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The Party of Trump…and the Conservative Movement-In-Exile

Trump 2

Donald Trump, billionaire extraordinaire, has in 12 months done what progressives dreamed about for the past three decades: destroy the Reagan coalition once and for all.

The party that stood for (but didn’t always fight for) fiscal and social conservatism, limited government, and a strong but rational foreign policy is no more.

And may be that is the way it should be.

I weep for the demise of the party that I fought for so long. But, on the other hand, we have clearly lost our way.

Little by little, both with the assistance of Democrats as well as the undermining of core values by Republicans, the party dissolved under the weight of its own hypocrisy and in-fighting. Donald Trump was apparently the chosen form of our Destructor…but the party was dying long before he arrived.

And so, we are now left with a party that is broken, battered, and frankly, no longer stands for anything other than the whims of a progressive billionaire. The fissure lines of the party were apparent throughout the Cleveland convention, despite the efforts of the Trump campaign to cover them up.

However, give Trump credit. He has pulled off possibly the most remarkable political story in modern American times. A dark horse with no political background whatsoever (other than his extensive connections to lobbyist and donations to both political parties, in any case).  He then used his universal name recognition, and surprisingly little money, to take over one of the two major political parties in America.  It is a remarkable achievement.

Donald Trump finally accepted (humbly) the nomination of the Republican Party last night. In the process, he gave one of (if not the) longest convention speech in modern history.  Parts of the speech were quite effective. Trump was his usual overbearing self, seeing dangerous from every aspect of American life, to which the only solution was a larger Federal government-run by Trump himself.

He painted a dark, dismal picture of the American landscape. Trump, in little over an hour, promised to rid the country of worsening crime, even though crime has been steadily decreasing since 1980. He promised to bring back the steel and coal industries, using some Federally governed magic wand. He said he would quickly and at no cost to the American people destroy ISIS and Islamic terrorism, without providing any roadmap on how he would do that. He then, remarkably, argued for government-funded stimulus to fix the country’s infrastructure, and promised that such a plan would bring millions of jobs and stimulate the economy; if you feel like you’ve heard that one before, go back and listen to Barack Obama talk about his stimulus plan in 2009.

This is now a party led by Trump; wholly owned by Trump; and a party base whose faith does not rely on conservative ideology, but simply on their belief that Trump can solve the problems of the country, unilaterally and without any plan or policy in place. It is ‘Trust me” government at its worst.

Newt Gingrich compared Trump’s speech to Ronald Reagan’s acceptance speech in 1980.  Reagan, ironically enough, warned the nation of exactly this type of mistaken faith in one man to solve their problems:


This, in short, leaves the conservative movement as a movement in exile. The various branches of traditional conservativism, whether it be Paul Ryan’s wing in Congress; the Reformicons led by various intellectual elites; or the hard-core conservative wing led by the likes of Ted Cruz and Mike Lee; all these groups are left wondering where they failed so miserably, and went so wrong. They are left with a marginalized elitist movement without a party to speak for them.

Where we go from here is beyond me. Trump is incompetent at many things, but he is utterly, wholly competent as a nationalist, populist demagogue who can rally particular portions of the Republican base at a moment’s notice. That demographic of the Republican Party is not going away any time soon, no matter how much conservatives try to wish it away.

So the Conservative Movement in Exile is left wandering the political wastelands, hoping that Trump’s incompetence will lead to a loss in November, at which point his base will wake up from this dream. Leaders like Speaker of the House Paul Ryan are making the wager that if Trump loses in November, the fever will break and the base will realize its mistakes. I find that scenario less than likely. More likely, they will wake up one Wednesday in November, realize they have lost, and then blame those very conservatives for their own failures. When has Trump and his followers every believed they are at fault for their own errors in judgment?

More over, why do we believe Trump will fade quietly into the night? I could envision Trump running again in 2020. Or, how about a Trump funded campaign backing his daughter Ivanka? (Notably, Ivanka was likely the one true new star to arise from this Convention. possibly along with son Donald, Jr.). I do not believe, for a second, that Trumpism is going away any time soon, either with victory or defeat.

The most likely plan for a conservative revival to succeed is also the most arduous and difficult to carry out, and the most unlikely to occur: to start a third party that focuses on fiscal conservatism.  It doesn’t appear that those leaders who could potentially drive such an effort are ready to abandon the Republican Party. Even Ted Cruz and Ben Sasse seem very reluctant to do anything of the sort at this point.

So where we go from here, other than a generation of dominance by liberals and progressives, is beyond me.





Why I Am Leaving The Republican Party


I can actually remember the moment I joined the Republican Party.

It was the Monday after July 4th in 1991. I had just turned 18 the week before. And, there were a few momentous things that I had to get done: register to vote, signing up for selective service, and….joining the Republican Party.

In all respects, I was a Republican before that moment. My father was a reformed Carter Democrat, who became a beloved Reagan Republican. I was a ‘Reagan Baby’…Reagan defined my early childhood, and in many ways, my political philosophy.

I guess now, I can also mark the calendar on the day I left the Republican Party…May 3, 2016.

Many others are going through the same conflict and dismay I have gone through. The number of people who have messaged me after my various social media proclamations about leaving the GOP are now too numerous to count. Friends, family, online acquaintances, and complete strangers have responded with the entire spectrum of reactions, from “How dare you abandon your party now?” to “You are right; it is the only way.”

Donald Trump supporters take this the most personally however. The vitriol and outrage of defecting from their dear Leader enrages them to no end.

That is only a small side benefit of this decision though.

In truth, the process of philosophically abandoning the GOP (or, case in point, the GOP philosophically abandoning we conservatives) has been a long time coming. More than a decade, in truth. It largely started with the George W. Bush administration, with their ill-conceived foreign policy, and has continued to this day, as Donald Trump’s ignorant populism has won the party over. So I don’t really blame Trump, per se, for this; this was a long time in coming. Trump is more a symptom than cause of the disease.

Reihan Salam, Executive Editor of the National Review (and someone I greatly admire) made the case of why people should remain in the Republican Party, despite Trump’s nomination:

My case for sticking with the Republican Party is not a sentimental one. The rise of Trump has convinced many of my conservative comrades that the GOP is a cesspool. I have to ask: Did you believe that the GOP was the home of heroes and legends before he came on the scene? I’ve been in and around the conservative movement for my entire adult life, and I’ve seen more than my fair share of self-described conservative true believers doing the bidding of hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, Hollywood conglomerates, and unsavory foreign governments. I’ve also seen people of great integrity work tirelessly for little pay and even less recognition to make this country a freer, fairer, and more decent place. The Republican Party may well be a party of charlatans and cranks. But it is also the party of millions of middle-class Americans who believe that the role of government is to empower people, not to render them powerless and dependent. I stand with those in my party who share my ideals and to work with them to defeat those who do not. To be clear, this is not always fun. It just happens to be necessary.

The irony with Reihan’s piece is…it echoes many of my own arguments for the past decade. While advocating for John McCain and Mitt Romney, I often reverted to these very same discussions. I argued that the GOP was the only vehicle conservatives had to promote our philosophy. I argued that the Republican Party was broken, but fixing it was our best path forward. I vehemently spoke out in favor of blindly voting for the GOP, even though they continued to betray our beliefs time and again.

I just don’t see how this can be supported any more.

If true conservatives, who believe in individual rights, the power of the free market, a small Federal government and more federalism, and the overall necessity of America’s military power in sustaining the world order cannot draw a line in the sand against Donald Trump…what exactly do we stand for?

And that is the core problem here. There is no philosophical core guiding the Republican Party any more. Are we the party of small government? Trump, who said education and health care (after defense) were the most important jobs of the Federal government today, clearly doesn’t believe in small government. Are we the party of individual rights, or more state power?  Trump, the poster boy for private use of eminent domain, isn’t one to talk. And even on military power and foreign policy, Trump’s policies of a weaker NATO and a rollback of our force structure worldwide is in contrast to what conservatives have believed for a generation.

So, is a party that doesn’t even agree on its core beliefs a party in any sense of the word?

Reihan goes on to argue that we may be witnessing a major restructuring of the political landscape, something I alluded to in my piece earlier in the week:

By 2020 or 2024, both of our major parties may well look radically different. The GOP is less a single, solid thing than a never-ending rumble, in which different factions duke it out over which one of them will temporarily control the party’s brand and its infrastructure. Leaving the Republican Party now would mean, essentially, ceding control of its considerable resources to your factional rivals. Such a decision might be logical if you’ve decided that you’re all in for a $15 minimum wage or if increasing less-skilled immigration is the issue that matters to you most. In that case, then you should probably join the Democratic Party. But for a conservative like me, it still makes sense to stake out territory under the GOP tent.

I agree with the first part of this assertion. On both sides of the political aisle, we are seeing major fracture lines develop. The Republicans simply have suffered from those fractures more acutely, as the era of Reagan is brought to an end by the coming of Trumpism.   But on the Left, the socialist progressive wing of the party, which was always there but largely silent for the past few decades, now demands that their voice be heard, while the establishment wing of the Democrat Party fights to maintain its control.  How that shapes out may define American politics for the next generation, far more than Trump’s victory will.

The question for reform conservatives then becomes, what is the best method to survive this political upheaval, and still have a functioning conservative movement when it is all said and done?

Reihan argues that only by being within the GOP apparatus that we can achieve this. But again…where is the evidence that this is the case? The Tea Party, among other conservative movements, have tried that method since 2009, with only limited results. Establishment Republicans largely halted the efforts of the Tea Party, culminating in the defeat of both Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio in this year’s primary. On the other end of the spectrum, the specter of the populist wing of the party, now led by Trump but voiced by the likes of Pat Buchanan for decades, is now triumphant.

I would argue the opposite. Only by fundamentally weakening the underpinnings of the GOP as is can we reform it. The entire party is rampant cesspool of incompetence, incoherence and corruption. Tacitly approving of their methods by remaining within their sphere of power seems counterproductive to me, at this point. The GOP may not be destroyed to be fixed, but its current iteration must be severely damaged before those in power are willing to accept the painful reforms necesssary to be a true national party again.

If we were to liberate enough conservatives from the Republican Party into an independent voice, we could force the party to actively try to court us when elections come. Right now, they take the vote of reform conservatives for granted. But if we were independent of the party structure, now candidates would be forced to confront our ideas, point by point. And if they continued to ignore our calls for reform, we have the most powerful tool of all…our lack of support on voting day.

I will hold nothing against people who stay within the Republican Party. In fact, even those that are arguing that we should vote for Trump, for the sake of ‘party unity’ still hold my respect. But I for one no longer see no added value to the illusion.

I have for many years said I am a conservative first, and Republican second. I now hold true to that oath. I will fight for the conservative values I hold near and dear, from outside the party apparatus…in hopes that one day, the party will reopen the door for me and other conservatives once again. Then, and only again, will I return to the party that I once loved.

[Note: Please note a small correction: Reihan Salam is the Executive Editor of the National Review; the Editor is Rich Lowry. I have made the correction above.]



The GOP Is Dead; Long Live Trumpism

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_I regret to inform you of the passing of the Grand Old Party…_

With Donald Trump’s victory in the Indiana primary, his securing of the GOP nomination is all but guaranteed. And as such, the death of the modern Republican Party is upon us.

Some pundits will try to argue that the GOP can survive a Trump nomination and his enormous eventual defeat in November. They make arguments of the long history of the Republicans in persevering and eventually recovering from momentous political disasters.

I believe this time is somewhat different.

I could be wrong, but to me, this appears far more like a massive restructuring of the political underpinnings we have come to accept since Ronald Reagan’s victory in 1980.

Since Reagan’s Presidency, the GOP was defined as the party of strong defense, smaller federal government and lower taxes and spending. All successors to the Reagan legacy accepted this as the basic three-legged stool of modern conservatism.

Donald Trump decisively brings an end to that.

Trump is in many ways more of a progressive than Hillary Clinton is. He has spent decades advocating for more government power and spending. He has at various times supported more taxation, more spending, more federal power in welfare, health care, and education; he has been pro-choice for most of his life, and I sincerely believe he has even recently donated to causes like Planned Parenthood. In short, he is the very definition of a statist, a man who craves centralizing power in Washington, D.C. under the hand of a powerful executive, all the while supporting largely liberal causes that drives the Democrat Party, not the GOP.

Furthermore, those stating that after Trump loses in November the GOP will get back to ‘business as usual’? Who are they fooling, other than themselves?

Trump has shown that there is 40% of the GOP, at a minimum, that could care less if the GOP ever wins any elections. These people are largely driven by anger, not policy. And how then does the GOP move past this, when a Trump loss is like to increase, not decrease, their anger level?

Furthermore, this Trump coalition clearly no longer believes in Reaganism; we are now, affirmatively, in a post-Reagan era; is this new era to be defined by ‘Trumpism’, whatever that may be?

No, Trump losing in November is the end of the beginning of the great modern Republican Party Civil War; it is not the beginning of the end of it.

In short, we could have to suffer through years of fighting over what is the likely dead corpse of the modern Republican Party. Various fights, at the state and national level, are likely to break out, with moderates, conservatives, and Trumpists (who are neither moderates or conservatives, in fact) fighting each other in election after election, likely leading to more and more Democrat victories. No outcome from this November’s elections leads to a unification of the broken remnants of this Republican coalition.

The current Republican party lacks all the components that create a cohesive, political movement. It lacks leaders with moral fortitude and strength of will. It lacks an infrastructure that allows for diversity, but still holds true to a few basic principles. And it lacks a coherent party organization that fosters growth of conservative principles into real world policy.

In short, is there any practical reason for the existence of this modern Republican party?  I guess it is a vehicle for Donald Trump to espouse whatever crazy, tinfoil hat wearing wackadoodle conspiracy he thinks of every morning, but other than that, it is a party that no longer has any viable national voice. It is not a conservative party; it is not a party of strong military and foreign policy; it is certainly not a party based on federalism, the limited power of the Federal government, and the constitution restriction of the powers of the Executive.

In short, it is a party without any central tenets and beliefs.

And a political movement without any core beliefs is no movement at all.



Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice: Move Review

BATMAN-SUPERMANAny Superman movie is going to receive a tremendous amount of criticism. Superman is the iconic superhero in America…nothing, nobody, defines what it means to be a hero in American fiction in the modern era better than Superman, after all.

Zach Snyder’s Man of Steel had mixed reviews as well, with numerous hard-core fans criticizing a variety of plot choices, from the structure of the narrative, to the wanton destruction of Metropolis, to ultimate killing (murder?) of Zod at the hands of Superman…an event purposefully avoided in all his comic book lore.

As such, critics were just waiting to pounce, as Snyder was given the unenviable task of not only making a sequel of the Superman movies…but also making a prequel of the upcoming Justice League movies at the same time.

Simply put: there was no way to achieve everyone’s perception of what this movie should be.

Should it focus on Superman’s story arc? Should it be, like The Empire Strikes Back, or The Dark Knight, the zenith of the arc of this saga?

Or is it just supposed to be a set up for the eventual grand introduction to the Justice League, that DC comic fans have dreaming about?

Lets start with the missteps.

First, Lex Luthor…or to be more correct, Alexander Luthor. Yes, this is not the original Lex Luthor at all, but his son, who confusingly goes by the same name. His father, the founder of Lexcorp, is either dead or gone…the film only alludes to the former, but never states so outright. In any case, played by Jesse Eisenberg, this Luthor is either going to be loved or loathed. Eisenberg pulls no stops…he is over the top in virtually every scene he is in. I like the character as written, per se, but not the acting at all. It didn’t work for me. In some ways, this character has far more depth than the previous iterations of ‘Luthor’, but Eisenberg’s portrayal again makes him far more cartoonish, and not with enough of the threatening, genius, maniacal dread that I think Luthor actually should convey.

Second major problem: Doomsday. Dear Lord, I think Snyder got this character terribly wrong.  Doomsday is one of those epic villains that Superman is actually terrified of. Here, I feel like our heroes don’t know how to defeat them, but I am not sure they feel all that worried about actually losing to him either. Not to mention, did Snyder just basically steal a troll from The Lord of the Rings? 

If this was just a random monster, it wouldn’t have been so bad; as Doomsday, it just seems to miss the point of that character. For those that know the character, Braniac is a huge part of who Doomsday is; but no Brainiac in this movie at all.  Furthermore, with core story being Frank Miller’s Batman/Superman fight…why introduce the Doomsday/Death of Superman plot to the story? Seems like Snyder just wasn’t happy enough with one story that he had to plug a second on just for the heck of it.

My final problem is a problem that Snyder was forced to deal with, not an editorial decision: that this is a prequel for the Justice League. By forcing him to re-introduce Batman, introduce Wonder Woman, and then squeeze in the Superman story in between…it was really a hopeless endeavor. I think he did a fine job, given the task presented to him. But ideally, DC could have followed Marvel’s strategy of slowly building up to the Justice League. Of course, in the end, I presume that was a business decision, and not an artistic one.

O.K., so enough about what was sub par. What did Snyder get right?

I think he nailed Bruce Wayne/Batman, the older years. I was a huge critic of hiring Ben Affleck, but Affleck plays the role beautifully. That said, Batman has only one emotional speed: dark and brooding. Thankfully, Affleck does dark and brooding quite well.

But it is more than that. In some ways, Snyder nails Batman in ways that The Dark Night series didn’t. It makes him more of a genius investigator, a P.I. who is searching for small clues, and has a fantastic ability to put puzzle pieces again. I think that the penultimate fight scene with Batman also nails my perfect vision of Batman fight scene. Not to mention…I think this version of the Batsuit, Batwing, and Batmobile are probably the best we’ve seen.

The long-awaited fight scene between Superman and Batman to me was also very close to the mark; it wasn’t perfect (far too short, and still seemed to me that Superman should have and could have ended the fight earlier), but overall hits all the right chords.

Some people didn’t like the political fighting about Superman’s place in modern America. I for one thoroughly enjoyed it. How would the government, who tries to be in control of all facets of national security, deal with a wild card as uncontrollable as Superman? Of course they would try to destroy him in the media, undermine his credibility, and then make him out to be villain. The fact that it literally blows up in their face simply is because they don’t realize there are far larger threats that they are blind to.

Bruce Wayne is used quite well as a foil for the worries of humanity in the face of this new ‘God’.  How would humanity react, when a major city is destroyed at the hands of two alien visitors?  Half of humanity views him as a villain; the other half views him as a savior, with the obviously Christ-like comparisons to boot.

The final fight scene with Doomsday (even with my above caveats about the Doomsday character itself) I thought does a nice job of introducing Wonder Woman to the general audience. We see here she is every bit the warrior as Batman, and virtually as indestructible as Superman. And unlike either of those two men…she seems to savor the fight. There is one quick scene, where Doomsday pummels her and throws her into a wall; afterward, you see a small smirk on her face, as she turns back to the fight. That is Wonder Woman.

The teamwork that you immediately see from Wonder Woman, Batman, and Superman is a prelude, hopefully, to what we see in the next Justice League installment. The question then becomes, what Big Bad Space Baddie will they face? And will they be able to roll Flash, Cyborg, Aquaman and others into the storyline seamlessly?

My overall take away from this movie?  I think what many reviewers really missed, or may be ignorant of, is in many ways this is Frank Miller’s original vision of this story. I’m sure Miller would have done things differently, but the artistic echoes are quite apparent. Furthermore, that dark vision is precisely why many reviewers didn’t like the movie; this is no Marvel movie, after all. DC is knowingly taking a different path for their series. I presume that is going to turn off many viewers, and may actually be less successful among general viewing audiences. That doesn’t make it a less interesting story arc; just a different one.

In the end, I enjoyed this far more than I thought I would. No, it isn’t as good as the first Marvel’s The Avengers movie. Yes, it could have been far more concise story wise, and would have been easier to follow for the non-comic book viewing audience.

That said, I have been heavily critical of many decisions they made over the past year, but seeing the final product, I really can’t complain too much. It is far from a perfect movie; however, it does a reasonable job setting up the Justice League stories, and hopefully gives us enough room for a nice future Superman arc to boot.

I, for one, can’t complain too much about that.



Only A Fool’s Hope…


The end is near…in more ways than one.

As I said before Super Tuesday, Donald Trump is very likely to win the nomination outright.  I still believe this; the numbers, and momentum, all point to him reaching 1237 delegates, and avoiding a floor fight at the Convention in Cleveland.

That said, it is not an absolute certainty.

The anti-Trump forces for the better part of a year have been confused, disunited, and remain so to this day, even at this late hour. Even when leading voices like Mitt Romney stand up and take a stand, the remnants of the conservative movement can’t decide if they want to follow.  The Trump opposition has been worse than herding cats.  If there are any hopes of derailing the Trump train, a few things must happen, and quickly.

First and foremost, Cruz must help Rubio with an exit strategy.

I know. Many Cruz fans feel that Rubio should do this of his own accord; and I don’t necessarily disagree.

But this entire process of uniting anti-Trump forces demands that someone elevate above the field at large, and lead the movement. To lead, you must show the ability to bring people together, be magnanimous, and sometimes go out of your way to show gratitude, even if your opponents don’t necessarily deserve it.

In short…Ted Cruz needs to grow as a person, and become the leader we pray he can be.

Cruz has many great attributes. He is brilliant, as well learned as anyone in America, a true intellectual and a hard-core conservative. But even with all these great personal attributes, his lack of close personal connections is quite clearly one of his weaknesses. This, however, is his moment to show he can grow beyond the man he already is. Cruz could be the bridge for Rubio to join a common alliance to work against Trump.  The way to do that is to form an emotional and personal attachment with Rubio, no matter how difficult that process may be.

I believe Rubio should leave the race, regardless of what Cruz does. His path has now evaporated. Chances of him winning Florida are well within the ‘Hail Mary’ region of expectations. Any momentum that he had after Iowa has all but disappeared. Finishing fourth in states like Michigan and Mississippi to Kasich, of all people, shows that this campaign is on life support.

But Cruz wants to be the leader of the conservative movement, and the nominee of the Republican Party. Intelligence and superior policy initiatives alone doesn’t achieve that. Ultimately, you must show that you are the person that conservatives want to fight for, because you are a leader that rises above the fray, and can ignore the political infighting in order to elevate the movement.

This is Cruz’s moment.

Secondly, Cruz and his anti-Trump movement must coalesce behind a common strategy to fight Trump on all fronts. Sean Davis and Erick Erickson have both laid out the strategy in one form or another. Here from Erickson:

So let me paint a picture for you.

We know in the stand alone races, Cruz beats Trump. We know that according to Rule 40 of the Republican Party, any person to stand for nomination for President has to have won the majority of delegates in eight states. Cruz has won three with that criteria and would have won more but for Rubio in the race. If Rubio could even win Florida, he would still struggle. Same with Kasich.

So instead, Rubio drops out and Cruz publicly declares Rubio is his running mate. They barnstorm the nation today with Rubio throwing the punches at Trump and Cruz talking about their vision for the future. They crisscross Florida raising voter awareness that voters need to vote for Cruz. They go to Missouri, North Carolina, etc.

Once they get through March 15th barnstorming the country together, they divide up the states with Rubio going as Cruz’s surrogate. Rubio hits New England. Cruz goes elsewhere. They have some joint events together.

Doing so shifts the conversation. Doing so forces voters to pay attention to the changed dynamic. And they head to Cleveland with either 1237 delegates for Cruz or at least more than Trump. It gives them a head start on having a general election ticket, which gives them an advantage over the Democrats.

In the process they unite the party. In the process they beat Trump. In the process they unite the party. In the process they start making the case against Hillary.

I don’t know if Rubio necessarily has to be named VP or not. But I do know that Cruz must make use of Rubio. Cruz alone cannot defeat Trump; that has become quite clear. Cruz has great difficulty in expanding the base, not only because of his record, but because of his personality. Many Cruz fans have a hard time accepting that Cruz’s demeanor, speaking style, and substance turn off many moderate Republicans in places like the Midwest, the East, and California.

Enter Rubio. Rubio has not been able to connect to base conservative voters for many reasons. But he can, and has, successfully connected with these suburban moderate Republicans. In many respects, Cruz and Rubio put together are the ideal Republican candidate. Can a tag-team achieve the results that neither alone could achieve?

A one-two punch of Rubio and Cruz barnstorming the country puts Trump on the defensive; they can cover more ground, they can target different demographics, and if smart, can target different states all together. And maybe more importantly, it instantly changes the narrative. The media will have to transition from “Trump the inevitable’ to ‘The Conservatives Unite”.

Finally, the obvious: Cruz needs a bridge to the establishment, and Rubio likely is that bridge. Cruz’s hope, time and again, is that groups that he wants to support him would magically coalesce behind him at some point. He believed that with the conservative base, the evangelicals, and now the establishment. At each turn, this has failed as a strategy. He must alter his tactical thinking if he wants to win this campaign.

Cruz has the opportunity here to make a peace-offering to the establishment. It costs Cruz nothing; if he loses, what has he lost? If he wins, and Rubio is his running mate…well, honestly, Cruz could do a lot worse.

That said…all of this is a long shot. I still believe Trump will be the nominee. But if the conservative base, and the establishment, truly believe in #NeverTrump, this is the moment of our choosing. As Benjamin Franklin famously said, “We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”

It is time to unite. It is a time for choosing.


Super Tuesday Quick Takes


So, just some brief observations going into Super Tuesday:

1.  Donald Trump will win most, if not all, states.

I think this is a forgone conclusion. I believe Cruz will win Texas, his home state. The question there is his margin of victory, and whether Rubio clears 20% (more on this later).  But other than that, where is a possible upset possible?

Cruz really has no other possibilities. Rubio has the outside chance of competing in Minnesota and Virginia, and less likely in Alaska and Georgia. Victories in any of those states would bolster Rubio, but seem unlikely at this point. I personally do not believe he wins any of the above.

Nate Silver has an excellent state-by-state breakdown that can be read here.

2. Ted Cruz must win Texas by a large margin.

This is essential. If Cruz somehow manages to lose Texas, his campaign is over; I don’t expect this to happen. But I am unsure if a close victory is a good thing for anyone.

A close victory with Trump would give Trump a fair amount of delegates, but still give Cruz a reason to stay in the race (he would have, after all, won two more states than Rubio, and the second largest in the nation). Ironically, this would actually be the best case scenario for Trump. In this scenario, Cruz stays in the race, divides the non-Trump vote, and Trump dominates a divided primary all the way to Cleveland.

Cruz does have a path to the nomination, but it requires him winning states like Arkansas, Tennessee and Oklahoma…all of which are states where he is currently trailing. Furthermore, the battlefield gets worse for Cruz as the primary carries on. Let us recall, Cruz’s plan was to get an early delegate lead by March 1st, and sail through; that is no longer an option.

3. Marco Rubio has to thread the needle.

As I referred to above, Rubio has a chance to pick off a state or two (MN and VA being most likely) but even those I would bet against at this juncture.

The alternate path Rubio has is the ‘No Win’ Scenario (or loving called Rubio’s Kobayashi Maru).

The scenario goes like this: Trump wins all the states on Super Tuesday, but Rubio and Cruz amass a large amount of delegates by polling above 20% in states. This will give them proportional number of delegates, thus undercutting Trump’s potential lead.

What then happens? From Nate Cohn:

Imagine, for a moment, that the candidates fare about as well on Super Tuesday as they have through the first four contests. Given the types of states in play on Super Tuesday, perhaps that yields something like a 34-25-25 percent split between Mr. Trump, Mr. Rubio and Mr. Cruz.

In this scenario, Mr. Trump claims a clear edge in delegate accumulation but not a majority. He gets 279 delegates, or just 44 percent of the delegates at stake, while Mr. Rubio receives 164 delegates.

In short, Trump does build a lead…but is slowed by Rubio and Cruz stealing delegates on both sides of him.

The problem? Then March 15th is for all the marbles. If Trump is able to win the winner-take-all states of Florida and Ohio, it is game over. As long as Cruz and Kasich are in the race, there is no chance of Rubio winning Ohio, and even winning his home state of Florida will be a stretch.

Rubio’s only hope is Cruz does badly on Super Tuesday, pulls out, Kasich beats Trump in Ohio and Rubio is able to take Florida.

Again..this is why it is called the ‘No Win Scenario/Kobayashi Maru’. It is virtually impossible.

4. What I expect:

I expect Trump to win all states tomorrow other than Texas; I expect Cruz to win Texas fairly comfortably. I think Rubio comes close and fails in Virginia and Minnesota.

In short, I pretty much see Trump’s ideal scenario.

As of right now, unless something crazy happens (like Cruz dropping out) I see no reason to believe Trump will not be the GOP nominee. I do believe Rubio has a slim window, and there is reason to continue fighting, but if you were a betting man you would bet on Trump.


For Conservatives..Its A New Day


Its likes the song Feeling Good…”It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day…”…

The Iowa Caucus, in a few short hours, turned the political conventional wisdom that has building for the better part of a year on its head.  Literally every poll in the last few weeks showed Donald Trump leading the Iowa caucus by an ever-growing margin, extending up to an average of 5-7 points by election day yesterday, with Senator Ted Cruz following in second, and Marco Rubio trailing badly for third.

None of those things were true. And Iowa Caucus voters showed again why commentators know nothing…and voters are paramount.

So who won and lost on Tuesday?

1. Ted Cruz was the biggest winner of all. 

You can spin the expectations game and the perception battle all you want. Of any of the candidates on either side of the aisle, Cruz was the only that, you know…actually won something.

Cruz started this campaign a year ago with a simple premise: he was going to unite the social right, pull enough establishment conservatives to drain the mainstream candidate, and win Iowa to catapult him into the heart of the nomination race. He spent millions of dollars and countless amount of time to build the best Republican infrastructure and Evangelical turnout machine that could be constructed.

And he succeeded on all counts.

There is an obvious open question now if Cruz can repeat this success anywhere else, because obviously Iowa is unique among primary states. No candidate will have the time or manpower to move their voters the way Cruz did in Iowa. From now on, the candidates will have to depend far more on their power of persuasion.

2. Senator Marco Rubio is for real.

There is literally no honest Rubio supporter (including yours truly) that thought Rubio would finish within 5% of the leader, 1% of Trump, or an overall percentile of 23%.  Rubio came within 2,300 votes of passing Trump on Tuesday night; to put that into perspective, that is equivalent of half of Jeb Bush’s entire vote, or slightly more than Rick Santorum’s vote. It was that razor-thin.

Rubio compounded his victory by giving the most uplifting victory speech of the night. And, to the ire of Cruz fans, that is exactly what it was:  a victory speech.  Stealing a page from Bill Clinton in 1992, Rubio claimed victory on a night that he actually lost.

But it worked. He went out and spoke first, likely garnering the largest TV audience of the night. His fans were ecstatic, and most felt that they won…even though they finished third.

Rubio’s challenge going forward is slightly different from Cruz’s. Rubio must convince the other establishment candidates to leave the race.  Exit polls (which are dubious in Caucus elections, but it is the only data we have) say that Rubio was the favorite second choice of voters who cast ballots for Bush, Kasich, Santorum, and Christie, and for a large percentage of Ben Carson and Ron Paul voters.  Those votes must consolidate for Rubio to win the nomination.

3. Donald Trump was the biggest loser.

There is no debating this. Trump spent a year telling the nation he was leading in the polls. He would, quite literally, read poll numbers to his crowds, saying how fantastic they were.

And then Iowa voters crushed Trump with the burden of reality.

To his credit, a second place finish for a moderate/liberal from New York City with no political infrastructure or experience is quite an accomplishment in its own right.  Seen on its own, Trump’s performance in Iowa was quite impressive; more than Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani could accomplish, after all.

But politics isn’t won or lost that way. Politics is rarely about reality, and always about perception. And the perception is the King of the Hill has been displaced.

Trump set himself as the ultimate winner, unbeatable…and he lost.

Going forward, Trump has the same problem he always had: he is an outsider with no base to really call upon, and must expand his tent beyond the Populist movement he himself created. And he now faces a hard ceiling. Can he get about 25-30% of the vote anywhere? And if the establishment unifies behind one, or even two, candidates, can he beat either of them running the campaign he is currently running?

4. Hillary Clinton lost, but did Bernie Sanders win?

The Clintons spent 8 years trying to fix their catastrophic 2008 performance in Iowa. They spent millions of dollars building a machine that could not be beat.

And…they were almost beat by a Socialist 70-year-old Northeastern Senator who is, to add insult to injury, not really even a member of the Democrat Party.

With some caucus results missing…the truth is more voters may have gone out to caucus for Sanders on Tuesday night than did for Hillary.

Ms. Clinton now faces losing in New Hampshire by double digits, and then depending on her firewall of Southern African-American voters. This is going to be a long, hard slog.

5. The GOP must unify. 

It is a new dawn and a new day for the GOP. They have run an incompetent primary season so far. Many good candidates, such as Rick Perry and Scott Walker, were washed away by the chaos.

But voters have the power to bring the political establishment to its knees and face reality. And that is what Iowa voters did last night.

All but the top three candidates for the Republican nomination should be called to pull out now. Carson finished fourth, but is going home to take a week off instead of campaigning in New Hampshire; I say good for him. Huckabee has said he will drop out, and Santorum will like follow suit.

For Governors Jeb Bush, John Kasich, and Chris Christie, as well as Senator Ron Paul…there is no path to the nomination. The Mike Murphys of the world can delude themselves all they wish that enough money and enough spin can make their much vaunted candidates viable, but that simply is not the case.

For the good of the party, it is time for all of them to go. And then, let Cruz, Rubio and Trump fight it out for the mantle of the party’s leader.


The Iowa Caucus…and Beyond


With days remaining until the first actual vote of the 2016 season, the myriad of issues that remain undecided still are quite remarkable. Is Trump still leading? Is Cruz fading? Does Rubio have a chance? Is Bernie’s surge real? Will Hillary blow it once again??

So where do we stand?

1. Either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz will win the Iowa Caucus.

I think everyone feels comfortable with this prediction. Marco Rubio will very likely finish third.

The question is how they place, and what the spin the day after will look like.

For either Trump or Cruz, a loss would be devastating to their case. For Trump, he has argued for six months that he the is king of the hill, routinely pointing to poll after poll that shows him on top. In fact, when a rare poll showed Cruz leading, Trump literally whined to the voters of Iowa: “What are you doing to me?”.  A loss would undermine his case that he is the inevitable nominee.

For Cruz, a loss would in some ways damage him even more. There is no state in the country that is more perfectly built for Ted Cruz than the Iowa Caucus.  It is traditionally dominated by Evangelicals and social conservatives; and even more so, virtually all the major leading traditional religious leaders in the state have come out and endorsed Cruz. Cruz has spent more time and money in Iowa than anywhere. For him to fall to second to Trump would be a hard pill to swallow, and would make many once again question his entire electoral strategy.

Rubio is very likely to finish in third in Iowa. Trump has shown a small surge in the last month, and Cruz is actually dropping in the polls after a surge late in the year. Rubio has seen a slight uptick. There is no better reason to believe Rubio is having a slight surge than this: in the past few days, the Cruz campaign has shifted their ad dollars in Iowa from targeting Trump…to targeting Rubio. Their internal polling must be showing something significant.

A finish lower than third in Iowa for Rubio would be catastrophic. It is hard to seriously consider any conservative candidate that can’t finish in the top 3 in Iowa. The rest of the repercussions of Iowa is up in the air. A close third place finish is likely to catapult him into New Hampshire, because of the ‘expectations‘ game being so low for him to begin with. Rubio’s only goal is to get one of the three ‘tickets’ out of Iowa, so he can make this a three-way Rubio/Cruz/Trump race going forward, and slowly push Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and the others out the door.

2. The GOP race is too close to call.

As said above, either Cruz or Trump will win…but which one?

There are a number of variables that will help decide who wins the slugfest between Trump and Cruz…and all are unknowable, largely for the same reason: Trump is a wholly unquantifiable factor.

First and foremost is voter turnout. Polling in the last week has been telling; most show Trump with an approximately 7 point lead this week over Cruz. But what is interesting is that lead dramatically changes based on how your turnout model is set. If you expect a record turnout of around 200k voters, Trump wins by greater than 10 points. If the turnout model is closer to the record-setting 2012 Caucus, where about 130k voters cast their vote, Cruz and Trump are tied.

Compound this with the turnout infrastructure of both campaigns. Cruz’s state infrastructure is second to none. He has his own campaign staff, along with the well structured Evangelical base in the state, to help drive up turnout among his voters. Trump has..virtually no apparatus. He is largely depending on the enthusiasm of his voters. It will be a great future case study on how each philosophy works in practice.

But again, look at the above numbers. Trump’s lead has now surged to 7 points.  Cruz would not only have to hope for less turnout overall, but asymmetric turnout of his supporters. If you are a betting man, you put your money on Trump slightly at this point.

3. The Democrat Race is close…and in many ways similar. 

In many ways, the Democrat race is a strange mirror image of the Republican race. Bernie Sanders is the outsider, running an unconventional campaign based on enthusiasm, while Hillary Clinton is the established candidate with an extensive, long built statewide infrastructure.

Additionally, the polling is also similar. The race is a virtual statistical dead heat. Unlike the GOP race though, it is Sanders with momentum, while Hillary is not only stagnant..she has been slowly been hemorrhaging support for months.  Her favorability ratings continue to drop among Democrats, and she has not found of any way to reverse that trend.

4. What happens next?

This is the most important question of all. Historically, the Iowa Caucus is a poor predictor on the Republican side over the past two cycles; Santorum and Huckabee won the last two, after all. On the Democrat side, as discussed above, if Hillary wins, she may shut the door on Sanders, even though he will persist in the campaign. If she loses, Sanders finally for the first time could see a viable path to the nomination; not a likely one, but at least a possible one.

The GOP side is cloudy, to say the least. Trump’s ideal strategy is to win Iowa and New Hampshire, claim that he is the inevitable nominee, and then convince the core of the party to unite under his banner. I question whether this is possible; will the majority of the party unite under Trump, unless absolutely forced to? Regardless of Trump’s lead, he has never been able to get above 40% of the GOP primary vote. Traditionally, a nominee needs to win over 50% consistently to get the nomination. He still has some work to do.

The paths for the others are even far less clear than Trump’s.

Cruz must win or at least do well enough in Iowa to claim some sort of victory. A bad finish in Iowa, regardless of placement, would stain Cruz’s argument that he is the viable conservative alternative to Trump. If Cruz does well in Iowa, he can proceed to New Hampshire and South Carolina as the ‘rational’ alternative, and hope that the Party’s innate hate of him will be overcome by the rational decision that Cruz is a far superior general election candidate.

As for Rubio, I’ve been saying for weeks that his strategy is all about threading the needle. He needs the media to turn his third place finish in Iowa into a ‘victory’ of sorts. Furthermore, his team prefers if Trump wins Iowa, in the hopes that the result will send Cruz spiraling.  He then can go on to New Hampshire, claim the flag of the Establishment, and hopefully finish second. That would, in turn, slowly push out the other mainstream candidates, at which time Rubio can consolidate that vote, rightfully claim he is the most viable General Election nominee, and head toward Super Tuesday.

Don’t ask me to say what is the most likely scenario of those; I simply have no idea at this point.


If I was forced to put money on who wins Iowa next week, I’d focus on a few key metrics: their current poll standing, momentum in the polls, and infrastructure to drive out voter turnout.

On the Democrat side, the candidates are tied, and momentum is on the side of Bernie Sanders. Can Hillary drive up turnout to counter that enthusiasm from the Progressive wing?  My gut tells me Hillary wins by a hair, but 8 years ago…I would have said the same thing, and she finished in third. If Hillary wins, this race is likely over before it starts, as Sanders simply doesn’t have the ability to fight Hillary in many of the later primary states, especially in states unfriendly to Progressives like the deep South.

On the Republican side, using the same three criteria,  you have to give Trump the edge. He leads in the polls, and has momentum. Cruz will narrow the margin some with his turnout machine, but I doubt it will be enough. Again, like many times before, the story of the night may be the loser; if Rubio can finish a close third to Cruz, that would damage Cruz even further. Cruz’s ideal scenario, if he doesn’t win outright, is to stay close to Trump, crush Rubio, and make this a two-man race. I think that is unlikely at this point.


Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens: Movie Review (SPOILER FREE)


For my generation, there are few cultural tent poles as important as Star Wars.  The original Star Wars is the first movie I can remember actually going to a theater and watching; I was just shy of five years old at the time. It was the first movie or story that truly captured my imagination. And for the first decade of my life, much of my imaginary child’s play revolved, in one manner or another, around the series.

It is now commonplace to insult the Star Wars series.  George Lucas made that quite easy, after the Prequels largely destroyed the mirage of a series that, previously, could apparently do no wrong. Along with the myriad of other science fiction options that people now have, the Star Wars series had lost its place as the ultimate nerd experience.

With the sale of the franchise to Disney, hope once again reignited among Star Wars fans. J.J. Abrams was hired to lead what was, in my humble opinion, an impossible task: to reignite the fervor that made Star Wars such a cultural phenomenon in the first place.

Has he succeeded?

There is no question that The Force Awakens is a far superior Star Wars movie to the prequels.  So, to begin with, let your mind be at ease at least in that respect.  This feels like an original Star Wars movie…a movie with action, suspense, and enough humor to keep you entertained throughout.

I think the biggest success of this film is that it found the right stars to carry this movie. Unlike the prequels, which simply didn’t care about character development at all, this movie actually relies on it. Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega) both are fundamental in the ability of this movie to succeed. Both are characters that are fairly rich in detail, and most importantly…you care about what happens to them. Who can say that about any of the characters in the prequels?

Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron is the guy who brings the swagger and charisma that this type of ‘cowboy film’ requires. As a X-wing pilot, is the film’s ‘rebel’ of sorts.

As for the villains, Kylo Ren (played by Adam Driver) is an evil, conflicted terror, who is not always in control of his emotions.  His personality itself feeds into the narrative that he is not just a paper tiger…he is a real, formidable threat. I will say the other villains simply seem to be in the background.  I certainly would have liked to see more of Gwendoline Christie’s Captain Phasma, for example.

I don’t want to say too much about the original cast, except to say…every initial moment of seeing them on-screen, for me, was a moment that made my heart flutter. These are characters as near and dear to me as any, and seeing them in any new iteration is a joy to behold.

I am quite pleased with The Force Awakens.  Abrams was handed a series that was, in many ways, flailing and dying from years of neglect, and a (surprisingly) lack of understanding of what its fans really want. In that respect, Abrams has delivered. He has reintroduced us to that galaxy that inspired the imagination of so many over so many years.  He has, once again, made it fun to see a Star Wars movie.

This movie just has the feel of Star Wars.  If you are a life long fan…the best word I can use to describe the movie is comfortable.  It is easy to slide into this story…it feels right.  You don’t have to force yourself to enjoy it…this simply is how Star Wars feels emotionally.

People have already asked where I would place this movie in the saga. It is far better than any of the prequels…and at the very least, is very close to as good as Return of the Jedi. I may even be willing to consider it better than Jedi, upon further viewings. Time will tell. My second viewing will be on Sunday (yes, I am that much of a nerd). I’ll have to see if that changes my opinion at all.

Is it a perfect movie? Not even close.  It is somewhat hamstrung by its forced connection to the original trilogy. In many ways, this trilogy must be able to set its own course, separate from the originals, and this first movie doesn’t exactly do that. I understand that Abrams’ task, of walking the tightrope of balancing the old with the new, was an almost impossible burden to bear. We might have to give him some leeway in that regard, and wait for Rian Johnson’s Episode VIII to see the full potential of this new storyline, and of these new cast members.

But, in an echo to the original, this movie provides a new hope. It opens up the Star Wars universe to infinite possibilities of sagas, epic storytelling, and new adventures in planets not even dreamed up yet. And that likely will be this film’s biggest success of all.




The Mendacity of Hillary Clinton: The VA Edition


Hillary Clinton is not an honest woman. This is not news. She has a quarter century public record of showing her inability to tell simple truths, and hold by them.

The past week, however, gives a clear insight into how that dishonesty could affect policy in a Hillary Clinton Presidency.

Last week, in an interview roundtable with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, Clinton stated that issues within the Veterans Administration have “not been as widespread as it has been made out to be.”

More from the Military Times:

“Bring in people and just tackle (it) … have an ongoing review of the care that is being given, do more to make sure that every VA hospital is delivering care to the highest standard of the community,” Clinton said. “Because, unfortunately, some are doing a lot better job than others are.”

But she also lashed out at Republicans for “ideological assaults on basic fundamental services, whether it’s the VA, Medicare, Social Security,” blaming them for exaggerating the VA’s problems in pursuit of their real goal: privatization and elimination of VA services.

Even John McCain, a ‘friend’ of Ms. Clinton’s, was astounded by the statement:

McCain also took issue with Clinton’s claim that Republicans have made the VA partisan and want to use it to privatize the VA. In doing so, McCain noted that he worked with her Democratic rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders, to pass a VA reform bill.

“Now Hillary Clinton, in her blind ambition, has injected partisanship into the VA issue and that is disgraceful,” he said. “She owes an apology.”

Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, was also on the call. “Hillary Clinton really proved she has no idea what she is talking about on veterans issues,” he said.

Simply put, not only is Ms. Clinton’s statement NOT factual, it is downright ignorant.

The advocacy group Concerned Veterans for America hammered Ms. Clinton for minimizing “the deep-rooted problems within VA”. They went on to accuse her of being the one politicizing the issue:

“Mrs. Clinton is clearly out of touch with reality when it comes to veterans’ needs, and despite her self-professed lack of understanding of VA issues, is more interested in defending the status quo and entrenched special interests than in actually advocating for the reforms veterans want,” CVA CEO Pete Hegseth said in a statement.

The reality is much worse than even at first glance. Approximately 60k military veterans have been delayed as long as 90 days from getting simple medical appointments.  The number of Veterans that continue to die because they remain on the waiting list is so extensive, we still don’t have a full accounting of the total number, but it likely numbers in the thousands.

Hillary probably has a short-term memory, because she probably forgot that former Secretary of the VA Eric Shinseki resigned for specifically those reasons that Hillary now downplays.

Additionally, government data on these disasters may be a lagging indicator. When researchers study how Veterans themselves feel about their services from the VA, things appear bleak.

It is highly debatable whether the compromise between Congress and the President has had any significant improvement in these issues.

All this is shadowed by two facts of continued government incompetence: 18 months after the Veterans Administration scandal, not a single person has been fired. If that fact itself isn’t amazing enough, consider this:  This past year, the VA paid $142 million in bonus, many to the same officials that are involved in these scandals.

To say things have improved is government spin at its best. An extensive investigation by the Arizona Republic shows otherwise. Though the VA states their wait times have decreased (and data shows just that), they themselves admit their data collection on wait times is flawed, because their system is thoroughly dysfunctional.

Only in government is such gross incompetence possible.

With all these facts and narratives circulating, the former Secretary of State still had the audacity (or is blind ignorance?) to state that these problems were not systemic and were localized to only a few centers around the country. That is an amazing effort of self-delusion.

Of course, Hillary’s timing could not have been worse, with Veterans Day quickly approaching. Knowing that she would take a political hit from this debacle, Hillary does what she always does…she flip flopped, in toto. By Wednesday, Hillary had changed her tune on the VA:

“These problems are serious, systemic and unacceptable,” Mrs. Clinton said at a discussion with veterans in Derry, N.H., a day before the nation marks Veterans Day on Wednesday. “They need to be fixed and they need to be fixed now.”

In a 12-page fact sheet, her campaign called the long waits for care and backlog of benefits claims “government at its worst.”

This is utter mendacity. Simply put, there is no chance that Hillary was ever ignorant of the facts on the ground. The VA disaster was one of the most publicized issues in the summer of 2014, and she had to know the systemic problems existed. Furthermore, nothing occurred in the last two weeks that would have ‘changed her mind’…outside of internal polling from her campaign, that is.

Furthermore, if you read on in that Wall Street Journal report, Hillary’s answer for the corruption and failure at the VA? LESS PRIVATE CARE.

“Privatization is a betrayal, plain and simple, and I’m not going to let it happen,” she said.

That’s right. When faced with gross government incompetence that has led to the deaths of likely thousands of our own military Veterans, Hillary’s answer is…more government.

This is one of many portholes into the future we will receive in the coming year about what a Hillary Clinton Presidency would look like. She is a far left, ideological liberal who ignores facts at her leisure, and will only change her public position when it damages her personally on a political level.  Data and reality have little to do with her policy positions, as we have seen here.

Furthermore, in characteristic that should bother progressives as well, Hillary is very willing to throw overboard any position that can threaten her in the least, even if she stated loud support for the opposite position just days before. She has no line she won’t cross for her own political gain.

A person that displays such mendacity does not deserve to sit in the Oval Office.


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