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“The Politics Of Greed”: It Is Really Important That We Get This One Right

In his op-ed titled Here’s What We Want, Bernie Sanders wrote this:

What do we want? We want an economy that is not based on uncontrollable greed, monopolistic practices and illegal behavior.

Throughout the primary, Sanders has talked about the need to eliminate greed — especially the kind exhibited by Wall Street. That is a sentiment that is embraced by all liberals — especially in an era when the presumptive Republican presidential nominee espouses exactly the opposite.

But the question becomes: what is the role of politics (or government) when it comes to eliminating greed? It is the same question we would ask Christian conservatives who want to eliminate what they consider to be sexual immorality. And frankly, it is similar to questions about how we eliminate things like racism, sexism and homophobia. These are questions about the overlap of politics and morality with which we all must grapple.

At one point during the primary, Hillary Clinton was challenged by members of the Black Lives Matter movement. She said something that goes to the heart of this question.

Look, I don’t believe you change hearts. I believe you change laws, you change allocation of resources, you change the way systems operate. You’re not gonna change every heart. You’re not. But at the end of the day, we can do a whole lot to change some hearts and change some systems and create more opportunities for people who deserve to have them to live up to their own God-given potential: to live safely without fear of violence in their own communities, to have a decent school, to have a decent house, to have a decent future.

It is really important that we get this one right. Just as we don’t want a government that tells us who we can/can’t have sex with, we need to realize that we can’t have a government that calibrates how greedy one is allowed to be. I don’t think that is what Sanders was suggesting. He went on to say this:

We want an economy that protects the human needs and dignity of all people — children, the elderly, the sick, working people and the poor. We want an economic and political system that works for all of us, not one in which almost all new wealth and power rests with a handful of billionaire families.

That echoes what Clinton said about racism. What we want from government is a focus on lifting up those who are affected by things like greed and racism — in other words, to level the playing field.

Personally, I believe that greed — like racism and sexism — are learned. Short of informational campaigns that attempt to educate the public, we can’t legislate a change of hearts. What we CAN do is create laws that legislate against the abuses that stem from greed — like fraud and the monopolization of our economy — just as we created laws to combat segregation and discrimination. Otherwise, it is up to movements like Moral Mondays to organize people around their shared values.

 

By: Nancy Letourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 24, 2016

June 26, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Economic Inequality, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Can Marco Rubio Win Anywhere?”: Trump’s Landslide Victory In South Carolina Is A Waking Nightmare For The Republican Party

By winning the South Carolina primary, Donald Trump demonstrated he can win anywhere.

By coming in second place, well behind Trump and barely (about 1,000 votes with 99 percent reporting) ahead of Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio demonstrated he will have a hard time winning anywhere.

Rubio, and basically the entire Republican Party establishment, marched into South Carolina determined to play up an expected third-place finish as a kind of triumph and a second-place finish as outright victory. Before any networks had called second place, Rubio delivered an exultant speech promising to win the GOP nomination.

There are reasons to credit this as more than just amusingly strained political vaudeville. By breaking out of the pack of also-rans, Rubio forced Jeb Bush out of the race. If he hoovers up nearly all of Bush’s supporters, he stands to eclipse Cruz as the de facto leader of the non-Trump faction of the race. If John Kasich follows suit, after finishing below even Bush in South Carolina, Cruz may slip to a distant third. Viewed in that light, Rubio’s performance in South Carolina might genuinely and enduringly change the race.

But this also is the most charitable way to interpret Rubio’s distant second-place finish. Not because these are outlandish assumptions—they aren’t. It’s just that even if everything goes according to plan, Rubio will have proved fairly little in South Carolina.

By inundating Rubio’s campaign with endorsements and money, Republican Party officials have effectively communicated that they’ll attempt to thwart the will of the majority of GOP primary voters who support Trump and Cruz. And yet, despite all of that juice—and as badly as Cruz underperformed—Rubio can’t count on Cruz fading rapidly. He definitely can’t seem to come within spitting distance of Trump anywhere. And on top of all that, he’s yet to endure a concerted Trump onslaught the way Cruz has, and Bush did—and both those candidates were harmed badly.

Though the South Carolina returns drove Bush from the race, it isn’t a foregone conclusion that his supporters will overwhelmingly defect to Rubio. One of the most critical lessons of Iowa and New Hampshire is that Trump draws his support from across the party, including its mainstream. Many Bush supporters will presumably also defect to Kasich, who essentially skipped South Carolina and is pinning his ever-dim hopes on Northern primaries in Michigan and his home state of Ohio in March. Ben Carson’s supporters will likewise scatter, rather than defect to a single candidate in unison (though Cruz stands to be the single largest beneficiary).

Notwithstanding all these inconvenient truths, Rubio will emerge from South Carolina a party favorite and a media darling.

The person with the most to fear from the results is Cruz. South Carolina was supposed to serve as a model for the Super Tuesday states he needs to win—and with the evangelical turnout as overwhelming as it was, he should’ve been able to do better than a dead heat for second, double digits behind Trump.

Had Rubio finished third—ideally a distant third—Cruz could have credibly continued portraying the primary as a two-man race between himself and Trump. But Trump is a popular favorite, and Rubio is an elite favorite. Cruz enjoy neither of those advantages. To the extent that he thrives, it is thanks to the loyalty of conservative ideologues and Christian conservatives (many of whom, again, are still supporting Carson, Rubio, and Trump). If their affinity for Cruz isn’t robust enough to reliably outperform Rubio, his supporters will begin to question the logic of his candidacy. A fading Cruz would have little room to expand his appeal beyond right-wing purists (his concession speech tonight once again played up his “consistent conservative” bona fides), and his campaign would serve barely any purpose other than to deny Rubio a chance to challenge Trump one-on-one.

As time goes on, though, all the effort we expend examining the race for second place so granularly starts to seem like whistling past the graveyard. Trump probably could’ve won Iowa, and arguably should have. He won New Hampshire overwhelmingly. He just won South Carolina overwhelmingly, too, and is poised to do the same thing in Nevada’s caucuses on Tuesday night. This is a waking nightmare for the Republican Party. Their played-up enthusiasm for Rubio can’t disguise it.

 

By: Brian Beutler, The New Republic, February 20, 2016

February 21, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, Marco Rubio, South Carolina, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Paradox In The Making”: For The GOP, Donald Trump May Be Evil Incarnate — Literally

What if a candidate for president were evil?

I’m not talking about the way “evil” is thrown around as an insult. I’m talking about real evil, the kind you find in the Bible. Chuckle if you must, but Donald Trump’s opponents are beginning to make the case that he is truly evil. And the deeper you look, the more you see that it’s no laughing matter.

The prevailing wisdom says Trump is riding high because the Republican base is raising a middle finger — once again — to the establishment. But the prevailing wisdom also says the base is dominated by Christian conservatives. That’s a paradox in the making.

Certainly, just because you’re Christian doesn’t mean you’re a wimp when it comes to politics. You can stand up and cheer, or grimly nod along, when someone — anyone — cuts through today’s tightly scripted Beltway blather with random rants and oh-no-he-didnt jabs.

But it’s becoming clear that Trump’s candidacy asks Christians to go much further than that — down the road of perdition, if Trump’s enemies are to be believed.

It all started when Trump went on record describing an attitude toward sin that would make the average churchgoer flinch. At the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, Frank Luntz asked Trump to share with the audience whether he’d ever asked God for forgiveness.

“I don’t think so,” said Trump. “I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that picture. I don’t.”

He went on. “When I drink my little wine — which is about the only wine I drink — and have my little cracker, I guess that is a form of asking for forgiveness, and I do that as often as possible because I feel cleansed. I think in terms of ‘let’s go on and let’s make it right.'”

Many Americans would probably hesitate to be so forthright about their view of communion. But Trump’s apparent honesty threw his insurgent campaign in a scary new light.

In secular America, one of the most broadly accepted ways to describe Trump is with swear words. People straining to be decent often resort to calling him an ass. But in Christian America, there’s another term of opprobrium that gets more to the heart of the matter. It’s not just that Trump’s campaign revolves around his harsh and ungenerous demeanor. It’s that he’s all about sowing discord. It’s what he does. It’s who he is.

And sowing discord, in the Christian imagination, isn’t just mean or nasty. It’s evil.

For Rick Perry — a man who might very well have to sit out the GOP primary debates while Trump hogs the mic — it’s time to call a spade a spade. He didn’t explicitly call Trump an evildoer at the Opportunity and Freedom PAC forum in Washington, D.C. But he came about as close as you can get.

“In times of trouble, there are two types of leaders,” he warned, “repairers of the breach and sowers of discord. The sower of discord foments agitation, thrives on division, scapegoats certain elements of society, and offers empty platitudes and promises.”

Readers of Dante will recall that, in the Inferno, a special slice of hell is reserved for the sowers of discord — schismatics who tried to advance themselves by dividing institutions. For these evildoers, Dante meted out the poetically just punishment of physical dismemberment. Just as they hacked apart the human bonds around them, so their bodies now were sliced and diced forever.

Readers of the Bible will remember that Dante wasn’t just freestyling. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, God “tempered the body” of Christendom together so that “there should be no schism” and “the members should have the same care for one another.”

Or as Perry put it, the sower of discord “offers a barking carnival act that can be best described as Trumpism: a toxic mix of demagoguery, mean-spiritedness, and nonsense that will lead the Republican Party to perdition if pursued.”

“Enter ye by the strait gate,” runs an early English translation of Matthew 7:13; “for the gate that leadeth to perdition is large, and the way is broad, and there be many that enter by it.”

Trump’s candidacy, Perry went on, “cannot be pacified or ignored, for it will destroy a set of principles that has lifted more people out of poverty than any force in the history of the civilized world — the cause of conservatism.” In sum? Trump’s evil ways tempt Republicans to turn away from their greatest moral purpose — a sin worthy of damnation.

Perry is the first to advance this argument so bluntly. But we can expect it to catch on, because Trump’s candidacy is forcing the base’s hand. If The Donald can keep up his numbers without a come-to-Jesus moment, that either means that the base has become a lot less religious, or that it’s so frustrated that it’s willing to cast aside the better angels of its nature.

Either of those developments promise Armageddon for Trump’s bedeviled rivals.

 

By: James Poulos, The Week, July 24, 2015

July 28, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates, Rick Perry | , , , , , | 9 Comments

“GOP’s Condemnation Of Trump Pure Hypocrisy”: What Is Right Does Not Change From Red State To Blue

Here’s the thing about principle.

Unless applied equally it is not really principle at all. He who climbs on his moral high horse when a wrong is done to him or his, but leaves the horse stabled when an identical wrong is done to someone else, acts from self-interest and that is the opposite of principle.

All of which renders rather hollow the GOP’s recent chastisement of its problem child, Donald Trump, over an insult to Sen. John McCain. As you’ve no doubt heard, Trump, speaking at a conference of Christian conservatives, took issue with a suggestion that McCain, a Vietnam-era Navy flier shot down by the North Vietnamese, is a war hero.

“He’s not a war hero,” Trump shot back. Then, perhaps hearing what he had just blurted, Trump turned smarmy and facetious. “He’s a war hero because he was captured,” he said, in the same tone you might use to say someone is a poet because he scribbled a limerick on a bathroom wall. “I like people that weren’t captured, OK? I hate to tell you. He’s a war hero because he was captured, OK? And I believe — perhaps he’s a war hero.”

McCain, should it need saying, is a war hero, period, full stop. If that term doesn’t fit a man who survived five brutal years in enemy hands — and refused an offer of release as the son of an American admiral because it did not include his fellow captives — then it doesn’t fit anyone.

So Trump deserves every bit of scorn his party has heaped upon him. He deserved to have Jeb Bush call his remark “slanderous” and Rick Perry to call it “offensive.” He deserved Rick Santorum’s tweet that “McCain is an American hero,” and the Republican National Committee’s statement that “there is no place in our party or our country” for such remarks. In a word, he deserved condemnation.

But the people who slandered John Kerry deserved it, too. The Secretary of State is also a war hero, period, full stop. If that term doesn’t fit a wounded man who braved enemy fire to fish another man out of a river, then it doesn’t fit anyone. Yet in 2004 when then-Sen. Kerry ran for president and a shadowy Republican-allied group mocked that heroism and baselessly called Kerry a liar, the GOP had a different response.

Jeb Bush wrote a letter praising those who questioned Kerry’s heroism. Perry declined to condemn them. “I think that there’s a lot of questions,” he said. Santorum said Kerry “brought this upon himself” by emphasizing his military service. And Republicans went to their convention sporting small purple bandages in mockery of Kerry’s Purple Heart.

That behavior was what Trump’s comment is: shameful. It is to their discredit that so many Republicans failed to condemn it as such. Interestingly enough, at least one did. His name was John McCain.

Perhaps he understood that principle is not politics. And that what is right does not change from red state to blue.

This much is surely right: It is a sin to mock the honorable service of those who have gone into harm’s way on their country’s behalf, particularly if, like Trump, you’ve never served a day in your life. We’ve seen a lot of this in recent years: It happened to former Democratic Sen. Max Cleland, who left three limbs in Vietnam, happened to the late Democratic Rep. John Murtha who spent 37 years in the Marines, happened to Kerry and has happened more than once to McCain.

Principle — a decent respect for the sacrifices of military men and women for this country — demands that patriotic Americans condemn this, no matter who it happens to. But if, somehow, your condemnation depends on whether the insulted person is of your political party, please understand that there is a word for what motivates you, and “principle” is not it.

“Hypocrisy” is.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, July 27, 2015

July 28, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP, John Kerry, John McCain | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Martyrs To Marriage Equality”: The Famous Bakers And Florists Of Conscience

The thing that really amazes me about much of the conservative reaction to Obergefell v. Hodges, and indeed much of the religion-based complaints over LGBT rights generally, is the sense of personal grievence. I mean, on the one hand you’ve had people who’ve been persecuted, bullied, denied equal rights for ages, finally getting the right to do something the rest of us take for granted, and on the other hand you have people who are offended by them. This helps explain the hilarious fixation among conservatives about identifying the fifteen people in America who might be so homophobic that their “religious views” come into direct conflict with anti-discrimination laws–you know, the famous Bakers and Florists of Conscience. Agitating the air to make this extremely marginal “grievance” into something tangible, and then inflating it wildly with all sorts of specious slippery-slope arguments that next thing we know the Catholic Church will be forced to make gay sex a sacrament, has pretty much been the sum and substance of the “religious liberty” backlash.

And so today we find all too many Christian conservatives unable to feel empathy towards people expressing joy at their now-established ability to get married, and instead making themselves out as martyrs, to the everlasting embarrassment, I am quite sure, of the actual Christian Martyrs of the Ages who suffered harm to more than their sensitivities or prejudices.

I was driven to write this today not by Bobby Jindal or Mike Huckabee or the other pols trying to put themselves at the head of a pathetic parade of outrage, but by a post at the Federalist by “international pro-family” advocate John-Henry Westen warning of the totalitarian repression about to hit Christians, as evidenced by his experience with what had happened in Canada and Europe.

And of what is this wave of repression composed? Basically lawsuits, most of them withdrawn.

As anyone who has been to law school can tell you, there is no place short of Utopia without constant, frequent lawsuits, some serious, some frivolous. Neighbors battle in court against neighbors for decades over ridiculously small boundary disputes; disgrunted employees and employers carry their disagreements into courts every day; divorcing and ex-spouses ruin themselves and each other in the fight for the last word almost as often as they don’t. If, as several of the examples offered by Western suggest, he thinks the Roman Catholic Church is going to be nailed to a cross of LGBT litigation, I would suggest there’s another source of lawsuits that is rather obviously a bigger threat.

Westen does have an alternative argument against legalized same-sex marriage that’s not about the terrible martyrdom that awaits any dissenter against the Rainbow Fascist State. In a reductio ad absurdum of the hate the sin, love the sinner chestnut, he argues love for gay people compels not letting them get married:

[B]ecause same-sex relationships hurt everyone involved, marriage supporters have a duty to oppose inverted relationships out of love and compassion.

Despite being perhaps 4 percent of the U.S. population, the LGBT community sees devastating levels of HIV/AIDS, depression, anal cancer, suicide, shorter lifespans, and other ailments. Again, it is up to Christians, and especially our pastors, to energize society with the beautiful love of our faith. We never should have given up talking about sex [sic!], and we must start doing so anew.

As former Canadian LGBT leader Gens Hellquist said in 2006, “I am tired of watching my community die” of diseases endemic to the LGBT community. A Catholic with a master’s degree in psychology who visited a ward for HIV/AIDS patients in India, he saw it was clear that only monogamous, marital relationships are healthy for human beings.

So there you have it: we need to prevent people from getting married so as to force them into “monogamous, marital relationships.”

That’s the second biggest howler in Westen’s piece (or maybe the third, after the claim that conservative Christians don’t talk enough about sex!). The biggest is in the headline: “Same-Sex Marriage Won’t Bring Us Peace.” Nor will it bring us 4% GDP growth or a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The idea is to bring us justice. But on second thought, there is a connection, or so thought Pope Paul VI, who famously said: “If you want peace, work for justice.”

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Editor, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 26, 2015

June 27, 2015 Posted by | Homophobia, Marriage Equality, Obergefell v Hodges | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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