On Not Casting a Vote for President

Soon we will be hearing the quadrennial chorus solemnly informing us that it is a citizen’s sacred obligation to vote. This mythical obligation is often cast in terms of the soldiers who died to protect our right to vote. Except they didn’t. They died protecting our freedom, which is not the same thing by a long shot.

And so I for one am having none of it. I have no intention of casting a ballot in the Presidential election. At least if the major candidates are named Trump and Clinton and there is no sensible alternative.

On January 20, 2017 the winner of the Presidential contest will raise his (or her) right hand and take the Oath of Office as mandated by Article 2, Section 1 of the Constitution. It reads in full, “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States”.

That Constitution includes Article 2 Section 3, which says that, the “[The President] shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed….” That language should give room for pause because it is readily apparent to roughly everybody that neither Mr. Trump nor Mrs. Clinton has the slightest intention of honoring the oath or of seeing to it that the laws are faithfully executed. Instead should either Trump or Clinton ascend to the White House, the winning contestant intends to ignore, avoid, and sometimes subvert, laws—and the rule of law—in service of political expediency.

Make no mistake; neither candidate has shown even a hint of restraint when it comes to the exercise of power. Nor has either candidate displayed the slightest concern for the protection of natural rights that are at the heart of the Constitutional order. (For that matter neither candidate has displayed a willingness to abide by Constitutional norms). Instead each candidate has demonstrated a willingness, if not eagerness, to trample on citizen’s rights for the purpose of self-aggrandizement.

How do we know this? The candidates themselves have all but said so. Consider just a small but telling sample of the record.

First we have Donald trump. He has specifically promised to deport approximately 11 million or so people in the U.S. that are here illegally by means of a specially created “Deportation Force”. And he would accomplish this in a mere 18 months to 2 years by “good management”. Mind you this is going to be accomplished by a government that takes 3 hours to get a few hundred people onto an airplane.

 

So let’s cut to the chase: forcibly deporting 11 million people in 2 years (all of whom are entitled to a hearing) would require hiring massive numbers of deportation police, prosecutors, judges and defense attorneys, not to mention kicking in doors and executing mass arrests without probable cause. Leaving aside the utter impossibility not to mention absurdity of all this, the 4th amendment would lie in tatters. And so would the rest of the Bill of Rights including the right to counsel, the prohibition against self-incrimination, the right of free-association and assorted privacy rights not expressly enumerated. In short, implementing Trump’s scheme would necessitate that the U.S. become a police state, perhaps modeled on the work of Vladimir Putin, a man for whom Trump has expressed  admiration.

Not to be outdone, there is Mrs. Clinton. That is the same Mrs. Clinton who used to bemoan “litmus tests” in the selection of nominees to the Supreme Court. But now Mrs. Clinton freely admits that she has come up with a litmus test of her own. That litmus test has to do with the Citizens United decision. In that case, Citizen’s United sought an injunction against the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) to prevent the application of the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Act. Specifically, the FEC rule in question prevented corporations or labor unions from funding “electioneering communications” from their general treasuries. In striking down the FEC rule, a 5-4 majority of the Court held that the First Amendment does not permit the limiting of corporate funding of independent political broadcasts. The majority went on to say that political speech is indispensable in a democracy notwithstanding the fact that the funding of such speech comes from a corporation.

Mrs. Clinton disagrees or professes to disagree although she routinely hoovers up huge amounts of corporate cash. And she acknowledges that she now supports a litmus test for the purpose of overturning Citizens United. Having said that, Mrs. Clinton as usual, incorrectly frames the issues at stake, miscasting it as a contest between “a person’s right to vote and a billionaire’s right to buy an election”. There is no small irony in this since Mrs. Clinton has been in the access and policy selling business for years, now on an industrial scale through the Clinton Foundation, which is currently under investigation by the FBI. Not only that, but as Mrs. Clinton well knows, there is no right to buy any election, and never has been.

Mere corruption is not the issue however. It is Clinton’s willingness to trample on speech rights that is at the heart of the issue. It should also be noted that subsequent to the Citizen’s United case in September of 2014 Senator Charles Schumer (D, NY) proposed, an amendment to the First Amendment, which was co-sponsored by every single one of the Senate’s 48 Democratic Senators. The amendment was designed to grant legislatures the power to restrict political speech through rules regarding “contributions and expenditures intended to effect elections”.

Note that the Schumer amendment specifically identifies the target as political speech, which should leave no doubt that the purpose of the amendment is to erect a protective barrier to political competition by making it difficult for issue advocates to challenge incumbents on their policy choices. Note too that the Citizen’s United decision left in place the ban on corporate contributions to candidates. It held that citizens do not lose their speech rights when they band together through corporations (including non-profit ones like the Sierra Club) to advocate for policy positions. Thus the Clinton claim that the decision allows corporations to “buy” elections is thus exposed as yet another falsehood.

 

To sum up: neither Trump nor Clinton intends to honor the oath of office. We know this because they have told us so in their own words, over and over again. And so when January 20, 2017 rolls around the first official act of the probable next President will be to knowingly, willingly and deliberately lie under oath on TV for the entire world to see. And the people who voted for either Trump or Clinton will have acted as enablers.

I will not be one of them.

JFB

 

 

Is Hillary Clinton the Adult in the Room?

Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump seem to have achieved the impossible: together they have made Mrs. Clinton appear to be responsible–at least in relative terms. That is no mean feat. After all, she has been an unabashed opportunist in her policy pronouncements, including those involving national security.   For example, Robert Gates writes that “Hillary told the president that her opposition to the [2007] surge in Iraq had been political because she was facing him in the Iowa primary…”. Moreover, she is an inveterate liar. The rapidly dwindling minority of people in the world who still resist that description should read Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker on the subject in which she references a new You Tube video. Then watch the video (below).

So it must be said that Hillary Clinton is drenched in sleaze and has almost certainly engaged in criminal behavior (for instance with her e-mail set up while at the State Department). But when it comes to policy idiocy, both Trump and Sanders leave Clinton in the dust. Consider a few examples (and there are many, many more). Both Trump and Sanders are outspoken opponents of NAFTA and free trade generally, which have not only been instrumental in raising billions of people around the world out of dire poverty, but they have also raised American living standards to boot. Both Trump and Sanders promise to maintain Social Security in its current form even though it is insolvent. For instance, the most conservative estimates of the present value of unfunded Social Security liabilities are in the neighborhood of $10 trillion under current law. That is on top of the $19 trillion or so in outstanding publicly held debt we already owe.

For his part, Senator Sanders has actually proposed additional massive increases in spending (on the order of $18 trillion) and taxes (the number is hotly disputed), despite the ongoing build-up of the existing debt. To almost nobody’s surprise the Senator’s numbers don’t add up, as the NY Times has reported. See for instance, “Uncovering the Bad Math…” published by the Times on February 26 of this year. Sanders demonstrates his utter cluelessness by asserting that he will pay for all this by taxing “the rich” (who already pay the lion’s share of taxes) and by taxing Wall Street “speculation”.

Naturally enough this attempt would result in massive capital flight from the U.S. worthy of Venezuela where Sanders style economic policies have created shortages of food and medicine.

Not to be outdone, Donald Trump, who has plenty of experience in bankruptcy courts, has suggested asking our current creditors to accept “ a little less…”. Incredibly enough, among other things he said, “I would borrow, knowing that if the economy crashed, you could make a deal”. It apparently has not occurred to Donald Trump that creditors do not take kindly to debtors hinting at default. Nor does it seem to have occurred to him that “crashing” the world’s biggest economy is not exactly like one his many trips to the bankruptcy courts. It would be a global catastrophe.

And so by default, so to speak, Hillary Clinton looks vaguely responsible, which is a sad commentary on the current state of affairs. And as yet we have hardly even touched on foreign policy.

JFB

Dump Trump

Winston Churchill once observed that the best argument against democracy is a 5-minute conversation with the man on the street. That conversation is no longer metaphorical. Now it is there for all to see in the person of Donald Trump.

Mr. Trump is not merely an oaf, although he is surely that. And it is perhaps overstating the obvious, at least to the apparently shrinking community of the sane, that Trump lacks even a basic understanding of Constitutional checks and balances, and that he is utterly clueless in both domestic and foreign policy. And then there is the temperament of the speaker to consider.

All of which leads to an inescapable conclusion. The nuclear codes of the United States should not be turned over to a man with the temperament of a 15-year old schoolboy. Especially someone who aspires to be Commander-in-Chief but doesn’t know what the nuclear triad is.

Perhaps what is, or ought to be, most disturbing to libertarians and libertarian leaning conservatives is the immense structural damage Trump has wrought. That damage grows daily. There now exists the possibility, if not probability, that Trump will remake the Republican Party into an empty vessel as devoid of principle as he is. As a result, the party of Lincoln will no longer be in a position to credibly promote limiting government power and expanding individual freedom.

Consider what Trump has already proposed. For example, he would weaken the first amendment by making it easier for politicians to sue news organizations. And his declared intention of tilting of policy against Muslims certainly runs astray of the free exercise clause. His whole-hearted support of Kelo v. City of London (2005) eviscerates the Fifth Amendment’s takings clause, which proscribes the taking of private property for public use without just compensation. Note that in the Kelo decision the Supreme Court justified the state’s transfer of private property from one private owner to another for the purpose of economic development. Trump, the real estate operator, thinks this is just fine. No surprise there.

Trump makes little attempt to mask his authoritarian tendencies, as when he implicitly encourages his supporters’ use of violence against political opponents. Even worse, he has explicitly promoted the use of torture in pursuit of enemies, and he has advocated “going after” the families of terrorists. How is that for due process? And not to put too fine a point on it, deporting 12 million illegal residents would require turning America into a police state.

Trump’s willingness to attack the natural rights of individuals even though they are clearly protected by the Constitution is not an accident. We are not talking about a latter day Edmund Burke here. The trash-talking Trump does not understand that manners are small morals, and that demeaning opponents is antithetical to the government’s main task of securing unalienable rights endowed on men by the Creator.

Trump, who complains that the system is rigged, brags about having bought off politicians to do his bidding for years. Trump, who routinely accuses the media of lying about him, also said according to George Will that “it doesn’t matter doesn’t really matter what [the media] write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass”. Not to mention implying that Ted Cruz’s father had something to do with the Kennedy assassination. Or that Trump’s appreciation for nuance and subtlety is about on par with that of Brittany Spears.

As of this writing Trump appears to have locked up the support of what we euphemistically call low-information voters. We can only hope that chunk of the electorate is relatively small or that it loses interest by Election Day. Regardless of the election outcome, there is a flashing warning signal that libertarians should take note of here.

 

The warning signal is this: Donald Trump is not the cause of our political woes—he is an effect of a seriously degraded civic culture. The basic institutions that protect freedom (property rights, rule of law, the nuclear family, free speech and civility to name a few) have been under unrelenting attack for years by the left. The weakening of these and related institutions has paved the way for an authoritarian ignoramus like Trump. It is not sufficient to merely stop Trump. There will always be more like him waiting in the wings. The civic culture has to be rebuilt. Libertarians and conservatives should be able to make common cause here. Before it’s too late.

 

Joe Benning