The Future Looks Entertaining

The Republican party is cracked, and arguably in danger of fracturing. A recent Politico report suggests a number of delegates to this summer’s Republican convention want to change the convention rules, and thereby snatch the Republican nomination from Donald Trump. If they are successful, the convention would be the most chaotic and compelling Republican event since 1912. However, such a maneuver would also cost Republicans the presidency in 2016. Convention shenanigans might even split the Republican party permanently.

Change is often unsettling, particularly for people who possess power.  A business might go bankrupt, a politician might lose an election, and yesterday’s favorite coach might be turned out. Yet an individual or institution’s inability to accept gradual changes only increases the pain that change will eventually cause.

As discontent over Donald Trump continues to simmer, Republican power-brokers should resolve to rearrange the apple cart. Republican convention delegates in 2020 should be awarded proportionally, and a run-off election should be added to the party’s presidential primary calendar. The aforementioned changes would strengthen the Republican party’s delegate selection process at a time when bruising demographic and cultural changes have made it essential to field a superior presidential candidate every four years.

Unfortunately for party elite, the modern Republican party may not survive another presidential standard bearer who is favored by less than 45% of his or her own party. It is time to get the popcorn bucket: political entertainment is on the horizon.

Hostel Respect

Female refugees in Germany face daily trials that are quite horrible; unfortunately this outcome was predictable. Bad actors exist in any large group of individuals, culture and nationality notwithstanding. However, it is also true that some cultural groups do a better job of respecting the sexual dignity of women than others. ISIS presents an extreme example of this truth – they frequently treat women like servants or slaves.

Regrettably it seems that a notable portion of immigrant men from patriarchal areas of the world struggle to respect women. Germany is not the only country that has encountered a disturbing level of cultural dissonance, Nordic countries have fared similarly. As a result, Norway even began pilot programs designed to teach immigrant men how to behave towards women.

Westerners are not inherently better than anyone else, yet it is also demonstrably true that some cultures promote values that are unfortunate, at best. Hence caring westerners need to think more deeply and plan more carefully: crowding refugees of both sexes into close quarters is guaranteed to multiply the problems migrants and officials must confront. Yet without such a strategy, costs necessarily soar, and thereby make it more likely the next group of asylum seekers will be rejected. This catch-22 creates an unenviable financial, moral, and political quandary.

Well-off westerners of all hues, inclinations, and associations should be thankful for peace and prosperity. Meanwhile it is imperative to learn a simple lesson: government-run hostels are a poor substitute for robust private charity. This is particularly true for woman and unaccompanied children. It is time for European and American leaders to embrace a 21st century Kindertransport, it is time for additional private charity. Top-down government solutions are of little solace when the results are only slightly superior to living in a war-torn country.

Update: an abundance of compassion or blind ideology motivated a well-meaning German activist to lie to the German police about the men who raped her.  

Donald Trump’s Speaker

Of late Donald Trump has made a big to-do about how Ted Cruz and John Kasich are establishment Republicans. In a sense he is right: many established Republican voters are supporting Mr. Trump’s two rivals. Governor Kasich has strong establishment ties, and a Kasich administration would be ideologically similar to George W. Bush. In a similar manner, Senator Cruz’s consistent message of fiscal and social conservativism has endeared him to many established Republican activists. Nevertheless, candidate Trump’s rhetoric is misleading – he has prominent establishment friends of his own, the most famous of which is former House Speaker John Boehner.

Mr. Boehner has “has played golf with Donald Trump for years” and “would vote for Trump in the general election.” The former Speaker’s kind-words for Donald Trump should be extremely disquieting to Trump supporters who hope to up-end the established order; John Boehner was pushed from the Speaker’s chair in large part because he was an establishment politician.

Many mothers and fathers have annoyed their teenage offspring with the trite saying “show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.” Of course parents aren’t always correct, one wayward friend does not necessarily alter the course of a teen’s life. However, personal associations can tell us a great deal about people, including politicians.

If Donald Trump captures his party’s nomination he will most likely lose the general election (the electoral college favors the Democrat candidate). But even if Mr. Trump miraculously ekes out a general election victory, his presidency will disappoint many of his supporters. Maybe then a major political realignment will take place.

Trump’s Denial

A few weeks ago Donald Trump shocked knowledgeable Americans when he stated the United State’s 19 trillion dollar debt could be paid off in roughly a decade. The math is actually very simple.

Presently the United States raises between 3 and 4 trillion dollars in revenue each year, and nevertheless it adds to the national debt annually. Essentially the US is like a teacher who earned $43,000 in 2015, and spent $48,100 during the same period of time. Yet Mr. Trump essentially suggested this teacher would be able to pay off a debt of more than $172,000 over the next 10 years. How utterly ridiculous!

There are only three possible reasons why candidate Trump made this statement – and all of them are extremely unsettling. Perhaps Mr. Trump has an uncontrollable habit of making things up, maybe he was pandering to ignorant voters, or mayhap he was uninformed about the actual numbers involved. Each of the aforementioned rationales should easily dissuade any potential voter from casting a ballot for Mr. Trump. But wait there is more: last week Donald Trump changed his mind, and he now denies ever saying he would pay off the debt so quickly.

Trump voters, like true partisans, will inevitably highlight the fact that candidate Trump answered the debt question correctly the second time around. Yet Mr. Trump’s first answer, the rationale behind it, and his subsequent attempt to deny reality will hopefully make the difference in the minds of dispassionate American voters.

Hayek’s Harsh Wisdom

Most of us are scared by the blunt truth because it often posits questions we are unable answer, and questions without answers can cause oodles of damage to cherished beliefs. Demagogic political rhetoric is much more palatable: it offers enough of the truth to seem refreshing, avoids cumbersome long-term thinking, and places the blame for past failures elsewhere. In his famous anti-totalitarian work “Road to Serfdom,” F.A. Hayek identified two noteworthy reasons “Why the Worst Get on Top.”

Observation one: a disturbing number of voters across the political spectrum are primarily moved by  emotions such as hope, anger, frustration, and fear. According to Mr. Hayek, potential dictators exploit this fact –

“he will be able to obtain the support of all the docile and gullible, who have no strong convictions of their own but are prepared to accept a ready-made system of values if it is only drummed into their ears sufficiently loudly and frequently. It will be those whose vague and imperfectly formed ideas are easily swayed and whose passions and emotions are readily aroused who will thus swell the ranks of the totalitarian party”

Observation two: politicians constantly use the rhetoric of battle, and then regularly question the motivations those who will not join them. Professor Hayek believed this tendency was dangerous –

“It seems to be almost a law of human nature that it is easier for people to agree on a negative program – on hatred of an enemy, on the envy of those better off – than on any positive task. The contrast between the ‘we’ and the ‘they,’ the common fight against those outside the group, seems to be an essential ingredient in any creed which will solidly knit together a group for common action.”

An incisive thinker by training, Mr. Hayek was even less charitable to individuals who were united by shallow thinking; he was convinced an aspiring dictator could gain a loyal following by appealing to the “lowest common denominator.” Today the lowest common denominator is naked self interest – a disease that cuts through the heart of our political society. Politicians exhibit self-interest when they ignore the United State’s substantial budgetary problems, or speciously claim that economic growth and a few relatively painless cuts will enable the US to retire the national debt in a short period of time.

Citizens can no longer afford to ignore reality because they find it distasteful or disturbing. Now is the time for thoughtful voters to ferret out their own self interest; freedom is sustained by a willingness to endure political and personal hardship, but freedom dies where a firm resolve is absent. The United States will only remain free and wealthy if thoughtful Americans undertake the arduous task of sublimating their self interests and eschewing demagogues.

GOP Primary Reform Needed

Today established Republican party leaders are frowning – glumly wishing there was a path to victory aside from a political fight at the convention. Conservative Republican insurgents harbor similar feelings. If all segments of the Republican party are sincere (and their sincerity can certainly be doubted), a reformation of the present system of presidential primaries is in order. Francis Barry, writing for Bloomberg View, recently proposed a few possible ideas, all of which should garner discussion. Unfortunately, the best idea was not included: a limited nationwide runoff.

A limited nationwide runoff would work like this: one or two weeks after the final primary or caucus, every state with a plurality winner would have a runoff between the two most popular candidates nationwide. The beauty of this reform lies in its fairness: every state would have a say about the top two candidates, and highly fractured electorates across the country would be given the opportunity to clarify their preference.

Since numerous states could not award their delegates until after the runoff vote, the Republican party would be forced sacrifice early certainty for overall clarity. Party leaders should make the sacrifice. Otherwise, Republicans risk offering general election voters a weak candidate chosen by a plurality of his or her party in 2020.