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Independents

Representative to Popular Form

June 7th, 2016 // 10:12 am @

Guest Post by Ian Cox

Midlife Crisis of U.S. Politics?

VoteMost voters think that whichever candidate gets the most votes will take the nomination for their party, but the reality is more complex.

More people are hearing about the “contested convention” that looks likely for the Republican Party. Even the Democratic race has seen a similar shake up: Sanders often takes the popular vote, but Clinton wins more delegates.

As Ezra Klein from vox.com put it:

“Americans believe their elections are far more democratic than they actually are, and that’s because the most undemocratic institutions—like super delegates and the Electoral College—tend to follow the popular will. But that’s because the popular will is usually clear and easy to follow.

“This is a year, in other words, when voters on both sides will be looking for reasons to doubt the results of their primaries. And they will find plenty of them.”[1]

In a contested convention for the Republican Party most delegates will be able to vote however they would like. This will probably leave their constituents back at home a little upset if they don’t follow the popular vote. Maneuvering has already been taking place to get delegates who are sworn to one candidate by their State’s popular vote, but who would vote for another candidate in case of a contested convention.

Democrats have super delegates who aren’t tied to popular vote and can cast their vote wherever they see fit. They may “pledge” to one candidate during the primaries and this usually coincides with the popular vote of their state, but it doesn’t have to.

These are just two aspects of the labyrinth of a republican form of government. In other words, a government by delegation or by representation. Every state has its own method of voting for the president, as well as party rules, and how the state itself runs.

Which One?

The question arises here, are we a government of delegation or a government of popular vote? It seems that the people think it’s popular vote—and get confused, annoyed, and angry when thwarted. But the party leaders and government are living by the rules of representation (granted, this is pretty much by default because they are required by law to abide by these rules).

The people are playing Baseball while the delegates are playing Football, and the rules of the two games don’t mix very well. In the overlap, we’re getting major chaos and only one side can prevail.

Before we continue, let’s take a few steps back and take a good look at these two forms of government.

Popular vs Delegate Societies

A pure democracy exists where the majority decides what happens. If 51% of the population wants free health care, then it passes a law and it’s the duty of the officials to make it happen. If 49% wish for slavery, they can’t pass as law because there is no majority.

Things move quickly, and usually vehemently, in a society ruled by solely popular vote. Even Aristotle categorized democracy as a bad form of government. Most of the founding fathers studied many different forms of government as they were putting together the Constitution of the United States. John Adams said:

“Democracy… while it lasts is more bloody than either aristocracy or monarchy. Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There is never a democracy that did not commit suicide.”

Think of the book Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, or The Scarlett Pimpernel by Emma Orczy, or any history book covering the French Revolution, and you’ll get the picture of what everyone was so worried about when it comes to democracies.

On the other hand, a republican form of government exists where the populace gets together and votes for delegates or representatives who then decide what laws to establish. Instead of the populace voting for everything, their representatives or delegates take the duty to maintain society through necessary law-making and executing those laws. A classic example of this is the Roman Republic or the Roman Senate.

Another great example of this is our modern Presidential election. Every four years we have a national election—which is partly done by popular vote and partly done by a delegated vote, depending on the state—and a great number of citizens rally around this great cause. Once it is over most people hibernate again until something exciting comes along, like the next presidential election.

If you’d like to know more of what the role of the average citizen should be during this “downtime,” dig into these two books Oliver DeMille wrote for this very purpose:

  1. Freedom Matters by Oliver DeMille
  2. The U.S. Constitution and the 196 Indispensable Principles of Freedom by Oliver DeMille

What Is Our Identity?

When the endgame is unknown it’s pretty much impossible to win. If I’m given a golf ball on a soccer field, and I’m told to make the loop, what am I supposed to do? What if I’m not given any instructions? Am I supposed to be on offense? Defense? Maybe play goalie. Is there even supposed to be a goalie? Am I allowed to block, where am I to focus to help score, do what I want a high score or a low score? Is there a scoreboard?!

Not knowing what you don’t know can be very frustrating, stressful, and leave you without any hope of making progress. We no longer seem to be a nation with a unifying identity. A similar thing happened in the 1770’s between the colonies and the British, again in the 1850’s-60’s with the Northern States and the Southern States, also during the 1940’s with bigger government deals as well as global community issues. We’re in another such period; over the next few years we will likely see society shift again in major ways.

Will it be a shift towards more opportunity, success, and freedom, or something worse?

What is the Coming Shift?

It might be too soon to tell, but this presidential race might just be an omen of the coming shift; a microcosm of what the future holds for the “United” States of America.

This disconnect and misunderstanding of how the elections actually work could be the perfect setting for a democratic revolt. The populace might demand, despite whatever laws, rules, and constitutional measures are in place, that government listen to the voice of the people. To do what the people vote for and right away. No more of this arguing, debating, and political maneuvering in Congress. Let’s get it done!

The checks, balances, and the democratic republican constitutional form of government we now see hanging by a thread could very well be severed and swing us heavily towards a government by the whims of men.

Now, because of the numbers, I know many who read this will still be asking: but why is this shift a bad thing? Isn’t it bringing us more freedom? Isn’t it getting the people what they have so long desired? No more ridiculous laws or government officials telling us what we can and cannot do; we will take the responsibility in our own hands!

If men were angels this would probably work out much better, but as history has shown again and again this is not the case. Remember the quote by John Adams earlier? Remember your French Revolution history? Logically we might “know” these things, but still! Look at what’s happening today in our society. The people are being held back as corruption in high places seeps further and further.

Who will win this fight? The corrupting upper crust of society, or the beaten down and squished populace?

Or is there a third option?

Another Way

Think of it this way: when societies were ruled by the whims of the masses, the leaders that rose to the top were Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Nero, and the like. Historically these are the type of men, and women, who rise to the top and gain control.

On the flip side of this coin is the rule of the wealthy or privileged. Enter the Feudal Age and the ancient and modern systems of slavery. King Henry the VIII wasn’t elected or put on the throne by a revolution of discontented people, he was born into the position. He was at times just as bad for the people and to the people as the tyrants mentioned before. That’s because these monarchs or oligarchies still rule by the whims of men.

What our Founders did differently—as did every other truly free people in the history of the world—was study freedom deeply, and then build organizations or communities that solved the issues of their time. In other words, they took responsibility to get things done themselves, and they developed their leadership to make sure their ventures and communities would succeed.

Let’s Pay the Price

What every free people in the history of the world did different was set up checks and balances, forms and processes, and auxiliary precautions to guard against these destructive tyrants, both of the general people as well as the individual tyrant and everything between. It’s safer in the long run to establish laws, rules, and forms that are no respecters of persons. This has been the formula for establishing freedom for generations.

This means the rules of the game must be understood and upheld by the masses. If the average citizen doesn’t, then we’ll quickly learn to vote for any and every benefit we can. Or we’ll have the threat of having our representatives and upper crust of society take power and rule with an iron fist—squashing the general populace.

I’m not saying the current forms and systems are perfect, but we should understand why they were established in the first place. If we throw off the bonds that make us free we will quickly spiral into an era of major losses of freedom and opportunity for generations to come.

Let’s pay the price of understanding the rules of the game to maintain freedom.

 

[1] “This presidential campaign is developing a legitimacy problem,” by Ezra Klein Vox.com, April 19, 2016

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3 Things We Aren’t Talking About Enough by Oliver DeMille

May 19th, 2016 // 8:19 am @

Drone w PowerlineThese three things are big deal. A very big deal. They’re floating around there in the back of our minds, but we don’t talk about them very much in our current society.

We need to start.

I

First, it is clear to almost everyone that the Drone Revolution has drastically changed the world—probably in ways that we can’t really undo. Whatever other functions they’ll eventually fulfill, drones are the ultimate war machine. They can be programmed to do things unimagined in earlier wars, like search out specific people from certain races, religions, viewpoints, business or educational backgrounds, etc.

They can be programmed to target a specific person. And all his/her friends. Everyone he/she loves. Those who agree with him/her on political issues. Governments can use drones on their own people, as well as in battle.

Very few people are taking this very seriously. On the one hand, it’s so potentially monstrous that we don’t like to think about it. Imagine drone technology in the hands of a Stalin, a Hitler, a Nero, Caligula or Mao, Saddam Hussein or an ISIS sympathizer in your neighborhood. If history has taught us anything, it’s that bad guys do sometimes rise to great power.

It will happen again, and drone tech combined with computing power is a recipe for disaster.

On the other hand, if we did want to stop it, what would we do? Most people believe it’s a fait accompli. No chance of turning it around. They’re probably right.

II

Second, the Crowdsourcing Revolution isn’t over—it’s just beginning. It has largely put the newspaper industry on the ropes, and the book industry is also now under the gun as Amazon grows. In fact, many brick and mortar malls are increasingly empty as Internet sales on many types of products and services soar. Education at all levels is facing serious competition from free online learning sources, and big swaths of the health care sector are being crowdsourced as well.

The good side of crowdsourcing makes a lot of things less expensive, easier to find, and quicker to obtain (or learn). The downside is that the large companies that control the data have algorithms that can influence us in ways we never imagined. For example, a man texts his wife to find out where a certain kind of cereal is in the pantry, and within minutes his smartphone chimes and offers him a coupon for the same cereal—from the supermarket closest to his home. Or if he texted from the office, it lists the grocery store nearest to his work.

This kind of data-mine-marketing is becoming a commonplace experience for those who use certain apps, and while it might feel a bit creepy at first, over time people get used to it—and even grow to expect it. Very Minority Report. How much governments and private organizations are using this kind of tech is unclear, but it’s growing. Add personal location tracking technology to the mix, and we really are living in a surveillance state.

III

Third, there’s a new buzzword floating around in economic circles: “Crowd-Based Capitalism.” The idea is that in the emerging 21st Century economy we’re evolving a whole new economic model. Not socialism. Not capitalism. Certainly not free enterprise. A new approach. As one book from MIT put it, we’re moving into a “Sharing Economy,” where “the end of employment” is being replaced with “the rise of crowd-based capitalism.”

The idea that employment as we’ve known it for the last six decades is increasingly outdated. For example, in the May 2016 issue of The Atlantic an article showed how one couple used up their entire life and retirement savings—and the entire life savings of the husband’s elderly parents—to put their two daughters through college. The idea of college training being essential is now being taken to incredible levels: The savings of two couples wiped out, just so their offspring could graduate with a degree—in an economy that doesn’t value degrees like it used to. (See “My Secret Shame,” The Atlantic, May 2016)

A truly new economy is emerging, but most people haven’t realized it yet. They’re still caught in the old—and paying for it in tragic ways.

Another example: When 2016 presidential candidate Ted Cruz said the following, “The less government, the more freedom. The fewer bureaucrats, the more prosperity. And there are bureaucrats in Washington right now who are killing jobs…”, the response was immediate. Two professors, one from Yale and the other from Berkeley, replied that the opposite is true: The bigger the government, the more freedom, and the bigger the bureaucracy, the more prosperity. (“Making America Great Again,” Foreign Affairs, May/June 2016)

A lot of people actually believe them.

But reality is still reality. Crowd-based capitalism means more government, and this isn’t the path to a great economy. The thing that is actually rising to replace the 1945-2008 era of employment it is a reboot of entrepreneurship and small business ventures.

The new economy can go in one of two directions:

  1. Government reduces the amount of anti-business and job-stifling regulations, and spurs a major entrepreneurial boom. This will create a lot more jobs, opportunities, and incentives for increased global investment in the U.S. economy.
  2. Government keeps increasing business-stifling regulations and takes the profits from businesses (big and small) to create a “sharing economy.” This will create a much higher rate of dependency on government welfare and state programs, reduce the number of people fully employed (making enough to live in the middle or upper class), and drive investment to other nations.

How the so-called “sharing economy” differs from socialism is actually academic. Yes, on paper it has a somewhat different structure than Marxian socialism. But for the regular people it’s going to feel pretty much the same. A few wealthy and powerful elites at the top, a small middle class of managers and professionals who work mostly for the elites, and a burgeoning underclass living largely off government programs.

Two books* on this topic are: (1) The Sharing Economy: The End of Employment and the Rise of Crowd-Based Capitalism by Arun Sundrarajan, and (2) Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few by Robert Reich.

For the other side of the argument—why freedom and free enterprise are the real answer—see my latest book, entitled Freedom Matters.

Middle America is still experiencing a serious economic struggle. Things are getting worse, not better. As one report on the heartland put it: “On every sign, in every window, read the vague and anxious urgings…Remember the Unborn; …Don’t Text; Don’t Litter; Buy My Tomatoes (Local!); Let Us Filter Your Water; We Can Help With Your Bankruptcy. Then bigger gas stations sprawled on crossroad corners, unoccupied storefronts…another consignment store.” (“The Country Will Bring Us No Peace,” Esquire, May 2016)

As an ad for Shinola products reminds us: “There’s a funny thing that happens when you build factories in this country. It’s called jobs.” We haven’t seen very many factories built here for a long time. Crowd-based capitalism isn’t a solution.

Conclusion

Together, these three changes in our world are a very big deal:

  • The Drone Revolution
  • The Crowd-Sourcing Revolution
  • The Post-Employment Economy

If you have more ideas on these important developments, share them. If not, learn more about them.

The future can be determined by a few elites who think about such things, or by all of us. The more regular people engage such important topics, the more influence we’re likely to have.

The truth is, we’ve forgotten Watergate and Kent State. (See “The Cold Open,” Esquire, May 2016) We’ve forgotten Nixon and that the 2000 presidential election was decided by the intervention of the Supreme Court. (Ibid.) We’ve forgotten a lot of things.

As one report put it: “We’ve forgotten how easily we can be lied to.” (Ibid.) If we let them, Washington and the media will just tell us what the elites want us to know—and think.

 

*affiliate links

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Winner Take All – Trump and the Supreme Court by Oliver DeMille

May 18th, 2016 // 12:40 pm @

by Oliver DeMille

Donald TrumpThe 2016 election is a watershed event for America. If Democrats win the White House, the United States will be a very different place from now on. And not in a good way.

As an independent, I try to avoid acting like one party is wonderful while the other is just plain “evil.” I know too many partisans—in each of the two big parties—who see the world in this kind of black and white. But there are too many flaws in both parties to think that either of them is the true answer to our nation’s problems.

Except this year. This time things are different.

How? Put bluntly, the death of Justice Scalia has created a serious situation in the Supreme Court. For years we’ve seen a precarious balance on the Court, with close votes sometimes swinging to conservatives and other times to liberals. Scalia was always a sure thing for conservatism, and even with him on the bench progressives won too many cases that hurt our nation.

The only way conservatives keep any semblance of balance on the Court is to fill Scalia’s seat with another died-in-the-wool conservative. Put a liberal or moderate on the Court, and things will drastically shift socialistic for the next decade—or more. And yes, I mean to use the word “socialistic.” This is precisely what will occur.

Such a future will increase government-run health care, educational decline, taxes, intrusive gun laws, a continued loss of state power to Washington, more regulation, bigger government—and a lot more Washington intrusion into our lives, cradle to grave. I think Americans will be amazed at how quickly our freedoms will decline with a patently liberal Court.

Whoever wins the White House this year, it better be a Republican. With Donald Trump as the nominee, it’s a dilemma for some voters. Not for me. I’ve been critical of Trump on a number of issues, but now it’s down to reality:

I don’t know how well President Trump will do in putting the right kind of justices on the Court, but I do know that President Hillary Clinton’s Court appointees will ruin our nation. And fast.

You can call my opinion too political if you want, but I’m absolutely convinced that it’s true. A Clinton victory will bring major negative change to America—especially on the Court. It’s time to get behind Trump and make sure he wins.

Whatever happens, this election has true conservatives and constitutional-focused independents biting their nails. Election night won’t just determine the next president. More than at any point since 1980, this election marks a major turning point for freedom in America—either good or bad. A true fork in the road. The Trump fork may or may not work out very well, but the Clinton fork would be cataclysmic. It’s winner take all, and the prize is the future of the United States.

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Why Doesn’t America Elect Many Great Leaders to the Presidency?

April 25th, 2016 // 5:40 am @

Then and Now

right or leftOver a century ago the British historian James Bryce travelled the United States to discover what had changed since Alexis de Tocqueville wrote Democracy in America. One of the most interesting topics he wrote about was, “Why Great Men Aren’t Elected President in the United States.” (James Bryce, The American Commonwealth.)

Bryce noted that during the founding era, the greatest men in the nation rose to the presidency—Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, etc. But as time passed, this tradition changed. (see ibid.)

“Why?” Bryce wondered. His answer is instructive today: the greatest leaders in the nation don’t even try to become president. (Ibid.) They don’t want the job. It is true that Washington didn’t seek the position, but after John Quincy Adams—with the exception of Lincoln—the greatest leaders actively shied away.

At the time Bryce described this phenomenon, it could be explained by showing that the presidency wasn’t the real seat of power. (Ibid.) This reality dominated for a long time after Bryce, in fact. Congress wielded great influence during the long progressive era (from 1890 to 1970), and the Court increased its power as well—a major frustration for Wilson and FDR. William Howard Taft, for example, who served in Congress, as president, and on the Court, had less influence in the White House than the other positions.

Tragedies

In the post World War II era, however, the executive branch greatly increased its power—both literally (with huge additional powers in foreign relations and budgetary influence) and relatively (largely because Congress stopped effectively or frequently using the purse strings as a serious check or balance). If lack of power is the reason the greatest leaders didn’t aim for the Oval Office a century ago, what is the reason now? The power of the presidency is immense. It is often referred to—and seen by the populace—as the most powerful job in the world.

Why don’t the very best leaders want it? Is it because the party system has become so strident that anyone elected will spend as much or more time fighting partisan battles and attacks as governing? Is it because the perks of the office are so much less than the soaring benefits of corporate or business leadership? Is it because the headaches and problems are worse than other fields of leadership? Is it because the election process itself has become such a torturous ordeal? Or is there some other reason?

At this point I intended to list the names of a number of excellent leaders—from different walks of life and from both sides of the political aisle—who might put the current crop of candidates to shame in terms of leadership. But as I made the list it became clear that in the current political climate all of these men and women would quickly be turned into caricatures by the party system and the media. Just picturing them in politics somehow changes how we see them.

This is a central part of the problem. Here’s what I think it means: The system has become bigger than a candidate can ever hope to be. The job is simply so big (because the federal government is doing so many things never intended by the Constitution) that it has become…too big. It is too much for any one man or woman. The leaders with the most acumen and wisdom know this.

Those who don’t realize that this is the situation aren’t the best leaders because they don’t even understand the reality, and those who realize it but–want the job anyway–may not have the purest of intentions, in some cases. If Washington were pruned back to its literal Constitutional authority, the job would once again become manageable. But just like Washington is out of control, the position of president isn’t structurally up to the task.

The media has attempted to cope with this reality in two major ways: with humor or tragedy. Shakespeare took the same approach in dealing with European monarchies that had also become too big for one person—trying to run the executive, legislative, judicial, national and local all at once. His plots pit the character—man or woman—against the impossibility of the role. The result is either comedy or tragedy.

Icons and Candidates

In America, we tend toward tragedy. As Christopher Orr has pointed out (The Atlantic, March 2015, 56-59), America’s modern image of what our president should be was largely created by Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington: A noble hero taking on a corrupt system. Though Stewart’s character was a Senator, the icon has been repeated in many popular American movies, television dramas, and books about the executive branch (e.g. Dave, The American President, West Wing, Air Force One, The Candidate, The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, Madam Secretary, etc.).

These “tragedies” are more hopeful than their British counterparts, but the noble heroes never do truly change the system. They fight a noble fight, but the system ultimately prevails. Other recent American comedies or dramas about Washington (e.g. Veep, Scandal, House of Cards, State of Affairs, The Bourne Ultimatum, Political Animals, etc.) portray less-than-noble leaders who are simply part of the broken system. (see ibid.)

In contrast, Orr notes that many British portrayals of their prime minister emphasize humor or, in the case of the British version of House of Cards, the opposite of the American model: a prime minister who is truly conniving and dishonest working his schemes and plots in a government made up of basically well-meaning people (ibid., 57). But in America, “the one honest man” motif still dominates (ibid., 58).

In the real world, this icon has become part of the 2016 election in both major parties. Ted Cruz frequently invokes “the Washington Cartel” as the corrupt system and pits himself as the lone voice fighting its many nefarious agendas, while Bernie Sanders attacks the establishment as the great roadblock to American progress and happiness. Both promise to change Washington in drastic ways.

Donald Trump makes the same case, albeit in very different words: to make America great again, a true outsider with proven big business leadership is needed (because only such a background prepares one to manage the behemoth of a job, to fully understand the global economy and to lead the kind of “non-politician” projects and negotiations that will reboot our economy for real). A number of candidates have made similar outsider arguments (the noble hero rides Quixote-like to reform Washington), from Ben Carson and Rand Paul to Carly Fiorina and John Kasich.

Only Hillary Clinton isn’t closely aligned with this theme. Her message (which seems to vacillate between “it’s my turn” and “vote for experience”) is the opposite of “the one honest woman” icon. As a number of political experts have pointed out, Americans don’t tend to elect two consecutive presidents from the same party. When they do (i.e. Bush I, Johnson, Truman) it typically occurs after an exceptionally popular president (Reagan, Kennedy, FDR).

The New World?

Is Obama such a president? And can Secretary Clinton capture the nation’s attention and support? Such questions remain to be answered. But the biggest question of all—for America and the world—also remains to be seen. Will the next president turn out to be a great leader?

In a world with incredibly high-stakes challenges (including big power conflict between the U.S., China, Russia, Europe, etc.; the chaotic rise of new powers in the world including Saudi Arabia, India, Brazil, North Korea, Iran, and a half dozen others; getting a real solution for terrorism—just to name three), this is a serious issue indeed. And effectively rebooting our flagging economy is enough of a challenge for any leader ahead, and drastically needed.

But what if James Bryce is still right and in 2016, despite the serious need for real change, we don’t elect a great leader…?

Not a happy thought. As the primary season continues, the election itself is becoming an increasing anxiety for many Americans. A hard truth is presenting itself: It may just be that Washington isn’t going to have the answers after the next election, and that its dysfunction will actually increase. If that happens, the people of United States are going to need to find another way to fix things.

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Why John Kasich Deserves Another Look!

February 27th, 2016 // 7:14 am @

 The Real Outsider

Governor_John_KasichThe men were talking a bit loudly, and I don’t think they even realized it. Almost everyone in the restaurant could hear them. In fact, a lot of people were obviously listening.

“I know what you mean,” the man with the deep voice said. “But I’m seeing something totally different in this election. You’re right that the outsiders like Trump and Cruz are really getting a lot of support. I just don’t think they’re the true outsiders.”

“What do you mean?” the man with the higher voice asked. “Who else is an outsider? Do you mean Bernie Sanders, because he’s a socialist?”

“No, I wasn’t thinking of Sanders,” Deep Voice replied. “But let’s just look at this whole election from a different angle. We’re calling Trump and Cruz outsiders because Trump has never held political office and Cruz is a Tea Party guy who constantly attacks what he calls ‘the Washington Cartel,’ meaning the establishment from both parties. Right?”

“Right.”

“Well, I’m not sure that’s a very good criteria for being an outsider. I think the reason a lot of voters want an outsider this year is because they’re tired of the political establishment, of both parties, and of politicians who get into office and just do more of the same—like the people they replaced. They promise real change, but it doesn’t happen. In fact, a lot of the bad things just keep getting worse, election after election.

“What we need is a real outsider. Not just someone who hasn’t been in office or always attacks other politicians, but someone who is the kind of leader we really want…”

He paused, and Higher Voice asked, “But what do you mean? I’m not sure what your point is.”

Class and Leadership

“Okay,” Deep Voice responded. “I’ll get right to the point. Our politics has become a disaster. The politicians fight all the time. They are constantly attacking each other. Attack. Attack. Attack. And we’re supposed to believe that this is just the way things are.

“But they shouldn’t be this way. We shouldn’t want leaders who are all about attacking people all the time. We vote them into office, and they just keep attacking each other in Washington. That’s not leadership. Not really. If they attacked a lot and then got really important things done, and made a lot of things better, that would be one thing. But that’s not what happens. They attack, and attack, and attack—and that’s pretty much all they get done.

“We need a president who gets the right things done, and who also doesn’t go around attacking people. We need the kind of leader we can look up to, someone who can bring people together in this nation. We’re so divided. So angrily divided. We need a real leader to get the nation back on track.”

Higher Voice replied: “That’s too idealistic…”

“Reagan did it,” Deep Voice interrupted. “He wasn’t the Attacker in Chief. He fought for what he wanted, but he did it with class. Not with name calling. Not with personal attacks. He stayed above that kind of junk. He was too good for it. He fought back, yes. But never by stooping to name-calling and personal vendettas. And that allowed him to lead the nation in big ways, and do big things like bring an end to the Cold War. We need a classy president who is also tough and confident.

“And a truly classy president would be a true outsider, very different from the attacking years of Bush, Clinton, Bush, and Obama. Just look at the 2008 election. We watched Obama and Hillary attack each other mercilessly in the campaign and debates, and we should have realized right then what kind of president Obama would be.

“We need a real change. And I don’t think that means making our politics even more focused on attacks. It means electing someone who isn’t an attacker. A fighter, yes. But classy, like a true leader.”

Higher Voice sighed loudly. “That’s so far from the current election that I don’t know what you’re proposing. What do you want to happen?”

To Act or To Attack

“First,” Deep Voice said, “let’s divide the candidates into those who attack and those who refuse to get down in the muck and act like jerks. Hillary, Trump, Cruz and Rubio are often on the attack—in the debates, in interviews, in their campaign rallies and speeches. They attack a lot. Regardless of how you feel about their politics, or their reasons for such attacks, they are consistently attacking, attacking, attacking. So put them in the jerk category, at least for this discussion.

“Second, the three candidates who usually aren’t on the attack are Bernie Sanders, John Kasich, and Ben Carson. So if we want a classy president, one whose focus is always on building people instead of tearing them down, it has to be one of them. I really dislike Sanders’ politics, so throw him out of the mix. He’s a socialist, and proud of it, and his proposals would drastically hurt the nation.

“So, third, we’re left with Kasich and Carson. Both are classy. And both go out of their way not to attack other people. They focus on building people up. They really do.

“And before you roll your eyes, really think about what I’m saying. If we want our politics to be built on people acting like jerks and fighting each other—and not really improving our nation—we should keep electing people who attack, attack, attack.

“But if we want real change, the kind that we can truly be proud of, we need to change the way our top leader acts. We need class. Depth. Virtue. We need a Washington, a Lincoln, a real leader. Tough, yes. But focused on building others, not attacking them.

“You can call this idealistic if you want, but what I’m saying is true! If we don’t have a true leader, a classy, uplifting Reaganesque example that we can tell our kids to emulate, we haven’t put our best leader in the Oval Office. Imagine telling your 12 year old son: ‘Be like Donald Trump’ or ‘attack people like Ted Cruz—as long as you win, it’s okay.’ Or even: ‘If you get behind, like Marco Rubio, find out everything bad you can about the other person and loudly tell everyone.’

“Ridiculous. We need a real president. And both Carson and Kasich are the kind of men you can tell your children to emulate. To be proud of. To follow—even into battle and death if necessary to defend our nation. To admire.

“We’ve become so used to something less that the highest character in our leaders that we seem ready to accept mediocrity in character and behavior and simply shrug it off. We need to do better than that!”

The Question of Class

Higher Voice interrupted: “I just don’t think Carson has enough experience in doing the kinds of things a president has to do.”

“Maybe he doesn’t. Or maybe he does. His understanding of freedom principles is deep, like Cruz or Rand Paul, and he might surprise you. But let’s say you’re right, just for the sake of argument. That still leaves Kasich…

He paused. Then he spoke a bit more quietly, and I noticed people leaning forward to hear. “John Kasich is everything you would want a president to be in terms of character. He’s classy to the core. He’s a man of principle and morals. And he never attacks others to tear them down or try to get himself ahead. Not ever. When others attack him, he answers their charges, clarifies the truth, and then turns to the policies our nation needs. Like Carson.

“Kasich doesn’t do what Trump, Hillary, Cruz and Rubio frequently do in the same situations—start counter-attacking whoever attacked them. When the media tries to get him to attack, he refuses. He consistently calls us to our better angels, as Madison put it.

“Kasich is classy like Reagan. He’s above petty name-calling and attacks like Reagan. He focuses on building people. Pretty much always. Yet his history proves that when it’s time to fight—against real enemies, like terrorists—he doesn’t shrink or back down. He is deeply principled. Again, like Reagan.

“But here’s the real kicker. Kasich is actually the most experienced leader out of everyone running for president. He was the architect of balancing the U.S. budget in the 1990s. He led it, and he planned out the details. He knows how to balance our national budget! He’s already done it once. Nobody else can say that. Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich took credit for negotiating it, but John Kasich ran the numbers and developed the plan.

“He also balanced the budget of Ohio as governor. He started out with a major deficit, and turned it around very quickly. And made it last. Nobody else in the race has ever done that—with a state, or with the United States. Only Kasich has done it. Twice!

“He also served on committees that oversaw military and international affairs, and has more national defense experience than anyone else running for president, including Hillary Clinton. And beyond all this, he’s a true conservative, and has been for decades. He also worked many years in private business as a leader—he’s not just some lifetime politician.”

America The Great, Again

Higher Voice asked: “Why hasn’t he caught on with the voters?”

“I’m not sure,” Deep Voice replied. “Part of it is probably that he’s not loud and constantly attacking people. Part of it is probably that a lot of voters don’t really know much about him. I’m not sure. He did do well in New Hampshire, and the race is far from over.”

He paused. Then kept talking: “Kasich has class. He has dignity. He is the kind of person we can look up to and tell our kids to look up to—and mean it. He’s tough. He’s a proven leader. But he’s really, really nice. And, again, he’s the only person in the race who has ever balanced a major government budget, and he’s done it at both the state and the national levels. That’s huge!

“I’ve really given this a lot of thought and research. Go back and read Kasich’s speeches. He’s the kind of man who would tell Mr. Gorbachev (or Putin) to ‘Tear down this wall!’ He’s the real deal.

“Conservatives need to step back, take a deep breath, and give Kasich another look. If we want the kind of America that truly is great again, we need the right kind of leadership. And that means the right kind of leader! A true leader, one who isn’t just going to get the job done but who’ll get it done with class, dignity, and an infectious smile.”

I left the restaurant mentally kicking myself. In all my reading and watching of the election, over many months, I hadn’t done what I always tell others to do—really go study the records, writings, and speeches of all the candidates. Really get to know them. At least, I hadn’t done this with Kasich. I’m remedying that.

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