Thursday, January 31, 2019

President Trump May Be About To Flip The Ninth Circuit

One area in which the election of Donald Trump has paid off in spades is that of judicial appointments. So far, the president has had two Supreme Court appointments and numerous picks for lower courts. Now, a series of appointments may be about to remake one of the most liberal federal courts in the country, the Ninth Circuit.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has the jurisdiction for the states of Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington as well as the territories of Guam and the Mariana Islands.  The Ninth Circuit is infamous among conservatives for its controversial decisions and being one of the most overturned courts in the country by the Supreme Court.  

Yesterday, the White House announced the appointment of seven new judges. Three of these new judges are destined for the Ninth Circuit while the other four will go to the US District Court for the Central District of California.

Two of the new nominees to the Ninth Circuit, Daniel P. Collins and Kenneth Kiyul Lee, were appointed last year and blocked by Democrats. The third appointee is Daniel A. Bress, who is being nominated to a federal judgeship for the first time. All three appointees are considered to be experienced constitutionalists.

The third appointee from last year, Patrick J. Bumatay, was shifted to the California Central District along with Stanley Blumenfeld, Jeremy B. Rosen, and Mark C. Scarsi. Bumatay is an openly gay Filipino-American whose appointment drew fire from California Democrats Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris. His renomination to a lower court represents a small concession to his opposition.  

The appointments came after numerous conservative outlets had criticized the president for slow-walking appointments to the Ninth Circuit. Earlier this month, President Trump renominated 51 appointees from last year but the Ninth Circuit nominees were absent from the least, fueling speculation that the president had made a deal with Sen. Feinstein.

The Ninth Circuit currently has six vacancies. If the three appointees are confirmed by the Senate, the balance of the court will be 13 Republican-appointed and 16 Democrat-appointed judges. Although judges do not always rule in accordance with the wishes of their party, more Republican-appointed judges would bring balance to a court that is considered extreme and temper some of its rulings.

It is possible that two more appointments to the court could give conservatives a majority on the Ninth Circuit. This does not mean that all cases coming through the Ninth Circuit would be heard by a conservative majority, however. Some cases are heard by a single judge or a three-judge panel. Others are heard by an en banc court, which usually means that all judges hear the case. Due to the large size of the Ninth Circuit, however, en banc cases are heard by a panel of 11 randomly selected judges, which could give Democrats a majority.

The current crop of appointments still has to be confirmed by the Senate, however. Democrats removed the filibuster for appeals and district court nominees in 2013, but there are still ways to slow the confirmation process. Last year, Democrats insisted on 30 hours of floor debate and withholding blue slips, approval of judicial appointees by their home state senators. In 2018, Chuck Grassley, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee broke tradition by holding hearings for appointees that did not have a blue slip from either of their state’s senators. This makes it more difficult for the opposition party to block nominees.

Much of Donald Trump’s presidency has been a mixed bag for conservatives, but, giving credit where credit is due, his judicial appointments have shifted the balance of the federal judiciary back toward the Constitution and the rule of law. That will be a legacy that lasts long beyond President Trump’s tenure and it is a very good thing for the country. 

Originally published on The Resurgent

Abortion, Socialism, and Howard Schultz

The Democrats are apparently trying to make a liar out of me. Last week I wrote that support for abortion, while abhorrent to me, didn’t necessarily mean that Democrats were bad people or unchristian. This week Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia said, “Hold my beer and watch this” before proceeding to make comments that come dangerously close to advocating infanticide.

While speaking to radio station WTOP about his third-trimester abortion bill, Gov. Northam said, “When we talk about third-trimester abortions, these are done with the consent of obviously the mother, with the consent of the physicians, more than one physician, by the way. And it's done in cases where there may be severe deformities, there may be a fetus that's non-viable. So, in this particular example, if a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that's what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother. So, I think this was really blown out of proportion.”

Yes, you heard that right. Virginia’s Democratic governor spoke about the right of mothers to decide to kill their children after birth. This is a far cry from the old Democratic line that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare. It should not only be difficult for Christians to support Northam’s bill, which would allow abortion up to the point of birth according to its sponsor, it should be difficult for any human being to support.

The recent outbreaks of open Democratic extremism in New York and Virginia are a symptom of a party that has given itself over to its fringes. Every day seems to bring a new story of Democratic insanity from Kamala Harris’ plan to eliminate private health insurance to Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax to Alexandria Ocasio Cortez’s proposal for a 70 percent income tax rate. Giddy with the results of the 2018 blue wave and already tasting victory over Donald Trump in 2020, prominent Democrats seem to have gone completely off the deep end.

From stage left, enter Howard Schultz, the former Starbucks CEO. It shouldn’t surprise anyone who is familiar with Starbucks that Schultz is no conservative, but he could help to steer the Democratic Party back in a more conservative direction.

The Democratic left is screaming bloody murder, not about the proposed laws to allow the killing of full-term infants, but at the possibility that Schultz might split the liberal vote and help to re-elect Trump. But maybe the real problem is that Democrats are rallying behind candidates that are far out of the American political mainstream.

Schultz is an attractive candidate precisely because the Democratic leadership is catering to and chasing after the radical fringe. Polling shows that voters are alienated by both the Democrats and the Republicans and Schultz apparently believes as I do that there is an opportunity for a centrist party that can inhabit the middle of the political spectrum between the fringes of both major parties. With an unpopular Republican incumbent, Schultz could fill a niche similar to the blue dog Democrats who were socially moderate and fiscally conservative and possibly carry some states with a platform similar to that of Southern Democrats such as Sam Nunn, Zell Miller, and Bill Clinton circa 1996.

Schultz won’t win over much of the Republican base. His positions on gun control and abortion, although moderate compared to many Democrats, are still unpalatable to conservatives. Schultz’s ideas on fiscal policy, however, could appeal to many conservatives who are unhappy with President Trump’s trade war, spending, and hard line on immigration, but Schultz’s real target base is center-left Democrats who feel as left behind by Democratic extremism as many Republicans do by the Trumpist GOP.

I’m happy that he has called out Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and Elizabeth Warren for their radical economic policies and I hope that he will speak similar truths to the Democratic powers that be on abortion. Even though he’s pro-choice, I haven’t seen any evidence that he is part of the radically pro-abortion movement that has made it a priority to be able to abort babies that have already been born.

Schultz might be able to accomplish his goal of steering the Democrats back toward the center without even mounting a real campaign. The very threat of a centrist insurgent taking votes from the Democratic nominee may be enough to influence Democratic primary voters to eschew the radicals in their party for moderates like Joe Biden, John Hickenlooper, or Amy Klobuchar. If a centrist Democrat wins the nomination, Schultz could quietly fade into the woodwork and back the party nominee.

Many Republicans won’t like a move back toward the center by the Democrats. The more extreme the Democratic candidate, the more likely President Trump is to be re-elected or so the theory goes. As a former Republican, I disagree and would welcome more moderation by both parties.

For most of my life, I’ve had the choice between what I considered to be a good candidate and a horrible one. That changed in 2016 when I was given the choice between two horrible candidates. For once, I would love to have a choice between two (or more) candidates who are good people who I believe would be good leaders, even if they don’t check every box on my list of policy preferences.

Besides, I’ve seen unelectable extremists get elected too many times to wish for another radical candidate from either side. Our last two presidents were both considered unelectable on the grounds of inexperience, radical policies, dishonesty, and divisive politics. There are plenty of unelectable people in Congress as well.

I’m not endorsing Howard Schultz and I don’t have any plans to vote him at this point, but I do wish him well. If he can help to bring the Democratic Party back toward the center, it will benefit the country as a whole.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Elon Musk’s Private Jet Is Hypocritical But Not Wasteful

Leftist environmentalists have a new target. In a new hit piece on Ars Technica, Megan Geuss attacks Elon Musk for his extensive use of his private jet, saying, “For a CEO who claims to care about carbon emissions, Musk's flight habits are eyebrow-raising.”

The article draws from a Washington Post piece that notes that Musk’s jet “flew more than 150,000 miles last year, or more than six times around the Earth, as he raced between the outposts of his futuristic empire during what he has called ‘the most difficult and painful year’ of his career.” The Post piece details an analysis of flight records for the jet.

In comments that show a clear misunderstanding of corporate aviation, Geuss says that some of Musk’s flights are “frivolous” and complains that Musk’s jet flew too much, noting, “While many billionaires have private jets, Musk's jet stands out in the number of trips it made and miles it logged.” The Post reports that Musk’s jet flew “more than 250 flights,” which Geuss helpfully points out was “100 more flights than the private jet of Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon (and owner of The Washington Post).”

“Perhaps most egregious,” Geuss wrote, “the plane logged a number of 20-mile trips, repositioning from the south side of Los Angeles to the north side.” She acknowledges that Musk was not on board for those flights, and that “Instead, the jet would make the 20-mile repositioning flights to meet the CEO at a closer airport.”

In addition to my role as a Resurgent contributor, I also have a full-time job as a corporate pilot. I’ve spent almost 15 years flying private jets and many of Ms. Geuss’ objections to the use of Musk’s private plane are common misconceptions about corporate flying.

First, Geuss complains about how much Musk uses the jet, but heavy use of a jet is actually a good thing. Owning a corporate jet is expensive and there are many fixed costs such as the cost of the airplane, routine maintenance, hangars, insurance, and the crew. If these fixed costs are spread over a higher number of hours, it makes the airplane cheaper to operate on an hourly basis than an airplane that spends a larger portion of its life sitting on the ground. If you aren’t flying your private jet, there is little point in owning it.

Geuss also complains about the short position flights, but she fails to consider that the reason people and companies buy private planes is to save time. Citing her example of moving the airplane from one side of Los Angeles to the other, I looked at Google Maps to see how long it would take to make the drive from Burbank in the north to Long Beach in the south. As I write this at about 7:30 a.m. Pacific time, it would take an estimated one hour six minutes to make the 35-mile drive via I-5 and I-110 in heavy traffic. It simply is not efficient for the CEO of two billion dollar companies to spend an hour in the LA gridlock.

Thank goodness that the United States has one of the best networks of general aviation airports in the world. The LA basin is home to many reliever airports where Musk and other people with access to private planes can have their pilots meet them and turn a long drive across town to catch a flight into a quick trip down the street. This flexibility enables corporate jet passengers to be able to attend meetings that would have been missed otherwise and be home in time for dinner.

The same applies to a trip that the Post singled out in their article in which Musk’s plane, a 2015 Gulfstream 650ER, “burned thousands of pounds of jet fuel flying 300 miles from LA to Oakland so Musk could view a competitive video gaming event.” The Post calls the trip awkward since it came a few days after Musk tweeted about the world running out of “dead dinosaurs,” but the story acknowledges that Musk met a Tesla board member and worked at two Tesla offices before returning home.

Despite his intelligence, however, Musk is wrong about running out of oil, at least within the short term. Only a few years after peak oil was considered a real possibility, the shale oil revolution has led to an increase in oil reserves for both the United States and the world. We won’t be running out of fossil fuels any time soon.

Musk is also wrong about renewable energy. At this point, there is no renewable fuel that could power his Gulfstream efficiently. Bio-jet fuels do exist but are not readily available and are more expensive than traditional jet fuel. Plant-based fuels also compete for agricultural resources with food for both people and animals.

Musk’s environmental rhetoric may be wrong, but the use of his personal airplane is much more efficient than taking an airline. Musk’s private jet can make the flight in about an hour, which is about the same as an airliner, but Musk and his guests would be able to drive to a local airport and walk directly aboard his plane.

If he took an airline, Musk would not only have to use the airline’s schedule rather than his own, he would have to drive to an airport served by the airline, show up early enough to clear security, and make his way to the gate well before the flight departed. The one-hour trip to Oakland would take half a day or more and the time spent traveling would be lost as well. Unlike on his own jet, Musk would not have the privacy to conduct business while he was waiting on the flight or en route.

The Post article reported that Tesla spent about $700,000 on Musk’s corporate jet travel in 2017. While this may seem exorbitant, it represents a tiny fraction of the $7.014 billion that Tesla is expected to earn this quarter. The piece also noted that Tesla and SpaceX do not pay for Musk’s private trips on the plane.

The big problem with Elon Musk is not that he uses his corporate jet a lot, it is his hypocrisy in attacking fossil fuels while he does so. Musk may be able to make his Tesla factory completely solar-powered, but his airplane is going to keep burning “dead dinosaurs” for the foreseeable future unless he wants to trade his Gulfstream for the Solar Impulse, the groundbreaking airplane that circled the world on solar power in 2016. If he makes the trade, he will give up the time advantage of his jet, however. Solar Impulse took 14 months to make the trip.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Can A Fusion Party Save America?

At various times in American history, voters have come together in bipartisan Fusion Parties when both major parties failed to represent their interests. As the Republican Party continues in a graveyard spiral at the hands of President Trump and the Democratic Party veers ever further toward the radical left, the time may be right for another fusion across party lines.

As Erick Erickson recently noted, “The GOP is a party in decline and I think if anyone wants to challenge it, the challenge is best done with the establishment of a new third party.” Erickson further pointed out, accurately I think, that, “The GOP is largely defined by one man and the party itself stands for nothing other than what he wants. With only around 40% of the country supportive, and less than that strongly supportive, the GOP could be brought low with only a bit of effort.”

Republicans will be tempted, as they were in 2016, to support Donald Trump’s re-election campaign no matter how bad the situation looks. There is almost no chance that Trump will lose the Republican nomination and the chances are equally small that the president’s core supporters would desert him in the general election. Any Democratic candidate will always represent a national crisis that can be used to justify jettisoning conservative principles and even common decency.

The problem for Republicans is that their base is shrinking and they are alienating moderate voters at an alarming rate. Exit polls from 2018 showed that the GOP lost ground with almost every demographic. A new poll from Gallup, taken in the midst of the shutdown, showed that the share of voters who identify as Republican has fallen to 25 percent, down three points since the midterms. Democrats have increased by three points to 34 percent.  

In 2016, voters were unhappy with both candidates and all indications are that this sad situation will be repeated in 2020. Donald Trump was the most unpopular president of modern times even before the shutdown caused his approval to sink even lower. Recent polling showed that 57 percent of registered voters said they would definitely vote against Trump. The risks of backing a president who has become even more disliked since losing the popular vote should be apparent to Republicans but most seem caught up in the Trump fervor.

Democrats are in a better position. There are numerous Democratic candidates with more sure to follow. Many are relatively unknown, which is a plus, given their radicalism. The chief advantage that Democrats hold at this point is that their candidate is almost certain to face off against an increasingly isolated and unmanageable Donald Trump.

Fortunately, for Trump opponents, the Gallup poll showed that 39 percent of voters identify as independents. Granted, most people who say they are independent are lying. Most are fairly reliable partisan voters who just don’t like their party well enough to claim it. Nevertheless, the fact that almost 40 percent of the electorate rejects both parties is encouraging for those who want neither party. If these voters don’t claim the label of either party, they are likely to be willing to consider an alternative.

I believe that there are Democrats who are just as disillusioned and angry with their party as I am with the Republicans. Howard Schultz is a manifestation of this wing of the party. I know that there are many Republicans who are unhappy with Donald Trump because I’ve talked to many of them. It is these people who have been left behind the two major parties that could make a Fusion Party a success.

The radical wings of both parties will stand by their respective nominees. If there is to be a serious third-party alternative to Trump and the Democrat-to-be-named-later, it can’t be a strictly conservative party. Any conservative party would simply split the dwindling conservative vote and help to elect the Democrat (not that the Democrat candidate is likely to need much help).

A better strategy is for a Fusion Party to carve out a place in the middle of the political spectrum. The target of the Fusion Party should be the moderate and independent voters who are increasingly left behind as both parties cater to their own respective extremists. The United States is a center-right country and that is where the Fusion Party should concentrate its efforts.

Like the two current parties, the Fusion Party wouldn’t be all things to all people. Rather than being built around conservative or liberal orthodoxy, it would be focused on bipartisanship and the ability to forge practical, workable compromises. It would also be focused on electing people of good character who could be trusted with the nation’s highest office. Neither conservatives nor liberals would be totally happy with the party platform, that’s the mark of a good compromise, but they would hopefully be happy to have a decent person to vote for.

In the end, a compromise platform might do more to advance conservative legislation than a purist platform. For the past 10 years, the parties have campaigned on no compromise and it has gotten them almost nowhere. Tax reform passed by a bare partisan majority (as did Obamacare), but Obamacare reform and border security were left on the table because Republicans could not compromise enough to win the necessary Democrat votes. A compromise platform might build the wall as part of immigration reform package and fix the worst parts of Obamacare even if it didn’t fulfill every conservative goal.

Even though a Fusion Party wouldn’t be a conservative dream ticket, it would be better than the most likely alternative, a liberal Democrat in the White House. If the 2018 midterms are any indication, the Republicans will be subjected to an electoral bloodbath if voters are given a binary choice between President Trump and any reasonably sane and personable Democrat. A three-way race with a Fusion Party candidate may be the best chance to avoid a democratic socialist like Bernie Sanders or a leftwing radical like Kamala Harris being elected president.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

What Do Tucker Carlson, Elizabeth Warren and Alexandra Ocasio Cortez Have In Common?

Elizabeth Warren and Alexandra Ocasio Cortez have made the news recently with their attacks on billionaires and capitalism. As proof that politics makes strange bedfellows, however, Tucker Carlson, the conservative, Trump-supporting Fox News commentator is sounding more and more like the two Democratic congresswomen.

To make the point, look at the three quotes below and try to determine which came from Carlson and which came from Warren and Ocasio Cortez:

·        “I’m definitely against a system where really the only success stories are like 27 billionaires who hate America, which is where we are now.”

·        “Our leaders don’t care. We are ruled by mercenaries who feel no long-term obligation to the people they rule.”

·        Uber is “not a sustainable business model. The only reason it continues is because of your generosity. Because you’re paying the welfare benefits for Uber’s impoverished drivers.”

If you suspected that this was a trick, you’re right. All three quotes are from Tucker Carlson. The first was from the 2018 Student Action Summit, the second from Carlson’s January 3, 2019 monologue in response to a Mitt Romney op-ed, and the third from an August 30, 2018 segment on his Fox News show. Without context, the lines could just as easily have come from Alexandra Ocasio Cortez or Elizabeth Warren, however.

Carlson’s rhetoric against billionaires and capitalism seems strikingly similar to Cortez’s statement last week that, “I do think a system that allows billionaires to exist when there are parts of Alabama where people are still getting ringworm because they don’t have access to public health is wrong.”

Adding to the populist pileup is Elizabeth Warren, who recently unveiled her plan for a wealth tax on the superrich. “We are now in an America where one-tenth of one percent has about the same wealth as 90 percent of America,” Warren said. “And here’s the deal. Forty percent of America today can’t come up with 400 bucks in an emergency. That is not an economy that is sustainable, and it’s not a democracy that’s sustainable.”

The meeting of the minds between Carlson and the Democrats represents a crossover between the populist tendencies of the right and left. Carlson almost acknowledged this in a Jan. 26 interview with Salon.

“My intention in writing it [his monologue responding to Mitt Romney] was to remind the Republican Party that these are now issues of concern for you,” Carlson said, “because for a hundred years you represented capital over and against labor. I mean that's kind of the purpose of the Republican Party. They used to represent the investor class, right? So, the conventional criticisms of the Republicans as the party of management were 100 percent true, obviously.”

“What I wanted to remind Republican lawmakers was that it's no longer true, that's not your constituency anymore,” Carlson added. “You have a new constituency and it's people who are primarily wage earners and primarily, not low income, but lower income.”

Carlson seems to have bought into the liberal idea of a society that is divided into winners and losers rather than the traditional conservative belief that a rising tide floats all boats. A free market economy will necessarily produce wealthy people who have ideas that form the nucleus of companies that earn profits and create jobs. In contrast to the view that wealth is bad, the companies created by the wealthy help in the economy in two main ways. First, they provide jobs and, second, they provide products that raise the standard of living.

One such American success story is Amazon, but rather than celebrating the company that provides more than 600,000 jobs and made life better for millions, Carlson is critical. “Thousands of Amazon employees are forced to rely on food stamps, Medicaid and public housing because their wages are too low. And guess who pays for that? You do,” he wrote last year. “Frankly, I don’t believe that ordinary Americans should be subsidizing the wealthiest person in the world because he pays his employees inadequate wages.”

Oops, sorry. Bernie Sanders actually said that. But Tucker Carlson made a statement that was very similar: “Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, is worth about $150 billion. That’s enough to make him the richest man in the world by far, and possibly the richest human being in all of human history. It’s certainly enough to pay his employees well. But he doesn’t. A huge number of Amazon workers are so poorly paid, they qualify for federal welfare benefit.”

Bernie and Tucker ignore the fact that there is no such thing as a bad job. Some Americans prefer part-time jobs so that they can spend more time with their families. Some take part-time jobs in addition to a full-time job. In any case, minimum wage jobs usually lead to higher paying jobs after the worker gains experience. This could be through promotions within the company or finding a better job at a completely different company. In any case, it is well established that mandating that companies increase wages [DT1] leads to fewer jobs.

The truth is that wages are increasing for all Americans. The Wall Street Journal reported in November 2018 that wages saw the biggest gain since 2009. While wages were slow to recover in the wake of the Great Recession as unemployment fell to less than four percent. As the economy grows, workers will benefit with higher wages as the market for labor tightens.

When conservatives embrace populism, they lose sight of the economic truths that have benefitted the West for hundreds of years. The result is a mishmash of emotion and policy that leaves both sides of the political spectrum confused and overlapping. That confusion didn’t begin in 2016 when Donald Trump espoused a trade policy that was very similar to that of Bernie Sanders. There was already a considerable anti-trade movement growing in the GOP even before Trump appeared on the scene, but the Republican populism was accelerated by the 2016 election.

Carlson’s solution seems similar to the Democrats in that he wants someone to direct the economy to do what he wants it to. He even told Salon that he is open to voting for Elizabeth Warren if she promises to exert centralized control over the economy in a way that he wants.

“If there was a Democrat in 2020 in this election who made that primary plank in the platform, I would vote for that person. That's how important I think it is,” Carlson said. “If Elizabeth Warren came out and said, ‘I wrote a whole book on this and I want our economy to support parents on one income, families on one income, not so we can hire some person from the Third World to work at minimum wage and raise your kids, but so that you can have an intact family. You can live in a way that we all know is better.’”

But Carlson’s goal of directing the economy to support single parents can only be achieved through bigger government that takes away wealth from people who earned it. That is not conservative or a free market policy.

Admittedly, workers have suffered over the past decade since the 2008 financial crisis. Wages were slow to recover in the Obama years and manufacturing jobs took a hit, although the populists misidentified the culprit. It was automation rather than outsourcing that caused much of the pain. Today, the economy seems to be undergoing a shift as part of the technological and internet revolutions, but a changing economy doesn’t mean that the underlying laws of economics are no longer valid.

Free market capitalism is still the ideology that has lifted millions out of poverty and the expansion of fairness through government control that Carlson and others seem to suggest would restrict the free market’s ability to help workers, not help it. Unfortunately, the idea that Big Government can make capitalism more fair is where the Democrats and the populist wing of the Republican Party come together.
Originally published on The Resurgent


Monday, January 28, 2019

No, There Were Not 58,000 Noncitizen Voters In Texas

Over the weekend a story from Texas hit the internet that there 58,000 noncitizens had voted in Texas elections. The story originated with the Texas Secretary of State and said that a total of 95,000 noncitizens were registered to vote in Texas. The story quickly hit the conservative media and was even picked up by President Trump, who said in a tweet, “These numbers are just the tip of the iceberg. All over the country, especially in California, voter fraud is rampant.” The only problem was that the story as reported by many outlets was not true.

The story of tens of thousands of illegal votes should have raised suspicions from the outset. Texas has a strict voter ID law that requires photo identification for most voters unless they cannot reasonably obtain one. The most common form of photo identification, a Texas driver’s license, requires proof of US citizenship or legal immigration status. The first question on the Texas voter registration application is “Are you a US citizen?” As recently as 2018 courts have ruled that states cannot require proof of citizenship to vote, but voting if you know that you are ineligible is second-class felony in Texas. The heavily Republican Lone Star State, would be an unlikely place to allow hordes of noncitizens to fraudulently vote.

The story originated with a statement by the office of Texas Secretary of State David Whitley that was described by the Dallas Morning News on Friday. The News article, which led with the statement, “About 58,000 non-U.S. citizens who were legally in the country voted in one or more elections over a 22-year period,” also included the caveat that critics called the statistic questionable, but the nuances of the story were quickly lost on many readers and some media outlets.

In his statement, Whitley said, “Approximately 95,000 individuals identified by [the Department of Public Safety] have a matching voter registration record in Texas, approximately 58,000 of whom have voted in one or more Texas elections.”

“DPS has documents on file for all these individuals indicating that they are currently not U.S. citizens,” the statement said. “All of these [95,000] had some sort of proof of lawful presence on file, but are not full citizens.”

Despite the language of the DPS statement, an advisory to election administrators and voter registrars sent the same day, the Texas director of elections said that the 95,000 name matches between legal immigrants and voter rolls should be considered “WEAK.” The capitalization of the word was used in the advisory for emphasis.

The original statement by the Secretary of State did not specify the time period over which the 58,000 immigrants allegedly voted, but Sam Taylor, a spokesman for Whitley, told reporters, “The dates in which the [58,000] voted range from 1996-2018,” a period of 22 years.

Taylor also said, “We didn't perform any analysis other than the number registered and the number who had voting history.”

The flaw in the DPS report is that there was no effort to determine whether the voters who had records indicating that they were noncitizens were still noncitizens at the time they voted. Critics of the report point out that the voters could have been naturalized before they registered to vote.

“Texas has one of the largest rates of naturalization in the U.S., with about 50,000 Texas residents becoming naturalized citizens each year,” Beth Stevens of the Texas Civil Rights Project said in a statement which warned that the report and “the subsequent fanning of the flames by the @TXAG… threaten to remove thousands of potentially eligible voters from the roles [sic].”

Chad Dunn, a Houston elections lawyer and general counsel to the Texas Democratic Party noted that there is no list of US citizens that could be cross-checked by DPS and said that testimony from a lawsuit over the state’s voter ID law showed that election “databases are such a mess that they couldn't tell anything meaningful from them.”

Keith Ingram, the Texas director of elections, seems to agree that the data produced by DPS was not definitive proof of illegal voting. “The goal was to produce actionable information voter registrars could use to assist in their list maintenance responsibilities,” Ingram said in the advisory to elections officials. He added that local elections officials could choose to investigate voters flagged by DPS or “take no action on the voter record if the voter registrar determines that there is no reason to believe the voter is ineligible.”

Stevens added in her statement, “The secretary’s actions threaten to result in tens of thousands of eligible voters being removed from the roles, including those with the least resources to comply with the demand to show papers.”

The threat of stripping legal voters from the rolls also appears to be overblown, however. The advisory notice stipulates, “Counties are not permitted, under current Texas law, to immediately cancel the voter as a result of any non-U.S. Citizen matching information provided.” Voters can be canceled if they respond to that they are not citizens or if they do not respond to a proof of citizenship request from the state.

A statement by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in response to the DPS statement noted, “From 2005-2017, the attorney general’s office prosecuted 97 defendants for numerous voter fraud violations.” This is far short of the 58,000 voters alleged to have voted illegally.

The bottom line is that Texas has identified tens of thousands of people who were noncitizens and who are now registered to vote. There is no evidence, however, that these voters were still noncitizens at the time that they registered to vote. Even assuming a worst-case scenario in which all of the noncitizens voted illegally, the numbers represent a 22-year period rather than a large number of fraudulent votes in one election. The fact that registrars are free to take no action at all with respect to the matched names is further evidence of the DPS claims’ lack of substance.

Election fraud is a serious matter but the evidence for widespread fraud presented by the Texas DPS does not match the hysteria that it has generated. The name matches are not evidence of a pattern of illegal voting by immigrants, but the claim will further stoke tensions in the immigration debate. It is unfortunate that these skewed and meaningless statistics will make it more difficult to solve the immigration problem. 

Originally published on The Resurgent

Saturday, January 26, 2019

RNC Discourages Primary Challenge, Affirms Allegiance To Trump

In a move designed to promote a vision of party loyalty but that actually telegraphs President Trump’s weakness, the Republican National Committee voted on Friday to affirm its “undivided support for President Donald J. Trump and his effective Presidency.” The unusual resolution appears intended to head off a primary challenge to President Trump in 2020.

“President Trump has incredible support amongst Republican voters and the full support of the RNC,” RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel told the AP. “Our unprecedented relationship with the President and his campaign will be key to his re-election and ensuring we continue this great American comeback.”

McDaniel’s statement is reminiscent of an early “Simpsons” episode in which Lisa is given a scripted question to ask Mr. Burns as part of his gubernatorial campaign. The question is a softball designed to make Burns appear more popular than he is. It’s easy to imagine today’s Republicans asking Donald Trump, “Your campaign seems to have the momentum of a runaway freight train. Why are you so popular?”

The RNC’s affirmation of loyalty to President Trump follows the publication of a statement by the chairman of the Arizona Republican Party earlier this month. In his email, Jonathan Lines warned, “While we are accepting of different viewpoints, it is essential that we stay true to our conservative values. And it is non-negotiable that we stand with our President.”

The move to freeze out potential challengers to Trump comes shortly after the Trump campaign assumed unprecedented control of the RNC in a move that is similar to the Clinton takeover of the DNC ahead of the 2016 elections. In December, the two organizations merged their fundraising and field efforts into a new group called Trump Victory. The plan not only streamlines Republican campaign efforts but also makes it more difficult for potential challengers.

While no Republican has announced a primary challenge to the president, rumors have abounded. Popular Maryland Governor Larry Hogan is said to be considering a run. Former Republican senators Bob Corker and Jeff Flake, as well as former Ohio Governor John Kasich, are considered to be possible candidates as well.

“There are some people who choose for whatever reason to handcuff themselves to the Titanic,” John Weaver, a Kasich adviser, told Politico. “Why, I have no idea.”

Hitching the GOP’s fortunes to Donald Trump is a risky move.  After the shutdown failure, the president’s average approval rating is 39 percent and Mr. Trump’s “effective presidency” led Republican candidates to a shellacking in the 2018 midterm elections. A recent poll by PBS NewsHour, NPR and Marist found that 57 percent of registered voters say they can’t support Trump in 2020. An economy shackled to the president’s tariffs and a deepening Russia investigation are merely two of the possibilities that could drag Mr. Trump’s popularity further into the toilet.

A traditional strength of the Republican Party is the diversity of ideas that come from a mix of free thought and differing opinions. Increasingly, however, the new GOP seems similar to the left in that members who dissent are being shown the door. Democrats have repeatedly made it clear that there is no room in their party for pro-lifers. Now Republicans are telling the country that if you are one of the 41 percent of the country that isn’t on the Trump Train, you aren’t welcome in the GOP.

Both parties seem intent on alienating and angering as many moderate and independent voters in the time left before the 2020 elections. It will be interesting to see which succeeds in this race to the bottom.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Can We Agree That Shutdowns Don't Work?

Yesterday President Trump unceremoniously capitulated to Nancy Pelosi in the shutdown negotiations. Continuing in a long line of Republican shutdown failures, the president agreed to reopen the government with no funding for his pet wall project. Although the new funding agreement lasts only three weeks and the president has hinted that he may shut down the government again next month if Democrats fail to allow funding for the wall, there would be little point to repeating a failed strategy. Republicans need to face the reality that shutting down the government is not a viable strategy for achieving policy goals.

It hasn’t always been that way. There were gaps in federal funding in the 1960s and 70s, but the situation changed with President Carter. Carter’s attorney general, Benjamin Civiletti, issued a legal opinion citing an obscure law that said that government employees were not allowed to work until Congress agreed to pay them.

The first modern government shutdown occurred in 1981 under President Reagan. Congress fell short of the Gipper’s demand for spending cuts so he vetoed a spending bill. The shutdown lasted three days until Congress passed a continuing resolution that gave them time to reach a permanent agreement. A series of shutdowns in the 1980s and 1990s usually ended quickly with either an agreement between the two parties or a continuing resolution that funded the government while the parties negotiated in good faith.

That changed in 1995 with a shutdown that lasted from December 16 to January 6, 1996. This was the first shutdown with the aim of bending one party to the other’s will. Republicans led by Newt Gingrich were attempting to negotiate a balanced budget deal with President Clinton. The 21-day shutdown was the longest on record until this year. It finally ended when the two parties agreed to a package of spending cuts and tax increases to balance the budget, but voters blamed Gingrich and the Republicans for the shutdown, which may have cost Bob Dole the 1996 election.

It was almost 20 years before the next shutdown, a scenario similar to Trump’s wall shutdown this year. Most of us probably remember the Obamacare shutdown of 2013. Following Ted Cruz’s lead, Republicans shut down the government for 17 days demanding a budget that did not fund Obamacare. The Democrats did not fold and Republicans finally agreed to a spending bill that included the Affordable Care Act.

Early shutdowns over minor points in a spending bill didn’t last long. But the nature of shutdowns changed when Republicans began attempting to use government shutdowns to force Democrats to pass legislation that they couldn’t pass otherwise. These shutdowns lasted longer than the old shutdowns with the two sides often not even negotiating. Invariably, they ended with Republican defeats. There is little room for negotiation when the demand is a yes-or-no proposition like repealing Obamacare or building a wall.

There is a simple reason that the Republicans tend to lose shutdown battles. It has less to do with the GOP’s lack of spine than with the mathematics of Congress. The bottom line is that shutdowns don’t change the number of votes that either side can marshal. If Republicans don’t have enough votes to pass a bill with the government open then they won’t have enough votes with the government shut down.

The Framers of the Constitution set up the government to make it difficult to pass bills. A bill can be blocked by a minority party controlling one house of Congress. Even when one party controls both houses of Congress, the minority party can block legislation through a Senate filibuster. It is almost essential for every bill to have at least some votes from the other party to become law, but the tendency of both parties today is to try to force through legislation on party-line votes. The result is a stalemate that benefits the minority party defending the status quo.

The assumption that the other side will spontaneously cave if the government is shut down has been a bipartisan problem. In January 2018, Democrats made a similar mistake and shut down the government for three days in an attempt to force the Trump Administration to extend DACA protections for illegal immigrants. The stalemate ended when Senate Majority Leader McConnell agreed to allow a vote on an immigration bill.

Shutdowns typically include the worst of both worlds for the party instigating the shutdown, especially for Republicans, who can be heard enthusiastically shouting, “Shut it down” at rallies and on social media. Voters who aren’t part of the base are not as happy to see government services interrupted as the party faithful so the party takes a hit in popularity along with losing the legislative battle. Despite Obamacare’s unpopularity, Republican approval plummeted to a historic low within a few days of the onset of the 2013 shutdown. Similarly, President Trump’s approval slipped into the 30s just before he caved in the most recent shutdown.

Add in the fact that shutdowns are expensive and there really is no conservative reason to pursue the strategy. By the estimation of President Trump’s economic advisors, the current shutdown was more than twice as expensive as estimated. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers will be getting paid for not working and closed federal agencies hampered private business.

For years, shutdown advocates were like communists who argued that real communism had never been tried. All that’s needed is to hold out a little longer and don’t fold, the shutdown Republicans would say. But the Trump shutdown was the longest on record and despite the president’s reputation as a fighter, he was no closer to funding his wall on Day 34 than he was on Day One.

President Trump is desperately trying to spin the deal to reopen the government as a victory, claiming on Twitter that it “was in no way a concession.” Likewise, some Republicans claimed that the 2013 shutdown was a moral victory or that it led to the Republican congressional victories in the 2014 midterms. In reality, both shutdowns were embarrassing failures for the GOP. If Republicans would like to trade moral victories for real ones, a change of strategy is in order.

One alternative would be for President Trump to declare a national emergency and claim the executive authority to appropriate the funds for the wall. If the president wants to see how low his approval rating can go and tie the wall funding up in court for the foreseeable future, declaring a national emergency would be the best course to take.

On the other hand, if Republicans would like to build a wall, a return to the methods of yesteryear is their best chance. Rather than daring the Democrats to say “no” to the wall, President Trump and the Republicans should make them an offer they can’t refuse. I detailed the terms of such an offer for comprehensive immigration reform earlier this month.

The only way that a Donald Trump will get a wall is with a bipartisan bill that has enough items from the Democratic wish list to win the support – or least stall the opposition of – Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. Democrats might well say “no” to a generous offer, but that’s no worse than the current situation and they will have their own voters to answer to if they reject a good deal.

We’ve spent the past ten years saying “no” to each other. The government and the country have become ever more divided in that time. Both parties have become more firmly entrenched, more extreme, and less willing to compromise.  

Now President Trump has the opportunity to change things. He can be like President Clinton, who tacked to the middle in the second half of his presidency and worked with Republicans to pass landmark bipartisan bills such as welfare reform, or he can follow the example of President Obama, who dug in an refused to work with the GOP, choosing instead to use his pen and phone to try to bypass Congress with his executive authority. The direction the president chooses will likely determine the fate of his reelection campaign.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Friday, January 25, 2019

The Roger Stone Indictment Examined

Former Trump campaign advisor Roger Stone was arrested by the FBI last night on charges stemming from Stone’s contact with WikiLeaks about the release of stolen DNC data during the 2016 election. Stone is being charged with obstructing the investigation into Russian interference in the election through making false statements and attempting to convince another witness to make false statements. Stone’s arrest by armed FBI agents in a pre-dawn raid was filmed by CNN.

The indictment does not directly mention President Trump but it does provide firm links between Stone, WikiLeaks and the Trump Campaign. That is bad news for a president who has claimed for years that there was no collusion, and it may explain why Rudy Giuliani, the president’s lawyer, has shifted from denying collusion to saying that the president was not involved in illegal conspiracies.

Stone’s indictment is not sealed and is available online here. Per the indictment, Stone left his official position at the Trump campaign in August 2015 but remained in contact with Trump staffers throughout the election. In June or July 2016, Stone informed the Trump campaign that he had information that WikiLeaks had access to the stolen DNC data that would be damaging to the Clinton campaign.

After WikiLeaks dumped a cache of stolen emails on July 22, 2016, “a senior Trump campaign official was directed,” the indictment does not say by whom, to contact Stone about future releases. Afterward, Stone stayed in contact with the Trump campaign and informed them about upcoming dumps of DNC data.

The Washington Post reported in March 2018 that Stone had been in contact with Sam Nunberg, a Trump campaign advisor, about Assange. Nunberg may be the senior Trump campaign official, but it could also be Steve Bannon. The New York Times obtained emails between Stone and Bannon that match the dates the question.

The indictment also indicates that the FBI has access to Stone’s personal emails. It cites Stone’s correspondence with Person 1, an unnamed web media figure and political commentator, in which the two discussed WikiLeaks and coordination of attacks on the Clinton campaign. In numerous emails and in a radio interview with Person 2, a radio host, Stone claimed to be in contact with Julian Assange, the head of WikiLeaks, through a “mutual friend.” Person 1 is conspiracy author Jerome Corsi and Person 2 is Randy Credico, a right-wing talk show host.

In one email dated August 2, 2016, Person 1 told Stone, “Word is friend in embassy plans 2 more dumps. One shortly after I’m back [from a trip in Europe]. 2nd in Oct. Impact planned to be very damaging…” The email continued, “Would not hurt to start suggesting HRC old, memory bad, has stroke — neither he nor she well. I expect that much of next dump focus, setting stage for [Clinton] Foundation debacle.”

Stone and Person 2 were in email contact in early October and discussed the WikiLeaks “October surprise.” Stone seemed to know that something big was coming but not the precise information that would be released. When Stone sent an email titled “WTF” to Person 2 on Oct. 2 after WikiLeaks canceled a big data dump, Person 2 responded that the move was a “head fake” and said, “Hillary and her people are doing a full-court press” to stop the next dump. Afterward, Stone passed this information along to Trump supporters in the campaign and the conservative media.

A few days later on Oct. 7, WikiLeaks released the first of the emails stolen from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. Afterward, an associate of the Trump campaign official sent Stone a text message that said, “Well done.” Stone claimed credit for the Podesta release in subsequent conversations with Trump campaign officials.

In testimony before the House Intelligence Committee on Sept. 26, 2017, Stone denied any foreknowledge of the WikiLeaks releases. The indictment charges him with making deliberately false and misleading statements to Congress about the matter as well as lying about having documents pertinent to the Russia investigation. In truth, the indictment says, Stone possessed numerous emails and text messages about the WikiLeaks dumps including an email to a “high-ranking member of the Trump Campaign on Oct. 4 that promised “a load every week going forward.”

Stone lied under oath about his contacts with Assange. Stone said that his contacts with Assange were all through Person 2, Credico, when, in reality, he had communicated with WikiLeaks through Person 1, Corsi, before making contact with Person 2. Stone never admitted to being in contact with Person 1 in his testimony.

Stone claimed that he never asked for information about the stolen DNC documents from either Person 1 or 2. The indictment shows that Stone directed both of the intermediaries to inquire about information damaging to the Clinton Campaign. Stone also denied having written communications with the intermediaries, but the FBI seems to have been able to recover both email and text messages.

Most damaging to President Trump, Stone also lied about his contacts with the Trump campaign. The indictment says that Stone told “senior Trump Campaign officials” about the WikiLeaks materials and timing of the releases “on multiple occasions.” It specifically cites three emails in early October just ahead of the Podesta dump.

In October 2017, Stone tried to cover his tracks. He sent an email to Credico, Person 2, and asked him to confirm his testimony to the House Intelligence Committee. Credico responded that Stone’s testimony was false and that he should correct it.

In November 2017, Credico was called to testify before the House Committee. His initial response was to contact Stone, who again asked Credico to lie for him. Stone also suggested that Credico say that he could remember what he told Stone or to invoke the Fifth Amendment.

“Stonewall it. Plead the fifth. Anything to save the plan. . . Richard Nixon,” Stone texted.

Credico declined to testify voluntarily before the House committee and was subpoenaed. He continued to contact Stone, who attempted to direct his testimony and instructed him not to talk to the FBI. At one point, Stone told Credico to “do a ‘Frank Pentangeli,’” a reference to a member of the mafia in Godfather II who played dumb before Congress.

Roger Stone’s indictment does not provide a smoking gun that Donald Trump was involved in illegal collusion with the Russians through WikiLeaks. However, it is a major setback for the Trump Administration because of the years of claims that no one in the Trump campaign had worked with the Russians against Hillary. Those claims are now proven false through Roger Stone’s email and text contacts with members of the Trump campaign.

The indictment almost certainly does not tell everything that Mueller knows about the Trump campaign’s involvement with WikiLeaks and the Russians. There will no doubt be more to come in future indictments.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Can Christians Be Democrats?

From time to time, the Resurgent writers have some spirited discussions in the back room. That was the case this week after Steve Berman posted his compelling idea for a Christian political party. Eventually, the conversation wound its way around to whether Christians could be Democrats (or vice versa).

The question of Christians and Democrats is not a new one in conservative Christian circles and there is a legitimate question of how Christians can align with a party that supports abortion on demand, rejects Biblical teaching on sexuality and gender, and even goes so far as to support the persecution of their fellow Christians. Often, the assumption from the Christian right is that when it comes to the Democratic Party all Christians have left the building.

As the saying goes, however, when we assume it makes Christ’s mode of transportation into Jerusalem out of you and me. It turns out that there are a lot of self-identified Christians who still consider themselves to be Democrats. A Pew poll of voters in the 2018 midterm elections found that the partisan split among Christians is much more even than you might think. The poll, which breaks down Christians into “Protestant/other” and “Catholic” found that Protestants favor Republicans by a 56-42 margin while Catholics are almost evenly split between the two parties. Party preference of Christians has not changed appreciably in the midterms dating back to 2006.

These numbers might shock many political observers, especially considering the Republican Party’s party’s self-proclaimed status as the Christian Party, but they shouldn’t. As a matter of simple math, black voters lean Democrat by about 90 percent and about 80 percent of blacks identify as Christian.  

Even beyond black Christian voters, who are concentrated heavily in traditional black Protestant denominations, another Pew poll found that most branches of Christianity are more Democrat than Republican. Only Evangelical Protestants are significantly more Republican than Democrat (56 percent), but even then a large minority of evangelicals (28 percent) are Democrat. (Mormons also favor Republicans by 70-19 percent, but I consider them distinct from traditional Christians.) Catholics, historically Black Protestant denominations (such as African Methodist Episcopal and Christian Methodist Episcopal), and Orthodox Christians all lean Democrat. Mainline Protestants are almost evenly split at 44-40 percent with a slight Republican edge. The bottom line is that Republican Christianity is very white and evangelical.

So, a lot of Democrats claim to be Christian. Are they really? After all, how could any Christian support something as heinous as New York’s new abortion law that permits killing full-term unborn babies?

I agree that is a valid question. I’ve known some pro-choice Christians including an ultrasound technician who worked for the OB/GYN who delivered my son. Her rationale was that she didn’t think that parents should have children if they didn’t want them and that abortion was needed to prevent child abuse.

Let me stop right there and say that her argument was not logical and does not withstand factual scrutiny. First, it is abhorrent to think that killing a baby is preferable to birthing an unwanted child. If only planned children were born, the world’s population would probably die out fairly quickly. America’s position as a world leader is already in danger from our declining birth rate. Her assumption also presupposes that parents will never grow to love and appreciate an unwanted child. In the second place, even not considering that abortion is child abuse in and of itself, child abuse rates have risen by more than 500 percent since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973. Finally, adoption is available as a nonlethal alternative to parents who don’t want to be responsible for their children.

The truth, however, is that a lot of Christians support abortion. Turning to yet another Pew poll (Pew is great for in-depth looks at religion), we see that majorities of most Christian demographics are in favor of legal abortion. Despite the prominence of the Catholic Church in the pro-life movement, Catholics are evenly split on the issue. Even 33 percent of evangelicals are in favor of abortion. At 60 percent, mainline Protestants are the most pro-choice.

The question remains whether support for abortion and the other anti-Christian planks of the Democratic platform are enough to deny salvation to those who believe in Christ. Is being wrong on a political issue and voting for the wrong candidate enough to jeopardize your soul?

The Bible teaches that the way to salvation is to acknowledge that we are all sinners (Romans 3:23) and under a sentence of death for our transgressions (Romans 6:23). The Biblical formula for salvation is to publicly accept Jesus Christ as your savior and believe that God raised him from the dead (Romans 10:9-10). Everyone who accepts Christ’s offer of salvation gets it (Romans 10:13). That’s it. Bottom line. Case closed.

But wait, you say, what about Matthew 7:16 where Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruits?” Doesn’t that mean that Christians who produce rotten fruit aren’t Christian at all? In the preceding verse, Jesus says to “beware of false prophets” so it isn’t clear from the context that this verse was intended to be directed at lay believers, particularly those whose sin is something so tenuous and indirect as voting for the wrong candidate.

There are numerous Bible verses that make it clear that salvation is based on nothing more than our faith and God’s grace. Other than accepting or rejecting Jesus Christ, there is nothing that we can do or not do that would affect our salvation.

Granted, James does argue that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26), but this is an argument that faith should spur good works, not that salvation is dependent on works. In verse 22, James makes this clear when he says, “faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect.”

Some Christians argue that Christians who vote Democrat are either not Christians at all or are backslidden Christians who are ignoring God’s will. This is an example of the “No True Scotsman” fallacy in which a blanket statement is rendered unfalsifiable because a true example can’t be found, similar to the argument that communism works but that “true communism” has never been tried.

I’m not prepared to consign anyone who votes Democrat to hell and others should be cautious in doing so as well. Matthew 7:1-3 warns, “With what judgment you judge, you will be judged.” Are Republican Christians really eager to have God judge them based on their voting habits?

I have a good friend who is an atheist. In 2016, we discussed the nomination of Donald Trump at length and my friend was dumbfounded that conservative Christians in the Republican Party would rally around a man who was unfaithful to his wives (Matthew 5:32, 1 Timothy 3:2), was the owner of casinos (Proverbs 28:19), was sexually immoral (Romans 13:13), who cheated in business dealings (Proverbs 20:23), who was a bigot (Galatians 3:28),who was coarse and vulgar (Ephesians 5:4), who was insulting (Proverbs 15:1), who was unforgiving (Luke 6:32-42), and who was a habitual liar (Proverbs 26:28). When Christians responded to Trump’s faults in 2016 by saying that they weren’t voting for a national pastor, one wag responded that it was a good thing because they couldn’t get much further from pastor material than Donald Trump.

Jesus didn’t command Christians to vote for a fifth conservative justice on the Supreme Court or to block Hillary. He did command us to make disciples and teach the nations “to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:16-20). Have Republican Christians fulfilled this commandment in their embrace of Donald Trump? It’s more likely that as conservative Christians have become more political they have alienated more lost people and contributed to America’s moral decline. The Christian right certainly didn’t help me win my friend to Christ.

Many Christians supported the Trump Administration’s zero-tolerance policy of separating children of illegal immigrants from their families as a tactic to discourage illegal immigration. Even some legal asylum-seekers were separated from their children. How can this intentional abuse of post-born children with Jesus’ admonitions to love and protect children (Matthew 18:2-10) as well as Old Testament instructions to treat foreigners fairly (Deuteronomy 10:19)? Enforcing the law is one thing, but intentionally treating migrants harshly is something quite different. This is especially true when some of the families may never be reunited.

Some Republicans have gone even further and replaced Jesus with Donald Trump. Some Republicans have made comparisons not only between Donald Trump and the Biblical Kings David and Cyrus but between Trump and Jesus Christ himself. In 2017, conservative artist Jon McNaughton painted a picture of Donald Trump that depicted the president standing on a dead snake’s head, a clear reference to messianic prophecy (Genesis 3:15). Just before the 2018 elections, a group posted a billboard near St. Louis that depicted President Trump and said, “The Word became flesh… - John 1:14” with the slogan, “Make the Gospel great again.” In that verse, “the Word” is Jesus. The Washington Times even ran a Thanksgiving piece titled, “Time to give thanks for all God, Trump have provided.” Social media is replete with memes and videos comparing Donald Trump to Jesus, some are satirical and some are serious and it can be hard to tell which is which, but equating Donald Trump, a mortal man, with the son of God is heretical as well as being a violation of the First Commandment (Exodus 20:3).

It boils down the fact that conservative Christians who judge Democratic Christians are making the same error as liberals who claim that conservatives don’t care about [insert interest group here] because they don’t sign on to liberal policy prescriptions. No one knows what is in someone else’s heart. Their salvation is between them and God.

It seems that neither party can really be termed a Christian party even though Christians support both parties. I tend to think of the Democrats as heathens and Republicans as Pharisees. Democrats don’t seem to know or care what the Bible says while some Republicans have replaced Christian love with legalism and others have moved all the way to idol worship. Together, the two branches of political Christianity sound like the lukewarm church of Revelation 3.

Thank God that our salvation does not depend upon ourselves! We would all be in deep trouble if it were up to us to earn or keep salvation through our own good works in a fallen world that is filled with temptation.

So how would Jesus vote? It seems that both parties have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. I’m not sure that Jesus would vote at all. He was focused on the kingdom of heaven rather than the kingdoms of men. I’m certain that Jesus would mourn for the hundreds of thousands of murdered American babies, but I’m also certain that he would weep for the young children ripped from the arms of their parents.

I think the key is in Abraham Lincoln’s answer to the question of whether he thought God was on the side of the Union. Lincoln replied, “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.” Christians should put aside their partisan filters and make sure they are on God’s side.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Republicans Should Stop Driving Off Voters

President Ronald Reagan, arguably the most successful president of our time, said the Republican Party should be a big tent party that is welcoming of many views. In more recent years, the GOP has shifted gears to become party more focused on Barack Obama’s model of victory through dividing the electorate and appealing to specific demographic groups.

The shift began in the early 2000s with the appearance of what I like to call the “RINO hunters.” The GOP became a party focused on purity tests and identifying “RINOs,” Republicans in name only. The irony is that because many conservatives are free thinkers and have different priorities, it’s likely that a majority of Republicans were RINOs on one issue or another.

In a country of 350 million people, regional differences mean that issues are viewed by different people in different ways. Polling from 2017 showed that conservatives were the largest ideology in every state, but were not a majority in any state. Even so, on average a conservative in New York is not going to being identical to a conservative in Texas. Nevertheless, many Republicans preferred to push these perceived “closet Democrats” out of the party.

A second wave of purity came in 2016 when Donald Trump was nominated. Since the 2016 primaries, support for Donald Trump has become a litmus test for Republicans. Last year, a letter from the chairman of the Arizona Republican Party became public warning Arizona’s elected Republicans that support for President Trump was “non-negotiable.” It is safe to say that state Republican Parties elsewhere have communicated the same message. While many Trump critics “self-deported” themselves from the Republican Party, I do know of at least one case where a friend repeatedly had his dues refunded by his local Republican chapter because of his critical remarks about the president.

There are other prominent of examples of Republicans writing off large groups of people as well. Much of the Republican opposition to immigration, legal or illegal, is grounded in the belief that immigrants come to the US for welfare benefits rather than to find work and chase the American dream. As a result, many Republicans often say that Democrats want to use immigration reform, derided as “amnesty,” to import new Democrat voters.

The answer is that immigrants cannot vote until they are US citizens. Illegal immigrants also can’t get government benefits although naturalized citizens, U.S.-born children, refugees, and asylees can.

Once they become citizens, immigrants are more likely to vote Democrat if the Republican Party drives them into the arms of the party of Pelosi. If Republicans treat them fairly, compassionately, and with respect, then the GOP has a decent chance of winning the votes of people who value jobs, family, and economic growth.

The fact that states like Texas and Arizona regularly elect Republicans should shoot down the theory that Hispanic immigrants are crossing the border en masse to elect Democrats. Even in the 2018 elections where illegal immigration played a central role in the final days of the campaign, Republicans won about 29 percent of the Hispanic vote. In contrast, only nine percent of black voters cast a ballot for the GOP.

Yet another group that Republicans seem intent on driving away is federal workers. Under the current government shutdown, about 800,000 federal employees are not getting paid, either because they are furloughed or because they are being forced to work with no pay. The reaction of many Republicans to the pain of federal workers has been to say, “Good.” Even President Trump tweeted on Jan. 5 that “most of the workers not getting paid are Democrats.”

While many federal workers are Democrats, not all of them are. Workers not getting paid include law enforcement workers such as the FBI, Border Patrol, and Coast Guard. Many of these workers could probably be expected to vote Republican. Federal employees are not just concentrated in the DC suburbs, they are spread throughout the country and have political views that vary just as much as other Americans.

The Government Business Council conducted a survey of federal workers in advance of the 2016 presidential election. In the August 2015 survey, Republican- and Democrat-leaners were split almost evenly at 40-44 percent. Ironically, the top primary choice of Republican federal employees was Donald Trump.

Polls show that more Americans blame President Trump for the shutdown than the Democrats. It would be surprising if federal employees did not agree. However, where most voters might move on to other issues after the government is reopened, those who work for the government will be stuck cleaning up the financial mess that the shutdown has made of their lives. It is likely that many of the federal workers and their families who are being forced to sell their possessions on eBay or drive for Uber to put food on the table will remember the callousness of President Trump and the Republican Party when they go to the polls in 2020.

The bottom line is that Republicans can’t afford to lose any more voters. Even though Donald Trump won the 2016 election he lost the popular vote. Since then, he has played to his base rather than trying to bring more people into the Republican tent. The result was a midterm election in which Democrats won 59 percent of the popular vote in Senate elections and 53 percent of the popular vote in the House. This lopsided vote tally even includes a high Republican turnout in many areas after the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings motivated the Republican base.

The incredible shrinking Republican Party does not bode well for President Trump or other Republican candidates as the country gears up for the 2020 presidential elections. A smaller, purer party may help Republicans feel good about turning RINOs out to pasture, but it is big tent parties that win elections.  

Originally published on The Resurgent