History Matters

If anyone needs evidence that what is taught in our schools impacts public behavior, look no further than the response to the results of the November 8 election. In the days after the election, when it became apparent more people voted for Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump, columnists, editorial writers, and social media posters trumpeted calls for the elimination of the Electoral College.

Learning that doing so would take a constitutional amendment and thus fail to impact the 2016 election, those who felt cheated turned to other panaceas, attempting to sway electors to betray their mandates and recount filings. That none of those has a chance of succeeding seems irrelevant.

Their efforts now focus on denying Trump’s victory legitimacy and undermining his ability to fulfill his campaign promises. The strength of the protest movement depends, however, on the lack of knowledge of its followers of the history of our country and how our political system works.

Every four years millions are shocked to learn that the person who wins the most votes is not automatically elected president. Every four years millions are dismayed to discover that America is not a direct democracy where the majority rules, but a representative republic. This can only be attributed to the failure of our educational system to teach those essentials or to have done so in a manner that sticks.

I can hear the protesters’ objections to my claim. What happened in the past doesn’t matter, they might say. We need a system for the present, they add, and of course, some will argue, as the man some Democrats have put forward to chair their organization once did, that the Constitution can be dismissed as a document of a rich, white, male elite, providing further evidence of the failure of our educational system.

If the past is irrelevant, there’s no need to teach about slavery or Jim Crow or women’s struggles for equality since those are all part of our past. Right? Either history is relevant or it is not, and I can’t imagine too many people coming down on the side of ignoring it altogether.

That said, what corrective can be offered in terms of our political system? Let’s start with a re-writing of the textbooks to go back to the core story––from the settling of the continent to the Revolution to the writing of the Constitution and the first ten amendments.

What a study of those events would disclose is that our system represents a compromise between competing interests. Let’s take the matter of slavery. Had those among the founders who objected to slavery been unwilling to compromise with the Southern states, there would have been no United States of America. Had the compromise failed, England would have found little resistance to re-conquering the continent since the colonies barely won the war and faced a future with depleted resources.

Further, had those in favor of a strong, centralized national government lessening the power of the states held out, the Constitution would not have passed, and once again the colonies would have been subject to conquest. The Electoral College is testimony to the compromise that established a central government for the protection of the country, but allowed states to retain a strong voice.

The notion that our system of government is the product of a compromise is something today’s protesters fail to appreciate. That it is the best political system mankind has yet created is something they don’t understand given how poorly history has been taught in our public schools and colleges, and by the willingness of some to ignore both the rationale for our present system and how well it has worked for 240 years.

Hillary Lost: Get Over It

All the post-election moaning, whining and carrying on by Clinton supporters is embarrassing to them and their followers. It’s time to face the facts of this election and to move on.

Some are whining because Hillary’s total popular vote topped Trump’s, but that’s irrelevant because that’s not the game they were playing. The Constitution says the winner is the candidate who wins a majority of the electoral college votes which are based on the population of each states as defined by seats in the House of Representatives plus two votes for the members of the Senate. That’s why Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North and South Dakota and Vermont each get three votes while California with 53 House members gets 55.

The losers want to change the rules of the game after it was played. Good luck, but it isn’t going to happen now or in the near future.

Should the electoral college be eliminated?

No! There are good reasons the person who gets the most “popular” votes should not be the winner. Not only would that make all but a few large states irrelevant, but it would change what campaigns are about, making it much easier for the person who raises the most money to win. That would be bad for our republican (small r) form of government.

The results of the 2016 campaign reflected the current rules. Clinton campaigned in the closing days in Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Why? At one point she thought she was going to win by a land-slide and thought of campaigning in red states to try to alter control of the Senate, but her own polling showed her to be in danger in those four states. It is significant that she LOST all four states where she made the greatest effort to win.

The Liberal Double-Standard

A double-standard is when you advocate something for others that you aren’t willing to do yourself. Liberals are past masters at doing so, and this election is a perfect example.

Some want enough GOP’s electors to vote for Clinton to reverse the results. Not only isn’t that going to happen, but what would it mean if it did? Are you really advocating someone go back on their word? Should electors betray the people who voted for Trump in their states? Is that something you’d tolerate had Clinton won? I don’t think so.

What about those who call for Trump to abandon his campaign promises and retain Obama’s policies? They advocate this claiming the popular vote should dictate. Again, we have to ask had Clinton won in a close race, would you have tolerated Trump supporters calling on Clinton to abandon her policies for Trump’s? Hardly!

For Crying Out Loud

There’s been a lot of moaning and whining about the election results. College professors gave students the day off, and students could get free puppies and coloring books at one college. Why not baby bottles filled with chocolate milk, too?

But face it people: all this crying is a result of the Clinton campaign strategy to try to win the election by going LOW, by focusing on Trump’s negatives––some of which he provided, others they simply made up or were responsible for, such as the violence at some Trump campaign events that were instigated by paid Democrat Party protestors.

Giving in to the fear your party created is not becoming nor is it rational. You may not like some of the policies Trump and Congress will bring about, but right now you don’t know what will happen. You don’t know which policies Trump advocated during the campaign will see the light of day or in what form or whether Congress will go along or whether the courts will upload them.

Take the Supreme Court for example. First, he has to nominate a candidate; the Senate has to consent and the person has to take his or her seat. Then any issue you are fearful about has to be brought to the Court in the form of a case passed up by the lower courts. Not only can that take years, but the outcome of any case cannot be predicted in advance. Despite Justice Roberts’ recent rulings, justices swear to uphold the Constitution, not advance a president’s agenda. Maybe a Trump appointee will be more honorable than Roberts and other liberal justices have been.

I don’t expect you Democrats to go away or stop advocating your positions, but I suggest you abandon the silly season issues of the electoral college and focus on why you lost before you try to prevent Trump and Congress from implementing the changes the public is demanding. You lost because people did not want more of your party’s policies. They did not want more economic stagnation, or more foreign policy set backs, or more expensive and intrusive government interference with every aspect of their lives. They wanted America to be great again, which means they realize America is not what it could be. Maybe you should listen and look for ways to help bring about a revival of our society, to lift people up instead of tearing them down, and to being once again a beacon on the hill for those less fortunate throughout the world.

Neither Deserves to Win

Neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump deserves to win the presidency. Here’s why:

Why Clinton Deserves to Lose

Hillary Clinton assumed the Democrat Party owed her its nomination because she had tolerated Bill’s infidelities, played second fiddle while he served as governor of Arkansas and President, and then lost to Barack Obama in 2008 mainly because of the latter’s patrimony. In her mind she had paid her dues and therefore was entitled to be the nominee. The problem is the divine right of queens went by the wayside two centuries ago. Today you have to earn the right to carry your party’s banner and she hardly did so, but what’s worse is how she conducted herself as Secretary of State and head of the Clinton Family Crime Foundation. She traded on her status as the likely nominee for $250,000 a pop speaking engagements for herself and Bill and for donations to her foundation. That’s taking the mafia’s manner of raising money by threatening to burn down a business unless the owner donates a percentage of its weekly take and modernizing it. Want a government contract? Want a job? Want an audience with the queen? Donate! Assuming she deserved to win, Clinton put forth a platform of platitudes, offering incremental changes and pandering to Sanders supporters. People are not enthusiastic about her candidacy, which meant she could only win by attacking Trump’s qualifications. Fortunately for her Trump made that part too easy. If Hillary loses, she has only herself and her arrogance to blame.

Why Trump Deserves to Lose

Trump tells us he’s a very smart man. Fact is he’s too smart for his own good. He assumes his success as a businessman is a reflection of his being smart, and while that’s undoubtedly true in part, it’s not the whole story. There are also the hundreds of people who worked for him who enabled him to make good deals and whose advice he failed to follow when he made bad ones. Seeing himself as smart he failed to understand the nature of the game he had interjected himself into. He failed to understand you don’t go out of your way to make enemies in politics. You don’t insult whole groups of people. You do build an organization capable of registering voters and getting out the vote. You do know you need money to compete with your opponent’s fund-raising capabilities. Trump could have won handily had he not alienated Ted Cruz by attacking him on a personal level. Had Cruz campaigned as a Trump surrogate, he would have cut into the Hispanic vote now going to Clinton making it unnecessary for Trump to spend so much time in Florida. Trump could have spent more time in Michigan, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania. If Trump loses he has only himself and his arrogance to blame.

Declining newspaper circulation in a divided society

Despite the early, national interest to the candidacies of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, the circulation and advertising revenues of daily newspapers in the U.S. continued to drop precipitously over the past year according to the Pew Research Center’s “State of the News Media 2016” report. The question is what’s causing the accelerating circulation decline and will owners do anything about it?

Let’s look at the numbers first: Weekday circulation fell 7% in 2015 while Sunday circulation dipped 4%. Further bad news is a decline in advertising revenue of 8% between 2014 and 2015. Even digital ad revenue declined, although only by 2%.

These numbers contrast with world media data, which show booming circulation, especially online. Print circulation worldwide grew just under 5% in 2015, confirming a trend that shows 21.6% increase in print circulation over the past five years. The majority of that increase comes from China and India. Print circulation for North America declined 10.9 percent during the same time period.

I doubt anyone has the data, but I suspect the percent of print and online newspaper readership among supporters of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump is much lower than the national average. Both groups are disaffected with the mainstream narrative as demonstrated by their support for candidates who challenged that narrative. If they do subscribe to a mainstream newspaper, my guess is the majority access that publication online and few receive the print edition.

One can’t blame these citizens from giving up on large daily newspapers. Much of the news they are interested in can be obtained faster and cheaper online or from the TV. Further, the editorial pages of most daily newspapers largely ignore the issues Trump and Sanders supporters feel important or present positions that contrast with their own. Further many editorials and columnists disparaged dissident voters as racists, homophobes, and worse.

Will owners make course corrections in light of the above data or tweak their current game plans? I’m convinced we won’t see any major changes. Why? The newspaper industry has already responded to projections of declining circulation by seeking revenue from its online product, by consolidating operations, and by generating revenue from other sources. Hence, they have no incentive to change their papers’ editorial focus, which today makes many columns and editorials appear as if they were written by the Democratic National Committee, if not by White House staff.

Buying into the Democrat/Liberal national narrative is the safest bet for media owners. They don’t need a crystal ball to see that Hillary Clinton is the presumptive winner and that little will change in Washington. Therefore to listen to dissidents or challenge the national narrative would only invite unwanted scrutiny and probably alienate their current readers, most of whom agree with their editorial outlook.

Media owners are probably correct in assuming being more critical of Washington would not result in disaffected citizens taking out subscriptions. All they need to do is print the occasional column by a conservative or an elected Republican, and they can maintain the appearance of neutrality.

There is an unfortunate consequence of the world of today’s newspaper industry, which is that they are playing a major role in dividing our nation in two. On one side with the newspaper industry is what we can call the Washington elite. These people are committed to increasing government’s reach into every aspect of daily life. On the other side are the average citizens whose views are not taken into account––people who resent Washington’s intrusion into every aspect of their lives, including which bathroom their children use at school. These are the people who lost their jobs or had them reduced from full to part-time by Obamacare, the war on coal and other environmental dictates, and by overregulation of every aspect of business practice. These are the people whose taxes provide more in cash and services to illegal immigrants than they can bring home from a $50,000/year salary.

From today’s divided society we got Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Many Sanders supporters feel he was robbed by undemocratic provisions of the Democratic Party’s primary system. They will stay home in 2016, but they will be looking for the next Bernie to run in 2020. Trump’s ego may have prevented him from having a realistic chance to win in November. I’ve talked to people who hate the Democrats, but will not vote for The Donald due to his failure to stay on message, but those people will also be around in 2020 looking for someone to challenge the mainstream narrative. All bets would be off if those two groups ever teamed up. Meanwhile, newspaper editors might do themselves a favor by listening to disaffected Americans instead of dissing them.

AIPAC’s new president wrong-foots her role

Coming off two days at my first AIPAC (American-Israel Political Affairs Committee) Policy Conference, I had nothing but good things to convey. That sentiment was shattered this morning when I received an extremely off-putting email from AIPAC’s new president Lillian Pinkus.

Pinkus objected to the standing ovation Donald Trump received when he said, “with President Obama in his final year––Yay!” She wrote that AIPAC does “not coutenance ad hominem attacks, and we take great offense to those that are levied at the President of the United States from our stage.”

Pinkus had already turned me off in her “acceptance speech” as AIPAC’s new president. She spoke to us in a condescending manner like a mother telling her children why they needed to eat their vegetables even before we had pushed them off the plate.

Later today, a new statement was issued by AIPAC. The only difference between the first and second versions was that she had claimed in the first to be speaking on behalf of the chairman of the board, the CEO and Vice Chief Executive Officer. Those names were missing from the second version, suggesting they had not been shown the document or agreed to have their names included and wanted to separate their names from her statement, which I applaud.

Jay Michaelson’s column in the Daily Beast explains Pinkus’ response as part of AIPAC’s attempt to restore its credibility with the Democratic Party after its strong condemnation of the Iran Deal. That may be, and in theory I am 100 percent behind AIPAC’s overall strategy of winning bi-partisan support for a “strong U.S.-Israel alliance, BUT to condemn the people who paid good money to attend the conference, many of them traveling a good distance to do so, for a spontaneous reponse to Trump’s comment is hitting below the belt.

Trump’s remark was an attack on the individual and not the office of the Presidency. So to write “While we have policy differences, we deeply respect the office of the President of the United States and our President Barack Obama,” is a misguided attempt to suppress criticism of the individual because he is President. Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon and others tried that approach. It won’t work. It shouldn’t work.

Pinkus knows she can’t control Trump and let me advise her that she can’t control her members either. That’s not what good leadership is all about. Good leaders articulate a mission and set a good example. Slapping our hands when we deviate from what you think is proper, Ms. Pinkus, will not win you friends, members or contributions.

The Elite Class in America: Explaining Trump and Setting the Agenda for Democratic Revival

Karl Marx is noted for the theory that capitalism breeds distinct social classes. Evidence came from his observation of 19th century England and Germany. Marx’ followers early on saw United States as an exception. They claimed lack of barriers to mobility militated against permanent classes in America. Constraining capitalism rather than overthrowing it became the objective. That approach informed Progressivism, the New Deal, and it remains in vogue today.

That said, we do have a semi-permanent class in America today––a ruling class of elites who are products of our university system and whose primary ideology is that they and not the people of this country know best. Today the elite control the federal government and our universities. Even Congress is discounted as we see in Barack Obama’s usurpation of powers that previously required Congressional approval.

While early social scientists were not elitists, their theories provided the backbone of today’s elitist ideology:

  • States and localities are too parochial (i.e., too much under the control of interest groups) to deal with important, national issues.
  • Policy implementation requires an entrenched civil service at the national level.
  • The market place inevitably fails to provide for the less privileged and less able and thus must be controlled by the federal government.

Today’s elites believe those who resist the policies promulgated by the federal government are social misfits––racists, bigots, religious zealots, and people trying to hold on to undeserved privilege.

The elite class has found a home in the Democratic Party. While claiming to be the party of inclusion, its policies favor those who have emerged from the chosen channels to claim their place as movers and shakers.

Symbolic of the gap between the elites and the rest of the country is the drive to legalize marijuana. While our nation’s inner cities are ravaged by the drug trade, which results in gang violence and thousands of lives lost to addiction, the elite want to be able to enjoy their pot parties. Visit the campuses of the top-ranked colleges and universities if you have any doubts. As a result, instead of stopping the traffic of heroin and other drugs at our borders, which could be done if made a priority, our legislators protect drug use by the elites and make a superficial effort to conduct the war on drugs.

The problems we face as a society today as a result of the existence of an elite class stem from an ideology/philosophy that conflicts with the principles upon which our country was founded. They justify their power as being deserved by merit, by electoral victories and the application of social science methodologies to address societal problems. But national electoral victories are won with the help of a media industry driven by the same elitist ideology. Then, when push comes to shove in making policy, social science practice and technological potential get set aside. Ideology wins out, which is why political appointees and not civil servants make the ultimate decisions in the federal government.

Donald Trump vs. the Elites

Those who rail against Donald Trump’s views see those who tell pollsters they plan to vote for him as part of the misfit class. In fact, however, the vast majority of his supporters are neither racists nor nutjobs, but people who recognize that their voices are not represented either in Washington or Hollywood. Rather than trying to protect their privileges, Trump supporters (as well as those who favor Carson, Cruz, and some of the other GOP candidates) lack the privileges enjoyed by members of the elite class. Trump supporters are not graduates of America’s elite colleges, they don’t hold high level positions in government or academia, they are not on the boards of huge corporations; nor do they earn six figure salaries at not-for-profit organizations or cultural institutions.

Trumpism represents a problem for the Republican Party because the Party’s leadership shares in the benefits of elitist power. They hold down positions where they earn high salaries, have a voice (every once in a while) on policy, and can avoid the worst of society’s detritus––urban slums and crime, rural poverty, and social malaise.

The past two national elections saw the GOP lose when they nominated moderate candidates who did not excite enough of the disaffected population to defeat the dream candidate. While nominating Trump or one of the other conservatives might energize the disaffected, it also might lead to the kind of defeat that happened in 1964 when the party’s leadership failed to pull out the stops for conservative Barry Goldwater. The sad part of Trumpism is that people accept slogans for policies and seem to want a savior to solve everything for them instead of becoming an ongoing part of the decision-making process.

Pundits say the GOP cannot win behind a conservative––however you want to define that––because they will inevitably lose the minority and female vote. They report the ethnic balance of the country is shifting towards minorities who at the moment see their futures and those of their children tied to the Democratic philosophy.

To win, the GOP must find a way to disabuse minority and female voters of the elitist implications of the Democratic Party’s philosophy. They must ask black Christians why they stick with the party that is hostile to Christianity; why blacks who live in depressed cities ruled by the Democrat Party continue to vote Democratic; why Hispanics who are in this country legally support a party that rewards illegal entry; and why women who chose a traditional role in the family are disparaged in the media?

Does Democracy Have A Future in America?

Other commentators have identified the existence of an elite class in America. One observer, Christopher Lasch, author of The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy, which came out more than twenty years ago, asked whether democracy has a future. Odd question? Not at all. What Lasch is getting at is that holding elections does not signify the existence of a democratic culture––one in which an educated citizenry determines policy and elected officials represent the interests of those who elected them.

Today’s elite hold a view of democracy in direct conflict with that of our country’s founders. The Founders believed democratic habits of self-reliance, responsibility and initiative were necessary for the establishment of ‘self-governing communities’––not an all-powerful federal government that usurps power from localities, the states and even Congress.

If the Republican Party, independents, or a third party would compete with the elite ruling class, they will have to start at the grass roots level, offering opportunities to average citizens to participate in a process that is not dominated by people at the top. Political “reforms” like open primaries undercut the role of local leaders and should be opposed. Open primaries are another victory for elitism couched as a democratic reform.

The second component of a campaign to challenge the elite is to overcome the mainstream media’s elitist bias. Opponents of elitism need to do more than develop their own alternative media outlets. Those are necessary, but not sufficient. The mainstream needs to be challenged, not catered to. Some of this year’s candidates have been willing to take on the hostile questioning of media chosen moderators. The notion of impartial moderators is in itself a function of elitist ideology. Opposition candidates should only participate in debates where the format allows them to speak to the issues and where “moderators” represent their supporters. Even if the mainstream media fails to cover such debates, people interested in change will find refreshing a willingness to bypass the networks and will tune in.

Third, a campaign against elitism cannot be confined to election cycles. Political activism has to be a 365-day effort, including representation at government hearings, filing freedom of information requests, court challenges, and protest events. As the Tea Party demonstrated, an active opposition movement doesn’t require a national governing group or a ton of money. It does require, however, people who are willing to stand up and speak out. The leaders of tomorrow need to get engaged today without regard to the outcome of the 2016 election. Elitism has a firm grip on power in America. It will take years to re-democratize America.

Is it okay for candidates to change their views and other issues challenging our democracy

One of Marketplace’s political pundits recently attacked Donald Trump for being a phony. His proof? Some of Trump’s views today aren’t what he espoused fifteen, twenty years ago. On another front I see people taking positions on issues based on who is in favor (or opposed). Both approaches are easy to fall into, but both ultimately are dangerous because in a democracy it is important that people form and defend views shaped by careful consideration rather than toeing a party line or basing their views on someone else’s.

Let’s examine the notion that a candidate is not being honest if he has changed his views on a topic such as abortion or immigration. Why do we assume that he changed his view for an illegitimate reason? This criticism suggests people who change their views are not to be trusted, when in fact the opposite should be true––to wit, anyone whose views have not changed based on experience and/or changes in external conditions is likely out of touch with reality.

Consider population control––today a not-very-controversial issue, but in 1968, many readers of Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb were won over to the notion that governments needed to impose stringent measures immediately to curtail a population growth rate that would doom the planet. It became clear fairly soon that Ehrlich was wrong, but his predictions inflicted damage, convincing many people not to have children or to limit family size. Would someone who was once convinced by Ehrlich but later recognized his predictions were wrong be unworthy of trust? Of course not.

What about a candidate’s changing his view on a topic because poll numbers show the public is against him? In some cases, it works out to express to deeply held positions despite public opposition. When Mario Cuomo ran for governor of New York State, he refused to support the death penalty even though the public was in favor by a large margin. The public respected his position and very few voted against him for that reason. What about someone who supported Bush’s invasion of Iraq, but later became a critic? Who can quarrel with that person if the reason for the change was that he obtained information he didn’t have before?

That Donald Trump’s views may have changed should not by itself be an indication of his worthiness for voter support. It should depend on what his views are today and why he changed positions, if in fact he did.

A more difficult problem people have to deal with is considering issues apart from who supports or opposes them. If Rush Limbaugh or Barack Obama are for something, some people are automatically against. Doesn’t that kind of thinking tell the world, “Please don’t let anything get in the way of my biases?”

It’s not easy to come to positions apart from those of people you hate or admire. It can result in others questioning your sanity, but a true democracy requires citizens who are willing to consider and debate issues based on their own reading of the facts, not how other people think.

Some people don’t think they have time to study the issues and therefore have to go along with someone else’s opinion. True, it can be difficult to study an issue such as the Iran deal given the daily barrage from experts in the media, and one can’t assume news outlets are unbiased. Yet there is no lack of information on the major issues of the day if you are willing to search on a topic and read news stories and opinion pieces that reflect opposing sides.

Politically illiteracy jeopardizes our democracy. Too many people’s views are based on choices made at an early age––choices they never subject to serious questioning from one election cycle to another. As Christopher Lasch wrote in his insightful The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy (1994), “In the absence of democratic exchange, most people have no incentive to master the knowledge that would make the capable citizens.” (P. 12) Democracy is dependent Lasch states on “a vigorous exchange of ideas and opinions.” Holding regular elections is not enough.

Each citizen should feel capable of finding sufficient information on any issue he cares about in order to form his own position; each citizen should feel a duty to express his opinion in a respectful manner, listening to the other side and challenging his opponents with facts, not name-calling. Each citizen should be inclined to want to vote in elections because the alternative is allowing someone else to make the choice for you.

It’s okay to change one’s views; it’s okay to disagree with someone whom you are inclined to support most of the time; and it’s not just okay, but is a positive social good to challenge other people’s views as long as you can marshal facts and arguments to support your own.

Final thought: When Barack Obama disparages his opponents on the Iran issue, he is undermining a core principle of our democracy. He wants us to support the deal because he tells us to, but that’s wrong. We are not only entitled to form our own views, but the future of our society demands that we do so.