Tag Archives: USA2016

Plan B – Kind Of

TLF: I entitled this post “Plan B”, but there’s many for whom neither Trump nor Hillary were really Plan A. It seems that many were unhappy with the major party choices in this election cycle, and many decided to vote for the lesser of two evils. Some decided that Hillary was the lesser of two evils, and in some ways I’m sure they were right. Some decided that Trump was the lesser of two evils, and in other ways I’m sure they were right, too.

For those who really didn’t like either of them, the more impeachable of the two won the election.

My interviewee James has mentioned a little on his Facebook and on his blog, about the Electoral College and its job, and also impeachment as another way to remove Trump. I threw a bunch of questions his way about the more immediate of the two, the Electoral College. James posted a lot of information in an article he wrote that was published by The Federalist.

So, on with some questions.

TLF: If the Electoral College Republicans unify behind another Republican candidate, what do you see the fallout being? Some predict the violence we currently have, to escalate considerably. Is this a valid concern, if so is it worth the risk?

JH: If we allow ourselves to be cowed by the threat of violence from people who resist our republican system of government — which is built on the independence of the electoral college, whether people realize it or not — then we’ve already surrendered our republic to them, without even bothering to fight.

Just as Hillary supporters have been forced by our electoral college to accept the result that she will not be president despite winning the popular vote, Trump supporters must be prepared to face the possibility that the electoral college will not make him president despite his party winning the electoral vote.  Every call for Democrats to accept the election results applies equally to the Republicans.

It could get ugly anyway, because people are terrible and democracy is a hot mess. But that threat does not rewrite the Constitution. The electors have a duty to vote for the person they believe best suited to be the next President. If that’s Trump, fine. If not, then they’d best do their duty, and trust the rest of our constitutional order to handle the fallout.

TLF: The Electoral College is supposed to choose a candidate who can unify, both Trump and Hillary have been quite divisive. Is there any alternative figure who has a broad enough appeal that both Democrats and disaffected Republicans could agree to cope with and say “we’d rather have them, thank you” in their communication? (seems like this was a problem with the NeverTrump camp during the R Primaries, no unifying figure).

JH: As for who it would be, in the vanishingly unlikely chance the electoral college does do its job and vote independently: my money would be on Gov. Mike Pence. He’s nobody’s favorite, but he’s one of a small number of Republicans who is fairly popular in all wings of the party right now, and, since he was on Trump’s ticket as vice-president, he enjoys a lot more legitimacy than would, say, Paul Ryan.

TLF: I’ve heard Pence described as Trump’s “assassination insurance”, I’ve heard people talking like they like Pence less than Trump, if that can be believed.

JH: The Pence hatred, I think, really exposes that, for much of the Left, the thing that makes Donald Trump unqualified is not really his lying, his sexual abuse, his lack of respect for the rule of law, or his indulgence of racists. For surprisingly many leftists, that’s just a front: Trump’s true sin is that he might turn out to be a somewhat conservative president, and THAT is what makes him so “traumatic”. Unless you fear even mild social conservatism more than you fear lying, assaulting, demagoguery, Pence is clearly a better president, with much higher general approval ratings, and so saying Pence is worse exposes one’s true priorities. Which means all the upheaval and shock and rage would have happened if any Republican won, not just Trump.

That is an ominous sign for our country.

TLF: It seems like uncharted territory – is writing to an Elector likely to be well-received by them, or annoy them (are the general population’s votes supposed to do that job)?

JH: I can’t see that writing the electors would do any harm. They are public officials now, like it or not, and it’s not like some of them are sitting there saying, “I’m going to vote my conscience unless a constituent writes me to demand that I do.” I’m sure some will be annoyed, but those aren’t persuadable electors to begin with.

TLF: I’ve seen a petition linked a few times on my Facebook to try and get the Electors to vote for Hillary, which seems somewhat unlikely to succeed. Are there any credible efforts worth getting behind?

JH: There are no realistic efforts to get behind; the ball is entirely in their court now… which is sort of the point. Letters might help, and I don’t discourage them, but there probably aren’t enough persuadable electors to take Trump below 270.

That said, the least realistic option of all is asking the Republican electors to switch their votes to Clinton. I am not certain I can express the level of antipathy felt by Republicans for the Clintons, particularly among longtime activists who are veterans of the 1990s battles with President Bill. And most GOP electors are longtime political activists. I am confident that at least 270 GOP electors would sooner vote for Satan, Prince of Darkness, than vote for Hillary Clinton.

270 GOP electors would sooner vote to cut their own legs off with a rusty spoon than vote for Clinton.

They really dislike the Clintons.

TLF: (The conversation took  a little pause here as I tried to think how to round out the post. Letting you know, as the flow of conversation is a little interrupted here.)

Over the past week or so, we’ve seen many calls for the Republican electors to vote Hillary, even some electors receiving death threats if they vote for Trump (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h5HiEyPFBa8 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZbJBB-kTMvA are the ones I’ve seen).

As you noted, the switch to Hillary isn’t going to happen (nor should it, the “religious beliefs should change” thing was horrifying – had a “your culture will adapt to service us” kind of ring to it).

We’ve also seen the article about the “Hamilton electors“, two Democratic electors who at least seem to get it that the Republican electors are not going to switch to Mrs Clinton, but maybe a compromise is possible.

Any thoughts on these?

JH: I am, of course, pleased that the true purpose of the electoral college has been given some attention in the past few weeks — perhaps the first time that purpose has been acknowledged by a large subset of the political elite in fifty years, maybe a hundred.

The manner in which this discussion has happened, however, is very unfortunate. Rather than encouraging each elector to carry out their duty to vote for the person that elector considers best qualified to serve as president — to vote their conscience — the overwhelming majority of commentators involved in the discussion are calling for the electors to vote for Hillary Clinton.

This undermines the entire conversation, for three reasons:

(1) It is bizarrely impractical and intensely polarizing. The notion of deliberately electing Clinton is personally repugnant to the Republican electors, who control a large majority of the electoral college. It will never happen. The odds of the electoral college doing what I want and voting their consciences to throw the election to the House is a one-in-a-million long shot. The odds they’ll elect Clinton, though, is more like a one-in-fifty-trillion shot. And the thousands of emails being sent to the electors demanding they vote for Clinton are drowning out the dozens of emails being sent to the electors asking that they seriously consider voting for a realistic candidate, like Pence or Romney.  When the electors do get our letters, they are already completely poisoned against the whole idea, because the deluge of (often extremely nasty) “vote for Clinton instead” letters have soured them.  But this is just a political concern, and so it is the least serious objection to the Left’s approach to this question.

(2) It is self-defeating. The core argument for the conscientious elector position is that the electors should vote for a candidate who is qualified to be president, and Donald Trump is not qualified to be president, because he is a lying, fraudulent, amoral, deeply bigoted, probably criminal, corrupt demagogue. But Mrs. Clinton is a lying, fraudulent, deeply bigoted, amoral, probably criminal, corrupt demagogue; she is a tad more polished about the lying, and she’s bigoted against different groups of people*, but there’s no chance she’s qualified for office. If you disagree with me — many left-wing commentators did — that’s fine, but remember that you have to convince 37 of 306 Republican electors to vote against Trump, and every one of them believes what I just said. Telling them to vote Trump down because he’s unqualified and then vote up Clinton instead is like telling Simon Cowell to reject Pitbull because he can’t sing and then vote up Rebecca Black instead.

(3) It completely misses the point. Most arguments for why Clinton should get the electoral vote instead of a far more palatable candidate like, say, Pence (one of the very few nationally-known politicians in America with a positive approval rating right now) revolve around the fact that Clinton won the popular vote.  But the whole point of the electoral college is to circumvent the will of the (small-d) democratic mob by ignoring the popular vote. The only reason we are having this conversation at all is because the Founding Fathers were so scared of popular-vote winners at the national level that they built an elaborate and unique system that was designed, originally, to discourage popular votes from happening at all, and to render those votes minimally relevant if they did. The idea that you would write to the constitutionally-mandated electors and instruct them to ignore the popular will of the voters in their states, not out of a sense of duty to the Constitution, but out of a meek subservience to the popular vote nationwide that completely subverts the Constitution… it completely blows my mind. It’s an argument that could only be made by people who do not actually value (or even understand) the electoral college and the Constitution, but are only using them to attain short-term political goals.

Which is why I joined the right wing in the first place.

Credit where it’s due: the so-called Hamilton Electors you mention are Democratic electors who are not pursuing a Clinton victory, but have resigned themselves to a well-qualified third option that would actually be acceptable — even attractive — to Republican electors. I fear they are largely being drowned out by their fellow pro-Clinton Democrats.  But this is an approach that could actually succeed, under ideal circumstances, and there’s still time, so… maybe they’ll pull something together.

This will definitely be the most attention anyone’s paid to the December 19th electoral college vote in living memory. So many people don’t even realize that the electoral college vote happens on an actual day with actual human beings.  If that’s all we get out of this calamitous election —  a broader awareness of how the college works and why it exists — maybe that’s a foundation we can build on in the future to roll back the tide of democracy.

*(FOOTNOTE: Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” and Trump’s “Mexico isn’t sending their best” comments were both taken a bit out of context, but showcase their respective bigotries pretty well nonetheless. The Left tends not to see Clinton’s bigotries because, generally speaking, the Left shares them. Same problem on the Right, of course.)

TLF: Well, we’ll see what happens on the 19th. I’ll see about throwing James some more questions following that result, so more than likely we’ll be talking about impeachment. I still need to finish up a couple of stories that got alluded to in an earlier post in the conversation (which got less immediate as the election and its aftermath got more immediate), and I have a mostly-written post on “Is Trump Fascist?” which I’m going to try and sneak in soon, I hope you’ll enjoy it, or at least find it interesting and informative.

‘Til next time!

Interview About 2016 US Presidential Elections, Part 3

TLF: Rounding out the conversation for Before The Election, here’s Part 3 of my interview with my friend James. If you haven’t, please go back and check out Part 1 and Part 2. Feel free to suggest questions, in the comments section below, or on Facebook, hopefully we can get to some after Black Tuesday (can I call it Black Tuesday?) is over and done with.

On to the questions!

Tell us more about leaving the Republican party. You weren’t just someone who votes R. You’ve said some about why you left, but it seems like a Big Deal that you decided to. And your route in politics has been a bit twisty since then, so tell us a bit about that.

JH: Well, it was a big deal for me.  I don’t know that it was for anyone else.  When I resigned from my very important office as party precinct vice-chair (literally the lowest-level office you can hold in the local Republican Party), all I got from the party was a, “Thanks for your service, sorry you’re leaving,” email.

I’ve written thousands and thousands of words now about why I left, but I think there’s one piece in particular that drives to the heart of it: a piece I wrote called “Conservatism is Dead (Long Live Conservatism)” which was actually published by The Federalist. The basic gist of the piece was: the Republican Party has traditionally been the party of the conservative movement.  But the conservative movement of Ronald Reagan has now divided into three factions (which I term the “populists,” the “grassroots,” and the “establishment”), that don’t agree with each other about *anything*, and so the conservative movement doesn’t exist anymore.  To me, that means the Republican Party is in its death throes.  It has no solid coalition, the coalition it aspires to have can’t build a 50%+1 national majority even if solidified, it lacks the leadership and (frankly) moral character to set a firm new course toward a new coalition, and really the only serious vision on offer within the GOP right now (besides the fantasies of the same establishment idiots who thought GOP voters wanted to vote for a third Bush) is Trumpism — and I want no part of Trumpism.

So, seeing no future for the Republican Party, and no future for myself with whatever comes out of its ashes, I left.  I’d known the Party was dying for months, but I had hoped somebody I supported could win the GOP’s last primary as a serious national party (Paul or Rubio or Cruz or Fiorina) so that my faction could control and appropriate the GOP’s infrastructure for whatever comes after the GOP.  But Trump won instead, and to the victor go the spoils.  It’s his party now.  With nothing left to fight for, I left.

Since then, I’ve been trying to promote the creation of serious alternative local opposition parties that can win elections. My vision is modeled after the early local oppositions of 1854-1858, which formed as the Whig Party died, and eventually merged together and became the Republican Party.

Actually, if you read up on the fall of the Whig Party and the formation of the Republican Party out of its ashes, an AWFUL LOT of it sounds familiar to the Republican of today.  For example, did you know that, in the election of 1856, there were three major parties? There were the Democrats, of course, who had remained united through all this (they wouldn’t collapse until 1860, as the shockwaves of realignment reached them), and there were the newly-formed Republicans, standing their first national election as a constitutional- and judicial-conservative party that opposed the spread of slavery… and there was the also-new American Party (aka the “Know-Nothing Party”), which ran on a platform of anti-immigration, anti-foreign religions (especially Catholicism), pro-protectionism, and, in general, making America great again.  Sound familiar?

So I’ve been doing what I can to replicate that. A few weeks ago, I joined the Solidarity Party of Minnesota and became its Secretary. The Solidarity Party is a social democratic party that attempts to unite the best parts of conservatism — subsidiarity, distributism constitutionalism, and human dignity — with the best parts of progressivism — solidarity with the poor, concern for the environment, and a peaceful foreign policy.

It’s hard work.  We’re currently trying to identify funding sources, candidates, and districts where we can plausibly run for state offices in 2018 and 2020.  The national party platform is a bit of a work in progress, in my opinion — too broad, and with several missteps both minor and grave — but, despite its flaws, I believe it’s the best programme of action you’re going to find in American politics today.  Their presidential candidate, Mike Maturen, is running a write-in campaign (officially registered in 27 states last I checked) and, of the declared candidates for president, I think Maturen is the best option.  If only he had a chance.  (Cracked profiled him the other day: http://www.cracked.com/blog/cracked-interviews-3-fringe-presidential-candidates/)

So, that’s where I’m at.  As I wrote back in May, when Trump clearly won our primary, forming a new party may not succeed, especially since my goal is to disembowel the Republican Party and take its place as a new major party — in the U.S.’s non-proportional, first-past-the-post, constituency-based electoral system, there is absolutely nothing more difficult than replacing a major party with a new one — but what the hell else am I going to do for the next four years?

Better this than sit around being sad like Paul Ryan.

TLF: I’ve seen some people on my Facebook feed asking how one could overlook the faults of Trump and vote for him, but not wanting any whiff of the faults of Hillary in the responses. Does Donald have anything going for him on his own merits?

JH: Trump is a man with no publicly discernible moral character or integrity. He would be a terrible leader, whom I am able to consider only because of the equal-but-opposite awfulness of his opponent, Clinton.  My fond hope is that, even if he wins on Election Day, our electoral college will do its actual job under the Constitution and choose somebody else because the whole reason the electors exist is to moderate the raging passions of the people and elect presidents who aren’t lawless demagogues. (Actually, I hope the same if Clinton wins.)  But that’s practically unimaginable, because electors are hand-picked for party loyalty, and half of Americans or something don’t even know what the electoral college is, so… aagh.  So many of our problems come from not following the Constitution, or (as here) following the letter of the Constitution while eviscerating its spirit for no good reason.  And I’m digressing.  Point is, I really, really don’t want Trump to be president. (We could impeach him, too. I’d be fine with that. That fraud in his past is cause enough.)

Take all that as my disclaimer, because there are merits to the Trump candidacy.

Trump’s supporters are right to be anxious about large-scale low-skill immigration, particularly when the immigration comes from areas of the world with cultures that are radically different from our own.  This is a complicated issue which is tough to boil down to a paragraph, so it must suffice to say that a country is more than an economy, and immigration advocates, diversity gurus, and economists all tend to forget that.  For a country’s laws, ideals (like free speech), cultural achievements (like our Constitution), moral values (like “women aren’t property”) to survive, we have to have a citizen-culture that overwhelmingly supports those things. Immigrants, of course, are an essential part of renewing the fabric of our culture (we are all immigrants in America!), but immigrants must be fully assimilated in order for this whole thing to work, and assimilation takes time, effort, money, and (above all) communities with the capacity to absorb the inflow.

Right now, America’s foreign-born population percentage is right near its historic high — it’s just shy of 14% today (and rising), and it hit 14% for the first and last time in 1890.  That’s great (my family came over in the 1890s), but it’s has also, historically, represented the limit of what our system is able to absorb before our assimilation mechanisms are overwhelmed and we begin to see serious racial, cultural classist, and economic tensions arise.

Trump’s supporters are also right to be concerned about the deep, deep divide between Trumpland and the world inhabited by our safely-cocooned wealthy elites, who run government, corporations, and the media and feel free to treat every white person outside that bubble with contempt and prejudice that would be called racist if the victims and perpetrators weren’t both white.  The elites, me included, haven’t recognized the hollowed-out cultural hellscape of transient jobs, collapsing families, imploding churches, growing government dependence, and widespread drug abuse as the travesty that it is.  It took until Trump was practically upon us for us to even notice that white American men of a certain age have suddenly seen their life expectancies sharply fall in the past few years, even as all other demographics have seen rises, because of drug abuse, suicide, and general despair.  They want to burn it all down, but not because they’re the Joker — it’s because they’re desperate. (And, I repeat: not all desperation is economic!)

So they picked Trump. Man, I wish they could have found a better tribune than Trump.  But the many unwritten rules of our elite class made it so it was impossible for anyone respectable to arise who could speak for these people and articulate their issues, so we forced them to find someone who holds all the rules, good and bad, in utter contempt.  In that way, I suppose we upper-middle-class people, Democrats and Republicans alike, were the root cause of Trump.

Our bad.

If you haven’t read Charles Murray’s Coming Apart, I think it’s essential reading for understanding what’s going on in U.S. politics today.  If you don’t have time for a book, this Cracked article is… well, it’s not bad, though obviously I prefer to approach the question of Trump with a bit more sociological rigor than Cracked is able to provide.

It’s hard to find other good things to say about the Trump movement, because Trump himself has never met a principle he can’t flip-flop on and lie about, and his supporters can’t seem to agree on the case for supporting him, either.  Also, so many of them are not downtrodden white people but just straight-up racist sexist misogynist xenophobes that it’s hard to sort out the slivers of good from the mountains of bad.  I’m sure there are other good things to say, and that they’ve been said by other, wiser men (like maybe Rod Dreher) somewhere along the line, but that’s all I’ve got for now.

TLF: You’ve been a staunch NeverTrumper since before he got the nomination. Is there anything that would induce you to change your position and give him your vote?

JH: Well, to be fair, I’ve never quite embraced #NeverTrump.  My friends Rachel Lu and Maggie Gallagher have done so with great vigor, and I respect where they stand. I have put a lot of energy into defending them and their consciences from the hordes of enraged Trump supporters (particularly Catholic Trump supporters) who want to excommunicate everyone who isn’t on board the #TrumpTrain.  I think they have a reasonable position that deserves grave consideration.  And so I’ve written a lot of #NeverTrump-themed stuff, and I stand by all of it.  But I’ve been careful not to endorse the position.

Because I also think the #NeverHillary people have some good arguments, and I’ve been considering voting for Trump to stop Hillary. This may not make any sense to many reasonable progressive people, who simply cannot see any comparison between Clinton and Trump… but look at what I’ve already told you about my belief in the written Constitution and fetal rights. Given those premises, it’s no wonder I see Clinton in apocalyptic terms.  I sometimes say things like, “If Hillary Clinton appoints a justice to the Supreme Court, the American Experiment is over,” and I really mean that. (Unpopular opinion I hold: Citizens United is the bulwark of our democracy.)  Given the stakes, I have felt compelled to at least consider voting for the only candidate who can stop her — even with all the awful things I loathe about that candidate.

Even now, I’m not quite sure what I’ll do.  I’ve narrowed it down to two options: (1) I might write in Mike Maturen, who is, after all, my party’s official nominee, and who, if he gets 1% of the statewide vote, gives our party access to public campaign financing, which would be a HUGE deal; or (2) I might cross out the name “Donald J. Trump” on my ballot and write in “Republican Slate of Electors,” indicating that I support the Republican electors for my home state of Minnesota better than the Democratic electors, but that I do not want them to cast their electoral college votes for Trump.

I’ll decide between those two choices probably on election night, while I’m in the voting booth.  I truly don’t know which option will win out.

In the end, though, I decided I just couldn’t cast a straightforward vote for Trump.  It’s tough to envision how that could change.  Clinton can’t be worse than she already is, so the argument for Trump to stop Clinton can’t get stronger.  And Trump himself is such a liar I can’t believe anything he says.

So I suppose I would need to see Trump do something genuinely good despite genuine, recognized personal risk to himself.  Like, if he leaped into traffic to heroically save a baby who had wandered in front of a bus on 5th Avenue, tragically losing his leg in the process… that might sway me that Trump is a better guy than I gave him credit for.  But that’s fantasy land.  It’s not going to happen, and so my vote isn’t going to change.

TLF: James did a couple of posts about voting options over on his blog, that’s worth a look. Also, I’ve learned a lot about the Electoral College from following Tara Ross, who I followed on Facebook for her Daily History posts, and is a big Electoral College defender.

We’ll aim to see you after the election, if the world still exists at that point :)

Interview About 2016 US Presidential Elections, Part 2

TLF: Continuing the conversation from the previous post, my guest James continues his discussion of the two main political parties in the US, and brings their presidential candidates into the discussion.

JH: Where was I?

Right.  Democrats.  Rule of Law.  The Democratic Party has spent the last several decades fighting against the idea that laws — especially the Constitution — actually mean what they say.  They have worked very hard to sell the idea that the Constitution is a “living document” which must be “reinterpreted” in light of “the realities of modern life,” with a meaning that actually changes from year to year.

But who is doing this “reinterpretation”?  Well… it turns out it isn’t the People assembling to pass amendments to the Constitution to change its text and meaning. Apparently it is too much to expect People in a “modern society” to govern themselves. Instead, Democrats hold that the Constitution can be reinterpreted by… Democrats!  When the Democratic Supreme Court justices invent a right to consensual sexual intercourse out of thin air (Lawrence v. Texas), the Democrats instantly declare it a fundamental human right, enshrine it in the platform, build new case law on it, and insist that no judge may ever overturn it.  This despite the fact that a right to consensual sex has no grounding in the text of the Constitution, is explicitly contradicted by both the entirety of American history and the Supreme Court’s own recent precedents (Bowers v. Hardwick), and loses every time it is put to a referendum for a vote.

Now, a right to consensual sex, or at least a government decision to not interfere with consensual sex, may well be a very good idea; I am keenly aware I’m talking to a libertarian, so I’m sure you feel that way.  But declaring it through judicial fiat is not an act of Law; it’s an act of Men.  Yet the Democrats celebrate this as a vindication of their theory.

But it doesn’t go both ways.  The same progressive legal theorists who champion this imaginary right to sexual autonomy are enraged when the Supreme Court upholds actual rights written in the Constitution.  People forget that the question the Court decided in the Citizens United case was, literally, “Do citizens have a constitutional right to join together to publish a video criticizing Hillary Clinton?”  The Obama Administration declared, openly, during oral arguments, that it was asserting a right to suppress the publication of political films, books, and pamphlets, and even to burn copies of books that are published in violation of government edict.  The conservative justices took one look at the First Amendment, laughed, and denied the government’s demand for censorship.  This simple and obvious application of a plainly written law has since become a rallying cry across the entire Left as a prime example of injustice.  This can only be because the Left is no longer even considering the actual Law of the Land in their legal decrees.  (Look at Hillary Clinton’s answers on judicial questions in the 2016 presidential debates, where she makes clear that she will pick judges based on the policy victories they will deliver, not their fealty to the Constitution.)

Nor is this limited to the judicial branch. In the past four years, we have watched the sitting President take an executive action on immigration that plainly violates the text of the “take care” clause of the Constitution, which he himself has conceded could not be taken by an American president bound by the Constitution, but only by a king.  We have watched the same president take the utterly unprecedented action of unilaterally suspending a portion of his own duly-passed signature health care law (the individual/employer mandates in the ACA), on his own authority, because he didn’t like how it was working.  There is no legal logic whatsoever that would prevent a President Trump from using the exact same made-up authority to suspend (say) any tax rates he doesn’t like.  I actually support a generous immigration policy, but the way President Obama implemented this policy is terrifying if you support the rule of law.

The incoming president, Mrs. Clinton, has shown, if anything, even more contempt for the law of the land, not just in her public life (she promises to further expand Pres. Obama’s lawless immigration action), but her private one (like that time she got caught by the FBI criminally mishandling classified information, because she’d set up a private system specifically to prevent American citizens from scrutinizing her activities via the Freedom of Information Act, and the FBI announced in a live press conference that she had committed every element of the crime but still somehow they weren’t prosecuting her).

It’s particularly impressive that all these extra-legal shenanigans took place after years of howls that President Bush, exercising the broad powers granted directly by the Constitution to prosecute a war during wartime as the president sees fit, was somehow “trampling on the Constitution.”

So, clearly, the Democrats are only interested in letting Democrats reinterpret their “living” Constitution.  The Constitution means whatever the Left wants it to mean at the moment.  The People?  They only enter into it when the Left considers it convenient, and only to the extent that the Left considers convenient — the Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges gladly note the fact that same-sex marriage now has majority support (which it does) as justification for their manufacturing a baffling new right in defiance of centuries of law and precedent, but fail to require its supporters to reach the threshold set by the Constitution: two-thirds of Congress plus convincing majorities in three-quarters of the 50 states.

In Canada, this is called the “living tree” doctrine, based on a court case where a judge called it that, and explicitly declared that the Constitution was to be interpreted according to “progressive” principles, thus granting the Left total control of the Canadian political system.  “Living tree” is certainly a more poetic term than “living constitutionalism,” and Canadian case law has at least bothered to clearly announce it, rather than just silently usurp the Canadian constitution.  “Living tree” is also, arguably, justified by the Canadian Constitution itself, which has a lot of loopholes ripe for judicial exploitation.

For example — and this is a true story — one of my favorite hobbies lately has been talking to fellow politically active Americans and saying, “Hey, want to hear a funny joke?”

“Sure!” they say.

“Read aloud Section 1 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” I reply. And they do, and then they laugh and laugh and laugh. Works on both Democrats and Republicans. As bad as things are in the States for the rule of law, we don’t have it half as bad as the Canadians governed by Section 1 of the Charter.

So, I have stayed loyal to the Republicans because the alternative is the total disintegration of our body of laws, which are already badly eroded and have felt for some time like they’re approaching the breaking point.

And then Democrats are alarmed that Mr. Trump has emerged? Trump’s a lawless thug who wants to “reinterpret” the Constitution to suit his goals. Sound familiar?  One example: Trump wants to jail journalists who criticize him. But, as we’ve discussed, Hillary Clinton doesn’t think it should be legal to make films critical of her. Trump’s theory of the Constitution is no different from the Democrats’. The only difference is the identity groups he favors. The Democrats created Trump.

Trump is unacceptable to me because he’s just as bad as the Democrats on this.  The Republicans have always been an imperfect but earnest home for the Rule of Law.  Now both parties have given up on the law. Here in 2016, they’re just competing to see who gets to be dictator for the next few years.  That’s what finally pushed me out of the GOP.

I suppose I should also note that it has always struck me as self-evident that abortion is murder.  My belief in religion has waxed and waned over the years (like most adolescents, I found Bertrand Russell’s arguments against theism incredibly compelling), but my certainty that an unborn child has the same rights as anybody else has never wavered.  There are arguments on both sides of the question, of course, and I have learned them all over the years.  But, truthfully, I don’t think there’s a person alive who doesn’t know, deep down, that the fetus is a human being, and that directly intended abortion is murder. The arguments for killing the unborn are no more sincere than the unconvincing arguments for enslaving Black people two centuries ago.

When you genuinely believe that 1 million infants are being murdered in their mothers’ wombs, every single year for forty years, big issues like tax rates and health care seem like pretty small potatoes by comparison.  Every political effort must be extended toward protecting unborn persons, both in law and in practice.  No other issue or constellation of issues really comes close.

Democrats support a right to abortion with no restrictions whatsoever throughout all nine months of pregnancy.  They believe all these abortions should be funded by taxpayers, as their platform makes clear.  They have spent decades now fighting for infanticide in the birth canal.  Their most “progressive” ethicists argue for infanticide for premature infants (which the Republicans had to fight with the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act) and, at times, for perfectly healthy infants born healthy.

Republicans, by contrast, do not generally practice what their platform preaches — the proper recognition of fetal rights from conception to cradle (and cradle to grave).  They are generally too cowardly to fight for unborn rights when it comes to the hard cases of rape and incest.  But they are the best hope the unborn have.  So I have stubbornly stuck with the Republicans, because what the hell else am I going to do?

But Trump represented a breaking point.  He doesn’t support the rule of law.  And, despite his claim to have suddenly become pro-life, I think he’s pro-choice, and I think he stands a good chance of doing even more damage to unborn rights than Mrs. Clinton. So, if that’s the Republican Party now, I can’t be a part of it anymore.

TLF: More to come on leaving the Republican Party, Trump’s good points, NeverTrump and NeverHillary.

Interview About 2016 US Presidential Elections, Part 1

The US Presidential election is nearly here, and as my last bunch of posts have been about politics, I thought it was something that I ought to cover. Election time isn’t something I enjoy, with months of mudslinging, name-calling, and so on. A lack of charity, understanding, kindness, respect (and I reserve the right to be a bit of a hypocrite during this conversation). Opinions on American politics from those in other countries who perhaps aren’t as informed as they perhaps ought to be to be opining like that. I used to be like that, and since becoming more informed, I’ve tended to keep my mouth shut.

As much as I generally dislike Facebook politics, there is someone whose political posts I actually enjoy reading. Very well-informed, not inflammatory. I even asked to be in the group of his friends that gets to see all his political posts. So I have invited my friend James to have a conversation with me about American politics, and particularly issues around the 2016 Presidential election. (For the rest of the post, I’m in italics, James is in the regular font.)

TLF: So, James, please fill us in on your political background. You’ve been quite active in your party? A lot of my English friends have expressed their distaste for the current Republican nominee. But I think many of them would be dubious about a Republican in a normal year. What is it about the Republicans that had you committed to them for so long?

JH: Well, to be glib, I’ve been committed to the Republicans because the alternative is the Democrats!  Welcome to the era of Negative Partisanship!

I am a strong believer in the rule of law rather than the rule of men.  In the United States, that fundamentally means that I believe the written Constitution must be obeyed in order for the government to maintain legitimacy.  (The U.K., which has no written constitution, does not grapple with this question in quite the same way we do.)  I know that it is often very difficult to submit to the rule of law, especially when you wield political power.  When you really, really, really think there ought to be a law about something, it is profoundly tempting to reinterpret the Constitution to allow it (or mandate it).  This is human nature.

For example, during World War II, the United States famously interned thousands of Japanese-Americans at internment camps.  While the president asserted that he was authorized to do this by unwritten, vaguely implied emergency powers in the Constitution, it quite clearly trampled on any number of actual rights that were actually written in the Constitution — the right to procedural due process, the right to a trial, the right against searches and seizure, their Fifteenth Amendment rights, their Thirteenth Amendment rights, and probably a dozen others.  This was awful.

What’s even more awful is that, in Korematsu v. United States (1944), the Supreme Court, driven by fear and misguided patriotism, ignored their responsibility to the Constitution and affirmed the gutting of Japanese rights.  In order to do this, they had to engage in a great deal of insane troll logic, because their conclusion ran absolutely against the clear text of the Constitution to which they had sworn an oath.  (Much of that insane troll logic, incidentally, continues to influence our judicial system today.)  This is a perfect example of the Rule of Men overtaking the Rule of Law.  I understand why they did it: men are weak and often fail to live up to their ideals.  But I abhor what they did, and one of my most important priorities is defending the Constitution and our political institutions against further subversions of the rule of law.

Korematsu is an especially ugly example, but there are plenty of other cases where lawmakers or judges ignored governing law in order to implement their own policy preferences.  Sometimes those preferences are good, sometimes they’re bad.  Sometimes the issue is important, sometimes not. Yet it is always wrong to twist the Constitution to fit your preferences.

In Griswold v. Connecticut (1965), the Supreme Court struck down an incredibly silly state law against contraceptives.  I agree with the policy outcome — laws against contraception are dumb — but the state clearly had every right under the Constitution to have that dumb law.  It was for the people of Connecticut to change, not nine unelected judges who imagine themselves kings. That’s what the Constitution prescribes. (If you want judges to decide these questions rather than the People, then pass an amendment. I may even support you.)  My favorite Supreme Court opinion of all time is Justice Potter Stewart’s dissent in that case.  He spends a paragraph insulting the law, then says, “But the Constitution doesn’t prevent it.  Sorry, guys.”  (It’s a page long.  Look it up.) [here it is]  The policy outcome was great: the anti-contraceptive law was eliminated and that was good.  The importance was low — nobody got sent to an internment camp over it.  But it was a decision of men, not of the law.  The same fundamental logic that drove Griswold — silly old lovable Griswold — also drove all the most nightmarish Supreme Court decisions of all time.  Korematsu.  Dred Scott.  Roe v. Wade.  Lochner.  Plessy.  And it’s not just the judicial branch: it was the President who interned those Japanese.  It was the President who ordered the unconstitutional evacuation of Indian lands that led to the Trail of Tears.  It was Congress that passed the abhorrent Alien and Sedition Acts.

Once you abandon the law, you abandon all the protections the law provides against the darkness of human nature.  It infects every level.  You HAVE to stick to the law.  The written-down, honest-to-God, this-is-the-compact-we-all-agreed-to law.

There’s a beautiful passage in Robert Bolt’s *A Man For All Seasons* (about St. Thomas More) that has gradually become the bedrock of my whole approach to politics.  I cannot resist reprinting it in full:

Alice More: Arrest him!

Sir Thomas More: Why, what has he done?

Margaret More: He’s bad!

More: There is no law against that.

Will Roper: There is! God’s law!

More: Then God can arrest him.

Alice: While you talk, he’s gone!

More: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law!

Roper: So now you’d give the Devil benefit of law!

More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

Roper: I’d cut down every law in England to do that!

More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast– man’s laws, not God’s– and if you cut them down—and you’re just the man to do it—do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law for my own safety’s sake!

Okay, so what’s any of this have to do with the Republicans?

The Republican Party is, let’s face it, terrible at following the Constitution.  Like all men, ruled by passions, they find all sorts of excuses to ignore it when, say, a Muslim wants to build a mosque.  And you could list ways the GOP and its voters subvert the Constitution from now until next Wednesday without breaking a sweat.  They talk a good game about the rule of law and originalism and textualism and the Constitution and all that, but then they’re all, “No, it’s actually totes okay to torture these prisoners in violation of statute because, see, it’s not really torture.”  Full disclosure: I’m no better than the average human; I’ve done this. Hell, Justice Scalia did this every time he had a drug case.  The whole edifice of his towering intellectual defense of rule-of-law interpretations of the Constitution went out the window in Employment Division v. Smith and easily half a dozen others.

However, at least they hold the rule of law up as an ideal, and occasionally achieve it.  The Democrats went to war with the very *idea* of the rule of law decades ago, and never let up.

TLF: I remember reading about the Japanese-American internment in George Takei’s autobiography.

After thinking about that Rule Of Law thing for a few days, I believe it was an experience of this that propelled me in the libertarian/anarchist direction. I think it was even part of what had earlier made me not like America’s two main parties, before I really had a chance to like either of them. all being well, we’ll get into those on another day.

JH: I want to hear both stories.

Next post: James talks more about rule of law, America’s two main parties, and bring things up to current events. Please check out James’s blog, I’d suggest starting just after the primaries and working forward to the most recent entry, some of that will be spoilers for the coming posts, so… click your conscience!

Let’s Talk Politics

It seems to be political season, which is always kind of depressing.

I have been trying to collect thoughts on Brexit, and hoping for a calmed-down environment in which to post it.

The American political circus is in full swing as well, and the ante really seems to have been upped in terms of a lack of candidates to vote for, and the abundance of the quality in the candidates that make people want to vote against them.

I have been kind of hesitant to discuss politics here, because most of my political views disagree with those of many of my friends. And I can understand where they are, I used to share many of the same opinions and unquestioned assumptions.

Many years, and several experiences, have aided my paradigm shifts. I can try and condense some of that down, but a blog post on its own is unlikely to change anyone’s mind.

If it’s unlikely to change anyone’s mind, what’s the point of writing? Perhaps the release will be nice. Perhaps people might understand, even if they don’t agree. Perhaps it’ll plant seeds that’ll bear fruit later. Perhaps, if I want a break in all the nonsense I see on my Facebook feed, I need to provide the alternative content. Be the change that you want to see, and all that.

So, let’s give this a go, a series on politics.