Thursday, November 8, 2012

An open letter to conservatives (Part 3): What the GOP must change to be viable

The Republican Party has some major problems. Isolating voters, branding, inconsistency, and hypocrisy come to mind. These 6 changes need to happen for them to become viable, without losing their true principles. What is more, this will bring them more in line with constitutional principles.

6 things (discussed below): a rational foreign policy, a rational immigration policy, a reasonable approach to climate change and the environment, a more accepting and federalist approach to social issues, real fiscal conservatism, and learning to negotiate and compromise.

1.      A rational foreign policy. The Republican Party must adopt a rational foreign policy. For too long the party has supported fighting wars of aggression oversees and spend valuable tax dollars bombing civilians and propping up foreign dictators. The party that was voted got us out of Vietnam and Korea needs to start promoting the kind of foreign policy it used to have and that George Washington suggested: worry about problems here at home, and not in Europe or anywhere else. Looking back on history the sad truth is that despite our often good intentions, the United States’ involvement in oversees conflicts has led to wasted lives and turmoil in those country. Afghanistan (the first time), and central and south America have been evidence of that. Can we say we are pro-liberty while propping up dictators oversees who happen to be our friends? Can we say we are pro-life when we kill thousands of innocent civilians? Our people are needlessly dying, as are those of other foreign countries, it is time for the GOP to take a rational approach to this issue. Yes we need a strong national defense, but we don’t need to be oversees building other people’s bridges, when we have bridges here that need fixing. We already spend over 4 times any other country on military. When will it stop? More money on military makes us safer as more money on education makes us smarter. It doesn’t. Yes there needs to be an investment, but we need to be rational, endless foreign wars of aggression is not the answer. We should focus on working with Democrats to bring the troops home, close oversees bases to save money, and in general downsize the military focusing purely on defense, not offense.

2.      A rational immigration policy. This election made it clear, the republicans need Latinos. What is more, Americans need Latinos. It is time the Republican party take a more open approach to immigration by realizing immigration is a good thing. Once again this is more aligned with conservative principles of Liberty and Life. Why can’t we let people freely move here? If we believe in Liberty we must. I don’t want this to come across wrong, but it is essentially the same principle as free-trade. If they can do a better job for a better price, why not let them do it, that will drop the cost for everyone, and free workers up to be able to do things where they can benefit more people. Obviously we can take a hard line on illegal immigration, but fences are just ridiculous, communist countries build walls and fences, not free countries. Most illegal problems would be solved by making legal immigration (at least a work-visa situation) easy and cheap. Anyone who wants to come should be able to with a nominal fee and background check. Then we can truly live the saying on the statue of liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

3.      Rational approach to the environment and climate change. Accept the Science. Republicans cannot deny it, and should not as it will only make them come across and bigoted and anti-intellectual. That is an image the Republicans desperately need to shake. Republicans should be the party of intellect and education. The message needs to be one of truth, and therefore accept what science is accepting as fact. Climate change and global warming are real, why any politician would or should deny this is beyond me. Now the causes of climate change are not so clear, and how much man has played a part. There are clear signs that lots of it is our fault. And I don’t think anyone would deny that being environmentally conscience is a good thing. We can accept it is real, and recognize it is up to individuals mostly to make changes. Companies and individuals are doing this voluntarily and it will continue, we ought to be encouraging this, as that is what we want, less government, more people. Also stats could be encouraged to work out their own particular environmental policies to encourage a clean future for everyone. In general have a genuine and honest discusion about what, if anything, the federal government could/should do to change anything.

4.      On social issues, focus on federalism. Here is another inconsistency and hypocrisy that sends people packing from the GOP. We want freedom, yet we want to tell people in other states about their personal lives and what they can consume. There is a logical approach to this that does not alienate social conservatives and is more in line with principles of liberty than even the libertarian view (in my opinion) it is called federalism, I wrote an article on it here. This should be our approach. Also on LGBTQ issues, if we adopted a fair tax, or closed loopholes and benefits in the tax code, then gay marriage would not be such a big issue. At that point it literally becomes about the definition of a word. That could easily be left to the states to hash out, other words change meaning from New York to Texas, I don’t see why this word couldn’t either, as long as we eliminate the tax code loopholes and benefits that benefit people living in a married relationship.

5.      Be real fiscal-conservatives. The supposedly “fiscally conservative” party has been anything but in recent years. George W. Bush out spent and out-debted his democratic predecessor by a pretty unhealthy margin, and we wonder why people can’t identify with the party? If we actually pursued this principle half as hard as we doggedly pursue keeping “our guys” in office we would be doing pretty well. This is a branding issue. This should be our brand: true fiscal conservatives. Most Americans identify with the need to keep a budget; it is something Republicans should be able to deliver.

6.      Learn to negotiate. If we have the truth, we should be willing to talk to anyone and not fear. We shouldn’t have to shut people out of debates or speeches, especially one of our own. Let’s recognize that the other side has legitimate reasons to believe why they do and engage them in constructive conversation. Let’s learn to compromise, if it means raising taxes on the super-rich for significant spending cuts, why not? A lot could be negotiated with things we should not even be defending, like military cuts, cuts in foreign aid, closing loopholes for corporations, and more.

These changes will not only widen the appeal of the GOP. They are more aligned with core principles of life, liberty, and love. We do not need to abandon our principles to win, we need to abandon the principles of the few crazies who have captivated the party and mistaken their social agenda for constitutional principles, when they are not. The party needs to rebrand itself not as the anti-intellectual, anti-immigrant, white party, but as the intellectual, rational, fiscally-conservative, open-minded party. If some inside the party get mad, those people will just have to realize what the party is about.

Life, Liberty, and Love: these should be our guiding principles. Following the constitution could go a long way, especially for Republicans.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

An open letter to conservatives (Part 1): why the election does not matter, but you do.

As was inevitable Tuesday night, half of the country felt elated, while half were overwhelmed with a wave of depression, anxiety, and ulcers. I also fell into this emotional whirlpool despite my attempt to distance myself from it by voting third party. Secretly, deep down somewhere, I really hoped Mitt Romney would come out victorious, even if it was just to prove some pollsters wrong. Furthermore some of the local races didn’t go my way either. And so gloom surrounded me.

I began analyzing these feelings and had to slap myself, as should the rest of Conservadum. Was I a different person because of the outcome of the election? Were the people of the United States any different? NO! We are the exact same people as we were Tuesday night at 6 p.m. as we were at 10 p.m. We were personally no more “losers” than the other guys were “winners." So why were so many depressed then? The reason is because we believed a false idea completely contrary to the ideas of liberty: that government can solve our problems.

The questions we have to ask ourselves is whether we are personally more independent? Are we personally more capable of being free from government than we were before? Are we more capable of helping our fellow man? 

These are the question that matter, not who for whom we will vote.

The sooner conservatives realize that liberty will not come from spending millions on TV adds to try and get someone elected, the better. Liberty will come when those millions are instead spent on private charity to help people get food, job training, and health care. That is when liberty will come, when the American people stand up and show that we can do it, and we can do it without government. This is our fight for winning. If you truly believe in liberty’s message, you understand that people solve problems, not government. That means while others are petitioning government, and spending money to get government to do something about problem X, we should be out actually doing something about problem X.
In reality a Mitt Romney win would have been just as false as this supposed loss. If he had won would people have understood liberty any more than they do now? Would people be any different, depend on government any less than they do now? NO! Simply advertisements and publicity got them to vote for Mitt Romney for being slightly better (often for reasons not having anything to do with real principles) better than Barak Obama. It is not like anyone would have come to understand truth any better, and that is what matters.

The battles for America’s future will not happen at the ballot box. Forget all that junk Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh say about this being the most important decision of our lives. It is not, it was not, it never will be. The most important decisions of our lives are decisions to tell the truth even though it is advantageous to lie, decisions to live our beliefs, even when it would be convenient to forget them, decisions to live morally, to serve others, and be good citizens. Those are the decisions that matter; those are decisions that actually change people’s minds, decisions that truly help people understand liberty. Our decision to help our neighbors read, and volunteering at schools, and sharing the great books of history does more to influence America’s future than any decision you will ever make at the ballot box.
Elections follow automatically if the principles of honesty and liberty are being practiced in homes and communities. The people get the leaders they deserve. If we want to change America, we need to change ourselves. We need to live independently, we need to live charitably, and compassionately, we need to love all people regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, sexual-orientation, or whatever else. The principles of liberty can only survive if we have an honest, hard-working, and indeed loving people. If we don’t become those people, we can never win.
As we become those people and work on converting people to Liberty and Truth, and not Mitt Romney, or whoever else, we will win. People will see the difference and know the truth. We can be better every day. We can become more educated and search for truth in everything. If we spend our time understanding truth, instead of arguing over personalities and trivialities, we will win.
It is ours to win, but it takes a people who are dedicated to living honestly and justly every day of the year, not just on Election Day. People who believe government can solve all of our problems ask for your vote. People who believe in Liberty ask much, much more, they ask for your life and your responsibility. This is not an easy task, but it is possible.

The election should simply be a thermometer of where we are, and why spend millions changing the thermometer? We should spend our time and effort changing what it is measuring, and it is measuring ourselves.
The long and short is this: Truth will win if we stand up and live truth, if we shun government entitlements at all costs, and embrace independence, philanthropy, service, and charity. Love is the most powerful force on this earth, if we employ it on our side, we will win, if we don’t, we will lose. It really is all about love, conservatives need to realize that and live it. That is their only hope.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The myth of "throwing your vote away"

When I get asked who I am voting for, and the name I say is not one of the two expected, the response is inevitably, “So you are throwing your vote away?”
            This is a myth. In reality, a vote for a non-major party candidate actually does much more than a vote for either of the major-party candidates.
            The truth is, I live in Utah, and as a Utahn, my vote for president was thrown away the day I registered to vote in this deep red state. I know all my electoral votes are going towards Mr. Romney. I knew this the day the man became the Republican nominee. If you vote in Texas, the Dakotas, or Idaho you had similar knowledge. Likewise if you live in New York, Massachusetts, or Oregon you have known for the past four years your electoral votes would be under Mr. Obama’s name. 
            In which case, why not vote for someone who actually stands up for principles you agree with, as opposed to someone whose opinions are based entirely on politics and not principles?
            Sure if you live in Nevada, Ohio, or any other state feasibly close to “swinging” go ahead and vote for the guy you agree with 50% of the time over the guy you agree with 30% of the time just because “he’s better.”
            But if not, take a stand for someone you really believe in. Really, what will do more? If Utah goes Romney 75% to 25%? Or Utah going Romney 55%, 25%, 20% with 20% going to Gary Johnson, the super fiscally conservative anti-war candidate?  No one would say backgammon or anything else over Utah going strong Romney. Yet if any politician sees a large portion of the electorate going to a non-major party, they will notice and start changing to gather that demographic.
            Perhaps you actually believe in Romney/Obama, in which case vote for them. Yet you are likely kidding yourself. Essentially if you believe in anything strongly you likely do not agree with them. The major-party candidates’ views are made to appease (appease not please) the largest segment of the electorate as possible. Almost none of their stances are based on principles.
            You say “I believe in limited government and reducing the debt so I am voting for Mitt Romney.” Yet if you really believe in that, do not vote for a guy who says he will balance the budget in 8 years1, vote for someone like Gary Johnson or Virgil Goode who actually believe in balancing the budget now. A sizable electorate voting for Gary Johnson will do more to get Washington to start cutting than any number of votes for quasi –fiscal conservative Romney.
            Maybe you care about the environment, then vote for someone who will take radical government action to fix the environment, such as green party candidate Jill Stein. Or if your concern is getting out of foreign wars, why would you vote for a man who sponsors clone attacks, involved us in wars in Libya and Syria (in a limited manner), and still has us in Afghanistan? Send a clear message to Washington, that you want to get out of Afghanistan now and vote for Gary Johnson or Rocky Anderson.
            Basically your vote in the presidential election can count, even in Utah, if you are willing to jump outside the box of “mainstream” and vote for someone you actually agree with. 

1.Romney claims he will balance the budget in 8-10 years. The LA times says he will in 28.
"Come on our website. You look at how we get to a balanced budget within eight to 10 years. We do it by getting — by reducing spending in a whole series of programs." 
   Los Angeles Times,0,2393874.story 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The problem with this election and true community

If you were to ask 10 random people in the USA who is running for president, I bet you at least 9 of 10 could say the names of the two leading candidates, and probably spout out some opinions about one or both of them.
                However ask the same 10 people (or any other 10 random people for that matter) who is running for county mayor, city council, or the school board and you would be lucky to get one who could give the name of one of the candidates or any other information about the race.
                Is not that curious? The election where we have a 1 in 213 million voice we know the names of the candidates if not where they went to school, the most recent stupid thing they said and what they had for dinner last night. Yet in the races where we actually can have a pretty big effect, where our voice can be 1 in a few thousand, or even more, we know little or nothing about. In these races our personal clout with our family and neighbors can be a significant voice yet often we don’t even so much as take the time to figure out who is running until the day of the election. In fact less than half the people even show up to vote if there is not a president on the ballot.
                I find it ironic and sad in many ways but I can see why that is the case. When everything that matters to most people has become a federal issue from how our children are taught in schools to whether birth control is freely available from the government it makes sense that we would only care about a federal election.
                Some will say that this is just the nature of democracy and our federal system to which I reply an emphatic “NO! it is not!” Having a vote where my influence is 1 in 200 million to decide everything from how much I pay in taxes to how my health care is administered is not democracy, that is “feel good” tyranny. What is more it is not the nature of our federal system; it is not how it was setup or how it has to be.
                The Constitution was set up for this very purpose to give the federal government certain enumerated rights, and leave the rest to the state and local governments. The idea is to leave as much as possible, especially things that affect our daily life to be controlled at a level where we actually have the ability change the policy if we want. That makes sense to me. Education, health care, social issues, should not have to be the same everywhere in the United States, right? I mean why should the people from Duchesne county Utah be forced to have the same health care policies and education policies of Washington D.C. or Seattle?  I would like to see anybody give a real viable argument to counter.
                Why have we left the pattern set out by the constitution? Of course there are lots of reasons, but they all boil down to power and laxity. First the laxity of many voters who prefer to leave all decisions to one meaningless vote as it is easier than actually talking to our neighbors and making decisions about what affects us. The second is power, the federal government seeking for power and people who cannot stand people in a different state living by a different standard than them, so they have to force them to live the same. Often it is people who do not agree with their community standards and therefore appeal to a higher level to make the community yield to their standards, as well as the rest the country.
                I hate to use the example of abortion as it is politically, morally, and religiously charged, but the concept is the same for many other issues as well. Furthermore especially with recent developments it should be clear the advantages of not having the federal government get involved, especially for liberal-minded voters. The history Roe versus Wade and abortion laws in the United States is an interesting topic in itself which I am just getting acquainted with.  Abortion was legal in the United States essentially everywhere and at any time until 1821 when Connecticut passed the first limited abortion ban. After that more and more states began passing abortion bans because of multiple reasons, some population control, some obviously moral, some health related (for both mother and child’s sake). By the 1950s every state had laws against abortion; many much stricter than I think any state would put in place today. For example in Pennsylvania it was illegal under any circumstance to have an abortion. However most states allowed abortions in cases of rape or when the health of the mother was at risk. In the 1960s many states started rolling back their abortion laws, some repealing them completely. New York, Alaska, and Washington for example had repealed their abortion laws and abortions were legal under the care of a physician. Many states had made it legal if the baby was early in development. However in 1973 the case of Roe Versus Wade went to the supreme court (I’ll omit the details of the case) but needless to say it made abortion legal everywhere in the United States. My problem with this case has nothing to do with abortion. I think the first thing that needs to be understood about this case is that abortion is essentially the battle between two fundamental rights, the right to life (for the child) and the right to liberty (for the mother). What bothers me most about the dialogue on this subject (as most political subjects) is that people ignore that the other side does have a legitimate claim. For those that are “pro-life” I think it should be very clear why people have a different view. I mean it makes sense that a women should be able to decide what she can do with her body. However, at the same time pro-choice people ought to be able to respect and understand pro-lifers desire to protect the innocent and the belief in people having to accept responsibility for their actions. That is what we need to understand: both sides have very valid claims. My beef with this case has nothing to do with abortion, but rather the fact that the national government (the supreme court) is telling the states, the people, how to live, across the board, regardless of circumstances. I am sure Roe had some valid reasons for wanting abortion, but that fact of the matter is that not being willing to live by her community standards (or rather the lawyers who used her as an example) caused the community to live by her standards, and everyone else. (Interesting side note is that Roe of Roe v Wade is actually now a pro-life advocate.) Many states were rolling back abortion laws as they felt was best for their communities, many more would have followed if it was seen to be beneficial. so why do we force those places, those communities that want to place the life of the baby supreme be allowed to maintain their community standard? Liberals will of course take offense with this, and indeed show many reasons why this should not be (indeed I just read an article by one of them For now the federal government has ruled in their favor. However, what happens if that is reversed. Just yesterday I read an article in the NYtimes about the possibility of Roe-v-Wade being repealed ( If the wind of national politics heads in a more “conservative” direction then all of a sudden even in San Francisco abortions could be illegal, and no one could get an abortion. Who would be calling for State’s rights then? Why can’t we keep those decisions at a local level where we can actually have a say in what happens? I am aware that sometimes unfortunate things will happen if states and communities are left to navigate their own destinies. Some people in conservative areas would be denied abortion. But the alternative is to simply hope that everyone in the country rules in your favor, in this way the entire nation can get the shaft, and not just a community. We need to live as communities, as Mr. Obama has said, some things we do do better together. But if the federal government does it, are we really doing it together? I think doing something together is working with your friends and neighbors, people that you actually know, to accomplish something. It is not having a giant federal bureaucracy make our personal decisions for us.
                I do not want to get into the abortion debate, or healthcare, or anything else, and what is more, I do not want to have my president deciding these issues regardless of who we “choose” on November 6. Because the reality is, I will not choose him. Many liberals are quick to back the idea of federal government intervention,  “after all” they say, “that is what gave women the right to an abortion, and ended discrimination in the south, and created a universal healthcare system to give poor good health care.”  To this I respond that indeed the federal government has done some good things, most regarding the civil rights movement (which is an issue I won’t delve into here). However, it should be easy to see that if conservatives take over the white house and congress, things could go just as quickly the other way. Government healthcare could become illegal, abortions illegal, and more things which liberals would find down right bad. Again my question is why we have to put all our hopes on a guy that we probably disagree with on 30% or more of the issues. It just does not make sense.
                Recently Mitt Romney was campaigning in Iowa and he was causing a stir because his wind power policy was at odds with many of the leading republicans in the state. Well duh, of course their views are not going to align completely with this one man who has to have views align with over half the population in quite a few states. In fact, next to no one will completely agree with him if they are completely honest. What is ridiculous is to think that he shares the same views on every policy out there with even a small fraction of the people, let alone half of the 300 + million people in the country.
                Even the most dogmatic, party line republican or democrat, if they were completely honest with themselves, would be forced to admit that they disagree with their party’s nominee on some, if not multiple issues. What does that say about the rest of us who are not dogmatic, party-line thinkers? Are we just out in the cold, forced to live under policies that have real, everyday effect on our lives, yet we do not agree with, and have no real ability to change? I say NO once again. This system we have created is not democracy; it is feel good tyranny which we can and should change.
                If we do not agree on everything, why do we keep pretending that we do? We divide the world into two camps in which the people in one camp are right about everything no matter what, and the ones in the other are all idiots and only make mistakes. I say why do we have to pretend like we all fit into two options, regardless of where we live? Why can’t Oregon have legalized marijuana and abortions, even late-term abortions if they want, and Kansas have them outlawed?
                Why can’t states or even cities that want socialized medicine create their own socialized medicine system? At the same time, why does a place like Wyoming that hates the idea of Obamacare and socialized medicine be forced to swallow it? San Francisco could have a socialized medicine program that suits it, while Cheyenne could let the free-market reign. Are we so pompous that we have to force everyone, even those hundreds of miles away, live by the same economic and moral codes we do?
                The idea that one man, or 435 men in Washington DC can better make decisions for people in Duchesne, or St. Louis, or San Francisco is utterly ridiculous, let alone for all of them at the same time.
                Obama has been campaigning a lot on the idea of “community” which I agree is a very important topic. Indeed I long very much for the sense of community he sometimes talks about. The idea of helping out our neighbor and those around us inspires and motivates me. Yet my problem with the president (and indeed most national politicians) is that while talking about “community” their policies destroy community. Right now we know everything about our presidential candidates and watch them constantly on television, yet we do not even know what our neighbors think or why they think that way. Is that community? Is community making comments on CNN articles under a pseudonym? I have a proposal for real community. Real community policy would mean deciding what mattered to them as a community, as neighbors that actually see each other, not as some giant federal faceless blob.
There has been a rising tide of “living local” in many cities across the United States. That is buying local food, shopping at locally owned stores, and the like. At a book store recently I saw a sign that said “Live, Eat, Read Local” I agree there are many advantages to reading, eating, and living local. I have a mantra to add, “Live Local, Govern Local” Is it not time we take power away from those in Washington, and let Washingtonians decide for Washington and the Citizens of Austin decide for the city of Austin? Is it not time to truly live locally?
                If health care, education, abortion and gay rights were local issues, would we not pay more attention to our communities? If the school board had more control over what happened in our schools than Washington would we not find out who was running and get to know them? If our city council had more effect on whether or not Planned Parenthood was active in our city, would not more people get out and get to know their neighbors and campaign?  People in Utah would not have to go to Colorado to knock on doors and talk to people, they could do a novel thing and just go talk to their next door neighbor.
                Last year my city had a bond issue on the ballot that was important to my family. Less than 2000 votes were cast and the decision was decided by 5 votes. My family cast 5 votes (father, mother, sister, brother and I) and it could be said swung the election. What is more, we got to know more of our neighbors and their viewpoints as we discussed the bond issue with them.
                To me, that is community more than anything you will hear from the presidential campaigns this year. A community where we could decide together how our children were taught and whether to have socialized health care or not. As neighbors and community where we could be engaged in lively and open debate and not in comment wars on CNN and the Huffington Post.
                But this year, we are not knocking on our neighbors doors or asking them what they think about the issues. Instead we sit and watch a screen with two men of actually quite similar views as they shout insults at each other. We cast our vote for one of them who we likely agree with hardly more than we do the other one. Then we sit back and wait for this man and his 3.6 trillion dollar organization to respond to the needs of 312 million people. And Obama calls that community.
                The problem with this election is not that half of us will lose; it is that all of us will lose. It is that all of us except for the president and his closest friends and donors who will get the best positions in government will lose.
                And with it we will not only lose the election, but something more precious, a true sense of community.