.

Delegates are what really counts at the GOP convention. What looks to be happening, is that no clear winner will come out victorious. There’s a righteous number: 1444 delegates will win any nominee the victory-nod of the Republican National Committee. Nationwide, 2169 delegates are extended for contestation, until the RNC celebration in Tampa, Florida. From the RN Committee, an additional 117 delegates are added into the mix, ostensibly to keep debate lively and clear-up dead locks. So what appears, on first looks, to be a rather hot-headed and fast paced Republican rocket-launch to the RNC, is more like a jammed or misfired pistol in a duel.

Momentarily, Mitt Romney is in the lead, with 167 total delegates. Rick Santorum is second with roughly half, at 87. Newt Gingrich won only one state and has 32, while Ron Paul has 19 carefully collected delegations. The count may reshuffle at any moment, since constitutionalism and populism together, ring alarm-bells in states such as Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico.

14 Fixes For Our Messed Up Country

Everyone seems to be proposing fixes for our country lately, whether it’s amendments to repeal the First Amendment or ban gays or whatever. I have a few ideas of my own that I think will go a long ways towards restoring some sanity in government and fixing what’s wrong with our society. Some of these will require constitutional amendments, and I don’t expect the entire list to actually get enacted unless magic somehow returns to the world and we resurrect Barry Goldwater, F.A. Hayek, and George Washington all at once.

I originally drafted a list of some 23 ideas, but I figured that it would be way too long for a blog post, so I shortened it to 14, a baker’s dozen. None of these are simple or light fixes, they are not tweaking around the edges to ensure a marginally better outcome. Judging from the situation our government and economy is in, from the horrific hard place our civil liberties are wedged behind, and the unmanageable mess that is Washington, I don’t think that “moderate” or “conservative” changes will do anything. We cannot pussyfoot around the issue; we need radical alterations to how our government works if we’re going to get us out of this morass. Again, most of these may never pass, but that’s to be expected.

Certainly, if you wish to hear my entire list, let me know and I’ll write it up, but for now, here are my 14 ideas for fixing our country:

1. Establish Approval Voting

I’ve already talked about this idea at length here, so I will not bore you again. In this post, all I will say is that I believe if we are to get anything done—and I do mean anything—we need to systematically reform how people actually get into office. That’s the foundation upon which any democracy stands, and when you’re up to your eyeballs in tar, the only way to get that fixed is to drain the swamp and start at the beginning.

Real Reform Begins In The Ballot Box

I remember about a month ago there was a lot of bruhaha about Pennsylvanian Republicans trying to change their contribution to the Electoral College by divvying up the votes based on Congressional districts, like Maine and Nebraska. Naturally, a lot of people got upset with that, with some (like Doug Mataconis and George Will) saying we should keep the Electoral College just like it is now, and many others saying that we should instead move to a National Popular Vote system. Now with Occupy Wall Street taking over our media senses, some of that talk has been pushed aside, with people instead focusing on Wall Street rather than Pennsylvania Avenue.

I would like to go back to the Avenue, however, for multiple reasons. First off, I actually think that a lack of serious political reforms is the reason for much of the discontent we’re seeing in Zucotti Park. Second, we have Congressional deadlock, as always—but in recent years, the vitriol and polarization we have seen has increased dramatically. Third, even with the 2010 GOP landslide in the House, we still have a very high incumbent reelection rate—although it was lower in previous elections, it still stood at 87%. Fourth, we have not seen any new ideas with regards to the major issues of the day: our debt crisis, our flagging economy, our eroding civil liberties, or our overburdening government.

Clearly, the emphasis is on the egg and not the noggin in the egg nog, here.

Very little can be done to change or institute major reform, even though we need it, badly. Part of that is by design. The Founders wanted a system where it would be difficult to radically change it, in order to preserve the liberty they had fought so hard for. In the modern era, that backfired. Instead of preserving liberty, the system is preserving the corrupt bog from which liberty is being drowned in.

The U.S. Census and the U.S. Constitution

From the Declaration of Independence: “He [the present King of Great Britain] has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our People, and eat out their substance.”

The above statement most certainly describes, with great accuracy, any number of agencies of the federal government, the Internal Revenue Service in particular. This year, it could well apply to the U.S. Census Bureau, in its campaign (what else could we call it?) to make sure that all of the people respond to the 2010 Census.

Today, I received in the mail a little postcard, with the following return address:

U.S. Department of Commerce
Economics and Statistics Administration
U.S. Census Bureau
8411 Kelso Drive
Essex, MD 21261-6666

On the front, just above the address, set apart by a rectangular box, was the the following statement: “Your response to the U.S. Census Bureau is required by law.” Oh!!!!! (Shudder!!!) Kennedy: Be afraid… be very afraid! You haven’t yet responded to the 2010 Census. They are going to get you!

On the back of the postcard is contained the following letter, dated March 22 (that’s yesterday… amazing, isn’t it, how quickly the U.S. Post Office delivers mail from the Washington, D.C. area when it is coming from the Census Bureau).

Dear Resident:

A few days ago, you should have received a request to participate in the 2010 Census. It was sent to your address as part of our effort to conduct the most accurate census possible.

It is important that you respond. If you have already provided your census information, please accept our sincere thanks. There is no need to provide your answers again. If you have not responded, please provide your information as soon as possible.

Political Prostitution

The late great Pres. Ronald Reagan once famously equated politicians to prostitutes. That little quip drew self-conscious titters from both sides of the political aisle.

But the “Gipper” was wrong, not in principle but in terminology. Politicians aren’t prostitutes. They’re pimps.

Had Reagan lived to see the latest effort in socializing his beloved Republic, the “Gipper” would no longer question which group – peddlers of flesh or influence - is the worst of those willing to trade the sacred for the profane. He’d know.

Because once President Barack Obama signs the so-called health care bill, imposing the most sweeping government devaluation of individual liberty in a generation, he will have legalized a political prostitution Reagan couldn’t have imagined. I suspect Reagan would have watched with growing horror as federal lawmakers dealt away Constitutional freedoms for the scant comfort of executive orders and sweet, home-district bribes.
It’s as if Washington D.C. has become its own red-light district, and prostitution its chief commodity. After all, Democrats hawked their latest bill of health-care goods as a feel-good scheme couched in meaningless phrases of social justice and human rights.

Prostitutes at least have the minimal comfort of knowing that though they’re selling a profoundly intimate and personal value, it is at least theirs to sell. Politicians, on the other hand, act as unprincipled pimps, selling others into the slavery of government dependence with nary a thought for the value they cheapen.

The Cult Of The Imperial Presidency

Over the past 30 years, America has seen Presidential scandals ranging from Watergate to Iran-Contra to Travel-gate, Whitewater, the Lewinsky scandal, and the Valerie Plame affair. We’ve learned the truth about some of the truly nefarious actions undertaken by some of most beloved Presidents of the 20th Century, including the iconic FDR, JFK, and LBJ. And, yet, despite all of that, Americans still have a reverential view of the President of the United States that borders on the way Englishmen feel about the Queen or Catholic’s feel about the Pope.

How did that happen and what does it mean for America ?

Gene Healy does an excellent job of answering those question in The Cult of the Presidency: America’s Dangerous Devotion to Executive Power, making it a book that anyone concerned with the direction of the American Republic should read.

As Healy points out, the Presidency that we know today bears almost no resemblance to the institution that the Founding Fathers created when they drafted Article II of the Constitution. In fact, to them, the President’s main job could be summed up in ten words set forth in Section 3 of Article II:

he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed,

The President’s other powers consisted of reporting the state of the union to Congress (a far less formal occasion than what we’re used to every January), receiving Ambassadors, and acting as Commander in Chief should Congress declare war. That’s it.

Secession…an American Tradition

Texas Governor Rick Perry raised a few eyebrows recently when he used the “S” word in public. Secession, he said, was always an option on the political table as far as Texas was concerned.

The U.S. and Russia Compete Again

Apparently, there’s not much difference between the way in which a democratic republic (the United States) and an oligarchy (Russia) handle “economic crisis”. According to an article in The Moscow Times:

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev accused the government on Friday of bailing out billionaires at taxpayers’ expense in a letter co-signed by four businessmen and economists.

Gorbachev has until now been supportive of the Kremlin, and by speaking out he has joined a small but growing chorus of influential Russians who say the government’s tight control of the economy and politics is making the slowdown worse.

“The Russian authorities have turned their back on structural reform and instead satisfied themselves with inventing a mythical model of an ‘energy superpower,’” said an open letter whose signatories included Gorbachev.


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