Wait, Climate Change is Real?

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Our favorite GOP presidential candidate Donald J. Trump is quite the social media mogul. Sometimes he posts short, stoic Instagram videos where he usually ends with, “WHAT ARE THEY DOING/THINKING?” His most recent video caught my eye more than his usual shenanigans. He ‘calls’ out President Obama for being in France to discuss climate change while he apparently should be focused on illegal immigrants and Syrian refugees crossing our borders. Lovely. While I feel it goes without saying, Mr. Trump needs to put his priorities in order. Climate change has not been the fastest process ever, future generations will bear the burden of its effects, but guess what? Temperatures are rising everybody. Our generation has inherited the task of lowering temperatures or future generations will feel climate woes tenfold.

Whether Donald Trump thinks it is important or not, the 21st Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (or COP 21) seeks to establish new climate treaties and at the very least, promote discussion on this extremely overlooked issue. I am usually very quick to bash the UN system, but the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which hosts the conference, at least has a realistic set of goals in mind. Sure the UNFCCC lacks enforcement mechanisms and has not met said goals, but that does not mean it never will. Many countries (including the entirety of the EU) reduced their carbon footprint while others fell short. The United States, for example, signed the Kyoto Protocol but never ratified it. While all of this sounds incredibly ineffective and useless, it at leasts brings UN powers together to talk about climate change. The UN and its systems have always been effective for promoting conversation, and every so often something tangible sticks.

So now let me ask you, Donald Trump, what are YOU thinking? Illegal immigration is on the decline and temperatures are on the rise. Global temperatures are rising in a scientifically quantifiable manner. The other issue, immigration, is immeasurable noise. The “big beautiful wall with a big beautiful door in the middle” is not the answer because illegal immigrants will still attempt to cross the border. It’s inevitable. We currently have phenomenal technology in place to put a halt to border hopping. Sure, it slows down illegal immigration. We will never stop it entirely though. But what about the case of global climate? This is something we could visibly slow down by changing energy and consumption policies. Temperatures are going up and Congress refuses to accept it. Instead, they bring snowballs into congress and say it’s all fine. The rising temperatures are not a significant change over a short time, because it is a long term gradual rise that will eventually become much more of a problem than it is now. It’s still snowing in DC, but the ice caps are melting and seas are rising. So sure, the UNFCCC may not be the answer. However, at some point in the future there will finally be an answer. So don’t listen to Trump. President Obama is not wasting his time in France. Fixing the planet require global coordination. Earth needs the help.

Misconceptions about Capitalism

From presidential candidate Bernie Sanders to Pope Francis to social activists like the Black Lives Matter group, capitalism is under fire. Capitalism is criticized more than usual in recent years, as a rising number of people, particularly among the American left, have unfavorable opinions of the system that created the unprecedented rise in economic prosperity that humans have enjoyed the last few hundred years. What misconceptions have caused people to become so disillusioned with capitalism?

Misconception #1: Pure capitalism exists in the world today

Most systems that are generally considered to be ‘capitalist’ like the rich democracies of Western Europe and North America, are not pure capitalism, and instead can be more accurately described as mixed economies. These countries are generally among the most economically free nations of the world, but most suffer from inherently anticapitalistic government regulation and cronyism. Take for example the sugar subsidies that Marco Rubio loves so much. A true capitalist system would not tolerate the government using other people’s money to artificially prop up certain industries. So when you see tax dollars being spent to support the sugar oligopolists, cronyism is the culprit, not capitalism. The unwanted and unpopular side effects of cronyism and government intervention cause some people to jump up and say “Hey look how horrible capitalism is, it’s causing (insert strawman criticism here.)”

Misconception #2: Capitalism is an imposed system

Capitalism is not centrally planned, but instead relies on spontaneous order, or things organizing themselves in the absence of a central planner. Biological evolution, language, the internet, and even the creation of the entire universe rely on this same principle. Capitalism is not defined by many things, other than the protection of the economic autonomy of all individuals. History shows that capitalism has developed as a result of people’s desire for and/or exercise of economic freedom. The rise of capitalism didn’t come about because of a group of people united, decided that it is the best economic system, and then forcefully implemented it. There is the sense among particular groups of people that capitalism is artificial, and that it is engineered to work in particular ways. The reason that the economy is ‘rigged’ to work in the favor of some and not others intentionally is because of governments with overbearing and dominating powers that companies bribe through lobbying.

Misconception #3: Capitalism is colonialism

Most discussions of imperialism and colonialism end up criticizing capitalism at some point, with a participant saying something like “Those capitalist Europeans did horrible things to native populations just to make a profit.” Pretty much everything that happened in the colonial era, at its roots, is the exact opposite of what a pure capitalist society would do. Capitalism at a sub-national level means respecting the autonomy of each individual, so it follows that capitalism at an international level means respecting the sovereignty of every nation, state, tribe, political system, or group of people, which discredits the idea of colonialism in the first place. A first main criticism of colonialism is that it allowed the colonizers to steal resources from indigenous people. In a capitalist system, everyone has a right to his or her own private property, and nobody has the right to coerce groups of people into forfeiting their resources. Another obvious result is the twisted labor systems imposed on indigenous peoples. Capitalism says that people have the right to make their own decisions about the allocation of their labor and their capital. The systems established under colonialism, like the Spanish encomienda system, were much closer to forced feudalism, and of course, employed the most blatant plundering of economic rights: outright slavery. When a system condones the absence of enforced economic rights of the people, it ceases to be capitalism.

Misconception #4: Capitalism is racist

Out of all the bewildering allegations leftists make against capitalism, this is one of the most misguided, and it comes from a deeply flawed idea that pure economic liberalism (in the classical sense) and social authoritarianism are compatible in the long run. This is because social rights and economic rights are not substantively different from a moral perspective. There are only human rights, and a system either complies with them or it does not. Therefore, any system that does not sufficiently protect the economic rights of its citizens based on race does not protect the overall rights of its citizens; such a system is both racist and non-capitalist. The main argument saying that capitalism is racist concerns the traditionally despicable treatment of non-white people in the United States. Native Americans lost land and resources to European theft, and Africans were brought here to work as slaves which are both non-capitalist actions. Still, people point to disparities between blacks and whites in modern America as evidence that capitalism is racist because the US is a capitalist nation. The economic hardships faced by blacks today come about from slavery, the already established non-capitalist institution. This may seem contradictory as I earlier stated that the United States was capitalist and that is why it is rich, and I am now saying that it was not because of slavery. The US was capitalist for most white men, and some capitalism creates wealth better than no capitalism. If women and people of color had the full economic rights they would have under a true capitalist system, the United States would be even richer than it is. The antebellum Southern United States, obsessed with slavery, practiced it at an economic disadvantage. Profits would have been better served by paying slaves through wage labor instead of owning them as property. Also, slave owning Southern states faced technological and economic stagnation before the civil war. I’m sure most people remember middle school American history class when we learned that the north won the war because they industrialized and the south did not. The teachers neglect to mention that the south’s stagnation derived from slavery. In other words, racism has no economic function.

Misconception #5: Capitalism causes inequality

This one is not entirely untrue, but it is not necessarily a bad thing. Capitalism does cause inequality. All people have different natural abilities, different circumstances and different starting points, which does create a system in which some people have more than others. Following the Pareto rule, 20% of people will naturally earn 80% of the income. But increasing inequality is not a synonym for increasing poverty. If everyone is getting richer, but some are getting richer faster than others, inequality is increasing, yes, but who would really object to this? Everyone is getting richer. This is part of the answer to the question of why “the middle class is disappearing.” Demagogues like Bernie Sanders talk about the “disappearance” of the middle class, which somehow carries the assumption that all of these people are getting poorer, a claim which is demonstrably false. Less people are earning incomes in the typically middle class interval, but their incomes are not falling, they’re growing. Capitalism does cause inequality, but everyone will be richer than they would be with government intervention.

Misconception #6: Capitalism is perfect

Although capitalism is the best system that we know of, it is not perfect. Let’s face it, there are going to be poor people. Not everybody can get everything. Ideally everybody would have as much as they want of whatever they want. But this is obviously not possible because Earth has finite resources. Capitalism is imperfect only because the world is imperfect. When we get caught up trying to come up with the answers for how to eliminate poverty, we forget that poverty is the natural state, that humans create only prosperity. The Big Bang caused poverty, capitalism caused prosperity.  The fundamental economic problem is scarcity. This won’t go away if we simply let the government take the reins and let it decide how to allocate resources efficiently (which it can’t). Although we will always have poor people, capitalism has historically proven that it is the best way for everybody to get richer, to make what would be considered rich 100 years ago, seem relatively poor today. The way forward has been, and always will be, not to cut up wealth like a pie and divide it artificially, but to build something, and grow the whole.

The Real Winners and Losers in the Debates

Vladimir Putin

A lot of mention has been made of late as to who is benefitting the most from their debate performances, and who is damaged irreparably. Amidst the entertainment of the fiasco that has been the debate cycle, in both parties, there are unseen winners and losers.

 

The Loser: US Foreign Policy

 

Despite the increasingly dire threats facing the United States abroad, a growing refugee crisis and the backlash from the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris, foreign policy largely sits on the backburner. Yes, the rhetoric surrounding taking the fight has been intense and widespread amongst most of the candidates. However, this is all that presently exists, and the American voter seems to be far more interested in the smoothest talker, and not the most qualified Commander in Chief.

As each day of the campaign drags on, likely primary voters appear to draw their motives from public issue statements, rather than any meaningful record of accomplishments. The polls are reflecting this. The candidates gaining both the most traction and media attention have very little, if any, foreign policy prowess on which they can draw to justify becoming the next Commander in Chief of the armed forces during this incredibly crucial time.

Republicans Donald Trump and Ben Carson, the two undeniable leaders in almost every recent poll, have nearly zero experience in any political field. Trump touts his negotiating experience as a point of pride for his foreign policy credentials. His outlandish, macho talking points have allowed him to soar in the polls despite lacking versed stances on any events in which a foreign entity, like ISIS, would have no interest or reason to negotiate. Then, of course, there is Carson, who has publicly admitted he is actively studying foreign policy on the campaign trail and has struggled to fend off reports that members inside his campaign “coach” him on foreign policy basics.

After the steep polling drop-off from the two distinct frontrunners, we have the class of three young senators: Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY). These senators have gained a lot of influence within the party, especially within the younger demographic the GOP desperately needs to reach. But, what does it mean for foreign policy?

Senator Rubio has laid out a strong, clear plan for strengthening the military and re-establishing American influence abroad. However, his attendance record in the Senate has been increasingly, and perhaps justifiably, called into question. Could President Rubio adequately handle international relations as president when he couldn’t dedicate time to hash out these issues as a Senator? There’s also the fact that Rubio attacked Senator John McCain (R-AZ) for “knowing nothing about enhanced interrogation.” Senator McCain was a prisoner of war in Viet Nam and lost most of the function in his arms due to the torture he endured there.

Senator Cruz largely joins Rubio in advocating for a strong national defense. Cruz’s vision, if implemented, would be a large benefit to the United States’ standing in the world. However, he has stated he would use overwhelming force to achieve American objectives, but not dedicate resources to “nation build” in the aftermath. This threatens to cause even more instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world and reflects the issue with inexperienced leadership.

There is always the interesting case of discussing foreign policy with the Paul family. Senator Paul, as well as his father, former presidential candidate Ron Paul, blames American involvement in foreign affairs for many of the world’s problems. Paul’s non-interventionist vision also threatens to harm American integrity abroad and threatens our relationship with Israel by sacrificing the ability for the United States to influence global decisions.

No discussion of US foreign policy would be complete, however, without the mention of the name Bush. President George W’s little brother, former Florida Governor, Jeb Bush, is trying to take over in a world that has largely rejected the Bush doctrine of foreign policy. This has also been harmed by Jeb’s unwillingness to reject his brother’s shortcomings and his fumbling many questions on the subject.

The rising tide of candidates, who have very poor foreign policy credentials, has only been compounded by the debate process marginalizing or eliminating the best candidates this cycle has to offer in terms of foreign policy. And, no, despite being Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton (D-NY) does not fall into this group. Her lack of notable accomplishments in that role and the fact that foreign relations failed to improve during her time there keeps her out of that upper echelon.

Conversely, despite his vast experience, former Governor of Virginia, Jim Gilmore, never had a shot in this race. What chances he had were eliminated by being excluded from all but one of the debate thus far. However, Gilmore logged years of service in the Army in West Germany in the 1970s, and was a former counterintelligence agent. He also has run or founded various councils within the Department of Homeland Security dedicated to security policy. His governorship of Virginia also coincided with the attacks of 9/11, which hit the Pentagon, in Arlington, VA. Unfortunately, this process blocks voters from access to his knowledge and experience.

Governor Rick Perry (R-TX) also has military experience in the Air Force and was the longest-serving governor in Texas history. He created millions of jobs in a huge economy, and has experience dealing with external competition. He’s also had experience dealing with the immigration crisis at the Texas border, which he deployed the Texas National Guard to combat. His campaign had huge support within the armed service community, but, after being relegated to the lower tier debate, he never caught momentum.

Another Senator who receives fairly little mention in this process is Lindsey Graham (R-SC). He also served in the Air Force and logged over 20 years of military service. He now serves on the Armed Services Committee in the Senate and has been endorsed by the aforementioned Senator McCain. Graham, due to low coverage and polling, has never made the top tier debates and was excluded altogether from the most recent one.

Finally, perhaps the most qualified Commander in Chief of all the candidates does not come from the Republican pool at all. Former Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) was a decorated Viet Nam War veteran, including two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star. He served as Assistant Secretary of Defense and Secretary of the Navy under the Reagan administration. Webb has further articulated clear knowledge of foreign policy and had a strong record of accomplishments during his term in the Senate. However, he received paltry speaking time in the only Democratic debate before he dropped out.

 

Winner: Vladimir Putin

 

The way this process has, thus far, marginalized legitimate foreign policy perspectives has paved the way for Vladimir Putin’s full ascension into the position of most powerful man in the world.

Putin has helped re-establish Russia as a dominant world force and has been ardent in his fighting of ISIS and radical Islamic forces in the Middle East. The Obama administration’s reluctance to take an active role has allowed Putin to maximize his influence.

The United States has helped embolden Russian leaders by pushing NATO right up to the Russian borders during the Bill Clinton administration. There is nothing wrong with NATO expansion, and given the time, it was a useful tool to deter future Russian aggression into former Soviet bloc states. It was used again by President Bush (43) to add the Baltic states to the alliance.

However, during these administrations, America displayed an active foreign policy, and projected strength. Therefore, these NATO expansions can be seen as strategic moves to maintain global influence. On the other hand, if America projects weakness, and retreats in influence, an advocacy for NATO expansion can be seen as nothing other than a symbolic move and unnecessarily antagonistic towards Russia.

Putin has seen this American weakness in policies like Hillary’s “reset” during her time as Secretary of State, where she initiated a unilateral easing of tensions and relaxing of US policy towards Russia, in hopes of making deals with then-President Dmitri Medvedev. It only projected weakness and galvanized Russian ambitions.

Now, Putin assumes a vast amount of influence on the world stage and the only credible threat to that unilateral influence would be a strong American leader. Symbolic moves like the expansion of NATO without any strategic objectives in mind, only projects weakness, and also gives Putin a rationalization for more rash actions that he knows the US would not be willing to back up.

Despite various assertions, Vladimir Putin is not an unreasonable or evil man. He has been both inspired and encouraged by reckless assertions on the part of US leaders and by their lack of strength when it comes to pressing international issues. He is an international actor responding to changing international conditions in order to increase his influence and leverage globally.

This makes him an undeniable threat to American influence abroad, and to America itself. We need a strong national leader to take on Putin’s advances head-on.

The dearth of credible Commanders in Chief in our presidential race and the rhetoric that has been spewed during this cycle will score as a victory for Putin who will continue to increase Russian influence while he takes on ISIS and threatens territorial expansion. He will receive no backlash from a United States that seems content to elect a leader who cannot adequately challenge his advances or be respected in an international context.

Saying “No” to Syrian Refugees: Conservatism or Xenophobia?

As of today, 31 governors in the United States oppose sheltering Syrian refugees. All but one them are Republican governors. Based on this alone, it seems as though conservatives in general are opposed to helping other human beings who are in need. The rationale behind this opposition appears logical at first glance. By preventing Syrian refugees from entering the United States, the government would protect people from terrorists posing as refugees. This would somehow ensure national security and protect the American people and their values from the onslaught of radical terrorists. What can get more conservative than that? However, in truth, this is far from conservatism. This is pure xenophobia that actually tarnishes the sacred values of conservatism.

You’ve probably heard of this cliché but true statement: America is a nation of immigrants. From the first and second waves of immigration in the early and mid 1800s that brought in the Germans and the Irish to the third and fourth waves of immigration in the late 19th century and throughout the 20th century that brought in Asian and Latino immigrants, America has been allowing individuals from other countries to come in, seek refuge, make good use of opportunities, advance as a people, and give back to their “new home.” It’s almost like it is an American tradition! If conservative principles were to uphold tradition, then wouldn’t welcoming refugees from Syria be doing just that?

Secondly, conservatives believe in empowering the individual no matter who they are. Conservatives do not believe in hand-outs, but they surely believe in providing opportunities for people who will make the most of them for their self-growth and the greater good of their community. Allowing Syrian refugees to come in will be doing just that. Sure, they will probably need some government assistance during the first few months of their arrival, but that won’t be for long. According to International Business Times, Syrian refugees are more likely than refugees from other countries to come from professional backgrounds. Therefore, they are the kind of people who would be able to quickly take the opportunities provided to them in America to better themselves and give back to the nation. Immigrants are twice as likely to start a business than native-born individuals. Immigrants contribute more per capita through taxes compared to native-born Americans. That is what empowered individuals look like! If that does not suggest making the most out of opportunities and giving back to the nation, then I don’t know what does.

Finally, conservatives respect the dignity of all life whether it is the unborn or the elderly. Why can’t we then extend that dignity to Syrian refugees whose livelihoods were shattered into oblivion as war broke out in their home? The majority of refugees, if not all, are innocent victims of human cruelty. Refusing to help them because there is a slim possibility of pathetic inhumane terrorists posing as needy refugees is absurd. I’m not saying that the government should blindly accept anyone claiming to be a Syrian refugee. There needs to be systematic measures taken to ensure that the people who come in as refugees are legitimate and that they pose no threat to national security. But to blatantly prevent innocent human beings from acquiring life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is surely immoral and un-American.

Although accepting refugees aligns with conservative appreciation of life, some reason against it due to our inability to address domestic problems. There are domestic problems such as veteran homelessness and many others that are affecting our nation. Those issues, of course, should not be ignored. However, we don’t neglect a dying man just because we are sick. Throughout history, we have combatted multiple issues at once. Having existing problems doesn’t always impact our ability to multitask. Also, I understand that America shouldn’t be the only nation helping refugees. After all, why aren’t some of the most peaceful and prosperous Arab states not letting Syrian refugees into their countries? Shouldn’t they be helping out too? Of course, they should! But their inactivity does not give America the reason to follow their ways. Let’s be an example to others as we’ve always been. We’re a world leader, and leaders lead by example.

If we truly believe in upholding traditions that make America great, if we truly believe in empowering individuals with opportunities, if we truly believe that life begins at conception and that it is sacred until death, then why are we opposed to exercising these beliefs? Let’s distinguish ourselves from xenophobes. Let’s be conservatives who truly understand what their values are and use them for the good of humanity.

GOP Debate Grades: Cruz and Rubio Shine, Jeb! Treads Water, and Rand Finds His Voice

Tuesday’s Fox Business Republican Debate was quite the breath of fresh air. After the monstrous travesty that was the CNBC debate two weeks ago, both of Tuesday’s debates were substantive, interesting, and policy-specific. Without further ado, here are my rankings of each candidate:

Main Debate

Donald Trump: C. According to some some national polls, Donald Trump has dropped an astonishing twelve points since the beginning of September. Nonetheless, he has been the ostensible frontrunner since a few weeks after he entered the race, which is impressive for any candidate. This summer of outsiders seems to be giving way to the autumn of real contenders, as candidates like Cruz and Rubio are making significant headway in the polls. Trump needed to prove that he was a real contender in Tuesday’s debate, and he barely had a presence on this stage. Not a terrible performance, but not one that will buttress his tenuous lead over the rest of the field.

Ben Carson: C. The candidate that has contributed most to the Trump windfall has been Carson, who turned in an adequate debate performance Tuesday. He is not a serious candidate for president, and didn’t even come close to looking like one. But he is still a good man with a keen sense of humor, as evidenced by numerous witty exchanges with the moderators. Carson’s biggest drawback is his ardent commitment to being the most boring man on the stage. Everyone likes Carson, but likability isn’t enough to be a competent commander-in-chief (See: Carter, Jimmy).

Marco Rubio: A. Once again, Senator Marco Rubio steals the night right out from under the other candidates. In a clash with fellow candidate Rand Paul on foreign policy, Rubio had his breakout moment when describing the imperativeness of a strong American presence in the world. Rubio is a clarion voice for a strong national defense, and constantly and articulately advocates for American hegemony around the world. Additionally, Rubio displayed exceptional command of an ideal regulatory structure of a dynamic 21st century economy, and by far looked the most presidential on stage. Rubio is truly a commander-in-chief who can lead the world in this unprecedentedly dangerous time, with gravitas and exceptional leadership. Chalk this performance up as Senator Rubio’s fourth consecutive win!

Ted Cruz: A. Senator Cruz turned in another great performance tonight, as his stellar debate chops are finally on full display. Cruz’s breakout moment came when discussing immigration, an issues that he clearly holds near to his heart. However, Cruz had a Perry-esque moment when detailing the federal agencies he would eliminate, and said that he would cut the Department of Commerce twice. It remains to be seen how that stumble will affect Cruz in the polls but overall, Cruz’s answers were substantive, passionate, and succinct. To paraphrase something I saw while scrolling through Twitter, the Cubans are definitely making it to the ninth inning!

Jeb Bush: B-. At this point, Governor Bush is treading water. Bush turned in a good performance when he desperately needed to turn in an excellent performance. At the last debate, Bush completely ran into a lawnmower when questioning Rubio. It was good for Bush that he avoided such a moment Tuesday, but you can’t acquire a reward without risking something, and Bush played it too safe. Bush needed a breakout moment to cement his position as the number one guy in the establishment lane, but failed to do so. All in all, this was an adequate performance from an adequate candidate.

Carly Fiorina: B-. Fiorina performed adequately at this debate, but we already knew she would. Ever since her breakout performance at the first undercard debate, and a stellar performance at the second debate, it has all been downhill for Fiorina. The unfortunate problem for Fiorina is that she simply cannot capitalize on the anger as well as Trump can. One line that was completely laughable was that she was constantly thinking of ways to grow jobs at HP, when in reality she fired 30,000 people and seemed to relish in firing them. I don’t get her appeal, but I suppose she would be a good vice presidential candidate.

John Kasich: F. Since most of Kasich’s performance consisted of him screaming at the latest inanimate object or ranting against how terrible the GOP is, I have no choice but to give him an F. Kasich is truly the most unlikeable guy that has run for president in recent memory, and his famous cantankerousness was on full display. I’m sick of his sermons, and I’m sick of seeing him on the main stage, and I’m sick of a patronizing, self-righteous liberal Democrat masquerading as a budget-balancing conservative. Chris Christie should have been on that stage instead of this fraud. Bye Felicia!

Rand Paul: B. Anyone that knows me personally knows that I run opposite to Paul on many fronts, most notably in the area of foreign policy and national security. So it might be a surprise to some that I’m going to say something good about Paul here, but I think he turned in a good debate performance Tuesday. I’ve always said that Paul needed to hit the reset button on his campaign in order to limp into Iowa, and it appears that he finally took my advice. Paul had a bigger presence on stage than Trump, and that is certainly saying a lot for both of their respective candidacies. I think we will see a slight bump in the polls for Paul, at least in Iowa, where he might take back some of Cruz’s supporters that were disaffected Ron Paulites.

Undercard Debate

Chris Christie: A. Wow. This was truly a special performance by Christie, who had a Fiorina-esque performance on the undercard stage. It is clear that Christie is one of the most natural politicians running for President, with a raw charisma and a swagger that sets him apart from most of the field. Christie basked in the limelight, and took on petty attacks from his rivals with characteristic confidence and aplomb. If Jeb Bush continues to falter, Christie could easily make his way into the establishment lane, and become a formidable force in New Hampshire. Being on the undercard stage was probably the best thing to happen to Christie’s candidacy.

Mike Huckabee: B.

Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum: F. Just drop out, guys.

Winners: Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, Fox Business moderators

Losers: JOHN KASICH, Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum

A Real House of Cards

PaulRyan

In the past few years, many Americans have been gripped by the hit Netflix series, House of Cards, the story of the corrupt House Majority Whip, Francis Underwood who exacts vengeance on his political adversaries standing in his way to higher power.

Lately, the story of another Majority Whip moving up the political ladder permeates through news feeds across America. That would be the story of former Majority Whip, Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). McCarthy rose from his role as Whip to Majority Leader after the unprecedented primary defeat of sitting Leader at the time, Eric Cantor (R-VA). McCarthy recently seemed destined to be Speaker of the House after Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) resignation announcement.

However, in the midst of this rapid ascendancy, McCarthy ran into a problem that had plagued Boehner in recent years. This was the resilience of more ardent conservative groups within the House, namely, the House Freedom Caucus. The Caucus felt Boehner was not adequately conservative, nor was he willing enough to block President Barack Obama’s executive actions. The Caucus attempted to oust Boehner from his role in the last Speaker elections and failed.

After Boehner’s resignation, the Freedom Caucus effectively blocked McCarthy’s path to the speakership by unifying and demanding effective conservative leadership. After this great conservative victory, talks have drifted towards the election of Representative, and former Republican Vice Presidential candidate, Paul Ryan (R-WI) as the new Speaker. A Ryan speakership would undermine all progress the Freedom Caucus has made in the House and threaten the legitimacy of conservative movements throughout America.

Ryan was once thought of as a conservative voice in the Republican Party, however his recent record suggests he is firmly in line with establishment types like Boehner and McCarthy that House conservatives have tried to prevent. He went left on immigration, and compromised on a budget deal in negotiations with Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) that fell far short of any meaningful spending cuts. He also rebuffed the Tea Party time and time again in his memoir, The Way Forward, criticizing its strategy.

Ryan now says he will be open to a run for Speaker, so long as the entire Republican caucus in the House can unite behind him. This is rather ironic, given how he’s abandoned his support for the Tea Party and has not been willing to embrace their vision for combatting Barack Obama’s policies. Paul Ryan desires the support of his entire party, but will not lend its members the same respect. Ryan cannot unite this legislature now.

Rejecting Ryan’s aspirations for Speaker are also important for staunch House conservatives in the influential House Freedom Caucus, as well as the Republican Study Committee (another conservative caucus). Taking down Boehner as Speaker has been one of the most highlighted agenda points of these two groups for years now. They have done that, and now prevented McCarthy, another establishment leader, from replacing him. With the rise in anti-establishment sentiment evident by the successes of presidential candidates like Donald Trump and Ben Carson in recent polls, this is the ideal time for these groups to stand strong and demand a true conservative Speaker.

If these groups bend to the will of the establishment and believe that Paul Ryan truly is the unifier the Republican Party needs, then it will confirm in the minds of many Americans that the conservative wing of the Republican Party is, in fact, only an apparatus to obstruct any sort of meaningful progress in the legislature. Many in the conservative movement have rejected this image. However, given the current political climate, and the successes against Boehner and McCarthy, it may be impossible to refute if Ryan is allowed to become Speaker.

The yearnings for a Ryan Speakership are not due to lack of options emanating from the conservative wing of the House. Representatives Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), Bill Flores (R-TX), Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA), and Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) have all floated their names out there as potential candidates and all have received ratings of 78% or above from the conservative think tank, Heritage Action on their voting records, well above the House Republican average. The conservatives could reasonably unite behind any one of these candidates to ensure the next Speaker will actually defend conservative interests.

Unfortunately, the idea that the conservative caucus cannot drive the agenda has permeated too far within the Congress. If the Freedom Caucus and its allies accept a Ryan Speakership and view the fact that neither Boehner, nor McCarthy will be the next leader of the Congress as a sufficient victory, then the aforementioned perception is correct and the accusations that House conservatives are only an obstructive force will be justified with flying colors.

This year is unique, politically, for so many reasons. The foremost of which is the rise of the anti-establishment politicians. House conservatives have this unique opportunity to right the wrongs the establishment has allowed in Congress to this point. With this majority, the House should have harnessed the power of the purse to prevent the implementation of Obamacare, the unconstitutional executive amnesty that President Obama has pushed on the nation, and should have been able to defund a grossly mismanaged organization receiving federal funds in Planned Parenthood (regardless of whether or not they profit from the sale of fetal tissue). However, this has not been the case with Speaker Boehner thus far. The time has come to make a change that has been a long time coming. The fate of the conservative movement sits in the House, and, if it is allowed to fail, the house of cards will fall and the legitimacy of conservatives in all offices will fall with it.

Author’s Note: I previously published an article documenting the need to remove Speaker Boehner, as well as Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell from their posts in April, and detailed their failures as legislators. That article can be found here: https://aucrsblog.com/2015/04/15/donkeys-in-elephants-clothing/