Mar 102016

The passing of Nancy Reagan brings home the passing of the Reagan era in the Republican party. There is both an irony and a poetry to her death in the midst of this raucous 2016 Republican primary campaign — a campaign her husband would likely have found unacceptable. As much as Ronald Reagan’s name and legacy has been tossed around the past few months, Nancy ‘s passing spares her from suffering through the fracturing of his legacy in this life. We remember Ronald Reagan. We remember what he stood for and what he did. And none of the current candidates are worthy successors.

With all do respect to Donald Trump — which admittedly is very little — Pope Francis was right. Real leaders and real Christians build bridges, not walls. What was Reagan’s famous line? “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” But Reagan succeeded in far more than demolishing the Iron Curtain and sweeping the Soviet Union into the dustbin of history.

Conservatism today is fractured. We have blue-collar conservatives, libertarian conservatives, evangelical conservatives, national security conservatives, big money or establishment conservatives. It seems everyone has a piece, but no one grasps the whole. And everyone clings to their piece and excludes anyone who doesn’t hold as essential what they hold essential.

Reagan did not exclude anyone from the conservative movement, nor did he abandon principle or seek to widen the definition to make the designation all inclusive and therefore meaningless. Reagan sought to convert. He was The Great Communicator. He brought the the message to the people, then brought the people along beside him.

Reagan was not perfect, and he knew it. He remained humble. He didn’t tout his own accomplishments or successes, instead he proudly proclaimed what we the American people had accomplished in the past and could accomplish in the future. He was sustained by faith and a knowledge he was doing what was right.

Today’s candidates forget government isn’t the solution, it’s the problem. Everyone plans to abolish Obamacare, only to replace it with other federal programs. Why is the solution to affordable health insurance allowing it to be sold across state lines, making it subject to federal regulation instead of state regulation? Does anyone really believe this will result in greater competition rather than rapid consolidation? Why is health insurance and health care even an issue for the federal government? Because multi-state companies want to reduce HR costs.

Twenty-first century American conservatism is on life support. IT doesn’t need a bigger tent, nor is the tent so full people need to be turned away or ushered out the door. The tent is big enough, being held up on all sides by solid principles. What American conservatives need before this century proceeds much farther is someone to explain the delights within the tent and a committee to welcome newcomers inside.

Mar 072016

Walkers via Pixabay

The 2016 presidential primary election season has revealed deep divides in both parties. Bernie Sanders for the Democratic party and Donald Trump for the Republican party have tapped into a disaffection at least a third of the electorate has for business as usual within and between the two national political parties.

It might be worth noting, at the time of the Revolution historians believe about one-third of the colonists supported independence while about another third remained loyal to the crown. When the Civil War broke out, likely a third of the country supported the Union while another third supported secession. And before Pearl Harbor, similar proportions could be found sympathetic to the Nazis, clamoring for the defense of Britain and France, and insisting the US remain isolated. It’s safe to sit on the fence until bullets start flying.

The point is, we seem to reaching a critical mass, and the decisions over the next few months could lead to consequences unforeseen or never seriously entertained by those individuals and groups making decisions. In November, 1860, very few believed Lincoln’s election would lead to a civil war just six months later.

Without considering the long-term consequences, let’s look at a few frightening scenarios for the 2016 presidential election.

1. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump become the Democratic and Republican nominees for president.

This frightening prospect looms large. While many would welcome it, more serious thinkers cringe. No matter who wins, the national would have a chief executive guided by a desire for wealth, power and fame. One who believed and lived by the creed “the rules apply to everyone else but not to me.” We would continue the downward slide towards becoming a nation of men – or women – rather than a nation of laws. A nation which held who you are determines which laws apply to you, and how.

2. The Democratic and Republican nominees for president are selected after contentious party conventions.

Bernie Sanders could challenge Hillary all the way to the convention with the nearly equal numbers of delegates and the support of as much as 40% of the party’s base. Donald Trump could arrive at the convention with no more than 40% of the party’s base and insufficient delegates to win on the first ballot. Here, the party elites, the very establishment Bernie and Donald have based campaigns on fighting, step in to silence their opposition.

Now we could see not two candidates contending for president, but four. Not one third party opposition candidate, but two. With Hillary running as the Democratic nominee and perhaps Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio or even Mitt Romney emerging as the Republican nominee, the Trump train loaded with Trumpkins could easily carry Donald forward while Bernie Sanders, backed by young voters and working class Democrats push a populist campaign on the left.

3. Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz become the Democratic and Republican nominees for president, only to face legal challenges.

At some point, Hillary’s disregard for the law and the apparent practice of selling political favors for cash and donations of her and her husband will have consequences. What if, after the conventions, the evidence for charging Hillary and others with a conspiracy to peddle influence, not to mention mishandle classified information, becomes too great to ignore? Elements within the justice department demand she be prosecuted. Some might see it as settling a score.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump’s bluff about contesting the eligibility of Ted Cruz to become president has been played by the left. Someone challenges whether Ted Cruz is a natural born citizen under the Constitution. The process of emergency rulings and appeals takes a few weeks to play out – remember 2000 – finally landing at the Supreme Court in early October, where – if the Republicans in the Senate have kept their word – the court ends in a 4-4 split.

Trump supports should not assume under this scenario their candidate would fare better. Not only will Democrats ply up Trumps fraud case regarding the now defunct Trump University which will be on-going this summer, they will undoubtedly find something in his income tax audits if Hillary encounters serious legal challenges.

Ultimately, both parties have a candidate facing serious legal challenges, either criminal or civil, which would undermine their ability to act as president. Third world, here we come.

Perhaps none of this will come to pass. Perhaps none of this is a serious as it seems. Unfortunately, just the ability to seriously suggest these scenarios is enough to frighten many Americans. It’s not that they will come to pass, or even that they may come to pass, it’s just that we all know they could come to pass which makes the 2016 presidential election a potential nightmare. Now would be a good time to ho off the fence.

Mar 032016

It is high time someone teaches the American people how to think. Actually, it may be way past time, if not too late. Many – perhaps most – Americans appear unaware of the skills necessary to solve problems or make decisions. Maybe I should rephrase that. A significant portion of the American population seems unable to avail themselves of the skills necessary to find the right solution to a problem or make the right decision.

The problem has become critical, because America has reached a critical juncture. The problems and decisions we face have reached a point where wrong answers jeopardize the continued existence of the Republic. And currently, wrong answers are rampant, highly popular, and indulged by the media.

Let’s start with a little information. Really. Having reliable information, not relying on rumors or opinions, provides the foundation for any right choice. So-called facts are readily available. True facts are harder to come by. Social media, mass media, and even alternative and new media are full of opinions, have truths and agenda-driven reporting. It’s difficult to get reliable, truthful information, but knowing the difficulty is half the battle.

Someone – most likely a liberal – will argue truth is subjective, truth is relative, truth is in the eye of the beholder. We can’t know truth with certainty. But if they’re right, how would we know? By their own logic, we can’t.

The classic definition of truth is that which conforms to reality. Are they saying reality is subjective? Reality is in the eye of the beholder? Perhaps. This explains why Bruce Jenner can convince himself and everyone else he is really Caitlyn Jenner, and Donald Trump can convince himself and everyone else he is really a conservative. I prefer reality. Let’s stick to the truth.

The liberal position on truth provides an excellent example of zero-order thinking. The American people need to learn higher order thinking. Not the higher order thinking skills championed by educational reformers. No skill is involved, just effort.

Let’s start with first-order thinking, which is as far as most people generally go. Say a politician has proposed rent control to make housing more affordable. Sounds good. You find a place you can afford, then the landlord can’t stick you with rent increases all the time once you settle in, forcing you to move.

This is first order thinking – looking only at the immediate consequences. What about the long term consequences? What about the consequences to the landlord? Say you live in the same place until your kids are grown? After 20 years, why would you move?

It’s just you and your spouse now, but you keep your three bedroom apartment because the rents are sky high all around you compared to what you’ve been paying. Even for an efficiency. The young couple with kids has to move into the new development being built with higher rents because costs are increasing. Land is getting scarce.

Meanwhile, the landlord’s costs have increased while her revenue remained constant. She can’t afford maintenance or taxes. Your place is starting to become pretty run down. Like you, your neighbors are getting up in years. When they pass, your new neighbors are of a different caliber. Your landlord can’t charge new tenants nearly enough to make up the revenue she loses as a result of rent control, but she charges as much as she can. Those who want better go to the newer developments, and pay highly for it.

Within a couple of decades the town is littered with run-down vacant and abandoned rental property, while the cost of renting has gone through the roof. Thinking through these long-term consequences is second-order thinking. Thinking about the consequences of these consequences – such as the impact on property taxes, commercial investment, job growth, and so on – is third-order thinking.

If you do third-order thinking in America today, bully for you. You probably work in a think tank. You will seldom see anyone for or against a particular decision or solution even getting to second-order thinking in America today. In fact, the growing trend is to drop back to zero-order thinking. Which, if you think about it, is really not thinking at all.

Which is why the American people need to be taught to think. Remember our liberal friend who argued there is no absolute truth, without seeing the contradiction in his own argument? A prime example of zero-order thinking.

Zero-order thinking means making a decision or solving a problem not through rational, reasoned thought, but through feeling and emotion. I want this, I agree to this, I desire this because it makes me feel good. Or maybe because it doesn’t make me feel bad, like the alternative.

I don’t care Hillary Clinton is a lying, self-serving elitist politician who is willing to put other people’s lives in jeopardy or throw other women under the bus to protect her or her husband’s claim to wealth and power, at least she’s not a misogynistic, racist, homophobic hater of a Republican. I don’t care if Donald Trump is a pro-abortion, anti-gun, bigoted, misogynistic, narcissistic, philandering, lying con artist. At least he’s not Hillary Clinton.

Facts don’t matter. Truth doesn’t matter. Reality doesn’t matter. It’s all relative and we can’t know anything for certain anyway. Hey, it’s all just opinion, right? We’re sticking it to the elites. We’re punishing the one-percenters. We’re teaching the Washington insiders a lesson. We’re making our voices heard and it feels good. That’s what counts, right?

It’s morning America. Wake-up and learn to think.