Ben Sasse for President

We are once again faced with the question of whether it is worth voting in the Presidential race and if so, for whom. Before considering any particular candidate, let’s have a look at the question of why vote at all. 

Unfortunately, it seems that an awful lot of Americans have been stricken with the superstition that their vote matters in determining the outcome. This belief has taken hold largely for two reasons: (1) the innumeracy of the public which is in large part due to the sheer incompetence of mathematics education in the public schools; and (2) the interest of the two major political parties in propagating the myth. 

So if your vote doesn’t matter, why bother to vote at all? The reason is straightforward. Your vote does matter—it just doesn’t matter in any meaningful sense in determining the outcome. Your vote represents your policy preferences. And that matters a lot—or at least, it should. 

So let’s take a look at the choices on offer, which can be roughly categorized as (1) re-elect President Trump; (2) replace him with former Vice-President Biden, or (3) somebody else. 

A question for Trump fans. Does anybody seriously think that Donald J Trump is suitable as president? It is beyond obvious that he is profoundly ignorant, mendacious and irredeemably narcissistic. He has coarsened an already coarse culture. He has no idea how government is supposed to work; nor does he care. Most of the good things that he has done (and there are some) represent standard Republican orthodoxy. Any Republican president would have done the same. 

The policy initiatives that are uniquely Trump’s (like the trade war) represent zero-sum thinking. That approach to the world is the anti-thesis of liberalism, properly understood, and is based on the misconceptions that the Democratic Party has been enthusiastically marketing to the ignoratti for decades. After all, the I-win-you-lose mentality of zero-sum thinking is what is behind the nonsensical wailing about trade deficits. It is the thinly disguised foundation of the neo-Marxist grievance industries, cancel culture and odes to intersectionality.  

One area does stand out where Mr. Trump has actually achieved some good. That is the Middle East. He appears to have succeeded in peacemaking where countless others have failed. Whether this success is due to his rather unique brand of diplomacy or a change in the correlation of forces, only time will tell. But it happened on his watch.

We have already had 4 years of Mr. Trump in the White House. We have more than enough evidence to see whether he has shed the ways of a recalcitrant adolescent and has miraculously developed into a mature adult. Unfortunately, he hasn’t; he remains like a petulant child unsuited for the responsibilities of the office. 

And now for another question; this one for Biden partisans. Does anybody seriously think that Joe Biden would be a suitable president? He is a human gaffe machine; a bumbling old fool on his third presidential run. He is a man driven by a relentless ambition to become president but without an identifiable, much less compelling, raison d’être. 

Who, this side of sanity, really believes that the Hunter Biden e-mails printed by the New work Post lack authenticity? The Biden campaign hasn’t denied their authenticity. Nor has it denied the various pay-to-play schemes detailed in them. Moreover multiple sources, including one of Hunter Biden’s partners, have vouched for them.  The schemes may or may not have been illegal. But they provide evidence of corruption, rumors of which have long plagued the Biden clan. Moreover, for the umpteenth time they prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Joe Biden is a world class liar. 

The issue of Hunter Biden’s e-mails goes way beyond Joe Biden’s corruption and his suitability, or lack thereof, for the presidency. It goes to the state of America’s institutions and their politicization. The mainstream press, for instance, has studiously avoided reporting the story. NPR’s managing editor of news, Terence Samuel, went so far as to say:

“We don’t want to waste our time on stories that are not really stories, and we don’t want to waste the listeners’ and readers’ time on stories that are just pure distractions,” Samuel said of its refusal to cover the Hunter Biden laptop story. “And quite frankly, that’s where we ended up, this was … a politically driven event, and we decided to treat it that way.”

Add to that the fact that Facebook, Twitter and Google have blocked access to the story in whole or in part, and it is clear that they, in conjunction with mainstream news organizations, are running interference for the Biden campaign. That is a level of institutional degradation that is likely to be far more damaging in the long run to the republic than the corruption of the Biden clan. 

So what is the intelligent citizen to do? The answer should be obvious. Vote for somebody else. That’s where Ben Sasse, and a little political philosophy, come in. 

First and foremost we need to recognize that politics has become way too important in American life. Partisans will immediately point to the other side and shout “It’s their fault”, which simply proves the point. Passions have overwhelmed reason. Each side, brimming with self-righteousness, is convinced of its own moral and intellectual superiority. 

Maybe we should understand what being president entails, or at least is supposed to entail. The president is the country’s chief administrative officer. His principal duties, given by Article II of the Constitution are (1) to see that the laws are faithfully executed and (2) serve as Commander in Chief and oversee foreign policy. 

He is not your friend, your confessor, your advisor; nor does he feel your pain. He does not “create jobs” high paying or otherwise. His is not going to solve your problems. He does not “run the country”. The country can run itself just fine, thank you very much. 

The president does, however, represent the American people as a whole, both within the country and to the larger world. In that capacity he acts, or should act, as a (and not the only) leader of American civic culture dedicated to the proposition that certain Truths are self-evident. Namely, that All Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among them, Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, and that governments are created to secure those rights. 

Securing these unalienable rights is the most important of presidential missions. Moreover, it is a mission that mostly depends on our civic culture. And so the president should seek to bolster and strengthen that civic culture, based on the values expressed in the Declaration of Independence. 

This is a mission for which Senator Ben Sasse (R. NE) is particularly well-suited. With his BA in government from Harvard and PhD in history from Yale; his experience as Senator, and as an official in HHS; and with his tenure as President of Midland University, Senator Sasse has both the experience, temperament and intellect needed to do the job, and do it well. That’s why I have cast my early vote for him as a write-in. 

Reston, VA, USA — October 27, 2020. Voters lined up to vote early in Reston, VA

But don’t take my word for it. Watch Senator Sasse on the video below concerning politics, civics and culture.  Then ask yourself if he would be a better president than the major party candidates. I think the answer is self-evident.

Senator Ben Sasse at Judiciary Committee Hearing on Judge Barrett

JFB

We Need to Talk about… Joe Biden

His name is not Donald J Trump.

That is all it takes, apparently, for a Democratic challenger to command the loyalty of the party faithful. It doesn’t matter what he thinks, assuming he is capable of it. After all his supporters refuse to think. They just know his name isn’t Donald Trump. 

But there is a problem that goes way beyond the usual foolishness that accompanies political campaigns. The problem concerns the mental acuity of the almost certain Democratic Party nominee for president, former vice president Joe Biden. It is obvious to all who are willing to see that the mental faculties of the former vice president, never strong to begin with, are in a state of rapid decline. The man can barely get through a sentence without losing his train of thought. He routinely begins to rank order proposed solutions to problems but almost never manages to get past the first on the list before wandering off. 

But his name is not Donald Trump. 

Joe Biden’s campaign, which now largely consists of boiler plate coming from a makeshift TV studio in his basement, is a pretty joyless affair. Were it not for his campaign’s center of operations at 620 8th Avenue in Manhattan, the campaign would be invisible. However, behind the scenes the campaign is working feverishly to unite the Party. The effort is instructive. 

During the primaries the voters went out of their way to signal that they were decidedly not interested in having a left-wing radical on the model of Jeremy Corbyn at the top of the ticket. And so beginning with South Carolina and then on Super Tuesday, Joe Biden trounced Bernie Sanders (I. Rolling Stone) at every step of the way. There were strategic elements to the vote as well. Joe Biden looked safe compared to wild man Bernie Sanders and he looked normal compared to the schoolmarmish Elizabeth Warren (D MA) who, it must be said, annoyed pretty much everyone she came into contact with. 

You would think that set of circumstances would lead the almost certain nominee to try to unite the party around a center-left ticket. But you would be wrong. Because few really voted for Joe Biden with any kind of enthusiasm. They just voted against all the rest; Biden was just the one left standing. And all the rest, possibly excepting Amy Klobuchar (D, MN), were (and are) radical lefties. They control a large chuck of convention delegates, and more importantly, they control the policy conversation. So Biden is moving to the left, not the center, to unite the Party around his candidacy. 

There are two parts to the Biden strategy. The first is picking a female running mate. That’s what he promised to do, and this appears to be one of those rare promises he means to keep. The issue he facers is that there is a behind the scenes pitched battle to influence his choice. According to the gossip around DC, Bernie Sanders vetoed Biden’s choice of (heaven help us) Elizabeth Warren. Apparently Sanders and Warren are no longer besties. 

Amy Klobuchar has distinguished herself by occasionally taking reality into consideration. For the Bernie Bros, that is disqualifying, so it is unlikely that Biden would tap her, no matter how sensible a choice it would be given all the rest. That leaves Stacey Abrams, professional grievance monger, whose chief qualification for high office is that she ran for governor of Georgia and lost. She lost and has to this day has refused to concede, maintaining without a shred of evidence, that the election was stolen. Of the 3.9 million votes cast, she lost by just under 55,000, a margin of 1.39%, insufficient to trigger a recount. 

The important thing about Stacey Abrams is not that she, like Hillary Clinton, is a sore loser. The important thing is that her name is not Donald Trump, which is all that matters.

Let’s leave personnel matters aside for the moment and turn to the second problem the fledgling Biden campaign has to face as it attempts to unify the Party. Biden has a policy problem. 

The machinery of the Democratic Party is dominated by its left wing, which is also where its enthusiasm lies. It is this ideological bloc that is determined to set the policy agenda. And so it is gearing up to instruct Biden on what he is supposed to believe. Since Biden’s core belief is that he should be President he will say and do pretty much whatever he thinks will unify the Party so he can win in November. 

The balancing act will be determined by calculating how far left he has to move to placate his socialist allies (and let’s not pretend that they are not socialists) without losing moderates who vote Democratic, particularly in the upper Midwest. These are the voters who are the salt of the earth when they vote for Democrats and deplorables when they don’t. 

So how far left is Biden prepared to go to fulfill his life long ambition? One clue is that his campaign has created in partnership with Bernie Sanders, a series of panels with a mandate to hammer out policy positions for the fall campaign.  The six panels formed so far will explore “possible policy initiatives” with respect to climate change, criminal justice, the economy, education, health care and immigration. 

Biden named 5 members of each committee; Sanders named 3. Each committee has 2 co-chairs, one named by Biden and one by Sanders. Inevitably, the Sanders picks are radicals with allegiances to outside groups. (Sanders remember is not even a Democrat). For instance, the co-chair of the climate change panel is non-other than Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) who has pledged her allegiance to the “Climate Justice Community” to whom she pledges to be “fully accountable”. 

Other task force members are outspoken in their views favoring an end to fracking, adopting Medicare-for-All, “free college”, welfare benefits for illegal aliens and defunding the Border Patrol.  Not surprisingly an economist on the panel, Stephanie Kelton (PhD, the New School, 2001) is an advocate of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT). She claims that governments no longer have to worry about where they will get the money to pay for things, they can just print the currency. No problem. (See Kelton interviewed at the CFA Institute at this link). She gets to the heart of MMT at about 1 minute into the video.

It is, or should be, perfectly obvious that all the movement in the Biden campaign is to the left, and in all probability will continue to be. What is so bizarre about all this is that up until this point campaigns would iron out their policy positions and announce them before hand. Biden is waiting to be told what his policy positions are after having effectively won the nomination. 

But that is how things park in the People’s Republic. 

Then again, his name is not Donald Trump. 

Just like 300 million other Americans. 

JFB

Now What?

Campaign Finance

Recent events have proved to be clarifying if unedifying. Michael Bloomberg did us the enormous favor of spending over $500 million in an effort to win the Democratic Presidential nomination. For his efforts he won a total of 13 delegates; 4 in American Samoa plus another 9 scattered around the country. That’s about $38 million per delegate. Two days later former Mayor Bloomberg dropped out of the race and pledged to work for the election of Joe Biden. 

Bloomberg Drops Out

All of this would seem to provide rather conclusive evidence discrediting the idea that money is determinative in elections. Despite the evidence though, we can expect Progressives to continue their attempt eviscerate First Amendment speech rights under the guise of campaign finance reform and fighting “hate speech” because the goal is control, not clean elections or civility. 

And, by the way, if the best Michael Bloomberg could do was grab 13 delegates with $500 million, why would anybody continue to believe that Russian propaganda on Facebook was sufficient to tip the 2016 Presidential election to Donald Trump. 

About Those Norms

The Trump Administration—actually POTUS himself—has been criticized, frequently and correctly, for violating long held political norms. Trump, for example, launched a typically idiotic Tweet calling for Justices Sotomeyer and Ginsburg to recuse themselves from cases involving him and his administration.  And candidate Trump famously attacked a federal judge complaining that the judge, who was born in Indiana, was Mexican and therefore could not be counted on to give Trump a fair hearing. 

Well, Chuck Schumer has done Trump one better. On March 4, speaking at a demonstration at the Supreme Court, Schumer said the following referring to an abortion case before the Court.

“I want to tell you, Gorsuch. I want to tell you, Kavanaugh. You have released the whirlwind and you will pay the price…You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.”

Abortion Rights Protest at the Supreme Court

Which is to say that Chuck Schumer (Harvard Law, 1974) issued a direct threat by name to sitting justices on the Court, contingent on their votes. Surprisingly enough, Schumer’s fellow progressives who were once so concerned about democratic norms, have fallen strangely silent. 

Feel the Phony Bern

Bernie Sanders (I. Rolling Stone) has spent the better part of the last 40 years or so attacking “the establishment” and singing the praises of folks like Fidel Castro. In 2012 he threatened to “primary” (now a verb) then President Obama who wasn’t quite left wing enough for comrade Sanders taste. But on Super Tuesday he got trounced by former Vice President Biden, who among other things grabbed a commanding share of the African American vote. 

And all of a sudden Bernie-the-Authentic has decided that he has been a fan of Obama after all. So his campaign has released an ad showing what pals he and Obama were and are. Needless to say, former Obama officials have denounced the ad as deceptive, misleading etc etc. Which, of course, it is. Just like the rest of his campaign. 

The ad is below. Have a look and think about what it says about the raw political ambition of the selfless Socialist from Vermont. 

New Sanders Ad

JFB

DEFCON 2

The grand pooh-bahs of the DNC are about to break into full panic mode. 

When Nancy Pelosi pointed her impeachment gun at President Donald Trump she shot former Vice President Joe Biden in the heart. Unforced errors like that one, combined with a disgruntled primary electorate has put Bernie Sanders (D. Rolling Stone) in a strong position to capture the Democratic presidential nomination. And he is not even a Democrat. 

Sanders supporters (better described as a fan base) comprises somewhere between 25% to 30% of the Democratic primary electorate. Moreover they are intensely loyal and consider themselves part of a movement. Attendees do not go to Sanders rallies to be convinced; they are already convinced. That is why a Sanders rally has the look and feel of a religious revival meeting. 

The Sanders base is an odd mix of resentment and misplaced idealism. It includes blue-collar working class voters, students and young college educated voters. They are overwhelmingly white. 

Sanders working class supporters, like Trump’s, firmly believe that they have been screwed over by “elites”. His young supporters, especially students and recent college graduates are enamored by his championing “democratic socialism” largely because (1) they have no idea what socialism really is, democratic or otherwise, and (2) they would like to have their college loans forgiven. 

But the Sanders loyalist base does not include include older voters, especially those over age 65 who have displayed a good deal of hostility to the Sanders movement. Not only are these voters old enough to remember the cold war, they understand what socialism really is. They grew up reading George Orwell’s 1984; they remember Britain’s winter of discontent; they saw the depredations of Castro, Mao and Pol Pot; they saw the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia, waited on gas lines and saw the Berlin Wall crumble. They did not grow up with trigger warnings or win participation trophies. Which is to say, they actually grew up. 

These factors suggest that Sanders has a strong floor of support at around 25% to 30% of the Democratic primary electorate. It also suggests that his support has a rather low ceiling that will be hard to break through. With the Democratic field splintered, a loyal support base of 25% to 30% may be enough for Sanders to win a plurality of pledged delegates to the Milwaukee convention and then the nomination. 

That’s why the DNC is headed for full fledged panic. The main mission of political parties is to win elections. That requires assembling coalitions and getting them to the polls on election day. Here, the Democrats have a structural problem that is in many ways reminiscent of the one faced by Republicans in 2016.  The nominally Republican nominee (Trump) wasn’t really a Republican, but he was able to win the nomination because his hard core of support held firm while the conventional candidates split the remaining (majority) of the vote. He was only able to win the general election (again with a minority of the vote) because (1) the distribution of the votes favored him in the electoral college by the barest of margins and (2) the Democrats succeeded in nominating the worst possible candidate (Hillary Clinton) who ran a terrible campaign and in so doing managed to unify Republicans against her. 

Now consider two possibilities. First, Bernie Sanders gets the Democratic nomination; or second, somebody else does. Under either scenario it is difficult to see how the Democratic nominee unifies the party to win the general election. 

Let’s suppose that Bernie Sanders gets the nomination. Remember, his core supporters tend to be younger, many are students or already have college degrees; they are friendly to the idea of “democratic socialism”. In addition, a lot are blue collar workers without college degrees. And they tend to be Caucasian, although that could change. The problem that the Democratic nominee faces, whether or not it is Sanders, is that the constituencies that make up the Democratic Party are at war with each other. 

Consider the left-wing obsession with race, class and gender. Older Democrats were inspired by the rhetoric of Dr. Martin Luther King who spoke of the content of man’s character as opposed to the color of his skin. Try that one now with fans of intersectionality with its elaborate rules for considering the proper pecking order for victimology. Elizabeth Warren, one of the most vocal proponents of identity politics, an outgrowth of intersectionality, promised that her choices for Education Secretary would be vetted by a “trans person”.  How do you think that will fly with middle class, midwestern families? 

Now consider all the free stuff that the party is promising to deliver. Start with forgiveness of college loans. It’s easy enough to see why college students with loans (most of them) are in favor of this. But when you look at the underlying numbers a different story emerges. That story has to do with the size and distribution of loan balances. The mean loan balance is about $32,000, which is not all that burdensome considering the difference between lifetime earnings potential of degree holders versus non degree holders. More importantly the median loan balance is only about $13,000. The wide difference between the mean and median is explained by a relatively small number of students who owe very large balances ($100,000 – $200,000). But those balances are often due to large loans taken out to finance expensive graduate and professional eduction at top institutions, like for instance, Harvard Law School. 

Which begs the question: Why is a bus driver supposed to be taxed in order to facilitate the  graduate education of somebody else’s kids at the nation’s elite universities? There is no good answer to that question.

Then there is the race question. The Democratic Party has long been home to a majority of non-white voters. In the past liberal Democrats looked for ways to expand opportunities for minority citizens. That was before the days of intersectionality which necessarily demands a constant search for victims and oppressors. The problem is that (1) the Democratic Party is home to both the alleged victims and their alleged oppressors, and (2) the gradations of victimhood and oppression are constantly changing  depending on the latest woke fashion. After all, it is reasonably difficult to form a coalition comprised of “victims” and “oppressors” when there is no such thing as shared interests. There is only identity, and that is not transferable. Any attempt to coalesce around common goals and values simply leads to cries of “co-option” and false consciousness. Similarly, attempts to integrate new customs and styles results in complaints of cultural appropriation.

The Democratic majority has little use for all this; they are grown-ups. But the party is being driven by left-wing radicals who have a very strong grip on maybe 25% of the Party’s primary voters. Further, there is a philosophical problem with modern liberalism that makes the Party’s electoral situation rather dire. The fundamental problem is that modern liberalism has no limiting principle. Whatever a “moderate” Democrat proposes, Bernie Sanders, the Squad and the rest of the progressive caucus can just do them one better and push further to the left. So we have the spectacle of moving from reducing Greenhouse Gas emissions to fundamentally restructuring the entire U.S. economy via the Green New Deal. Whereas the Democratic Party of yesterday vowed to keep abortion “safe, legal and rare” the new Democratic Party supports subsidizing abortion on demand at any time for any reason. Instead of financial aid for college students, let’s just forgive all accumulated debt and make college “free”. And while we are at it, why not increase social security benefits, even though the program is already insolvent? 

So here we are. Serious contenders for the Party’s nomination, with the possible exception of Senator Amy Klobuchar, are fundamentally unserious people. And the Party’s leaders are virtually powerless to stop the suicide march to a brokered convention in Milwaukee and an electoral disaster in November. And Bernie Sanders, the likely Presidential nominee leading the parade toward the cliff is not even a Democrat. 

And the really final results from Iowa will be in any day now. 

Nice going, guys. 

JFB

Seriously?

Rivals for the 2020 Democratic Presidential nomination Senator Elizabeth Warren (D. MA) and “Mayor Pete” Buttigieg (D. South Bend IN), have taken to firing at each other over the issue of transparency. Each is busy pretending that other has failed to produce sufficient detail with respect to past earnings, although neither has explained why it matters other than to drop dark  hints about corruption. 

The real reason has nothing to do with corruption, for which there is no evidence whatsoever. It is actually part of the ongoing progressive rhetorical war on success and embrace of the politics of class war and resentment. They are each afraid that their past employment and the amounts they earned will make them appear “elitist”. Which, of course, they are. And to quote Jerry Seinfeld: not that there is anything wrong with that. 

To put the absurdity of all this in context let’s take a look at the numbers. Elizabeth Warren disclosed that she earned about $1.9 million over the last 3 decades from legal work she earned while moonlighting. That is about $63,000 a year, not adjusted for inflation; hardly an amount to get excited about. After all she earned those rather modest fees by providing legal services. But apparently the word “earn” is verboten in progressive circles for anything over the minimum wage. 

In response to pressure, Peter Buttigieg prevailed upon previous employer McKinsey & Co to allow him to disclose details of his work at the consulting firm during his tenure there from 2007 – 2010. In 2019 compensation at McKinsey for new employees with an undergraduate degree included a base salary of $85,000 and a maximum bonus of $20,000 with a cap of on total cash compensation of $105,000. For MBAs and PhDs the respective numbers are: salary $165,000, bonus cap $65,000 and total compensation capped at $230,000. 

Those numbers are fairly modest by Wall Street standards, given the level and quality of educational attainment. But they are sufficiently high to stir up resentment among Democratic Party primary voters. So consider this absurdity: while the Democratic Party has increasingly attracted highly educated, highly compensated voters (largely because the Republican Party is pushing them out the door) the party’s progressive base has taken to launching vituperative  attacks on highly educated, highly compensated citizens. 

This little intramural war does raise a substantive question though. As they battle for the Party’s nomination, is it possible that Elizabeth Warren and Peter Buttigeig actually believe the economic nonsense they are trying to peddle? Are they really ashamed of the relative success they have achieved in their respective careers? Does Elizabeth Warren actually really truly believe that a vibrant society can co-exist with the central planning she proposes for roughly everything? Does Peter Buttigeig seriously believe that a society of 330 million people with a $20 trillion GDP needs Mayor Pete’s Power Point managerial socialism and an ever expanding bureaucracy to attack the fundamental issues that America needs to address? It would be closer to the mark to say that the “solutions” offered by Warren and Buttigieg et.al. are more likely a source of the problem, not the answer. 

It ought to be painfully obvious that all society’s have elites. Some are market based and are therefore more likely than not to be meritocracies; others are based on some variation of the Divine Right of Kings and depend on courtiers to run the show, which seems to be the direction in which the Democrats are headed.

JFB