Silent majority taking charge at the ballot box

It’s nearly unanimous: Donald Trump is a horrible president.

He lies, his personality is abrasive (to put it mildly), he offends other world leaders and members of his own party alike, and he never has anything nice to say about the media.

So say the media. And social media. And plenty of other people.

The editor emeritus of our local newspaper, in a recent Sunday column, wrote that all of the columnists the paper features on its opinion pages, except one, do not support Trump. Even several conservative columnists the newspaper features do not support our current president.

The anti-establishment president

Our political and media leaders are missing the point.

Trump was elected as an anti-establishment president. Democrats hate him, and many Republicans barely tolerate him.

When Trump was nominated in a very crowded GOP primary field, I figured he’d be one of the first candidates eliminated because he was so brash. He offended everyone. He talked before he thought. He had no political experience. His most famous quote was: “Your fired!”

Not exactly the mentality of a team player.

And yet, the other candidates dropped out, and he remained. All the way to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, where he was officially nominated as the party’s candidate for the highest office in the land.

Rejecting the status quo

Why?

Republicans, like Democrats, supported the candidate they thought could garner the most votes. Even if he was brash, abrasive and not a model Republican.

Again, why?

As I told a friend shortly before the election a year ago, Trump struck a nerve that runs deeper in this country than anyone realized.

We still don’t realize it.

Neither Republicans nor Democrats have a good reputation these days, and haven’t for awhile. Congress appears incapable of action. This was true under former President Barack Obama as well as currently under Trump.

Business as usual just wasn’t working. Congress’ ineptness was the main reason Trump was nominated, then elected. If the two-party system was working well, the GOP would have nominated an insider who would further GOP values and causes, to run against the Democratic candidate who would further that party’s values and causes.

But it wasn’t.

So, we got Trump.

GOP a step ahead

If Trump had to run for re-election this year, would he win?

I think he would. And we all would be just as shocked as we were last year.

I saw a blurb in our local paper last week, buried on page A6, with this headline: “Trump’s small donors fuel GOP fundraising.”

Three paragraphs followed. Here they are:

 

The Republican National Committee raised more than $100 million in the first nine months of 2017, marking the first time it has raised that much, that fast, in a non-presidential election year.

The record-breaking fundraising can be largely attributed to a flurry of small-dollar donors responding to fundraising appeals by the first Republican president in eight years, Donald Trump, according to a new report to be released later this week.

The numbers give Republicans a large cash advantage over Democrats as they look to retain control of both chambers of Congress in the midterm elections next year.

 

If Democrats think they’ll reclaim one or both chambers of Congress next year as a backlash to Trump, they will be in for a big surprise. Trump, abrasiveness and all, has a larger following than anyone on either side is willing to acknowledge. His supporters largely remain silent on social media (although not entirely).

Loudest voice not winning

I’ve discovered that many of my left-leaning friends are thoughtful and engaging people, offering detailed arguments on why Trump should be opposed, at least, or impeached, at most. Many of my right-leaning friends, when they talk politics at all, offer one-liners and short paragraphs in support of a specific Trump policy or the general direction of the GOP.

In a debate, I’d predict the left would defeat the right. Liberals are better at communicating their values than conservatives are.

Trump’s supporters are writing a new definition for “silent majority.” Instead of arguing in public, they’re showing up at the ballot box.

According to the page A6 blurb in the newspaper, Republicans are already gearing up for next year’s midterm elections – in a big way.

The rest of us are missing the point.

Both parties need to change, since the status quo in Washington, D.C., is pleasing no one.

The Republicans realized this first, and nominated an unconventional candidate. The Democrats have yet to figure this out.

Preparing for 2018

In the editor emeritus’ column, he quotes a liberal columnist, Leonard Pitts Jr.:

“Pretty much nobody – outside of his base of voters and people who attend rallies in Alabama – pretty much nobody is saying (‘Great job, Mr. President.’). And I think that’s what people need to understand.”

While very few people are publicly saying, “Great job, Mr. President” – Pitts is right about that – his “base of voters” is larger than Pitts knows. And they are small donors, lots of them, willing to put some money where their votes are, if not where their mouths are.

Is anybody listening to them?

Does anybody care what those small donors think, value or do with their lives? Are they truly supporting Trump, or are they only opposing the longstanding GOP-Democratic stalemate?

Do most Americans really want an expensive border wall with Mexico, for example, or is there a deeper issue in play? And can anyone articulate what that issue might be?

I’ve seen articles saying that many of our children aren’t allowed to walk to school, even if it’s nearby, because their parents are afraid of abductors. This is the message of our country today: Trust no one. Not even people in our neighborhood.

Why was Trump elected? Because we as Americans think and act like him.

Yes, we do. We are just as angry and self-centered as he is.

Trump is not a team player. Neither are we.

We reap what we sow.

We must understand this before any meaningful change will take place.

The longer we deny this, the more ingrained Trump becomes.

Just watch. Next year’s midterm elections will prove me right.

Hamilton: A strong military, run by civilians

One in a series on Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow. So far, we have discussed these topics:

  • central government vs. states’ rights:

https://billcornishwordpresscom.wordpress.com/2017/07/18/hamilton-early-lessons-still-apply/

  • religion:

https://billcornishwordpresscom.wordpress.com/2017/07/24/hamilton-on-religion-belief-in-god-as-moral-authority/

  • politics:

https://billcornishwordpresscom.wordpress.com/2017/07/31/politics-continuing-what-hamilton-and-his-peers-started/

  • slavery, the judiciary:

https://billcornishwordpresscom.wordpress.com/2017/08/14/slavery-and-the-judiciary-hamiltons-far-reaching-views/

  • populism, journalism:

https://billcornishwordpresscom.wordpress.com/2017/08/29/the-pendulum-swings-a-little-left-and-a-little-right-returning-to-the-center-each-time/

The military

With unerring foresight, (George) Washington perceived the importance of enshrining the principle that military power should be subordinated to civilian control. (p. 178)

 

Chernow made this statement in a section on financing the military during the Revolution. Hamilton wanted Congress to fund the entire war debt – specifically, officers’ pay. Many military leaders had missed paychecks, as much as six years owed, in some cases, (p. 176) and Hamilton feared mass desertions. He wrote a letter to Washington, the military leader, urging him to use the officers’ anger to push Congress to pay up.

The federal government had little taxing authority at the time. States were paying the bills, often unevenly or not at all, if they didn’t buy in to the federal vision.

Washington did not wish to push that button yet. He wouldn’t support allowing military decisions to control Congress. The elected civilians in Congress controlled the still-forming country’s purse strings, and Washington didn’t want to change that.

While military spending today captures the lion’s share of the federal budget, the civilian president and the elected Congress still set the military’s priorities and pay for whatever they feel is warranted. While military leaders offer crucial insights into national and international situations, civilians still call the shots. Literally.

We can thank George Washington for preserving this system.

 

When it came to law enforcement, Hamilton believed that an overwhelming show of force often obviated the need to employ it: “Whenever the government appears in arms, it ought to appear like a Hercules and inspire respect by the display of strength.” (p. 471)

… the show of force orchestrated by the federal government had made its use unnecessary, just as Hamilton had predicted. (p. 477)

 

Throughout his life, Hamilton defended a strong central government, including the authority to collect taxes and fund a national army and navy.

hamilton book

The Whiskey Rebellion of 1794 proved this out. In its effort to raise money, the federal government approved a liquor tax that proved extremely unpopular – yet it was lucrative. “Shortly after the whiskey tax was passed, federal collectors were shunned, tarred, feathered, blindfolded and whipped.” (p. 468) The worst offenders lived in western Pennsylvania.

Hamilton eventually convinced then-President Washington to deploy federal troops in massive numbers to put down the rebellion, fearing that open rejection of the tax could destroy the new federal government.

It worked. “The military expedition met little overt resistance in the mutinous regions.” (p. 476)

(While the show of force worked militarily, it likely hurt Washington’s Federalist Party politically. Thomas Jefferson in the election of 1800 pledged to repeal the whiskey tax. “So it may be said, with undoubted truth, that the whiskey drinkers made Mr. Jefferson the President of the United States.” p. 478)

Congress

In (Hamilton’s) view, representative bodies did not need to mirror exactly those they represented; men of substance, wisdom and experience could care for the common good. If they came more often from the wealthier, better-educated portion of the community, so be it. (p. 265)

 

Hamilton declared that the vices of the rich “are probably more favorable to the prosperity of the state than those of the indigent …” (p. 265) He saw the Senate “as a check on fickle popular will …”

Hamilton’s main argument was to support a central government, with states’ rights subservient to them. This discussion took place in an earlier post.

 

“Congress met and adjourned from day to day without doing anything, the parties being too much out of temper to do business together.” (p. 326)

 

Even as far back as 1790, congressmen had trouble working together. This quote was attributed to Thomas Jefferson over the issue of where to locate the national capital. Eventually it was built in Washington, D.C., in the South, with Philadelphia as the temporary home while the Capitol was being built.

At the time New York City was our nation’s capital. “Should the capital be near the population or the geographic center of America? New York was scarcely equidistant from the northern and southern tips of the country …” (p. 326)

Hamilton’s other main issue at this time was federal assumption of states’ debts, which he saw as the most effective way to join the states together into a permanent union. It passed the House, barely, in July 1790, thanks to a back-room deal among Hamilton, Jefferson and James Madison.

Despite their differences, Congressmen eventually did act, and will continue to do so.

Personality

For all his charisma, Alexander Hamilton was essentially an intellectual loner who took perverse pride in standing against the crowd. (p. 251)

 

He was a thinker and a doer, a man with a big-picture vision of the future of the United States that few others saw so clearly. This is likely why he never became president, or even ran for the presidency; he did not care about populism, doing only what he felt was the right thing to do.

In fact, he often opposed populist thinking in support of a centralized federal government, in which a small group of elected representatives would make the decisions that the country needed to survive.

 

A man of irreproachable integrity, Hamilton severed all outside sources of income while in office, something that neither Washington nor Jefferson nor Madison dared to do. (p. 287)

 

Even as Hamilton’s family grew – he and his wife continued to have children while he was treasury secretary – he would not accept any income other than the paltry sum offered by a poor, struggling federal government.

When he finally resigned his federal post, he had debts to pay off. Returning to his private law practice, he took cases that helped pay the bills – but even still, he was most passionate about cases that established Constitutional law, even though many of the people he defended in those cases couldn’t afford to pay him much.

 

But if Jefferson was a man of fanatical principles, he had principles all the same – which Hamilton could forgive. (Aaron) Burr’s abiding sin was a total lack of principles, which Hamilton could not forgive. (p. 422)

 

Hamilton had strong feelings and viewpoints. His political opponents did as well. If they could defend themselves, Hamilton, could respect that, to a point.

Hamilton may have overstated his case against Burr, who eventually killed him in a duel.

In 1791, Burr defeated Philip Schuyler, Hamilton’s father-in-law, for a seat in the U.S. Senate. This marked the onset of an ongoing rivalry between Burr and Hamilton. After six years in the Senate, Burr lost re-election to Schuyler. Bitter about the loss, Burr blamed Hamilton for ruining his reputation and turning voters against him.

In 1800, Burr ran for the U.S. presidency with Jefferson. Because they each received the same number of electoral votes, members of the House of Representatives were left to determine the winner. When the House met to discuss the election, Burr’s rival, Hamilton, vocalized his support for Jefferson and his disapproval of Burr. In the end, Jefferson secured the presidency and Burr became vice president. Burr was incensed, believing that Hamilton had manipulated the vote in Jefferson’s favor.

Nearing the end of his term as vice president, Burr ran for the governorship of New York, but lost. Again, he blamed Hamilton for besmirching him as a candidate, and, eager to defend his honor, challenged Hamilton to a duel. Hamilton accepted, and the face-off took place on the morning of July 11, 1804; it ended when Burr shot Hamilton to death.

The public was outraged. Burr fled New York and New Jersey but eventually returned to Washington, D.C, where he completed his term safe from prosecution. The indictments in the case never reached trial.

In 1807, Burr was brought to trial on charges of conspiracy and high misdemeanor, for leading a military charge against Spanish territory and for trying to separate territories from the United States. Chief Justice John Marshall acquitted Burr on the treason charge and eventually revoked his misdemeanor indictment, but the conspiracy scandal left Burr’s political career in ruins.

https://www.biography.com/people/aaron-burr-9232241