The Battlefield, 1-29-16 – Who Walks With Us?

The great conservative activist and Louisiana native Richard Viguerie has long held a question forth as a standard for Republican politicians seeking to earn conservative support.

That question is “Does he walk with us?”

What does this mean? It means that any politician worth his salt can craft a message, or hire consultants to craft it and then parrot their work on the trail, designed to attract an audience of his choosing. More meaningful, and more important, is whether that politician can demonstrate through a record of actual deeds that he is who he says.

Because conservatives, more than any other ideological group, know that politicians are generally a sorry lot when it comes to honesty and sincerity. Conservatives are shined on and betrayed more than anyone else in American politics – other than perhaps the black community, but that analysis is a separate post in itself.

And therefore, someone coming along and whispering sweet nothings in our ears should perhaps give us warm feelings, but certainly not our votes. For those, we should demand as Viguerie does to see the record.

Have you walked with us?

This is the problem with Donald Trump. Donald Trump has no history of walking with conservatives. None.

I like a lot of what Trump has done and said in this campaign, before his boorishness and egomania drove him off a cliff in the past month. I like that he took a sledgehammer to the political correctness that has strangled American politics in the past 20 years and has made bad Republican candidates worse in national elections. I like that he made it acceptable to question America’s wholesale immigration policy which is making the assimilation of immigrants more and more difficult and shooting holes through our long-held cultural consensus. And I like that he’s exposed the mainstream media, whose grasp around the throat of American electoral politics has been absolute since the Reagan years, for a collection of absurd mediocrities and sheepish regurgitators of baseless conventional wisdom.

All of those things I like. What Trump has done to the established order of things in Washington, I like. His effect is salutary, and it was necessary for someone to do it. We have, as a country, been strangled by our political and media elite in a similar way to that of Europe, only slower.

But this does not mean Trump walks with us.

Where is the record of Donald Trump having actually done anything to back his rhetoric?

He says he’s pro-life. Show me where he’s ever proved it. I see evidence he’s pro-abortion; statements he made to that effect aren’t hard to find. His sister is a judge in New Jersey who once upheld the grotesque practice of partial-birth abortion, and Trump said she’d make a wonderful Supreme Court justice. When he now says he’s pro-life, I want to see proof. Show me the million-dollar check he’s written to a pro-life organization. Show me where Trump is paying for the legal defense of, say, David Daleiden – who was indicted in Houston for committing the sin of investigative journalism in producing those Planned Parenthood videos. Show me where Trump has taken on the cause of promoting adoption rather than abortion.

He says he’s for the little guy. Is that so? For all the hot air he releases over trade and how the Chinese are stealing American jobs, and this is by no means a position devoid  of merit, what Trump offers is a trade war with the Chinese. What happens in a trade war with China? The little guy who has a job working for an American company exporting products to China – perhaps he’s a coal miner, or perhaps even a farmer – is now out of work. And the working-class folks who shop at Wal-Mart now can’t afford anything there because of the tariffs Trump would impose. Consider that when you also consider Trump’s history. The little guy? How about Vera Coking, the Atlantic City widow Trump waged a years-long war against because she wouldn’t sell her house to him in furtherance of his plan to park limousines for his strip club and casino on that land. Trump bought the local politicians, who tried to use eminent domain to take Mrs. Coking’s house away, and still defends that abuse. That’s how much Trump actually cares about the little guy.

Cares about veterans? Last night Trump held an event which purportedly raised some $6 million for veterans, but the event wasn’t sponsored by any the veterans’ groups you’ve heard of. Instead, the $6 million was collected by Trump’s personal charitable foundation. He says he’ll pass it along to the vets, and hopefully he will. But in the past, Trump has given a grand total of $57,000 to veterans’ causes while having deposited more than twice that amount in the coffers of the Clinton Foundation. Not to mention Trump’s forays into the writing of op-eds doesn’t contain much in the way of arguing for things like 2nd Amendment rights, or tax relief for the middle class, or smaller government, but instead what moved him was the urgency of removing the licenses of disabled veterans to serve as street vendors on 5th Avenue. He publicly spoiled for that cause for more than a decade.

An immigration hawk? Please. Trump had Jeff Sessions write his immigration plan, but he supports the “touchback” idea, in which all the illegals have to go home and are then put in the front of the line to come back and earn a path to citizenship. Some immigration hawk. What Trump offers is overheated and outlandish language to fire people up on the issue, but he’s as big a proponent of amnesty as Jeb Bush is. As for banning Muslims from entry into the country, he knows that’s not going to happen. What is far more plausible is to pass legislation like the bills authored by Rand Paul and Ted Cruz which would put a moratorium on immigrants from countries overrun with groups like Al Qaeda, the Taliban and ISIS. In other words, a solution is already out there. Did Trump support that? No. Instead he charged into the issue with something designed to rile up the simple and the uninformed.

And since when has Trump cared about the problem of radical Islam? He’s been a New Yorker all his life, and you’d think 9/11, which he used so skillfully as an emotional retort to Ted Cruz’ “New York values” attack on him, would make Trump a national-security hawk. Fine. Where is Trump’s record of financing the fight against global jihad? Look for it, and you won’t find it. The closest you’ll come was a cynical publicity  ploy by Trump in 2010, when he offered $6 million to buy the site of the proposed Ground Zero mosque after the Muslim owner and would-be developer had already received higher offers.

I could go on.

Conservatives are cynical about politicians, and we should be. In fact, we should take pride in our cynicism, because our entire philosophy of government involves a healthy suspicion of any attempt to grow the public sector or give it power over our lives – and that translates into the people who would serve that public sector. It’s incumbent upon us to secure a believable commitment that those we would support will seek to minimize the footprint government has on our lives. And therefore the Republican establishment, which has failed miserably to uphold that commitment over the past 20 years, is rightly in poor odor with conservatives – which is the main reason candidates connected to it have no momentum in this presidential cycle.

But that suspicion and skepticism cannot be abandoned in the case of Trump. It does zero good to hold politicians with imperfect records of walking with us in contempt and then unquestioningly embracing a non-politician with no record of walking with us at all.

Simplistic-Weapon-12-Battle-Axes-in-Saltire – Marco Rubio probably won the debate last night that Trump skipped, but if he did it wasn’t by a lot. Frankly, Fox News did a terrible job with the debate. The questions were awful, and it almost felt like they were designed to keep the participants looking petty and small. There was the constant revisitation of the Gang of 8 and the immigration issue, there were the questions aimed at starting food fights between the candidates, there was the insulting attacks on credibility.

In the end, 30-second and 60-second sound bites in answers to questions simply don’t further public understanding of candidates or issues, and the media – Fox News is certainly part of this problem – has an agenda which is contrary to the public interest. The cable news networks are packaging these debates as programming, and frankly that’s not how you find out anything useful about a candidate.

We’d like it better if these things were on C-SPAN, with no commercials and no time limits for answers. And maybe even no moderators. Just a list of issues or questions to be covered in the debate, and let the participants sort the format out on their own.

Rubio had more good moments, and perhaps fewer bad ones, but Ted Cruz had the best moment of the debate when he was challenged on his ethanol stance. In Iowa, one cannot be opposed to ethanol subsidies and mandates, and Cruz is. Asked about this, he took a principled position and explained it perfectly.

Simplistic-Weapon-12-Battle-Axes-in-Saltire – Meanwhile, on the other side there was this…

She can’t be bought. That’s what she says. And we all know this.

I would submit that what we know about Hillary Clinton isn’t that she can’t be bought, it’s that she’s a noxious, disgusting, bald-faced liar who will say absolutely anything she believes is in her interest and that we should give her zero credibility in the discussion of anything substantive.

But that’s just me.

Simplistic-Weapon-12-Battle-Axes-in-Saltire – Finally, something unrelated and entirely devoid of intellectual heft…



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