For the past several months, I’ve pretty much tuned out of politics. And it’s been glorious. It made me realize that for all the sound and the fury in the media, politics doesn’t really affect the vast majority of people in any meaningful way on a daily basis, aside from those greedy thieves at the IRS taking money out of my paycheck!
As John Stossel recently said: “after years of reporting, I’ve concluded that most politicians have little to say that’s interesting, and many are craven opportunists, desperate to rule over others. When we have a choice, Americans ignore politicians. That’s usually a good thing.”
I realize though that politics does affect us all in many, unseen, often insidious ways. Indeed, many libertarians are libertarians precisely because they have come to appreciate how the many invisible tentacles of the government can poison so many things. That, however, is less politics than it is government. The politics of an election–the day to day shitshow of politicians spouting lies, nonsense, and empty nothings The People want to hear and find comforting (“Build a wall”, “The 1%!”, etc.)–are entirely stupid, pointless, and worth ignoring, I’ve concluded. Elections are decided by idiots, and politicians pander to the lowest common denominator (something not reflected in the media coverage of elections, yet further reason to ignore the shitshow).
Indeed, if anything, the American people have it backwards: the majority of citizens only pay attention to politics and politicians when the politicians are running in elections, when we should actually pay attention to politicians when they aren’t running for office and are actually in power!
Of course, there is something inherent in my constitution that makes it impossible for me to entirely ignore politics, but ever since Donald Trump secured the GOP nomination–really, ever since I realized his triumph was inevitable–I decided I just didn’t care anymore.
When our “choices” are a lying crook and a con artist who clearly has no idea what he is talking about–and by the way, neither candidate says anything of substance or with a morsel of honesty–why bother? Why bother paying attention to an election that would be a tragedy if it weren’t a farce.
But the other day I had a ‘moment of clarity’. Despite all the doom and gloom–and it is very easy to think that “if my side loses, it’s the end of the world”, or indeed “no matter who wins, it’s the end of the world”–the Republic will endure.
The next 4 years will be a setback for the Liberty Movement–there is no avoiding that now, unless by some miracle Gary Johnson becomes president (and even that is no guarantee of success). In particular, the Supreme Court may be tipped towards the Statist end of the spectrum for a decade or two or three, as well as the judiciary in general.
This is depressing to me, and it will make our future work harder. Nevertheless, our work to advance liberty, preserve the Constitution, and restore freedom will continue, and the Republic will endure.
We will carry on as we always have: agitating for more freedom, protesting those who would deprive us of our liberties, and spreading the Gospel, as it were. This has long been a tiresome crusade bearing little fruit, but just as those who came before us carried on, despite their apparent lack of success, so we will too.
Our efforts are not in vain. Despite the abysmal choice we have before us this November, in the next 4 years good things may still occur. I think there is actually a decent chance marijuana will become fully legal in all 50 states; certainly it will become legal in more and more states as voters get the chance to decide for themselves. We may possibly see a slackening in the “war” on drugs. We may perhaps see a curtailment in America’s involvement in foreign affairs (though I suspect this will not happen, and our foreign policy will continue to be an overextended, incoherent mess, and may very well get worse). We may see an expansion of gun rights at the state level (Missouri just passed Constitutional Carry, overcoming a governor’s veto!). We may perhaps see market reforms in the healthcare sector, or deregulation of other parts of the economy. And we will all continue to reap the benefits of free markets where they exist. Perhaps most notably, energy will continue to be cheap thanks to the shale oil revolution and our transportation will continue to be provided by Uber and Lyft–the result of market competition, innovation, and free individuals making voluntary exchange!
And perhaps, as more and more Americans come to appreciate the benefits of free markets and de-regulation, the Word of Liberty will become more appealing.
Our Republic has withstood a Civil War, insurrections, depressions, two world wars, and plenty of bad presidents. The next 4 years won’t be pretty, and they will retard the cause of Freedom (remember: eternal vigilance), but they will hardly be the deathknell of the Great American Experiment.
Much could be and will be written about Trump at the Republican National Convention, but my contribution to the voluminous jabberings over the big nothing that is the RNC shall be but a brief one.
It seems to me that in accepting the nomination, Donald Trump has made himself somewhat obsolete. The speech he gave was a real stemwinder, I am forced to concede, and while I disdain The Donald, I won’t deny he gave a good performance. I disagree with the narrative that law and order is breaking down and America is in crisis (if it is, it is only because of its government and political class, something The Donald did not speak to nor will he throughout this campaign and even during his–God forbid–administration). But that’s why I will not be voting Republican this year, and likely not ever.
My critical observation though would be that any of the 16 Republicans who ran could have given that exact same speech and it would have had exactly the same (tremendous) effect.
Trump won the nomination on force of personality alone. The People wanted a strongman, and they liked a man who was unguarded, spoke off the cuff, and “was a straight talker”–even though he’s consistently shown himself to be wildly inconsistent and utterly without substance. Plain spoken like a not particularly bright 3rd grader, yes he was different, but to think he wasn’t a politician was a capital mistake.
Now though, is he still The Donald? Anyone could give prepared speeches, and the case against Hillary as a corrupt, lying warmonger is so airtight that a child–or indeed, even Donald Trump–could prosecute it in the court of public opinion.
What I’m getting at is this: any respectable figure in the Republican Party who is half-coherent could seize upon the political zeitgeist in America right now and storm into the White House based on a carefully laid out argument against Hillary and Obama, using prepared remarks and sensible policies. In the general election, what does The Donald bring to the table but a host of disadvantages unique to himself and none of the unique advantages he had in the Primary?
The Donald has fully transitioned to a regular, ordinary politician, like the rest of them, but unlike the rest of them, he is unstable, authoritarian, admires foreign autocrats, inconsistent, appears to believe nothing with any true conviction, and is as ignorant on the issues as the average voter.
And this is what set me off earlier: Hillary Clinton recently announced that she will be pushing for a Constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United (full name Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission).
Per the Washington Post:
Hillary Clinton will call for a constitutional amendment to “overturn Citizens United” in her first 30 days as president
To her credit–which is not something I say often–she is merely “calling for” an amendment to the Constitution, not promising to pass one, though I’ll wait until I hear/read how she herself phrases it before I pass judgement. It is worth saying that a president does not have the power to introduce a Constitutional amendment nor veto one.
Per the Constitution itself, only Congress can pass a Constitutional Amendment (and since a Constitutional amendment requires two-thirds of each house to vote “yea”, a Constitutional Amendment is automatically veto proof). But, before a Constitutional Amendment takes effect, it requires three-quarters of all the state legislatures (that’s 37 of the 50 states) to ratify the Amendment.
Although Hillary Clinton has a pretty well documented and consistent history of opposing free speech–so much so that her support for government censorship may in fact be one of the few things she sincerely believes–this is not an earnest attempt to translate her beliefs into concrete policy. For one thing, it respects rule of law and the Constitution too much, two things never known to stop Hillary Clinton or even give her pause. This is, rather, a shameless attempt to whip up the ill-informed masses of useful idiots we call the Democratic Party (don’t worry, the Republican Party is merely a mass of not-so-useful idiots) into voting for Hillary Clinton.
I would wager most Democratic voters have no idea what Citizens United was actually about and, moreover, have bought into the laughable idea that free speech is acceptable only as long as it is speech of which they approve. But Mrs. Clinton’s tactic is going to work, because the idiots do not grasp that Mrs. Clinton is promising something she cannot possibly deliver.
The President, as has already been discussed, doesn’t really have anything to do with the process for amending the Constitution. Moreover, the chances of this amendment even passing Congress are zero–zilch, zip, diddly squat, nil, nada, naught, fuck-all, not a snowball’s chance in hell, never in a million years–this, is a late
In all likelihood the Republicans will still hold majorities in both Houses of Congress after the election (and they would only need a majority in 1 house to completely scupper Hillary’s “promise”). But it gets even worse (for Mrs. Clinton that is): a Constitutional amendment requires two-thirds’ approval from both houses. Even if by some miracle the Democrats wrenched control of Congress away from the Republicans in November and gained majorities in both houses of Congress, even then this Amendment is going to be still-born, if it even gets introduced at all. Even with a simple majority, the Democrats would not be able to muster the requisite two-thirds of Congress to vote “yea”, especially since it is quite possible, and indeed likely, that at least a few Democrats would vote “nay”. But, assuming Hillary Clinton kidnapped all the children of everyone in Congress and put guns to their heads and forced Congress to vote 100% yes on this amendment, even then, there is simply no way that 37 state legislatures (most of which are controlled by Republicans) are going to vote to ratify this god-awful idea.
And let’s remember why this idea is so awful–indeed, any citizen of this Republic should find what Hillary Clinton is demanding to be disgusting.
Hillary Clinton wants the government to have the power to decide what is and isn’t “speech”. If Hillary Clinton merely objects to the idea that “money is speech”, why not then propose an amendment declaring “money is not speech”? Why an amendment overturning Citizens United?
It should be obvious, but in a nation of idiots, the obvious needs to be said: if the government is given the power to determine what is and isn’t “speech”–and can therefore censor (which is what is meant by “regulate”) what it determines not to be speech–then there is no such thing as “free speech”. And needless to say (ergo, it must be said), there can be no democracy nor liberty without free speech. Which is why I find the Democrats’ DoubleThink on the subject–we must abolish free speech to save “democracy”–revolting.
The fact that some media outlets are reporting this as “Hillary Clinton Promises Quick Action on Campaign Finance” is especially worrisome, since a more accurate headline would be “Hillary Clinton Favors Government Censorship”–but this is how those who aren’t paying attention end up thinking government censorship of free speech is acceptable.
The President of the United States is not a Prime Minister. We do not have a Westminster-style, unitary system of government in the United States. In a Westminster system, like they have in Britain, the Executive (the Prime Minister) is also a member of the legislative body, and as such is free to introduce, craft, and vote on legislation, in addition to ensuring the law (once passed) is enforced. This is not how the American system works. Rather, we have a strict separation of powers, where the Executive (the president) cannot exercise any legislative powers (the power to make law). The Executive is tasked with enforcing the laws, not making them. As part of our vaunted systems of ‘checks and balances’ though, the Executive is given some legislative power–the president’s approval for new laws is required and the president can also veto legislation coming out of Congress. Although the Veto is a powerful tool, it is only a reactive tool: the president can stop legislation, but he (or she) cannot create it. That is a job for Congress alone.
Indeed, it goes one step further than that! In Parliament, the Prime Minister is also (usually) the leader of his/her party (since being made PM requires a majority of Members of Parliament, or MPs, to vote), so not only does the Prime Minister have the power to craft legislation, it is also his job to marshal it through Parliament and ensure that legislation he approves of is passed and legislation he disapproves of is defeated (though that is usually left to his right hand man, the Chief Whip).
In America, none of this is true. The President is not in Congress, the President has no power to write legislation or pass legislation, and getting legislation through Congress is not the president’s job. That should be left to people like the Speaker of the House (a position actually very similar to a Prime Minister).
In fewer words, I want to see the presidency returned to its proper role: one that stays almost entirely out of legislative matters. The president currently has no power to introduce legislation–though given the heft of the presidency, it is not usually difficult to find a congressman or Senator willing to introduce the legislation on the president’s behalf–but we should move to a political culture where there is no expectation of the president to introduce and marshal legislation through Congress.
The President will of course retain a role in influencing legislation–threatening to veto legislation unless things he approves/disapproves of are added/removed, and there is something to be said in favor of the president acting as a go-between for a divided Congress. Otherwise, my ideal president would remain entirely aloof from the process of making and passing legislation, leaving it to the party leaders and the legislators to get on with the task of legislating.
A long standing tradition of the president promising to the masses that he will pass or have passed certain legislation is, I think, deeply unhealthy for the Republic, as the president/candidate is not only promising something he cannot Constitutionally deliver, he is misleading the American public as to what the president’s job is. I think what is badly needed is a gag order on presidential candidates. I would be in favor of amending the Constitution* if we could make just one exception to the 1st Amendment: presidential candidates can no longer say while running for president that they will “introduce” or “pass” legislation! That is a job which is and ought to be left to Congress.
I am sick and tired of hearing presidential candidates pretending as if they are a Prime Minister, someone who has near complete control of Congress and can just pass legislation on a whim! Indeed, it was this haughty and naive notion which has led, I suspect, to the great disappointment among many Democratic voters for Barack Obama. They were disappointed to discover that a single president cannot in fact usher in profound and sweeping change by force of will and the audacity of hope alone. Though for precisely the same reasons, Democrats everywhere should not fear too much from a Donald Trump administration (and as irksome as I find presidential candidates promising to act as Prime Minister and “pass legislation”, at least paying lip service to Congress and the Constitution is better than Trump’s technique of ignoring it entirely).
*Of course, I would prefer we simply grow a culture mature enough to make that kind of promise ineffective at procuring votes rather than having to amend the Constitution and allow the government to criminalize certain speech.
Leftists will undoubtedly rejoice at the recent SCOTUS decision striking down burdensome regulations on abortion clinics. The Supreme Court ruled–correctly, I think–that burdensome regulations which serve no greater purpose and exist–indeed are written in the first place–purely to be an obstacle to obtaining an abortion constitute an infringement of our rights by the government.
Of course it is an infringement of our rights for the government to impose endless, senseless regulations in an effort to prevent us from exercising our rights. This is especially clear when the laws are passed explicitly, or very nearly so, with the intention of stopping people from exercising their rights and serves no greater purpose. I would argue even making it substantially difficult to exercise one’s rights is un-Constitutional, regardless of the law’s/regulations’ intent, and even if they do serve a greater purpose, infringing on citizens’ rights requires a very, very good reason, not merely a reason.
That point should be obvious, however, and this article is not about how the government infringes on our rights through the proliferation of regulations coming out of the myriad number of independent executive agencies, agencies with the power to write and enforce the law and even on occasion the power to adjudicate the laws they write. This is, rather, an article about Leftists and why they are full of shit.
Abortion is not a topic I feel very strongly about, but I think this was a good SCOTUS decision. While I see merit in both sides’ arguments on abortion, I am very wary when it comes to the regulatory power of the state and will welcome any check on this power, even if it means abortions will be easier to obtain.
What irritates me greatly though is that Leftists will today celebrate this most recent Supreme Court decision preventing the government from using its regulatory powers to prevent us from exercising our rights, yet tomorrow–or perhaps even later today–these same Leftists will be marching in the streets demanding the government use its regulatory powers to infringe on other rights, or cheering on Members of Congress engaged in a publicity stunt to ostensibly achieve the same thing.
In fewer words, I really hate the fact that Leftists are not bound by principle. Even though I’m no big fan of abortion, I welcome this Supreme Court decision because of the principle behind it, viz. that the government using pointless regulations to make it more difficult to exercise our rights is a violation of the Constitution. In this particular instance, the principle was protecting the right to get an abortion, yet the same principle should apply to our 2nd Amendment rights as well! Leftists: people who believe in the unrestricted right to kill a fetus, but anyone trying to exercise their right to keep and bear arms should be treated like a criminal because they are a threat to “public safety” merely because they want to own a gun to shoot paper targets.
Hopefully the Supreme Court will in the future recognize this, but our 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms is one of the most frequently and egregiously trampled upon by the government’s regulatory power. The number of petty, pissant regulations gun owners have to put up with should clearly run afoul of Hellerstedt precedent. Background checks, waiting periods, “safety certificates”—such as we have here in California, whereby one has to pass a government test before one may legally own a firearm, so-called “assault weapons” bans, registering one’s firearms with the government, and now (again, in California) the idea being proposed of requiring background checks for ammunition all clearly obstruct exercising one’s 2nd Amendment rights. At the same time they serve no greater purpose except as obstacles preventing people from easily and cheaply exercising their Constitutional rights.
There are mountains of evidence that all of these restrictions and rules do nothing whatsoever to enhance public safety—their ostensible raison d’être. Gun registries were so useless in preventing/solving crime that Canada got rid of its registry. The Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 had no discernible effect on crime (and it is worth mentioning that rifles of all kinds, of which so-called “assault weapons” constitute only a small sub-set, kill only about 300 people in the US each year—less than the number of people killed each year with hands and feet). There is no evidence at all that waiting periods reduce or prevent crime. As for gun licenses, putting to one side the fact that requiring a license to exercise a right contradicts the entire underlying premise of a right (imagine for a moment a country in which only those who can get a license from the government can exercise their right to free speech), there is at least one documented instance of a gun license (or, rather, the bureaucratic delay in getting a license) costing a woman her life.
While background checks have repeatedly failed to stop determined mass shooters and terrorists, they have stopped wife beating, ignorant reporters from buying guns, so I suppose we can keep them. But will any of these restrictions—which clearly exist and are propagated merely to make it more difficult to exercise one’s Constitutional right to keep and bear arms—ever be struck down by the Supreme Court? If the Supreme Court operates on principle, then the answer should be an unequivocal “yes”.
But Leftists do not recognize this. They celebrate this latest Supreme Court decision not because it is in accordance with their principles (because they have none, I am increasingly coming to believe); rather, they celebrate the ends achieved. They are in favor of abortions but they are against guns, therefore a Supreme Court decision which makes the right to an abortion easier to exercise is good, but they disapprove of the right to keep and bear arms and therefore will support using the regulatory power of the state to regulate the 2nd Amendment out of existence.
Their hypocrisy is unmatched—any time even the smallest restriction on abortion is suggested (even restrictions eerily similar to restrictions they want imposed on gun owners), they fight tooth and nail to stop it and cry foul, that even the most incremental step towards limiting abortions is but the first step to overturning Roe V. Wade and doing away with abortion entirely. Yet they will then turn around and excoriate the Republicans for being so intransigent and make exactly the same arguments about guns.
In sum, they will fight according to principle if it yields favorable results for things they approve of while at the same time denying that same protection of principle to rights they disapprove of. The very idea of ‘rights’ is increasingly at odds with modern Leftism if they think they can pick and choose which rights citizens do and do not have.
 I say “cheaply” because, at least in California, a lawful gun owner has to pay a fee to the government for every background check, a fee to obtain the safety certificate and a separate fee for the test you have to pass to get the safety certificate, a fee to register your firearms with the government, and because of California law outlawing the purchase of more than 1 handgun per 30 days (a law some California law makers are trying to apply to all guns, not just handguns), if one does wish to purchase multiple guns, he has to pay all of the above fees for each, separate purchase and cannot legally make all of his purchases in one lump–a practice that amounts to legalized government extortion, in my opinion (imagine if ATMs only allowed you to withdraw $10 at a time and charged you a $2 fee for each withdrawal). And if the proposed law requiring background checks on every purchase of ammunition takes effect, this is fleece-by-fee, death of a thousand cuts is going to go on steroids. The combined effect of this is to fleece gun owners as well as disenfranchising the poor of their right to keep and bear arms. It also begs the question that if poll taxes and literacy tests are illegal because they infringe the right to vote, why are their equivalents perfectly acceptable when it comes to infringing the right to keep and bear arms?
I write this in a state of despairing despondency. Donald Trump, a political phenomenon I find utterly odious, has swept the latest of five primaries.
At this point, I do not think Trump can be stopped. I think there are now only two possible conclusions to this bizarre and depressing saga, barring Trump himself deciding to quit or somehow being incapacitated, both of which are extremely unlikely: either Trump wins the GOP nomination outright, or someone else secures the GOP nomination from a brokered convention. If the latter, however, I doubt that person, whoever he or she may be, would have any credibility among the majority of the Republican electorate, even if that nominee were a reincarnated Ronald Reagan bearing the endorsement of Jesus Christ himself.
Come November, after what will be an exhausting, shrill, horrifying, thoroughly unserious, substance-less election between Trump and Hillary Clinton, an election as non-cerebral as an argument over juice boxes waged by four year olds, I think Trump may very well win the White House.
This is not a sentence I write lightly, and I sincerely hope that in nine months I can look back at this blog post and say “What in the hell was I thinking?”, but everyone has so far failed to understand Donald Trump and has underestimated the force behind his political rise. I think it is entirely possible he can win the White House. When one looks at his likely opponent, I think it likely. Clinton is still the odds on favorite, but I do not think she is as strong a candidate as is frequently supposed. If she wins, it may well be a near run thing. Or perhaps she will win in a landslide.
I still cannot entirely fathom what has passed through the mind of the average voter in backing Trump, nor can I even begin to comprehend why anyone might find Trump appealing beyond his status as a giant middle finger to “the establishment”. Some combination of economic illiteracy, old fashioned nationalism, the latent appeal of authoritarianism, and simply having one’s own ideas being given a voice on the national stage after years and years of being not just ignored but also demonized are, I suspect, the main factors. I wish I could understand Trump’s appeal to ‘the common man’ though, because it is an appeal that will, I think, carry Trump to the Oval Office.
God help us all. And God save the Republic. But Goddamn the average voter.