Wednesday, 01 August 2018

Electing Constitutionalists

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It has been said that you cannot change your destination overnight, but you can change your direction overnight. This observation applies to nations at least as much as to individuals, and never more so than with the approach of national elections. No one election and no one candidate can possibly be a cure-all for national ills, any more than the outcome of a single election can necessarily change the destination toward which a country is headed. But elections sometimes do change our national direction, and, if the new momentum conferred by one electoral shake-up is sustained in succeeding elections, our national destiny can be changed — for better or worse.

For many decades, the direction dictated by election after election in the United States was clear: more and more government; higher and higher taxes, debt, and inflation; and weaker and weaker constitutional restraints on the exercise of federal government power. This trend has been very clear since at least the 1930s, and despite the occasional blip — a Reagan presidency, a “Republican revolution” in Congress in 1994 — none of these trends have shown any sign of changing. Today the national debt is higher than ever and the federal government enjoys immense ascendancy over nearly every facet of American life, in raw contrast to what the Founders intended. Thanks to an entrenched, inflationary central bank (the Federal Reserve), America’s money has been stripped of much of its value, the cost of living has risen vertiginously, and debt both public and private threatens to completely overwhelm our society.

In such a secular crisis, politicians who advertise themselves as candidates of change have not been in short supply; yet real change — change pointing to a different long-term outcome — has failed to materialize.

Until 2016. In November of that year, ordinary American voters shocked the world by electing a new type of president, a man who had never held political office or worked in any government post. Although he ran as a Republican, many in his own party, comfortable with America’s direction, worked against him and continue to do so. His efforts to “drain the Swamp” have been met with the most savage and relentless political attacks ever endured by any American president. And while President Trump’s track record so far is a somewhat mixed bag from a constitutionalist perspective, he has certainly proven friendlier to the Constitution and to limited government than any other president in living memory. His efforts to appoint constitutionalist Supreme Court justices, to completely repeal ObamaCare, to defend our national borders, to stand firm in defense of the Second Amendment, and to massively roll back the unconstitutional “fourth branch of government” — the regulatory regime — are without parallel in modern times. By every indication, President Trump is trying to change the destination by changing the direction.

But he will not succeed without support from Congress. So far, many congressmen, including a significant number from his own party, have resisted any change of direction. With this year’s mid-term congressional elections, whether or not America can truly change direction for generations to come may well be decided. On the one hand, should significant numbers of pro-Constitution, pro-limited government representatives and senators be elected, our political leadership may truly be able to make America great again, by massively cutting government spending and by revitalizing our Constitution — by draining the swamp, in other words. On the other hand, should significant numbers of Trump’s antagonists be elected, he would, at the very least, be completely stymied and government would continue its reckless expansion and out-of-control borrowing and spending. Moreover, Trump’s foes have made no secret of their intention to impeach him should they attain a congressional majority — for what, they have declined to clarify.

No informed American can fail to be aware of the stakes in the upcoming elections. The destiny of our nation may well depend on the outcome of a handful of significant House and Senate races in which there is a clear-cut choice between a constitutionalist candidate and something very different. Here are thumbnails of a few such critical races that bear scrutiny. The list is restricted to candidates who have already won their primaries and will be on the ballot in the general election. We do not cover any candidates from states — such as Arizona — where primaries have not yet been held, although those states, too, will have pivotal races.

Photo: MartinBarraud/OJOImages/GettyImagesPlus

This article appears in the August 6, 2018, issue of The New American. To download the issue and continue reading this story, or to subscribe, click here.

Senate Races

Matt Rosendale (R) vs. Jon Tester (D): Rancher and Montana State Auditor Matt Rosendale is running for the Senate seat held by Montanan Jon Tester, considered by many to be a vulnerable “Red State Democrat” in a state carried by Trump by a 20-percent margin in 2016. Rosendale is a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment, a vociferous opponent of ObamaCare, an unapologetic pro-lifer, and a strong advocate of border security. If the polls are any guide (and they often are not in these tumultuous times), Rosendale is going to have a tough contest, despite support from President Trump that recently included a raucous in-state rally. While his opponent, Jon Tester, is often portrayed by the mainstream media as a moderate red-state Democrat who does what he has to in conservative Montana, The New American’s Freedom Index tells a different story, assigning Tester a cumulative Freedom Index score for the current Congress of 27 percent. Tester may not be in the same leftist big league as extremist ideologues such as Chuck Schumer and Elizabeth Warren, but his voting record establishes him as a Big Government tax-and-spender, a supporter of ObamaCare, and a swamp dweller who seldom, if ever, saw a new government regulation he couldn’t support. While Rosendale is a potential newcomer to Washington for whom campaign talk must always be regarded as cheap until backed by legislative action, there seems to be little doubt that he would be a strong ally of President Trump in his efforts to repeal ObamaCare, protect our borders, and rein in government spending. Few people understand better the malign and deceitful ways of Big Government than our Western ranchers, and a Senator Rosendale would bring that much-needed perspective to the Swamp.

Eric Brakey (R) vs. Angus King (I): The state of Maine is shaping up to be a pivotal battleground in this year’s Senate races, with Brakey vs. King one of the more intriguing contests anywhere in the country. If elected, Brakey will be a newcomer to Washington, but he is an experienced political operative at the state level, with a crystal-clear set of convictions that ought to stir the hearts of constitutionalists everywhere. In 2012, Brakey chaired Ron Paul’s presidential campaign in Maine and proved an effective organizer after the Maine GOP convention elected a majority of Ron Paul supporters as delegates to the Republican National Convention. This event, called by one local newspaper “the most successful coup in recent Maine political history,” sent shockwaves through the GOP establishment nationwide. In hindsight, this extraordinary episode was one of the major harbingers of the electoral revolt of 2016 — and now Brakey wants to bring his political skills to the U.S. Senate in support of constitutionalism and Ron Paul-esque views on limited government. Brakey has already served four years in the Maine State Senate, and has put together a solid legislative record. It was Brakey who sponsored successful legislation to eliminate the legal requirement for a concealed-carry permit. Brakey has also consistently opposed corporate welfare measures and was the only Maine senator to vote against the creation of the Maine Capital Investment Fund, a program to use taxpayer money to subsidize loans incentivizing out-of-state investment in Maine. He has also worked to eliminate Maine’s business income tax. He opposes civil asset forfeiture laws, and introduced a law (which did not pass) prohibiting state seizure of private assets in criminal cases until a conviction is obtained. Brakey also favors “right to try,” the right of terminally ill patients to try new drugs not yet approved by the FDA; thanks to his successful legislation, “right to try” is now legal in Maine. On foreign policy, Brakey led an effort to include in the GOP national platform a condemnation of the intervention in Libya and of the U.S. policy of deposing Middle Eastern leaders. Brakey is an actor by profession, and has appeared in a number of commercials.

His opponent, Angus King, is an independent, but caucuses with the Democrats. A former Maine governor, Senator King is a master at cultivating a folksy image that plays well in Portland. However, as his 23-percent Freedom Index score discloses, King is among the more liberal members of the Senate. Like his Democratic colleagues whom he professes not to embrace, King opposes the repeal of ObamaCare. He votes consistently for tax increases and government regulation, maintaining nominal independence from the Democratic Party for cosmetic reasons, but being in lockstep with the agenda of the radical Left at every turn.

Other potential constitutionalists and principled conservatives running for the Senate this year include Arizona’s Kelli Ward and Mississippi’s Chris McDaniel. However, as the Arizona GOP primary does not occur until the end of August (and Ward is running against two other candidates, including “America’s Sheriff” Joe Arpaio), and the Mississippi race is a non-partisan special election featuring another Republican, Cindy Hyde-Smith, who was appointed to fill the vacancy left by the sudden resignation of Thad Cochran, and two Democrats, Tobey Bartee and Mike Espy, none of these candidates is profiled here.

House Races

Thomas Massie (R) vs. Seth Hall (D): Massie has represented Kentucky’s District 4 since 2012, and has a made a name for himself as one of the most reliable constitutional conservatives in the House. Holding both a bachelor’s and master’s in engineering from MIT, Massie is also a successful entrepreneur, having started with his wife a tech company called SensAble Devices (later SensAble Technologies), a company that secured more than 20 patents and employed 70 people. Nowadays, Massie runs a cattle farm and lives with his family in a solar-powered house that he designed and built himself. As a legislator, Massie’s cumulative Freedom Index score of 97 percent in the current Congress speaks for itself; perhaps more than anyone else in Congress, Massie has staked a legitimate claim to Ron Paul’s mantle as “Constitutionalist Conscience of Congress.” Like former Congressman Paul, Massie is very popular among his constituents, even if his unwavering commitment to principle does not always endear him to his congression­al colleagues. After defeating Democrat William Adkins in 2012, Massie cruised to reelection in 2014 and 2016 by 68- and 71-percent margins, respectively. This year, his challenger, Seth Hall, hopes to blunt Massie’s electoral momentum. Hall has a bachelor’s degree in marketing from the University of Kentucky and has spent his career in healthcare policy, including stints as national director of 1-800-Medicare with Anthem and vice president of information technology at MedAssist. Not surprisingly, Hall is a strong advocate of both Medicare and ObamaCare, and is also pro-abortion. From his detailed campaign platform, it is evident that Hall is an ardent supporter of every conceivable priority of the Left, from raising the minimum wage to more environmental regulations to amnesty for illegal immigrants. It is doubtful that a starker electoral choice will present itself anywhere in the country this fall than that between Massie and Hall.

Russ Fulcher (R) vs. Cristina McNeil (D): Idaho’s District 1 has been reliably represented since 2011 by Raúl Labrador, another of the House’s most reliable constitutionalists and conservatives and a close colleague of Thomas Massie. But Labrador chose not to seek reelection in 2018, and instead ran for the Idaho governorship. He lost the Idaho GOP gubernatorial primary, however, and will be hard to replace in his district. Russ Fulcher, who has been endorsed by Labrador, is bidding fair to fill the former’s large shoes. Fulcher, a former Idaho state senator, holds bachelor’s in both business administration and electrical engineering, as well as an MBA. He has worked in both real estate and in the tech sector, and has received high praise from Labrador for his business acumen. “I will fight to ensure the government fills its proper Constitutional role!” proclaims Fulcher in his campaign website, and his articulated positions strongly back that promise. Fulcher is strongly pro-gun and pro-life, for example, having received an A+ rating from the NRA and a “Friend for Life” award from Idaho Chooses Life for his respective legislative efforts in these areas during his tenure in the state senate. Fulcher supports border protection. As a businessman, he is particularly concerned about America’s disastrous federal debt and spending levels. He pledges to work to reform and cut taxes and regulations, while reining in wasteful spending. He also appreciates strongly the need to restore balance between state and federal power. According to Fulcher:

Currently, about 36% of Idaho’s state budget is funded with federal dollars. We have become a subsidiary of the federal government, a funding source that is both broke and broken given its unsustainable borrowing. Our state’s dependence on Washington, D.C. must be reduced. That means reducing costly federal mandates and taxes that soak up scarce state resources in compliance. That is the first step we can take to empower Idahoans to provide them with more opportunities to thrive and prosper.

Fulcher’s opponent, Cristina McNeil, is a native of Mexico and holds dual citizenship. A single mother and successful real estate broker in Boise, McNeil holds an MBA and runs her own brokerage. Her campaign website’s “Issues” page is rather opaque and sparse on details, mentioning only three general issues: infrastructure, education, and “common ground” (i.e., bipartisanship). She advocates more funding for drinking water and road repair in Idaho, as well as increased funding in Idaho for teacher’s salaries and other local educational programs. Admirably, McNeil pledges to “seek common ground and build coalitions across party lines and across state borders for the benefit of Idaho and America. I value common ground, common sense solutions and common courtesy.” While McNeil appears to lack the rabid leftist dogmatism evident in so many Democratic politicians nowadays, Fulcher is a known quantity with a reliable track record and a string of endorsements from conservative politicos and organizations who know him well.

Michael Cloud (R) vs. Eric Holguin (D): Michael Cloud won a special election in June to fill the House seat in Texas 27th Congressional District left vacant by the resignation of Blake Farenthold. Cloud has enormous shoes to fill, inasmuch as parts of his district were once represented by Ron Paul. Former Congressman Paul has given Cloud a hearty endorsement in his run for reelection this November, and with good cause. Cloud, a small-business owner and graduate of conservative Christian Oral Roberts University, served for seven years as the chairman of the Victoria County Republican Party, in which capacity he oversaw dramatic growth in party numbers and electoral success of GOP candidates — all, he tells us in his campaign website, “without compromising our shared conservative values.” Cloud’s campaign is solidly constitutionalist in outlook, and he appears not to be deceived by false partisan dichotomies. For example, concerning the national debt, he observes,

The debate between Republicans and Democrats in Congress seems to be over whether it is better to go bankrupt in 10 years or 20 years. Without a serious congressional commitment to responsible spending cuts, our country will remain on a path to fiscal ruin.  We need people of courage in Washington if we are going to bring spending under control.

Most of Cloud’s position statements are brief and to the point, suggesting a confidence in principle not occluded by rhetoric. Concerning the Second Amendment: “Our Founding Fathers knew that the only defense against tyranny was an armed citizenry. Michael Cloud will protect your right to keep and bear arms.” Concerning healthcare: “The federal government has made a wreck of our health insurance system, and Texans are now experiencing skyrocketing premiums with less coverage. Obamacare must be repealed, and health care must be driven by a market-oriented approach that brings down costs and expands access to quality care. We must also ensure taxpayer dollars are not spent on abortion.” Concerning our borders: “Our immigration system is in desperate need of reform, beginning with securing the border and upholding the rule of law.” Concerning religious liberty: “The Constitution is clear that the free exercise of religion shall not be prohibited. Michael will stand strong against government attempts to discriminate against people of faith.” And concerning “family values”: “The essential building block of a healthy, productive society is the family. Yet political forces are at work to discriminate against and destroy this sacred institution. We need Representation that recognizes the essential role of the family — and works to enact policies that recognize parental rights, respect marriage and protect life.” Such statements, often supported by pithy quotes from the likes of Samuel Adams and George Washington, evince genuine regard for our hallowed Constitution, traditional Judaeo-Christian moral values, and limited government.

His opponent, Eric Holguin, a proud Tejano, has a range of political experience, including a stint working for a U.S. congresswoman and a job working for the comptroller of New York City. His credentials as a liberal Democrat are impeccable; his campaign website is very forthcoming on a range of issues, and Holguin is in complete agreement with the liberal establishment on nearly all of them. For example, on civil rights, he is a strong advocate for greater LGBTQ rights, and favors passing the Equality Act “so that everyone is protected in all key areas of their life from housing to employment to credit and public services.” On healthcare, he proclaims confidently that “healthcare is A RIGHT and NOT a privilege…. I believe in a single-payer healthcare system that works for the people.” On jobs, he recommends, among other things, “fight[ing] for equal pay for women by strengthening equal pay laws & eliminat[ing] ‘previous salary’ questions from the hiring process.” Just where the federal government might derive the constitutional authority to impose such strictures he does not make clear. In fairness, Holguin is also a staunch opponent of the TPP and favors renegotiating NAFTA “to better serve Americans.”

In these and many other House races that space will not permit us to cover (including some, such as constitutionalist Justin Amash’s district in Michigan, where primaries have yet to be conducted), the direction and perhaps the destination of America will be determined in this year’s elections. It is important to emphasize that this is not a partisan issue. Indeed, many conservative Americans are as dissatisfied with the establishmentarian leadership of GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan and GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as they are with liberal Democrats. The issue is not Republicans versus Democrats — although, in recent years, it cannot be denied that, to the extent that constitutionalists and conservatives have any home in Washington, they have found it in the GOP. Indeed, the GOP is now riven by a struggle for ascendancy between elements of the old GOP establishment and an emerging populist, Americanist, and constitutionalist wing.

But the great sticking point is always fealty to the constitutional oath of office, which many Republicans are as culpable as Democrats of violating on a regular basis. At the moment, the politics of the Democratic Party are rigged to exclude outright any candidate whose views violate the orthodoxy of the radical Left, but that has not always been so and may change in the future (see accompanying article).

Regardless, adherence to the Constitution is the major metric used in the Freedom Index, and in that, a great majority of Washington politicians from both parties are deficient. This will change only as the electorate becomes more informed — which it shows every evidence of becoming.

There is no lack of outstanding constitutionalist, Americanist, and anti-Big Government candidates in this year’s field; all that remains is to send as many of them to Washington as possible, and hope that they, along with President Trump, can right the course of the ship of state.

Photo: MartinBarraud/OJOImages/GettyImagesPlus

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